What is it with War in Summer 2007?

What is it with War in summer 2007? Here is the Roshomon version in triplicate.
One has to love the spin going on between Israel, Syria and Hizbullah over which side is the bad guy and intends to attack first. The Israeli military has claimed that Hizbullah and Syria are planning to launch an attack on Israel during the summer of 2007.
Here is the Israeli version:
By Amir Oren: Haaretz
Syria and Hezbollah are likely to start a war against Israel next summer, according to General Staff assessments that have been gathered during a series of meetings in recent weeks. While there is no specific estimate concerning the timing of a potential attack, all preparations are being made to ensure maximum preparedness in advance of summer, 2007.
Here is the Lebanese version:
Leila Hatoum of the Daily Star in Beirut gets a few quotes from Hizbullah on the Israeli accusations in her article: "Jewish state claims Hizbullah, Syria planning new war," November 07, 2006. She manages to spin in the opposite direction, making Israel out to be the aggressor. In her account Hizbullah is preparing itself for another Israeli on-slought. For Hizbullah it is all about defense, just as for the Israelis it is all about protecting the vulnerable state from Arab attack. Here is the Star's account:
BEIRUT: Israel is bracing itself for a possible new war with Lebanon, the chief of operations for the Jewish state's northern border area said on Monday. "We are preparing for a second war … and we are very optimistic, but on our side we must do everything to prepare for a worst-case scenario and we are readying for a scenario that [UN Security Council] Resolution 1701 will not succeed," said Lieutenant Colonel Guy Hazoot.

Resolution 1701 ended a brutal 34-day Israeli bombardment that demolished much of Lebanon's infrastructure, displaced one quarter of the population and killed and wounded over 5,000 people.

"We will not give Hizbullah the opportunity to come back to these positions," Hazoot said, gesturing to Lebanese territory across the border.

Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Monday that according to military assessments, Hizbullah and Syria "are likely to start a war against Israel next summer" and "all preparations are being made to ensure maximum preparedness."

Several top Israeli officials have said the Jewish state must prepare for a second round of hostilities with the militia, which it says is armed by Syria and Iran. Both Damascus and Tehran deny the charge.

Hizbullah media officer Hussein Rahhal told The Daily Star on Monday that the Israeli threat was real.

"The Israelis continue to reveal aggressive intentions towards Lebanon all the time," Rahhal said. "That is why we have to take into consideration that the major military power deployed along our southern borderline can, at any moment and under any pretext or without an excuse, launch an attack on us. … The Israeli generals' statements are the clearest proof that the resistance's reasoning is true. The resistance has to be ready to face any attack at all times. There has to be conformity between the resistance and the Lebanese Army and the role of the government and that of the people."

According to Rahhal, "this is the only way to confront Israel, because we are a weak country. The strength of Lebanon lies in the unity of its resistance, people and army in the face of Israel."

Resolution 1701 ended a brutal 34-day Israeli bombardment that demolished much of Lebanon's infrastructure, displaced one quarter of the population and killed and wounded over 5,000 people.

"We will not give Hizbullah the opportunity to come back to these positions," Hazoot said, gesturing to Lebanese territory across the border.

Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Monday that according to military assessments, Hizbullah and Syria "are likely to start a war against Israel next summer" and "all preparations are being made to ensure maximum preparedness."

Several top Israeli officials have said the Jewish state must prepare for a second round of hostilities with the militia, which it says is armed by Syria and Iran. Both Damascus and Tehran deny the charge.

Hizbullah media officer Hussein Rahhal told The Daily Star on Monday that the Israeli threat was real.

"The Israelis continue to reveal aggressive intentions towards Lebanon all the time," Rahhal said. "That is why we have to take into consideration that the major military power deployed along our southern borderline can, at any moment and under any pretext or without an excuse, launch an attack on us. … The Israeli generals' statements are the clearest proof that the resistance's reasoning is true. The resistance has to be ready to face any attack at all times. There has to be conformity between the resistance and the Lebanese Army and the role of the government and that of the people."

According to Rahhal, "this is the only way to confront Israel, because we are a weak country. The strength of Lebanon lies in the unity of its resistance, people and army in the face of Israel."

The Syrian version is even better. Foreign Minister Moualem is staying on his peace message and refuses to let Israel get him talking about war. With envoys from Britain, Spain, Norway, Germany and other European capitals competing to hear about regional peace plans, prisoner swaps, and how Syria is key to regional stability and can be part of the solution and not just a spoiler, Damascus is doing its best strip tease. Both Imad Mustapha and Moualem have been reaching out to the "righteous" Jews who insist on peace. So far Syria has refused to be suckered into the trash talk that Israel can usually bait it with.  For the Syrians these days, it's all come-hither glances and the debke. Maybe Syrians are learning something from the Lebanese girls?
I hope no one missed Katherine Zoepf's hit article on the vixens of Beirut, from which this photo has been ripped. It is juicy. It is mean.
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

Monday, November 6, 2006; 9:40 AM

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Syria hopes for a Middle East peace process to be launched next year and is pleased that some Israelis want to reopen negotiations on the Golan Heights, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Monday.

"We hope to have in 2007 a peace process to settle the (Arab-Israeli) issue," Moualem said after meeting Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere in the Syrian capital.

Moualem said that despite predictions in the Israeli press of another Middle East war, Syria welcomed a debate going on inside the Jewish state about whether to resume negotiations with Damascus over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

"Syria appreciates these voices," Moualem said.

Talks between Israel and Syria over the Golan Heights, a mountainous plateau occupied by Israel since 1967, collapsed in 2000 after Syria insisted on regaining control of all the strategic piece of land.

"If the Israelis are thinking of launching a war next year this is not the way. They need to understand that using force does not solve issues," Moualem said without elaborating.

Cluster Bombs are back in the news:

The international Red Cross demanded Monday that the world immediately stop using cluster bombs because the indiscriminate civilian deaths caused by the weapons far outweigh any possible military advantages. 

