“We will not allow another [IAEA] visit”

Syrian Girl by atsjebosma

Syrian Girl by atsjebosma

Syria Defends Destroyed Site As Non-Nuclear Military Base
AFP, 21 November 2008

Syria said Friday a building bombed by Israeli planes last year wasn’t a covert nuclear reactor, as Washington stuck to its allegations that it says are supported in a findings by the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

“We are talking about military bases, we are talking about military activities,” Ibrahim Othman, the head of Syria’s Atomic Energy Commission, told reporters after International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors briefed members about their first visit to the site in June.

Earlier on Friday, the U.S. envoy to the IAEA Gregory Schulte, had said the initial findings of the inspectors’ visit had served to harden the suspicions against Syria.

A four-page report circulated to IAEA board members on Wednesday “reinforces the assessment of my government that Syria was secretly building a nuclear reactor in its eastern desert and thereby violating its IAEA safeguards obligations,” Schulte said. “The report sharply contradicts a number of Syria’s claims and catalogs Syria’s repeated refusal to answer IAEA questions.”

The restricted report, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, said that “while it cannot be excluded that the building in question was intended for non-nuclear use, the features of the building…along with the connectivity of the site to adequate pumping capacity of cooling water are similar to what may be found in connection with a reactor site.”

Furthermore, traces of uranium had been found at the site which was razed to the ground by Israeli planes on Sept. 6, 2007.

“No such nuclear material had so far been declared in Syria’s inventory…. In principle, that sort of nuclear material should not exist there. It’s not usual to find man-made uranium in sand,” a senior U.N. official said.

Othman insisted that since the site was a military one, the IAEA had no right to inspect it.

No other country would allow any person to visit a restricted military site, ” just because he would like to see it,” Othman said.

….Syria “will continue cooperation with the agency, there’s no doubt,” he said, adding: “We will continue cooperation, we are member of the international community and we are a member of the IAEA.”

But it won’t sign the so-called Additional Protocol, which gives the IAEA greater inspection rights, Othman said…..

Syria all but rules out more U.N. nuclear inspection
AP, 21 November 2008

A senior Syrian official on Friday all but ruled out new visits by U.N inspectors probing allegations that his country had a covert program that could be used to make nuclear weapons.
Syrian refusal to allow inspections could doom the International Atomic Energy Agency’s efforts to follow up U.S. assertions that a site bombed by Israel last year was a nearly finished reactor that could have produced plutonium.

Syria allowed the IAEA to visit the site near the desert town of Al Kibar in June but has since turned down requests for more inspections.

“We will not allow another visit,” said Ibrahim Othman, the head of Syria’s atomic agency.

He said the IAEA had agreed with Syria that there would be only be one visit. The IAEA has said it agreed to make one initial visit, but has requested others.

The IAEA has said it suspects three other sites may have been nuclear-related and linked to the bombed location…

Ehud Olmert, ‘The Time Has Come to Say These Things’
New York Review of Books, Volume 55, Number 19 · December 4, 2008

On the eve of the Jewish New Year, Israel’s most popular daily newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, published an extended interview of lame-duck prime minister Ehud Olmert by journalists Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer…. The following are excerpts from the Yedioth interview…

we have a window of opportunity—a short amount of time before we enter an extremely dangerous situation—in which to take a historic step in our relations with the Palestinians and a historic step in our relations with the Syrians. In both instances, the decision we have to make is the decision we’ve spent forty years refusing to look at with our eyes open.

We must make these decisions, and yet we are not prepared to say to ourselves, “Yes, this is what we must do.” We must reach an agreement with the Palestinians, meaning a withdrawal from nearly all, if not all, of the [occupied] territories. Some percentage of these territories would remain in our hands, but we must give the Palestinians the same percentage [of territory elsewhere]—without this, there will be no peace….

Yedioth Ahronoth: It seems that political leaders in Israel always reach this conclusion only when they themselves are no longer in a position to make this decision.

Ehud Olmert: Not in my case. I reached this conclusion when I was still able to do something about it. I established contacts with the Syrians in February 2007, long before the police opened investigations on me. And I engaged in them quietly. Throughout that period I made many efforts, sent envoys all over the place, and had various people working secretly on my behalf to convince the Syrians that I wanted serious talks with them. Today we’ve arrived at the point at which we must ask ourselves whether we really want to make peace or not.

I’m not saying that this is a simple question. One might argue, ostensibly with good reason, that, look, for thirty-five years, since the Yom Kippur War, we’ve lived on the Golan Heights without any violation of the cease-fire; and there’s none of the day-to-day friction with a civilian population, as in the territories—so why not carry on?….

Yedioth Ahronoth: Based on what you have said, you seem to think that the guilt falls entirely on [Israel].

Ehud Olmert: No. Our burden is ours; their burden belongs to them. I’m not suggesting we make peace with Syria simply by surrendering the Golan Heights. The Syrians know well what they must surrender to get the Golan. They must give up their connections with Iran, such as they are, and their connections with Hezbollah; they must cease funding terrorism, Hamas, al-Qaeda, the holy war in Iraq. They know. These things have been made clear to them.

Were a regional war to break out in the next year or two and were we to enter into a military confrontation with Syria, I have no doubt that we’d defeat them soundly. We are stronger than they. Israel is the strongest country in the Middle East. We could contend with any of our enemies or against all of our enemies combined and win. The question that I ask myself is, what happens when we win? First of all, we’d have to pay a painful price.

And after we paid the price, what would we say to them? “Let’s talk.” And what would the Syrians say to us? “Let’s talk about the Golan Heights.”

So, I ask: Why enter a war with the Syrians, full of losses and destruction, in order to achieve what might be achieved without paying such a heavy price?

…In the absence of peace, the probability of war is always much greater. A prime minister must ask himself where to best direct his efforts. Are his efforts directed toward making peace or are they directed constantly toward making the country stronger and stronger and stronger in order to win a war?

…What I’m saying here has never been said by a leader of Israel. But the time has come to say these things. The time has come to put them on the table.

I read the reports of our generals and I say, “how have they not learned a single thing?” Once, a very senior official told me, “They’re still living in the War of Independence and the Sinai Campaign.” With them it’s all about tanks, about controlling territories or controlled territories, holding this or that hill. But these things are worthless.

…The true threat we are facing today in the north, south, and east is from missiles and rockets. We will need to answer these threats but we will not find such answers within a range of two hundred meters.

…Our goal should be, for the first time, to designate a final and exact borderline between us and the Palestinians so that the entire world, the United States, the UN, and Europe can say, “These are the borders of the State of Israel, we recognize them, and we will anchor them with formal resolutions in the major international bodies. These are the recognized borders of Israel and these are the recognized borders of the State of Palestine.”

…Who seriously thinks that if we sit on another hilltop, on another hundred meters, this will make a difference for Israel’s basic security?………

Buthaina Shaaban: Syria-Israel deal is close. (Thanks to SASA for sending this.)
By Sasa, the Syria News Wire
20 November 2008

Buthaina Shaaban – adviser to the Syrian president and Nobel Peace Prize nominee – has revealed that her country is closer to a peace-deal with Israel than it has ever been during a public talk in Britain.

This year, Syria has had a series of indirect talks with Israel, on the return of the Golan Heights. It is the first time the two countries have talked since Shepherdstown in 2000.

“At Shepherdstown the problem was just the demarcation of the 1967 line (the future border),” she told a packed audience at the Diplomatic Academy of London. “Now, we started by trying to describe the 67 line, so the feeling is better than after Madrid.”… More at the Syria News Wire.

Syria has clear and comprehensive vision of Peace, Sha’aban Says
SANA, 21 November 2008

Presidential Political and Media Advisor Buthaina Sha’aban on Friday …. at a symposium titled “Syria is the key to solving Middle East problems”, …at the building of the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna.

“The problem in the region is a political one, it is an outcome of the Israeli continued occupation of the Arab lands and its non abiding by international resolutions… the problem is not religious as some western media depict,” Sha’aban added.

She said that the suffering of the Palestinian and Iraqi refugees is a result of the Israeli and US occupation.

For his part, Austrian State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Hans Winkler underlined in an interposition at the Symposium the important role of Syria in the Middle East and the peace process, saying “it is not possible to achieve peace in the region without Syria.”

A number of Austrian political and media figures, Arab Ambassadors, intellectuals and members of the Syrian Community in Austria attended the Symposium.

Iraqi Refugees in Syria Watch U.S. Security Negotiations
NAM, 21 November 2008

While the Iraqi parliament deliberates over the controversial security pact with U.S. forces that was approved by the country’s cabinet this week, Iraqis in Damascus are divided over the possibility of U.S. forces remaining in their country for another two years.

Many of the estimated one million Iraqi refugees here say they are eager to return, but they still feel the wounds of the sectarianism that has ripped their country apart in recent years. For refugees here, security in Iraq is a top priority, but many continue to be deeply critical of the ongoing occupation, leaving the community divided on whether security is a legitimate cause for U.S. forces to remain for another two years.

In Seyida Zaynab, the suburb of Damascus often dubbed “little Baghdad” for its largely Iraqi population, … I duck into the Sadrist office, the Syrian branch of the movement of mostly poor, anti-occupation Iraqi Shia. …“We refuse the agreement completely,” says the black robed Al-Qadimi. “The security pact is an agreement between two sides—the Iraqi government and the Americans. Neither side represents the Iraqi people, and no one else has any stake in it. We are an occupied country and the occupying forces must leave…”

Killing of al-Qaida Smuggler in Syria was Joint Syrian, U.S. Effort
Middle East Times, 21 November 2008

In spite of much angry public protest in Damascus, last month’s killing of top al-Qaida operative Abu Ghadiya, was in fact a joint operation between U.S. Special Forces in Iraq and Syrian intelligence, according to former and serving U.S. intelligence officials.

Abu Ghadiya, a smuggler who for years had moved money, weapons and insurgents into Iraq from Syria, was killed by a U.S. helicopter raid on Oct. 26. Seven civilians were killed with him, and the resulting furor was immediate: Russia and the Arab League strongly protested the raid, and Syria accused the United States of “criminal and terrorist aggression” and lodged an official protest, according to U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. Syria ordered the American School in Damascus closed.

But Syria’s alleged anger was calculated to conceal Syrian complicity in the operation. Although the attack is still officially “classified,” serving and former U.S. intelligence officials told the Middle East Times that Syria gave U.S. forces permission to fly into its airspace and even provided extensive targeting intelligence on Abu Ghadiya. “Syrian intelligence couldn’t have been more cooperative,” said a former senior CIA official…. 

Last May Abu Ghadiya and a dozen gunmen attacked an Iraqi police station in Qaim, killing 12, some of whom were beheaded.


Then, in early October, U.S. intelligence learned that Abu Ghadiya was planning another cross-border attack, and back-channel discussions with Syrian officials began.


Washington has long run a back channel to Damascus through Syria’s air force intelligence, the Idarat al-Murkabarat al-Jawiyya, U.S. sources said.


On Oct. 26, Syrian intelligence alerted U.S. forces in Iraq to Abu Ghadiyah’s whereabouts, at which time, U.S. Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) operatives began to track him, probably through his satellite telephone.

Four Blackhawk helicopters took off for the northeastern Syrian village of al-Sukkiraya, about five miles from the Euphrates river, an area where a compound of new homes was being built, according to U.S. intelligence officials.


At this point, the raid went wrong. As the U.S. Special Forces poured out of the aircraft, shots were fired and a gunfight broke out that lasted for 10 to 15 minutes. Abu Ghadiya was to have been captured and flown to Iraq for interrogation. Instead he was killed in the fighting, along with seven Syrian civilians, including four children, most of them members of the same family.


“There weren’t to have been any civilian casualties, no collateral damage,” a U.S. intelligence official said. “We wanted the [expletive] alive.” The U.S. raiding team carried off two captives for interrogation.


“The problem with these kinds of tactics lies with the fact that so many things can go wrong, and they usually do,” said Middle East expert Tony Cordesman. “You don’t want to solve one problem only to create a dozen others.”


But the praise of U.S. officials for Syria’s part was deeply appreciative. “The Syrians were perfect; they gave us the works,” said one U.S. official familiar with the incident…..

Your Attention, Please
By Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski
Friday, November 21, 2008; Page A23, Wash Post

The election of Barack Obama to be the 44th president is profoundly historic. We have at long last been able to come together in a way that has eluded us in the long history of our great country. We should celebrate this triumph of the true spirit of America.

Election Day celebrations were replicated in time zones around the world, something we have not seen in a long time. While euphoria is ephemeral, we must endeavor to use its energy to bring us all together as Americans to cope with the urgent problems that beset us.

When Obama takes office in two months, he will find a number of difficult foreign policy issues competing for his attention, each with strong advocates among his advisers. We believe that the Arab-Israeli peace process is one issue that requires priority attention.

In perhaps no other region was the election of Obama more favorably received than the Middle East. Immediate attention to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute would help cement the goodwill that Obama’s election engendered. Not everyone in the Middle East views the Palestinian issue as the greatest regional challenge, but the deep sense of injustice it stimulates is genuine and pervasive.

Unfortunately, the current administration’s intense efforts over the past year will not resolve the issue by Jan. 20. But to let attention lapse would reinforce the feelings of injustice and neglect in the region. That could spur another eruption of violence between the warring parties or in places such as Lebanon or Gaza, reversing what progress has been made and sending the parties back to square one. Lurking in the background is the possibility that the quest for a two-state solution may be abandoned by the Palestinians, the Israelis, or both — with unfortunate consequences for all.

Resolution of the Palestinian issue would have a positive impact on the region. It would liberate Arab governments to support U.S. leadership in dealing with regional problems, as they did before the Iraq invasion. It would dissipate much of the appeal of Hezbollah and Hamas, dependent as it is on the Palestinians’ plight. It would change the region’s psychological climate, putting Iran back on the defensive and putting a stop to its swagger.

The major elements of an agreement are well known. A key element in any new initiative would be for the U.S. president to declare publicly what, in the view of this country, the basic parameters of a fair and enduring peace ought to be. These should contain four principal elements: 1967 borders, with minor, reciprocal and agreed-upon modifications; compensation in lieu of the right of return for Palestinian refugees; Jerusalem as real home to two capitals; and a nonmilitarized Palestinian state.

Something more might be needed to deal with Israeli security concerns about turning over territory to a Palestinian government incapable of securing Israel against terrorist activity. That could be dealt with by deploying an international peacekeeping force, such as one from NATO, which could not only replace Israeli security but train Palestinian troops to become effective.

To date, the weakness of the negotiating parties has limited their ability to come to an agreement by themselves. The elections in Israel scheduled for February are certainly a complicating factor, as is the deep split among Palestinians between Fatah and Hamas. But if the peace process begins to gain momentum, it is difficult to imagine that Hamas will want to be left out, and that same momentum would provide the Israeli people a unique chance to register their views on the future of their country.

This weakness can be overcome by the president speaking out clearly and forcefully about the fundamental principles of the peace process; he also must press the case with steady determination. That initiative should then be followed — not preceded — by the appointment of a high-level dignitary to pursue the process on the president’s behalf, a process based on the enunciated presidential guidelines. Such a presidential initiative should instantly galvanize support, both domestic and international, and provide great encouragement to the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.

To say that achieving a successful resolution of this critical issue is a simple task would be to scoff at history. But in many ways the current situation is such that the opportunity for success has never been greater, or the costs of failure more severe.

Brent Scowcroft was national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush. He is president of the Forum for International Policy and the Scowcroft Group. Zbigniew Brzezinski was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter. He is trustee and counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The two are authors of “America and The World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy.”

Syria hit by double blow on oil prices and falling supplies
By Anna Fifield
Financial Times, 20 November 2008

The decline in crude prices has taken oil-producing nations by surprise, but few will be hurt as much as Syria, which is grappling with rapidly falling supply. The double blow has huge implications for the economy.

“Energy is a problem,” says Nabil Sukkar, an economist who heads the Syrian Consulting Bureau. “Our energy-generating capacity is below demand and our oil reserves are falling, while our gas reserves have not been developed rapidly enough.” Dwindling Syrian resources are often cited by analysts as one of the main reasons the country needs to end its international isolation, a process that has now started with improved ties with Europe. David Miliband, UK foreign secretary, was in Damascus this week in the latest sign of a thaw in ties between the west and Syria.

While fighting off pressure from the US and other western states over alleged interference in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, Syria has struggled for economic survival.

