Why Reform is an Urgent call to Secular Arabs:

(posted by Alex) 

By Hind Aboud Kabawat

Senior Researcher in Public Diplomacy/ the Center of Religion and DiplomacyGeorge Mason University.
April 2008

When I was a child growing up in Syria, it was considered bad manners to ask friends and neighbours about their religion. Or, at least, that was the code of conduct encouraged by my mother and father and, indeed, it was my parents' belief that we were first and foremost members of the human community, then heirs to the traditions of a thousand-year-old Arab-speaking culture and finally proud citizens of a free and independent Syria. But one's religion was a private family affair and should in no way interfere with the ability of Syrians, from all backgrounds and classes, to enjoy harmonious relations. And, indeed my own family was eminently ecumenical. Since my respective sets of grandparents belonged to different Christian denominations, I was baptized in two churches to keep both families happy.


Hind Kabawat with Sheikh Ahmed Hassoun, Syria's Grand Mufti and Rabbi Marc Gopin, Professor of World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University.

The spirit of kinship with all religions was a fundamental tenet in my family, and in many others. But, for much of the history of the region, it was not always a tenet shared by everyone.

The present culture of sectarian and religious conflict in the region has, however, exceeded the historical norm. Whether the Middle East can enjoy religious peace and tolerance will depend on whether mosque and state and church and state can be kept apart.

I personally believe it can.

Secularism, of course, has been one of the basic foundations of the Baath, and other nationalistic parties party in Syria in addition to the former Baath regime in Iraq. In many ways, Baath secularism worked well. Look no further than post-Sadaam Iraq to see what can happen when sectarian replaces secularism as the basic motivating force in the political discourse. But the secularism of the one-party autocracies of the Middle East has a fundamental flaw. A one party rule provides no mechanism for people to peacefully express and resolve their differences. Such repressive political culture almost always becomes a victim of its own political rigidity.

One of the arguments employed to justify one-party rule is this: given free and open elections, the radical Islamists would prevail and impose on the rest of us—minorities and secular Muslims—a repressive religious theocracy where basic human rights would be infringed upon. For many, this is a compelling argument. But I believe it ignores the potential effect, overtime, of mass media, the internet, and mass education in transforming the existing rigid and non tolerent attitudes of many segments of Middle Eastern societies into much more vibrant, cosmopolitan and sophisticated communities.

In order for those instruments of change to have their desired effect, it is essential that regional sectarian violence and sectarian motivated political confrontations in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, must stop.

The transformation of the political discourse, and the call for a more open, democratic, inclusive and secular political system in teh Middle East has been often due to the efforts of Christian and other minority communities who were instrumental in the developement of secular political movements and parties in the Levant, and helped in creating a tolerant society and environment during my father's generation .
Will Arab societies in the Middle East be able to transform themselves peacefully to democracies without becoming, unwittingly, Taliban-like Muslim theocracies? Well, for those of us active in the reform movement in the region, it is through building, brick by brick, the foundations of a vibrant civil society where open debate, a free media, an independent judiciary and a military that answers to its civilian masters, not the other way around, prevails. From our perspective, unless Arab societies move in such a direction, they will never be able to compete successfully with societies in the West and the emerging East.

Sure, some states in the region have been blessed with the economic windfall of oil revenues. But surely common sense—and sound planning—demands that Arab societies in the Middle East plan for a post-oil-based economy. And some of us—Syria, for example—are already there. To succeed, harnessing the intellectual and entrepreneurial talents of our people, not windfall profits from oil, will be the basis of a sustainable economic future. And a more advanced economic society—and the prosperity it will generate–will not emerge in a repressive political climate.

Those advocating such reforms in the region are sadly subject to a good deal of harassment from authorities. It seems that a disproportionate percentage of reformers, and prisoners of conscience, are secular Christians and Muslims. Does this imply that the concerns of the liberal Muslims and Christians differ from the concerns of other groups?   Not at all. But they possibly realize more than most the consequences for all of us if extremists were to take control of our societies. Religious and social freedoms as well as women's rights and the rule of law will be threatened, and the region's stability will be at risk.

Relations between followers of different religions in Syria were quite cordial. When my youngest brother was born, my parents named him Omar. Not a big deal at the time. But thirty years or so later, new friends often ask me why my brother has such a "Muslim" name. But the answer was simple. To my parents, and to most Christians at the time, a Muslim name did not carry any negative connotation.

As I noted at the beginning of this article, Muslims, Christians and Jews lived, most of the time, in harmony during hundreds of years of Ottoman rule. And when I was growing in the region, we cherished our Muslim compatriots and Muslim culture of the wider Syrian community. There was no contradiction between being a "good Christian" and being a "proud Syrian" and an "Arab patriot." All these elements contributed much to our cultural, religious and political identity.

Just how important "Muslim Culture" is to me as a Christian became apparent last year when I traveled to Mostar, a small town in Bosnia, in the former Yugoslavia, where I visited the famous Mostar bridge, which had been destroyed in the civil war, itself a testament to what happens when religious differences become inflamed.

While visiting a number of Bosnian churches and mosques, I was overcome with emotion and nostalgia for my Syrian Culture and the memory of my grandparents. The architecture and ambience seemed the same. It was like I had been transported back in time and place.

There is, however, one notable difference. Unlike the former Yugoslavia, Syria has been spared the tragedy of a society disintegrating on the basis of religious and sectarian difference. That must never happen. And it will not happen if we can, together—all shades of Muslims and Christian—build a secular, open, tolerant society. Those peacefully advocating for such a society should not be "rewarded" for their efforts by being imprisoned and denied some of their basic human rights.

Syria, which has achieved a leading political role in the region, and earned widespread support and even affection for its principled positions among the Arab people, could enhance further its image and acquire additional respect, internally, regionally and internationally, if it becomes more tolerant of sincere and patriotic reform activists and thinkers.

Comments (405)

Akbar Palace said:

Syria … could enhance further its image and acquire additional respect, internally, regionally and internationally, if it becomes more tolerant of sincere and patriotic reform activists and thinkers.

Alex –

Hey, and what about non-sincere and non-patriotic reform activists and thinkers? Those are “a dime a dozen” in Western societies.

Well, I guess you have to start somewhere.

I’m guessing Hind Aboud Kabawat isn’t living in Baathist Syria at the moment…

May 22nd, 2008, 8:44 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Amen and again amen!

(Am I still on Syria Comment?)

PS Alex, there are a couple of editing remarks still embedded in the text

May 22nd, 2008, 8:56 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

She is at George Mason U.

May 22nd, 2008, 8:57 pm


kingcrane jr said:

Thank you for posting this.
And yes, she does not live in Syria today.
Neither do I, but for Syria, I am still very hopeful but I am not so hopeful for other nation/states in the modern Levant.

May 22nd, 2008, 9:20 pm


Alex said:

Thanks AIG : ) .. I removed my notes.

Hind lives in Syria and works in Syria and Toronto and when not in toronto or Damascus, she is all over the world. On her site you will see her with Presient Clinton and with many other world leaders.

She is now in Damascus.

May 22nd, 2008, 9:22 pm


Zenobia said:

I am not sure why you are so surprised. The way that Hind Kabawat thinks is the way a great many people who write on SC think.
maybe you just don’t realize that because people are so busy defending against suggestions that one can force these changes to occur in some rapid way.
However, even Hind Kabawat is not calling for a revolution or external intervention. She is stating what is the obvious to anyone who has actually been to Syria and interacted with the people.

Interestingly, it is not the Baath or the gov’t who endanger secularism- it is the majority population. I agree with her strongly, that society has to trust that even in a open system where islamic parties would gain a lot of political support, this will eventually be balanced out by the progress of a more secularly educated and modernist culture that would emerge. That would potentially be quite a painful transformation however. Fascinating actually. I am all in favor of allowing change to happen.

I think the image that you get from a lot of SC comments is not truly that people are not interested in the evolution of Syrian society and economy, for certain they are, but that a true commitment to secularism (not just by the leadership which is still sectarian in some sense) by the majority would never happen overnight…. It would be a very long process, perhaps longer than the time that the present regime has been in power. It is hard to say, but one would have to be prepared for that or willing to accept that.
Hind’s argument is counting on the decency and amicability between religious and ethnic groups of Syria to continue to behave towards each other the way they historically have (for the most part without terrible persecution in modern times), and to not revert to sectarian power conflicts in the face of an open field to play in.
She is counting on the history so far to imagine that Syria would not have this kind of breakdown that is found in many places in the Middle East. She may be right. People are afraid to take that risk however. They have long memories in the Middle East, and they do remember the potential for sectarian persecution and oppression.

One would wish that those civil society developments and institutions would already be in place before any dramatic political transformation occurs. However, as we know, the obstacles to that are part of why change is needs. So, it is the old chicken and egg problem.

Nonetheless, most of us contributors here would love to see what Hind is writing about come to pass, and we totally support her desire if not her optimism.

May 22nd, 2008, 9:30 pm


Seeking The Truth said:

I bet that Mrs. Kabawat cannot publish an Arabic translation of this article in any newspaper/magazine distributed in Syria. Hope one can prove me wrong.

May 22nd, 2008, 9:38 pm


Zenobia said:

Actually, I bet she could publish that in Syria. Depends how the translation reads. I think if you look closely at it, there is nothing inciting or very provocative about what she is saying. The most critical and possibly controversial part for the censors is the part about not ‘harassing’ and imprisoning dissidents. Also, she mentions the words “human rights” which seems to drive certain entities wild…but.. even the critique of one party rule is very general not specific.
for the most part, I think Hind should publish it. It is very good, diplomatic, even handed.

May 22nd, 2008, 9:43 pm


Alex said:

That’s it Zenobia… “even handed”

Didn’t someone ask why they don’t ban SC and CS in Syria? … we have often published opinions which are very critical of the regime … not to mention the comments.

Having said that, some “even handed” critics can still get in trouble in Syria (rarely) … it depends how stressful is the Middle East on that day and how little “risk” the security people are willing to take.

May 22nd, 2008, 9:53 pm


Seeking The Truth said:


The translation should be genuine. And don’t forget the title:
“Why Reform is an Urgent call to Secular Arabs”!

May 22nd, 2008, 10:06 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why do you think I am surprised? I just agree with her. My point all along is that most Syrians would rather live in a democracy than in a dictatorship. It seems that the problem is that they don’t know how to get from A to B without risking too much.

The regime is the only one that can facilitate the transition but it has zero interest in doing so. That is why I find the support for it here strange. In fact the regime has made things worse and more sectarian as the article attests.

May 22nd, 2008, 10:13 pm


Zenobia said:

no, of course, i know you would be pleased by what she is saying. I was saying why are you surprised… regarding your little parenthetical (am i still on SC?).
you are mistaking the kinds of defensive stances people often take against Western arrogance and paternalism and notions that someone from the outside has to lead the people of the Middle east by the hand to freedom… all of which many people find annoying and resist, for a supposed ‘support’ for the Syrian regime. You are assuming that because they are resistant to american influence and pressure, that this must mean they aren’t critical of their own system or gov’t. It is simply a false conclusion. That is why i am saying that you shouldn’t be surprised.
The differences of opinion come about because there is great disagreement about the process of change, not about the desires for change and the end result. Also, people reject reductionism that sort of simplifies the desires down to something called ‘democracy’ that has lost a lot of its substance for the time being to the Arab world. It has turned to a dirty word for many people because George Bush shit on it basically.

nonetheless, people everywhere want the same things in terms of the results more than the means – life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness… etc…

May 22nd, 2008, 10:29 pm


Atassi said:

Excellent idea’s Hend…and thank you for being honest and courageous
You wrote..
“””But the secularism of the one-party autocracies of the Middle East has a fundamental flaw. A one party rule provides no mechanism for people to peacefully express and resolve their differences. Such repressive political culture almost always becomes a victim of its own political rigidity.””
“”Will Arab societies in the Middle East be able to transform themselves peacefully to democracies without becoming, unwittingly, Taliban-like Muslim theocracies? Well, for those of us active in the reform movement in the region, it is through building, brick by brick, the foundations of a vibrant civil society where open debate, a free media, an independent judiciary and a military that answers to its civilian masters, not the other way around, prevails.””

Wow. Very nice. I totally Agree with you .. you spook my mind !!
But..Let’s see how you would translate the two paragraphs!!!into Arabic 

“”The transformation of the political discourse, and the call for a more open, democratic, inclusive and secular political system in the Middle East has been often due to the efforts of Christian and other minority communities who were instrumental in the development of secular political movements and parties in the Levant, and helped in creating a tolerant society and environment during my father’s generation .””

This statement is very true descriptions of the past nationalists Christians generations “ example was the Great Farris Khouri “ but in the present time, unfortunately, this NOT true at all.. It will be very hard to find a Christians in Syria not supportive of the Assad regime for the simple reason of the deep fear of losing the current secular system and privileges to none secular system..
by the way, I too visited Bosnian mosques in old city of Sergiao and seen the Serbian Orthodox churches in the “Punia Luka” too …they looked very peaceful and serene to me too.” But the factions did not in any mean !!

May 22nd, 2008, 10:30 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The basic ingredient needed for change is the ability to freely discuss different options and arrive at a public agreement. Even this basic requirement is blocked by the regime. So how can people support the regime at all? And if they do, aren’t they endorssing the status quo? How can you get any change if freedom of speech is denied?

May 22nd, 2008, 10:35 pm


Zenobia said:

I don’t know. I don’t think many people but maybe the ones actually in the gov’t are true blue ‘supporters’. I think a lot of people are critical. Maybe most. But they are afflicted with a kind of acceptance and malaise that is hard to describe. Some are just fatalistic about the need to not try to change things when you don’t know what the alternative will be. Some are afraid. Some are just ok with mediocrity. Some are small minded. Some think that you have to be patient and work in indirect ways to improve society without starting top up.

But the contradiction you are pointing to it there, yes. Its a problem. I think people are working on this problem and come up with differing conclusions based on how they view the extent of the risks, and what their particular values are, and how important they see the demand for change balanced against the risks of challenging the status quo. I don’t know. There is no right answer except the one that we each choose for ourselves and choose to promote as the best path. All I can see for certain is that there are not enough people willing to take big risks or to turn to outside influences to bring about change.
They mistrust the outside influences more than they are discontent with their own government or with their lives. Bottom line.

May 22nd, 2008, 10:55 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

Most ofthe christian in Syria, and who came from Syria and now live in USA, are strongly pro Asad.

May 22nd, 2008, 11:02 pm


SHAMI said:

Bravo Madame Kabawat !

I dont agree with those who say that most of syrian christians are pro asad,for sure not most of educated christians ,who read history know that the christians have lost a lot under dictatorial regimes even more than the muslims.

May 22nd, 2008, 11:31 pm


Majhool said:

This is pathetic. Hind does not seem to dare be direct when it comes to the many flaws the regime in Syria have ( since she uses the Middle East instead), let alone it’s very sectarian nature.
Till when we are supposed to be shy and sensitive to the regime’s feelings? Do we have to sight the endless positives before we hint our shy recommendations?

Syria’s Muslim sentiment is almost identical to that of Turks. Even Muslim Brotherhood members in their majority are very similar to their counterparts in the ruling party in Turkey, therefore to picture the Islamists in Syria as Taliban-Like is a LIE. Shame on you Hind.

The future in Syria is not for Radical Secularism. A Turkey-Like situation is what’s feasible.

May 23rd, 2008, 2:31 am


Averroes said:


Excellent article, and I agree with the points you made. The thing is, the delicate secular flower is vulnerable and needs more active work to ensure its survival. The Saudi influence is quite strong for many reasons, and they are working relentlessly, and are sparing no expense to spread sectarian intolerance in the entire region. Through their massive propaganda machine, they are influencing many Syrians, Lebanese, Iraqis, and others, and this is where the danger is. You can spend years nourishing the secular social wellness, but all that can be shattered literally in a matter of days, if fanatics find money and arms in their hands.

It is an ongoing war on the hearts and minds of the masses, and it must be countered, as I’ve tried to argue in my article last week.

May 23rd, 2008, 3:17 am


Majhool said:

AIG said “The regime is the only one that can facilitate the transition but it has zero interest in doing so. That is why I find the support for it here strange. In fact the regime has made things worse and more sectarian as the article attests”

I cannot Agree with you more. That’s why I don’t see any value asking politely for reform. The need for reform is no-brainer and is needed for 1000000 reasons (not only to protect the seculars from the Taliban-Like Muslims). Reformers must be aggressive and need to motivate the masses not send overly intellectual messages to the regimes of the “Middle East”.

May 23rd, 2008, 3:49 am


Averroes said:


Hind, and many Syrians are not shy to criticize the regime where criticism is due. There are many shortcomings of the Syrian regime, and no one is denying that. That does not mean that it should be overturned by force, especially that the replacement is not likely to be better, but in fact much worse.

Two errors in your point: 1st, the Turks are different in that they are independent and do not answer to a Saudi agenda, and that they are under the eye of the army, which is extreme in its own way. I don’t like their version of secularism much, FYI.

The second point is that we don’t need to look at Turkey to know what the Syrian Ikhwan might be like. It’s quite enough to look at the Ikhwan leadership, non other than Mr. Bayanouni. Bayanouni shamelessly puts his hand in that of Khaddam, Rif3at, and the Saudis in his quest for power in Syria. Why look at Turkey?

Until the majority of Syrians realize how the Saudis are trying to manipulate them through their self-proclaimed monopoly on “Sunni” Islam, we cannot be so sure that an Ikhwani government in Syria will be much different than another version of the Taliban.

And, please read the Saudi newspapers in the last few days and have the honesty of seeing a very clear pattern: Their campaign for Sunni-Shiite armed civil war has failed with the Lebanese agreement, and they’re pissed as hell!! They have been bragging that “sectarian violence has actually started,” and when the Lebanese signed the agreement and did not sink into sectarian civil war, the Saudis went bezerk in anger. Their writers are now predicting that the agreement will not last.

These people will have the upper hand in Syria if an Ikhwani style government were to take power in Damascus. Is that what you want for your country ya Majhool?

And on that, I have a prediction to make: expect an assassination of a second-row Sunni politician from the M14 group to take place in Lebanon within a few weeks. Such an assassination would yet again enrage the Sunni community in Lebanon, and it would give Al-Rashed an Co. reason to earn their salaries.

May 23rd, 2008, 4:15 am


SHAMI said:

Majhool,i didnt see in Mrs Kabawat’s article any wrong word on syrian muslim in general and the syrian muslim brotherhood in particular but all the opposite.As for her soft stance toward the regime,Majhool !!! you know what kind of regime we have in Syria.

May 23rd, 2008, 4:40 am


Majhool said:

Averroes said: “Hind, and many Syrians are not shy to criticize the regime where criticism is due. There are many shortcomings of the Syrian regime, and no one is denying that, that does not mean that it should be overturned by force

Everything in this life is relative including criticism. Logically speaking the amount of criticism should be proportional to the level of shortcomings so since you do acknowledge the many shortcoming of the Syrian regime, I would say that the criticism is lacking. As for “force” I guess you mixed my call for “Aggressive approach” with force, it’s ok, I forgive you (smile)

Averroes said : the Turks are different in that they are independent and do not answer to a Saudi agenda”
Correct me if I am wrong, this reads Syrians ( or at least the majority of Syrian) are not independent and answer to the Saudi Agenda. This is an outrageous statement; Patriotism starts with loving your people not to portray them as “traitors”. My country is my people and not a flag and a piece of land. Ikhwan are only a problem when we have dictatorships.

Averroes continues “that they (turks) are under the eye of the of the army”

Oh, and we are not? That’s news to me.

Averroes continues :we don’t need to look at Turkey to know what the Syrian Ikhwan might be like. It’s quite enough to look at the Ikhwan leadership, non other than Mr. Bayanouni. Bayanouni shamelessly puts his hand in that of Khaddam, Rif3at, and the Saudis in his quest for power in Syria. Why look at Turkey?
First Khaddam and Rif3at, are products of your beloved regime. What I meant is that the social agenda that the Ikhwan of Syria wants is more inline with that of the Turkey Islamists and is not Taliban Like. As for the Saudi trying to have influence in Syria, you are right, but so do the Iranians. But that was never the issue in my comment.

I tend to agree with the Zenobia, let it be, cannot force your view on the people of Syria and claim that you know better. let them learn from their mistakes and grow organically.

May 23rd, 2008, 5:05 am


Majhool said:


Don’t be naive. The Syrian regime does not take friendly advice to reform. reform is a must, , civic society is important, rule of law is important, secularism is also important, but it’s not everything and to make a case for reform just to rescue secularism and make it sound that Radical Islam is an imminent danger on secularism is intellectually dishonest. Secularism means keeping religion out of politics. In Syria secularism is fake, Politics is forbidden in Syria and Secularism is no more that allowing people to drink Arak and show their hair.

Kalam Hak Yorad Behi Batel

Shami you said:

“you know what kind of regime we have in Syria”

You tell me? Brutal? Secterian? share with us your feelings? do you remember when Basel Assad died? tell me about the state of “rule of Law”, “Journalism” secualr and not so secular? that what we need to drum about, not friendly plees.

May 23rd, 2008, 5:15 am


Alex said:

Few notes:

– I edited this article … if there is any lie I would like to also take responsibility for it.

But I still can’t see it.

– Turkey’s secular nature is guaranteed by the constitution and the army… it is a difficult balance that does not function smoothly all the time.

And Turkey’s population is Not like Syria’s in the sense that those who are secular are VERY secular … our secular Syrians are still relatively conservative by Turkey’s standards.

– I remember how motivated were the communists and intellectuals in Iran in fighting the Shah … but when the Shah was out, it was the religious ones who took power … the communists were executed or jailed.

– The other thing to note about Bayanouni (besides his political maneuvering that Averroes mentioned) is that he does not reflect anymore the opinions of his supporters. You think if you ask real ikhwanis in Syria if they don’t mind being ruled by a Christian or a woman, they will agree with Bayanouni’s recent flexibility on this subject?

May 23rd, 2008, 5:24 am


Zenobia said:

I see no place in Hind’s article where she makes a comparison of the Syrian islamists to something like the Taliban.

What she does do is address her critique at an argument (it doesn’t say that it parallels her own ideas) that is often made to rationalize keeping the status quo authoritarian government and not opening up the political system.

“One of the arguments employed to justify one-party rule is this: given free and open elections, the radical Islamists would prevail and impose on the rest of us—minorities and secular Muslims—a repressive religious theocracy where basic human rights would be infringed upon. For many, this is a compelling argument.”

What follows this quote is her counter argument against this rationale.

