What Does the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran Mean for Syria?

Ehsani writes:

Dr. Landis,

The latest NIE report on Iran is another significant event in the region. Some analysts describe the report as "sensational," and I agree. To underscore the importance of this development, President Bush decided to hold a press conference this morning to discuss the implications of its findings.

While the President tried to project the image that nothing has changed in his Administration’s policy towards Iran, the truth is that this report has dealt the existing policy a severe blow.

During the press conference, Bush admitted that he had learned about the NIE report a week before it became public yesterday.

The dumping of March 14th, the invitation of Syria to Annapolis and that of Iran to the G.C.C conference is a startling dynamic that is sweeping the region.

Syria stands to reap the benefits in a most spectacular fashion

Report May Reset Debate on Iran

Case for Military Strikes
Blunted by View That Work
On Atomic Weapons Ended
December 4, 2007; Page A3

WASHINGTON — A new report from 16 U.S. intelligence agencies concludes that Iran halted its development of atomic weapons in 2003 — a surprising finding likely to shift the debate over Iran's nuclear ambitions both at home and abroad.

The National Intelligence Estimate, demanded by Congress in 2006, could undercut calls from hawks inside the Bush administration — as well as those on the presidential campaign trail — who have urged military strikes to combat Iran's program. U.S. diplomats say it also could undermine Washington's ability to use financial sanctions to pressure Tehran into giving up its long-term pursuit of nuclear technologies, especially if it emboldens Iran's allies such as China and Russia.


"We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons. We judge with high confidence that the halt, and Tehran's announcement of its decision to suspend its declared uranium enrichment program and sign an Additional Protocol to its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement, was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran's previously undeclared nuclear work." Read the full report summary (PDF)2 .

At the same time, the report could pose a challenge to the Iranian regime, which has expanded its strategic influence across the Middle East partly on the back of its nuclear ambitions. Much like Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Tehran has employed belligerence over the nuclear issue to bolster its regional credentials by standing up to the U.S.

The NIE, the consensus view of U.S. intelligence agencies, says Tehran appeared committed to developing a nuclear weapon until 2003. It froze its activities following a mixture of diplomatic pressure and the prospect of U.S. military force and financial sanctions, the report says. The report also says Tehran's decision was driven in part by the exposure in 2002 of some of its covert programs.

"International isolation and international pressure," said one senior intelligence official, "created an atmosphere that clearly led to this decision."

The official said it wasn't clear whether the 2003 invasion of Iraq or other events — including Libya's decision to end its nuclear program and the dissolution of Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan's nuclear-weapons network — influenced Iran's decision.

Regardless of the freeze, the NIE warns that Iran continues to enrich uranium at a rate that could allow it to obtain enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb sometime between 2010 and 2015. Iran continued through this year to install new centrifuge equipment but faced significant technical problems operating it, the report says.

Iran's decision to freeze its nuclear-weapons program took place two years before the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president. While he has become the face of the country's nuclear ambitions, his ultimate influence over these matters is uncertain, since much power in Iran is held by a council of senior clerics.

•  The News: A report from 16 U.S. intelligence agencies concludes Iran halted its development of atomic weapons in 2003.
•  What It Means: The report could undercut calls for military strikes on Iran, and may undermine Washington's use of financial sanctions to pressure Tehran into giving up its nuclear program.
•  The Warning: The report says Iran continues to enrich uranium at a rate that could allow it to obtain enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb sometime between 2010 and 2015.

The White House sought to play down the significance of the estimate, arguing that its most significant finding was that Iran continues to press ahead with its uranium-enrichment work. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters the estimate suggests President Bush "has the right strategy" in confronting Iran.

The Bush administration and its Western partners, particularly France and the United Kingdom, have been working in recent months to pass a United Nations resolution penalizing Tehran for its uranium-enrichment work. Now, a number of U.S. officials believe China and Russia, and potentially other countries, will balk at coercive actions, citing the diminished threat.

Last week, talks between Iran's senior nuclear negotiator and the European Union collapsed in acrimony, with the Iranian, Saeed Jalili, bragging about his country's recent advances.

Congress mandated the report in a defense bill last year, and intelligence officials said yesterday it was also a part of their continuing review of their information on Iran. Such a report had already been requested by Senate Democrats earlier that year, and in a May 19, 2006, letter to President Bush, Democratic senators, including Harry Reid, now Senate majority leader, and Carl M. Levin of Michigan, now Senate Armed Services chairman, said the report was needed to "avoid repeating mistakes made in the run-up to the conflict in Iraq."

U.S. intelligence officials said the report was delayed because of the need to gather additional information. This was deemed crucial, these officials said, to avoid a repeat of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which is widely seen today as having overstated Saddam Hussein's weapons capabilities ahead of the U.S. invasion.

The report's findings diverge from statements made by administration officials as recently as this year, and also from the most recent NIE on Iran, issued in 2005. In February, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell told Congress that "we assess that Tehran seeks to develop nuclear weapons." President Bush in October said that denying Tehran a nuclear capability was central to any international effort to avoid "World War III."

Officials at U.S. spy agencies came to believe after their 2005 report was issued that Iran had suspended its weapons program. The differences between this assessment and the administration's public comments prompted them to make the report public, officials say.

Republican and Democratic presidential front-runners Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Rodham Clinton have cited the Iranian nuclear threat as perhaps America's No. 1 security issue. Both candidates endorsed the administration's coercive actions against Iran.

Write to Jay Solomon at jay.solomon@wsj.com3


Syria ‘path to peace in the Mid-East’
December 03, 2007

JERUSALEM: Israel should drop its preconditions and immediately resume peace talks with Syria, a confidant of Israel’s Defence Minister said yesterday.

Labor Party legislator Danny Yatom also told Israel Radio that it would be easier to reach a deal with Syria than with the Palestinians, and that progress with Syria could accelerate Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

“I think the time has come to renew negotiations with Syria,” he said. “After Annapolis, we need to take advantage of the new atmosphere.”

Yatom was reportedly briefed by Defence Minister Ehud Barak after the minister returned from the international Middle East conference held last week in Annapolis, Maryland. The Annapolis conference focused on the Israeli-Palestinian track but Syria also sent a representative, raising hopes it could be persuaded to break its alliance with Iran if talks with Israel were to resume. An Annapolis follow-up conference, tentatively scheduled for Moscow in the northern hemisphere spring, may address the Israeli-Syrian conflict directly.

Yatom, a former chief of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, said the Government should drop a series of preconditions and start talks with Syria immediately. In the past, Israel has demanded the Syrian Government withdraw support for militant groups, including the Palestinian factions Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the Lebanese guerilla group Hezbollah. In exchange for peace, Syria wants Israel to return all of the Golan Heights, a plateau captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.

Yatom suggested negotiations with Syria and the Palestinians be conducted simultaneously, but said it would be easier to reach a deal with Damascus.

Secret ‘diplomatic’ overtures to Hamas
30/11/2007 By Anshel Pfeffer Jerusalem

A diplomatic back-channel is intensifying between Israeli and Muslim religious leaders, including figures identified with Hamas.

The aim of the talks, taking place with the full knowledge of the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships, is to provide a wider consensus at the grassroots for an eventual accord.

While all eyes have been on preparations for this week’s Annapolis summit, talks have continued between senior religious figures on both sides.

Israel has insisted on not talking to Hamas politically until it recognises

Israel and renounces violence, but politicians are aware of the need to engage with Hamas on some level.