Human rights groups have estimated that Israel dropped cluster bombs containing as many as 4 million tiny bombs in Lebanon. Around 30 to 40 percent of the submunitions failed to explode on impact, U.N. officials have said. Cluster bombs have killed at least 22 civilians and injured 133 since the end of the summer's conflict between Israel and Hizbullah. The impact on children is especially bad because the tiny bombs are usually an eye-catching yellow with little parachutes attached. Spoerri of ICRC said the small bombs were continuing to kill innocent Lebanese civilians every week. Much of the suffering, he added, could have been avoided had more accurate weapons been chosen.

A September move by U.S. Democrats to stop the Pentagon from using cluster bombs near civilian targets was defeated in the Senate. U.S. officials attending the international conference starting Tuesday on controlling conventional weapons said they would resist any attempts to have cluster bombs put on the agenda.

Fatfat: Unity Cabinet hinges on Hariri court
Daily Star staff, Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The March 14 Forces are willing to discuss the formation of a national unity government as long as this doesn't hinder the formation of an international court to try suspects in the killing of former Premier Rafik Hariri, according to acting Interior Minister Ahmad Fatfat. In an article published by the Hariri-owned Al-Mustaqbal newspaper Monday, Fatfat said: "The March 14 Forces are open to all discussions to form a national unity government, as long as this doesn't delay the tribunal's formation."

Alex points out that Olmert has not completely shut the door to negotiations with Syria. He sent this;

Olmert’s words are not totally negative … he is leaving the door open … he is using “if” and “what if”

 وفي المقابل، استبعد اولمرت اي لقاء مع الرئيس السوري بشار الاسد وقال "في حال اعلنت استعدادي للقاء الاسد فسيقولون انني قبلت انسحابا من هضبة الجولان".واضاف اولمرت "لنفترض انني قبلت انسحابا كاملا من الجولان، ليس ما يضمن ان سوريا ستنهي علاقاتها مع محور الشر الذي تشكل جزءا منه مع ايران وحزب الله".وتابع "لن نتوصل في هذه الحالة الى اتفاق، بل على العكس سنحصل على الحرب"

Comments (52)

raf* said:

dear josh,

re: “summer 2007 war”, i think the more interesting question is not whether there will be one – a lot of water is gonna flow down many a river ’till then – but why some in the israeli general staff & political leadership are talking about this right now. i think it has more to do with internal israeli developments – think about the investigation into THIS summer’s war etc. HA’s rhetoric on this issue was/is predictable, in fact so much so that i wonder if they have a stack of templates at their media office and just pull out the one most fitting to respective issue.

what do you REALLY make of the syrian regime’s continuous talk about peace with israel? is it genuine? the cynic in me thinks that basharmuallemandcompany are just talking that particular talk ’cause they damn well know that right now the izzies won’t respond positively and thus they (the syrian regime) would never actually have to put their money where their mouth is.

i’m also not sure if the syrian regime CAN even drop support for HA&Hamas, given how much popular support they have in syria & given that probably a sizeable part of the syrian regime’s own legitimacy/support from the syrian people is based on this specific stance.

as for katherine zoepf’s article … i don’t know if you’d read it, the main part (the sociological analysis) is correct, if not particularly new, but from the way she is characterizing beiruti women one has to wonder if she’s a western feminist disappointed by her oriental sisters or if one of those lebanese girls just stole her boyfriend.

but hey, whatever gets you more readers, and even if it’s a pic of a beirut bar …

cheers & all that,



November 7th, 2006, 10:34 am


George Ajjan said:

Regarding the Beirut article:

Thank you, Katherine Zoepf and the New York Times for continuing the fine tradition, a la Thomas Friedman, of portraying Arab Christians as little more than morally depraved sexual objects.

And another thank you to my fellow “conservatives” in the US for their steadfast support of a sovereign and independent Lebanon, where young women are “free” to dance on bar-tops practically naked.

November 7th, 2006, 1:14 pm


G said:

Only someone with deep issues can write what George Ajjan just did.

In fact, only someone who misunderstood the article would conclude that the women in the story (who are not all Christians — but that too just shows something about Mr. Ajjan and his prejudices and stereotypes) are “objects” as opposed to very conscious about what they are doing. As for the morally depraved part, I think it says more about Mr. Ajjan and his issues than anything else.

And only an anti-Lebanese sovereignty and independence person could make such a jump from this article to expressing a policy of denying Lebanon independence and sovereignty (and implicitly, as with Alex and Landis himself, advocate renewed Syrian domination — or “responsibility” if you’re the disingenuous type like the Assad drum-beater Alex). Not only deny individual freedom, but collective national freedom as well.

Yes don’t support a free Lebanon cause they “misuse” it to dance on bars! So truly pathetic.

November 7th, 2006, 3:15 pm


Alex said:

Dear G

This, and Ammar’s blog, are places for discussing ideas, not for personal attacks. If you find a comment here not to your liking then either ignore it, or discuss it. But if you feel the whole world needs to experience your anger with those you do not agree with, then start your own personal blog!. That’s where you can deliver your personal attacks on Alex or Joshua or George Ajjan, or anyone who does not base ALL his suggestions for solutions to the Middle East’s problems on the obligatory first step: Punish the Syrian regime.

The Syrian regime is here to stay for the next few years at least. By insisting on punishing the Syrian regime, you are punishing, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq. Did you see where the country that the Syrian regime works is located?

And while you are looking at that map, do I really sound that “disingenuous” if I talk honestly about what I think the future of Syria and Lebanon will be like? … I think Syria and Lebanon will be more integrated somehow, mostly economically, but maybe even politically to some limited degree. That does not mean Syrian dominance. That means Syrian security (without an occupation of Lebanon).. you know the security that America provides to some Nato members who are not too sensitive about that kind of relation like you are? … The relationship will need of course to avoid the mistakes of the past. But we are not there yet.

RAF* … there is only one way to know if the regime is serious about peace .. engage the Syrians. Remember that Hafez Assad went to Geneva when he was very sick … to sign. It was Barak who changed his mind, according to president Clinton. So I don’t really understand the logic behind the suspicions about the seriousness of Syria’s calls for a resumption of the peace process.

Until now, the huge popularity of the regime’s foreign policy (not internal policies) in Syria can mean one of two things:

1) The Syrian people are exceptionally stupid and naive. The regime can fool all the people all the time.

2) The Syrian people know better. They know their regime’s foreign policy is not THAT evil, especially when compared to the others who are portrayed as the good side.