As for her unaggressive critique, I think it very effective. Who her audience is exactly, I am not sure. But I think an even handed and well reasoned argument is at least as effective and worthwhile as a tirade against the regime. More so actually. And her personalizing of her experiences that inform her view at the start of the piece is also very effective. A use of pathos, yes, but Not “pathetic” at all.

Plus, she writes as a public person under her own name, unlike many of you who may feel fit to criticize her supposed lack of guts.

May 23rd, 2008, 5:24 am


Majhool said:

You are right; Hind was implicit about it, just like she was implicit when she addressed the secular regimes in the Middle East and not in Syria.

She did it by alluding to the following:
1) Secularism worked (she sighted Saddam Hussein)
2) Secularism is in danger from Islamic radicalism.
3) reform is a tool to rescue secularism. While it should be the opposite. Reform is needed to uplift the society.

Here is an example of how she is not honest.

It was considered bad manners to ask friends and neighbours about their religion. Or, at least, that was the code of conduct encouraged by my mother and father

This is absolutely intellectually dishonest. Although it might be true that Syrian actually fear inquiring about one’s religious affiliation but they are very much interested in knowing. I remember Christian guys used to go out of their way to show the cross they are wearing. Muslims say “Al Salam Alaykom” and the women wear Hijab. speaking of friends, very early own in school you realize that some of your classmates leave theology class of because they are Christians. Alawite wear green bands on their wrists and watches with Bassel Al Assad picture on them. Sectarian symbols are everywhere to answer that question Hind cannot seem to ask.

I can go over each sentence and can demonstrate how cleverly Hind twisted some facts to draw some bad conclusions.

May 23rd, 2008, 5:45 am


Alex said:


You are describing the 80’s and early 90’s.

Hind is talking about the early 70’s when Syria was much more secular. She is older than you.

May 23rd, 2008, 5:52 am


Zenobia said:

“twisted”? that is just bizarre.
first of all, the start of it is her personal experience. There is no need to misrepresent that, and perhaps her family was particularly exceptional.
I think she is still making a point which is that in contrast to what is going on in the neighboring countries, the Syrians, DESPITE all these tidbits you just described about sectarian symbols and affiliations being so significant and whatnot, they don’t usually go around killing one another.
A pretty low bar, I admit, but still…it is something these days.

and I don’t really understand why you are taking such issue with it because it seems to me that she is saying that these divides are not inherent in the population, therefore, as long as secularism is maintained then reform is possible (I don’t think it was put in the reverse as you say, perhaps they mutually support each other)that will benefit society. And reform is necessary to create a secularism that is not in the form of simply the iron hand sort found in the Baath. Hind didn’t say the Baath of Iraq or Syria ultimately works… it has a “fundamental flaw” according to her.

But if you are so convinced of the entrenched sectarianism and non-secular nature of the population… then it would seem to me that you would be buying in to or lending ammunition to the argument she takes issue with – that authoritarianism is needed in order to keep a lid on the potential conflicts.
Since I know that isn’t your view,… then the only other argument I think you could be putting forth- is that sectarianism and a non-secular minded populous is not a problem in a ‘democratic’ society.
hmmm. this is hard argument to make in the Middle East right now.

You cite (not sight) Turkey as the prize country with the right balancing act. I really don’t know if they compare or not. Turkey is a pretty weird and unique place. There are still Jews in Turkey, that is how different it is.

May 23rd, 2008, 6:07 am


offended said:

I agree with Hind on almost everything.

But I should disagree just a little bit. 🙂

It’s sometimes assumed that once there is free election, Islamists will take over Syria, and they will impose Taliban-like rule on everybody. This predicted chain of events was often used to justify the lack of political reform (as mentioned in the article)… well, if you take into account the experiments of other Arab nations (like Algeria) this assumption does make some sense. But it is dangerous to entertain this idea infinitely. Because:

1- By assuming that an Islamist party will win any free elections in Syria, and will eventually persecute secular Muslims and other communities (I don’t like the use of the word ‘minorities’), there is an implicit allusion that the majority (needed to secure such election) of Syrian people are intolerant and intending malice toward others. I can’t accept this assumption.

2- We should ask ourselves this question: why would anybody opt for a religious ruling in Syria? Couldn’t we reverse the situation? In other words; couldn’t we address the reasons why would a religious party be so popular in Syria? and by doing this, eliminating this motive and the subsequent concerns of other communities?

The few friends of mine who told me that they would elect a religious party should they have the chance, stated few reasons:

1- Going by what history tells us, some believe we Arabs (Muslims and Christians) had strong and feared state when Islam was the doctrine of the state. This might be true in the historical context, but the underling reasons for such sentiments are not outright love for Islamic doctrine; it is the craving to have a strong state. I’ve come to conclusion that those wouldn’t mind an atheist leadership if it’s going to make Syria strong, modern and prosperous.

2- Corruption Corruption Corruption: lots of people think that ‘clean’ officials must be the religious type. This is not true of course, but under no strong mechanism for official accountability, some people will still think that personal merits are the guarantor of such ‘cleanness’. Conclusion? Corruption must be fought vehemently. And on all levels.

3- There is a group of people who are truly religious (ultra conservative). They perceive the state as a repressor of religious practice “why doesn’t Syrian TV announce azan?”, they ask. Those are people who intend no malice toward anybody, they are just protective of what they believe the remnants of moral core and religious values. It shouldn’t be hard to pacify those either.

4- Poverty and ignorance; have you ever been to the south-eastern outskirts of Aleppo? Good luck in explaining what secularism is to those people. I believe when the push comes to shove, those people will revert to their tribal leaders and Imams not because they believe they represent them. But merely because they don’t trust anybody wearing a suit.

Now of course, there are people who are purely extreme. But those, I still argue, are minority. Very small and negligible minority.

Otherwise, great article. Thank you Alex and Hind for posting this.

May 23rd, 2008, 6:43 am


Alex said:

Thank YOU Offended … very useful.

I want to agree with you that many supporters of religious parties are simply seeking the expected (or hoped for) outcome from electing religious parties to power … clean administration and “power”

Nasrallah proved you right on both accounts … so many Sunni Egyptians and other Arab Sunnis who normally do not have much tolerance to Shia Muslims, became big fans of Nasrallah … because he is not corrupt and because he gave them the only military “victory” against Israel (since 1973’s tie)

But things change when there are elections.

There is a reason why Islamic parties tend to (always?) do much better than expected… I would say that 2 or 3 out of every ten secular voters will feel scared to vote against the religious party (Muslim party) … last minute guilt… some people simply do not like to take chances .. “what if God is watching and is upset at me??” .. what difference does it make if you cast your vote for the ikhwan … it is only one vote and that way you make sure you sleep easier that night with no guilt.

May 23rd, 2008, 6:59 am


Majhool said:


As for “it was my parents’ belief that we were first and foremost members of the human community, then heirs to the traditions of a thousand-year-old Arab-speaking culture and finally proud citizens of a free and independent Syria”
let’s leave it as it’s it (her own family belief) and not mix it with the historic facts such as the deadly conflicts between Shia’s and Sunnis in early Islam, Karametah, Ibn taymieeh Fatwa against Alawites, the Alliance of Christians in costal Syria with the crusaders, the massacres against Christians in Damascus and Aleppo, the forced conversion of shia Egypt to Sunni by Salah El Dien. I really don’t see in what’s happening today as exceeding any norm. the early 70s is not our history in it’s entirety. again it’s ok, let’s leave it at that : a mere personal account that has nothing to do with the facts around the majority of Syrians or “Arab-Speaking” people, although I would advise not to mix personal sentiments in an “Urgent” call for reform.

you said: “as long as secularism is maintained then reform is possible.”

In the ME, imposed secularism represented by Baathism could only set back any possible reform. Again secularism should be the crowning of a long process of reforms not vice versa.

The society is indeed sectarian and it’s sectarianism is being propelled even further by keeping that lid on, Hind was not far off on that issue.

May 23rd, 2008, 7:02 am


Majhool said:


I cannot agree with you more. Excellent comment that is worth posting

May 23rd, 2008, 7:06 am


Majhool said:


70s? You are allowing me to closely estimate Hind’s age. Not very gentleman-like thing to do! (Smile)

May 23rd, 2008, 7:11 am


Alex said:

Don’t worry about Hind


The National Post described her as “A strikingly attractive woman”

May 23rd, 2008, 7:20 am


Zenobia said:

you are awfully, and unnecessarily condescending about her personal touch. It doesn’t make the point of the argument, so it is not really worth bashing so much.
I understood her in that part to be referring to her experience at that time and place. As in a statement about herself and background to situate the “this is where I am coming from”…type of thing…

but in general, the rest, I understood to be about modern times.. not an assessment of the entire several thousand year historical record of tribal groups and how they treated each other. Thats why in my own comment – I said historically, but in the modern time period… comparatively speaking… Syrians have held it together.. yada yada yada.
It is really a relative assessment, so … you can easily see it differently. I understood her to be saying that there is no inherent reason that these different sectarian groups will attack each other in an open system.
Ironically, she is saying this, in order to make an argument to open the system.

And what confuses me, and what I said to you already, is that I can’t for the life of me figure out….why you are picking on this part about the sectarianism etc…since basically you are in favor of opening the political arena… and so since that is the aim of her reasoning… it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Then I suggested earlier and suggest now again – that you are riled by the plea for secularism.
which is also very strange, since I recall at many earlier points when you have claimed outright your own secular attitude and non-religious stance, so again, this is rather puzzling why you are so opposed to such a call…even if you may rightly argue that the reality of life in Syria doesn’t match this desired condition and shift that she is calling for.
why do you care? when she is after the same thing you are after.

you said: The society is indeed sectarian and it’s sectarianism is being propelled even further by keeping that lid on …

I guess i am supposed to understand this last statement as encompassing your main point.
However, nobody here is advocating keeping a lid on it. I think she is saying that secularism is a protection against religious sectarianism turning to violence. But is that really something to argue against- the attempt to prevent violence??

Your insistence on the reality of the impossibly sectarian populous and how bloody the history is – just seems to me to lend credence to the argument that even keeping the Baath status quo is worth it to keep the peace.
But you are the one so against that at the same time.
do you SEEEEE the contradiction I keep pointing at??? I am sure you have some explanation for this, but so far you didn’t offer it. You just want to stick to Hind bashing for some reason.

May 23rd, 2008, 7:52 am


Zenobia said:

by the way,

Offended, interesting points… I have to think on these.. (while I sleep!) i am spent already. but … still interesting indeed.

May 23rd, 2008, 7:59 am


Zenobia said:


final comment:

i just finally understood what you (Majhool) are pissed off about.

You think she is creating a distraction by focusing on Secularism as a means to bring about change….when what YOU want is all the focus to be on confronting the people in charge and going straight for reform.

Her argument apparently deflects from your argument, even though, AS I HAVE BEEN SAYING REPEATEDLY… YOU ARE BOTH WORKING FOR THE SAME THING!… there is only one way, i guess you believe.

You want any issue that isn’t the main issue for you- to take a back seat. And here Hind went and did a soft shoe (according to you) talking about secularism and then reform (as you represented her as saying, although i am not sure i agree that she did that).

so, i see wherein your complaint lies. It has all become clear… as I finish up this eve and rest my mind.

Of course, it is completely ridiculous and like shooting oneself in in the foot just so all process will go the way you prefer it but…

so be it.

May 23rd, 2008, 8:11 am


Majhool said:


Finally you got it. Now let me see if “Los Gatos” would ring a bell. check your hotmail.

May 23rd, 2008, 8:17 am


Majhool said:

We have enough distractions to deal with. We have Gaza, Shebba Farms, Hariri, the Suadis,Golan, etc.. etc. etc.

Once we add “the fear of Islamist” then we are going no where. If we echo this fear then we are playing into the hands of regimes that created this fear to survive.

Reform should not wait for Syrians to become affluent and cultured enough to start. To Offended comment, go to Aleppo slums and see for yourself.

Heck I would even let go of my cherished daily glass of wine if this means reform. For me lifting those Syrians from the slums is far more important to me than my buzz.

May 23rd, 2008, 8:48 am


majedkhaldoun said:

if there is free election in Syria, Ikhwan will NOT get 25% of the votes

May 23rd, 2008, 9:40 am


ausamaa said:

In other news relating to Arabs, Reform and Tafnees (…and have a nice weekend):


Canadian lost interest in sex due to flies in water

Published: Thursday, 22 May, 2008 @ 11:54 PM in Beirut (GMT+2)

Ottawa – Canada’s Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed the case of a man who said he lost interest in sex after he found two dead flies in an unopened bottle of drinking water.

Lebanese immigrant Waddah Mustapha sued the bottling company, saying he had suffered psychological damage, including depression, phobia, anxiety and damage to his sex life after the unpleasant 2001 discovery.

Mr. Mustapha had won the award in 2005 after persuading a judge that a water-bottling company ought to pay dearly for suffering serious psychiatric symptoms — a major depressive disorder with associated phobia and anxiety. He became edgy, argumentative, depressed, couldn’t sleep and refused to even drink coffee because it contained water. At the time of the incident, Mr. Mustapha and his wife had two daughters — aged 7 and 3 — and Ms. Mustapha was seven months pregnant. Mr. Mustapha is a hair stylist who immigrated to Canada in 1976.

He won C$340,000 (173,175 pounds) in damages in a lower court, but the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that he had not proved his case.

“Mr Mustapha must show that it was foreseeable that a person of ordinary fortitude would suffer serious injuries from seeing the flies in the bottle of water he was about to install. This he failed to do,” the court said.

According to the incident on Nov. 21, 2001, “offended their sense of sanctity in the purity of their home, and shattered Mr. Mustapha’s life.”

Although none of the family drank from the unopened bottle, both parents vomited after. Mr. Mustapha, in particular, couldn’t put the experience out of his mind, and found it difficult to shower. He became obsessed with thoughts about the dead fly in the water and about the potential implications for his family’s health of their having possibly been drinking unpurified water supplied in the past.

He also said he was afflicted by visions of flies walking over faeces.

May 23rd, 2008, 10:04 am


Shai said:

Excellent posting by Hind Kabawat.

I’d like to ask the following: How do you see the current Syrian regime leading to true reform taking place? Suppose the “resistance” and “Golan” excuses are gone, and people’s attention will start to focus more inward, what can Bashar do that he hasn’t yet and, is it likely that he will?

Ausamaa, I replied to your question in the previous thread: https://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=722#comment-148932

May 23rd, 2008, 11:06 am


Akbar Palace said:

Majhool responded to AIG:

AIG said “The regime is the only one that can facilitate the transition but it has zero interest in doing so. That is why I find the support for it here strange. In fact the regime has made things worse and more sectarian as the article attests”

I cannot Agree with you more. That’s why I don’t see any value asking politely for reform. The need for reform is no-brainer and is needed for 1000000 reasons (not only to protect the seculars from the Taliban-Like Muslims). Reformers must be aggressive and need to motivate the masses not send overly intellectual messages to the regimes of the “Middle East”.

I agree with Majhool’s sentiment. It seemed like the author was bending over backwards not to bad-mouth the Syrian regime. Of course, I’m not Syrian so perhaps it isn’t my business. However, when Israelis tired of the conflict in Lebanon thousands demonstrated peacefully to bring Israel out of the conflict.

This is what is needed in Syria. Peaceful demonstration. No government can deal with thousands of protestors. You can’t simply throw 50,000 people in jail.

May 23rd, 2008, 11:29 am


ghat Albird said:

I admit to being a bit amused by not so much, the expressed sentiments to improve through peaceful means anyone and everyones actions and interactions within their community, but the oft times opinionated intensity and comparisons.

In the Middle East, the states, the people, their economies and social structures reflect both a commonality as well as distinct differences. Its still interesting to read about the need for reform on the part of Arab/muslim countries and to completely disregard or over look the impact of a state created in 1948 purely on the basic justification that its existance was ordained by their god several thousand years prior.

And compare the deficiencies of the existing social fabric of surrounding societies.

May 23rd, 2008, 12:05 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Ghat Albird said:

Its still interesting to read about the need for reform on the part of Arab/muslim countries and to completely disregard or over look the impact of a state created in 1948 purely on the basic justification that its existance was ordained by their god several thousand years prior.

Who asked “Arab/muslim countries to completely disregard or over look the impact of a state created in 1948”?

Shirley, you jest! Actually, the opposite is true. Too much “focus” (aka “war”, “violence”, “terrorism” and its use by Arab regimes) on the “state created in 1948” is what you have. since when was Israel “disregarded”?

Moreover, the “justification” of that state (aka “Zionist Entity” or “Israel” [as difficult as that may be to utter]) only matters to the people who have decided to live there. Israel doesn’t need any more “justification” than Syria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Palestine or Jordan.

BTW – What connection do Muslims have with Jerusalem? Why is that “fairy-tale” different than the Jew’s “fairy-tale”?

May 23rd, 2008, 1:47 pm


Innocent Criminal said:

Alex & Zenobia,

Though i might not agree fully with what Seekingthetruth has to say. I would like you to also be a bit more self critical of your own personal bias. the fact that we are debating the chances of it being published means that that there is a good chance it wouldnt be published (and lets not BS each other here, none of us would be very surprised if it wasn’t), and whether the translation should be “even handed” or not should NEVER be a factor in it being banned. freedom of press means that we have to put up with opinions we dont agree with, but at least we have the choice to read them.

May 23rd, 2008, 1:48 pm


Alex said:

AKbar, Ghat Albrid,

Please do not continue discussing Muslim vs. Jewish claims to the land. I’m sure it is tempting, but it has been done a billion times already, and once it starts, it goes on forever.

May 23rd, 2008, 2:06 pm


Alex said:


But I did not deny that. It probably would undergo many changes before it is translated to Arabic and published in Syria.

But please zoom out of Syria and think about the Arab world in general.

Can you criticize King Abdullah on any Saudi owned media? (most of the Arab media).

If you get anywhere close to criticizing Saudi Arabia on LBC, Marcel Ghanem will immediately go to a commercial break. Better than Syrian TV : ) … but still, no meaningful criticism.

I’ll quote again what Jihad Khazen said about his job as an Arab editor. (Asharq Aawsat, then Alhayat) .. he said that his job was not about covering the news, but covering the news … as in hiding all the dirt from the different Arab countries in order not to offend each one of them.

It is not only Syria and its excuse of recovering the Golan where you can’t criticize he ruler, even progressive and rich Arab countries do not allow criticism.

We need to start with Education.

And it does not hurt to settle the conflict with Israel : )

Anyway … what is obvious is obvious.

May 23rd, 2008, 2:27 pm


ghat Albird said:


My main point is directed at the issue that “its mostly arab counties/societies are in need of reform”. Now compare that with the position that the justification for the creation of Israel is mandated by their God and that justification mandates certain {re]forms that impact the reactions of the states around Israel and no one is making the point that ” urgent reforms are also direly needed in Israel but continues to harp that its the Arab side that is deficient and that obviously ceates resentments and animosities.

Akbar Palace either misread the meaning or is redoing a number.

May 23rd, 2008, 2:40 pm


Alex said:

Ghat ALbird,

You mean that Akbar went for the “two wrongs make a right” fallacy?

How could he! .. AIG will surely protest.

May 23rd, 2008, 2:52 pm


Hind Aboud Kabawat said:

Dear friends,
I apologize for not being involved in this conversation from day one, I just get back from a conference and yes, I am writing you from the old city of Damascus.
When I was growing up in the seventies (and I am not going to give away my age), we did not wear crosses or green bands, and we never even talked about religion. We have never chosen our friends on the basis of their religion.
I am crying out for reform, but I want change from within, not imported from abroad or through military action.
In my heart I believe that serious fighting against corruption and poverty is absolutely necessary. But I must say that a do sometimes get upset with my friends who sit and sip their expresso in Europe while accusing me of being soft to criticize!
I do care about the people of Syria, but I fight not for sanctions and war but rather for peace and prosperity in my region. When I come back to Damascus I take care of my jailed friends’ families, those who are in need or moral support more than anything else. I try my best to promote a culture of debate, and I believe in my heart that reforming a secular government is much better than descending into a sectarian war in the future.
It is everyone’s right to accuse me of whatever they see fit; but if you want some advice from an old woman (and Alex was right, I’m feeling pretty good about my age), it’s time for us to work together and not against each other. It is always easy to destroy something we don’t like, but it is time to take the more difficult path and build, brick by brick, a future in which all sects and religions participate as citizens to fight corruption and the problems of our country. It is not as much of a spectacle as the sort of change that has occurred in Iraq and elsewhere, but it is the only way that we are going to be able to maintain ourselves as a secular country throughout such a process of change.

May 23rd, 2008, 4:01 pm


Akbar Palace said:

You mean that Akbar went for the “two wrongs make a right” fallacy?

Alex –

I’d prefer to speak for myself, thanks.

My point is, a people can decide on their “nationhood” for whatever reason. If they claim a land because Allah said so, or G-d said so, or because of a specific culture or language, that’s fine with me.

I am NOT claiming any wrong was committed by Zionists or Palestinians for wanting to create their own state, and I find it interesting that there are still lots of people who can’t stomach this notion either in terms of Palestine or Israel.

May 23rd, 2008, 4:04 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You mean the Ghat Albird went for the “two wrongs make a right” fallacy because instead of addressing Arab issues he wants to pull Israel into the debate.

May 23rd, 2008, 4:05 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Things are getting stranger. The Israeli papers are reporting that Ashrak-Al-Awsat is reporting that the Iranians are angry at the Syrians for the talks with Israel. I find it hard to believe that the Syrians did not coordinate with the Iranians before starting their move but let’s wait and see.

May 23rd, 2008, 4:32 pm


ghat Albird said:

The AIG is trying to be cute.

He probably considers his criticism of Syria or other non-Israeli/jewish as pontification from someone who can only critique while demanding subservience/obediance from others.

Since he claims to live in New Jersey he must admit to the following portrayal of Israel and the surrounding Arab nations in his state.

Israel’s right to be located where it is is God-given/sacred and irrevocable. To be armed to the teeth and assisted financially at a rate of $10/12 million dollars a Day.

The Arab states specifically Syria is one of the axis of evil governed by to say the least bad people who are either financially squeezed or in other states become puppets of the money interests and their being reformed along the lines of what the people that provide Israel with the daily millions of dollars must do to reform themselves along lines acceptable to them.

Aside from the issue of religious beliefs it verges on hypocrasy to demand from those that do not receive a daily dose of millions of dollars a day gratis to act like those who receive millions every day for 365 days a year.