There is also a need to supply some degree of support for a possible peace deal within the Palestinian public, especially among the more Islamist elements. While a dialogue between Jewish and Muslim leaders has been taking place for over a decade, a senior Israeli government source told the JC this week that "it has greatly intensified over the past six months and is of a much serious order than in the past"…..

"We all feel that in the end, the success or failure of the Annapolis summit and subsequent negotiations, is tied to the goodwill of the public on both sides."

Abbas needed to gain support also within Islamist circles, he added. "Also, for many Israelis the fact that there is no consensus within the Palestinian people causes widespread scepticism and we are trying to disprove that."

Rabbi Melchior said that one aim was for a fatwa by senior Islamic clerics to affirm the right of a Jewish state to exist in the region.

Among others, the leadership of Israel’s Islamic Movement and representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are involved. Both have close political and religious ties with Hamas. As Sunnis, they also have a joint interest in minimising Iranian-Shia influence in the region.

Comments (85)

norman said:

I hope president Bush will declare that the US firm commitment to Nuclear free Iran and Democracy in Lebanon started to bear fruits and that he sees opening in advancing peace in the Mideast ,

There are only losers with tension in the Mideast and only winners in peace , i just hope that the countries in the region will use this opportunity to have a permanent peace.

December 4th, 2007, 5:39 pm


Trillian said:

Congratulations to the Democrats who called for the NIE to prevent Bush and his administration dogs from dragging us into another pointless war. Looks like Bush’s plans for one last “splash” before he leaves office are foiled.


“Senators urge President to avoid making the same mistakes twice” — it’s kind of like parenting, isn’t it?

December 4th, 2007, 6:04 pm


Alex said:

Trillian! .. you are a democrat too?

: )

December 4th, 2007, 6:36 pm


Trillian said:


That depends on who’s asking. 🙂

December 4th, 2007, 6:40 pm


norman said:

The real republicans do not want the US to be involved in wars , the Democrats started most other wars , the war in Iraq was started because of the negligence of congress when they did not investigate the allegations of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and rushed to give the president the go ahead for war , that was done by the Democrats and the Republicans alike.

December 4th, 2007, 7:21 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

HELLO… HELLo… HELlo… Hello… hello … ello … llo … lo… ?

It feels nice and roomy in here, after that extremely stuffy and mammoth comments section from last week.

If everyone agrees to not mention the word that begins with ‘a’ and ends with ‘ntisemitic’, then it might just stay that way.

December 4th, 2007, 7:57 pm


Alex said:

Here is the latest!

Nukeless Nation ‘Not Evil Enough,’ Says Korean Madman

One day after a National Intelligence Estimate revealed that Iran halted its nuclear arms program in 2003, North Korean president Kim Jong-Il ejected Iran from the Axis of Evil, calling them “not evil enough.”

A visibly furious Kim called a press conference in Pyongyang today to excoriate the Iranians as “evildoer wannabes” and “pussies.”

“I can’t tell you how many times Mahmoud Ahmadinejad looked me in the eye, told me he was developing nuclear weapons, and cackled like a madman,” Kim said. “That man does not deserve to cackle.”

Kim added that when Iran was admitted into the Axis of Evil in 2002, “they knew the rules: no nukes, no membership.”

The National Intelligence Estimate, Kim said, showed that Iran was not holding up their end of the bargain: “They said they were enriching uranium and all the while they were going all Libya on my ass.”

As for who would take Iran’s place in the Axis of Evil, Kim said there was no shortage of candidates: “Right now we’re looking at Venezuela, Syria, and Rupert Murdoch.”

Elsewhere, natural honey is a more effective remedy for children’s coughs than over-the-counter medicines, according to a study commissioned by the National Association of Bees.

December 4th, 2007, 8:26 pm


Trillian said:

Norman –

I wasn’t pointing fingers at who started wars. Was just applauding the dems for their parenting efforts re: the issue at hand. (In your comment, “Real republicans” clarifies it all, anyway).

Alex –

Hilarious. Kim Jong-Il is looking awfully lonely.

December 4th, 2007, 8:34 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Trillian & Alex

Even Hugo Chavez must have lost Kim’s respect. Losing the referendum to change the country’s constitution has put doubts in that man’s own quest to remain in power till eternity. The loser of course is his so-called 21st-century socialism model. The winners are the Venezuelan people.

December 4th, 2007, 8:39 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


That’s stellar.

Where is it from? The Onion?

December 4th, 2007, 8:42 pm


Observer said:

I said in my previous post that this isthe bomb shell of news. I also included my analysis of the situation as coinciding with the fizzling of the Annapolis conference as the gathering to prepare the region for an attack on Iran, the complete fiasco on the Israeli Palestinian track ( Israel approved 300 more housing unites in East Jerusalem ), and the triumphal arrival of Ahmadinejad in Qatar with a whole set of proposals that essentially compete with the US presence in the Gulf over the long term. I said before that Iran will surely replace the US as a guarantor of the Gulf security and would strike a bargain with the US and Europe to insure that the oil production and flow remain completely open and smooth going. They will also do it exactly in an opposite way to that of the Shah with soft rather than with hard power. I sense that Syria may have become less important to Teheran now but the alliance will remain as neither side is able or willing to part ways.
The current administration is now the “Pretzel” administration as it is contorting itself in various ways to appear as if they had any role in forcing Iran to abandon the weapons program ( if it ever existed ) while at the same time maintaining that Iran remains a threat. Now that the so called surge, the end of the ethnic cleansing locally, and the influence of Iran have resulted in some mode of stability, the urge to withdraw the troops will increase rather than decrease. The US will have not much to show for its adventure except that it is diminished in the world. The great thing about this is that it is not percieved in such a traumatic way as Vietnam did when the images of embassy evacuation were all over the screens and therefore a right wing backlash a la Reagan will not occur soon except of course if there is another terror attack on American soil.

December 4th, 2007, 9:22 pm


Seeking the Truth said:


regarding your comment (https://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=505#comment-93124), do you have an evidence; more than mere hearsay, to substantiate your claim that the king is an addictive gambler?

December 4th, 2007, 9:36 pm


Atassi said:

This intelligent report may possibly be hurting the Syrian regime too. This report revealed the facts about the none existence of the Shiia N-bomb program. The Syrian regime may have started to realize the fact it was betting on the wrong “Air-full” horse for long term strategic protections shield.
I think Dr. Landis and others are giving too much unearned credit to The regime leaders with its executed and misshaped domestic, regional and international policies.
keep in mind, This current baath regime NEVER delivered any of the Syrians aspirations and we shouldn’t expect it to do so…

December 4th, 2007, 10:00 pm


Alex said:


No I do not have pictures of him losing money in Monaco… I have an assurance from someone close to top in Palestinian/Jordanian politics … someone who is neutral regarding the King in general.

So .. this is not a piece of information that I would use in a formal article … but I thought I would mention it in the comments section. Think of it as a probably reliable gossip.


The regime never counted on Iran nuking Tel Aviv or Cairo adn therefore they are not going to lose anything with this piece of news.

Maybe you were personally too worried with the Shiite nuclear threat.

December 4th, 2007, 10:12 pm


Atassi said:

It’s not about Iran nuking Tel Aviv, It’s called deterring factors in the Advanced Arm Raise

December 4th, 2007, 10:26 pm


Alex said:

They never counted on any deterrence value out of the hypothetical Iranian nuclear bomb … the perception of that nuclear capability was a liability, not an asset … it was the sort of thing that was going to make this year scary … because some in Washington and Tel Aviv wanted a war on Iran this year before a soft new administration replaces the current hawkish one.