The energy sector comprises a large chunk of its economy and oil revenues have funded a quarter of the expenditure in the nation’s huge public sector. Five years ago oil comprised more than half of Syria’s $29bn in income, but last year it contributed only $3.8bn to revenues totalling $22bn (€17.5bn, £14.6bn).

The International Monetary Fund says Damascus will face unsustainable budget deficits by 2015 unless it can find new sources of income.

The decline in oil production – it fell by 6.5 per cent to 394,000 barrels a day last year and is set to shrink further – will also weigh on growth, which has averaged 4.5 per cent in the past three years, due mainly to oil.

The IMF estimates that the non-oil parts of the economy contracted 7.3 per cent last year, worse than the 6.4 per cent shrinkage in the previous year. In particular, Syria’s agricultural sector has been suffering from the worst drought in 40 years, which has put 1m people at risk of malnutrition and caused more than 100,000 to lose half their livestock.

But encouraging the non-oil sector and developing new sources of growth will be difficult unless the energy shortages are solved, as Syria lacks energy supplies to power new industries.

Sectors essential for industrialisation – such as cement and steel – are among the worst hit by energy shortages. The government now requires anyone wanting to build an energy intensive factory to set up a power-generating plant, a sizeable investment that is hindering some from expanding just when Syria needs such products for construction.

Electricity power stations, fuelled primarily by oil and natural gas, are unable to meet demand. New plants are being built, including some solar power stations funded with Gulf investment. However, Syria’s plans to add 3,000MW of power-generating capacity by 2010 have been hindered by delays.

Some analysts see the energy crisis as a chance to shake up the economy and accelerate restructuring.

“They are well aware of the need to increase non-oil revenues and have taken a series of measures in this direction,” says Nassib Ghobril, head of research at Lebanon’s Byblos Bank. “So the sudden drop in global oil prices might accelerate the implementation of reforms.”

Already, reform-minded politicians are using the need for change in the energy sector to introduce sensitive ideas to Syria’s “social market economy”.

Abdullah Dardari, deputy prime minister for economic affairs, suggests the private sector should play a greater role in electricity supply. “We are developing a private partnership policy to bring in investments in the energy sector,” he says. “The essential prerequisite for a sustainable energy policy is to have the correct prices.”

Electricity and oil have been heavily subsidised for decades. The government expects to spend $7bn on energy subsidies this year.

Syria’s Economy May Expand 7% Next Year, Deputy PM Dardari Says
By Natalie Weeks
Bloomberg, 19 November 2008

Syria’s economic growth may reach 7 percent next year as it continues to attract investment from the Middle East and exports diversify away from oil, Deputy PrimeMinister Abdallah Dardari said.

The global credit crisis doesn’t “represent any serious risks” to banks in Syria, which have remained isolated from the worldwide system because of U.S. sanctions, Dardari said in an interview in Athens today.

“Demand for Syrian products could be affected, but if we find the right niche exports, and we do have them, and present ourselves as the place for real economy investments we can actually take advantage of the crisis,” Dardari said.

Economic growth in the nation of 20 million will accelerate from about 6.6 percent this year, Dardari aid. Inflation is expected to decelerate to 9.8 percent within the year, he added.

The Economist Intelligence Unit has forecast price growth will reach 16.8 percent this year from 12.2 percent in 2007 because of reductions in fuel subsidies and a 25 percent increase in
government salaries and pensions.

Syria is diversifying away from a dependence on oil. The country’s non-oil exports exceeded $12.5 billion last year, compared with less than $1 billion in 2000, spurred by regional demand for items such as textiles, pharmaceuticals, cotton and agricultural produce.

The U.S. imposed sanctions on Syria in May 2004, including a ban on trade transactions with the Commercial Bank of Syria, in an effort to halt exports to the country that is accused by President George W. Bush’s administration of aiding militants in Iraq and pursuing weapons of mass destruction.

Syria “doesn’t want to pin high hopes on dramatic change” as Barack Obama’s administration takes office in January, Dardari said. “We believe, we hope, that the approach of the new U.S. administration will be different toward the issues of the Middle East and Syria specifically.”

Report says Britain hammers out Damascus intelligence agreement
By Raed Rafei
Los Angeles Times, 19 November 2008

It’s another effort by a Western power to draw Syria out of its international isolation in hopes Damascus would loosen its strong ties with Tehran and groups such as Hezbollah and some Palestinian factions.

The U.K.’s Foreign Minister, David Miliband, made a landmark visit to Damascus on Tuesday. He’s the first British top diplomat to visit Damascus since 2001.

Before heading to Beirut, Miliband said that Syria had an “essential role” to play in the stability of the Middle East. This move might be seen as a sign that the U.K., after France, is warming up to the Syrians.

Milliband said that Syria had responsibilities in the region “in respect of counter-terrorism, in respect of Iraq, in respect of the Middle East peace process.” He urged Syria to resume talks with Israel…Apparently, the main focus of the visit was the reestablishment of high-level intelligence cooperation between the Brits and the Syrians…

Syria may invite Russian mobile carrier – minister
Reuters, 20 November 2008

Syria is considering inviting a Russian cellular operator into its market, Russia’s Communications Minister Igor Shchyogolev said on Thursday.

‘They have an idea to add one more mobile operator there. The participation of Russian companies in the Syrian mobile market is possible,’ Shchyogolev told reporters after a session of the Russian-Syrian Intergovernmental Commission.

Russia’s mobile phone market penetration currently stands at around 125.4 percent, according to market research group AC&M, suggesting the impressive growth rates in telecoms sales of the past years are now set to slow down. According to media reports, Syria’s cellphone penetration does not exceed 40 percent, and the market is split between Syriatel, owned by a Syrian businessman, and MTN Syria, part of Sub-Saharan Africa’s top mobile phone operator MTN.

Syrian officials have repeatedly said the country is going to auction off a third license…..

Russia: Syria won’t get Iskander for now
The Jerusalem Post, 20 November 2008

Months after offering Russia to deploy long-range ballistic missiles in his country, Syrian President Bashar Assad was informed this week that Moscow will not sell Iskander missiles to foreign clients due to production delays.

According to a report in the Russian news agency Novosti, the state arms exporter Rosoboronexport has decided that despite interest from a number of countries – including Syria, the United Arab Emirates and India – Moscow will not export the Iskander missile until the Russian Armed Forces are fully equipped with the system.

The Iskander missile – also known as the SS-26 Stone – is a short range, solid fuel propelled, theater quasi-ballistic missile system. According to reports, the Iskander missile has only been subject to test firing and will likely only become operational in four years.

The system was developed to carry conventional warheads for the engagement of small targets, fixed missile silos and anti-aircraft systems as well as command posts and critical civilian infrastructure facilities. The missiles are reportedly difficult to intercept.

In August, Assad visited Moscow where he spoke with President Dmitry Medvedev and reportedly discussed the possibility of allowing Russia to set up Iskander missile launchers in Syria.

Israel was concerned with the reports and feared that the missiles could be used in a future conflict in the region. In October, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made a lightning trip to Moscow to urge Medvedev not to sell Syria advanced missile systems.

In May, a Syrian military delegation, led by Air Force Commander Gen. Ahmad Al Ratyb, visited Russia for talks about the possible procurement of the Iskander as well as the advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missile defense system.

Earlier this month, Medvedev threatened to deploy Iskander missiles in the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad sandwiched between NATO members Lithuania and Poland in order to “neutralize if necessary” a proposed US missile defense system in Europe. Chief of the General Staff Gen. Nikolai Kakarov said that the military was prepared to deploy the missiles per Medvedev’s final order.

Syria: Al-Moallem, Stefani Discuss Syrian-Italian Bilateral Relations
SANA, 20 November 2008

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem discussed on Wednesday with President of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Italian Parliament Stefano Stefani bilateral relations between the two countries and means of developing them….

Barack Obama’s election has raised hopes but the problems are still gigantic
By Richard Beeston
Times Online, 21 November 2008

….. American and Middle Eastern officials, along with regional analysts, believe that Mr Obama could restore full relations with Syria, begin to normalise US ties with Iran – suspended nearly 30 years ago – and breathe new life into the moribund peace process between Israel and the Palestinians….

Comments (86)

Friend in America said:

The following is an exerpt from the National Intelligence Service Assesssment of Global Trends in the next 15 years. It was released earlier today:

‘ The national intelligence director’s office laid out the risks in a statement released yesterday.
“The world of the near future will be subject to an increased likelihood of conflict over scarce resources, including food and water, and will be haunted by the persistence of rogue states and terrorist groups with greater access to nuclear weapons,” according to the DNI statement. “The likelihood that nuclear weapons will be used will increase with expanded access to technology and a widening range of options for limited strikes.”

Of particular concern is the “growing risk of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East,” where a number of states “are already thinking about developing or acquiring nuclear technology useful for development of nuclear weaponry,” reads the global trends report.’

A Middle East nuclear arms race tops the panel’s list of dangerous developments that could threaten political or economic globalization. An act of terrorism using a weapon of mass destruction could have a similarly traumatizing effect, according to the assessment.

November 22nd, 2008, 2:51 am


Friend in America said:

For everyone’s information, the Russians have visited and photgraphed every nuclear site in the U.S. and the Americans have visited and photographed every nuclear site in Russia. Same for China. The IAEA has visited India’s sites and Pakistan’s also. Military sites were visted and are included in the scope of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty.

November 22nd, 2008, 3:00 am


norman said:


Was Israel visited or they are above the law,

The only way for the world to survive is for the world to abandon force as a way of getting rights and to establish a Global court similar to the American Federal court to solve dispute , non politecal court and as in the US separate for the executive branches in the countries of the world and their decisions are enforced by collective sanction .

The Mideast problem would have been solved long ago, That remind withe dispute between New york and New Jersey about the Statue of Liberty.

November 22nd, 2008, 3:39 am


AIG said:


Once you establish non-political courts in Syria that are really free and separate from the executive courts, I will support your idea of a global court.

Until then, it just smells of hypocrisy and just plain Israel bashing. You won’t establish such courts in Syria, but want to establish them for the world. Practice what you preach if you want to be taken seriously. Fix your own home first, and then fix the world.

November 22nd, 2008, 4:00 am


offended said:

This is hilarious,

The National Intelligence Service Assessment of Global Trends says: “The world of the near future ….will be haunted by….terrorist groups with greater access to nuclear weapons”

One terrorist state already have access to nuclear weapons for God’s sake. Look up Dimona on the map.

November 22nd, 2008, 5:48 am


Shai said:


You realize, of course, that I cannot fully accept the definition of Israel as a “terrorist state”, but I don’t want to get into an argument over that now. I do want to say, however, that most people do not tend to carefully listen to what they are being told. Most buy into “smart sounding” words, especially when told by official bodies or institutions. Take, for example, the ominous national intelligence assessment you mentioned up above: “The world of the near future ….will be haunted by….terrorist groups with greater access to nuclear weapons”.

If we look carefully at the words, we see that nothing in the assessment, almost, can be checked or verified. That is, if this official assessment is wrong, the statement could still stand on its own. “The world of the near future”, for instance, could be almost anything. It could be the United States, in 5 years from now. It could be Indonesia, 10 years from now. No clearer definition of “world” is given, and no timeframe is specified. Then the term “haunted”. Does that mean something physical that actually happens, of a psychological effect. Btw, if our intelligence agencies use terms like “haunted”, doesn’t that in itself already lead to people being haunted? Then there’s “… with greater access to nuclear weapons.” What does “greater” mean? More than they have now, right? But what is that? And how do you measure whether in 2009, Al Qaeda has greater access to nuclear weapons than it did in 2008? How do you measure this assessment? It’s a win-win for its authors, because they can never be proven wrong.

To people who understand how to read through such statements, how to decipher and eliminate the sophisticated-sounding babble, such an “assessment” sounds like nothing helpful whatsoever. If I was on the receiving end of this report, I would call over the head of the organization, and tell him/her that the next time I receive a piece of official paper from them, that neither says anything, nor can be verified, I’ll expect its followup to be his/her resignation letter. And yet, most of us still buy into this. And we still support taxpayer’s money going into such useful organizations.

November 22nd, 2008, 10:40 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Hezbollah Seeks to Marshal the Piety of the Young
The New York Times

RIYAQ, Lebanon — On a Bekaa Valley playing field gilded by late-afternoon sun, hundreds of young men wearing Boy Scout-style uniforms and kerchiefs stand rigidly at attention as a military band plays, its marchers bearing aloft the distinctive yellow banner of Hezbollah, the militant Shiite movement.

They are adolescents — 17 or 18 years old — but they have the stern faces of adult men, lightly bearded, some of them with dark spots in the center of their foreheads from bowing down in prayer. Each of them wears a tiny picture of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Shiite cleric who led the Iranian revolution, on his chest.

“You are our leader!” the boys chant in unison, as a Hezbollah official walks to a podium and addresses them with a Koranic invocation. “We are your men!”

This is the vanguard of Hezbollah’s youth movement, the Mahdi Scouts. Some of the graduates gathered at this ceremony will go on to join Hezbollah’s guerrilla army, fighting Israel in the hills of southern Lebanon. Others will work in the party’s bureaucracy. The rest will probably join the fast-growing and passionately loyal base of support that has made Hezbollah the most powerful political, military and social force in Lebanon.

At a time of religious revival across the Islamic world, intense piety among the young is nothing unusual. But in Lebanon, Hezbollah — the name means the party of God — has marshaled these ambient energies for a highly political project: educating a younger generation to continue its military struggle against Israel. Hezbollah’s battlefield resilience has made it a model for other militant groups across the Middle East, including Hamas. And that success is due, in no small measure, to the party’s extraordinarily comprehensive array of religion-themed youth and recruitment programs.

There is a network of schools— some of them run by Hezbollah, others affiliated with or controlled by it — largely shielded from outsiders. There is a nationwide network of clerics who provide weekly religious lessons to young people on a neighborhood basis. There is a group for students at unaffiliated schools and colleges that presents Hezbollah to a wider audience. The party organizes non-Scout-related summer camps and field trips, and during Muslim religious holidays it arranges events to encourage young people to express their devotion in public and to perform charity work.

“It’s like a complete system, from primary school to university,” said Talal Atrissi, a political analyst at Lebanese University who has been studying Hezbollah for decades. “The goal is to prepare a generation that has deep religious faith and is also close to Hezbollah.”

Much of this activity is fueled by a broader Shiite religious resurgence in Lebanon that began after the Iranian revolution in 1979. But Hezbollah has gone further than any other organization in mobilizing this force, both to build its own support base and to immunize Shiite youths from the temptations of Lebanon’s diverse and mostly secular society.

Hezbollah’s influence on Lebanese youth is very difficult to quantify because of the party’s extreme secrecy and the general absence of reliable statistics in the country. It is clear that the Shiite religious schools, in which Hezbollah exercises a dominant influence, have grown over the past two decades from a mere handful into a major national network. Other, less visible avenues may be equally important, like the growing number of clerics associated with the movement.

Hezbollah and its allies have also adapted and expanded religious rituals involving children, starting at ever-earlier ages. Women, who play a more prominent role in Hezbollah than they do in most other radical Islamic groups, are especially important in creating what is often called “the jihad atmosphere” among children.

‘This Is Women’s Jihad’

As night fell in the southern Lebanese town of Jibchit, a lone woman in a black gown strode purposefully into the spotlight on a makeshift stage. Before her sat hundreds of Mahdi Scout parents, who had come to watch one of the central events of their young daughters’ lives.

“Welcome, welcome,” their host said. “We appreciate your presence here tonight. Your daughters are now putting on this angelic costume for the first time.”

Munira Halawi, a slim, 23-year-old Hezbollah member with the direct gaze and passionate manner of an evangelist, was the master of ceremonies at a ritual known as a Takleef Shara’ee, or the holy responsibility, in which some 300 female scouts ages 8 or 9 formally donned the hijab, or Islamic head scarf.

For the girls, the ritual was a moment of tremendous symbolic significance, marking the start of a deeper religious commitment and the approach of adulthood. These ceremonies, once rare, have become common in recent years.

It was a milestone as well for Ms. Halawi, who had been practicing with the girls for weeks: she was now a qa’ida, a young female leader who helps supervise the education of younger girls.