People who live in New Jersey cannot expect people that live in Montana or Kansas to form or reform their societal structure along the lines practiced in Jersey City or Newark. Hopefully the AnotherisraeliGuy will agree to the fallacy of the “two rights dont make a wrong”. This word might help him out, Cappice.

May 23rd, 2008, 4:47 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:

But come one Alex, hasn’t our friend AIG taught you anything? two wrongs dont make right 😉

All arab media’s are guilty of this. Even Al Jazeera wouldnt criticize the qatari leadership. though i have to give them one thing: they promote qatari issue but at least they dont praise the qatari leadership everytime one of them farts. unlike all other major networks.

May 23rd, 2008, 5:03 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

First I live in Israel.
Second, I don’t demand anything from Syria. I would very much like to see it a well functioning democracy as do most Syrians, they just don’t know how to get there.
Third, that Israel has a right to be located where it is, is a self evident truth that needs no reference to God or anything else.
Fourth, if you want to argue that democracy is not appropriate for Syria because of cultural or other issues, why do you have to bring Israel into the discussion? Let’s repeat: “Two wrongs do not make a right” (it takes three lefts, but that is another matter)

May 23rd, 2008, 5:16 pm


Seeking the Truth said:

“Golan settlers unfazed by Israeli-Syrian talks”

Read it here

May 23rd, 2008, 5:41 pm


ghat Albird said:

First. You obviously moved from New Jersey.

Second. Its damn decent of you not to demand anything from Syria [even though
you moved from New Jersey}

Third: You are negating a long held belief propagated through the years and ardently espoused by Jews and supported by Christian fundies in the USA.

Fourth: Since I am not a Syrian national my arguing any political position for or about Syria would be comic-book play acting. To repeat: your observation that the Syrians do not know how to get to your “there” is definitely another matter

Fifth: I have read of a Yiddish saying to the effect that “repeating something [similar to the rationale used by the infamous Dr. Goebbels] enough times you will actually get to believe it”. In Yiddish its written “es’retsic azoi”.

May 23rd, 2008, 6:08 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

ghat Albird,
First, I was born in Israel and I am an Israeli all my life.
Second, I am an atheist Jew so really I don’t make much of what Fundies believe or what God promised. Israel’s right is self-evident just like it is self-evident that there is a sun.
Fourth, it would be nice if you didn’t hide where you are coming from.
Fifth, when people need to make excuses for not being funny or not being able to make a point they usually say “in Yiddish it sounds better”. Zei gezunt.

May 23rd, 2008, 6:28 pm


Zenobia said:

ok. now that that is settled, maybe you guys could drop it, like Alex asked you to, so this thread could be about Hind’s column instead about the Isreali existence etc.
that gets plenty of time all the time. boring boring…like there is a sun, yes.

May 23rd, 2008, 6:35 pm


kamali said:

i am fed up with comments and articles from people who have relied heavily on memories of their lives in syria’s yesterday which is spiced with strange divine and external sense pride, excitement, belonging and Love. please come and live in syria today for 2 months and let me know what do you think of the reality. the woman is living in Toronto and visits syria for a few days going to dinners and meeting people who still have the inferiority complex towards foreigners and those syrians with additional nationality.

what can i say…stop them comment here!!! or allow those syrian living inside to comment!!!!???? can they????!!!! what a reality???!!!

May 23rd, 2008, 6:46 pm


Jason said:

Landis on Israeli-Syrian peace talks.


May 23rd, 2008, 6:47 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What are the current realities in Syria?

May 23rd, 2008, 6:54 pm


ghat Albird said:

After reading Landis’ interview the following read is quite interesting in that it took place at the Nassau Club at Princeton and outlines future Israeli/US stormy relationship by Christ Hedges. ex ME correspondant for the NY times.


May 23rd, 2008, 7:05 pm


CuriousCanadian said:

Thank you for this post, it is reassuring that there are some sane voices out there who can think clearly and express themselves.

To Others:
I don’t think the Turkish model is appropriate for Syria, minority religions are more threatened in Turkey than anywhere else in the ME except Iran.

Welcome to Toronto Hind Kabawat, Syria’s loss is our gain

May 23rd, 2008, 7:58 pm


Majhool said:


Very powerful comment. Thank you

May 23rd, 2008, 8:19 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Since you are familiar with what is going on the ground in Syria, Kamali’s comment speaks to you. Could you please expound for the rest of us who do not know what is going on and can only guess?

May 23rd, 2008, 8:28 pm


Majhool said:


The list is long so let me narrow it down

GDP: is only ahead of Sudan and Yemen.
Political Representation: I would say among worst in the Arab World.

Education: Education managed to plunge into to great lows in just few decades

Freedom of Press: I would say among the worst.
Civic Society: Non existent
Rule of Law: We have had emergency law since the 60s so you go figure

Political stability: Very stable

May 23rd, 2008, 8:51 pm


Zenobia said:

Dear Majhool,
you are a big ,,,very very big, hypocrite.

YOU, who used to author an entire blog…completely, I mean utterly and completely devoted to your fond and nostalgic memories of life in Syria as well as flattering historical and cultural profiles of the country and its people.
IN fact, you used to say that you purposely didn’t want it to be about politics and negative stuff… and only nice depictions of Syria, so that all the people outside would get picture of these positive things, and so the expat Syrians can dwell on these pleasant reminiscences with you.

Give me a break. You were writing the exact stuff that Kamali here is frustrated with.

Yes, do tell AIG all about it. Since you aren’t even living there now for almost a decade.
I am not saying you didn’t have a critique before, but it is quite hypocritical.
don’t you remember all that stuff about the Almond trees blooming and the family rituals you missed etc etc…

I guess Assad has ruined all that for you… You did also once tell me that Syria is mostly a shit hole except for the people.

Tell AIG about the people…. why don’t you.
Especially since, thus far, Aig has been convinced that the people are “backwards” and “cowards” and “treat” their “women like shit”.
those are quotes.
How do YOU feel about it?

May 23rd, 2008, 9:30 pm


Zenobia said:


i love it. Not once have you allowed for the people on this blog to tell you how things are that you know nothing about socially and culturally regarding Syria.
Now, suddenly, when you find someone who you think is assured to tell you something you might be happy to hear simply because it could confirm your perspective… you bow down and hand yourself over to his wisdom… to you…who (now)can only guess what it is like…and I thought you knew all about it!
what a laugh!

May 23rd, 2008, 9:35 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Zenobia and Majhool,
I knowthat Syria is a beautiful country and people there are just like people all over the world.
I think that the regime is reponsible for the situation and the people are just responsible to the extent that they support the regime.

About the education system, at what age do children start learning English in school? Do you know?

May 23rd, 2008, 9:44 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The general things Majhool listed I know. But of course I do not know the exact lifestyle of a typical Syrian (if such a thing exists).

I am interested in learning about Syria but just as you won’t believe anyone that told you that the US or Israel are a paradise on earth, it is hard to find credibilty in depictions that sound like I am reading National Geographic.

Where can I read a good and objective assesment of the Syrian education system? Do they have nationalized testing and do they puclish results? How many kids are per class? How many kids graduate high-school? Do Syrians know these things?

May 23rd, 2008, 9:52 pm


Zenobia said:

Many kids in rural areas probably don’t even learn a second language since they may only have a primary education and a bit of secondary. I think the requirement of secondary education for all Syrians is pretty recent in history (maybe in the last thirty years).
Twenty years ago Syrians were mostly learning French as a second language.
Now, I could see that kids in high school usually study English and then in college if they want to (if the person goes to college).
Kids in private school (which is not much of the population but some) can do either. And they learn earlier depending on the private school.

Everyone who graduates from high school / secondary school takes the big qualifying exam. You have to pass and you get a standard score that determines what you can study in University if you are going at all (like Europe). For example you have to have the highest level score to study medicine and then maybe engineering and then some less demanding study…etc etc.
And if you don’t pass this means you can’t go. And if your score is low- then maybe you can’t study in the area you wanted to.

College is on the European system, where… it is something like an undergraduate and a longer program that encompasses what would be graduate education in the States. If you know what i mean. I mean to be a doctor…you start that in college and finish in college.
I never understood that anywhere …actually….

I don’t know all the stats, but i don’t think they are hidden.

I would say (and I am sure Majhool will confirm) that the education system sucks.
Mainly this is because it is very rote and outdated and traditional. The quality is low.

May 23rd, 2008, 9:57 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Thanks. That is interesting.
Any pointers to where I can obtain more info would be greatly appreciated.

May 23rd, 2008, 10:10 pm


SimoHurtta said:

The regime is the only one that can facilitate the transition but it has zero interest in doing so. That is why I find the support for it here strange. In fact the regime has made things worse and more sectarian as the article attests

AIG are you speaking about Israel? The regime is the only one that can facilitate the transition but it has zero interest in doing so. Indeed you are right.
UN: No. of roadblocks in W. Bank up 7% percent from last Sept.

AIG I would recommend you do not lecture anything about women’s rights, democracy, secularism, torture, illegal imprisonments, theft etc so long Israel has a terrible record with these issues. Why AIG are women beaten in Jerusalem’s buses and forged to sit in back. As a citizen of Haredistan you have no right to lecture.

From my northern “observation post” I would say that Syria seems to develop in a better direction (slowly but still), when Israel is becoming day after day more religiously and ideologically extreme, violent and dangerous for the whole world.

Second, I am an atheist Jew so really I don’t make much of what Fundies believe or what God promised. Israel’s right is self-evident just like it is self-evident that there is a sun.

Do you AIG claim that the sun did not shine when there was no Israel? By the way how do atheist Jews justify the creation of Israel and just there where it now exists. Can you AIG in earnest prove that your ancestors sometimes lived in Palestine? What if they were East European opportunistic converts who saw the “light” and joined the “chosen people” to get some material benefits. Who knows? Are you ready AIG for genetic testing?

May 23rd, 2008, 11:57 pm


EHSANI2 said:

“When I was a child growing up in Syria, it was considered bad manners to ask friends and neighbours about their religion.”

This was the opening sentence in the article above. I respectfully disagree.

I grew up in Aleppo. You always knew the religion of your friends. The Christians lived in a small circle in the city. Their buildings were mostly occupied also by Christians. It is near impossible to witness inter-religious marriages between them and other religions. This is not to say that they did not live their lives without the fear of prosecution. They have and do practice their religion freely for sure. But, to somehow imply that Syrians are oblivious to their religion is a stretch at best.

I also had not noticed anyone mentioning the Ikhwan uprising in the early 1980’s and the subsequent impact this uprising has had on Syria and its leadership.

Hafez Assad was on the verge of losing his power had it not been for the draconian measures that he implemented in an effort to kill off the challenge from the Ikhwan.

The leadership will never allow itself to feel threatened again. While some of us can speculate if the Ikhwan would win or not during free elections, this leadership will not take even a one percent chance. Why? Because the consequences of losing power are unlikely to end happily for the leadership and the sect that it represents.

The current secular nature of the Syrian society can come crushing down faster than many here want to believe. On the surface, the veneer looks lovely. Were one to scratch below the surface, I am not sure that the picture is as pretty.

Sorry to be a party pooper ladies and gentlemen.

May 24th, 2008, 12:06 am


offended said:

Think again. You are actually agreeing with me? What gives?

In fact, English is being taught from first grade (in what is now called essential education, which is compulsory from grade 1 to 9).

Teaching English has improved slightly in the last decade. Curriculums are good and pupils are eager to learn. But the problem lies, as it seems to me, in the teaching cadre and in the system. There are absolutely no incentives to be a good teacher in public school. There are no labs. Good Graduates of English Lit are fleeing to the Gulf or Europe. The rest of the best are confining themselves either in private schools or are self-employed (private tutors). The remnant, unenthused and unconcerned, end up teaching in the classrooms. They are paid little but have no choice. What would we expect of them?

Of course, there are those teachers who are conscientious and don’t hold back any effort to teach. I’ve been blessed to have couple of those at secondary and high schools. This could be the reason why my English is slightly better than your average Syrian. And by the way I’ve received all my linguistic education from public schools and from college (should I be proud?). Our educational system (despite its low budgets and few other flaws) is still generating bright students in all disciplines. The question remains whether the system is flexible enough to adjust to market demands? And whether the potentials and the talents could be exploited to the good of Syria?

I read couple of years ago that Syria has approached few consultants in the US with a brief to overhaul the whole educational system. But this could not have been taken further due to the accountability act. Aren’t there similar ones in the UK? I am sure the Brits wouldn’t mind to help.

Let me put it bluntly as usual: I am wondering why would you be interested in learning about education in Syria? What is in it for you?

May 24th, 2008, 12:27 am


majedkhaldoun said:

I agree with you completely, we always knew our friends religion.and yes the regime will not run free election, and will not allow 1% chance to give Ikhwan a chance, however, the future events are not in their hands completely, next year, as USA will start pulling out of Iraq, this will create unknown events.

May 24th, 2008, 1:04 am


Alex said:

Ehsani, Majed,

It depends where and when

Hind was, again, speaking about growing up in the 70’s in Damascus. People in Aleppo are more conservative (and ..ehem, closed minded) than those in the Capital. I was born in Aleppo and lived in Damascus but spent summers in Aleppo (and Qunaya, a Christian village near Lattakia).

I was very young, but … I really don’t remember the religion of most of my childhood friends in Damascus in late 70’s (which makes me a bit younger than Hind for those who are keeping scores : )

But let’s look at the opposite example to Damascus in 1976.

Aleppo in 1979 … after the ikhwan started their violent uprising and the regime started to spread moukhabarat and security forces on every corner … and after the Lebanese civil war already claimed thousands of civilians who were killed simply because they were Christian or Muslim … it was terrible… religion was on everyone’s mind. Christians were lost … some hated the regime because of all the nervous security people screaming at everyone … some worried about continuing to live next to those scary Muslims … and many said “the hell with it … I am leaving this violent region”

My old grand father had an office with a storefront (in Aleppo). In the morning some random ikhwan character walks in and tells him that if he does not close his office they will bomb it and kill him. When he starts closing, a moukhabarat guy screams at him “You coward, if you close it, I will break your door and leave it open”

And in my grand father’s summer Christian village in Qunaya … everyone was sooo friendly to Muslims or nearby Alawites. Absolutely no negativity.

So .. it depends when and where.

May 24th, 2008, 1:24 am


Majhool said:

See how the Ikwan person Kills and Boms while the Mukhabarat gentlman only breaks a door.

May 24th, 2008, 2:00 am


Majhool said:

Hind said: When I was growing up in the seventies (and I am not going to give away my age), we did not wear crosses or green bands, and we never even talked about religion. We have never chosen our friends on the basis of their religion.

Who are “we”? Is it you and your friends? Everyone in Damascus? Or was limited to some circles let’s say in the university? Were the Mosques empty? what about neighborhood in Midan and Shagour? Isn’t the early 70s a product of the period before it? The genuine Baath maybe? maybe even the parliamentary system when Sunnis were in Power? maybe the afrench? Have you asked your self what is it (aside from the evil Saudis) prompted Syrians to sympathies with the Ikhwan? Was there a good representation in this secular paradise?

Hind Said: “I am crying out for reform, but I want change from within, not imported from abroad or through military action”

I guess you are addressing the west and not the “regimes of the ME”. Well I thought you were. Anyways, I agree with you, we want it organic but so does Michal Kilo! So why is he in Prison? your argument hurts anyone interested in reform even with the best of intentions and I know you are well intentioned.

Hind Said:I do care about the people of Syria, but I fight not for sanctions and war but rather for peace and prosperity in my region.

Same problem… you are still addressing “western” Audience. What’s needed is for your message to go to the Syrian Regime and to the Syrian people.

I try my best to promote a culture of debate, and I believe in my heart that reforming a secular government is much better than descending into a sectarian war in the future.

Hind, with all due respect, you have no power over creating a culture of the debate. Only the government does. Debate needs certain elements to protect it. you would need rule of law to protect those in the debate, also you will need a margin for mistakes to happen. Only the government can guarantee that. If you ask me, I say keep banging on their doors until they open up the doors of the forums that they closed.

Hind said : it’s time for us to work together and not against each other.

Do you mean us (the people) and the regime? Ya Hind we are the weakest link in the equation. How do we communicate with the regime? do we have channels through which we could? newspapers? political parties? I don’t believe they are even interested in debate or in working together.

May 24th, 2008, 2:28 am


ugarit said:

MAJDKHALDOON said: “… USA will start pulling out of Iraq, this will create unknown events.”

I don’t think so. The US will be in Iraq for many many more years even if Obama is elected. He won’t dare even if the public wants it.

Anyhow McCain will probably win and the US will be there for a long time. You’re shocked that I think McCain may win? Well wait till Obama is the nominee and he’s trashed for being a “Muslim” an “Arab” not a good agent for Israel, soft on terrorism, appeasing terrorists, oh and there is the skin pigmentation issue, etc.

May 24th, 2008, 2:54 am


offended said:

Yes Majhool, the Mukhabarat were able to control the freaks of ikhwan using some special door-opening techniques. What did you think?

May 24th, 2008, 2:54 am


Qifa Nabki said:

To those Syrians who recognize the urgent need for reform, but are wary of the Ikhwan, the Syrian opposition, and foreign-sponsored ‘initiatives’ to promote changes in Syria, etc. how do you propose to help steer your country toward a better future?

I mean: concrete proposals.

As for democracy and religion … what are the reasons for your paranoia about Islamists taking over in Syria in a brutal way, when we’ve seen that right next door in Lebanon, Hizbullah has figured out how to win elections without posing an existential threat to the secular nature of the government, nor to the multiconfessional population? Back in the early 1980’s, Hizbullah had just as radical an ideology as the Ikhwan: Nasrallah himself is on tape calling for the creation of an Islamic state in Lebanon (lands that had been stolen by the Cruaders from the Muslims, etc.) People change, right?

But thanks to Ehsani for keeping it real.

May 24th, 2008, 2:54 am


Majhool said:

Thanks QN, You are correct. These are merely excuses in order to avoid reform.


What about the technique of killing 20 000+ people in few days? Maybe it was Saudi Propaganda and never actually happened. Was the Al-Arabiyah around back then?

May 24th, 2008, 3:02 am


offended said:

I don’t want to discuss a subject of which I have no knowledge. But if it happened as you said then yes, it’s brutal and your Al Arabiya reference is not even funny.

Now what would do YOU say to the dilemma of Alex’s grandfather? if you were asked at the time what would you advise him, shall he close the shop or keep it open?

May 24th, 2008, 3:14 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Just curious, and while we are on the subject of public education in Syria, what is the official narrative on the crackdown against the Ikhwan, and Hama more specifically?

Is it never mentioned? Mentioned but with different figures? What exactly?

I ask because there have been some good initiatives recently in Lebanon to monitor the teaching of modern Lebanese history, to make sure that the Civil War is not taught in some massively biased way, in the various school systems. This is a positive sign, in my opinion.

May 24th, 2008, 3:19 am


Majhool said:


You seem grumpy? leh?, I really liked your post? Are you going to deny me the opportunity to agree with you? I hope not.

Alex’s grandfather should have kept the door half open

May 24th, 2008, 3:20 am


Majhool said:

Here is the public account

School kids have to shout every day the following Slogan:

“3ahdona an natasadda le-emperyallieh wal raj3ieh wa an nas’hak adatahom al mujrimeh 3esabat el Ikhwan Al muslimeen el 3amileh”
you do the translation.
Notice How the worlds “Muslims” and “criminal” in one sentence.

May 24th, 2008, 3:25 am


Alex said:

Majhool said:

See how the Ikwan person Kills and Boms while the Mukhabarat gentlman only breaks a door.


If what you say is often lies, don’t assume others are like you.

You know what I am referring to.

May 24th, 2008, 3:26 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Random tangent, for those who are interested:

[From SeeThruLebanon, a site devoted to transparency in Lebanese public affairs]

Lebanese Ministerial Budgets for 2008
May 23, 2008 – 8:31 am

Source: Ministry of Finance – Courtesy of DI

1. Ministry of Defense: 752,090,000 $
2. Ministry of Finance: 736,160,000 $
3. Ministry of Education: 579,223,000 $
4. Ministry of Interior: 417,725,000 $
5. Ministry of Health: 246,180,000 $
6. Ministry of Public Works: 132,554,000 $
7. Ministry of Foreign Affairs: 77,688,000 $
8. Ministry of Labor: 70,801,000 $
9. Ministry of Social Affairs: 67,852,000 $
10. Ministry of Justice: 49,355,000 $
11. Ministry of Power: 41,897,000 $
12. Ministry of Agriculture: 26,686,000 $
13. Ministry of Information: 13,889,000 $
14. Ministry of Economy & Trade: 13,040,000 $
15. Ministry of Culture: 12,395,000 $
16. Ministry of Youth and Sports: 8,767,000 $
17. Ministry of Tourism: 7,294,000 $
18. Ministry of Telecommunications: 6,183,000 $
19. Ministry of Displaced: 4,081,000 $
20. Ministry of Environment: 3,645,000 $
21. Ministry of Industry: 2,868,000 $

May 24th, 2008, 3:26 am


Majhool said:


If camouflaging my identity for reasons of safety is a crime then I am guilty. You can blame the regime unless you are are willing to take care of my child when i end up in prison.

I am criticizing your wording. Accusing you of lying was never on my mind. I did not even address you directly.

I am the weakest link here, you own this forum. If I had not trusted you I would not have been totally open with you. Using something I told you in confidence against me is not what I expect of you. I am disappointed.

As for suggesting that I am a liar. I forgive you msamah

You should allow some criticism of you. It seems that you are making this personal. I hope not. For now keep a distance.

May 24th, 2008, 3:31 am


Alex said:


What does your identity have to do with it??? … I have known you for over a year now, and you sure tried many times in the past to be highly negative and confrontational (like calling Hind a liar above).

I have no problem with your opinions and I have been ignoring you the past couple of months as you have noticed.

But you are starting to be quite rude. Earlier today you called Hind a liar. And now you are going back to insinuating that I am not telling the truth, like you have done many times in the past. And I am afraid the reason you think your opponents are not telling the truth so often, is that you rely on these tactics yourself.

And I won’t reveal the exact example (since you trusted me with it).. but if you need me to refresh your memory, it was when you lied to all the other commentators about something in order to score a political point.

The moukhabarart, for your information, were nice to the Christians in Aleppo. when they were searching all the residential areas, they were practically skipping Christian apartments … when they came to my grandfather’s apartment, they smiled and apologized for the inconvenience.

The ikhwan … killed hundreds (thousands?) of innocent people.