I hope you followed my debate with Israeliguy and another Israeliguy on this issue last month … I was trying hard to convince them that there is no Iranian nuclear threat … that there is no way Iran can or will launch those missiles at them.

So, I am very happy to hear that there is a CIA report which says that Iran is not working on nuclear weapons. I hope (not sure though) this would be enough to reduce tensions.

December 4th, 2007, 10:47 pm


Bashmann said:


I would not count much on a “soft new administration”. American foreign policies and goals concerning ME usually don’t change much
from one administration to the next. The best you would expect from the next one is more diplomacy and less military approach.

All in all, it will not change much when it comes to Syria.


December 4th, 2007, 11:57 pm


Bashmann said:


The last thread of comments was the mother of all threads. Did anyone come out convinced of the antisemitism debate? Not that I want to start another one, but it seems you and AIG were talking past each others.


December 5th, 2007, 12:02 am


Bashmann said:

MoveOn.org has started a campaign to rally their troops by having people write a letter to their local newspapers challenging President Bush interpertation of the NIE report and accusing him of misleading the American people one more time to lead the nation to war against Iran, just like he did about the intelligence reports about Iraq.

Imagine if this was Syria, MoveOn members would be rounded up and thrown in jail if not executed.

Here is the letter I recieved from them today;

“Dear MoveOn member,

Wow. All year President Bush has been moving America closer to war with Iran. But yesterday we learned stunning news: Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 20031—and President Bush has known for months.2

But Bush is undeterred. This morning, he held a news conference where he actually tried to portray the news that Iran isn’t building a bomb as yet another reason to confront Iran! 3 He also said he hadn’t known about the new evidence—a fact contradicted by his own National Security Adviser.4

It’s Iraq all over again. Bush is willing to ignore intelligence and lie to move us towards another war.

We can’t let him get away with it again. Will you write a letter to the editor of your local paper reminding folks that we’ve heard this story before, that Bush is misleading America on Iran just as he did on Iraq? Click here:


The letters-to-the-editor section is one of the most widely read parts of the newspaper—a flood of letters can influence politicians, reporters, and the public. There are a couple key points we have to highlight in this critical moment:

Bush has been actively misleading us on Iran. Bush said today that he “only learned of the new intelligence assessment last week.”5
But according to the Washington Post, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley “said Bush was first told in August or September about intelligence indicating Iran had halted its weapons program, but was advised it would take time to evaluate.” Here’s the Post:

President Bush got the world’s attention this fall when he warned that a nuclear-armed Iran might lead to World War III. But his stark warning came at least a month or two after he had first been told about fresh indications that Iran had actually halted its nuclear weapons program.6

Just like he did with Iraq, Bush is ignoring the intelligence and recklessly pushing towards war. We can’t afford to let Bush and Cheney start another disastrous war.
Congress must act now and make it clear that President Bush has no authority to strike Iran.
The new National Intelligence Estimate shows that Iran is not the threat Bush says it is.7
The public is very nervous about the prospect of another war, but the President’s bully pulpit is powerful and he uses it to great effect. We need to raise our voices now. Please write a letter today:


Thanks for all you do,”

Alex, you can’t write a letter to you local newspaper, as you are Canadian. 🙂


December 5th, 2007, 12:47 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

We will know if the report changed anything if for example the US withdraws one carrier group from the Gulf. Otherwise what the report says basically is that the Iranians have decided to perfect the enrichment process before weaponizing the resulting material. I think this changes nothing as to the extent of the Iranian threat, at least as much as Israel is concerened. The aim remains the same, stopping Iran from being able to enrich weapons grade uranium.

Another point worth considering is that Syria was considered a much lesser atomic threat yet was attacked over this issue. I think the report does not limit Bush’s options. In fact, if becausue of the report, sanctions will be more difficult to put in place, this could provide the impetus for an attack.

December 5th, 2007, 12:48 am


Bashmann said:


Good points. However, I’m inclined to believe that politics is taking precendent with what is hapenning now over any military options. Of course, we never know what the guys in Tel-Aviv are thinking so everything is still open from that end.


December 5th, 2007, 12:52 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

If indeed the report does not impede sanctions, I would agree that the political tract is much more likely. We will have to wait and see if the major players inerpret the report to mean that the sanctions are working.

December 5th, 2007, 1:19 am


SimoHurtta said:

Of course AIG the report changed the Israeli strategic “playground” and ability to “move”. Europeans, especially the Germans, who have huge business interests in Iran and relative lucrative long trade relations, certainly will use the report. Not to mention Russia, India and China. The Israeli leaderships announcements “we do not believe” are now seen as pure propaganda. Especially if Israel can’t produce any hard evidence and can only use for the millionth time that wrong quote “Israel to be wiped of the map”.

I remember how before Iraq war IDF had on its internet site nice pictures of Saddam’s missile ranges and other information of Iraqi WMD’s. Amusingly, when it became evident that the Iraqi WMD programs were mostly a propaganda, that information vanished from internet.

AIG why do Muslim countries not have the right to nuclear power? It is obvious to all that if a nation masters producing nuclear fuel for power stations it also has the theoretical capacity to produce weapon grade nuclear material in a relative short time frame.

The argument, that Arabs and Muslims countries have oil and gas and so do not need nuclear power, is an astonishing stupid excuse. Who would burn oil if they can produce cheaper electricity with nuclear power and earn much money by selling the oil. This oil argument is almost as stupid as to Israel would be said, that you have much coal in form of diamonds (you know from where). Why not use that for producing electricity?

PS AIG an interesting news
Saudi firm to build power plant in Iran
Maybe the Sunnis and Shias after all do not hate each others so much as some in Israel and USA would want.

December 5th, 2007, 1:57 am


Atassi said:

Making the proper diplomatic maneuvers and a timely policy changes is not something the current regime capable of achieving nor has the flexibility to carry out.
Making the proper diplomatic maneuvers and a timely policy changes is not something the current regime not capable of achieving nor has the flexibility to carry out.
I do agree with you that the Iranian nuclear capability was a liability, not an asset in the short term only. When the Iranian succeeds in the long term, its going to be a deterrence factor in the Middle East security arrangements.

December 5th, 2007, 2:02 am


norman said:

Israel keeps trying to fight Iran with American blood and money , the question is , will the Americans fall in the same trap as they did in Iraq , I hope they learned , My worry is that the report will be used to launch a surprise attack at Iran.

December 5th, 2007, 2:09 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

1) Did Israel have to produce hard evidence before attacking Syria? No. Israel will not compromise its intelligence sources and will attack Iran if necessarry.
2) Iraq had for many years scuds with chemical weapons. Do you deny that? It was an appropriate and correct assumption by Israel that Iraq has WMDs especially after Sadam shot scuds at Israel in 1991 even though Israel had nothing to do with Kuwait and after Sadam used chemical weapons on the Kurds.
3) The issue of nuclear capabilities is not one of rights. Muslim countries have rights exactly like any other countries. But if they are at war with Israel, Israel has the right to try and make sure that they don’t have the upper hand as they have the right to try and stop Israel. That is only natural and it is what war is about. The line between civillian nuclear technology and a nuclear weapons program is very thin. I think the correlation is one to one in the world. Countries that have the capability of building nuclear plants have the capability of building nuclear weapons. Therefore if you want to stop the latter, you may have to stop the former.
4) I share with you the hope that the Sunnis and Shia can learn to live together in the middle east. It will be good for Iraq and good for democracy in the middle east.