Born in 1985, Ms. Halawi is in some ways typical of the younger generation of female Hezbollah members. She grew up after Hezbollah and its allies had begun establishing what they called the hala islamiyya, or Islamic atmosphere, in Shiite Lebanon. She quickly became far more devout than her parents, who had grown up during an era when secular ideologies like pan-Arabism and Communism were popular in Lebanon. She married early and had the first of her two children before turning 17.

As Ms. Halawi finished her introduction, the girls began walking up the aisle toward the stage, dressed in silky white gowns with furry hoods. Bubbles descended from the wings. White smoke drifted up from a fog machine. A sound system played Hezbollah anthems — deep male voices booming to a marching band’s rhythm. The parents applauded wildly, the mothers ululating.

The two-and-a-half hour ceremony that followed — in which the girls performed a play about the meaning of the hijab and a bearded Hezbollah cleric delivered a long political speech — was a concentrated dose of Hezbollah ideology, seamlessly blending millenarian Shiite doctrine with furious diatribes against Israel.

Again and again, the girls were told that the hijab was an all-important emblem of Islamic virtue and that it was the secret power that allowed Hezbollah to liberate southern Lebanon. The struggle with Israel, they were told, is the same as the struggle of Shiite Islam’s founding figures, Ali and Hussein, against unjust rulers in their time.

Through it all, Ms. Halawi was the presiding figure on the stage, introducing each section of the evening and reciting Koranic verses and her own poetic homages to the veil.

“Our veil is a jewel-encrusted crown, dignified and lofty, that God made to make us blossom,” she said at one point, gazing out into the darkness with a look of passionate intensity. “He opened the door of obedience and contentment for us.”

A few days later, relaxing over tea at her sister’s house, Ms. Halawi, still dressed in a black abaya, an Islamic gown, expanded on the theme of the ceremony. Religious education now begins much earlier than it did in her parents’ time, she explained. Islamic schools, some run by Hezbollah, begin Koranic lessons at the age of 4, and it is common for girls to start fasting and wearing a hijab at 8. In all this, the mother’s guidance is the key.

“This is women’s jihad,” Ms. Halawi said.

Camp, With a Moral Portion

From a distance, it resembles any other Boy Scout camp in the world. Two rows of canvas tents face each other on the banks of the Litani River, the powder-blue stream that runs across southern Lebanon not far from the Israeli border. A hand-built wooden jungle gym stands near the camp entrance, where pine trees sway in the breeze and dry, brown hills are visible in the distance.

Then, planted on sticks in the river, two huge posters bearing the faces of Ayatollah Khomeini and Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, come into view.

“Since 1985 we have managed to raise a good generation,” said Muhammad al-Akhdar, 25, a scout leader, as he showed a visitor around the grounds. “We had 850 kids here this summer, ages 9 to 15.”

This camp is called Tyr fil Say, one of the sites in south Lebanon where the Mahdi Scouts train. Much of what they do is similar to the activities of scouts the world over: learning to swim, to build campfires, to tie knots and to play sports. Mr. Akhdar described some of the games the young scouts play, including one where they divide into two teams — Americans and the Resistance — and try to throw one another into the river.

The Mahdi Scouts also get visits from Hezbollah fighters, wearing camouflage and toting AK-47s, who talk about fighting Israel.

Mr. Akhdar led a visitor around the tents, where boys had been spelling out Koranic phrases like “the promise” and “the owner of time” using stones. There was also a meticulously arranged grave, complete with lettering and decoration. In place of the headstone was a small photograph of Imad Mugniyah, the Hezbollah commander who was killed in February and who was widely viewed in the West as the mastermind of decades of bombings, kidnappings and hijackings.

The Mahdi Scouts were founded in 1985, shortly after Hezbollah itself. Officially, the group is like any of the other 29 different scout groups in Lebanon, many of which belong to political parties and serve as feeders for them.

But the Mahdi Scouts are different. They are much larger; with an estimated 60,000 children and Scout leaders, they are six times the size of any other Lebanese scout group. Even their marching movements are more militaristic than the others, according to Mustafa Muhammad Abdel Rasoul, the head of the Lebanese Scouts’ Union. While the Mahdi Scouts fall under the umbrella of the Lebanese union, they have no direct affiliation with the international scouting body based in Switzerland. Because of the Scouts’ reputation as a feeder for Hezbollah’s armed force, the party has become extremely protective and rarely grants outsiders access to them.

Still, Hezbollah officials often casually mention the link between the Scouts and the guerrilla force.

“After age 16 the boys mostly go to resistance or military activities,” said Bilal Naim, who served as Hezbollah’s director for the Mahdi Scouts until last year.

Another difference from most scout groups lies in the program. Religious and moral instruction — rather than physical activity — occupy the vast bulk of the Mahdi Scouts’ curriculum, and the scout leaders adhere strictly to lessons outlined in books for each age group.

Those books, copies of which were provided to this reporter by a Hezbollah official, show an extraordinary focus on religious themes and a full-time preoccupation with Hezbollah’s military struggle against Israel. The chapter titles, for the 12- to 14-year-old age group, include “Love and Hate in God,” “Know Your Enemy,” “Loyalty to the Leader” and “Facts About Jews.” Jews are described as cruel, corrupt, cowardly and deceitful, and they are called the killers of prophets. The chapter on Jews states that “their Talmud says those outside the Jewish religion are animals.”

In every chapter, the children are required to write down or recite Koranic verses that illustrate the theme in question. They are taught to venerate Ayatollah Khomeini — Iran has been a longtime supporter of Hezbollah, providing it with money, weapons and training — and the leaders of Hezbollah. They are told to hate Israel and to avoid people who are not devout. Questions at the ends of chapters encourage the children to “watch your heart” and “assess your heart” to check wrong impulses and encourage virtuous ones. One note to the instructors reminds them that young scouts are in a sensitive phase of development that should be considered “a launching toward commitment.”

Secular Influences

In the West, the image of Hezbollah is often that of its bearded, young guerrilla fighters, dressed in military camouflage and clutching AK-47s. But Hezbollah’s inner core of fighters and employees — its full-time members — is a far smaller group than its supporters. This broader category, covering the better part of Lebanon’s roughly one million Shiites, includes reservists, who will fight if needed; doctors and engineers, who contribute their skills; and mere sympathizers.

In that sense, a more representative figure of the party’s young following might be someone like Ali al-Sayyed. A quiet, clean-cut 24-year-old, Mr. Sayyed grew up in south Lebanon and now works as an accountant in Beirut. Hezbollah has offered him jobs, but he prefers to maintain his independence.

But his entire life has been lived in the shadow of Hezbollah. He attended a Mustafa high school, one of a national network of schools affiliated with the party, where he spent at least five class hours every week studying religion and listening to his teachers pray for Hezbollah’s fighters and Ayatollah Khomeini. After school and during the summers, he was with the Mahdi Scouts. Later he became a Scout leader.

He is extremely devout — he will not shake hands with women — and mentions his willingness to fight and die for Hezbollah as though it were a matter of course.

“They made us, so of course I would sacrifice my life for them,” he said as he sat gazing through the glass wall of a Beirut cafe on an autumn evening. “Before, the Shiites were in a wretched condition.”

Yet Mr. Sayyed’s generation is also in many ways more exposed to the temptations of Lebanon’s secular and often decadent society than its predecessors.

That shift is apparent even in the Dahiya, or Suburb, the vast enclave on the southern edge of Beirut where most of Lebanon’s Shiites live and where Hezbollah has its headquarters.

Once an austere ghetto where bearded men would chastise women who dared to appear in public without an Islamic head scarf, the Dahiya is now a far more open place. There are Internet cafes, music and DVD shops, Chinese restaurants and an amusement park called Fantasy World. There is no public consumption of alcohol, but the streets are thick with satellite dishes and open-air television sets. Lingerie shops display posters of scantily-clad models in their windows, and young women walk past in tight jeans, their hair uncovered.

The cafe where Mr. Sayyed was sitting, on the outskirts of Dahiya, was typical. Hezbollah banners were visible on the street outside, but on the inside young people sat at aluminum tables sipping cappuccinos, eating doughnuts and listening to their iPods.

“Hezbollah tries to keep the youth living in a religious atmosphere, but they can’t force them,” he said, gazing uneasily at the street outside.

Mr. Sayyed mentioned Rami Olaik, a former Hezbollah firebrand who left the party and this year published a book about his indoctrination and gradual disenchantment. The book recounts Mr. Olaik’s struggle to reconcile his sexual yearnings with the party’s discipline, and his disgust at the way party members manipulated religious doctrine to justify their encounters with prostitutes. Some unmarried Hezbollah members engage in “temporary marriage” to have sexual relationships, an arrangement allowed by some Shiite religious authorities.

Hezbollah officials say they cannot coerce young people, because it would only create rebels like Mr. Olaik. Instead, they leave them largely free in Lebanon’s pluralistic maze, trusting in the power of their religious training.

But there is a limit to Hezbollah’s flexibility. All young members and supporters are encouraged to develop a hiss amni, or security sense, and are warned to beware of curious outsiders, who may be spies.

After Mr. Sayyed had been talking to a foreign journalist in the coffee shop for more than an hour, a hard-looking young man at a neighboring table began staring at him. Suddenly looking nervous, Mr. Sayyed agreed to continue the conversation on the cafe’s second floor. But he seemed agitated, and later he repeatedly postponed another meeting planned for the next week.

Finally, he sent an apologetic e-mail message explaining that he would not be able to meet again.

“As you know, we live in a war with Israel and America,” he wrote in stumbling English, “and they want to war us (destroy) in all the way.”

Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon.

November 22nd, 2008, 11:54 am


Innocent_Criminal said:

how is Butheina Shaaban a Nobel Peace Prize nominee? and what could she possibly have done to deserve it for god’s sakes?

November 22nd, 2008, 2:08 pm


JustOneAmerican said:

If we look carefully at the words, we see that nothing in the assessment, almost, can be checked or verified.

Of course not, that’s why it’s an estimate – it’s an attempt to predict the future. By definition, it can’t be checked or verified until the future is now. And yes, a timeframe is specified. That’s why it’s called “Global Trends 2025.”

November 22nd, 2008, 2:10 pm


JustOneAmerican said:


Interesting article which reminds me of something Andrew Exum wrote recently:

This is all part of Hizballah’s efforts to create a “society of resistance.” My worry is that the greatest danger in creating a society of resistance is that you might actually succeed. Bacevich may talk about American militarism, but I worry more about these non-state actors who build up armed conflict as their raison d’être. If peace in suddenly in your best interest a year or so down the road, for example, how are you going to tell these kids to stand down? Are they going to be happy working in a cell phone kiosk in Tyre?

November 22nd, 2008, 2:16 pm


Shai said:


Of course not, that’s why it’s an estimate – it’s an attempt to predict the future. By definition, it can’t be checked or verified until the future is now. And yes, a timeframe is specified. That’s why it’s called “Global Trends 2025.”

November 22nd, 2008, 2:27 pm


Alia said:


[For everyone’s information, the Russians have visited and photgraphed every nuclear site in the U.S. and the Americans have visited and photographed every nuclear site in Russia.]

The Bush administration has made major headlines standing against verification of its nuclear as well as biological arms arsenals- To my knowledge this has not changed recently.

U.S. Shifts Stance on Nuclear Treaty
White House Resists Inspection Provision
By Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 31, 2004; Page A01

In a significant shift in U.S. policy, the Bush administration announced this week that it will oppose provisions for inspections and verification as part of an international treaty that would ban production of nuclear weapons materials.

For several years the United States and other nations have pursued the treaty, which would ban new production by any state of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons. At an arms-control meeting this week in Geneva, the Bush administration told other nations it still supported a treaty, but not verification.

Administration officials, who have showed skepticism in the past about the effectiveness of international weapons inspections, said they made the decision after concluding that such a system would cost too much, would require overly intrusive inspections and would not guarantee compliance with the treaty. They declined, however, to explain in detail how they believed U.S. security would be harmed by creating a plan to monitor the treaty.

Arms-control specialists reacted negatively, saying the change in U.S. position will dramatically weaken any treaty and make it harder to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists. The announcement, they said, also virtually kills a 10-year international effort to lure countries such as Pakistan, India and Israel into accepting some oversight of their nuclear production programs.

The announcement at the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament comes several months after President Bush declared it a top priority of his administration to prevent the production and trafficking in nuclear materials, and as the administration works to blunt criticism by Democrats and others that it has failed to work effectively with the United Nations and other international bodies on such vital global concerns.

“The president has said his priority is to block the spread of nuclear materials to rogue states and terrorists, and a verifiable ban on the production of such materials is an essential part of any such strategy,” said Daryl Kimball, director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association. “Which is why it is so surprising and baffling that the administration is not supporting a meaningful treaty.”

The U.N. Conference on Disarmament includes 66 countries as members. It had announced its intent to start negotiations this year toward a verifiable international agreement known as the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) that would ban production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons. The two ingredients are used for setting off a chain-reaction nuclear explosion.

The treaty wouldn’t affect existing stockpiles or production for non-weapons purposes, such as energy or medical research. Mainly, it was designed to reinforce the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and to impose restraints on India, Pakistan and Israel, whose nuclear programs operate outside the reach of NPT inspectors.

In 2000, all three countries, the Clinton administration and the rest of the conference members agreed to pursue negotiation of the treaty. But last year, when the possibility of starting negotiations arose in the conference, the Bush administration decided to review its position on the FMCT.

On Thursday, Jackie Wolcott Sanders, the U.S. representative, said the United States would support the treaty, but without a way to verify compliance.

The State Department later released a statement saying that an internal review had concluded that an inspection regime “would have been so extensive that it could compromise key signatories’ core national security interests and so costly that many countries will be hesitant to accept it.”

Furthermore, “even with extensive verification measures, we will not have high confidence in our ability to monitor compliance with an FMCT.” Bush administration officials would not elaborate on the statement or on the U.S. position, except to say they would send a delegation to Geneva to better explain the position to the conference. But the conference goes on recess in early September, leaving virtually no time to begin formal negotiations on the treaty before the end of the current presidential term. Since the disarmament conference can adopt a treaty only by consensus, the American position makes it highly unlikely that a verification system will be included in a future agreement.

Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry has supported the verification provision and has criticized the administration’s policies on weapons of mass destruction, particularly after none turned up in Iraq after the war.

Early this year, after revelations that Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan had sold nuclear secrets to Libya, Iran and North Korea, Bush gave a major speech on the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. He proposed several new measures, including encouraging all nations to criminalize proliferation and secure sensitive materials within their borders.

While declaring nonproliferation a priority, however, the administration has opposed other arms-control treaties that rely on inspection regimes.

In 2001, the administration opposed attempts to create an inspections regime for the Biological Weapons Convention. It has signed an arms-reduction deal with Russia that doesn’t include new verification mechanisms, and in its first year in office, the administration pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

November 22nd, 2008, 2:34 pm


why-discussf said:


Shia Hezbollah is to the Middle East what the christian evangelists are to the USA…
Same pattern of education and behavior, except that Israel is a friend not an enemy.

November 22nd, 2008, 2:48 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


From a social development standpoint, all of this impressive organization and infrastructure is an amazing thing. The Hizb has some real strategists working behind the scenes. They are mobilizing an entire generation (or two) and putting them to work.

On the other hand, it’s a little bit frightening, at least to a noncommitted person like me. It’s a little reminiscent of the fascist youth feeder programs that we saw in mid-century Europe (or late-century Lebanon, for that matter).

I have no problem with teaching a kid how to pitch a tent, tie a knot, or ford a stream… it’s all the zealotry and brainwashing that bothers me.

November 22nd, 2008, 2:53 pm


JustOneAmerican said:


Your comment mirrors my opinion exactly.

November 22nd, 2008, 4:19 pm


JustOneAmerican said:

I think the Syrian move to not provide anymore IAEA inspections is counterproductive. It not only makes Syria look like it is guilty and trying to hide something, but it gives Syria’s enemies another argument to continue the “rogue state” meme. It will only end up hurting Syria in the end.

That is all assuming, of course, that Israel didn’t bomb a reactor and that Syria doesn’t have a covert nuclear weapons program. If it does, then Syria has little choice but to prevent further inspections.

The problem is, the IAEA has the right to request special inspections and should it do so and should Syria refuse, the IAEA can elevate the matter to the Agency board and then the UNSC. This will mean more isolation for Syria.