And I am not defending the regime’s savage “dealing with the problem” in Hama … but that was three years later. The FACT is that in Aleppo, the moukhabarart were trying (when they were not stressed out) to not offend the Christians. The ikhwan wanted to maximize the chaos … and frankly .. their typical armed member was not exactly tolerant of minorities.

May 24th, 2008, 3:54 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Just to put things in prespective for those that think for some reason that Lebanon is Israel’s worst nightmare, the Israeli budget is about 30 times that of the Lebanese budget. Also, the Lebanese spend 22% of their budget in defense while Israeli spends “just” 16% on defense (in absolute dollars it still spends 20 times what Lebanon spends on defense). This without taking into account the fact that about 22% of the Lebanese budget is debt and interest payment.

Lebanon could benefit a lot from peace with Israel and from joint development projects. Israel is not worried about Lebanese competition and would welcome such projects.

May 24th, 2008, 4:00 am


trustquest said:

Reading Mis Kabawat and all the comments, I think it comes to mind the word appeasement and it is suitable here more than when it was used against Obama. Appeasement is to satisfy a monster or dictator by giving him presents, land and cover up for him to satisfy him and stop his aggression. The word applies exactly on any dictator these days including the baby dictator of Syria and his regime. I mean anyone who is not saying it in his face is appeasing him. During his father time, no one could talk to him about any young guy if it related to the MB even if this guy is innocent, not even VP or the head of the Baath party, thousand of young kids died for no reason. I have seen this and witnessed this even I never had any sympathy to those MB. Now the son is doing the same for the elite who are speaking there minds and it is OK to publish outside but they can not dare to publish inside, it is a criminal act.
When you and hear this video, do you think that the regime and his figure are able to be reform: http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1749.htm
Even on this form if this view expressed usually it is not taken as another point of view in the pool, but right away attacked by the regime defenders. All commentators including the article writer are going to appease the regime by saying all the good things and lie about other things just to pass the need for reform suggestion, while the regime is shutting up the free voices and make an example from them to the other.

May 24th, 2008, 4:08 am


Majhool said:


It’s not your business to defend Hind. She can speak for herself. Similarly it’s not your business to defend me every time Nour accuses me of being a traitor.

If some one says: “Israel is the source of all ills in the Arab world” For me it’s a lie. That does not mean that this person is a liar. He/she would believe in a lie. I have stated that Hind’s intentions are probably good.

Assuming that you hold something against me is a cheap shot. The minute I criticized Hind’s post you jumped out and proclaimed that since you have edited her post people have to take it with you. you said

“if there is any lie I would like to also take responsibility for it”

Do I have to be scared now?

Here is what Alex thinks holds against me: In creative Syria there was a topic related to expatriates. and we were discussing “military Waiver” of course I was against the punitive number of years (10 years) imposed on Syrian expats in North America before they can pay the 10,000 dollars and get the waiver. There was this nice Doctor and he thought it was fair and square, to convince him I claimed that my dad had cancer and I could not visit him. My crime is that I replaced heart disease with cancer to win his support to this very worthy cause and I did.

A major crime indeed that needs to be used against me every time I utter a word of criticism.

Satisfied? get over it. We have to be open to criticism even it was blunt and “rude”

Please continue to ignore me.

May 24th, 2008, 4:41 am


Majhool said:

trustquest said: Reading Mis Kabawat and all the comments, I think it comes to mind the word appeasement

You are absoulty Correct.

May 24th, 2008, 4:46 am


SHAMI said:

Alex In general ,the christians were not a target because not involved in the battle but i know christian names in the list of the kidnapped / killed by the regime in the 70’s ,80’s and 90’s and of course many christians were killed in Hama massacre and two of their churches destroyed and today we have christian intellectuals and human rights defenders in bashar’s jails.
Anyway we should ask ourselves why these stories of mass murder only happened in the asad era and not before .The syrian muslim brotherhood was founded several decades before asad regime and from my knowledge the brotherhood – christian relations were not bad at all.Even political alliance were forged during the parliamentary elections with christian personalities in the 50’s and 60’s and they were not obliged because the regime was not a sectarian democracy with a muslim clear majority.

May 24th, 2008, 4:48 am


Alex said:


Of course I will continue to ignore your opinions even though I usually do not like them.

But I will not ignore your accusations of me, or Hind , or anyone of being a liar… not even insinuations… because everyone here is smart enough to understand insinuations… and you often try to sneak some of those through.

Read the first rule of this blog:


Here is what you wrote about Hind:

Majhool said:

This is pathetic. Hind does not seem to dare be direct when it comes to the many flaws the regime in Syria have

Syria’s Muslim sentiment is almost identical to that of Turks. Even Muslim Brotherhood members in their majority are very similar to their counterparts in the ruling party in Turkey, therefore to picture the Islamists in Syria as Taliban-Like is a LIE. Shame on you Hind.


Since you decided to say it yourself (I was not going to as I mentioned above) … a LIE is what you said to everyone on Creative Syria when you wanted to win the argument you were losing by making them feel sad for you because your father is dying from Cancer and the savage regime in Damascus was making it difficult for you to visit your dad.


“Dad also has Cancer (terminal stage) and we worry sick that something will happen to him, it saddens us to know that we would not be able to even attend his funeral!!”

May 24th, 2008, 5:12 am


Majhool said:


Riyad Na’san Al-Agha is a jerk. Thank you trustquest


Alex is blocking my reply. Censorship, he can present his case but I cannot.

May 24th, 2008, 5:42 am


Alex said:


يا لها من مفاجأة.. هل تغيرت دمشق؟

حلت النزاعات اللبنانية، على الاقل، إلى عام آخر، حين تحين الانتخابات. وجاءت المفاجأة في تركيا، سورية تفاوض إسرائيل. فجأة نرى إشارات خضراء، ففي طهران إشاعات عن حل مثير يقترح استمرار التخصيب في الداخل، تحت رقابة دولية مباشرة وليس عبر الكاميرات.

ورغم أن الكشف عن المفاوضات شبه السرية بين السوريين والإسرائيليين في تركيا مفاجأة سعيدة، إلا انها غامضة، فقد سمعت، منذ أكثر من شهر، من مصدر سياسي عربي له علاقة، عن المفاوضات. وبقدر ما يراها مفيدة لاستقرار كل المنطقة فقد عبر عن خوفه منها. فهو يشتبه في أنها وسيلة لتعطيل المفاوضات الفلسطينية المعقدة والشاقة. في نظره يريد السوريون تعطيل مفاوضات يقودها محمود عباس، بفتح مسار مفاوضات مواز ومنافس.

والحقيقة انني أجد صعوبة في هضم مقولة إن المفاوض السوري يستطيع التخريب على زميله الفلسطيني، إلا إذا كانت تلك رغبة إسرائيلية. فالمشكلة الظاهرة هي في الجانب الإسرائيلي لا السوري، حيث نرى مشروع سلام يديره شخص ضعيف هو إيهود أولمرت، رئيس الوزراء.

الأهم في نظري ليس تفاوض سورية مع إسرائيل، بل تبني سورية سياسة مستعدة للتغيير. التفاوض خطوة جريئة، توحي بأن دمشق تتغير. فهل هي مجرد مناورة أم بالفعل سياسة جديدة؟ هنا أسمح لنفسي بأن أحاول أن أفهم العقلية السورية، التي حيرتنا منذ ثلاث سنوات. فدمشق تبنت سياسة عدائية ضد ما كانت تتخيل أنها سياسة تدبر ضدها في الخارج، منذ غزو العراق قبل خمس سنوات. تتخيل بوجود مؤامرة تستهدف النظام، وحتى هذا اليوم لا يوجد دليل واحد حقيقي يعزز هذا الاستنتاج الغريب، اللهم إلا اذا أخذنا تطورات أزمة اغتيال الحريري لاحقا، وهذه ليست مؤامرة بقدر ما هي مضاعفات طبيعية، سياسيا وجنائيا.

بحثا عن الحماية ازدادت دمشق التصاقا بإيران، في وقت كانت طهران تعادي بشكل خطير دولا عربية رئيسية، وتتبنى سياسة تصادمية خطيرة مع كل الغرب، لا الولايات المتحدة. ورغم المحاولات العديدة لتحذير السوريين من أن السير وراء الإيرانيين يجعلهم عرضة للتهشيم أكثر، إلا انهم كانوا يعتقدون أن الإيرانيين يمنحونهم الحماية ويرفعون من قيمتهم التفاوضية، حتى ضاقت الحلقة على دمشق وباتت في دائرة الخطر. لا توجد هناك مؤامرات ضد سورية ولا رغبة في تغيير النظام، وحتى أقسى النقاد في الغرب لم يزد عن طرح مفهوم تغيير سلوك النظام لا تغيير النظام. إنما مع مرور الوقت توسع الخلاف، وأوشكت سورية على أن تصبح نفسها في مرمى الهدف، لأن البعض بات يقول إن استهداف إيران ثبت أنه صعب ومضاعفاته مجهولة، أما سورية فهي الجدار القصير في الحلف الثنائي.

ولا أدري إن كان الشعور بالخطر قد تسلل إلى التفكير السوري، فإن كان قد فعل فهو أمر جيد، حتى تتخلى دمشق عن مغامراتها الخطرة، ويتفادى العرب كارثة جديدة. أما إن لم يستوعب الإخوة في سورية حجم الخطر، وما نراه أمامنا مجرد مناورات تسير فيها دمشق بمهارة بين الألغام، نقول عساها تعرف أن الطريق الملغومة طويلة وخطرة.

May 24th, 2008, 5:43 am


Majhool said:

Perfect. Get over it.

Do you think that many have this exact situation? They are stuck outside Syria and cannot see their families because of the unfair waiver? I guess you don’t care. Defending the regime is what you care about. Does it really make a difference if it’s heart desease or Cancer really? If had thought it was a bad thing I would not have shared it with you. Never expected that you would think that you would take it against me on the this forum

But you will tolerate insinuation of being traitors and puppets to the Saudis.

I will continue to be blunt when I see fit. If you wish to block me then go ahead.

May 24th, 2008, 5:50 am


Alex said:

Lebanon’s Christians emerge stronger from Doha accord

By Ferry Biedermann

Published: May 24 2008 03:00 | Last updated: May 24 2008 03:00

When Lebanese leaders met in Doha to agree a power-sharing deal this week, the Christian among them appeared to be sidelined, playing second fiddle to the more powerful Shia and Sunni Muslim politicians, who dominated the talks.

The most visibly frustrated was Michel Aoun. The mercurial former army general claims to command a majority of the vote in the once dominant Christian community, whose numbers have dwindled to perhaps a third of Lebanon’s 4mpopulation.

To consolidate his position, two years ago he entered into an alliance with the Shia Islamist group Hizbollah, which achieved gains in Doha, not least the right to a blocking minority in the next cabinet.

But the main benefits that were supposed to accrue to Mr Aoun – he had bet on becoming the next president – evaporated, as all sides agreed on the consensus candidate, Michel Suleiman, the army chief who will be elected tomorrow.

In spite of the setback to Mr Aoun’s ambitions, the Christian community may have emerged surprisingly strengthened from the Doha agreement.

The peace deal allows for the presidency, the top Christian post in the sectarian power-sharing system, to be filled after a six-month void. Most important, a new electoral law agreed in Doha could make the Christians kingmakers after next year’s parliamentary elections.

Outside the Sunni vote, dominated by the western-backed Future movement of Saad Hariri, and the Shia vote, dominated by the pro-Syrian and pro-Iranian Hizbollah movement and its allies, the Christian community will be up for grabs in the election.

Divided between the pro-majority parties and Mr Aoun’s bloc, Christians still elect half the members of parliament, even if they account for less than half of the population.

“The electoral struggle between the Sunni- and the Shia-dominated coalitions will be decided in the Christian areas,” says Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Centre in Beirut.

Unlike previous elections, in which many Muslims were voting for Christian deputies, the new electoral law allows Christians themselves to elect more of their own representatives.

“A new electoral law was the request of most of the Christians,” says Elie Khoury, a senior member of the pro-government Christian party, the Lebanese Forces.

Ziad Abs, a member of the political bureau of Mr Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, acknowledges that the law “gave back some of our rights”. He nonetheless accuses the governing coalition of having blocked a more balanced distribution of seats for electoral reasons.

The impact of the Doha deal on Mr Aoun’s popularity is still unclear. Some of his supporters may be disillusioned by the failure of the Hizbollah alliance to win their leader the presidency. Some Christians, moreover, will now put their faith in the new president, helping him to build a new Christian popular base.

Mr Salem predicts the former general will strengthen his credentials as a Christian leader and do very well in next year’s parliamentary elections.

In any case, every election in Lebanon tends to create new alliances. Analysts say that if the Doha deal holds until next summer, groups that have been fighting each other may join forces to enhance their electoral chances.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

May 24th, 2008, 6:02 am


Alex said:


Hate something, change something
(with apologies to that Honda ad)

Thank you AK for the invitation to post this. This is nothing more than a cry from the heart.

On Tuesday afternoon, as the country began its plunge into the depths of depression, my CEO walked into my office. I knew what was coming. Ours is one of the few remaining multinational companies whose Middle East and North Africa headquarters, against commercial realities and pressure from global management, remains stubbornly based in Beirut, an aberration I thought was just about to be corrected. I waited for the Dubai blow. I was wrong. “We stay in Beirut”, he stated instead. There was a hint of a question, and somehow I heard myself reply: “we stay in Beirut”. Then we laughed. Boy, did we laugh. We laughed like schoolchildren who have just seen a far-fetched prank come off. We laughed like Robert De Niro laughed as he played Russian roulette in The Deer Hunter. We laughed like the idiots we knew we were.

Today we’re no longer laughing. Because now, that insane switch that controls Lebanon’s mood has been at work again and that potent mixture of euphoria and amnesia has been swallowed in one shot. We’re unapologetically drunk. Indeed I am as I write this.

When I left Lebanon during the Civil War, driven out by a collision between fresh-faced journalistic ideals and militia threats to my life, I left with a sense of disgust. A few years later, that disgust slowly metamorphosed into a latent desire to justify my absence from my country, a justification fueled by every possible pragmatic reason one can think of. These reasons don’t differ much from those that have been exposed, ad nauseam, in the comments section of this blog. In fact I too have ranted against that collection of flaws that somehow contrive to make Lebanon what it is, more than any blog can handle. The corruption, the one-upmanship, the communities that dictate where love should be found, the families that strangle the rebel in every child until he or she is a child no more, the cronyism, the quality of the asphalt, damn it. You name it, I have ranted against it.

But rants do not nations make. The Jewish Lobby doesn’t waste time sniggering about Hamas’ lack of a long-term plan. The mullahs that hijacked the real Iranian revolution did not spend their time ranting against un-Islamic practices. Neither did the glorified thugs, camouflaged as they were in their divine resistance slogans, before they seized Beirut. In fact, I doubt very much that Steve Jobs had been bitching about the gargantuan power of the music industry when he was setting out to dismantle it with iTunes and iPods. Ranting, moaning and hand wringing is in my book the most fake-elegant antiseptic handwash for lazy intellectuals and the educated wastes as a whole. It is the real obstacle to progress, disguised as it is in the cloak of pseudo-knowledgeable analyses while being nothing more than a barricade of defeatism, manned by people who believe that history repeats itself rather than strive to avoid it doing so.

A lifelong card-carrying member of the live-it-to-the-max brigade, child of the who-knows-what-tomorrow-may-bring-so-lets-fuck-tonight generation of civil war epicurists, I may be one of the Beiruti liberal bourgeois former expats who believe that you shouldn’t have to do today what you can postpone until tomorrow. But I do not live in an ivory tower. Today, I genuinely feel that, as I happily soak in the now-traditional post-worry atmosphere that only Beirut can conjure up, we should raise our glasses not just to our resilient spirit, but to what we can do.

The Lebanese diaspora – and that includes many of you people – is one of the largest in the world. Some 11 million, I think. It may not compare in size and weight to the Jewish wordwide lobby, but damn it, it’s one hell of a body. What if, like our Jewish brethren (yes, and no apologies for that) we drew a plan? What if the thinking fraction of those millions turned rant and exodus apologies into action points, into suggestions at least, into idea kernels that can grow into the oaks they can be? “All our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death”, said the Bard. Can we look forward rather than let our past experiences and learnings blight our possibilities? Today, several embryonic, forward-looking movements are trying to break through the Lebanese feudal media blanket. We, you guys abroad, and those of us with courage and conviction here should fuel them rather than drive them to despondency and flight. This blog is – and forgive me AK if I’m abusing – a perfect platform for a start. Ghassan Karam outlined once some points in what some saw as a naïve proposal for a better Lebanon. Well, hail naivete, I say. More, please. Lets turn this into a forum for what can be rather than an easy deconstruction of what we all know is. Regardless of what you may think of parliamentary elections in Lebanon, they do sometimes spring surprises. Hell, the 2000 law was supposed to thwart Hariri. Look what happened instead. We have just about enough time to make the 2009 elections a turning point. Not with some miraculous touch of a magic wand, of course not. But by planting a seed. Or at least by handing over a watering can to those who believe that there is a garden of hope out there, not just the pointless, self-serving disgust I was once guilty of. What say you?

May 24th, 2008, 6:03 am


Zenobia said:

Wow, what a piece.

May 24th, 2008, 6:38 am


Alex said:

Yes I am blocking you Majhool, because in your new comment where you are “presenting your case” you continued your sleazy tactics:

This s what you wrote:

“Do you think that many have this exact situation? They are stuck outside Syria and cannot see their families because of the unfair waiver? I guess you don’t care. Defending the regime is what you care about.”

I’m sorry, but I am not interested in reading your comments where you “guess” that I don’t care about Syrians dying form cancer while you, honorable Majhool, do care.

Come back next week if you are interested. But remember to stick to the issues and to stop insulting, insinuating, or attacking anyone here who is not interested in playing that game with you.

May 24th, 2008, 6:50 am


wizart said:

Alex & Majhoul,

Hind is a student of religious tolerance and by definition she can tolerate different opinions very well. As a secular moderator myself aiming to bridge the gap among religions, here’s my opinion:

Neither of you lied and you never even accused each other of being liars so I would take away your right of bloking each other from your own opinions (which I oppose) and defend my right to do so;)

By the way Majhoul, QN I think was not agreeing with your opinion recently when he mentioned Hezbulla’s power struggle in Lebanon. There’s a ligitimate concern among many Syrians of having a Sunni virsion of Hezbulla taking over in the name of change and reform.

Kabawat has foreign ministry potential for whenever there’s peace!

May 24th, 2008, 8:33 am


kamali said:


I will try to answer your question later after the weekend. what Majhool said is 100% right. As i know there are few resources about syria in English or even arabic. it is a country where real research and investigation never or rarely exists. for example, did anyone in the government know or dare to publish the number of migrating youth? this is one point. these can be only known if you live in syria and see that 90% of your friends are outside the country. what can I say about eduaction. are there any studies? i can hardly think of any. this discussion needs a lot of talk and analysis which i cannot administrate here.

the only point for me is that if SC wnats to know the reality then they must have channels to the people living there and can say what they think not to go to people like travellers, friends of syria, journalists who go to the country on tour enjoy the (not very lovely) resorts, eat in lux rest and meet people who get money from the regime or lecture about the past of syria.

May 24th, 2008, 10:50 am


ausamaa said:

Qifa Nabki

“Just curious, and while we are on the subject of public education in Syria, what is the official narrative on the crackdown against the Ikhwan, and Hama more specifically?”

I like the way you choose you innoncently inqusitive qustios?

Hama!! Oh Hama, What is Hama? A violent political group threatened the existance of a military regime and the country and sparked a whole crisis and slaughtered Syrian officesrs in Allepo and planted bombs near bus stations and near elementary schools in Damascuse (my six year old kid sister was slightly injured in one such bombinh)? And who paid for the bombs Jordan and Co. with the “Patriotic” Ikhwan playing into their hands knowingly. Keep repeating Hama and Hama till hell freezes over. Maybe you wanted Hafez al Assad to wait till Syria became another Aljeria, Yemen or Wahhabi Saudi Arabia at best.

By the same token, and very relevant to your question, would you please please tell us how the Lebanese Educational etablishment handled the much more bloody Sabra and Shatila massacre, how did they handle Al Damour and Al Dair al Qamar and Jezzine,and how did the Lebanese Educational establishment handle Harb Al Elgha’a and the killingsof the Chamouns and the Freijeih and Rashid Karami? Never mind the Mount Lebanon slaughters of the 1860 and not to mention Halba and Alieh in 2008? And by the way, Hamas peopl in the “dctatorship” you call Syria have returned an rebuilt Hama and thier houses, is the same true for the inhabiants of the uprooted Christians and Druze villages during the civil war in the seventies returned to their houses yet in the Chouf in the “civilized and Humanitarian” entity called Lebanon?

Why dont you elighten us by give us an example of how the the famouse advanced Lebanese Educational System (in Lebanon, the Beacons of Liberty and Civilzation in the East) has handeled all those acts, so maybe we backward Syrians can learn from the dwellers of Sit Al Dunia about how to create a truylly Civilsed Society like the one our junior neighbours enjoy?

Ya akhi ma shbe3too fazlake w tajani w tafnees ba3d kil elli sar, or are those traits so impeded in the psych of a sizable segment of the population that is very hard to shed them and to escape their deep-routed manifistions?

May 24th, 2008, 12:35 pm


ausamaa said:

Ms. Hind, even though you have posted a great article, do not expect a lot of reasonably open-minded and well-intentioned or well-informed comments from many great thinkers here. Just say: SYRIA, and a lot of them would jump on your case before you know it. If you want to get through to them, start your articles with words like “Syrian Regime”, “Totalitarinisem”, and do not forget always refere to Syrians as some sort of economcially deprived zombies living under the Iron Fist of the Regime.

And yes sir, Ehsani, we have a house in al Mazzra in the sixties and only when I was in my teens I became to know that who lived in the floor below were Christians, and no one could have cared less except to remember to make sure that we had to dress up and visit them on certain Christian occasions. And in the late seventies, while I was a “foriegn!!” student in Allepo, I lived in a room in the house of Christian family for a year (later my sister took my place when I left to the States) and the isuues of Muslims and Christians were non issues then.

That was us then. It is still us today. Believe it or not!!!

May 24th, 2008, 12:56 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I see you didn’t even bother trying to disguise your approval of Hafez’s methods. And yet you preach to the Lebanese about democracy, so funny. Habibi Ausamaa, if the Lebanese Army was three times its current size, and it responded to Hizbullah’s growing power in the 90’s by leveling Dahieh and killing 5000 people (for proportionality’s sake), then I’m sure you would have justified that as well, right?