December 5th, 2007, 2:21 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

More “good” news about Syria:

A country in which the regime views the people as its enemies can never amount to much.

December 5th, 2007, 2:38 am


SimoHurtta said:

1) Did Israel have to produce hard evidence before attacking Syria? No. Israel will not compromise its intelligence sources and will attack Iran if necessarry.

The big question AIG is how will Israel attack Iran if USA doesn’t approve and help in that? As you obviously know there are some countries between Israel and Iran. Attacking using missiles with nukes? Well after that you really need an other passport.

2) Iraq had for many years scuds with chemical weapons. Do you deny that? It was an appropriate and correct assumption by Israel that Iraq has WMDs especially after Sadam shot scuds at Israel in 1991 even though Israel had nothing to do with Kuwait and after Sadam used chemical weapons on the Kurds.

Who sold the chemical weapons and technology to Saddam? Do you AIG deny that Israel has nuclear, chemical and bacteriological weapons? Actually Israel is the last nation in the world to critizize anybody about secret WMD’s. 🙂

3) The issue of nuclear capabilities is not one of rights. Muslim countries have rights exactly like any other countries. But if they are at war with Israel, Israel has the right to try and make sure that they don’t have the upper hand as they have the right to try and stop Israel. That is only natural and it is what war is about. The line between civillian nuclear technology and a nuclear weapons program is very thin. I think the correlation is one to one in the world. Countries that have the capability of building nuclear plants have the capability of building nuclear weapons. Therefore if you want to stop the latter, you may have to stop the former.

Don’t the Arab and Muslim nations have exactly the same military needs than Israel? Defending against an aggressor. Who sold the nuclear reactors and fuel to Israel? By the way AIG building nuclear power plants and “mastering” the nuclear fuel cycle (= the theoretic ability to produce nukes) are different things, of which Israel is an perfect example. The Iranian nuclear reactor building was started by the Germans and finnished by Russians. France build the Osirak and some “secret installations” with Brits in Israel. 🙂

AIG an interesting article in Foreign affairs The Costs of Containing Iran
Washington’s Misguided New Middle East Policy

December 5th, 2007, 2:51 am


MNA said:

The INE report and the fact that Iran stopped its nuclear arm program back in 2003 does not disappoint Syria or make it as if it has been betting on the wrong horse. If anything, its alliance with Iran has worked handsomely. It is not logical that Syria believed for a second that Iran would be allowed to develop any nuclear arm program. As a matter of fact Syria’s realized the importance of Iran to its strategic goals in the region long before there was any discussion of Iran’s nuclear capabilities, ambitions or plans.
Syria is set to play an instrumental role vis-à-vis the development of Arab Iranian (Persian) relations. Although Sunnis-Shiite tension was not an issue that weighed heavily on these relations when Iran was an American ally, now it is a reality that will shape the region. Iran and Iraq on one side, and the Gulf States, Jordan, and Egypt on the other side will always compete for control in the region. Syria with a population of 20 million, 75% of which is Sunni will be in a situation that both will play very hard to bring into their side. Syria’s alliance with the Iranian camp would allow the later not to be seen as a Shiite camp or the conflict as a Sunni Shiite conflict. It also gives Iranian camp the geographic and strategic continuation and depth all the way to the Mediterranean and up to the Israeli borders and the Palestinian territories, which would allow it to have a major influence over the Arab-Israeli peace process. Syria’s alliance with the GC, Egypt, and Jordan camp would deprive Iran from any Arab cover and it would be seen as a Shiite camp and the conflict as a Sunni Shiite one. It would also severely limit its influence over the Arab-Israeli peace process. Syria could choose to be in the middle and act as a bridge between Iran and the Arab countries. Doing so, would diminish the sectarian conflict, limit Iranian influence over the region, balance Iran’s policy in Iraq and insure Iran’s support for the Arab-Israeli conflict.

December 5th, 2007, 4:46 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

1) Wait and find out. People were saying exactly the same things about Osirak. Boy were they wrong.
2) I don’t know who sold Sadam chemical weapons, but what is your point? Israel took care of its security and attacked Osirak because Sadam had WMDs and used them against the Kurds. There was a high probability that he would use them against Israel given the opportunity. Israel had every right to do this. If Arab countries think they have a right to attack Israel, they are welcome to give it a shot. Israel certainly views this as a possible option. Hizballah and Iran have been talking about Dimona for ages.
3) The Arabs and Muslims have the same rights and needs as Israel. We are at war with some Arab and Muslim countries and each side has the right to hinder the other side’s capabilities as much as possible. So far Israel has been more successful. That is how wars go. Maybe the Arabs and Muslims will get better in the future, maybe not.

December 5th, 2007, 4:56 am


offended said:

Israel took care of its security and attacked Osirak because Sadam had WMDs and used them against the Kurds.

AIG, dazed and confused:

The using of the chemical weapon by Saddam Hussain against the Kurds was well after the Osirak attack.

Osirak: 1981.

The attack on Halabja: 1988.

In other words, the attack on Osirak hasn’t dissuaded Saddam from using his ‘WMD’ later on. Nor the Israelis could use that as a pretense. Or maybe you meant to say that they were able to see that coming through their crystal ball?


December 5th, 2007, 6:58 am


Alex said:

Was Bush Behind the Iran Report?
By Robert Baer

Bombing Iran, it seems, is now off the table. There’s no other reasonable take on the latest National Intelligence Estimate that concludes Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

But there is also no doubt that the Bush White House was behind this NIE. While the 16 intelligence agencies that make up the “intelligence community” contribute to each National Intelligence Estimate, you can bet that an explosive, 180-degree turn on Iran like this one was greenlighted by the President.

And explode is what the hawks in and outside the Administration are about to do. They were counting on Bush being the one President prepared to take on Iran. As recently as last month, Bush warned of World War III if Iran so much as thought about building a bomb. Bush’s betrayal is not going to go down well. The neocons, clinging to a sliver of hope, will accuse the intelligence community of incompetence, pointing out that as late as 2005 it estimated “with high confidence” that Iran was building a bomb.

Bush’s National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley, put the best face on the new report, claiming that it was our diplomacy and saber rattling that forced the Iranians to back down. As for the intelligence community, it explained its reversal by hinting that new intelligence had surfaced.

Neither explanation is entirely accurate. The real story behind this NIE is that the Bush Administration has finally concluded Iran is a bridge too far. With Iranian-backed Shi’a groups behaving themselves, things are looking up in Iraq. In Lebanon, the anti-Syrian coalition and pro-Syrian coalition, which includes Iran’s surrogate Hizballah, reportedly have settled on a compromise candidate, the army commander General Michel Suleiman. Bombing Iran now would upset the fragile balance in these two countries. Not to mention that Hizballah has threatened to shell Israel if we as much as touch a hair on Iran’s head.

Then there are the Gulf Arabs. For the last year and a half, ever since the Bush Administration started to hint that it might hit Iran, they have been sending emissaries to Tehran to assure the Iranians they’re not going to help the United States. But in private, the Gulf Arabs have been reminding Washington that Iran is a rabid dog: Don’t even think about kicking it, the Arabs tell us. If you have to do something, shoot it dead. Which is something the United States can’t do.