Which one is it?

November 7th, 2006, 6:48 pm


Sami D said:

The article indeed didn’t single Christian Lebanese women. The reaction of “G” is, however, exaggerated and spills into other unrelated issues, unless it is part of a bigger debate whose points are missing from the above page. Taking off one’s clothes is not necessarily a sign of freedom/independence/sovereignty, but, especially when done out of economic need/social dead-end (as many women face in Lebanese/Arab societies), is rather commodification and cheapening of one’s body. The issues raised in the article were present in Lebanon also when Syria dominated that country — another indication that stripping has nothing to do with freedom. Ending Syrian domination of Lebanon does not necessarily mean real freedom of Lebanon (although it means it in a limited sense); it means gravitating to the major exploitative economic order established by US empire. A leadership rushing to placate Washington is a hint of readiness to submit to the new master, not a sign of national freedom. But sadly, this is the limited choice offered a weak country close to the heart of oil resources, in today’s world. A Saudi-Hariri-debt-money-commercialization- dominated country & media, while hardly indicative of “sovereignty”, is also contributing to the effect mentioned in the article.

November 7th, 2006, 7:11 pm


Ehsani2 said:


The so-called “Syrian people” checked out of politics and turned the lights off 43 years ago.

November 7th, 2006, 7:41 pm


Alex said:


Why do we have to make everything related to Syria a very special case?

There is the Syrian regime being exceptionally “bad”,unlike all the angels around.

And there are also the dramatic statements about the so called “syrian people” who are not all interested in politics anymore … can’t we say the same about the American People? the Egyptian people? the Indian People? .. why do you make it sound as if the Syrian people are miserable and subjected to mass torture on a daily basis and that is why they do not dare think about politics.

I know we do not have opinion polls in Syria, or in most of the Arab countries… but you heard what those who are not “regime drummers” say and they mostly agree that the regime is genuinely very popular in Syria .. do you want examples?

November 7th, 2006, 8:04 pm


George Ajjan said:

Dear “G”,

If you’d like, please re-read my comment with an eye out for sarcasm. Perhaps next time I’ll try to make the sarcastic component more obvious.

November 7th, 2006, 8:19 pm


Ehsani2 said:

My good friend Alex,

The American people did not check out of politics. Indeed, they are heading to the polls as we speak. Instead of them being parrots and unintelligent as some of the commentators here believe, the odds are that they will vote against the wishes of their President by giving the majority of the House of Representatives back to the Democratic party. In other words, the system of accountability works in the end. In two years time (I am sure the majority of people cannot wait), they will also have the chance to elect a new President and chart a new course for their country.

Please show me where I said that the Syrian people are subjected to mass torture on a daily basis?

You seem to want us to also talk about America, Egypt and India. You can of course make the list much longer if you would add the Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Togo and even Swaziland. It is indeed the case that Syria is not unique.


Whether the ”Syrian people” agree or disagree with their leader’s policies is simply irrelevant. When has it ever mattered what they think? Their voices have not been heard for the past 43 years. They have never truly voted for anything. They have never held their leaders accountable for anything done in their country’s name.

Sadly, I doubt that they ever will.

November 7th, 2006, 8:43 pm


Ehsani2 said:

>Will Bush Lose Lebanon, Too?
>November 7, 2006; Page A13
>President Bush learns tonight whether Republicans will lose control of
>House, the Senate, or both. But what’s a mere midterm when his
>administration is
> on the verge of losing an entire country?
>That country is Lebanon. Twenty months ago, when Syrian troops were
>forced out in the so-called Cedar Revolution after a 29-year occupation,
>Levantine state was a byword for the ascendancy of the Bush Doctrine.
>strange for me to say this,” the Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt
>columnist David Ignatius in February 2005, “but this process of change
>started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about
>Iraq. But
>when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of
>them, it
>was the start of a new Arab world.”
>Fast-forward to the present and then watch as the Cedar Revolution gets
>in reverse. The White House issued a remarkable statement last Wednesday
> of “mounting evidence that the Syrian and Iranian governments,
>Hezbollah and
>their Lebanese allies are preparing to topple Lebanon’s democratically
>government.” That evidence includes recent threats on the lives of
>anti-Syrian figures, about a dozen of whom were assassinated last year.
>Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has also promised massive
>demonstrations if
>his demand for a “national unity” government — in which he and his
>allies would
> gain enough seats in the cabinet to exercise a veto — is not met by
>the end of
> this week.
>This could be scene-setting for another civil war, if the Lebanese have
>appetite for it. Mr. Nasrallah’s opponents, including the notorious
>militiaman Samir Geagea, have put it about that if Hezbollah goes ahead
>with its
> demonstrations they will stage massive counterprotests and perhaps
>the roads into Beirut.
>What would Mr. Nasrallah do then? “He’s going to push the troops of
>others to
>bring about an incident,” speculates Lebanese commentator Walid Phares
>of the
>Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “He’ll start a massive
>demonstration in
>front of [Prime Minister Fuad Siniora’s] office and demand his
>He’ll portray himself as the opposition. What he would love most of all
>is to
>have the media broadcast the downfall of the Bush-allied government.”
>That’s one scenario, though it probably won’t come to that: Mr.
>Nasrallah would
>prefer maximum autonomy within the country than actual responsibility
>over it.
>Instead, Lebanon’s political classes are likely to settle on a
>compromise that
>would sacrifice at least one of the three most cherished goals of the
>Revolution. The first is disarming Hezbollah, as required by the 1989
>Accords and demanded by U.N. Resolutions 1559 and 1701. But that latter
>resolution, part of the cease-fire agreement arranged by Condoleezza
>Rice last
>summer, does more to shield Hezbollah from Israel than the other way
>Second is a successful conclusion to the U.N. investigation into the
>murder of
>former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The investigation, led by
>Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz, is said to be within weeks of
>wrapping up,
>and informed U.S. diplomatic sources expect that it will indict senior
>in the Syrian regime, including relatives of President Bashar Assad. But
>indictments must be followed by a trial in Lebanon, which Mr. Assad is
> to quash. Hence the Hezbollah power play: If Mr. Nasrallah and his
>allies can
>gain a third of the cabinet’s seats, they can prevent the Hariri case
>from ever
>going to trial.
>Finally, the Cedar Revolution was supposed to put an end to Syria’s
>meddling in
>Lebanon. But that won’t happen if at the end of this week’s political
>negotiations the Lebanese government allows President Emile Lahoud,
>still and
>forever a Syrian puppet, to remain in office even as the country moves
>to early
>elections. Nor does it help that Mr. Assad continues to prove his worth
>to Mr.
>Nasrallah by serving as his main conduit of arms.
>In all this, Hezbollah has been helped by the weakness of its domestic
>opponents. The Cedar Revolution demonstrated that Lebanon’s anti-Syrian
>were a majority in the country. But those forces are fractious and
>unsure of
>themselves, and Mr. Nasrallah was able to draw down their support by
>striking a
>deal with the opportunistic Maronite leader Michel Aoun. Israel’s
>military campaign last summer was another boon for Mr. Nasrallah, since
> less than his complete defeat in war was bound to embolden him
>Then there is the forthcoming report of former Secretary of State James
>Iraq Study Group, which is rumored to urge the Bush administration to
>Damascus diplomatically. In recent days Mr. Assad has been talking a
>blue streak
> about his willingness to make peace with Israel, a signal that he might
>willing to play ball on that front and maybe in Iraq if only the
>lets him have his way in Lebanon.
>The term for Mr. Baker’s advice is “sell-out,” and it is entirely
> of his past Mideast diplomacy. As an alternative, Mr. Phares argues
>that Ms.
>Rice should convene a conference of Lebanese NGOs in Washington as a way
>bracing them for what he calls a “second Cedar Revolution.” Also
>noteworthy is
>the internal Shiite opposition to Hezbollah: “The Shiite community never
>anyone the right to wage war in its name,” Sayed Ali al-Amin, the Shiite
>of Tyre, recently told Beirut’s An-Nahar newspaper. With winter
>approaching and
>Hezbollah reportedly sharply cutting back on its reconstruction funds to
>homeless Shiites, there’s an opportunity here to discredit Mr. Nasrallah
>separate his organization from its religious base.
>Saving Lebanon will require focus, nerve and imagination, qualities
>absent from Ms. Rice’s tenure at State. Maybe if her boss loses his
>majority in
>Congress, he’ll be less inclined to let the remainder of his legacy go
>down the
>drain with it.
> URL for this article:

November 7th, 2006, 9:02 pm


Sami D said:

While I agree with the lack of democracy in Syria’s political system, I wouldn’t portray romanticize the present American System either. The latter is awash in campaign money “donations” (read: bribery) for special interest. The lobbying industry employs tens of thousands of people. The voters are not voting for the right candidates/party, but for the lesser of two evils. These are the options given to them: Between Bush who will “stay the course”, and Kerry who “would’ve fought the war differently”. Where is the candidate who says: “This is an immoral war of aggression”? The Democratic party is beholden to similar big-money interests as the Republicans. The difference between Rep and Dem is more one of form than substance when it comes to foreign policy especially, (kinda like Likud vs Labor vis-a-vis the Palestinians) although I agree that the current neocon team is excessive. Add to it a mega-corporate media system that dumbs down the population, rather than truly inform them, serves power and limits the debate to the tiny spectrum of Democrats versus Republicans. Only a candidate with millions of dollars behind him (ie, usually Dem or Rep) can really have any hope of just getting a 3rd place in the outcome. That’s far from democracy.

November 7th, 2006, 9:27 pm


Alex said:

But I was sarcastic with the torture comment .. I meant to say that you gave the impression that the Syrian people stopped having any opinions about politics because they fear punishment from the regime.

I see now that what you meant was that they don’t care to think because their opinion does not count at the end.

Do you know that those who negotiated with Hafez Assad commented on how cautious he was in carefully calculating what the different segments of the Syrian people expect of him?

Not as perfect as “democracy” but it was not the exact opposite either.

I also disagree with the statement that in Syria the regime does not take into account what the Syrians want, and in America the opposite is true.

You want me to accept that the accountability of the American system is good enough in Iraq’s case?

No. I can’t.

You see, the Syrian regime killed thousands innocent of civilians in Hama after being relatively patient for three years of terror inside Syria. Until today, there are those who want to execute members of the Syrian regime mostly because of Hama.

Hundreds of thousands (50-100 times more than Hama?) civilians killed in Iraq because of a very optional war (not forced) in a far country (not inside the United States) … and you want me to be impressed with the accountability? could it have been a bit faster perhaps? if US president can take a mistaken decision and insist on it for 6 years and a million dead civilians, then I am not to impressed with the response time f hte system of accountability.

Democracy is great for internal matters. But we are discussing foreign policy here. And the United States, just like Syria, stands behind its leader in foreign policy .. until the leader messes up really badly. The difference is, when the US leader messes up really badly, his mistakes are much more lethal.

November 7th, 2006, 9:43 pm


Ehsani2 said:

First, on the NYT Beirut picture:

What is wrong with having bars crowded with voluptuous and beautiful women? It sure beats the bar scene in Syria. During my trip to Aleppo this summer, one was hard pressed to find a single bar to visit. We had to resign ourselves to drinking coffee all day only to stuff ourselves with food come nighttime.

I, for one, wish Syria’s nightlife would look more like that of Beirut than Tehran’s.

Sami D,

No one can argue that the American system is perfect. It has a number of flaws of which you highlighted only a few.


The U.S. is not just any other country. Of course the decisions of its leaders will have more implications than others.

I stand by my theory that:

The Syrian people do not seem to care because their opinions do not matter in the end.

Their leader can decide to do any of the following:

-Decide to remain in Lebanon for years.
-Abruptly leave Lebanon.
-Resist Israel and turn to armed conflict.
-Beg Israel for a peace deal.
-Get closer to the Gulf States and Egypt.
-Dump Saudi Arabia’s King and call him a half man.
-Move his country into the arms of Iran.
-Dump Iran and gets closer to America.
-Continue to embrace Socialism.
-Dump Socialism and adopt free market economics.

No matter which of the above their young leader chooses to follow, the “Syrian people” will seem to follow their leader, clap for him and extol his genius.