By the way, who told you that Lebanon is civilized and humanitarian? We have a long way to go before we can call ourselves that. The difference is, habibi, that today we’re actually trying, getting our hands dirty, failing, and trying again. We don’t make up excuses for the atrocities of our history or the brutality of our leadership, the way that you do (but not other Syrians, as you have noticed, reading this thread).

ya khayye ma zehlak bta3mol kriza kil ma btisma3 kilmet 7ama, allah ykhallik ru7 wa-7keh ma3 shii therapist wa rayyi7 damirak!

…Or start a hobby to get your mind off your inferiority complexes. i recommend gardening. 😉

May 24th, 2008, 1:07 pm


ghat Albird said:

just to add a little perspective to the perspetivers in reference to budgets and percentage spent on diverse governmental activities.

While numbers and percentages are used to negate or justify practically any issue for compariosn purposes as used by several contributors one of whom pointed to differences between the Israeli and Lebanese appropriations.

A major componnent of such give and take seems to be overlooked. The USA according to several sources financial aid to Israel is estimated at $ 12 million a day for 365 days each year, Given this largesse its academic to criticise the Lebanese or Syrians for not matching Israel’s spending of part of the $12 million a day on education, health etc, etc,.

Reform in any shape or form costs money. Without the $140/150 billion as well as the $12 million a day Israel has received and still receives the comparisons would be more equitable. In short without US aid Israel would not live in the style its been accustomed to for the past several decades. They admittedly have used the aid to good purposes.

May 24th, 2008, 1:22 pm


EHSANI2 said:


Congratulations on your 1960’s experience in Mazzra.

To suggest, however, that this is the norm is a misrepresentation of the facts. I do not doubt that you lived through the experience that you cited. But, readers must not walk away with the impression that Syrians with different religions live and mingle with each other totally oblivious to their religion.

I believe that both Hind and yourself ended up giving this false impression.

Last summer, a Christian friend of mine asked me to look at an apartment that he was contemplating buying. The agent (Dallal) met us at the building. As soon as we got off the car, he realized that the buyer is a Christian. His immediate question was :

“You are of course looking for a common building right?

The word common or “mowahadd” turned out to be the code word for
all-Christian building.

I would rather not get through the rest of the story unless you insist.

Ausamaa Sir,

Here is a challenge for you:

Please give the percentage of Syrian Christians and Moslems who have dinner at each other’s homes on a regular basis today.

May 24th, 2008, 1:25 pm


ausamaa said:

I will start counting next time I am in Damascuse. But how can I tell the Muslims of the Christians?

May 24th, 2008, 1:30 pm


EHSANI2 said:

You are a perceptive guy. I will rely on your judgment in that regard.

May 24th, 2008, 1:32 pm


ausamaa said:

Qifa Nabki,

Again you skirted around answering my question, how Did the You guys handle those much bloodier issues in Lebanon? Maybe Syrians can benifit from your experience!

So, was your question a question or was it a questionable question?

May 24th, 2008, 1:34 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I did not intend to skirt it; I was trying to be polite since you skirted my question, and it seemed that you did not want to talk about it!

But since you do, I will tell you that as far as I know, Sabra and Shatila, Frangieh, Chamouns, Karami, etc. are not avoided discussion topics. Plus, there have been several documentaries made about the war that address these topics directly, and which have aired on Tele Liban.

In other words, there are very few people these days who would justify Sabra and Shatila the way in which you seem to justify Hama.

Ausamaa, you have to stop assuming that I am interested in having discussions about how wonderful Lebanon is and how terrible Syria is. (I am much more interested in hearing about how terrible Lebanon is, by the way, because I truly believe that criticism of something generally makes it stronger, if those criticisms are valid and subsequently addressed.) So stop pretending I have an agenda.

PS: I usually save your strong criticisms of Lebanon, as sometimes you make very good points, and they are nicely expressed. But in this case, your criticisms are off the mark: we are very good at self-loathing, in Lebanon.

May 24th, 2008, 1:48 pm


offended said:

Dear Aussama, Qifa Nabki, Ehsani2:
Can’t we all get along?

May 24th, 2008, 2:36 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:

here is a sober analysis of the syian-israeli peace prospects from Moubayed


May 24th, 2008, 3:10 pm


Observer said:

I agree with Ehsani
The reality is that underneath the veneer there is rampant sectarianism in every aspect of the society. My experience is that the Christian community has nothing but contempt for the majority Sunni muslims. Many members of the Chrisitan community are de facto allies with the Alawis in insuring that the positions of influence are distributed in such a way so as to insure that the majority Sunni population does not have a hold in any area. For a long time, the institutions of goverment were called Lentil institutions as they were “Adas” in Arabic: Alawi, Druze, Ismailli. There were a few smatterings of Sunnis here and there and certainly quite a few Christians willing to give cover to the sectarian nature of the state.
I also know that the majority of the honorary consuls of the European countries that have such posts in Syria go to the Christian community and rarely if ever to a Sunni.
I know for a fact that the army conscripts are trained unequally on weapons systems and this is dependent on their sects.
Now, secularism to the majority Sunnis is seen as another attempt by the minority sects in the country to retain a measure of safety/protection/privilige. Sunnis for a long time were not allowed to join the ranks of the Baath party for feat that they may subvert it from within for example.
All of these minorities are now clamoring for a parochial local nationalism be it Syrian, Jordanian, Lebanese. One remembers that these were the same communities that championed Arab nationalism as a way to destroy the muslim nature of the Ottoman empire, something that the Young Turks at the start of the 20th century obliged them to do by also insisting on Turkish nationalism.

I have said this before, these are not countries and certainly not nation states: tribes with flags, mafias with turfs, sects with embassies, families with militias. The horse has left the barn, the Arab nation is dead and the void will be filled by a new nebulous political religious movement. The 79 Iranian revolution effects are just starting to be felt in the area now that Saddam is gone and the line between Arab Islam and Persian Islam is no more. Remember, we are still seeing the effects of the French Revolution with concepts of human and citizen rights and popular representation. These concepts in the history of other nations are alien and sitll being considered as one of many forms of governance.

May 24th, 2008, 3:38 pm


Shai said:

Interesting note by our ex-COGS (Dan Halutz):

May 24th, 2008, 4:02 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Love that last comment, Observer.

Did someone open a window in here? It feels smarter.

May 24th, 2008, 4:04 pm


trustquest said:

Ehsani, observer thank you guys for speaking your minds and for that the call for openness and power sharing by Mrs. Kabawat is important and it is like the last call for the train before leave the station, or it might have left already as observer said. People have lost their voices from repeating calls for real change.

Look how the minister of education, http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1405.htm lecture the Baathist and the elites in Damascus explaining to them that Al-Qaida is an illusion and 711 and 911 made by Mosad and the CIA, so you get to understand the mentality of the regime in Syria which I do not doubt the head of the regime knew the real truth but they channel out something else. I was really surprise in my last visit to Syria how well educated elite explaining to me that 911 is made by the CIA, it is the dark ages there.

I think Ausamaa opening about Hamma is well understood and reflect the opinion of a big segment of Syrians people but not all. Even the people who might agree with your way of presenting the story a lot might disagree with the way it was handled or like me at least I disagree with the continuous cover up and the taboo shed on the story from discussion in public in the name of preventing sectarian incitement, I think it is necessary to relieve it from the Syrians’ conscious by at least mentioning it as a lesson should be learnt. The most part I disagree on is the aftermath handling of the incident by the regime and how they use it to do more oppression on anyone wants to open his mouth and the establishing of the new rule, either with us or against us, nothing between and no deviation, and to my surprise I found myself nowadays not with them for one reason that I do criticize their way of doing thing.

In the end I think it is not Hamma story which we disagree on the main issue here it is the way still things handled, structured and the restricted dialogue and participation to other elites and the best example the imprisonment of the only light to the future, the civil society. I will keep saying the Syrian regime not the Syrian till real change and equality in political and social life for all not for few are allowed. Mrs Kabawat has her way of participation delivering her message to reach the regime, and she is one of the few Syrian expat to be proud of. I do not believe in one way to reach goals, the collective ways of appeasement, opposition and dissents and free well of the individuals who do not hide their views are all necessary to achieve the change. On my side I will keep talking in the air about what I believe and care less about the regime and what he allows me to say, till one day I will see opposition treated as Syrian people want to participate in the building the country and they are not enemy of the people as the regime represent them. So, please lets keep civilized discussion and respect all views, even the regime start realizing that you should talk with the enemy shouldn’t we.

May 24th, 2008, 4:08 pm


wizart said:


Many people around the world believe 9/11 was not what it was portrayed to be and there’s a widely acknowledged evidence to support their case. Plenty of youtube videos document their views.

I know the human tendency to dismiss such crazy conspiracies, believing the current narrative despite contrary evidence is equally crazy in my opinion.


May 24th, 2008, 4:29 pm


Majhool said:


That was excellent

May 24th, 2008, 4:44 pm


Zenobia said:

I agree with Ehsani regarding the divisions between Christians and Muslims in Syria.
Of course there will be exceptions ,but from the obvious standpoint that any visitor can see – these are highly segregated groups.

The geography of where people live is the most obvious divider, in a fashion very similar to you would find with ethnic neighborhoods in the United States.
The Christians have there neighborhoods in Aleppo and Damascus that are completely delineated and have clear boundaries. So do the Armenians in Aleppo and Beirut. And Christians also have there particular towns in Syria, Sadanaya or the entire coastal area. Mashta El Helou is now a vacation spot- that people proudly announce that albeit a Christian town, the muslim are stopping in to enjoy their dinner and entertainment.

And like ethnic neighborhoods in America- there are border areas where people overlap a little bit.
Al-Mazraa, interestingly enough is one of those little border hoods in Damas that goes between the Muslim areas and the Christian section of town in Al Kasaa’. So, perhaps that explains some of A’s experience.
In my short time- I never found anyone to say anything nasty or display animosity about the other group, but they certainly always ask and comment about it- to identify who a person is or situate them socially. And I think it very rare for these two groups to go to dinner with each other or naturally mix. There of course will be exceptions where people have made friendship through some context and kept it up.
and they certainly will do business with each other and sometimes go to school together- probably in the border areas or the private schools ( i am not certain about this). But they don’t marry each other, and since matchmaking and marriage are a main preoccupation in Syria – this might explain some of the separation!

A, you can identify the Christians because they have big pictures of the virgin mary on the wall, and if they don’t – that will be everybody else. : )

May 24th, 2008, 4:51 pm


Shai said:


Sami Moubayed is right. But “stepping stones” are something the only thing that’ll get us across the water. When there’s no clear and safe bridge to cross, you start with stones.

May 24th, 2008, 5:22 pm


Alex said:


Some non christias have picutres of the virgin mary on the wall .. and some Christians have posters of Nasrallah on the wall : )

Observer, I disagree a bit with you, but excellent comment.
(damn it, I’m at work for the next few hours)

May 24th, 2008, 5:25 pm


ausamaa said:

And Muslims have long beards, do not drink and run off to Friday Prayers leaving their cars blocking the traffic so they don not miss miss a minute of prayer time!

May 24th, 2008, 5:30 pm


Seeking the Truth said:

The important question I see is whether the Syrian regime can start now implementing gradual steps of political reform, that won’t cause secularism to be overtaken by sectarianism. Other excuses are just lame ones.

May 24th, 2008, 5:38 pm


offended said:


I didn’t know Christians of Syria hold me in such contempt. Thanks for the enlightment.

May 24th, 2008, 5:40 pm


trustquest said:

Wizart, I do not disagree with you a lot of people in the world could have this view, but how many guy in minister position can talk openly this rubbish especially in a country claim secular position. I’m not looking at this thing from AIG view that Syrian government blame everything on Israel, I’m looking at it from the point that logic free ministers how he end up believe himself because there is no opposition views in a country to openly disagree with him and where only government media make all the tunes. Wizart, this is very big difference from Pakistan, our first goal to get where you at right now and to remove the stone from the mouths of the masses, first freedom of expression, speech and free press. Later we will ask for real parliamentary election and multi parties.

On the Christian Muslim division, which I agree it is there and it is in the social fabric of the society. But we should put it in prospective. Back in the first half of the last century, it used to be much better relation and feeling toward these communities than what we ended up now. What Mrs kabawat was describing is true and I have lived it myself, I have never distinguished between Christians and Muslims friends, but we always felt that there is unseen divide under the façade. The different regimes since the 60s has done great job in wiping the religious identity which is a plus for them but on the other hand the sectarian ruling structure and the religious allegiance designed by the regime especially in the 70s and beyond has elevated the religious divide. The regimes done a good jobs in the big cities and neglected completely the small one which preserved these differences. The clear divide which resurrected after Iraq war between Islamic sects was handled by the regime by playing ignorance and by put a cover on this matter inside Syria and doing noting to amend or solve this divide. There is no single symposium or Immans meetings to target this issue came out of Syria, just a head in the sand. All there media manipulation was used to keep the status-quo. The missing link in this matter is openness, discussion and free speech which is a forbidden item and considered a trigger factor instead of a diffusing one.

May 24th, 2008, 5:41 pm


Alex said:


I totally agree. But I believe that this openness should be experimented with gradually … starting when Lebanon calms down and hopefully Iraq to to some extent … and especially when the Saudis agree to (or understand that) they should stay out of it. If Almustaqbal and Asharq Alawsat and AlArabyia are going to be part of the process, I can only imagine the extent of failure.

Actuallly … I think I will start do a discussion topic on Creative Syria where we can discuss “national reconciliation” … if there is enough interest from you. Are observer, Ausamaa, Trustquest, Ehsani and others interested to write?


I’m sure Christians (and non Christians) who know you personally love you.

May 24th, 2008, 5:49 pm


offended said:

Thanks Alex, wallahi enta 3assal 🙂

You know I was being ironic.

The problem with commentaries like Observer’s and Ehsani’s is that there is no distinction made between different sectors within the same community. I said it before and I reitrate now: the majority of Syrian people are apolitical and they usually mind their own business. What you guys are refering to is a scenario where two sects or religious groups are fighting to get hold of a certain official position or a previlige. That the contention between these groups is a zero sum game. I refuse to accept this.

Maybe it’s my own wishful thinking but I’d rather live off the positive vibe until I am proven wrong the hard way.

May 24th, 2008, 6:03 pm


offended said:

To elaborate: an Iraqi colleague is going on a one month leave to Baghdad. I asked him whether he’s concerned about his safety (since he lives in a mixed Shia’- Sunni area), and he said no. I was totally surprised but he explains that the area where he lives is dominated by educated middle class Iraqis who have not yet succumbed to the ugliness of sectarianism. And that the educated Shia’ of that area are still not allowing the Mahdi Army militias (what they ironically call ‘Hymaia’) to deploy in their neighborhood.

But of course, such stories never get a mention on Al Arabiya.

May 24th, 2008, 6:11 pm


offended said:

It’d be interesting to see how this lawsuit will proceed.

A Saudi national is seeking a court order to ban a religious satellite TV channel from hosting Salafi hardliners whom he says declare the Shiite sect as infidels.


May 24th, 2008, 6:33 pm


trustquest said:

I’m sorry to say Alex that we do not agree, the condition you always put to start the real hard choices of the openness process in Syria and the change expected by all from state media to open media for all should not be condition on the Saudi to be nice, agreeing to stay out of it, or when Lebanon gets calm. We can not afford to wait for the Almustaqbal and Asharq Alawsat and AlArabyia to be part of the process; we need to have people agreeing with them and debating these views, not jumping on their throat from the hint of considering these views.

I think the world is changing faster than someone can put a damp on it like the past 40 years of dictatorship in Syria which ended in 17 millions immigrants as was the only solution to their social economical and political problems. On my side I still hope the regime will realize that and stop delaying the real reform, what is on the surface is very deceiving and time of the essence. However, I do not think that the reform will ever be presented by the regime on a silver plate; it will need the collective efforts of all parties with all these different views in principles and in means to push and strife to achieve it. The real heroes in my view are those who are scarifying their comfort and sitting now in prison for you and me to speak up and for other to wake up.

The scary story from Syria in my last visit was when we were sitting in a family gathering when someone mention that it is nice to buy a home in Assad’s village in Sahra (west of Damascus, called also Saborah, after Elhammeh), when my relative which we consider him the patriarch of the family said that that place is not safe in case of flair civil war and he advice to buy in ShiekhMehedden (a Sunni community) because it will be safe in case of civil war. My brother in law and me where laughing at him when we went out of his home. My brother in law is Ismali and my family is Sunni. But time past and I went back to the State and kept thinking about it. The family patriarch is not any illiterate guy, he is an educator, well versed and wise. He was a communist in his youth and he is the one to ask on anything and he has a feeling for the society.

May 24th, 2008, 7:09 pm


ausamaa said:

Hi Qifa

I am still waiting for the answer: How Did the You guys handle the much bloodier massacre issues in Lebanon and its Education System? Really, maybe Syrians can benifit from your experience!

After my counter question you totally dropped the whole subject and did not persue it any further.Your not answering me means ONLY one thing: You were just trying to bring up the word HAMA without being interested in anything else.


May 24th, 2008, 7:43 pm


wizart said:


There’s a very nice book out there called “the speed of trust” which I read and gave as a gift to a VIP in Syria. I think it’s very important to build that kind of trust among various groups and government in any society before real reform can take shape.

By the way I did attend a symposium on interfaith co-habitation in Damascus a couple years ago where I think Syria’s highly respected Mufti Hassoon (pictured above) embrased the head of Christianity in Syria and the minister of religion was there to give a nice speech as well explaining the country’s rich religious character.

Syrians in general can often be too quick to criticize which may actually amplify problems they wanted to solve. This explains why many have migrated and perhaps can see things in broader lights now and act to bridge the gaps by seeing what worked and building on it unstead of seeing what didn’t work and criticizing all of it.

May 24th, 2008, 8:30 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I answered you already. You missed my comment:


May 24th, 2008, 10:08 pm


trustquest said:

Thanks Wizart for the advice, however in the matter of trust there is a very little of it and not only my feeling it is the historical facts we accumulate through the years.
(SxE) T = R
For forty years we have been believing that there is a Strategy and we tried to believe in the power of Executive branch to Execute this Strategy, and we have been giving high Trust to the System and always we were disappointed, the Results were and still very low. Right now based on experience the Trust is very low even when they claim there is a new Strategy but the still the same team of Executioners, however even if we were naives we should realize that they can not get results and our Trust is almost zero. I hope the VP will read the book and try to implement some of the idea. I know for sure that without trust there is no open society, because there are not enough police to guard every opening in open society. Excerpt from the quote to Friedman, I can tell you the regime in Syria does not trust anyone, for this reason they assigned a secret police for every 100 persons and they are really active and productive since the seventies replacing Trust with secrete police. They use military service to achieve their numbers from informers, and test this, visit any family in Syria and a secrete service will pay them a visit the following day. I know Trust is a two ways street and it starts from the top not from the bottom. Executive should apply trust to get results, not the opposite way. Sorry for the deviation from the subject of reform but still as reform implemented early as possible, Trust could be salvaged if it is not too late.
When I mentioned Immams meetings I meant the national dialogue regarding difference in religion affiliation since the disease of sectarianism is spreading in the middleeast really fast and the reaction from elites and governments to undertake the problem is very urgent. I also meant the removal of the stones in the way of reconciliation and the openness and the sharing of all communities.

May 24th, 2008, 10:55 pm


Alex said:


This morning I suggested to all of you (highly educated,secular) Syrians to try an experimental discussion of this topic on Creative Syria … for each one of you to write his proposals on how Syria should proceed in order to settle what needs to be settled, and to start the healing process …

But no one here expressed any interest in proposing concrete solutions. I would have been really interested in this experiment.

I heard so much about the problems, but I heard very little about a possible solution to those problems.

As for my preference to wait … this time it is not my typical 7-15 year waiting. I think that by next year many things can change … the environment can become much more friendly.

Why do I insist on keeping the Saudi Press out of our national reconciliation dialogue? .. because the Saudis are half wahabi … And they have money and they often attracted to influencing change is Syria to their liking. Starting from 79 when they financed the ikhwan, until 2008 when they worked 24 hours a day to promote Sunni shia fighting in Lebanon.

They are dangerous.

May 25th, 2008, 12:36 am


SHAMI said:

79 when they financed the ikhwan

Alex this is not true,but the opposite is true , there is no regime in the world that received more money from the saudis than the syrian regime,especially during the 70’s and 80’s.
And of course it was a mistake from them and now they regret but in the end Syrians and Saudis are mostly arabs and share religious and family ties …the Saudis in general are no more the uneducated beduins or the religious extremists of 20 years ago.

May 25th, 2008, 1:10 am


Alex said:


What happened in 79-82 is not a mystery.

And what happened the past few weeks in Alarabyia and Asharq Alawsat was NOT reassuring at all.

I did not call them beduins by the way .. Turki Alfaisal is as sophisticated as any european king. So is Saud Elfaisal.

But the kingdom has two incompatible personalities .. the western-frinedly reform-freindly … or the backward sectarian Wahabi.

Sometimes they act in an attractive way, sometimes they are lethal.

To me, Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia provide most of the reasons why I would worry about the future of the Middle East …

With all the valid criticism of the Syrian regime, Syria is the only country that opened its doors to millions of Arab and non Arab (Armenian and Kurdish) refugees throughout the past century.

While Ehsani and Observer talk about Syrian Christians and Muslims not wanting to marry from different religions, both Christians and Muslims opened their homes to hundreds of thousands of Lebanese refugees in summer 2006… no one asked their Lebanese guests if they were Christians, Shia, Druze or Sunnis.

So, I am (if you have noticed yet) on Offended’s side.

There is so much to make me hopeful that Syria will save the Middle East from sectarian conflicts.

But the regime needs to do some more … I know what they are doing, and much of it is very good, but … more is needed.

I am looking for next year inshallah.

It’s ok to wait a year, no?

May 25th, 2008, 1:25 am


Majhool said:

Very quickly: few pointers on reconciliation :

The interests of communities in Syria are often times divided across religious lines. In order to defuse this alarming reality: the following is needed:
1) The government must allow unions and for-cause civil society organizations to work and organize freely. this is needed in order to draw new non-sectarian lines for community interests.
2) The government must stop its sectarian practices such as:
A) banning Sunnis from joining the army and Mukhabarat must stop
B) Also, no preference should be given to the minorities to lead public administration.
C) Mukhabarat and Baath should have no say in appointing public officials and civil servants.
D) Harassment of Sunnis must stop. Members of the MB and their relative must be allowed to return given they agree to abandon violence.