So how far is Iran from a nuke? The new NIE says 10 to 15 years, maybe. But that’s a wild guess. The truth is that Iran is a black hole, and it’s entirely conceivable Iran could build a bomb and we wouldn’t know until they tested it.

Yet for now we should at least be happy with the good news: Armageddon is postponed.

Robert Baer, a former CIA field officer assigned to the Middle East, is TIME.com’s intelligence columnist and the author of See No Evil and, most recently, the novel Blow the House Down

December 5th, 2007, 11:30 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What I of course meant was that the Israeli assesment was that Sadam would have no problems using WMDs and targeting civillian populations as the attacks on the Kurds and Israel proved to be true.

December 5th, 2007, 11:35 am


offended said:

Well AIG,
Then in your opinion, the moral condition for any state to have WMDs is not to use it against civilians.
Then would you please explain to me how come that the US is having the biggest nuclear arsenal in the world, even though it has used NUCLEAR power twice before on civilians and collectively killed 4 times more people than the number of those killed in Halabja?

December 5th, 2007, 12:23 pm


Akbar Palace said:


You’re a member of Move-on? I’m sorry, but I no longer can support you for President.

The NIE report. The NIE report has the approximate value of a Food Store coupon booklet. The US intelligence agencies, specifically, the CIA has for years misinformed our leaders and the American people. They have no clue what is going on in Iran.

They had no clue what was going on in Iraq for that matter as well.

Which is why UNSC 1441 was so important.

The only way we will know what Iran is up to, is to inspect their nuclear sites per the NPT they signed up to. Iran is the world leading supporter of terrorism, a threat to the Middle East, and a self-described threat to Israel.

As long as Bush and the Republicans are in office, there will be no change in American foreign policy. And that’s a good thing.

December 5th, 2007, 12:41 pm


swerv21 said:

dr. landis and co:

i posed this question on pat langs site. id love to get your thoughts on it as well:


baer says that the NIE was greenlighted by POTUS. i tend to agree that the conventional story of the WH blindsided by it is naive and inaccurate.

do you agree?

if so, what might that tell us?

many of the posters over at Syria Comment are suggesting that, as a result of the NIE, Syria stands to benefit ‘spectacularly’. they would point to a recent comment made by israeli MK Danny Yatom (given after a briefing by Defense Minister Barak)that israel should enter into negotiations with the syrians immediately and without preconditions.

my question is this:
if the U.S. intelligence community has now effectively called Iran’s bluff, with WH blessing, what does that do to the value of ‘flipping’ Syria?

if the price of a syrian-israeli peace deal was being negotiated now, id say that the cost to syria just went up significantly. This is especially true when you consider the ‘restoration of isreali deterrance capablity’ we saw a few weeks ago.

the silliest thing that supporters of israel can do right now is to continue to trumpet the ‘iranian’ threat- this just plays into the syrian hand in that it inflates the value of a ‘flip’.

judging by the comments of the Yatom, I’d say that the Israelis recognize this.

the NIE declassification is a strategic move- not a tactical one. while the goal of informing the public debate is laudable, id suggest that the intended audience was much further afield.

and i wouldn’t worry too much, if it doesn’t work out for our vital interests this time around in two years we can have another ‘reassessment’ of the iranian threat.

the result of the NIE is that prospects for a syria deal are much lower- barring a dramatic game-changer (for that i’d be looking at huzbullah right now). the isreali price will be too high.

December 5th, 2007, 1:55 pm


Alex said:


I have been arguing for months that “flipping Syria” has no inherent value for Israel … flipping Syria was not going to change anything in Iran’s alleged nuclear capabilities … not their nature (energy/military application) and not in the probability hat Iran would one day decide to use them against Israel (probability equals zero, since Iran is not into committing suicide as a nation and as a regime)

So can you please explain again what you meant by “id say that the cost to Syria just went up significantly.” .. in realistic terms, not just as part of a rough idea that you came up with this morning. Was flipping Syria going to stop Iran from hitting Israel with nuclear weapons?

December 5th, 2007, 2:19 pm


norman said:

Syria’s value is in bringing in Iran Lebanon and the Palestinians to a comprehensive peace with Israel , Isn’t that what the Israeli and everybody wants.?.

December 5th, 2007, 2:26 pm


Observer said:

I now strongly believe that Syria is in a very good position as some on this blog have intimated. My question is what is the impact of the NIE on
1. Israel
2. The Likud lobby in the US
3. The neo con agenda in DC
Syria should not relax as the administration may very well hit it as an easier target than Iran.

December 5th, 2007, 2:39 pm


norman said:

NIE report might not change anything in president Bush mind as he said recently that he wants to deny Iran the know how of nuclear technology and that is something the report does not deny.

December 5th, 2007, 2:52 pm


CWW said:

Iraq’s decision to attack Israel in the 1991 War and to attack it’s own Kurdish civilians at Halabja seems to indicate that Israel’s decision was to destroy a nuclear facility in that country was reasonable. Saddam was inclined to attack civilians with chemical weapons. He also had no qualms about attacking a Israel (even though he hit Ramat Gan), which was not a party to the 1991 War.

Back to Iran though, the NIE is going to make it difficult for Bush and hawks within the administration to the pursue a military course of action. However, the report does support the current track of international pressure and sanctions. It states that Iran responded to international pressure by discontinuing its nuclear weapons program. And of course, it also confirms that Iran had been pursuing a secret nuclear weapons program. The European allies have said that they will continue on the current course. I imagine it will become more difficult to step up pressure on Iran with the help of Russia and China, outside of that though the report doesn’t change much.

Preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons isn’t about the rights of Muslim or Christian nations. The U.S. immediately imposed sanctions on India after it tested its nuclear weapons. The proliferation of nuclear weapons increases the likelihood that nuclear weapons will be used. This fact in conjunction the nature of the Iran’s leadership makes the possibility of Iran obtaining nuclear capabilities a serious threat to those who value stability (and life) in the region. Let us also not forget that Iran, via the non-proliferation treaty, agreed not to pursue nuclear weapons.

December 5th, 2007, 2:52 pm


Atassi said:

As customary tactics of some personalities “ spinning the reports, events, and other sorties to make it favorable to the regime and to award them the unearned credits”. But, Again, it’s a personal choice of a taken path that never helped the country nor it’s long term strategic decisions

December 5th, 2007, 3:10 pm


swerv21 said:


a syrian israeli peace deal would represent a diplomatic coup for bush, a legacy moment for his presidency and a validation of his ME strategy.

the question is at what price?

the israeli’s would have to demonstrate in good faith that they are prepared for a deal. but if the iranian threat is less than pecieved- to the arabs, to the israeli’s etc., then israel can justifiably offer far less.

December 5th, 2007, 3:15 pm


norman said:

two points :
1: How about Israel’s nuclear weapons?.
2: If we look at history , no countries with nuclear weapons ever fought each other , More countries should probably have nuclear weapons , apparently countries fear mutual destruction more than the morality of not attacking their neighbors.

December 5th, 2007, 3:16 pm


Alex said:


Israel was ready to give back the Golan Heights to Syria in the nineties … There was no Iranian nuclear threat at the time.

Few things changed, negatively, since that time .. but these things are relatively easy to undo.

Whatever made Israel value peace with Syria in the 90’s is still valid today.

December 5th, 2007, 3:43 pm


Alex said:

Atassi Habibi

I love it how you only surface in the comments section when you smell anything that you manage to interpret through some convoluted way as being “bad” for the Syrian regime.