November 22nd, 2008, 4:30 pm


Alia said:

JOA quotes:

“If peace in suddenly in your best interest a year or so down the road, for example, how are you going to tell these kids to stand down? Are they going to be happy working in a cell phone kiosk in Tyre?”

QN states:

On the other hand, it’s a little bit frightening, at least to a noncommitted person like me. It’s a little reminiscent of the fascist youth feeder programs that we saw in mid-century Europe (or late-century Lebanon, for that matter).

Question: Realistically, what does usually happen to individuals trained in youth movements after “the cause” disappears ?- Hitler Youth disappeared in the regular society in West Germany, and became DDR Youths in East Germany- nothing terrifying happened in either case…Wasn’t it the same for the Phalanges?

November 22nd, 2008, 4:57 pm


why-discuss said:


If Syria accepts more intrusive visits, it will drag 6 years with no conclusive results and sanctions and threats etc.. In addition, Syria is at war with Israel and not a friend to the US. Why would Syria allow foreigners sympathetic to Israel to visit military sites? Syria, Iraq and Lebanon are packed with Israeli spies, why allow more?
In my view, Syria made the right decision: You got the visit you requested, now please don’t try to spy more on us. Sanctions are already there ( banks boycotted, trading boycotted etc..), they got bombed, what else do they fear? In any case the europeans seem to ignore that issue and continue visiting Syria.
Be sure that if Syria-Israel peace go through, by magic that issue will disappear.. it is all part of an attempt to weaken Syria in the israel-syria negotiations and in its antagonism to the SOFA accord in Iraq.

November 22nd, 2008, 5:05 pm


why-discuss said:


Comparing the Hezbollah to Hitler’s fascism is shocking. It is not a racist organization, it does not claim supremacy… It is a religious based movement that after years of oppression is getting organized and efficient. Reading the Koran is nothing different that reading the Bible or the Evangiles. Giving moral values according to the religion to youngster is nothing wrong, as long as it does not exclude the others.
I think that what bothers you most is that they are unique in their effectiveness in gathering their religious community while the Sunnis and the Christians in lebanon are deeply divided, have absorbed the western values and feel confused and weakened.
In this globalized world and the failure of imported ideologies, religions seems to regain a second life and there is nothing you can do about it.

November 22nd, 2008, 5:16 pm


trustquest said:

Innocent Criminal: On 7, I thought there are no people with brain in this world to speak up to this ridicules statement “Butheina Shaaban a Nobel Peace Prize nominee?.”
Now you know what Syrians are suffering and can not make puff.
But please shoot me but save the Syrians people.
anyway, thank you

November 22nd, 2008, 5:28 pm


Shai said:


Sorry, in my comment above, I didn’t see that the rest of my comment didn’t go through… until just now. So here’s what I wanted to say earlier:

No, an estimate should certainly be verifiable. If it refers to the future, then it should be verifiable in the future. But if it can’t be, that is, if it can’t be disproved, then it is worthless – it says nothing (despite seeming like it says something). And the way this estimate was worded, as is the case often with such agencies that wish to sound intelligent, yet not overly clear, there is no way to disprove their claim. As I mentioned earlier, no matter what happens in the future, one can always claim that the world is being “haunted”, and that terrorist organizations have “greater access”. This terminology is unquantifiable, and therefore true always. No one can prove that Al Qaida in 2009 had LESS access to nuclear weapons, or that the world is NOT being haunted by terrorists.

Of course not, that’s why it’s an estimate – it’s an attempt to predict the future. By definition, it can’t be checked or verified until the future is now. And yes, a timeframe is specified. That’s why it’s called “Global Trends 2025.”

November 22nd, 2008, 5:39 pm


offended said:

I of course did not fully mean what I wrote above. I don’t believe in labels or subscribe to them. ‘Terrorist’ is a very ambiguous word. Meant to show that the subject being described is alien, utterly unrehabitable, beyond repair dangerous…etc…

Maybe people who write such reports are ‘haunted’ by their own demons and so they refer to them as aliens? : )

And I agree with your analysis of the words used in the report of speculation. There’s one single thing in the report that I agree with which is that the world is becoming more multi-polar by the day. Not that the US won’t be the dominant superpower by 2025, but it will be ‘less likely’ to have its way with the other emerging powers like China, India, and Russia.

Now I wonder if the American foreign policy will respond to this decline of influence by more more brainless and vain rivalry, or by more listening to its peers?

I guess they never learn!

November 22nd, 2008, 5:48 pm


JustOneAmerican said:


If your allegation about the IAEA and Syria is true, then how do you explain Libya? Yes, the nuclear issue would probably go away with peace between Syria and Israel, but this issue will, in my opinion, work to prevent that peace from occurring.

On the subject of the Nazi’s and Hezbollah, it’s important to point out the Nazi movement started out among the downtrodden and dispossessed and it grew from there. I would agree that one can’t make too many comparisons, nor would it be prudent to suggest that Hezbollah will become like the Nazis, but there are parallels.


That’s a strange argument to make – that an estimate certainly should be verifiable. Let me give you an example. Suppose an estimate says that X might happen by 2025 and the effects of that happening would be very negative. As a result of that estimate, policymakers take actions to prevent X from happening. 2025 comes and X has not happened. Does that mean the estimate was wrong or useless? No. Was the estimate verified? Maybe. It’s always hard to say what might have happened if different actions were taken or to prove one way or the other why X did not occur. So an estimate’s purpose is to identify issues that are likely to come up in the future so that policymakers can begin to address those issues early in a proactive, not a reactive manner.

I agree that use of words like “haunted” is completely inappropriate for the reasons you state and I would like more rigorous terminology.

November 22nd, 2008, 6:03 pm


jad said:

Comparing HA to Europe fascist group is new and original keep the good work QN!!
Out of curiosity, could you please enlighten us of where did you get your conclusion from and what are the similarities you find between the two that make you write your bold statement?
Did you tell Abbas about your discovery yet or is it a surprise present or maybe he already knows that?
I strongly suggest you write a comparison article on your website and let’s see what the Lebanese think of that.

November 22nd, 2008, 6:04 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Dear Jad & Why-Discuss,

I did not say that Hizbullah is a fascist organization. I said that youth recruitment and brainwashing is a feature of both phenomena, just as it was with the Christian militias. And, I’m sorry, but in my opinion any kind of marriage of militancy, religiosity, and politics is nothing so innocent as “giving moral values to youngsters.” What is this, The Brady Bunch?

Once upon a time, Bashir Gemayel also talked about deconfessionalizing Lebanese politics, resisting foreign interference, defending Lebanon, etc. Did that make the average Christian Phalange fighter any less sectarian? When you take young, impressionable people, and drill religion into them, teach, them that Jews are cruel, deceitful, and the killers of prophets, etc… it may not be a supremacist ideology, but it is not exactly something that we need to be happy about.

I don’t understand why you guys can only hold one opinion in your head at the same time. If something is not BAD then it must be GOOD? Life is not nearly so tidy, no?

PS: Jad, don’t worry, my website is not nearly so widely read. Nobody reads it but you habibi. 🙂


Your question is much better, in my opinion. It would be interesting to read a study on the subject… maybe someone will write a dissertation on the effect of youth movements on adult development and political orientation.

November 22nd, 2008, 6:30 pm


jad said:

Dear QN
Thank you for the explanation since JOA now saying that you compared HA to the NAZI and I think that is unfair translation to what you wrote and this is why I did ask for you to clear what you wrote so people don’t put word in your mouth and then take it to the extreme.
I do agree that mixing religion and politics is not innocent at all, yet and in my humble opinion the comparison you did is unjustified.

November 22nd, 2008, 6:45 pm


Shai said:


Thank you for your response. I disagree, however, that estimates that cannot be verified might still be worth something. I still claim they’re not. In your example, an estimate saying that X will happen by 2025 supposedly already takes into account also the possibility that a variety of things could be tried in the interim period, to make X not happen. Otherwise, why give this estimate. You could just say “X will happen by 2025, UNLESS we do a, b, or c.” But stating that terrorists will gain “greater access” to nuclear weapons is not like saying “this will happen unless we secure those weapons better”, it’s like saying “this will happen whether we secure them better, or not.”

Politicians, and other officials, are experts at talking words that seem like they’re saying something, but in reality, they don’t. If a forecast cannot be verified or disproved, how can we judge whether the forecaster is doing his job well, or not? Imagine a weather forecast said “By 2025 there will be a catastrophic tsunami that will kill 2 million people.” So our governments take this forecast extremely seriously, and decide to move all people living within 1 kilometer of the sea further inland. Sure enough, no tsunami that occurs before 2025 kills 2 million people. So were the forecasters correct? I claim they weren’t, because their forecast said nothing. I can make the same forecast myself, right now, about a tornado going through Missouri, killing 5 million people, by 2025. If someone takes me seriously (as is the case with National Intelligence Estimates), and does something about it, I can always claim it didn’t happen, because someone did what they were supposed to…

It’s a simple exercise in logic. But most people fall for it, because it “sounds” smart. In essence, any statement that cannot be disproved, is worthless – it says nothing whatsoever. To give you perhaps the utmost ridiculous Intelligence Estimate I’ve ever heard, coming straight out of our own (in Israel): It was a number of years back, while Arafat was still alive. Our chief of military intelligence (who is the official National Estimator), gave an estimate in Knesset (which was broadcast publicly) saying that his organization estimates that there is a likelihood that Arafat will die the following year, and there is a likelihood that he won’t! And most around the table, who focused more on the first part, found his “estimate” fruitful in some fashion. Of course, it said nothing.

November 22nd, 2008, 6:46 pm


Shai said:

Ya Offended,

What do you say about Hillary becoming the next SOS? Will she be tough enough on Israelis, Palestinians, and Syria? Will she manage to do, what no other secretary of state did? But, more importantly, if her husband always tags along, will he be allowed to talk, or will he sit quietly in the corner? 🙂

November 22nd, 2008, 7:13 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Dear Why-Discuss

Just to follow up on something… you originally said:

I think that what bothers you most is that they are unique in their effectiveness in gathering their religious community while the Sunnis and the Christians in lebanon are deeply divided, have absorbed the western values and feel confused and weakened.

Can I set the record straight and state very clearly that I could care less about how effectively any religious community organizes itself? This may be impressive to you, but it is not to me. I do not self-identify as a Christian, a Sunni, or a Shiite. I self-identify as Lebanese. I would not like to see an equivalent of the Mahdi Scouts arise within my “religious community” in Lebanon, nor would I spare any criticism of such an equivalent, should it come into existence. In other words, I have no interest in being associated with religious or political brainwashing of any stripe.

This is the reason why I criticize Hizbullah, not because I am jealous of them or wish to see their model replicated in my “religious community”. To be sure, there are many Christians and Sunnis in Lebanon who are jealous of Hizbullah and wish that their own sects were as unified, effective, and organized in their ideological activities, but I am not one of them.

Finally, can you explain to me why you are happy to see a Lebanese political party acting very effectively to promote a sect-specific brand of religiosity and community-identification, but you would abhor the same phenomenon were it to take root in Syria? Why is it that Syria is allowed to be the land of secular values, which punishes groups that seek to unite politically people of a single sect, whereas in Lebanon you applaud a group that indoctrinates its youth with religious ideology?

Seems just a tad hypocritical to me.

November 22nd, 2008, 7:19 pm


norman said:


Arabs are starving for winners no matter what religion they are , as long as they Arabs and Hezbollah and the Shia are considered as Arabs
That is why they are popular,

And that is my take,

November 22nd, 2008, 7:26 pm


Shai said:


Good to see you here!

How do the Lebanese see this latest call by Abu Mazen for Barack Obama to support the Arab Initiative? I know Siniora has always said “Lebanon will be the last to make peace with Israel”, insinuating a comprehensive precondition, but given that Syria is willing to talk to Israel (and probably sign an agreement with her), how does Lebanon fit in? Will Lebanese officials, who clearly will be courted by the new American administration, push Washington also in the direction of a comprehensive peace agreement? Even if Fatah and Hamas are yet to resolve their differences? And if so, is Lebanon essentially going to recommend freezing the Israeli-Syrian track?

November 22nd, 2008, 7:28 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Hi Shai

My sense is that Lebanon is just going to sit quietly and let the big boys do the talking.

Especially in the short term, no one should expect any earth-shattering pronouncements by Lebanese politicians on the subject of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

As for the public… I think most Lebanese are trying to just get on with their lives, and hoping that the upcoming election season will not bring too much instability.

November 22nd, 2008, 7:47 pm


Shai said:


One of the things that members of Congress kept repeating to Alon Liel during his visit to Washington this year, was that Syria could not be trusted, judging by how they seem to “control” Lebanon. They of course cited the Hariri trial, Hezbollah, etc. In essence, they said to Israel: “How can we trust Syria?” So the question is, do you think Congress will change sufficiently after Obama’s inauguration, to alter this policy of dismissing Syria as a crucial partner, perhaps THE partner to be engaged at the moment, as the only viable candidate to actually deliver on anything (unlike the Palestinians right now). And, specifically, what will Lebanese officials tell Washington, when asked about Syria? Will Lebanon get in the way of the Syrian-Israeli track in any fashion?

I know this is a tough question…

November 22nd, 2008, 7:56 pm


JustOneAmerican said:


QN’s explanation is much better than what I tried to give and I agree completely with how he phrased it. I did not mean to suggest that HA was comparable to the Nazi’s – what I meant was that their methods of indoctrinating youth are similar, not to mention dangerous.


Thanks for your response. I just finished reading the Global Trends document and can report the word “haunt” does not appear in there. The actual document is much more rigorous than the DNI statement, which is what you commented on originally. For example, the document does not directly address “nuclear terrorism.” It doesn’t ignore it either:

For those terrorist groups active in 2025, the
diffusion of technologies and scientific
knowledge will place some of the world’s
most dangerous capabilities within their
reach. The globalization of biotechnology
industries is spreading expertise and
capabilities and increasing the accessibility of
biological pathogens suitable for disruptive
attacks. Radiological and chemical weapons
may also be used by terrorists or insurgents
seeking an advantage against opposing
security or military forces and to create mass

On nuclear proliferation, it’s much more nuanced and provides justification:

The risk of nuclear weapon use over the next 20 years, although remaining very low, is likely to be greater than it is today as a result of several converging trends. The spread of nuclear technologies and expertise is generating concerns about the potential emergence of new nuclear weapon states and the acquisition of nuclear materials by terrorist groups. Ongoing low-intensity clashes between India and Pakistan continue to raise the specter that such events could escalate to a broader conflict between those nuclear powers. The possibility of a future disruptive regime change or collapse occurring in a nuclear weapon state such as North Korea also continues to raise questions regarding the ability of weak states to control and secure their nuclear arsenals.

In addition to these longstanding concerns, new political-military developments could further erode the nuclear “taboo.” The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran spawning a nuclear arms race in the greater Middle East will bring new security challenges to an already conflict-prone region, particularly in conjunction with the proliferation of long-range missile systems. Furthermore, future acquisition of nuclear weapons by states with weak command and control procedures and safeguards increases the probability of accidental or unauthorized nuclear use.

Doesn’t that sound better? As in most cases, it’s better to read the actual publication rather than rely on a small portion of what someone said about the publication.

Anyway, there are three things I do want to point out in response to your last comment. The first is that there are no absolutes when discussing the future, only probabilities. Anyone who claims with absolute certainty that something will occur in the future is someone who should be met with skepticism. So the language of estimates is probability, not absolutes. So saying a Tsunami is likely before 2025 is not the same thing as saying one will definitely or almost certainly occur. It’s all about probabilities and, more importantly, the evidence that justifies those probabilities. Nothing in an estimate is simple guesswork – there is evidence or other data to support a particular judgment. That said, people can reasonably disagree and come to a different judgment based on the same evidence.

So, in your tsunami example, if it was estimated that one is likely to occur (say a 75% chance), then there would be evidence to support that – either geological data, expert opinion, or whatever. If the probability is low, then evidence will support that judgment. However, and this is the critical point, such estimates are not predicting whether something will occur or not – they’re predicting the probability of occurrence. It’s a subtle but very important difference.