A new constitution must be drafted to guarantee personal freedoms and minority religious sects. The Army and presidency must be the protector of the constitution.

The government must lift emergency law, new laws must be instituted to punish those who use religion to advance their political agenda. a few months in prison/ or a fine must be imposed.

This needed to be done in phases
a total of 3 years to lift emergency laws and reform judiciary.
a total of 5 years to allow Unions to regain their role before a new election law is in place.

May 25th, 2008, 1:43 am


Alex said:

From Jihad Khazen (alhayat) about President Bush in Egypt

«الأهرام» و«الأخبار» و«الجمهورية» استقبلت جورج بوش يوم وصوله في 17 الجاري بافتتاحيات في صفحاتها الأولى تنتقده، وحملت على «خطابه التوراتي» وتحدثت عن «غضب عربي وإسلامي لانحياز بوش الأعمى لإسرائيل»، وكيف انه «نسف أي صدقية لأميركا كوسيط في عملية السلام» وأنه «يريد تفصيل الشرق الأوسط على قياس إسرائيل».

وأكملت الصحف المعارضة والمستقلة، فقالت: «سدو أنوفكم… بوش في مصر اليوم»، و«الشيطان يعظ» و«لا أهلاً ولا سهلاً يا بوش…».

قضيت أسبوعاً في مصر رد إليّ كثيراً من ثقتي بالإنسان العربي بعد أن هزّتها الكوارث الأخيرة، والشارع المصري هو أكثر الشوارع العربية وعياً سياسياً والتزاماً بالقضايا الوطنية، وتبقى القضية الفلسطينية القضية الأولى والأخيرة لهذا الشعب.

كان الرئيس حسني مبارك يقود الشارع المصري عندما انسحب قبل أن يلقي بوش خطابه في افتتاح مؤتمر الشرق الأوسط للمنتدى الاقتصادي العالمي في شرم الشيخ. ولا بد من أن القراء رأوا المشهد التاريخي على التلفزيون، إلا أنني أشرح لهم الخلفية بحكم عضويتي القديمة في لجان «دافوس».

منظمو المؤتمر اقترحوا أن يتحدث الرئيس مبارك، وبعده الملك عبدالله ثم الرئيس بوش، وقَبِل الثلاثة الترتيب. غير أن الأميركيين طلبوا أن يكون بوش ثانياً، ثم قالوا انه لن يحضر خطابَي الزعيمين العربيين، وإنما سيبقى خارجاً، ويلقي خطابه وينسحب.

وبما أن الأميركيين وزعوا سلفاً نسخاً من الخطاب، فقد قرأه الرئيس مبارك، وانسحب بعد إلقائه كلمته، وفعل مثله الملك عبدالله. وكان جميلاً أن يرى العالم انسحاب الوفد الكويتي برئاسة الشيخ ناصر محمد الأحمد، رئيس الوزراء المستقيل والمكلف. وهو في الواقع لم يكن انسحاباً، فالشيخ ناصر كان على موعد مع الرئيس مبارك في الساعة الثالثة والنصف بعد الظهر، فذهب ووفده الى ذلك الاجتماع المقرر وبدا خروجهم انسحاباً، فكأن الكويت عادت الى سياسات الستينات والسبعينات.

May 25th, 2008, 2:14 am


majedkhaldoun said:

until 2008 when they worked 24 hours a day to promote Sunni shia fighting in Lebanon.
how wrong ,you could get!

May 25th, 2008, 2:17 am


majedkhaldoun said:

In Lebanon;
now there is president, he will try to settle the difference between sunni and Gemeyel ,on one side, and opposition on the other side.is he going to be weak?I think his job is to lead, not to be the one to settle dispute between kids.
Who is going to be the head of the army?
who is going to be prime minister, Seniora may not accept the job,I think he is right in needing vacation, in my opinion he is the best PM the arab has had.
Did the sunni get fed up with Hasan Nasrallah? who just signed that he is not going to use his military power again?what will happen if he use it again?.
what I meant there are many questions, I do not think the problems were solved, we just have a dressing over the wound, so we do not see it again , till november.

May 25th, 2008, 2:37 am


SHAMI said:

in my opinion he is the best PM the arab has had

I agree Majed, Haj Fouad Siniora is wonderful.

May 25th, 2008, 2:52 am


Alex said:


I know we disagree about Saudi Arabia. And the way I wrote that sentence was not right … I did not mean to claim that from 1979 to 2008 the saudis were trying to start sectarian conflicts. I was talking about 1979 (their support to the ikhwan), and 2008 (not the whole period from 79 until today)

I think Salim Hoss is wonderful, not Fouad seniora. After decades of service to his country, Dr. Salim Hoss still has all of Lebanon behind him. After a year or two, Seniora divided the country … half he Lebanese do not respect him or trust him.

May 25th, 2008, 3:13 am


majedkhaldoun said:

Salim Al Hoss is a good person, I have doubt that he would be next PM, if he became PM,it would be very good for Lebanon.both M Suleiman, and the next prime minister will be tested,by someone.

May 25th, 2008, 4:35 am


Alex said:

Spanish King, many French officials (including FM) communicate with President Assad and FM Mouallem to express their gratitude for Syria’s help in reaching the Doha agreement on Lebanon.

Arab league secretary general Amr Mousa will meet with Assad in Damascus to discuss “extending the Arab league’s success in Lebanon to other Arab problems, especially towards reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah”.

It seems Syria plans to show that under its leadership of the Arab League this year good things will happen in the Arab world. This requires a partial playing of some of Syria’s “cards” … Lebanese opposition and Hamas. It will be a delicate balancing act … playing those cards (settling conflicts) while keeping them (the cards) for negotiations with Israel.

موسى يلتقي الأسد غداً ودمشق تتوقع من الدول العربية والأوروبية «الوفاء بالتزاماتها» … كوشنير طلب لقاء المعلم في بيروت «تقديراً» لجهود سورية في حل الأزمة اللبنانية
دمشق – إبراهيم حميدي الحياة – 25/05/08//

قالت مصادر مطلعة لـ «الحياة» أمس إن وزير الخارجية الفرنسي برنار كوشنير طلب عبر سفارة بلاده في دمشق، من وزارة الخارجية السورية، تحديد موعد للقاء نظيره السوري وليد المعلم على هامش مراسم الجلسة البرلمانية المخصصة لانتخاب العماد ميشال سليمان رئيساً للبنان بعد ظهر اليوم.
الى ذلك، قالت المصادر ان الأمين العام لجامعة الدول العربية عمرو موسى سيزور دمشق صباح غد للقاء الرئيس بشار الأسد باعتباره رئيساً للقمة العربية، ذلك ان دمشق «تريد تعميم النجاح العربي في حل الأزمة اللبنانية على بقية الأزمات العربية وخصوصاً المصالحة الفلسطينية».
وأشارت المصادر الى أن الجانب السوري لم يبلغ السفارة الفرنسية تأكيداً لحصول اللقاء، تاركاً الموضوع للإمكانات المتوافرة خلال مراسم تسلم العماد سليمان الرئاسة، ذلك أن «الوقت ضيق» والمعلم سيشارك في الجلسة الانتخابية ومراسم التسلم مع توقع أن ينقل الى سليمان تهنئة القيادة السورية بعد ذلك.
وعلم أن الحكومة الفرنسية تبحث في اتخاذ جملة من «الإجراءات الحذرة» للتعبير عن تقدير الجهود السورية في التوصل الى اتفاق الدوحة بين الفرقاء اللبنانيين وبدء مسار المفاوضات غير المباشرة بين سورية واسرائيل، بينها «تحريك» توقيع اتفاق الشراكة السورية – الأوروبية المجمدة منذ بداية العام 2005 وقيام كوشنير بزيارة دمشق.
وقالت مصادر سورية رفيعة لـ «الحياة» ان دمشق تتوقع من جميع الدول العربية والأوروبية «الوفاء بالتزاماتها من أن حل الأزمة اللبنانية سيساهم في فتح صفحة جديدة بينها وبين سورية».
وكان الوزير المعلم تلقى اتصالين هاتفيين من مسؤول الشؤون الخارجية في الاتحاد الأوروبي خافيير سولانا ووزير الخارجية الاسباني ميغيل انخيل موراتينوس. كما اتصل الملك الاسباني خوان كارلوس بالرئيس الأسد. وقالت مصادر رسمية ان هذه الاتصالات تضمنت «التعبير عن تقدير جهود سورية لإنجاز اتفاق الدوحة».
وكان السفير الفرنسي المختص بموضوع الاتحاد المتوسطي آلان لوروا زار دمشق يوم الخميس الماضي والتقى الوزير المعلم ومعاونه عبدالفتاح عمورة، بهدف «التعبير الملموس» عن ملاحظة الجهود السورية في اتفاق الدوحة و «البحث في موضوع الاتحاد المتوسطي»، ذلك قبل اللقاء الوزاري العربي الذي عقد أمس في القاهرة وقبل اللقاء التنسيقي المقرر بين مسؤولين عرب وأوروبيين في سلوفينيا.
وأوضحت المصادر السورية أن لدى دمشق «الكثير من التحفظات» التي تختصر بنقطة سياسية واحدة وهي ألا يتحول الاتحاد المتوسطي الى «منتدى للتطبيع المجاني مع اسرائيل».
وأشارت المصادر الى ان الجانب السوري يسعى الى إدخال بعض التعديلات في آلية عمل الاتحاد المتوسطي، وان محادثات السفير لورا ساهمت في توافر «فهم أعمق» للمرحلة المقبلة. وزادت أن ثلاث نقاط تسعى دمشق الى تحقيقها: ان يكون الاتحاد المتوسطي في إطار عملية برشلونة وليس منفصلاً تماماً عنها، ان تكون سكرتارية المشروع محدودة المشاركين، وألا تعقد الاجتماعات المشتركة في الدول العربية.
وكان الرئيس الفرنسي نيكولا ساركوزي دعا الأسد الى حضور القمة المخصصة لإطلاق «عملية برشلونة: نحو اتحاد متوسطي» في باريس في 13 تموز (يوليو) المقبل. وقالت المصادر: «القرار لم يتخذ بعد في شأن المشاركة»، مشيرة الى أهمية إجراء بعض التعديلات في آليات المشروع.

May 25th, 2008, 5:46 am


MNA said:

Alex said: There is so much to make me hopeful that Syria will save the Middle East from sectarian conflicts.

And what has happened in the last few years is a prime example of that. Saudi Arabia has been trying ruthlessly for the past few years to incite Sunni against shiaa in Lebanon and despite that all, Nasrallah is still the most popular figure in Syria, an over whelming Sunni country.

May 25th, 2008, 5:47 am


Sami Moubayed said:

I am a good friend of Hind Kabawat and I feel it is my duty to tell her ‘thank you Hind’ for writing this. Christians are indeed living side-by-side, and shoulder-to-shohulder, with Muslims in this country. Is everyone living in harmony? No, there are exceptions just like there would be anywhere. There are Muslims who want to write off Christians both in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Palestine. There are Christians who want to write off Muslims as well. Its people like Hind who are, and should, represent inter-faith dialogue. A friend of all, a firm believer in justice, she has charted new territory in Syria by bringing Christians, Jews, and Muslims together. I have seen that many times at the forums held at her house. This article does not come from Disneyland. it comes from Damascus…Christian Damascus. Thank you Hind

May 25th, 2008, 6:21 am


offended said:

Wanna know what makes the difference between a writer and novice commentator?

Sami’s just articulated what I’ve been trying to say since yesterday.

May 25th, 2008, 9:59 am


offended said:

Wounds under white dressing.
Cracks under smooth veneer.
Raging undercurrents beneath the calm surface.

These are great metaphors. But I wouldn’t get carried away using them.

May 25th, 2008, 10:07 am


ausamaa said:

I noticed that the King of Spain congratulated President Assad on the success of the efforts to resolve the Lebanese situation!!!

It took me a while to understand why Spain, until I realised that he is trying to appease Assad so Syria will allow a small role for Solana (Spanish, isn’t he)in the Syrian-Israeli Peace Talks.

Unless the King of Spain really likes Syria.

And Amer Mousa in Damascuse tomorrow?!

By the way, any bets on how many ministers the victorious Hizbullah will ask for in the new government?

ONE only, anyone wants to bet?

May 25th, 2008, 10:28 am


ausamaa said:

Since morning, I am glued to TV watching all the dignitaries arriving to share this Historic Moment with the Lebanese people. They remind me of the old Arab movie: A Wittness Who Saw Nothing (شاهد ما شافش حاجة ). NTV, Manar and NBN are making sure to mention that they are being received by the Foreign Minister Salookh, and the Head of Airport Security, Wafeeq Shuqair who was “ex-comunicated” by the Siniora Government few days ago.

For the life of me, I do not want to miss the look on the faces of the gednitaries espicially Lasrsen, Saud al Faisal and the American batch, when the new president Michel Sulieman, thanks Syria and when he reitrates the indesputable right of the Resistance(i.e.HIzbullah) to fight Israel. And they will clap their hands for protocole purposes despite the fact that the number one Priority or Interest for most of them in Lebanon since 2005 was the dissarmament of Hizbullah. Which, needless to say, was not acheived.

And for all those concerned, the Saudi Ambassador has returned to Beirut as quickly and discreatly as he had abandoned it. The unexpected Plan B, I guess!

Hypocricy knows no limit..

May 25th, 2008, 10:59 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Now who’s skirting the issue? 😉

(I responded to your question way up the thread, and then responded again to tell you I’d responded.)

Bas shbi3na ta2 7anak…

May 25th, 2008, 11:28 am


EHSANI2 said:


Very well articulated comment, thank you.


You the best that Aleppo has to offer man.

Syria was reportedly 90 Percent Christian when the Arab conquest reached it by 634-636.

It is now 1375 years since Khaled Ben-Alwaleed spearheaded the conquest that spread Islam in this land. Close to two million Christians have remained to their faith. While they only now make 10 percent of the country’s population, they have survived and thrived in this land. Had it not been for the creation of the state of Israel, the country’s Jewish population would have also perhaps remained and lived side by side creating this mosaic that we all dream to maintain and treasure in our region.

May 25th, 2008, 12:15 pm


ausamaa said:

Qifa Nabki,

Your question was: “Just curious, and while we are on the subject of public education in Syria, what is the official narrative on the crackdown against the Ikhwan, and Hama more specifically?”

And your answer was: “I will tell you that as far as I know, Sabra and Shatila, Frangieh, Chamouns, Karami, etc. are not avoided discussion topics. Plus, there have been several documentaries made about the war that address these topics directly, and which have aired on Tele Liban.”

So while you where questioning how Public Educationa in Syria handeled the issue Ikhwan and Hama, your reply about the massacres in Lebanon referred to the massacres being “not avoided discussion topics”, PLUS “several documentaries..aired on Tele Liban”

That is a model answer to a well-intentioned question.

In other words, the Lebanese Public Education System (despite claims of Lebanese cultural and political oppeness, advancement and sophistication) has failed miserably in shedding light on, and on seriously tackling the issue of the tens of Slaughters and Massacres and the tens of Lebanese Hama’s that took place in Lebanon during the last thirty years!

In a more “tangible” approach, suffice it to say that Hama was years ago and today’s Syria does not live in the daily ugly shaddows of fears of sectsarian or ethnic Civil War in which you believe Lebanon lives in till this day. So, you tell me now: Which society has been better capable of handling such tragic issues and which society has miserably failed in this task?

Thank you sir..!!!

Now, let us go watch the Election of General Michele Suliman and listen to his Oath. And watch the nice faces of all those people who loved Lebanon almost to death…!! Thanks God we did not let them love Syria that much.

May 25th, 2008, 1:02 pm


SHAMI said:

Ehsan you said about Aleppo:The Christians lived in a small circle in the city….
In fact this is the situation today but it was not the case in Ottoman Aleppo.
You would be surprised if i say you that most of christians in Ottoman Aleppo lived in mixed neighborhoods.According to the census(1920’s)taken by the historian of Aleppo,Sheikh Kamel al Ghazzi, the only pur christian district was a small triangle in Jdaydeh called Saliba in which are concentrated their cathedrals .From Saliba to Banqusa it was mixed from 99% christian in Saliba to 50% christian near Aqyor.More surprising,al Aqaba and Jalum in muslim intra muros Aleppo had a large christian minority(western and syrian christians) ,especially in al Aqaba which had 40% of christians and Jalum in which were located a big church and an important christian school build by the Franciscan Order and the jesuits in the 19th century,only the school building remained ,the church was destroyed relatively recently.
I took this old picture from Alex’s wonderful site ,you can perceive the church’s dome with its cross between the Ottoman minarets.
As for the jews of Aleppo,they lived in the Intra Muros neighborhoods of Bahsita(60% jewish in the 20’s) and Bandara and in late ottoman era many rich jews moved to the mixed suburb of Jamiliya.

May 25th, 2008, 1:39 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Documentaries that air on Tele Liban are as close as you can get to the “official narrative” that I asked about. So my response directly addressed the question I asked.

As for the public education system, as I said, Sabra & Shatila and all of the other atrocities of the Civil War are not avoided discussion topics… IN SCHOOL!!! (I assumed you understood what I was talking about, but maybe you need some help).

Syria does not live in the daily ugly shaddows of fears of sectsarian or ethnic Civil War in which you believe Lebanon lives in till this day. So, you tell me now: Which society has been better capable of handling such tragic issues and which society has miserably failed in this task?

Ausamaa, I am wholehearted supporter of your campaign to convince yourself that everything in Syria is A-OK, and that everything in Lebanon is terrible. Please, keep convincing yourself of that. Bravo!

May 25th, 2008, 1:53 pm


ausamaa said:

Qifa Nabki,

See, discussing issues openly can lead you to change your mind. At least, my efforts have not been totaly wasted. Thank you for your such support.

BTW, did you hear the last advice extended by the Qatari Prime Minister to the Lebanese at the end of his interview with Al Jazeera’s Bin Jiddo few minutes ago. Give it a thought (or look it up first if you have not heard it). It will be worth your while.

May 25th, 2008, 2:01 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Ausamma said:

Hypocricy knows no limit…

Neither does the ideology of jihad and the despots who depend on it.

May 25th, 2008, 2:48 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sleiman according to Now Lebanon said:
“The continuation of Israeli aggressions necessitates the creation of a defense strategy which allows us to make use of the resistance’s experience. ”

It clearly does not say that the “resistance” is the answer to Israel. It seems to me that he is not endorssing the “resistance” but maybe in Arabic the meaning is different.

May 25th, 2008, 3:31 pm


Hind Aboud Kabawat said:

Ihasani 2, Sami, Alex, Zenoubia and all the other friends:

I apologize for not being able to contribute more often, but I really wanted a chance to apply to Ehsani 2’s question about how many Christians can actually have dinner with Muslims in Syria. The question made be start to counts, something which I am embarrassed about as it goes against my principles.
Yesterday May 24, 2008. I left home with my Muslim driver, to pick up a Muslim friend to a concert at the Opera House in Damascus, organized by both Muslim and Christian heads of various corporations. Afterwards, I went out for dinner with a group of Muslim and Christian friends.
My power of attorney is in the hands of one of my best friends, a Muslim who I studied with at the University of Damascus and who witnessed the violence there with me in 1981.
When her mother died the writer Souad Mirza, I went to the women’s funeral. I sat, wearing hijab and reading Quran with her, for three days.
I carry in my power the keys to my friends house in Beirut, who are Muslim/
One of the bride’s maids at my (Christian) wedding was Muslim. and I consider her my sister Diala Al-Wadi the daughter of the Late legend Solhi Al-Wadi.
I consider the Grand Mufti of Syria, Dr.Ahmad Hassoun, my mentor. When he was asked by a western diplomat how many Christians there are in Syria, he told him 18 million, which is the total population of Syria. When he was asked for clarification, he said that you can’t be a Muslim if you don’t believe in Christianity, and therefore we are all Christian.
What bothers me right now is that I have to talk about how we Christians and Muslims are friends.

This morning Sunday May 25. I got back from visiting the church in Sednaya, near Damascus. When I was there I started counting Muslims and Christians. At least 15% of the visitors were Muslim women wearing headscarves. Other than that it was impossible to tell peoples religion from just looking at them, but the percentage must be much higher. Sami, I would like to thank you and the others for support, and you are completely right when you say that we are not in Disneyland, we are in Damascus, a city whose history of tolerance is contently being tested.
I was visiting Sednaya with my two wonderful friends Wadiha Kilo and Raghida Buni. Please pray (regardless of your religion) for the release of their husbands and for our great country.

May 25th, 2008, 3:40 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Well, Sleiman sounds completely different from Lahoud. It looks like he was saying that the “resistance” needs to be integrated into the army and that the border between Lebanon and Syria should be demarcated.

May 25th, 2008, 3:50 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Dear Hind,

My question was meant to be provocative (Alex, you may want to add).

As I wrote above, it is now 1375 years since Islam came to Syria. While the Christians lost their 90% majority, the fact is that they are still there. Their people and churches are alive and well.

The reason I asked my question is to highlight the fact that Syrians must thrive to increase the interaction with their compatriots who happen to share a different religion than their own.

May 25th, 2008, 3:59 pm


Nidal said:

I must say ‘thank you Hind’ for writing this excellent piece (and the last comment). This should serve as a model for all of us. As a Lebanese-Canadian christian (who spends several months a year in Lebanon), my best friends are muslims – shiites and sunnis. We grew up together, not knowing we were of different religions. We studied together, debated countless times over religion, politics, and socio-economic issues. We share everything in our lives – family losses and personal successes, celebrating christian and muslim holidays, etc… I can fully relate to what Hind is describing. I can only wish I had a jew, a buddhist and a hindu as best friends, and not only as friends or acquaintances.

Thank you Hind

May 25th, 2008, 4:07 pm


ausamaa said:

Akbar Palace,

For the first time you are right. I said: “Hypocricy knows no limit… ” and

you said: ” Neither does the ideology of jihad………..”

You are 100% Right. Who was it that was complaining about your not knowing what is happening around this area. Well, at least on this issue, you do really know what you were talking about..

Tell your side to be on the look out forever, or until Israel implements all the resolutions of the UN Security Council related to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian Rights.

May 25th, 2008, 4:33 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Thanks for the warning Ausamaa, it just confirms that you never had peaceful intentions.