December 5th, 2007, 3:44 pm


CWW said:


Israel’s behavior does not mirror that of Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Even when judged against the behavior of dictators in the region, Saddam was particularly brutal.

Part of the danger of Iran, which I alluded to in my post, is the nature of the Iranian regime. Some point to the possibility that Ahmedinejad and his cohorts may have an apocalyptic world view. Another, I believe more telling case in point might be its use of children to clear land mines in the Iran-Iraq War.

Israel didn’t call for the destruction of Iran

Israel did not sign the NPT.

2. It seems that you are correct, no two countries with nuclear weapons have fought a war. However, I do not think that more nuclear weapons will make the world a safer place.

The logic of mutually assured destruction, only works when you have rational actors. Are Ahmedinejad and his fellow mullahs rationale? Maybe, but given his allusions to the Mehdi and other statements we can’t be sure. Shouldn’t we be certain that the leadership is in fact rationale before resigning ourselves to a world in which they have their fingers on nuclear weapons?

December 5th, 2007, 3:51 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Do you think Israel would agree to peace with Syria without Hizballah being disarmed?

December 5th, 2007, 4:04 pm


Atassi said:

Alex my good friend,
You can bet on it, I will not let you down on this one, I am always available to rebut and answer when I smell some kind of false spinning!!! 🙂

December 5th, 2007, 4:09 pm


ausamaa said:

I think the whole purpose of the CIA report is to justify the Bush Admin inability to do any thing about Iran right now while keeping the door open for future “re-consideration” when and if needed.

After all, how could you NOW punish Iran who WAS developing a nuclear weapons program BUT stopped in 2003 when it SAW the mighty Bush/Rumsfeld “shock and awe” troops “liberating” Iraq!!!

So, Bush scared them after all …and it is not a total loss. Right? At least the implication is there!

What does it mean for Syria?? That the Bush Admin is as “smart” and “effective” as Syria thought all along…

December 5th, 2007, 4:27 pm


Alex said:


No. Of course not. Hizbollah’s weapons would be part of the final settlement between Israel/Syria/Lebanon. Hizbollah would give up all its weapons and become a political party… hopefully they would also change their name.

But that implies some reforms to Lebanon’s system. The Shiites (the largest group in Lebanon today) would need to get promoted somehow from their current #3 in rankings of the political leadership in Lebanon … Maronite President, Sunni prime minister .. Shiite speaker of Parliament.

December 5th, 2007, 4:58 pm


Atassi said:

Alex implied “”But that implies some reforms to Lebanon’s system. The Shiites (the largest group in Lebanon today) would need to get promoted somehow from their current #3 in rankings of the political leadership in Lebanon … Maronite President, Sunni prime minister .. Shiite speaker of Parliament.””
Should the same reforms be applied to the Syrian systems too!!!. You can’t be an advocate to only apply the reform on the Lebanon system to satisfy the outside players..Can you Alex?

December 5th, 2007, 5:13 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Since it was me that made the comment that “Syria stands to reap the benefits in a most spectacular fashion”, I think that I owe some of the readers a more detailed explanation.

During Bush’s press conference, he admitted that he first knew about the NIE report one week ago. We will never know of course whether he was blindsided or whether he was the architect behind the report. As many people know, The U.S. was already pushing for a third round of U.N. sanctions against Iran. Just two days earlier than the report came out, Undersecretary of State Burns met in Paris with British, French, Russian, Chinese and German counterparts to seek support for a new Security Council resolution. Now that the report is made public, diplomats seem to think that the findings may cripple U.S. attempts to win that third round of sanction. Given the above, it is more logical to assume that the White House was indeed blindsided rather than being the architect of the report.

Let us now go back to Syria.

Atassi makes a very good point when he argues that the elimination of the nuclear capability of Iran may actually harm Syria rather than help it in so far as its main patron is not the nuclear power it thought it was hiding behind. Moreover, hawks within the White House are unlikely to dramatically alter their strategy towards Iran as of yet. Indeed, Bush tried to offer a picture of nothing-has-changed during the conference.

While this is all true, it is also a fact that the political landscape in the U.S. has changed dramatically since. One only needs to watch the Democratic candidates debate the matter. Senator Clinton now finds herself facing heavy criticism for supporting a Senate resolution that her rivals said encouraged “saber-rattling rhetoric” from President Bush towards Iran.

Syria’s leadership has long felt that the hawks within the U.S. Administration want to weaken Syria to the point of pushing it to “sell out” to Israel and/or to go for a regime change altogether.
Not surprisingly, Damascus has tried to design its own master plan that would unsettle this train that it sees coming at her. Set below is a summary of what I think its plan entailed:

1- Do everything possible to slow down the Americans in Iraq.
2- Build on the existing relationship with Iran to help its weak military position
3- Design an improved alliance with powerful and Sunni Turkey.
4- Insure that Lebanon does not fall under the U.S. umbrella and that Hezbollah is not disarmed.
5- Cushion the negative impact of the sanctions by encouraging foreign investments.

I am sure that the above list is not conclusive and that one can think of other parts to the strategy.

The recent events in Lebanon, Annapolis and the NIE report cannot but leave one with the impression that Syria’s leadership has indeed passed this test in a “spectacular” fashion.

Where Syria continues to face enormous challenges, however, is to do with the performance of its economy and future energy needs.

According to the Al-Khaleej newspaper, a recently presented report shows that Syria had witnessed an average 2.9% economic growth rate in 2006. The report related this low growth to declining performance by the sectors of petroleum and agriculture.

This morning we learn that Iraq and Syria are planning to bold a pipeline before 2010 that will feed Syrian power plants with Iraqi natural gas. According to the Syrian oil minister, the country is struggling to cope with rising electricity consumption. Plans are underway to bring gas from Iran and Egypt too.

Recently, Mr. Dardari has admitted that close to $30 billion of investments are needed before the country can expand its economy at levels that keep being promised by the economic cabinet.

While Syria may have won the last political battle (not whole war), it continues to face formidable challenges from its economy and population demographics. The political tension with the west has impeded the country’s effort to attract investments in oil and gas exploration as well as many other industries. Its proven reserves of 3.2 billion barrels are expected to last about 10 years according to energy experts.

For Syria to truly feel confident about its future, not only better relations with the west and its Arab neighbors is required but a strategic rethinking of its economic policies is also needed. For the country to attract the huge investments needed, a confident and dramatic turn to capitalism and open markets is required.

December 5th, 2007, 5:24 pm


Alex said:

Atassi .. old one : )

You asked me the same last year.

My answer was: Yes, in a way, but not that quickly.

Syria will take much more time to reach that stage … it is a bigger system and it is a more backward system … change is not that easy.

Even in Lebanon it is not that easy. If there was no need to disarm Hizbollah in order to achieve a settlement between Israel/Syria/Lebanon, I would not suggest taking a risk with changing Lebanon’s political system for now.

December 5th, 2007, 5:46 pm


Atassi said:

Excellent as always, you have listed interesting views and points and thank you for enforcing the idea of economic power as a tool to survival in the regional political challenges.
But, I would not claim the recent events in Lebanon, Annapolis and the NIE report as a Win-Win. for Syria to come to Annapolis is a win for SA diplomacy and the western power!!. Please remember, Syria and its ambassador in DC were flagging the “ No way we will show up” unless it’s a comprehensive deal!! Nope.. Syria was forced to show-up anyway otherwise, they will be left singing the blues.
The Lebanon’s presidency battle has no clear winner since Mr Souliam has a very unique CV, anyone can claim him as his MAN. “ that why he is being elected “. Please keep in mind, Syria, Hizb Allah and Hamas are paws being used by a bigger players for challenging each other influences in the region only .. Nothing more nothing less, If you believe otherwise, you would be green in this business!!!