Allow me to quote an example from one of my favorite books:

We humans tend to believe that, because an event took place, it was highly likely to take place. If the weather bureau forecasts only a 5 percent change of rain, and we go on a picnic and get drenched in a downpour, we instantly conclude that the weather bureau goofed. Obviously, the probability of rain was higher than 5 percent. More like 100 percent. Look at us! We’re soaked! But what does a 5% chance of rain really mean? It means that weather history gathered over decades shows that 5 percent of the time, when meteorological conditions like the ones we are experiencing prevail, it rains. Expressed another way, if these exact weather conditions are repeated many, many times, 5 percent of those many, many times it will rain. It means that the downpour that soaked us was one of the 5 percent. It doesn’t mean the forecast was wrong; it means our intuition was wrong.
The second, related, point is that in the US intelligence estimates are not supposed to recommend any course of action. So you will never see the example you give, which is X will occur unless we do a, b, or c. This is advocacy and is intelligence intruding in the realm of the policymaker and is a big no-no – at least in the US it’s a big no-no.

The second, related, point is that in the US intelligence estimates are not supposed to recommend any course of action. So you will never see the example you give, which is X will occur unless we do a, b, or c. This is advocacy and is intelligence intruding in the realm of the policymaker and is a big no-no – at least in the US it’s a big no-no.

November 22nd, 2008, 7:59 pm


JustOneAmerican said:

Oops, got my quote a bit wrong in my last comment – my apologies.

November 22nd, 2008, 8:09 pm


Shai said:


This is precisely what I was getting at – that statements that hint at (or specifically use) probabilities are ALSO meaningless. What if I said “There is a 75% chance X will happen by 2025.” If it doesn’t happen, I won’t have been wrong (I left 25% chance that it wouldn’t). And if it does, of course I was right. So you can’t decide whether to keep me on your “forecasting staff”, or hire someone else, because I’m never wrong! A statement that can never be wrong, is meaningless, it doesn’t advance us anywhere. What we expect of NIE’s (national intelligence estimates) are things that are based not on probabilities, but on rational analysis. For instance, an NIE could say the following: “By 2020, if the Arab-Israeli conflict remains unresolved, it should be expected that a number of Arabs states will have an active nuclear program.” This is not based on probabilities, it is based on sensible analysis of what is happening in the region.

But look at the statement you included about nuclear proliferation: “… The risk of nuclear weapon use over the next 20 years, although remaining very low, is likely to be greater…” What does this say? Nothing! What does it mean “low risk”? And then “greater”? What good is it to hear your CIA chief telling you this? What do I DO with this information? If it’s low-risk, do I treat it seriously or not? If it’s going to be greater, how much greater? Sufficiently greater to do something different? An assessment that doesn’t recommend anything specific, or leads to specific action, is worthless, it says… nothing.

November 22nd, 2008, 8:15 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Dear Shai

I don’t think most Lebanese politicians have much influence anywhere outside their own limited constituencies. Even the well-connected types in March 14 don’t have the ability to lobby effectively against American engagement with Syria if the U.S. administration decides that this is the policy they want to pursue.

By the way, the U.S. did not mind Syria “controlling Lebanon” in the 90’s and early 2000’s. In fact, it very much approved of that arrangement, so long as things were stable and there was no hanky panky by Hizbullah. Now the situation is different.

Ultimately, I think that Lebanon itself — as a state — will play a limited role in the progress towards a solution. The real players are Iran and Hizbullah on the one hand, and Israel on the other. If Syria can truly find a way to square the circle, then I don’t see why the U.S. will not go for it.

November 22nd, 2008, 8:20 pm


Jad/2 said:

QN, You can appease the NYT: the “liberal” “secular” “moderates” are here to protect EVERY lebanese.

– “In Lebanon, puritanical Sunnis and a reputed playboy team up in politics”
Wael Hamzeh / EPA http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-salafists17-2008nov17,0,5268378.story
Salafists, accused of being terrorists in other parts of the Arab world, are moving into the mainstream with the help of leading politician Saad Hariri in exchange for bolstering his religious base.

– Summary of Salafist web sites – October-November http://conflictsforum.org/2008/summary-of-salafist-web-sites-october-november/

“Salafist websites persist in their acute verbal offensive against Hezbollah, Iran and the Shi’i generally – but now with greater ferocity” (..)

“This sharpening attack has been accompanied by a new innovation: for the first time, Salafist websites are using Right-wing Arab Christian writings to attack the Shi’i. The use of such Christian authors represents a striking departure for movements who in principle do not recognise diversity of ideas or narrative.”

“In conclusion, the Salafist websites seem determined on exacerbating Shi’ite-Sunni tension; but the question arises: for how long will this instigation continue, and what are its objectives? Is the intent to unite the Sunni community and mobilise them into a Sunni revival that parallels that of political Shi’ism; or is this largely the product of a ‘political disinformation’ operation mounted by the US in direct coordination with some Arab countries – for example President Bush’s non-lethal Presidential Finding for covert actions by the CIA against Hezballah and Iran4 which was described as being at the centre of a fresh drive by America, supported by the Sunni states of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt as well as Israel, to stop Iranian hegemony emerging from the collapse of Iraq? A number of such Salafist sites are reputed to be mounted by Arab intelligence services. Whether or not this campaign truly is some form of psy-ops, the consequences are highly dangerous for the stability of the Region.”

November 22nd, 2008, 11:02 pm


Akbar Palace said:

…it’s all the zealotry and brainwashing that bothers me.

QN –

You hit the nail on the head habibi.

This is why “incitement” was such a critical part of the proposed Oslo accords. And hopefully, if any future peace treaty is signed, this will be included in it. If a tangible peace treaty is signed, demonization and incitement in the media will have to be carefully monitored.

Afterall, this is how these terrorist organizations work. They brainwash youngsters in school, at work, on the radio, TV and in the newspapers. This is how they maintain their control of the people. This is also why school text books need to be carefully checked.

November 22nd, 2008, 11:11 pm


norman said:

Syria rejects more IAEA visits for nuclear probe

Saturday, November 22, 2008 11:49:41 AM Oman Time

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VIENNA: Syria said on Friday a U.N. watchdog report failed to show anything suggesting a Syrian complex bombed by Israel was a covert nuclear reactor and no further inspector visits would be permitted.

Syrian nuclear energy chief Ibrahim Othman challenged the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report saying the site’s layout bore similiarities to a reactor and U.N. inspectors had found striking amounts of uranium particles in the area.

The findings, based on satellite pictures and soil and water samples, were not enough to conclude a reactor was once there, the IAEA said, but the findings warranted further IAEA checks at the site and three others as well as full Syrian transparency.

Othman, speaking after an IAEA briefing to its 35-nation governing board about the report, repeated Syria’s stance that Israel’s target was only a conventional military building.

“What they are now saying about uranium particles — collecting three particles from the desert is not enough to say there was a reactor there at all,” he told reporters, speaking English in Syria’s first public reaction to Wednesday’s report.

“Now, I think to follow up there should be a good reason to say there is something there. In our opinion this file should be closed,” said Othman, head of Syria’s atomic energy commission. Syria has one declared atomic facility, an old research reactor.

He said Syria would stick by a written accord with the IAEA that allowed for only one visit to the Al-Kibar site – which took place last June — and “we will not allow another visit”.

The IAEA report said Syria had not heeded requests for documentation to back up denials of secret nuclear activity or repeated IAEA requests to visit three other military sites seen as harbouring possible evidence linked to Al-Kibar.

“The report reinforces the assessment of my government that Syria was secretly building a nuclear reactor in its eastern desert and thereby violating its IAEA (non-proliferation) safeguards obligations,” Gregory Schulte, U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, said in a statement earlier on Friday.

Pressed on whether Syria was slamming the door to further contact with the IAEA over the probe, Othman said, “No, no. If the information required belongs to the accusation, then we will supply it,” suggesting there could be more discussions.

But he poured cold water on the prospect of intrusive inspections of more sites he said were military installations Syria could not afford to expose given its official state of war with Israel, which has an undeclared nuclear arsenal.

“If our authorities find it is possible to visit, it’s not myself who will decide. But I’m pointing out these are military positions, buildings, activities, and remind you all we are still in a war in the Middle East,” Othman said.

He said Syria would continue cooperation with the IAEA but only under its basic safeguards agreement with the agency, which provides for inspections only at declared atomic sites.

At Friday’s briefing, diplomats said, the IAEA’s chief inspector screened satellite pictures of the three other Syrian sites taken at different times to show they had been landscaped to alter their look after the agency first asked to visit them.
“The images were weak, though. You couldn’t tell what was going on there,” said a European diplomat.

Syria’s dismissive response and hard line against further inspector access set the stage for confrontation at the year-end meeting of the agency’s policymaking governors next week.

Diplomats said the United States and some allies were considering blocking approval of Syria’s bid for IAEA technical aid in planning a nuclear power plant. Washington might also seek a board resolution demanding Syrian cooperation, they said.

Both moves would be resisted by developing nations who oppose “politicising” IAEA work based on unverified allegations.

© Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2008

November 22nd, 2008, 11:41 pm


norman said:


this is for you,

w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m


Last update – 01:09 23/11/2008
Defense establishment urges peace deal with Syria in exchange for Golan
By Barak Ravid

A defense establishment paper recommends making contingency plans to attack Iran, reaching an agreement with Syria that includes leaving the Golan Heights and preventing new elections in the Palestinian Authority, even if this means a confrontation with the United States.

The paper will be presented to the cabinet next month as part of the National Security Council’s annual situation assessment.

The document warns that in 2009, Israel may find itself facing a nuclear Iran virtually alone, following a rapprochement between the U.S., Iran and the Arab world that would also undermine Israel’s military superiority.

Additionally, it warns of a possible collapse of the PA, which would effectively kill the two-state solution.

“Iran’s threat to Israel’s survival” is at the top of the paper’s list of threats, followed by the “strategic threat” of long-range missiles and rockets owned by various countries in the region.

“Israel faces these threats almost alone,” the paper says. “It is imperative to mobilize the international community and obtain regional cooperation. The new American administration is an opportunity to do this.”

The paper says Israel has a limited “window” in which to act before Iran obtains nuclear arms and regional hegemony. Israel must therefore establish a military option against Iran, in case other countries abandon the struggle. The defense establishment advises the cabinet to “work discreetly on contingency plans to deal with a nuclear Iran.”

It also recommends close cooperation with the U.S. to prevent a deal between Washington and Tehran that would undermine Israel’s interests.

The paper warns that after PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ term ends on January 9, 2009, he might “disappear” from the political arena. That could cause the PA to disintegrate, which would increase the risk of the two-state solution being taken off the table.

Due to this possibility, coupled with the fear that Hamas might win a new election, the paper recommends “preventing elections in the PA, even at the cost of a confrontation with the U.S. and the international community.”

The paper also advises continued Israeli pressure on Hamas to isolate and weaken it, along with bolstering alternatives to it. “If the truce collapses and conflict is resumed in the Gaza Strip, Israel must act to topple Hamas’ rule there,” it says.

Regarding Syria, the paper says “an agreement with Syria must be advanced, despite the heavy price Israel would have to pay.” The defense establishment believes that removing Syria from the conflict would lead to an agreement with Lebanon as well, thus significantly weakening the radical Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas axis.

The new American administration must be harnessed to support this process, the paper adds.

Israel should support moderate factions in Lebanon in next year’s scheduled parliamentary elections, but not at the expense of Israel’s interests, it continues. At the same time, Israel must strengthen its deterrence against Hezbollah and take “low-profile” action against Hezbollah’s arms smuggling.

The paper proposes various steps to strengthen Israel’s ties with moderate Sunni Arab countries, and especially Saudi Arabia. “Israel must examine ways to expand its dialogue with Saudi Arabia on various shared interests,” the document says. It must also act to neutralize potential risks in Saudi Arabia, such as its development of nuclear capability, its purchase of long-range missiles or its closing of the military gap with Israel.

Jordan, the paper says, is experiencing an acute political and economic crisis. “Jordan feels abandoned in the regional face-off and continues to see Israel and the West as strategic supports,” it says. “Strengthening and stabilizing our ties with Jordan is crucial to Israel’s security. Economic cooperation with Jordan must be strengthened.”

With regard to the new administration in Washington, the document warns that “the U.S. is interested in setting up a regional and international alignment against Iran, and Israel is the one that might pay the price.” It predicts that Iran and the U.S. will begin talks and warns that Israel must work to prevent any agreement that would be “problematic” from its point of view.

The paper recommends persuading the new administration to support the talks with Syria, to which the Bush administration objected. The U.S., for its part, is expected to demand that Israel bolster the moderates in Lebanon by making concessions in Shaba Farms and Ghajar and ending its objection to America’s arming of the Lebanese Army.

Israel must also ensure that recommendations prepared by three American generals on Israeli-Palestinian security coordination, which are to be presented to the new administration, correspond with its interests, the paper says.

It also warns that the U.S. is arming moderate Arab states, especially Egypt and Saudi Arabia, “in a way that undermines the Israel Defense Forces’ edge, especially in the air.” Israel must act to prevent this as much as possible, it says.

The paper also discusses Israel’s possible responses to a Hamas provocation in the south or a Hezbollah provocation in the north in 2009. It stresses that Israel must avoid a war of attrition or a two-front conflict, and therefore, it must first try to contain the provocation rather than be dragged into a retaliation that would escalate the situation. Afterward, however, it should send a “firm message of deterrence.”

If the escalation continues, Israel must “consider embarking on a broad confrontation to hit the enemy severely and end the clash within a short time, and with as clear a result as possible,” it adds.



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November 23rd, 2008, 12:01 am


why-discuss said:


“Why is it that Syria is allowed to be the land of secular values, which punishes groups that seek to unite politically people of a single sect, whereas in Lebanon you applaud a group that indoctrinates its youth with religious ideology?”

First, Syria has not oppressed a community like the lebanese did with the Shias for years in the South where they were no schools, no hospitals, and no jobs while Beyrouth and the mountains were enjoying a lavish life, ignoring the South as if it was another country. Lebanon is paying the price of the injustices made to the Shia community. I think that Hezbollah has never manifested a sense of revenge for the dark years the South went through. They are showing their nationalism and the affirmation of their identity within their religion.
Second, you seem to forget that contrary to Syria, Lebanon is a country whose political system is based on religious communities sharing power according to a agreed national pact, therefore it encourages each religious groups to try to get more power in any way they can to become stronger politically,

November 23rd, 2008, 1:46 am


ausamaa said:

For once I think the Syrian response could have been more Productive PR-wise has it been molded alongside the line:

“We would not allow further inspections of any sites or locations inside Syria UNLESS similar visits and inspections are carried smiltaneously by the IAEA inside Israel”.

November 23rd, 2008, 3:26 am


Shai said:


Thank you for the article. If you promise not to tell anyone (just keep it between us..), that’s going to be one of the strongest points we make in the upcoming campaign – that EVEN the defense establishment, the intelligence services, the army, the defense ministry, etc., are ALL for peace with Syria – they ALL believe Syria is sincere. They are, after all, the ones in charge of our security. It is their task to estimate the threat, to prepare for it, and to defend against it. So if THEY estimate that Syria is serious about peace, what right does ANY party or politician have to claim they aren’t? Hopefully, this issue will not escape the campaign, as it is a perfect opportunity to bring it to the surface.

November 23rd, 2008, 4:39 am


Shai said:


“Afterall, this is how these terrorist organizations work. They brainwash youngsters in school, at work, on the radio, TV and in the newspapers. This is how they maintain their control of the people. This is also why school text books need to be carefully checked.”

I hope you also understand that we in Israel, over the past 60 years, have also been “brainwashed” by our society (whether planned programs or not) about certain things. For instance, despite the fact that no one in my family ever mentioned the words “hate Arabs”, and most have certainly exhibited pro-peace stances, I still grew up fearing and hating Arabs. All the kids-books I read (e.g. “Hasamba”, if you’ve heard of it) demonized the Arabs, and pushed in very unsubtle fashion the national ethos of saving Israel by fighting the Arabs always and forever. In my books in grade school, there was no mention (none) of the Palestinians that were forced out of their homes in 1947-48. Some 600,000-800,000 simply “vanished” from my history, I was never told about them, until much later in life, and at my own initiative.

We also grew up believing that the Occupation was a must, it was a purely defensive thing, for the sake of our existence. Now I know, that while I was being “fed” these beliefs, Moshe Dayan and Levi Eshkol were trying to get rid of the territories they never planned to occupy in the first place. No one ever told me this. I had to find this out much later in life.