May 25th, 2008, 4:35 pm


ausamaa said:


You are welcome. But you did not need my confirmation, did you? You would have been dump if you expected anything else from the Arabs. Come on, you always knew it, but again, you thought you can get away from it somehow. Fortunately for you and us , now you know better..

May 25th, 2008, 4:52 pm


offended said:

Ehsani Sir, thank you very much for the compliment. I am very humbled that it comes from a scholarly person like you 🙂

May 25th, 2008, 4:58 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

Ehsani ; you did not say why.why the Moslems left 10 % of the country as Christians, when Syria was the capital of Islam ,Amawyyeen.

May 25th, 2008, 5:11 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Ausamaa recommends:

Tell your side to be on the look out forever…

Good. And when the next anti-Zionist whines that Israel is “paranoid”, I’ll send them to you for clarification.

May 25th, 2008, 5:28 pm


offended said:


you dont sound too paraniod.

May 25th, 2008, 5:47 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I expect some Arabs to continue thinking like you and that is why I think peace before there is democracy in the Arab world is a waste of time. Thank you again for proving my point.

May 25th, 2008, 5:56 pm


ausamaa said:


I beg to differ with you. If you were “acting” the way ISRAEL has always acted, Paranoid would be the best face I would put on how you would really be feeling.

Heck man, imagin if you have broken and entered into a third floor appartment of twenty or so appartments in a building belonging to one extended family, you kicked the occupants of that appartment out and acted like a building thug for over sixty years just because you were better armed and because you where supported by bigger bullies who lived miles away. The children of the occupants in the appartment building grow up, you punish them, they don’t flee, you beat them and they come back at you, and then those on the same floor start holding you at pay, they force you to leave one of the stolen appartment rooms, then another, your old supporters are getting in deep troubles day after day, and the residents of the original stolen appartment (some of who still live on the staircase) and their kinfolk keep knocking at your door asking for their rights… How would you feel then???

Man, calling you “paranoid” would be putting it very very very mildely; Maniac anti-social depressive sucidal would be a more better description, but still far away from the truth.

That is if you were acting like Israel.

Paranoid?? You gotta be jocking!

May 25th, 2008, 6:11 pm


wizart said:

TrustQuest, Sami..

Thanks for your recent comments and I regret to inform you that my earlier reply to you this morning was filtered out for some reason.

May 25th, 2008, 6:19 pm


offended said:

Aussama, I like your analogy. very expressive indeed.

But we are about to talk peace with this neighbor, aren’t we? : )

May 25th, 2008, 6:22 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

A good day for Lebanon.

Suleiman gave a good speech, hitting all of the trouble spots in a thoughtful way: the Hizb’s weapons, the Tribunal, relations with Syria, national reconciliation.

The mood in Lebanon is jubilant. Let’s hope the momentum is not lost or wasted on political infighting. Some priorities:

* Fleshing out the electoral law so that it ensures free and fair elections in 2009.

* Strengthening the internal security forces and the army to begin to reassert state authority over all of Lebanon.

* Formation of an economic rescue plan to address the disastrous debt situation.

* Development of a national defense strategy, with commitments by Hizbullah to coordinate with the Lebanese state, and to establish clear guarantees about the conditions for disarmament and integration.

* Preparing the way for further political reforms designed to move the country towards deconfessionalization, bicameralism, etc.

* Addressing the miserable state of Palestinian refugees in Lebanese camps.

* Continuing the investigations into the murders of Lebanese politicians and public figures.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten plenty of other things … but even some initial progress along these lines would be a monumental start. Let’s see what materializes.

May 25th, 2008, 6:23 pm


offended said:

QN, thanks. I missed his speech.

What did his say about relation with Syria?

May 25th, 2008, 6:29 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


He called for brotherly and equal relations between Lebanon and Syria.

Hopefully that means exchanging embassies, demarcating borders, etc.

In other news:

Lebanese environmental magazine makes shortlist for Rolex Award for Enterprise

Saturday, May 24, 2008

CAIRO: Four projects in environmental awareness and conservation from the Arab region have been shortlisted for the 2008 Rolex Awards for Enterprise, the Rolex Awards Secretariat announced in Egypt. The philanthropic program, which is to be held in the Middle East for the first time this year, rewards individuals around the world working to advance human knowledge and well-being. The regional shortlist, which includes one project each from Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and the United Arab Emirates, accounts for about 10 percent of the international shortlist of 44. The Rolex Awards Secretariat received a record 138 applications from the region for this 13th series, the highest in the program’s 32-year history. The shortlisted candidates include Najib Saab, editor in chief of the Lebanon-based Al-Bia Wal-Tanmia (Environment and Development) magazine. “We … are very pleased to draw attention to these six unique projects,” Rebecca Irvin, head of the Rolex Awards Secretariat in Geneva, said at a Cairo media briefing.

May 25th, 2008, 6:42 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Beirut shares soar on news of deal in Doha
‘It is time to make up for missed opportunities’
By Osama Habib
Daily Star staff
Thursday, May 22, 2008

BEIRUT: Shares of Solidere and other companies listed on the Beirut Stock Exchange jumped to record levels on Wednesday, hours after rival political groups inked a Qatari-sponsored deal in Doha that would end an 18-month deadlock. Shares of real-estate firm Solidere gained 15 percent, leading the market.

Solidere’s A share gained 14.3 percent to close at $31.05, and its B share rose the maximum 15 percent limit to $31.05. Some 117,000 shares changed hands.

In addition, Solidere’s GDRs, traded in London and Luxembourg, rose to $40.

Solidere shares usually account for more than 75 percent of total trading in the generally dormant Beirut bourse.

Investors and brokers who spoke to The Daily Star said they were confident that Solidere stocks would continue to climb over the next two weeks, with some even speculating a price of $45 to $50.

They added that most Lebanese and Arab investors who had earlier made commitments in the Beirut Central District did not pull out despite the spate of assassinations and bombings that have wracked Lebanon since February 2005.

“People will start filling the restaurants in the Downtown area soon after the opposition clears the camp near the Grand Serail,” one broker said.

Solidere recorded a net profit of $130 million in 2007 and brokers expect similar results this year.

The company is also planning to develop a new city in Ajman, one of the seven members of the United Arab Emirates, a project that is expected to be worth more than $55 billion.

Apart from Solidere, the stocks of banks also rose considerably on Wednesday.

Bank Audi shares gained 10 percent to close at $101.80, while BLOM stocks rose by 7.8 percent to $106.20.

Byblos Bank shares also rose by 10 percent to close at $2.76.

The BLOM stock index reached 1,880.75 points on Wednesday from 1,727.66 points on Tuesday, an increase of 8.61 percent.

Meanwhile, the president of the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon, Nabil Itani, said in a statement that he received many assurances from Arab investors that they were eager to come back to Lebanon following the political settlement in Doha.

He added that many of these investors were planning to come to Beirut soon to explore opportunities in the country.

“It is time to make up for the missed opportunities which Lebanon lost since the crisis broke out less than two years ago. This agreement in Doha will have a very positive impact on the investment climate in Lebanon,” Itani said.

He expected an economic boom to start soon.

Itani told The Daily Star recently that Lebanon lost over $7 billion in investments in 2007 due to the political crisis.

He added that Lebanon should benefit from the oil boom in the Gulf region.

Hamdi Shouk, the director general of civil aviation at Rafik Hariri International Airport, and Middle East Airlines managers said that they were confident that tourists would flock to Lebanon this summer.

The Tourism Ministry was expecting more than 1.5 million tourists to visit Lebanon in 2008 if the political crisis ended.

The mayor of Bhamdoun, a mountain resort town, told reporters that owners of restaurants and hotels were preparing to receive thousands of Arab nationals this summer.

“I have received dozens of phone calls from the Arab Gulf states inquiring about the situation in Bhamdoun. They all want to spend vacations in our village with their families this summer,” Oasta Abu Rjaili said.

The town of Bhamdoun is one of the favorite hotspots for Gulf Arab tourists.

“Kuwaiti and Saudi nationals own a lot of properties in Bhamdoun and I am sure they will come back here to check their houses in the summer,” the mayor added.

Abu Rjaili said he hoped that the agreement signed in Qatar would be implemented soon because the Lebanese desperately needed a break.

“We have more than 30 construction permits in our village that await normal conditions. Let’s hope we won’t miss anther chance this year,” he said.

May 25th, 2008, 6:46 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Apologies for the long posts… but this is good reading from Rami Khoury.

A new Middle East, but not Condi’s
By Rami G. Khouri
Daily Star staff
Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Doha agreement that resolved the immediate political crisis in Lebanon is the latest example of the new political power equation that is redefining the Middle East. It reflects both local and global forces and, 18 years after the Cold War ended, provides a glimpse of what a post-Cold War world will look like, at least in the Middle East.

Several dynamics seem to be at play, but one is paramount: the clear limits of the projection of American global power, combined with the assertion and coexistence of multiple regional powers – Turkey, Israel, Iran, Hizbullah, Syria, Hamas, Saudi Arabia and others. These regional actors tend to fight and negotiate at the same time, and ultimately prefer to make compromises rather than perpetually wage absolutist battles.

The Doha accord for Lebanon was much more than simply a victory for Iranian-backed Hizbullah over the American-backed March 14 alliance. It was the first concrete example in the Arab world of a negotiated, formal political agreement by local adversaries to share power and make big national decisions collectively, while maintaining close strategic relationships with diverse external patrons in the United States, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria. The Lebanese agreement (unlike the failed Fatah-Hamas unity government agreement) is likely to succeed because all the parties know that to live together peacefully they must make mutual compromises. This accord has been forged in the furnace of Middle Eastern demographic and political realism, in contrast to the hallucinatory absolutism that often drives US-Israeli policy in the region.

The US was not fully defeated, but it was fought to a draw. Recent events put into concrete political form the most powerful force that has defined the Middle East in recent decades: the willingness of individuals, political movements and some governments to openly defy, challenge, resist and occasionally fight the United States, Israel and their Arab and other allies. The US since 2004 has explicitly, repeatedly and passionately singled out Lebanon as an arena where Hizbullah and other regional Islamist forces backed by Iran and Syria would be faced down and defeated. Next week, the US, though its Lebanese allies, will face these forces from across the same Cabinet room table, not as bludgeoned and defeated foes, but rather as partners and colleagues in the national-unity government that is to be formed. When Hizbullah and Hariri exchange kisses, befuddled Condoleezza Rice should take care not to fall off her exercise bicycle.

The US is a slow learner in the Middle East, where the terrain is strange to it, the body language bizarre, the fierce power of historical memory incomprehensible, and the negotiating techniques other-worldly. But the US is not stupid. It learns over time that if you retread a flat tire over and over again, and it keeps going flat on you, perhaps it’s time to buy a new tire if you hope to move forward. Now that we have a draw in the broad ideological confrontation throughout the Middle East that pits Israeli-Americanism against Arab Islamo-nationalism, we should expect the players to reconsider their policies if they wish to make new gains.

This, however, is not the most significant development this week that reflects the limits of American power in the Middle East. The remarkable manifestation of how the US has marginalized itself is the conduct of the Israeli government. The US has pushed the Israelis hard to do two things in the past two years: to not negotiate with Syria and to not engage Hamas. What has Israel done? It has been wisely negotiating with Syria via Turkey, and engaging Hamas on a truce deal through the mediation of Egypt. Hold on, Condi, this gets even worse.

It is no big deal in Washington when nearly 500 million Arabs, Iranians and Turks ignore and defy the US. But when Israel – the only democracy in the Middle East, America’s eternal ally, and the bastion of the epic modern struggle against fascism, totalitarianism, Nazism, communism and terrorism – ignores the United States, that is newsworthy.

So we now have a rare moment in the Middle East: Iran, Turkey, all the Arabs, Hizbullah, Hamas and Israel all share one and only one common trait: They routinely ignore the advice, and the occasional threats, they get from Washington. Condoleezza Rice was correct in summer 2006 when she said we are witnessing the birth pangs of a new Middle East. But the new regional configuration is very different from what she had in mind and tried to bring into being with multiple wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Somalia and Lebanon, and threats against Iran and Syria. The new rules of the political game in the Middle East are now being written by the key players in the Middle East, which should be welcomed.

Rami G. Khouri is published twice-weekly by THE DAILY STAR.

May 25th, 2008, 6:51 pm


offended said:

QN, all this fine and dandy.

What’s your guts feeling? You hopeful?

May 25th, 2008, 7:08 pm


ausamaa said:

Qifa Nabki,

Are you watching Lebanon’s ex finance minister George Qorum on NBN now? You once asked me how I think Lebanon’s problem can be solved and I could not answer you. I can tell you that a dish does not taste good, but I can not tell you how to prepare it better. Too complicated.

But seriously, try to dig some of Mr. Qorum’s economic, social and poilitical writings, and he seems to provide very good objective Analysis and Answers. Maybe you are familiar with him allready.

May 25th, 2008, 7:22 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


To be honest, my gut is right now full of celebratory araq and kibbeh nayyeh.


I am hopeful and paranoid at the same time. Paranoid because one never knows who will try to stir the pot again: Jumblatt, Geagea, Aoun… all of them lost out in some way as a result of the Doha Accord, so we may see some trouble in the near future.

(Plus, Suleiman’s establishment of a Christian base for himself will negatively impinge upon both Aoun and Geagea, so they may be threatened by him and get nasty… especially Aoun, if he thinks that he will still be president one day.)

If Hariri and Nasrallah can reach some kind of acceptable understanding about the new red lines, then maybe Lebanon will be ok… in the short term. In the longer term, it realy depends on how peace talks go with Israel.

At the end of the day, Syria will not tolerate losing Lebanon… the regime would rather have war than to see its most valuable card compromised before it can be played at the negotiating table.

But, again, if BOTH Hariri and Nasrallah act wisely and figure out a strategy that works to both of their benefits, then Lebanon may indeed emerge safely. This means providing guarantees on two fronts:

1. The government has to commit to maintaining the resistance until certain key demands are met, and until peace talks are well enough along as to allow Syria to slowly relinquish its grip on this valuable card, thus enabling the Hizb to become an ordinary party.

2. Hizbullah has to begin playing a more active role in supporting and strengthening the state, lending it true legitimacy and authority: ultimately, investing in it, so that its own Shi`a constituents put their faith in it as well.

So, it’s a two-way street… hopefully.

May 25th, 2008, 7:27 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I like Georges Corm, a lot.

But, sadly, I don’t have NBN where I am at the moment.

(And don’t think I didn’t notice that you never answered my question. But, in case YOU didn’t notice, I did not give you a hard time about it! Maybe I should have.)

Here’s Corm on Lebanese-Syrian relations. I think, smart and balanced:

“Avec la Syrie, il est clair au-delà de toute hésitation qu’il faut des relations très strictement égalitaires sur le plan des respects de la souveraineté. La délimitation définitive des frontières et l’établissement de relations diplomatiques, ainsi que la révision des accords passés, sont une autre composante d’une relation définitivement assainie. En contrepartie, il convient d’abandonner toute velléité de participer à des pressions occidentales ou arabes pour déstabiliser le régime de notre grand voisin. Le devoir de réserve s’impose à tous les hommes politiques dans ce domaine avec la même vigueur que pour d’autres pays arabes, comme l’Arabie saoudite.”

May 25th, 2008, 7:35 pm


ausamaa said:

Qifa Nabki,

I am also very optimistic because there is no force capable of turning the situation bad except Israel and Bush whom I do not think they have time for this now.

And I hate to be the constant spoiler, but how can you expect that Mini Harriri will act in a wise manner. The Guy is a kid. Really. It is not like it was the sudden Wisdome which has downed on him recently that made things move forward..!!

But again, things lack a Sparking Blug to start the Engine of Problems now, so, things will be Ok for a while. Some quibbling over ministrial seats, but nothing more until Election time in 2009 threatens to sorts things out.

Unless the “Ghosts” reappear again with a different agenda. But even then, it will still be drops in a bucket compared to the past.

Ya3ni, Mabrook, at last.

May 25th, 2008, 7:49 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


And I hate to be the constant spoiler, but how can you expect that Mini Harriri will act in a wise manner. The Guy is a kid. Really. It is not like it was the sudden Wisdome which has downed on him recently that made things move forward..!!

He should be able to pay for good advisers, don’t you think?

Allah ybarik fiik inshallah.

May 25th, 2008, 8:10 pm


Majhool said:

مفتي الجمهورية يدعو إلى تطوير الخطاب الديني لمواكبة المستجدات العلمية

دعا المفتي العام للجمهورية أحمد بدر الدين حسون إلى تطوير الخطاب الديني لمواكبة المستجدات العلمية وفصله عن السياسة.

Although I don’t have any issues with the separation of religion and state, I continue to believe that this is not the root cause of the problem, instead It’s the regime failure to represent the aspiration of the different communities in Syria though it’s sectarian and it’s repressive nature that does not allow the civil society and unions to assume it’s role in redefining community interests in Syria.

May 25th, 2008, 8:23 pm


ausamaa said:


Judging by the GOOD ADVISERS he has hired in the past does not give one much hope that the next batch will be of a different caliber. Any way, a quick reading of The Idiot’s Guide to Selecting Allies and Advisors ( can be ordered from Amazon and delivered by ARAMEX in two to three days) may come handy and may do him some good. If he has the patience to read it.

But seriously Qifa, you do see that Kid as Prime Minister of Lebanon? And you put in him the same League of Hassan Nassrallah or Salim al Huss or even Siniora? You trust him to head a delegation on a foreign trip alone? Official visit I mean. Come on!!! Has Lebanon run dry of respectable statesmen? The guy is a nobody, period.
Does he have a CV posted somewhere that we can check?

But anyway,if you think he is qualified… I dont know what I can tell you.. go for it man…

May 25th, 2008, 8:28 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Rami G. Khouri said (via QN):

But the new regional configuration is very different from what she had in mind and tried to bring into being with multiple wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Somalia and Lebanon, and threats against Iran and Syria.

I disagree. From my vantage point, “the new regional configuration” is a defanged Libya, a defanged Baathist Iraq, a hand-cuffed Syria and Hezbollah, an isolated Hamas and an Iran sitting at the end of a barrel.

I wonder if this is what Rami Khouri was referring to.

I’d say Condi gets a B+.

May 25th, 2008, 8:46 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

President Sul will have to depend on a base,to be effective, Aoun already has a base, he may begin to loose some, Sul may depend on the army, but then he has to strengthen it, he can make alliance with inside group, this will make him on one side, he can make agreement with foreign power, but he still needs inside base, he may ends up like Mu2wwadh,like Hillary is wishing for Obama,one thing is sure, if he appears weak, Lebanon will be worse.

May 25th, 2008, 8:47 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


First of all, I am not happy about Saad al-Hariri becoming PM of Lebanon, because he is too polarizing a figure and because he doesn’t have the requisite experience especially for this transitional period. At this moment, we need someone like Rafiq, who had a talent for building consensus and inspiring people with his ambitions, vision, (plus his money and extensive connections overseas didn’t hurt). Also, Rafiq was moderate and balanced in his views: he was very good friends with both Chirac and Sayyed Hasan; he was on good terms with both the Syrians and the Saudis, the Americans and the Iranians.

However, I think you are too harsh on Saad.

You are right: he is young. But so was Bashar (he still is), when he assumed office. In fact, Bashar was 35 when he came to power. Saad was 35 when his father was assassinated. The first several years of Bashar’s presidency were also plagued by doubts and seeming missteps. He was almost toppled from his position less than five years after he took office. He was forced out of Lebanon in disgrace. Like Saad, Bashar also had no real experience to prepare him for the job. Saad at least was in charge of running a $3.5 billion construction business.

But Bashar recovered. He made some smart bets, some smart moves, and now he has consolidated his position, eight years later.

Why don’t we wait a few years and judge Saad then?

But, as I said, I would prefer someone else in the PM spot.

May 25th, 2008, 9:53 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

New president sent all the right signals on his first try
By The Daily Star

Monday, May 26, 2008

President Michel Suleiman’s inauguration speech at Parliament on Sunday was unusual for several reasons, all of them positive. Previous addresses of this sort have tended to be vague, but this one was both comprehensive and specific in detailing the numerous daunting challenges facing this country. It was also forthright in acknowledging the issues that have recently divided Lebanon’s political parties. Perhaps most importantly, the new president clearly indicated – by both his choice of words and his tone of voice – that he intends to take charge of the reconciliation process.

As all holders of the office have discovered, being president of Lebanon has never been an easy job. Competing interests, both foreign and domestic, and the manner in which they have traditionally been pursued have often required occupants of Baabda Palace to perform all manner of political acrobatics. In addition, long periods of internecine conflict, outside interference and foreign occupation have only complicated the work of the presidency. The situation Suleiman inherits contains some of the same ingredients, but it also has some different ones, not least a chance for Lebanon to enjoy broader independence and to exercise greater sovereignty than has ever been the case.

With these opportunities come heavier responsibility, and while it is impossible to predict after less than a day what Suleiman’s presidency will accomplish, his first words as head of state were not those of someone who intends to shirk. He tackled some of the thorniest issues on the Lebanese agenda – above all the need to settle on a new national defense strategy that deals with the weapons of the resistance without squandering the gains they were used to obtain – and did so with both authority and balance.

Overall then, Suleiman has got off to a good start. He is about to receive a crash-course in the ceaseless maneuverings of the Arab world’s most raucous political class, though, so he will need all his experience to keep its denizens from slipping back into their old habits. One way or the other, he will also have to redefine the Lebanese presidency so that its form and function are in keeping with shifting realities.

In short, Suleiman’s term in office has the potential to be the most important Lebanon has ever seen. The country has just passed through a long moment of high drama and mortal peril, and he will preside over a transition to the next phase. How he does so will help to determine what that phase looks like – and so whether Lebanon can begin at last to provide all of its citizens with the homeland they deserve.

May 25th, 2008, 10:39 pm


Alex said:


I was going to answer Ausamaa through the same example.

But let me try to clarify some of the differences

1) Bashar was indeed trained … for seven years before he took over in 2000.

2) Bashar was trained by the master himself (Hafez)

3) Bashar actually served his military service.

4) Bashar’s first couple of years were mostly ok. from 2000 to 2003 he was meeting with Chirac, Blair, Queen Elizabeth, President Mubarak … Rafiq Hariri …

You are mainly referring to 2005-2006 when everything seemed to be going downhill for Syria.

5) Saad had the whole world behind him … helping him and covering for his total lack of leadership skills. Bashar had the exact opposite … the whole world against him … trying to amplify his mistakes and trying to create stories about his supposedly chaotic leadership.

You know by now the Al-Syassa and Mehlis effect on what everyone (including you) thought was the truth about Syria.