December 5th, 2007, 5:53 pm


Alex said:


Why don’t you become a Saudi?

I have read you the past three years here always find great things to say about your favorite country in the world .. Saudi Arabia.

Everything to you is a proof that Syria is weak and that the Saudis are geniuses.

December 5th, 2007, 5:58 pm


Atassi said:

touching a nerve 🙂
I am proud of being Syrian , Even after 26 years in the US, I still have a deep root in Syria. never missed an opportunity to be a true Syrian.. You personally know it.
You owe me an apology

December 5th, 2007, 6:20 pm


Alex said:


When I communicate with your cousin (Ford Prefect) I wish he is Syria’s foreign minister. But when I read your predictable opinions here I think … “too bad. It will take longer than I expected to have democracy in Syria”

It is a night and day difference between the two of you… and you will never understand why.

December 5th, 2007, 6:44 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I do not believe anymore that Syria is able to get Hizballah to disarm. Therefore, I think a peace deal is not possible according to your view since it involves Syria delivering something it can’t. In my view, Hizballah is out of business for a very long while, if not forever, so I am not worried at all about them.

I always find it amusing that you view reasonable views like that of Atassi as reasons for the delay in democracy in Syria. There is only one player that holds the responsibility for Syrian democracy, that is the Syrian regime. No else is to blame for lack of democracy or lack of economic progress.

December 5th, 2007, 6:56 pm


EHSANI2 said:


It is so kind of you to worry about Syria’s democracy and economic progress.

You make it sound like it is a light switch that we Syrians could simply push and voila…democracy is ushered.

Have you been following Putin’s Russia recently? Have you been reading his speechs? Do you find any similarities with the Syrian leadership?

December 5th, 2007, 7:02 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

And Alex,
I noticed one interest difference between us. When someone tells me he doesn’t understand what I am saying, I view it as being my problem; I haven’t explained things well.

You on the other hand think it is the problem of the person that didn’t understand and never examine your own explanations.

You find yourself quite a few times saying things like “you will never understand” to people who don’t agree with you. Perhaps the problem lies with your explanations that are just not good enough?

December 5th, 2007, 7:06 pm


Alex said:


That’s right. Syria is weak and … Hizbollah is even weaker.

I am happy for you that you are not worried at all about them.

And I am happy I gave you another reason to be amused.

And you are right .. the difference between you and me is that you are open minded + reasonable, and I am too defensive.

December 5th, 2007, 7:19 pm


Atassi said:

I am impressed that you can differentiate between my cousin and my way of thinking!!! But I am puzzled by the fact you can only can comprehend and able to disgust one category of opinions!! Trust me on this, Both me and my cousin are true believers that Democracy and economic prosperity are two important historical rights to our fellow Syrians, it’s clear to for both of us that, Syrians MUST earn them back themselves..

December 5th, 2007, 7:22 pm


Alex said:


Everyone wants “democracy” and “economic prosperity” for Syria .. you, your cousin, Ehsani, Another Israeli guy , Farid Ghadry, Dick Cheney

But that does not make you all similar.

December 5th, 2007, 7:43 pm


ausamaa said:


For once I have to agree with AIG when he says about you: “You find yourself quite a few times saying things like “you will never understand” to people who don’t agree with you.”

AIG and his likes are right! They read the papers, they watch TV, they have access to the internet, they have access to THE FACTS same as the rest of the people in the world. They DO UNDERSTAND what you are saying and they DO KNOW what they are doing.

You are just wasting your time with them; they DO KNOW. However, the intelligence of admitting to that in Public is a totaly different matter.

But we know that they know that we know that they know…..

December 5th, 2007, 7:49 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


You know, most Israelis really don’t care whether there is or is not democracy in Syria. They basically say that it would be a mistake to replace Bashar with the muslim brotherhood because Bashar is making sure that Syria is weak militarily and economically and we don’t know what to expect from the brotherhood.

And just to be clear, I agree with you 100% that Syrians, both local and expats, have very little influence on the regime and the fate of democracy in Syria is mostly in the hands of the regime. There is no button you can push to make Syria democratic. On the face of it, your prediction of no democracy in Syria in our life time looks correct.

But here is where I disagree with you. When you look at the whole picture, even as you present it, you see an incompatibility between the political stability you predict and the economic situation you predict. As I see it, something has got to give. Either Syria has to open up significantly, or it will enter an economical black hole that will lead to instability. This could lead to a Soviet Union style scenario in which contrary to anyone’s predictions, the regime may fall. What is your take on this?

And let me explain my position in regards to Alex. You accept the regime in Syria as inevitable; you accept it reluctantly not because it is good. That is a position I certianly understand. Alex’s position, on the other hand, is that there are somethings that are inherently good with the dictatorial and oppressive regime. I find this notion unsubstantiated and try as I might I cannot get from Alex a good explanation why he supports the regime and will not consider any opposition viable (except those in jail of course). There is an inherent contradiction in his position. He understands that benefits of a democratic regime, lives in one, yet wants to put a positive spin on dictatorial one.

December 5th, 2007, 7:52 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Akbar Palace declares: “[T]he NIE report has the approximate value of a Food Store coupon booklet. The US intelligence agencies, specifically, the CIA has for years misinformed our leaders and the American people.”

Typical of the combined laughable arrogance and deadly ignorance of the current hapless junta running loose in certain hallways of the VP’s Office (after being kicked out of the Pentagon), AP conveniently forget to tell us that the NIE is produced by the Office of the Director of the National Intelligence – who is appointed by his hero President Bush. Not to mention that ODNI synthesizes intelligence from ALL 16 government agencies including all branches of the military and DHS, AP is ignorant enough to pin the NIE on the CIA only – especially now that there are no more arms to twist at the CIA to fake intelligence in favor of a certain White House agenda. This fact alone makes AP’s argument less worthy of any PayLess shoe coupons.

December 5th, 2007, 8:02 pm


Atassi said:

Alex said,
“”Everyone wants “democracy” and “economic prosperity” for Syria .. you, your cousin, Ehsani, Another Israeli guy , Farid Ghadry, Dick Cheney

But that does not make you all similar””
I don’t see your name listed!!, so I guess you are not seeking democracy” and “economic prosperity” for Syria !!

December 5th, 2007, 8:04 pm


EHSANI2 said:


The incompatibility that you alluded will be resolved this way:


Things are cooking as we speak.

December 5th, 2007, 8:07 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Could you please elaborate?

December 5th, 2007, 8:14 pm


EHSANI2 said:

As far as I can tell from my contacts within the country, the business environment is changing rather dramatically. The business leaders seem to feel that the country has seen its worst days from a geopolitical standpoint. The economic policy makers have started to implement many of the “ideas” and “plans”. I am personally aware of some significant investments that are being contemplated.

December 5th, 2007, 8:40 pm


Alex said:

Noooooo … Ehsani. you must be wrong.

What you mentioned is wrong… it sounds positive. Impossible.. can’t be true.

AIG, Bashmann … tell him how wrong he is.

December 5th, 2007, 8:45 pm


SimoHurtta said:

1) Wait and find out. People were saying exactly the same things about Osirak. Boy were they wrong.