I still remember, as a child, one day going to visit my dad on a weekend he had spent on a military base near Nablus (he was doing a course of some sort up there). A friend of his came to pick me and my mother up, and drive us to Nablus. On the way, we stopped in some Arab village to buy some fruit. Since all soldiers carried guns, my dad’s friend had an Uzi, which he responsibly managed to let me carry during the drive (he took out the cartridge… I hope). I’ll never forget how I, a mere 5 year-old, walked out of the car with the Uzi slung over my shoulder, and walked across the busy street like some John Wayne. I didn’t even know of the Hollywood hero yet, but I have some distant memory of feeling “superior” in that situation. I knew I was the boss. The Arabs around me were bad people, intent on throwing us to the sea, but now we finally control them, and they can do nothing. It never crossed my mind that since I’m just one amongst many, I might be in danger. I was a kid. Of course, many adults today think the same way unfortunately.

The point I’m trying to make isn’t about the territories, or whether we had a right to be there at that time. It’s about how I, a mere child, already felt about Arabs. This was not wild-imagination on my part. This wasn’t years of family extreme right-wing indoctrination about Greater Israel. This was the product of my normal Israeli upbringing. And again, most around me were, certainly at that time, avid supporters of the Left (most people were back then).

It’s ok to use terms like “brainwashing” when we refer to some of those madrassas in various places in the Muslim world, including Gaza. Indeed those poor kids are also being indoctrinated in terrible directions. But we must also recognize how our own, so-called free and democratic society, has also done its share of brainwashing. We’ve had, and still have, very real cognitive obstacles to get over, before we can look at Arabs as equals. We must have the courage to first recognize this, and then to begin changing.

November 23rd, 2008, 5:18 am


Qifa Nabki said:


First, Syria has not oppressed a community like the lebanese did

Come on, be honest. Did you write this sentence with a straight face?

Lebanon is paying the price of the injustices made to the Shia community.

Ok, so do you anticipate a period when Syria will pay the price of its injustices?

I think that Hezbollah has never manifested a sense of revenge for the dark years the South went through. They are showing their nationalism and the affirmation of their identity within their religion.

Great, so you would have no problem with the Ikhwan coming to power and “showing their nationalism and the affirmation of their identity within their religion”?

Second, you seem to forget that contrary to Syria, Lebanon is a country whose political system is based on religious communities sharing power according to a agreed national pact, therefore it encourages each religious groups to try to get more power in any way they can to become stronger politically,

I just don’t understand your logic. Instead of pointing to the deficiencies of the system, you applaud a group that uses any means to get ahead within it. That’s like saying: “Lebanon is a country whose political system is based entirely on corruption, so it is ok if people use corruption to get more power…”

Why not instead say: “Isn’t it sad to see Hizbullah, a party that has the potential to shatter the sectarian system by pressuring the traditional political elite to reform, turn out to be just as sectarian as the next guy?”

Otherwise, what you are basically advocating is a continuation of the status quo, with changes only in the dominant sects. Today it is Hizbullah. Tomorrow it may be somebody else. Meanwhile, nothing really changes.

November 23rd, 2008, 7:09 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Here’s a proposal for Hizbullah, if anyone out there is reading:

Instead of starting religious indoctrination boy scout programs that serve to deepen the Shi`a community’s sense of “otherness”, why not use Iran’s generous millions to start several excellent non-confessional schools that bring promising students of all sects together, and teach them math, science, literature, history, civics, etc.? These schools could then feed into a free university which provides further opportunities to the underclass, giving young men and women skills beyond selling mobile phones and delivering shish tawuq sandwiches on a moped.

Wouldn’t that be a better use of your vast fortunes? I guarantee you that you would not only win the hearts and minds of more people across Lebanon, you would be contributing to the future welfare of the country. The only catch is that you have to drop the five hours per day of religious indoctrination.

Maybe that’s a dealbreaker?

November 23rd, 2008, 7:24 am


jad said:

When it comes to religions, there is a huge difference between Syrians and Lebanese and I think you already know that.
Syrians in general don’t appreciate talking about religion, it’s not that we are trying to sound good and be extra secular, but simply because we always try to show our similarity with other Syrians not what differentiate us.
Have you noticed that before your article and comments about HA that later translated into a Shia issue, and then it becomes Sunni Shia Christian fiasco, none of us mentioned anything about religions or sects differences.
You are free to write whatever reflect your opinion and I understand your reply to WD since his comments came out a little bit strong but, you did step on my toe as a Syrian writing what you wrote in many ways and some of your comparision points are Inapplicable.

November 23rd, 2008, 9:25 am


Nour said:


Let us not forget that HA is a sectarian organization, and always has been. However, this organization was a natural byproduct of the highly sectarian and inherently corrupt Lebanese system. HA was never interested in providing equal services to all Lebanese regardless of sect. Rather, it wanted to empower a sect that had felt completely neglected by the Lebanese state. And this was what the Shia community believed was the only way to protect and advance themselves. Therefore, the main reason behind the rise of HA is the complete failure of the Lebanese system, a system that can only lead to such outcomes. If you want to change this scenario then you need to completely overhaul the Lebanese sectarian political system.

As for your comparison to Syria, it is unfounded because Syria does not have a system based entirely on sectarianism. And although the Syrian system itself needs to change also, it is for different reasons, as it does not provide for sectarian empowerment and agitation in the same way the Lebanese system does. The only truly secular parties in Lebanon are and have always been the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and the Communist Party. However, their ability to attract members has been historically hampered by the deep sectarian nature of Lebanese society which has only been strengthened and reinforced by the political system insisted upon by the sectarian, tribal chieftains of the country.

November 23rd, 2008, 1:43 pm


why-discuss said:


Thanks for for intervention and the clarification


You seem to live in a cloud of idealism and optimism. Don’t get angry, just open your eyes wider!
Lebanon IS a sectarian country and there is no hope it will ever come out of the growth of power with relision unless it cancels that National pact that legitimates the use of religions in politics.
When Aoun calls for a cancellation or overhaul of that pact, most sunnis and some Geagea christians just panic because they know they are the weaker and the loosers. Aoun is building a strong christian base who is not afraid of the Shias and could easily deal with an overhaul of the sectarian system, while the Sunnis are disorganized, divided and walk with no head, except the one of the well groomed playboy.
By the way, I see no comparison in Syria with the long and painful fate of the Shia in the south of Lebanon. I could add to it the ill treatment of the palestinians in lebanon that have triggered the civil war and the continous problems in the camps.

Instead of asking me questions with a sarcastic tone, please clarify what you mean.

November 23rd, 2008, 2:57 pm


Joshua said:

Dear Nour,
You write: “The only truly secular parties in Lebanon are and have always been the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and the Communist Party. However, their ability to attract members has been historically hampered by the deep sectarian nature of Lebanese society which has only been strengthened and reinforced by the political system insisted upon by the sectarian, tribal chieftains of the country.”

What about the Baath Party? Like both the SSNP and Communists, the Baath is secular and even anti-sectarian in ideology. Of course, it has not been so in reality.

I raise this question of the Baath, which is much more familiar to us, in order to challenge you on the other two – the SSNP and Communists.

I have always thought of the SSNP or PPS as a Greek Orthodox party at its base. Yes, it builds on “Greater Syrian” nationalism, which is geographically based and not obviously sectarian, but hasn’t it appealed to Greek Orthodox first and foremost – as the anti “Arab” party? And what I mean by “Arab” was understood by Greek Orthodox to be a code word for Muslim? (Of course in the 1950s, after the death of Saade, the party was “Arabized,” but I am talking about its origins and heart.

At the time of the First World War, when the British were trying to appeal to the Arab Sunni majority by supporting the Hashemite version of Arab nationalism, which was infused with Sunni legitimacy, the Comite Central Syrien, a largely Greek Orthodox inspired organization grew up to challenge this conception of the M.E. It presented Greater Syria as the alternative to a Hashemite led Middle East and appealed to the French – particularly during the Paris Peace Conference after the War. People like Jacques Tabet, Chucri Ghanem and Semne, leading members of the movement – as well as the many chapters in the mahjar, Latin America, Europe and North America, did not want toe-picking backward Arabian Arabs to take over. They also depicted Arabism as a scary fanatical movement coming from the desert that wanted to re-impose a caliphate on the Middle East and had no conception of modern nationalism. They tried to scare Christian Middle Easterners and Europeans alike about the ultimate results of empowering a largely Muslim, neo-Umayyad, Arabism in the region.

When one scratched below the surface of the Greater Syria alternative, one found an imperial Byzantine sensibility and conception of history that had been built upon readings of the bible and sought to reunite regions of the Middle East where large populations of Greek Orthodox lived. Greater Syrianism didn’t just grow up as an anti-Arabist movement, it also emerged as an anti-Pheonicianist movement. It was an effort to present a nationalist conception of the region that suited the sensibilities and demographic of the Greek Orthodox in opposition to the largely Sunni and Maronite nationalist conceptions that were emerging.

Antoun Saade, whose father Khalil Sa’adah was a prominent Arabic-language journalist in Brazil, was well versed in this conception of the Middle East. I do not have proof that his father belonged to the Comite Central Syrien of the First World War era, but I would wager he did. He was a publisher and intellectual. Antoun grew up in a politicized and literate milieu.

He brought these ideas back to Lebanon in the 1930s and gave them an overlay of national socialism (fascism) which was the fashion of the time, replacing the liberalism of the original members of the Comite Central Syrien.

In short, what I am arguing is that all the “secular” parties of the Middle East, such as the SSNP, Baath, and Communists, appealed to various ethnic or sectarian groups and became “sectarianized” because the nationalist struggle in the Middle East could not be isolated from the religious and communal struggles that were such a fundamental part of identity politics in the region.

Best, Joshua

November 23rd, 2008, 3:12 pm


Alia said:

Shai, #6

[You realize, of course, that I cannot fully accept the definition of Israel as a “terrorist state”]

My friend who has earned my admiration for your astute analysis of political language, who has used most often the term brainwashing by leaders, why do you “think” (not feel) that Israel is not a terrorist state?

Haaretz 21/11/2008

Born in sin
By Gideon Levy,

The Israeli peace camp was born in sin and died because of a lie: It was born as the legitimate son of the sin of occupation, and died the illegitimate son of the lie that “there is no partner” with whom to negotiate on the other side. Between September 1967 and October 2000, it spent 33 years waging the brave and determined struggle of a minority against a majority, “traitors” against “patriots,” “defilers of Israel” against “lovers of Israel,” David against Goliath. Today, we must painfully admit that it was struggle that did not produce much.

The peace camp was born of a small ad – a statement bearing only a dozen mostly unknown signatures – addressed to the general public, and then began to die a pathetic death, which is lamented by no one. Since then, its body has laid in public squares that are void of protesters, in streets empty of struggle and in public discourse free of ideas. On occasion, it lets out a desperate and dying gasp from the direction of a group of determined but marginalized groups, near the separation fence in Na’alin or in Gush Shalom’s advertisements in the Friday paper.

On occasion, it wraps itself in the guise of a mass demonstration, mostly at deceptive memorial rallies for Yitzhak Rabin – also featuring pop stars Aviv Geffen and Ninet – and in public opinion polls in which the majority claims to adopt its positions. But the interim balance sheet of history is clear and razor sharp: The occupation, the settlements, the police thugs and the brutality have been victorious over everything else. Never have so many people said we need to put a stop to things, and never have so few done anything about it.

The Israeli occupation enterprise has never been so prosperous, sweeping up in its whirlpool all of Israeli society and a vast army of settlers, secret agents, soldiers, prosecutors, journalists, politicians, judges, doctors, engineers, builders, architects, industrialists, artists, archaeologists and average apathetic citizens. Everyone, absolutely everyone, is implicated. They speak peace, but make war; oppose the settlements, but take part in their construction; say “two states,” but vote Likud; close their eyes, hide their faces and wrap themselves in the most dangerous of blankets: blankets of apathy.

I am flipping through the yellowing pages of Haaretz from September 1967. The announcement concerning the establishment of the peace camp is hidden between an advertisement for a car that costs 10,849 liras and a guaranteed “original key chain” for anyone who purchases a pack of Diplomat razor blades, just next to the death announcement paid for by a neuro-psychiatric society mourning one of its members. A dozen members of the Matzpen movement, who were outcast, excommunicated and persecuted, placed the ad three months after the end of the Six-Day War. At the peak of the nationalist orgy and the religious celebrations that dominated us then, came the first call: “Leave the occupied territories immediately!”

Everything the advertisement predicted about messianic occupation, and the terror and oppression that would be born of it, and the fact that we would become a “nation of murderers and murdered,” is a common truth shared by the masses, the mainstream, the warm and fuzzy consensus. Even Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon would concur. But surprisingly and catastrophically, here we are today, as the famous Chaim Nahman Bialik poem goes: The sun is shining, the acacia is blooming and the slaughterer is still slaughtering.

At the end of Camp David, when he told us “there’s no partner,” Ehud Barak propagated an even bigger lie: that we have a peace camp. How pleasant it is to delude ourselves that we have one, and how depressing it is to know that we don’t. There is no left – just empty words. When the only demonstration in town is over student tuition, when the only discourse in city and village alike concerns the “Big Brother” TV show, and the loudest cries are over “corruption” and Olmert’s frequent-flier miles instead of over the jailed Palestinian who is bleeding and beaten, who hasn’t had a normal day in his life – then we know for sure that there is no peace camp in Israel in 2008.

Maybe there never was? Maybe a camp that is defeated with such intolerable ease just needs to be told there is no partner in order to simply disappear. The moment this camp witnesses terrorism – that means of struggle for all those who seek liberation – it shuts itself down at home, planning the next package tour and watching a reality show, in fear, silence, betrayal and sick apathy, while half an hour away, the cruel occupation lives on. It’s much crueler today than it was back then, when a dozen Matzpen members printed that public appeal, a voice crying in the wilderness, the barren desert wilderness of the Israeli left and of Israeli society as a whole.

The term “left” and the expression “peace camp” need to be removed from the dictionary of Hebrew terms. We no longer have the right to make use of them. Any use whatsoever.

November 23rd, 2008, 4:16 pm


abraham said:

It’s funny how over the past decade Israel always tries to reach a peace agreement with a hostile neighbor when the term of their current Head Terrorist…er, I mean Prime Minister is at an end. Then, not surprisingly, new elections are held, a new Head Terror…there I go again, a new Prime Minister comes into power, and they have to start back at zero again.

Nothing will come of this recent round of useless talks, and the same result will come after Tzipi or Bebe or whatever terrorist ends up as Israeli PM. The only solution is an eradication and demonization of zionism, much like what happened to nazism after the fall of the Third Reich.

There is no compromise with zionism. Either you embrace peace or you embrace evil. There is no in between.

November 23rd, 2008, 4:18 pm


Shai said:

Dear Alia,

You know that I am capable of accepting a lot about my country and my people. I am the strongest believer that the 40 year-long Occupation has been an endless set of crimes, committed at the expense of the Palestinian people, who did not choose to be ruled and occupied either by the Jordanian Legion, nor by the IDF and Israeli settlers. My nation has acted as a criminal, and still does. We have occupied, subjugated, suffocated, and held in our hands the fate of millions of people, who did not and do not deserve it. But I still cannot accept the term “terrorist state”, as I cannot accept direct comparison between Zionism and Nazism.

It is, of course, an important matter of definition. You and I might fully agree on what Israel is doing, yet define “terrorist” differently. By the way, what does seem to be true, is that there is no internationally agreed definition of the term “terrorism”. But for me, it is what Wikipedia refers to as “… the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.” And therefore, you can see where my disagreement lies – in the term “systematic”. I’ve lived in this country, in total, almost 30 years. I’ve served in the Army, and I’ve served in the territories (both W. Bank and Gaza). I’ve seen what orders are given by our politicians, defense ministers, chiefs of general staff, generals, division commanders, down to the company and platoon commanders. I’ve seen terrible things happen, by our own soldiers, and I’ve seen how they happened.

I can tell you, with absolute trust and knowledge, that there is NO systematic use of terror on any of those levels. There are ongoing acts of crime. Also collective punishment, which I suppose is the closest Israeli leaders come to acting as “terrorists”. But the fine line that separates them from terrorists is the intention, the goals. Israeli governments, from Left to Right over all these years, committed crimes, but not with the systematic intention of causing fear upon the Palestinian people, for the purpose of punishment. There certainly were, and are, cases where this does happen locally, in one instance and another. But not on the national level.