November 7th, 2006, 10:00 pm


Alex said:


The same way an American president would be accountable after 6 or 8 years of messing up his country’s image abroad, the Syrian leaders would probably face their people somehow .. you have not seen it yet because Syria’s performance on foreign policy matters went through shorter cycles … the bad cycles were short, and usually followed by much longer “successes”.

The point I am making, all nations are proud. A leader who damages the national pride of his people for too long will pay for it, democracy or not.

November 7th, 2006, 10:18 pm


Ehsani2 said:


With the exception of this year’s Iraq blunder, Americans are known to vote with their pockets rather than based on foreign policy. To them, one of the main barometers of a successful Presidency is how low the country’s Unemployment rate is come voting time.

Can you imagine if the same Unemployment rate standard were used in our country? Indeed, rather than the negative correlation that you see in normal societies (the lower the unemployment rate is the longer the President’s term in office), it seems that the correlation in our region is of the wrong sign. In effect, the longer the President stays in office, the higher is the country’s unemployment rate.

November 7th, 2006, 10:39 pm


Alex said:

Oh, no sir, I will not allow you to take it to economics, then I won’t be able to keep up with you.

We’ll stay with foreign policy 🙂

The reason Americans care more about inflation and about how much they pay for fuel for their SUVs i because normally (except 9/11) they did not feel any need to learn about and care about what happens in Nicaragua or Darfur … Syrian people have muc h more exciting things happening in their country or next door .. so excuse them for giving priority to those things.

And my point is still valid, I believe. Ronald Reagan’s popularity was mostly because of the way he dealt with the Soviets, and the other bad guys around the world.

Margaret Thatcher? …. Thatcher’s first two years in office were not easy. Unemployment was very high, but the economy gradually showed improvement. She brought more of her supporters into the Cabinet, and bolstered her reputation by leading the country to war against Argentina in the Falkland Islands.

November 7th, 2006, 11:04 pm


Chris said:

Defensive Aggression and the momentum of war planning toward war fighting.

November 8th, 2006, 1:35 am


norman said:

Syrians always give teir support on forign affair matters ,the stand of Bashar Asad on forign policy explain the support that he has ,Colin Powel asked for Asad support on the Iraq war ,Asad refused siting lack of support in Syria Powel told him (you are a dictater ,what do you care about what Syrians want )Asad said ( i represent the Syrian people and their wishes ,and that was the last majer visit by an American official to Syria.

November 8th, 2006, 3:24 am


Dubai Jazz said:

The inclination of a government to focus and highlight foreign affairs is sometimes perceived to be a diversionary tactic. Which help to make internal problems secondary.

November 8th, 2006, 5:36 am


Dubai Jazz said:

Ehsani2 said:
“During my trip to Aleppo this summer, one was hard pessed to find a single bar to visit.”

Bars are not banned in Aleppo, so the rarity of them is a matter of poor demand. The average drinking Aleppous would prefer anyone of the roadside restaurants/cafes by the ‘river beautification’ street (Tajmeel Al Naher).
Those who are less concerned about prestige and fussiness would go to places ironically called Maksaf (cafeteria), swarming with the gypsy-like belly dancers (Hajiat).

November 8th, 2006, 8:07 am


Ehsani2 said:

I hope that I did not give the impression that bars were somehow “banned” in Syria. Of course they are not. Were you to find one though, I would give it a miss.

November 8th, 2006, 9:55 am


Innocent_Criminal said:

There are very very few decent bars in Damascus (don’t know Aleppo). But in regard to the Beirut article it sounded exaggerated to me. I haven’t been there for almost 2 years but I had been visiting and/or living in Beirut for 8 years before that. And I doubt that in just 20 months they have lost 80% of their young male population. This said I believe young girls/boys dancing on bar counters and dressing up is a positive thing. Syrians need to learn more from the Lebanese in that department. While its extreme form has a negative image on women/society and should never be viewed as a mark of freedom or democracy. I believe it is a sign of social openness, which Syrians lack. Our society is just full of frigid prunes, you can call party people shallow but hey we know how to have fun 😉

So Ehsani, this is probably the second time we agree on something 🙂

November 8th, 2006, 11:16 am


Alex said:

Ehsani, what did you want to do in a Bar in Aleppo? 🙂

For those of you who are fans of more healthy drinking, Aleppo might not have the best bars but it has the best fresh fruit juice (and delicious sandwiches) places on earth!

November 8th, 2006, 11:40 am


Ehsani2 said:


At least we are in agreement on the things that matter in life.


I prefer the scenes in the Beirut bars to those at the Aleppo fresh juice joints

November 8th, 2006, 11:50 am


Alex said:

Zvi Bar’el from Haaretz came up today with his own review of the Arts scene in Damascus. No colorful pictures though.

Here it is

Last update – 03:01 08/11/2006
Under arrest for making a movie
By Zvi Bar’el

“If we had to operate in accordance with the laws of theater management and musical works, we would have been incapable of producing two plays last season,” said Jihad al-Zoughbi in an interview with the Al-Quds al-Arabi daily newspaper published in London. “We had to break many laws to present viewers with 24 plays in the current festival.”

This is a public confession of a violation of the law from the mouth of the director of the Syrian theater festival, which opens this week in Damascus. More than describe the nature and quality of Syrian theater, this interview reveals the cumbersome nature of Syrian bureaucracy as it affects cultural life.

Zoughbi can speak openly about breaking the law because he himself is part of the establishment. He bears the lofty title of Director of Festivals, Theaters and Music at the Syrian Culture Ministry.

This issue was raised pursuant to the interviewer’s question of how such a large national festival, which hosts actors and writers from many Arab countries, had received no publicity. The answer is that the person in charge of such publicity is Majad Halima, director general of Syrian radio and television, who is also head of the publicity committee of the festival’s supreme committee. Despite all of his titles, Syrian television did not succeed in broadcasting even one of the festival’s offerings, and a documentary film prepared for the first festival (held 13 years ago) was released only now – even that at the last minute. No malicious intentions were at work here, rather, only bureaucratic snarls.