Seems AIG that you really do favour new wars. Though I think these new wars will not any more be such “hero tales” as the Israeli history writing wants to portray the former ones.

What comes to Osirak. It was an small research reactor under IAEA control as you perfectly well know. Not a full scale nuclear bomb producing facility.

Of course AIG you know who sold Saddam the chemical weapons and gave the technology. You can’t be so badly “out of the loop”. Hint, same guys who donate Israel money and weapons.

Who helped Iran to create chemical weapons during Iran-Iraq war is even more interesting than who helped Iraq. The Israeli Iranian close WMD relations continued even after the war and those extremely shady “Iran Contra” businesses.

In 1998, a court in Israel convicted Nahum Manbar, an Israeli citizen, of selling 150 tons of chemical weapon materials to Iran between 1990 and 1995. Manbar reportedly also provided Iran with know-how and a list of equipment necessary to build factories to produce mustard gas and the nerve gases tabun, sarin and soman.
Manbar: victim of Israeli-Iranian covert relations

What Israel’s Top-Secret Manbar Trial Reveals About Extensive, Ongoing Israeli Arms Dealing With Iran

It is not clear who killed the civilians in Halabja, which was on the war frontier. There is also strong evidence that the Kurds were killed by Iranian chemical weapons and “we” know who helped Iran with their chemical weapon program and provided weapons. In any case it is rather hypocritical to blame the bad Iraqis and Iranians without admitting the role USA and Israel played in those events.

AIG Debka has interesting “gossips” from “reliable” sources of the present US Israeli relations. Dispute over Iran’s nuclear program throws Israel-US relations into grave crisis.

PS 2
As Eshani2 said things are cooking
Petro-Canada Bids for Syrian Offshore Exploration, Zainab Says
Oil companies (especially US) love less democratic regimes. Wasn’t it BG Group who is planing to ship Gaza gas to Egypt instead of Israel. The Israeli generals want that gas, but are not willing to pay the Palestinians share (like normal).

December 5th, 2007, 8:56 pm


Alex said:


You tell me why do you think I “want to put a positive spin on dictatorial”

Sounds like i am manipulating things for a reason. Any guess?

December 5th, 2007, 8:58 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

We will just have to wait and see then what will materialize and what will not. There cannot be economic reforms without democratic reforms, and it will be interesting to see how the regime manages them. So far the the signals are going the other way, harsher treatment of dissidents and more censorship as well as dismal growth. How much growth do you predict next year?

Instead of asking people to guess, perhaps you can be clear about your positions as is normal in educated discourse.

December 5th, 2007, 9:18 pm


EHSANI2 said:


I keep asking you. Have you been following Putin’s Russia? Brilliant similarities. Democracy? Hardly. Economic boom? Absolutely

December 5th, 2007, 9:57 pm


Friend in America said:

This writer has never asserted Iran had an active nuclear bomb development program and repeated several times there would be no war with Iran. However, the nuclear issue is not over and Iran represents a serious concern for all in the ME. There is a different nuclear concern, and Ahmenajad has not backed off from his threat to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.

December 5th, 2007, 10:03 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


I don’t get the analogy. Putin’s Russia boom is based on exporting energy and rebuilding some industries that historically the Soviet Union was strong in.

Syria will soon become a net oil importer and has few reserves. There are no historical industries Syria is strong in and it has no technological base to build on. In addition, Russia’s population is becoming smaller while Syria’s is growing very fast.

The analogy does not hold.

December 5th, 2007, 10:08 pm


Alex said:


Don’t you get it? … the analogy does not hold.

Which reminds me, last week AIG told me that all my arguments did not hold water.

December 5th, 2007, 11:25 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I argued why the analogy does not hold. There are huge differences between Syria and Russia.
Care to make a counter argument, or do you restrict yourself to proclamations?

December 5th, 2007, 11:32 pm


Alex said:


I don’t care to make a counter argument. When you are trying to understand, I do make counter arguments, but when you do not try hard enough to see an obvious analogy, then there is nothing that Ehsani or I can say to make a difference.

Anyway .. Ehsani was trying to say that Syria is following the Russian model .. or in other words … the Chinese model .. which is what the regime hinted it wants to do for few years.

Of course now you will come back and tell us that there is a huge difference … Syrians speak Arabic and not Chinese, and they eat Hummos and not chicken noodle soup.

You are right … in advance. The analogy does not hold.

December 6th, 2007, 12:04 am


EHSANI2 said:


You said:

“There cannot be economic reforms without democratic reforms”

Russian democratic reforms have lately been in reverse. Their economic prosperity has made people ignore the former issue.

You now want to say that Russia is an exception because it exports oil. China of course is no different. One party rule and very little democratic reforms. Yet, the economy has prospered while it imports oil.

You have sold yourself the concept that a democratically elected government is the only way to prosperity. I was trying to tell you that there are many example to the contrary.

Is Dubai’s prosperity based on U.A.E’S democratic reforms?

December 6th, 2007, 12:34 am


Friend in America said:

CWW (3:51PM) Your assessment of Iran’s leader rings true to those who still wince at the misassessment of Hitler’s intentions in the 1930’s and North Korea’s intentions in the winter of 1949-1950. But nothing is identical. The internal ‘checkmate’ inherent in Iran’s political structure has for the present quelled Ahmedinejad’s desire for a fight in which he sees himself as the glorious victor. He is not rationale and harbors ambitions to destroy others in the ME. He is not driven by reason.

Serv21: Consider a possible connection between the release of the NIE report and the Annapolis negotiations. By releasing the report the military option is no longer in the foreground of everybody’s minds. The finger can be taken off the trigger, so to speak.
It benefits Syria, for sure. Maybe Syria will now find a strong Hizbollah not so necessary to its security. Will Hizbollah then become a trading chip for Golan? Is Syria more able to become that intermediary country that some here think it is well suited to be? Maybe it is but it has to take a leadership position in Annapolis. These are just speculations but note, there was no necessity to make the NIE public – they rarely, rarely are. This NIE report is not “hot off the press.” It’s been around for several weeks. What is the significance of the timing and why was it released? Its release cost Bush dearly in credability around the world (at least at first blush), but did he earn respect behind those most important closed doors and did he demonstrate he is willing to take a big risk in order to encourage the ME peace process? By publically taking the risk, will the several participants have more confidence in plowing new ground in order to have peace in the ME? Just a thought.

December 6th, 2007, 12:46 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ehsani and Alex,
For an analogy to be meaningful it has to have a wide basis. Otherwise, everything is analogous to anything.

Will Syria advance economically by being the worlds’s low cost manufacturer like China? Or will it advance by exporting oil like Russia? Will it instead chose to invest in order to become a tourist attraction and a financial center like the UAE? Or will it like India become an outsourcing center for the world? That is what I am asking.

Saying that it will advance economically and the analogy is Russia or China or the UAE conveys very little information. What is the competitive advantage of Syria that it is going to exploit to get economic growth? What is the Syrian 10 year plan? What makes you believe it is doable and it is just not words?

December 6th, 2007, 3:39 am


Bashmann said:

For those thinking the US is changing strategy when it comes to Syria I say you are right, its getting tougher on the regime.

Stay tuned for a press release from the Whitehouse.


You were right the “dynamic” is changing from the American administration point of view but its for the benefits of the Syrian opposition and human rights in Syria.


December 6th, 2007, 4:25 pm


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