I know from the receiver’s side, what I say cannot be accepted. Everything Israel does can be explained only in one fashion – systematic use of punishment and fear. So I can accept that Israel does have terrorists within us, who do fit this definition. But the state as a whole, its leadership and its citizens, certainly are not terrorists.

Alia, to be honest with you, I think arguing over this definition is not moving us forward, only setting us farther back. I accept that I may have an innate resistance to certain labels (although I was willing to engage in a discussion about any comparison between Zionism and Nazism). I accept that I may not be capable of seeing everything about myself. But I also know that what’s important are not the terms. What’s important is the recognition in what is actually happening on the ground, and putting an end to it.

(p.s. one of the reasons I believe it is futile to engage in an argument about state terrorism, is because of the temptation to consider most parties in our region as such. According to certain definitions that apply to Israel, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Egypt, and even Hamas in Gaza, could all be considered terrorist-regimes. So it doesn’t lead us very far, when suddenly everyone is labeled a terrorist. Let’s focus on the crimes, not on the titles.)

November 23rd, 2008, 5:50 pm


Shai said:


Long time no see! Good to have you back. As I have in the past, I understand the source for your anger and frustration with Zionism. But do know, that while I find terrible crimes to have been committed in the name of Zionism, I still view myself as a Zionist. But as part of the Zionism that once had different values, and very different goals.

November 23rd, 2008, 5:57 pm


abraham said:

Hi Shai,

I’m not sure what you’re talking about. When did zionism ever stand for anything other than displacing the indigenous population of Palestine to make way for a Jewish State? Perhaps there’s some hidden chapter of zionism of which I’m not aware, but in any event it is irrelevant. The goals and mechanisms of zionism as it stands today is to eradicate the Palestinians. If you consider yourself a zionist then I consider you evil, despite your friendly disposition, because that is ultimately what zionism boils down to.

If you’d like to re-define zionism as a movement to create a state within historical Palestine that gives equal rights to all citizens within those boundaries, with reparations and reconciliation for the injured parties, then that would be welcome. But as it is, zionism is a vile, evil ideology that needs eradication. I’m sorry you would still want to associate yourself with such. It makes no sense to me.

November 23rd, 2008, 6:13 pm


Shai said:


Well, I’m happy that at least you’re offering me a different definition of Zionism than the one you’re using. Clearly, I would not call myself anything that would support an evil ideology whose purpose it is to eradicate all the Palestinians. So obviously I am identifying with an ideology that does believe in living peacefully side-by-side, or together, with Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

By the way, I cannot agree with your definition regarding the goal of eradication. It’s like some have suggested an ongoing genocide is taking place. I don’t get my information from newspaper clippings, or blogs on the internet – I get it from people that live inside those territories, from Palestinians themselves, over the past two decades almost. And I’ve been there, and have seen firsthand what we do, and what we do not do. Genocide is something Israel does NOT do, Abraham. We are guilty of physical displacement of the Palestinians, of controlling their lives, of restricting and withholding basic freedoms, and of many other crimes. But Israel does not have a policy of eradicating the Palestinian people (though I admit some on the extreme Right might dream of it out loud).

November 23rd, 2008, 6:26 pm


abraham said:


All the collective actions you mention above (and more, of which the most glaring you missed being the weekly murders of Palestinian civilians) together constitute a slow-motion genocide that has been occuring since 1948. Res ipsa.

It might not be a stated policy, but it is the inevitable end to which zionist ideology–the ideology that proclaims Palestine to be a Jewish homeland–leads.

November 23rd, 2008, 9:32 pm


Shai said:


I don’t know what a “slow genocide” is. Is it a kind of genocide that runs on less fuel? Is it the kind of sophisticated and patient genocide that hopes the world will not notice?

I refuse to accept genocide, as you claim, to be “… the inevitable end to which zionist ideology… leads.” Why can’t a Zionist hope to see Israel/pre-1948 Palestine as a homeland for the Jews, yet not at the expense of the Palestinians? Why can’t a modern-day Zionist not thank God that Jews finally have a home, yet not wish to continue to rule over the Palestinians? And farther still, why can’t such a Zionist hope to one day see a United Middle East, where all religions can live in peace together, not apart?

We had a lengthy discussion a week or two ago on SC, regarding the justification of comparing Zionism to Nazism, and I tried to make the point that to Jews, attempting to even raise the possibility will immediately shut down any form of communication, if that is indeed the goal. Same, I’m afraid, goes for claiming Zionism opts to achieve its goals (or will inevitably do so) via use of genocide. There is a reason why hundreds of thousands, or millions, of Palestinians haven’t been murdered in these past 60 years. And the reason is, that there is no genocide, planned or not, fast or slow, exercised by the State of Israel.

I’m sorry, but I’m even willing to contemplate defining some of our crimes as “terrorist crimes”, but certainly not the term genocide. There are far more effective ways of communicating with Israelis, I believe, than suggesting that their Zionism inevitably will eradicate the Palestinian people.

November 23rd, 2008, 9:45 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Shai you are obviously not seeing the route Israel is fast going and transforming. Naturally what you do with the Palestinians is a slow genocide and has a great danger to accumulate to a faster genocide. It is not “nation waterboarding” as your funny Israeli fellow claimed here some time ago. Of course isolating Gaza to a de facto ghetto without no real ways out is totally equal to Warsaw ghetto. No doubt about that. Remember that also Nazis started slow and tried to get Jews to move out. What on earth is Shai “Zionist” plan with the Palestinians. Naturally to get as few as possible of them to remain in the Greater Israel.

You can claim that Moshe “Boogie” Ya’alon and Lieberman are not the main stream of Zionism. But it seems that they are, much more as your camp, and they are willing to continue to dominate the Middle East at any price and using all means available. With the settlers and other extremists ever growing political grip of Israel it has became a great and present danger to the whole world. What else can be said about this Report: Ya’alon said Israel must ‘consider killing Ahmadinejad’

“It is a misconception to think that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the most important in the Middle-East. The Shiite-Sunni schism is much bigger, the Persian-Arab divide is bigger, the struggle between national regimes and jihadism is much bigger,” he was quoted as saying. “And I can’t imagine the U.S. will want to share power in the Middle East with a nuclear-armed Iran.”

By USA sharing power in Middle East Ya’alon in reality means Israel.

November 23rd, 2008, 11:04 pm


Friend in America said:

Why-D #18
Every signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty agreed to abide by its terms and one of the terms is to permit international inspections. The purpose of inspections is for the comfort of the rest of the world. It is not a matter of sanctions, nor of Israeli spies or other explanations. I am certain Syria will not join the family of nations if it continues to engage in this secret nuclear adventure.
Consider the inspection issue another way: the more transparency in Syria the less the need for spying; the less you know, the greater the temptation to spy.’
I have made many supportive statements for a Syria-Israel peace treaty and have written supportively of the initiative Damascus took to get the tri lateral negotiations started. Turkey has done an admirable job as the “go-between.”

As to a possible peace treaty I interpret the hardening of position in Israel as a reaction to intelligence information on the nuclear program accross its border. Your program has the appearance of making Syria a nuclear outpost for Iran. It destroys any trust the peace negotiations are sincere and without that trust there will be no settlement. It is like saying,’ I am very sincere in negotaiating a peace treaty with you but after signing, we will continue to secretly build a nuclear weapons program for the purpose of erasing you and your citizens from the face of the earth. ‘

I wish there was support for a better way.

November 24th, 2008, 12:02 am


Alia said:

Dear Shai,

My question was in the same spirit in which you have been pursuing labels, rethorical tricks, brainwashing attempts…I brought the label “terrorist” up again in order to push beyond it, so that I understand how you Shai can live with what looks from my own perspective like contradictions/thought compartmentalizations/
hiding behind definitions/using your own idiosyncratic ones- Zionism came up conveniently in the thread- which, it has been pointed out by others, do not seem to coincide with those of the majority in your country.

Were I interested in labeling you or using the label state terrorism, I would not have asked you to explain. The question was not a trap.

So now it seems to me that you are describing a state where you have resolved the contradictions of your life by standing in the center of your own personal history, and connecting yourself with the time before 1948- you are a Jewish man who wants to come and live in Palestine with other Jews ? in a homeland? that includes other religions- With this self-definition, you detach yourself from what has been going on in Israel/Palestine for the past 60 years. I know that you feel bad and terrible but you are not present in this reality, it is not moving you to be anything other than as pained observer. In the same way some witnesses to terrible events are numbed, distanced from their experience and do not relate completely to them. Your persuasive desire for peace completes the arc of your self-definition- You were there pre-1948 and you will touch ground when Peace arrives, now you are suspended in -no time-

I hope you know that nothing that I am saying is meant to insult you in any way. I see how each one of us deals with his own contradictions more or less successfully. Your burden is heavy.
I don’t know how any single one of us here would have reacted, had we been born in your circumstances. It is easy to be sure that we would be moral, we would act, we would protest. But I am not so sure. In this sense, approaching you has been useful to me because this is the first time in my life that I reach this human truth about you as an Israeli and about myself as an Arab.

November 24th, 2008, 12:06 am


norman said:


The IAEA is expected to inspect a suspected plants before they are are attacked , If Israel has such information , why didn’t it tell the IAEA so we will be sure of the facts , Is it possible that Israel planted the Uranium in that area when they destroyed it , I believe that they used commandos beside the air attack ,

I think Israel placed the evidence to weaken Syria’s position in the negotiation.
The question is weather it is possible to know the origin of the Uranium from the specimens that they have.

And that is my take.

November 24th, 2008, 12:17 am


Shai said:

Dear Alia,

Yes, in many ways I am “suspended in time”. It is the only protection I give myself, in order to stay in an Israel that I still love. When I take a real and close look in the mirror, day after day, minute after minute, I am far more likely to give up on Israel, get up, and leave. And that, neither for me, nor for my people, nor for yours, is a good solution. Yes, I’ve also admitted that I can do more. I can be a real peace activist, upholding human rights in a much more active manner than I am doing today. I can devote my life to it, as a number of tens of thousands of Israelis are doing. But, selfishly, I choose not to. I choose to do for my close circle of family and friends more than for my country. Maybe it is out of weakness, or out of exhaustion. But I do other things as well.

I do try to help out the peace initiative with Syria, because I strongly believe it is perhaps the last hope to jumpstart the process that will eventually lead to a comprehensive peace in our region. I also protest vocally against the blockade of Gaza. I used to protest against the Occupation, but that’s irrelevant now, as the Palestinians have no one we can talk to about leaving the West Bank. Ariel Sharon, “butcher-of-Lebanon”, was going to do exactly that, until Hamas was elected and refused to talk to Israel. So now, for me, it’s about ending the suffocation of Gaza and its 1.5 million Palestinians. I do voice my anger, and I do call out, to the highest level I can, and using every contact I have. Strangely enough (or not), the blockade of Gaza has affected me even more than our 40 years of Occupation. I can accept it “even less” than I can Occupation. Of course, I can’t accept Occupation either, and hopefully one day I’ll be able to go back to voicing this too (when the Palestinians figure out if they can have a true representative body, or not).

Yes, Alia, you’re right when you say the burden is heavy. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about it. But I’m also not a mere observer. Btw, I do much more with and for Arab-Israelis than I do for other Arabs. But I haven’t given up on ending the Occupation. With all due honesty, I also believe the Palestinians bear much of the blame for not having a state by now, over the past two years. We cannot just “hand over the keys” to Mahmoud Abbas. He cannot rule, even if we think he can. Until Fatah and Hamas figure out their differences, the entire Palestinian future will still be held hostage. The ball is in their court now. As for the blockade of Gaza, there is no excuse. None.

November 24th, 2008, 4:41 am


Shai said:


Just to add something, I also want to say that it seems sometimes certain things have to happen, before sanity returns to people’s heads. It may well be the case, that Israelis have to go through another war, before they understand the price for what they are doing, and what they’re not doing. I hope not, but I don’t know.

Maybe the Palestinians have to go through a decade of infighting before they understand only cohesion will lead them forward. In a way, we’re right back in 1967. A mere days after the end of the Six Days war, Moshe Dayan and Levi Eshkol began searching for Palestinian leaders to hand control of the West Bank to. They went from one village and town to the next. The had tens of meetings with various “leaders”, of things that probably more closely resembled fiefdoms, but ultimately, they found no one that could bear the responsibility. They could never agree. They always fought amongst one another. So our leaders conveniently (or not) left the task to future generations of Israelis and Palestinians. By the time the PLO was ready to talk to Israel, the Occupation was well underway. And many still claim even the PLO couldn’t rule, because of its choice of corruption often over national interests.

It is easy to put all, or most, of the blame on Israel. I do that also. We kicked them out. We took over, we occupied, we ruled, we subjugated and suffocated, and still do. But reality is more complex than that, and what I do know, is that for nearly two decades, most Israelis ARE ready to give back the West Bank. They elected Ariel Sharon to do exactly that. And he, of all people, could have delivered. The Palestinians again missed an opportunity. They elected a “kosher” leadership, in the form of Hamas, that decided not to recognize Israel, or talk to its leaders. Hamas only nowadays is sending subliminal messages that it will accept a “realistic” solution of the 67 borders, and not 48. But it still refuses to talk at the table, and instead talks through $10 rockets. Why? Why isn’t it ready to talk to the same Zionists that are blockading Gaza? Look at the glass through the other side – why do you expect Israel to talk to its enemies, but you don’t expect Hamas to? You cannot say that Israel is not ready to talk, or even ready to LEAVE the West Bank! While 70% of Israelis at the moment are against leaving the Golan in return for peace with Syria, more than 50% are STILL for leaving the West Bank in return for peace with the Palestinians.

I think this is also part of my frustration, that leads to a certain “numbness” sometimes. I rationalize things, by saying to myself “We are ready for peace, finally, and this time, they’re not?” I know this isn’t completely true, but a good part of it is. Now’s the time to yell out to Hamas and Fatah “Work out your differences already, unite, and talk to Israel!”

November 24th, 2008, 5:10 am


AIG said:

In all fairness, if you view what Israel is doing in Gaza as a great crime, and this “crime” is supported by most Israelis, then I think you should really give up on Israel or leave.

But, actions speak louder than words, and by staying in Israel and supporting it with your taxes, you are helping the “atrocities” in Gaza. There are no contradictions, because actions break the tie. You accept what Israel is doing in Gaza and assuade your guilt by saying you are against it.

November 24th, 2008, 5:31 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Dear Nour

If you want to change this scenario then you need to completely overhaul the Lebanese sectarian political system.

I am interested in nothing less than this. This is why I criticize activities that make it more difficult — not less — to “overhaul the Lebanese sectarian political system.” This is why I am so disappointed to read articles like the one I posted above, which are a bleak reminder that there isn’t a viable force for change in Lebanese politics. If Hizbullah — the single largest political party in Lebanon — is dead-set upon a deeply sectarian strategy in the long term, then there is little hope for everybody else. Sectarian activity breeds sectarian activity. When one community mobilizes to batten down its hatches and unite around a sectarian (not national) cause, the others follow suit.

Dear Why-Discuss,

You seem to live in a cloud of idealism and optimism. Don’t get angry, just open your eyes wider!

Thank you for that helpful advice.

My problem with your argument is that when you observe deeply sectarian activity on the part of Hizbullah, you dismiss it by saying that Lebanon is a sectarian country, and even applaud it because it is “effective”. Meanwhile, when you witness deeply sectarian activity on the part of other communities, you never fail to criticize it. I am merely asking for some consistency.

My point about Syria is a simple one: I doubt many people on this forum would be happy to see a Syrian version of Hizbullah arise. Please, correct me if I’m wrong. Would you be happy to see in Syria a large, supremely organized and foreign funded political-party-cum-military-resistance that recruits aggressively among members of a single sect and uses religious indoctrination in its youth programs?

Or would such a phenomenon be labeled by the regime as “a threat to Syria’s secular character and values, etc.”?

November 24th, 2008, 7:51 am


Friend in America said:

Norman –
The answer to an “innocent ” Syria is to open for inspections, show Syia has a clean slate, and this chapter will close. There are so many important things that need to be done for the Syrian economy and the Syrian people that this adventure wastes financial resources needed elsewhere.
The IAEA is not an international nuclear detective force. It acts only after a report has come to it. Perhaps it should become a detective. You and I can join together on that. If Syria made that proposal to the U.N. and the IAEA Council, and supported it strongly, Syria would be seen as a world leader. Here is the opportunity for Syria to change its world image.