Syrian theater has a long history, stretching back to its founding by Abu Khalil Al-Kabani, in the Ottoman Period (pre-World War I.) The Syrian collective memory also has fond recollections of the freedom enjoyed by the theater in the 1960s, before the Baath party dominated artistic creativity. In recent years, too, during Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, the theater has enjoyed a certain measure of freedom, and even the establishment of the Studio experimental theater, which has produced plays whose texts change with every performance.

Such experiments, however, are few and far between. It is difficult to imagine Syrian theater presenting works by Lebanese choreographer Walid Aouni, for example. Last month Aouni mounted an exceptional dance installation at the Cairo Festival, describing the recent war in Lebanon with sharp symbolism. Aouni, founder and director of the Cairo Opera’s Modern Dance Theater, does not present his works in Lebanon, which he has not visited in over 26 years.

Theater is not the only cultural offering that the Syrian establishment has difficulty publicizing. Incidentally, at the same time the Syrian theater festival opened in its home country, a roving Syrian film festival was screening films on American university campuses. A fascinating book of articles was recently published in honor of that festival. Entitled “Insights into Syrian Cinema,” the book offers both a professional analysis of the quality of the Syrian films and presents a gloomy picture of heavy censorship. Thus, for example, well-known directors like Mohammad Malas or Nabil Maleh are forced to wait years between films due to supervision restrictions and the granting of permits.

One of the most fascinating epidodes in the book describes when, in 1978, Malas and director Omar Amiralay organized a film festival in Cannes in conjunction with the influential French film magazine Cahiers du Cinema.

‘Hand in hand’ with the state

The magazine representatives chose 18 films, half of which were disqualified by the authorities. The organizers then had a flash of inspiration and instead of screening the films, French film critic Serge Daney simply related the content of the banned films for the huge audience. “It was a screening without pictures, an amazing sight,” wrote Amiralay in the book.

Whereas it is easy to keep the Syrian theater “at home,” and thus avoid criticism from the outside, the opposite is true for Syrian film. Very few Syrian films are cleared for viewing in Syria and most of them can be seen only outside that country. Rasha Salti, who curated the Syrian film festival and participated in the publication of the book, explains it is difficult to speak of Syrian “national film,” due to the restrictions and the few films that are produced. At the same time, however, Syrian films become part of the archive of the national memory that may one day be researched.

All this analysis, however, does not affect the conceptions of those charged with supervising Syrian film, who behave just like their colleagues who supervise Syrian theater. “Intellectuals must work hand in hand with the government,” declared Assad in one of his first interviews. The arts publication supervisors caught the hint, even if the Syrian intellectuals who go in and out of the courts and the jails did not.

The result is that 28 years after the Cannes festival organized by Amiralay, now 60, he was arrested last month on the Syrian-Jordanian border, after the Al Arabiya television station broadcast his documentary film “A Flood in Baath Country,” which criticizes the Syrian government. That film, produced in 2005 by the French-German ARTE channel and awarded first prize for a short film at the Arab Film Festival held in Paris, was the cause of Amiralay’s interrogation for 13 hours by Syrian security forces and a restraining order preventing him from leaving the country. At the end of last week, Haaretz learned that the order had been lifted.

November 8th, 2006, 12:12 pm


ivanka said:

Hello, I know 3 very nice bars in Lattakia. And why are you making it sound like Syria is Saudi Arabia. Very honestly all the Syrian girls I know wear anything they want to wear and they do go out and have fun. The way you have fun is something related to your culture. I really think very very few Syrians think “let’s go to a bar” when they want to have fun and this is why there are not many bars. But again you can drink in most Syrian restaurants (that I know of), so if a bar is for drinking you also have that. As for dancing I would say the same thing. I went to three concerts this summer and in all three young people did dance together like crazy.

Bottom line : I think people all around the world want to have fun, they want to appreciate music, flirt, maybe drink. The way they do that depends a lot on their respective societies. If I want to have fun I do not have to copy the way western people have fun in order for my fun to be “civilized” or cool. I will have fun the way I want to.

Western people are extremely infatuated with their culture. Westernized people even more with that culture. To them, it becomes the standard. Well, It is not.

November 8th, 2006, 4:48 pm


ivanka said:

By the way, remeber Kevin Sites’ report…here is a reminder:


DAMASCUS, Syria – This is probably not what the Bush administration had in mind when it branded Syria a “rogue state”: young couples sipping cocktails in a crowded bar, watching others bump and grind on the dance floor to techno, house and funk music.

Damascus bills itself as the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, with people living here as long ago as 5,000 B.C. And there’s no doubt, it’s still very much alive today.

In the old city section of the capital, ancient Arab walls ring a maze of twisting passageways so narrow that pedestrians sometimes have to push their backs up against the cold stone to avoid being kneecapped by cars.

And if car bumpers don’t pin you, the sound systems will. A black Mazda weaves through the alley, pushing back people with its mass, the heavy bass thump of American rapper 50 Cent popping from its sound system.

November 8th, 2006, 4:49 pm


ivanka said:

Lebanese society is less similar to western society than the author of this article would like to think. Syrian society is more similar to western society than many people want to imagine. In both cases, they do not have the obligation to copy anyone. Lebanese society is Lebanese and Syrian is Syrian.

November 8th, 2006, 4:52 pm


ausamaa said:

Syria and Hizbullah are planning to attack Israel this summer? Not the opposit! Forward planning, I would call it. Nice, now we have claws, not only them??? Thank you Sayed Hassan Nassrallah! You changed our world. If Israel could not know where the Hizbullah Bunkers were, how did they made the leap to unravelling the Syria-HIzbullah plan? Months in advance?? Hell, does Syria and Hizbullah know about this also??

As to bars, makes wounder where Ehsani2 hangs out in Syria. If he can not find a decent bar in Damascus, he is better off leave Syrian affairs alon to somebody well informed to find one. It also it dependes on what exactly he is looking for in a “bar”????

November 8th, 2006, 5:12 pm


ivanka said:

Saying that Syria is preparing a war means that Israel is preparing a war. The decision for war and peace in the middle east is only in the hands of Israel. On the other hand, if Israel were preparing for a war, would they tell everyone they were.

Remember that their plans for war against Lebanon were kept secret and only revealed after the war started.

So on one hand the Israelis are saying be afraid of us we are still very dangerous. On the other hand they are warning you in advance. This is probably empty talk.