November 24th, 2008, 1:06 pm


Alia said:

Dear Shai,

Thank you for your response. There is not a lot I can say immediately. The Gaza situation is weighing on me from thousands of miles away.
How helpless we all are to change the big picture, whether in a “democratic system” or outside it. Look at us all waiting for Obama to decide on a Secretary of State and getting once again prepared to be disappointed unless we quickly justify his choice to ourselves, by reaching towards “his nicely-crafted” narrative of hope and change.

The only thing we can control is what we are each doing, individually. Take care.

November 24th, 2008, 1:16 pm


why-discuss said:


“I doubt many people on this forum would be happy to see a Syrian version of Hizbullah arise.”

Of course not, but this cannot happen in Syria because there is nothing in the political system that would encourage or allow such path. The Lebanese political system not only allows it but encourages it as it proposes nothing else.
I wish all the “sectarian” groups would become coherent, non-violent, disciplined and equally powerful so they can deal with each other to reach the emergence of non sectarian Lebanon. When you mention the ‘other communities” , do you mean the salafists? Where is their program, who is their leader , what did they build? how many hospitals, schools ? What have they achieved in the North until now except violence and chaos. Unfortunately, these ‘other communities’ (including Geagea LF) function with extremist ideologies, closed on themselves and corrupted by Gulf money. So don’t wonder why I admire the Hezbollah and the Shia achievements, even if I see the danger of a polarization. Yet, I think the deal with Aoun would prevent the Shia from religious racism and that is why i believe that deal is one of the most important deal in Lebanese history. I am waiting to see ‘the other communities’ doing something similar. That is the necessary step to move to a non-sectarian Lebanon but these ‘other communities’ are stuck in their lack of vision and petty interests.

November 24th, 2008, 2:23 pm


why-discuss said:


IAEA has showed it inefficiency in Iraq and North Korea. For me it has no credibility amymore. Please show me an IAEA success story.

“Calling ElBaradei’s report as ambiguous, Larijani said: “So, it seems we will hear double-standard statements from the agency forever.””

That is what the IAEA has been doing for years…

November 24th, 2008, 2:30 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Why Discuss said:
When you mention the ‘other communities” , do you mean the salafists?

No, I meant the Christian and Sunni parties, under the rubric of March 14.

Where is their program, who is their leader , what did they build? how many hospitals, schools?

Actually, al-Hariri built many hospitals and schools, but as I recall you and Nour dismissed these achievements as nothing more than attempts to buy people off. I don’t see the difference between Hizbullah building schools and Mustaqbal building schools… they are both attempts to curry favor with their own sect.

Unfortunately, these ‘other communities’ (including Geagea LF) function with extremist ideologies, closed on themselves and corrupted by Gulf money. So don’t wonder why I admire the Hezbollah and the Shia achievements, even if I see the danger of a polarization.

Again, explain to me how Hizbullah is any less “corrupted” by Iranian money, and how LF or Mustaqbal “ideology” is more “extremist”. As you read yourself, Hizbullah’s boy scouts are given five hours a day of religious instruction. 5 HOURS. Is that not a bit extreme?

Aoun’s move looks good on paper. I hope it makes a difference, but stories like this one don’t make me so optimistic.

November 24th, 2008, 3:15 pm


why-discuss said:


I think it is waste of time to reply to you, you always pick half the questions and come back with another. Is the AIG syndrome attacking you?
Keep you illusions and your frustration and continue to consider the Hezbollah and Aoun as Iranian agents (is Sleiman a new recruit?) and the Futur movement and the Geagea crowd as the frustrated saviours of the Lebanese identity. I wish there will build more Istanbul Aya Sofias and more Solidere Greenwich villages, that will surely bring more rich friends from the Gulf and more money to Lebanon. After all, maybe that is a better than 5 hours a day of religious instructions.

November 25th, 2008, 4:03 am


Shai said:

Dear Alia,

Last night I was invited to an “open-house” for a new candidate to Labour. I sat there, and listened to rhetoric that truly came from the heart, but I knew, like most others there, that the Left and Center’s time in power is ticking down, and on Feb.10th it’ll end, for another 3-4 years. But somehow, the very fact that we met and talked about the hard issues, and concluded (unanimously) that Labour must try to play a leading role in the Opposition, we were preparing for a better future. It is my belief, that wide coalitions that stretch from Right to Left tend to turn themselves impotent, by their very definition of political compromise. This is why, I believe, Israel hasn’t moved forward in over 30 years. The Right never felt strong enough, and neither did the Left. So perhaps it is time for one to have an overwhelming majority over the other, and be able to create and push its policy.

The upcoming campaign in Israel will, very soon, become super-active. All the candidates will be using the internet a lot, will be forced to deal with major issues head-on, all the time. And the funny thing, with almost certainty, the Likud will aim to end the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza, because Bibi’s “economic peace first” is supposed to replace the “land for peace” principle we’ve all come to accept. Hamas’s worst enemies, Bibi and Lieberman, will end up saving its skin better than anyone else (Barak or Livni). And when that happens, there is sometimes a tendency to reciprocate (and not only with $10 rockets). So I am actually a little hopeful.

Alia, in one respect I am VERY hopeful – in the fact that we cannot go through another 60 years like this. The world is changing at a fierce rate, and will not enable Israel to continue its Occupation forever. I don’t think we’ll get to economic sanctions. The financial crisis hitting our world is enough to send fears down every citizen’s spine, and the mere mention of possible sanctions will set any Prime Minister in the right direction, especially nowadays. Yes, Bibi (or Livni) WILL give back the Golan. And they WILL end the blockade of Gaza.

November 25th, 2008, 4:42 am


Shai said:


How did I know you’d try to destroy what I say yet again? It’s hard for you, I understand, to hear me say things, almost anything really. So I’m not surprised anymore.

But you know what, if I were you, I wouldn’t be talking about “really giving up on Israel or leaving.” Remind us all where you live now? It is truly heroic of you to be so “patriotic”, from the safe shores of the American East coast. Oh, I forgot, you live in Ramat Hasharon. But you don’t want to meet me for coffee. AP does, by the way. I guess he’s not so-tired of dime-a-dozen liberals like me. But you, the open-minded thoughtful AIG, are…

Well, sometimes, when you have a rare moment of thought, when you’re not searching for further ways of obstructing and destroying the ideas of others, you may contemplate, that many may also be tired of you AIG. I’ve never seen someone who has been turned down so often as you have on Syria Comment, whose ideas and motivation have been dismissed as much as yours, still relentlessly appear and reappear day after day, hour after hour, as you do. Even you have to agree, that such masochistic effort, does “smell” of agenda.

November 25th, 2008, 4:51 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Actually, it is a waste of your time to reply to me because you can never think up any decent answers. You resort to name calling and stereotyping when the contradictions inherent in your positions are apparent. This is definitely a waste of time, you’re right.

I don’t think that Hizbullah and Aoun are Iranian agents, nor do I think that Hariri and Geagea are the frustrated saviors of Lebanese identity. I understand that it is much easier to debate someone who thinks in such stereotypes.

What I do think is that Hizbullah is not beyond criticism. Haven’t you heard me criticize Hariri, Geagea, etc.? (Actually, I don’t think I have ever said anything nice about Geagea or any of the Christian leaders besides Aoun, who I both praise and criticize depending on the day). I have also praised Hizbullah at various times, sometimes in main page posts on SC. So I think you need to stop pretending like I am some hard-core LFer who hates the Shi`a.

I just think that nobody is beyond criticism.

November 25th, 2008, 5:21 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Just to prove my point, can I insist to you that I’m just as disturbed by the following image as I am by the article I posted?


November 25th, 2008, 1:54 pm


why-discuss said:


You have definetly tried your best to show a face of neutrality but your choice of articles you pick, your remarks and your argumentation speak for themselves.
I just don’t believe you are neutral, you just pretend that because it can allow you to throw arrows at the Shia and Iran behind a mask of objectivity. Your suspicions and reject of Hezbollah and the Shia is more than obvious as well of your sympathy for 14 march crowd. I guess you pretend neutrality and objectivity so it may allow you when you will see the wind blowing in the other direction to just switch.
I prefer to exchange frank ideas with people who show their real face.
p.s I find nothing disturbing in this photo. It is your interpretation that can be disturbing

November 26th, 2008, 1:31 am


norman said:


Decentralization and districts after full counting of everybody in the country is the only way for harmony , towns and cities are ruled by city councils and are responsible for their people safety with police made of people from the neighborhood and supported by real estate taxes , where there are districts made of certain amount of people , initially should of areas with dominant sects but with the chance to move any place people want to live and with anti discrimination laws in housing and employments and people voting where they live not where they come from people will be able to vote for people they know and trust and are accountable to them ,The population of these districts will change with time and migration of people for work, that is the only way to have a future in Syria , Lebanon and other Arab countries and for people who want Lebanon to be part of Syria they can do that by making Syria better and make it useful for Lebanon to join with Syria in a federation of two states until other states join,
Hezbollah is popular because of what it does , they help the people in their districts , as long as doing good for the people is open to anybody who wants to , they should be able to do that.

And that is my take .

November 26th, 2008, 2:17 am


Qifa Nabki said:


If I criticize the Iranians and Hizbullah more than others, it is because there is a shortage of criticism for those parties on this forum. On other forums (under a different moniker) I am more critical of other parties.

What can I say? You seem to prefer to have discussions with other people like yourself, i.e. people who can only hold one idea in their head at one time, people who only see good on one side and bad on the other, rather than good and bad everywhere.

To me, that amounts to auto-therapy and propaganda, not honest analysis.

November 26th, 2008, 6:17 am


Alex said:


I know Qifa Nabki well enough to assure you that he is not biased at all.

Qifa Nabki,

The reason most of us do not write often criticizing Iran and Hizbollah is that

1) HA is much more disciplined than most other Lebanese parties
2) There is no shortage of Iran criticism out there in the rest of the traditional media outlets … some of us feel uncomfortable repeating the Bush administration propaganda broken record.

I wrote many times that the trouble in the Middle East is that Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia are built on protecting (or promoting) Judaism, Sunni Islam and Shia Islam… and this leads to all kinds of conflicts.

November 26th, 2008, 7:07 am


Alex said:

لمركز التركي الآسيوي يمنح الرئيس الأسد جائزة “الرؤية الإستراتيجية”

منح المركز التركي الآسيوي للدراسات الإستراتيجية في اسطنبول “تاصام” الرئيس بشار الأسد جائزة “الرؤية الإستراتيجية لرجل الدولة” وذلك “تقديرا لدوره كرجل دولة تميز برؤية إستراتيجية جسدتها السياسة السورية على أكثر من صعيد”.

وقال رئيس المركز سليمان شنصوي في كلمة ألقاها بهذه المناسبة إن “الأسد رجل دولة استطاع أن يقدم رؤية إستراتيجية واضحة للتعامل مع القضايا الدولية وتقديم الحلول الناجعة للازمات التي مر بها العالم مكرسا مبادئ الشجاعة في اتخاذ القرار والوضوح في الرؤية”.
وأشار شنصوي إلى انه “رغم التعقيدات الدولية الإقليمية فان الأسد كرس سورية مركزا مهما لصناعة القرار ولاعبا إقليميا أساسيا”, مشيرا إلى أن “الرئيس السوري جعل من العلاقات السورية التركية ضمانة للأمن والاستقرار في المنطقة ونموذجا للتفاهم والتفاعل في خدمة شعبيهما”.
وكانت العلاقات السورية التركية شهدت في السنوات العشر الأخيرة تطورات كبيرة في كافة المجالات.
كما أشارت عدة تحليلات غربية إلى أن الرئيس الاسد نجح في إدارة الازمات والمخاطر التي تعرضت لها سورية في الاعوام الاخيرة والخروج منها رغم محاولات عزل سورية من الولايات المتحدة والدول الغربية.
ولفت رئيس المركز التركي إلى أن الرئيس الأسد استطاع نقل سورية إلى مرحلة أكثر تطورا ومواكبة للحياة العصرية والتكنولوجية محققا طموحات الشعب السوري الصديق في مجالات التنمية والحداثة”

November 26th, 2008, 7:12 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Hizbullah is disciplined, organized, efficient, strategic, judicious, etc. … ma ikhtalafna. These are the qualities that I like about the party, and nobody embodies them more than Nasrallah, who is (as you know) one of my favorite political personalities.

But I don’t see why one can’t recognize all of these qualities while also pointing out the problems of the party. That’s all.

November 26th, 2008, 9:18 am


qunfuz said:

Shai – Very briefly, it was impossible to build a Jewish state in a land with a large non-Jewish majority without a massive ethnic cleansing. At the time of Balfour Jews were less than 10% of the population and owned less than 2.5% of the land. This was after years of rapid Jewish immigration.

Here’s Ghandi from 1938: “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French..What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct.. If they (the Zionists) must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun…As it is, they are co-sharers with the British in despoiling a people who have done no wrong to them.”

The continuation of Zionsim today requires some form or other of apartheid. Zionism is in essence a fascist idea (so is Ba’athism, I’m not just scoring a cheap point). It is highly debatable that an Ethiopian Jew is of the same ‘nationality’ as an Ashkenazi from Poland. Zionism is also highly understandable given what happened to the Jews in Europe, and how this happened simultaneously with the rise of artificial states in the Middle East and a consequent sectarian fracturing of these populations.

I would support a viable two state solution, not because I think it’s a real solution but because it could stop the killing, calm emotions, and help us all move to a more productive stage. And I wish our leaders, Arab and Israeli, were as thoughtful, imaginative and compassionate as you obviously are. It would be easy to make peace with you, Shai. But still, I hope with all my heart for a post-Zionist generation of Israeli Jews (and a post-Arab-fascist, post-Wahhabi-nihilist generation of Arabs).

November 26th, 2008, 9:43 am


Shai said:


Thank you for your comment. No doubt, Zionism has certainly practiced (and still practices) Apartheid rule. I don’t wish to get into the various definitions of ethnic cleansing, though it should be made clear that when I reject this notion, I do so using the “systematic murder of millions” description, and not the “physical displacement of people” one. I understand that to cleanse a people, you don’t necessarily need gas chambers or machetes. But you also must agree that when we don’t clarify what we mean when we say “Zionism uses ethnic cleansing”, then while you may take it to mean “… physically displaces”, many others might hear “systematically murders”. To a Palestinian suffering in Gaza as I type these words, perhaps the two aren’t that different. But for me, if the Nazis had “merely” displaced Jews from Poland elsewhere, I would have had another 95% of my family alive while I grew up, instead of as ashes of memory (literally).

Yes, you are right, and I too hope that some post-Zionism will rise out of these miserable 60 years, and that indeed people of all faiths and cultures could live in peace in Israel and in Palestine. Long term, I also think there should be no border between the two. But as you said, we now need to separate, perhaps before we can one day be together again. As someone that still considers himself a Zionist, I can tell you that under my definition of Zionism, there is no reason why 30 or 40 years from now, there can’t be an Arab majority in the Israeli Knesset. Although our “Obama” (an Arab-Israeli) may not come for a while, I certainly see it a very real possibility in my lifetime. In fact, if all the Arab parties in our country joined hands, they could today form probably the 2nd or 3rd largest party. There are some voices trying to create this, but (as usual) infighting and silly squabbles are standing in the way.

I’ve said a long time ago, that the Palestinians in 1967 should have said to the Israeli leadership “Ok, you beat the Jordanians out of here, so now you’re in charge. We fully place ourselves under your wings. So we’d like our new Israeli identity cards… and our new Israeli voting rights…” Believe me, Qunfuz, Yasser Arafat could have been Prime Minister of Israel already 5 terms in a row! 🙂 (and Hamas would have been a joint Jewish-Arab religious opposition force).

November 26th, 2008, 11:25 am


qunfuz said:

We’re in total agreement, Shai, I’m happy to say. I’ve thought for years that the Palestinians should be demanding Israeli pasports, not a state. And by ethnic cleansing, I do not mean genocide. I think ethnic cleansing is a fair term for what happened in 47/ 48 (and for what is happening in Iraq now) – massacres (on nothing like an industrial Hitlerian scale) used to scare a population into fleeing, and then not letting those refugees return, the razing of villages, the moving of one ethnic group into areas vacated by the other, etc.

November 26th, 2008, 1:15 pm


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