However, never underestimate the criminality of Israeli politicians. A country that can elect a war criminal like Ariel Sharone to prime minister is a very very sick country. Now they have their new fascist genius Lieberman, apparently he wants to move all the arabs to cyprus or something like that!

BTW..instead of arguing about bars 18 palestinian civilians were killed yesterday. 8 of them children killed while sleeping. Does this make anyone angry?

November 8th, 2006, 5:35 pm


Ehsani2 said:

The only prerequisite in EHSANI2’s choice of bars is to avoid visiting the ones attended by some of the commentators here. He would most certainly take up Alex’s suggestion of fresh juice joints than attending the bars that the so-called “well informed” people of Damascus seem to know and frequent.

What is EHSANI2 looking for in a bar?

The question tells a thousand words about the type of establishments that our well-informed person seems to hang around.


The juice stand it is for me.

I guess that I will have to restrict my bar visits to those days when I am in Beirut which had always been my strategy. I am just that much more sure now.

November 8th, 2006, 5:39 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:

Rumsfeld just resigned

November 8th, 2006, 6:02 pm


Ehsani2 said:

About time. Should have happened a long time ago.

November 8th, 2006, 6:05 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:

and on another note. check this political balloon. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3325709,00.html

November 8th, 2006, 6:07 pm


Atassi said:

Ehsani and Alex,

The Atassi’s checked out of politics and turned the lights off 43 years ago too.
But, I am seeing some NEW light and possibly a new bread of political activism in the Syrian political stage. I am one of them 🙂

November 8th, 2006, 6:20 pm


Alex said:

Here is the new Defense minister, Robert Gate in 1992:

“If a successor regime begins to have trouble maintaining Iraq’s unity or territorial integrity, its immediate neighbors, particularly Iran, Turkey, and Syria, will be strongly tempted to intervene. They all fear that an unstable Iraq would threaten their own national interests and might lead to an undesirable shift in the regional balance of power. None wishes to see Iraq break apart into independent Kurdish, Shiite, and Sunni states.

Sounds like a good prediction. Hopefully he will be a major improvement over Mr. R.

November 8th, 2006, 6:23 pm


Ehsani2 said:

Rumsfeld’s replacement is a close friend of Jim Baker. He is from Bush Senior’s foreign policy team. The White House will outsource its Iraq policy to the Baker crowd most likely now. Whenever crisis engulfs the Bush family, Jim Baker’s phone rings.

November 8th, 2006, 6:56 pm


Alex said:

100 Ahlain Atassi!

November 8th, 2006, 7:13 pm


Atassi said:

Thank you Alex !!
With Baker &Company getting to the helm of the US Iraq policy, do you see a chance of mending Syrian-US relationship any time soon? Since Baker has been in contact with Waleed Moualeam in the past two months..

November 8th, 2006, 9:54 pm


Ehsani2 said:

Yes, I do. There is no question that the leadership in Damascus is carrying a big smile today. I am not sure that the same can be said of Jumblat for example.

Using the Midterm elections, the American people proved that they are neither parrots nor as unintelligent as some here charged them to be. Instead. Instead, they proved that their system of government works.

Though later than many would have liked, big heads rolled today thanks to the voice of the people.

A change in course was officially charted. Let us see what the new team will bring to the table. The odds are that Syria’s leadership will be a beneficiary.

In the days and weeks ahead, we will find out to what extent.

November 8th, 2006, 10:36 pm


Ehsani2 said:

A small reality check

AIPAC reached nearly every lawmaker elected in Tuesday’s mid-term congressional elections as part of its effort to educate political candidates on the value of the U.S.-Israel relationship. During the campaign that ended Tuesday, nearly every viable candidate met with AIPAC professional staff members and submitted a position paper summarizing his or her views on U.S. Middle East policy. A non-partisan organization, AIPAC has for decades worked with Republican and Democratic members of Congress to strengthen the ties between the United States and Israel.

November 9th, 2006, 12:06 am


Alex said:

Ehsani, the good thing for Arabs is that it can not get any worse. Already 95% of elected representatives are strongly pro Israel.

And here is another small reality check:

Haaretz runs a weekly game show for candidates for US presidential elections. Every week you can gain or lose points based on what you say or do to make yourself “good for Israel”.

November 9th, 2006, 2:33 am


Innocent_Criminal said:

Wow Alex, That is an eye opener. my favorite is Chuck Hagel. Somehow he is anti-Israel because “The Senator for Nebraska believes that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is central to Middle East peace.” Yeah Chuck!!! why are you so sinister?

November 9th, 2006, 8:22 am


qunfuz said:

The latest Gaza massacre makes me very angry. I let off some steam at my blog.

November 9th, 2006, 8:31 am


ivanka said:

Qunfuz, thanks for the invitation. I have visited your blog and left two comments 😀

November 9th, 2006, 2:44 pm


Alex said:

Tarek, I think Chuck Hagel’s position on Lebanon’s war already burned his bridges with the Israel Lobby.

It will be interesting to know if the new defense minister will stop actively interfering in the state department’s business in Iraq and mideast policy.

What do you think Joshua?

November 9th, 2006, 3:23 pm


Atassi said:

Why Israel must talk to Syria
9 November 2006
The Jerusalem Post
Copyright (c) 2006 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

If for no other reason than the Israeli people’s psychological well-being, the Olmert government has to accept Syria’s offer to begin peace negotiations.

Since the summer war in Lebanon, Israelis have gone into a serious, dangerous depression, and it’s only getting deeper. This week it came out that the army is gearing up for a war it believes Syria and Hizbullah will launch against us next summer, and the news didn’t cause even a ripple. Israelis are on war overload. Tell them there’s going to be a war with Syria next summer, and they think: “Hmm. I wonder if it’ll start before the war in Gaza turns into a new intifada, or maybe the war with Iran will start first, then the new intifada, then the war with Syria. Interesting. What’s for lunch?”

Israelis have resigned themselves to a life of war and a future of war. It’s no mystery why – the Katyushas from Lebanon and the Kassams from Gaza killed their belief in unilateral withdrawal, which was supposed to be Israel’s lifeline to peace after the last intifada killed most people’s belief in negotiations. The only options left, most Israelis are now convinced, is fight or flight, and since very few of us are about to flee the country, that leaves only fight – here, there, wherever. When will it end? Who knows, that’s the way it is.

We’re becoming like primitive, Third World peasants who kill and die in feuds with the same enemies for century after century until they don’t even question it anymore. It’s God’s will, they say, it’s in the Bible. My sons will be killed, my daughters will be killed? That’s what happened to my parents and my grandparents, and it’ll happen to my sons and grandsons, the ones who survive, God willing. No use worrying about it. Just keep digging.

That may be normal life for Third World peasants, but Israelis are a forward-looking, ambitious people – they cannot live without hope for peace. Yet that’s what they’ve arrived at. They’ve accepted war as their fate. Which has put them in a serious, dangerous depression.

NOW HERE comes Syrian President Bashar Assad and, only a few days ago, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem to urge Israel to talk peace – and Ehud Olmert says no. He’s got preconditions. The Syrians first have to cut off Hizbullah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Iran. For good measure, he says, “As long as I serve as prime minister, the Golan Heights will remain in our hands because it is an integral part of the State of Israel.”

Does anybody believe him? If he was convinced Assad was sincere about peace, or if the Americans twisted his arm, does anybody believe Olmert would make his stand on the Golan, when not only Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak but even Binyamin Netanyahu were prepared to give it up?

And what is this nonsense about preconditions? For so many years it was Israel that was insisting on “direct negotiations without preconditions” while the Arabs were demanding that Israel first get out of the occupied territories, and only then would they talk. Now an Arab leader wants to talk to Israel, and Israel is saying no, we’ve got preconditions.

What hypocrisy. Syria doesn’t have any political alliances that it didn’t have before, when three Israeli prime ministers were conducting peace negotiations through the US with Hafez Assad. Does anybody believe that these alliances are Olmert’s real reason for refusing to talk to Bashar Assad?

The real reason Olmert won’t talk is because the Bush administration won’t let him, something the administration hasn’t even tried to hide. As far as Bush is concerned, Syria is an auxiliary member of the axis of evil, and you don’t talk to them, you freeze them out, keep them guessing whether you’re going to regime-change their asses, and wait for them to come begging.

This strategy has worked about as well with Syria as it has with Iran and North Korea, and about as well as the crusade for democracy has worked in Iraq. It may be about to change. Between the congressional election results and the exit strategy from Iraq being devised by the forceful diplomat James Baker, Bush could decide that on second thought, maybe Israel and Syria ought to sit down and try to settle their differences. Right away.

WHAT WOULD Olmert say to that? He’d say, “Yes, sir.” And Assad and everybody else would understand that Israel, as it had done under Rabin, Barak and Netanyahu, was offering Syria the Golan Heights in return for peace.

And then masses of Israelis who once hoped for such an agreement, but who have since soured on the possibility of peace with Syria or anybody else in the Middle East, would start to hope again. The national depression, the fatalistic gloom, the surrender to war, I think, would start to lift.

As I’ve written before, I’m pessimistic that Assad would be willing to give up his claim to water rights to Lake Kinneret, which doomed the 2000 peace negotiations with his father. I’m not the only Israeli who’s pessimistic, either.

But we may be wrong. And I’m convinced we have to take the chance that we’re wrong, and meet Syria at the negotiating table, because Israelis cannot go on living with nothing but war and the expectation of war indefinitely. Although it is a comfortable life, in a grim way – you don’t have to be in doubt whether your enemy is ready for peace or not, because you’ve decided he isn’t. You don’t have to agonize whether Israel should bomb away or restrain itself, because you’ve decided restraint is suicidal.

One thing about resigning yourself to a life of war and hatred – you don’t have much stress. You don’t get surprised, you don’t have to change, you don’t have to risk the unknown. But you’re left with a life of war and hatred.

So something’s got to give. The Syrian regime is secular; its alliances with Hizbullah and Iran grow out of political convenience, not ideology; it has kept the cease- fire on the Golan for three decades; it has talked to Israel before and is seemingly eager to do so again.

Maybe it’s a bluff. Maybe negotiations would fail like they did the first time. But with the IDF predicting war with Syria next summer, what do we have to lose? Nothing but our despair.

What is this nonsense about preconditions? For years it was Israel that was insisting on ‘direct negotiations without preconditions’ – now Israel is saying no, we’ve got preconditions. RATTLING THE CAGE

Photo; Caption: SYRIAN FOREIGN Minister Walid Muallem with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store in Damascus.

November 9th, 2006, 3:39 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:

It’s safe to say that Bob Gates is much more pragmatic than his predecessor. He has close ties to the Baker study-group which advised dialogue with Iran & Syria instead of further isolating them. That said I doubt Bush would have tapped Gates if he was more than just a compromising shift. So we should not expect troop numbers declining anytime soon. Gates will probably add a carrot to Rumsfeld’s stick-only approach but nothing too major. Since there are also recommendations from the Baker study group, such as breaking up Iraq, which are sure to face opposition from Iraq’s neighbors.

One other positive thing about the whole deal is that Dick Cheney has been seriously marginalized with Rumsfeld’s exit. The days of the likes of Richard Perle, Wolfowitz and co are officially over (Hopefully for good).

November 9th, 2006, 4:39 pm


Alex said:

This is how they voted

Even Jewish Americans voted for the democrats (87%)

The president might decide to learn one of these two lesons:

1) the American people want us to find better, more successful, ways to reach the same objectives.

2) Need to change ur strategies and/or objectives.

November 9th, 2006, 5:43 pm


Dan said:

The IDF’s claims that a new war will break in 2007 should be taken with a grain of salt.
Every time the new yearly military budget is being discussed, a new terrible nemesis appears.
Even though a Syrian attempt of creating a Golan Heights’ Hizbullah is possible and also a subsequent war.

November 9th, 2006, 7:41 pm


keller,USA said:

well look at the number of responses to this petty issue- ‘dancing on bars’. more American “Jonbenet Journalism” ala NYT- further junk news. with the region on the verge of exploding, cant the highly funded NYT give us some real information? and instead of falling for the distractions, as concerned readers, cant we demand it? for heaven’s sake!

November 14th, 2006, 10:14 am


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