That’s it.

I am not saying Bashar did not make many rookie mistakes … but .. . there is still no comparison with Saad.

Just remember that Saad escaped outside Lebanon during the 2006 war… what kind of leader would escape his country during a war??

May 25th, 2008, 11:34 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Ehsani ; you did not say why.why the Moslems left 10 % of the country as Christians, when Syria was the capital of Islam ,Amawyyeen.


“The Great Arab Conquests” by Hugh Kennedy (Scottish Arab History Professor) is a superb narrative on the subject. I would highly recommend the book which I just finished reading. Google it and read the readers comments. You will get a good description and even a partial answer to your question above.


If I may also add this:

Bashar is the commander in chief of a 450,000 army that also happens to sit on the pinnacle of a highly centralized command structure. There is just no comparison with Saad’s job description.

May 25th, 2008, 11:44 pm


why-discuss said:


Do you see Saad Hariri in an official visit to.. Syria!. If he becomes PM, Lebanon is in for another stalemate with Syria with all the negative consequences.
Anyway Hariri is too afraid to be murdered and he has shown that he prefers to take refuge in KSA when its starts to smell bad.
He is a weak personality and will be easily manipulated and will shift accordingly as he has been by Waleed Jumblatt and Geagea for 18 months. Since he lost his mentor-protector Chirac he looks pathetically helpless. I hope a more solid and balanced sunni like Negib Mikati is chosen.

May 25th, 2008, 11:49 pm


Alex said:

My friends Ehsani, Sami and Hind

Syria passed through periods of amazing coexistence, followed by (much shorter) period or turmoil.

What I am saying is that for Syria to continue to enjoy peace, it takes

1) leadership that finds it essential to protect and reinforce the secular nature of Syria.

The Syrian regime can not survive if Syria’s Sunni majority is thinking in sectarian way.

2) and a regional environment that is not polarizing.

In 1977 ..when Christians and Muslims were killing each other in Lebanon, and when America wanted Hafez Assad to accept Camp David, Syria’s Arab neighbors (and Israel too) supported and motivated the ikhwan to do what they did.

Nowadays, with Sunni Arab countries scared from Shia Iran, and when Sunnis and Shia are killing each other in Iraq, and when the Unites States again wanted to get rid of the new Assad … again, there is an environmental danger… sectarian thinking is on the rise in Syria.

But this time it is different from 1977.

1) The regime is now more in control. What the ikhwan did 29 years ago can not be done with ease. We heard Khaddam and Ghadry and others promise many times that there will be an uprising against the regime, Khaddam even promised repeatendly that in six months .. or in three months it will happen …and none of that took place.

2) Just like the Lebanese people did not forget the ugliness of the Lebanese civil war, Syria’s population did not forget the ugliness of what the ikhwan did and … how the regime eventually responded in Hama.

3) Syria is now not fighting on the side of Christians (like Hafez did in Lebanon in 1977) but on the side of Hizbollah and Hamas … the popular Islamic forces. And maybe on the side of the (Islamic) forces fighting the Americans in Iraq too.

Bottom line is … Because it is in the regime’s interest, and because there are so many Syrians like Hind (and Sami) who are passionately working for protecting Syria’s genuinely secular nature … and because Syria managed to tame the hostile fores who were working very hard the past few years to use sectarian feelings to their advantage in the Middle East … there is a better chance for good news for the stability and peace in the Middle East.

May 25th, 2008, 11:59 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I agree with you, but I also agree with Ehsani.

As I said, I would really rather not have Saad as PM. I agree with Why-Discuss that Najib Miqati would be a better choice, or Salim al-Hoss.

Ultimately, what we need is someone with the pragmatism and ambition of Rafiq al-Hariri, the charisma and communication skills of Sayyed Hasan, and the incorruptibility of … ?

We also need someone who can make the tough decisions and explain them to the country, and there are many that await.

May 26th, 2008, 1:59 am


Qifa Nabki said:

For all of you fans of Angry Arab (myself included), sometimes his over-critical instincts get the better of him, and he treads all over someone who actually admires him, and then hears about it.

Here’s a good example… most entertaining to read:

May 26th, 2008, 2:07 am


trustquest said:

I value and enjoy your responses,
I’, not fond with the guy but I likeed reading those comparisons, You forgot to mention the movie of Julia Roberts of fighting against the odds to defend the honor of your murdered father! This is could be a plus which can not be compromise and goes deep in the Arab Psyche ).
I was surprised to hear Aoun saying on TV: that after this agreement, Lebanon can not be the only state facing Israel?
What he means by that and secondly how come he says such thing since it against the Syrian chatter and he is considered Syrian ally!

May 26th, 2008, 2:26 am


Nidal said:


I haven’t heard Aoun’s comment on TV (nor am I a Aoun follower). But I’d just like to comment on your qualifier of Aoun being a Syrian ally. Without offending you, I’d like to clarify that Aoun is not a Syrian ally. That’s a (purposely?) distorted view which is all over the mainstream media. Personally, I’d qualify him simply as a Lebanese nationalist. He believes that friendly relations with Syria is extremely important to Lebanon’s stability. If that makes him a Syrian ally, than so be it. However, qualifying someone as a Syrian ally entails reciprocally that he (or she) is anti-western (that’s the simplistic view of the mainstream media). Even when Aoun was on the brink of being ousted out of Baabda in 1991, he sent letters to French President Mitterand & US Secretary of State Baker stating specifically that, in the event of a (unlikely at the time) departure of Syrian troops from Lebanon, he would restore friendly relations with Syria. In that sense, he has been very consistent up to now (whereas the media portrays him as a flip-flopper). I hope, Truthquest, having rightfully corrected your comment.

Qifa Nabki,

I agree with your choice for Lebanon’s PM (Najib Mikati). May I simply complete your sentence “… and the incorruptibility of …”? Can’t we say that Hassan Nasrallah and Michel Aoun are incorruptable? Or do you (or anyone else) know anything about them being corrupted?

May 26th, 2008, 3:06 am


SHAMI said:

Alex:In 1977 ..when Christians and Muslims were killing each other in Lebanon, and when America wanted Hafez Assad to accept Camp David, Syria’s Arab neighbors (and Israel too) supported and motivated the ikhwan to do what they did.

Alex ,you are not obliged to repeat the regime ‘s propaganda in Canada.
As for sectarianism in Syria ,who is sectarian in Syria other than Asad and his minority family regime ?And how do you estimate the repercussion of such extra minority monopoly on syrian people mind ?
And plz stay in Syria,the problem is internal.

May 26th, 2008, 4:03 am


SHAMI said:

Thanks Nidal,Georges Corm is one of my favourite arab intellectuals despite his leftist vision.

May 26th, 2008, 4:13 am


Majhool said:


Thanks for speaking the truth. I am moderated/Blocked so it’s on you now

May 26th, 2008, 4:15 am


Alex said:


I lived those days in Aleppo (summer 1979) … where were you at the time?

You are saying that there was no outside influence on the ikhwan??

Did you forget King Hussein’s apology to Hafez Assad for his support to the ikhwan? … you sound old enough to remember.

All the “Arab moderates” did not support them?? …the fact America wanted to pressure Assad (who convinced the Arab world to boycott Egypt in 1978) does not hint to you that maybe, just maybe, the “moderate Arab” allies of the United States obliged? .. like they almost always do!

Saddam Hussein did not enjoy helping those who were going to overthrow his archenemy?

Unfortunately, there was no Internet at the time, I can’t get you links. But the situation was quite similar to the one today … Alsharq Alawsat and Alarabiya were not the tools …. money to the ikhwan was their tool… wahabis always wanted to get Syria back into proper “islamic” leadership… are you telling me that they did not get the urge to support their brothers in Syria?? .. the Alawite regime was fighting the Sunni ikhwan members and the Wahais is Saudi Arabia did not do a thing?? .. why? … they were in an exceptionally forgiving mood those days? … they watched the movie Gandhi and were affected by his peaceful philosophy?


Please put aside your “regime propaganda” charges … let me speak to you as someone who understands Syrian minorities.

First, rest assured that I felt that what happened in Hama was more sick that all the killing of innocent Syrian civilians at the hands of the ikhwan fanatics.

But Since you don’t need my help in hating what “the regime” did in Hama, I am only talking about the ikhwan and their Saudi and “moderate Arab” supporters.

As a Christian, I don’t care what is the religion of whoever governs Syria … either way, no Christian will lead Syria.

But I really worry when I speak to a smart and highly educated Sunni friend who manages to consistently be one-sided in his reviews of the performance of the current Syrian regime.

How could it be that such an outstanding person can be so blind? … so blind to really and genuinely believe that EVERYTHING that Bashar did was stupid, embarrassing, shameful, disastrous, corrupt, criminal, evil, selfish … and moronic?

When I email articles and quotes from western journalists and politicians who admit that Syria (or Bashar) did very well (in regional policies usually) .. those articles are never read. And if they are read, they are forgotten, if they are not forgotten, they are misunderstood in a diametrically opposite way… or the conclusion is “that journalist was probably not well informed about the real situation”

How could it be that Bashar is the most popular Arab head of state ina poll taken IN MODERATE ARAB COUNTRIES last month (Only Nasrallah was more popular than him)… yet many of you find me a regime apologist if I say that I am impressed with his performance (foreign policy)?

Why do I care? … because for my highly intelligent Sunni Syrian friend to not see a single good thing in the Alawite leader of Syria … there is one way to explain it … there is no tolerance and no logic and no forgiving… The Alawite must go.

Drinking wine does not make you secular. Having Christian friends does not make you secular. repeating politically correct statements like “I don’t care if an Alawite is the president as long as he is democratically elected” does not make a difference … aligning one’s self with “democracy” does not convince anymore … Khaddam does it, Ghadry does it …. even the Saudi Press criticizing Syria frequently mention the fact Syria is not a democracy!

When My Sunni friend believes that Hizbolah is scary and when Iran is scary and when Khaddam is interesting and when Saudi Arabia’s actions are wise …. I worry.

One of you here talked to me about how embarrassing it was for Bashar to challenge the Saudis … “Not that I care to defend Saudi Arabia, but …I mean, who the hell does he think he is compared to Saudi Arabia? … Saudi Arabia is a very rich and very powerful nation that does not waste time on a little annoying president of a weak country like Syria”!!

Of course, the fact that all the daily opinion pieces in Asharq Alawsat (including half their editorials) are obsessed with discrediting Syria … but my Sunni Syrian friend did not notice it. And he did not notice that tens of articles appeared in western newspapers about the Syrian Saudi competition in the area … to my Sunni Syrian friend (a very “secular” one by the way) Saudi Arabia is the Sun, and Alawite-led Syria is like smelly dirt.

Then there is this love and admiration to someone like Saad Hariri! … for god’s sake, why??

Anyway .. you understand why I am “a regime propagandist” … because THE PROBLEM IS NOT ONLY INTERNAL as you suggested…

There is an interaction between the inside and the outside… and sadly, sectarian considerations are behind some of this interaction.

If you still do not see it .. imagine if Saudi Shiites (two millions?) went on all blogs expressing their admiration of Iran and their total rejection of EVERYTHING their Sunni king tried to do. … and hen imagine is Syria and Iran dedicated half the editorials and opinion pieces in their official newspapers to attacking the Saudis in every way they can.

How will the “Saudi regime” react? .. and how will that reflect on the stability of Saudi Arabia and the region in general?

I understand that Syria is led by an authoritarian regime … I am not defending that part, and I am not defending the corruption.

But … I want Syria to remain stable and I want Syria to continue to treat all religions equally … in a real way, not through politically correct statements.

Regardless of the degree of legitimacy of the current regime … I am much more confident that THEY can keep Syria stable and tolerant .. not the fans of Saad Hariri.

And I know the regime is partly to blame … And I know that many, many Sunnis are not sectarian at all. Take our friend Offended for example. Please do not remind me of the obvious.

I just wanted to explain to you some of the reasons why many Syrian Christians worry about alternatives to the regime … you, and many others here are not helping … one sided rejection of anything coming from the regime, and automatic admiration to any Sunni Arab ruler does not sound “secular”.

May 26th, 2008, 5:48 am


Enlightened said:

My friend Alex:

Maybe this should be the new discourse:

“Non-sectarians espouse that free association and tolerance of different beliefs are the cornerstone to successful peaceful human interaction. They espouse political and religious pluralism.”

Seeing some of the comments here and their undertones, I weep for those times that Hind spoke about!

May 26th, 2008, 6:08 am


Alex said:


I am still optimistic … Hind and Sami Moubayed, and Offended, and Naji and IDAF … are genuinely secular.

There are many leaders in Syria and the region who are genuinely secular and tolerant … Bashar Assad, the Emir of Qatar, the Emir of Dubai … Salim Hoss, Michel Sleiman … Even the prime minister of Turkey. They are the ones who are winning the conflict int he Middle East so far … I want to see THEIR version of “the New Middle East” … after the failure of the sectarian version of the Neocons.

May 26th, 2008, 6:31 am


wizart said:

NPD & Religious Addiction (they go well together)

1. The Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD, 301.81) has been recognized as a separate mental health disorder since the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM), 1980.

It is described as an all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration or adulation and lack of empathy. It usually begins by early adulthood and is present in various contexts. Five (or more) of the following criteria must be met (all quotes are from Dr. Sam Vaknin’s Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited):

1. Feels grandiose and self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents to the point of lying, demands to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements);
“The narcissist is prone to magical thinking. He thinks about himself in terms of ‘being chosen’ or of ‘having a destiny’. …He believes that his life is of such momentous importance, that it is micro-managed by God. …In short, narcissism and religion go well together, because religion allows the narcissist to feel unique.”
“God is everything the narcissist ever wants to be: omniscient, omnipresent, admired, much discussed, and awe inspiring. God is the narcissist’s wet dream, his ultimate grandiose fantasy.”

2. Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion;
“The narcissist is haunted by the feeling that he is possessed of a mission, of a destiny, that he is a part of fate, of history. He is convinced that his uniqueness is purposeful, that he is meant to lead, chart new ways, to innovate to modernize, to reform, to set precedents, to create. Every act is significant, every writing of momentous consequences, every thought of revolutionary calibre. He feels part of a grand design, a world plan and the frame of affiliation, the group, of which he is a member, must be commensurately grand.”

3. Firmly convinced that he or she is unique and, being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status people (or institutions);
“The narcissist despises the very people who sustain his Ego boundaries and functions. He cannot respect people so expressly and clearly inferior to him, yet he can never associate with evidently on his level or superior to him, the risk of narcissistic injury in such associations being too great.”

4. Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation – or, failing that, wishes to be feared and to be notorious (Narcissistic Supply);
“A common error is to think that ‘narcissistic supply’ consists only of admiration, adulation and positive feedback. Actually, being feared, or derided is also supply. The main element is ATTENTION.”
“He feeds of other people, who hurl back at him an image that he projects to them. This is their sole function in his world: to reflect, to admire, to admire, to applaud, to detest – in a word, to assure him that he exists.”
“In short: the group must magnify the narcissist, echo and amplify his life, his views, his knowledge, his history…”

5. Feels entitled. Expects unreasonable or special and favorable priority treatment. Demands automatic and full compliance with his or her expectations;
“He considers his very existence as sufficiently nourishing and sustaining (of others). He feels entitled to the best others can offer without investing in maintaining relationships or in catering to the well-being of his ‘suppliers’.”

6. Is “interpersonally exploitative”, i.e., uses others to achieve his or her own ends;
“He will not hesitate to put people’s lives or fortunes at risk. He will preserve his sense of infallibility in the face of his mistakes and misjudgments by distorting the facts, by evoking mitigating or attenuating circumstances, by repressing the memories, or simply lying.”

7. Devoid of empathy. Is unable or unwilling to identify with or acknowledge the feelings and needs of others;
“But the narcissist does not care. Unable to empathize, he does not fully experience the outcomes of his deeds and decision. For him, humans are dispensable, rechargeable, reusable. They are there to fulfill a function: to supply him with Narcissistic Supply (adoration, admiration, approval, affirmation, etc.). They do not have an existence apart from the carrying out of their duty.”

8. Constantly envious of others or believes that they feel the same about him or her;
“First there is pathological envy. The narcissist is constantly envious of other people: their successes, their property, their character, their education, their children, their ideas, the fact that they can feel, their good mood, their past, their present, their spouses, their mistresses or lovers, their location.”

9. Arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes coupled with rage when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted.
“That which has cosmic implications calls for cosmic reactions. A person with an inflated sense of self-import, reacts in an exaggerated manner to threats, greatly inflated by his imagination and by the application of his personal myth.”
“Narcissists live in a state of constant rage, repressed aggression, envy and hatred. They firmly believe that everyone is like them. As a result, they are paranoid, suspicious, scared and erratic.”

P.S: This can be quite pervasive in many cultures and countries.


May 26th, 2008, 6:50 am


wizart said:

Trust is a critical component in managing change and executing reform strategies. Secularism in my opinion helps build trust and this kind of “enlightenment” starts with evidence based education within families, schools, universities and institutional levels.

Dear Sami,

I wonder what classes you teach at Kalamoon University and to what extent can you select topics for discussion when it comes to controversial areas in religion and politics?

Thanks to you and to Hind for your contributions and nice websites.

May 26th, 2008, 7:13 am


Honest Patriot said:

Your (future) excellency Qifa (Obama) Nabki,

Question for you, your excellency:

I had the opportunity to listen to and follow the text of President Michel Suleiman’s speech thanks to tayyar.org. While I’m no student of presidential swearing-ceremony speeches in Lebanon, I was extremely impressed with the direct and unambiguous tone and content of Suleiman’s. Clearly there’s an abyss to bridge from words to deeds but I thought the speech articulated clearly fundamental principles that reveal a lot about the man himself. I am curious to read your assessment of the speech, of the man, and of his prospects as President.

Always Admiringly,


May 26th, 2008, 7:39 am


wizart said:

Why do Managers let talk substitute for action?

I would say it’s because that is what they have been trained to do. Management today is all about team meetings and building consensus and the more a person says, the more valuable they appear to be.

Those who talk smart in meetings, using the latest buzz-words, certainly impress their colleagues – but what happens after the talking stops? The answer is often: nothing!

They did not actually implement recommendations, or act on the insights that emerged in the conversations. Just think of the waste of time and money!

Organisations have to talk. Talk can be inspirational, but it must also result in action. After all, organisations cannot take words to the bank.

So how do successful organisations close the gap between talking and doing, and make sure something actually happens after it has been decided upon?

Bridging the Talking/Doing Gap

In some organisations, they will leap into a project before they are completely sure that it will work, learning as they go and ironing out problems as they occur.

Others implement strong measures which let people know what is expected of them . All frame questions with “how”, and not just “what”. “How are we going to make that happen?” – And then put strong mechanisms in place to ensure that actions are carried out.

At one American semiconductor company, when people commit to doing something by a certain date, that information is entered into the company’s computer. If they fail to meet the deadline, their computer won’t work! A bit drastic, but everyone delivers. Following up to make sure something actually happens after it has been decided on is not a very complicated idea but it rarely happens, except in successful organisations.

Sure, they talk but their success in the market place proves that action speaks louder than words.

Copyright 2007 – Anne McDougall Innovate Through Training and Development

P.S: People hope Sleiman is not from the “Yajeb & Yanbagi” crowd.

May 26th, 2008, 8:45 am


SHAMI said:

Alex,once again you avoided to answer me and played instead your baathi cd titled :us or the chaos,this is btw an insult to the syrian people and their history.
I invite you to read the last article of Michel Kilo before he was jailed by bashar ,it underline the difference between a true syrian patriot who doesnt suffer of paranoia toward his nation and those who drank the sectarian logic of asad regime and unfortunately you are one of them.So it’s normal that you fell threatened by me and your own people.
And yes Alex ,we are proud of our arab islamic heritage and this is our reference but that doesnt mean that we are sectarians ,this disease is strong in rural minority communities and this regime is suffering from it not the majority of the syrian people.

May 26th, 2008, 8:58 am


wizart said:

Shami & Majhoul,

I just noticed Majhoul’s recent message since he’s banned!

I think this blog is accessible in Syria since it tends to be politically correct and easily monitered which is unlike Facebook which can be abusive and can’t be tamed for average public consumption. I don’t know what Kilo said although the fact he’s been in jail may indicate that he doesn’t speak for the majority although as a journalist in Syria he’s responsible to reflect not only his opinion but also the “emergency” situation in effect.

Just a thought to consider in the interest of continuing public access to information and for what’s considered national harmony.

My apologies for interfering with your discussions with Alex and I don’t speak on anyone’s behalf nor do I feel hijacked by the views of another. I only speak for myself as a concerned global citizen.

May 26th, 2008, 9:33 am


SHAMI said:

Wizart, i would be very glad to see Michel Kilo representing me,he belong to us and he is suffering for us.I add that his shoes are more worthy than the silk turbans of these hypocrit businessmen sheikhs, servants of the dictator.

May 26th, 2008, 9:47 am


wizart said:


I understand how you feel and I noticed he’s also appreciated by our friend Hind as well since she reflects on him in her own website so I’m sure lots of people wish for him to be free again.

As for me I would never ask a journalist to speak on my behalf in any country much less in Syria. Anyway, there’re too many people imprisoned in their own homes everywhere as well so if he’s in prison that doesn’t mean he’s terminally doomed. Perhaps he’s there reinventing himself and becoming more free from the inside or writing a future best selling book or whatever innovation, etc.

How many years was Mandella in prison? Some people are ahead of their time and some are behind. People have to adapt and work their own system.

May 26th, 2008, 10:18 am


ausamaa said:


WOW, that is great stuff about NPD and Religous Addiction!!!

I am stuck here trying to help my teenage daughter do an IB extended essay titled: “The Relationship between Internet Usage and the rise of Anorexia Nervosa among Arab Gulf Teenagers” which is a pretty “exciting” and presumptive paper. I wish that I have stumbled on your NPD thing before she selected that other Anorexis stuff…

NPD, seems more intersting by far. How do you guys get into knowing about such stuff? When I first saw your NPD, the first thing that came to my mind was Nasheville Police Department. Wow..!!

May 26th, 2008, 10:27 am


ausamaa said:


Do you reall think that Alex is a Baathi, or Baathi-based? Come on man.. aint you tired of this yet! Or does anyone have to curse everything we learned at school or believed in to escape such labeling. And BTW, is it not better to be a Baathi than to be nothing? Commitment-wise? Then, at least you are part of a political and social process! A “mere” Anti-Baathist lable remindes me of one thing: A Chalabi Style opportunist and not a “heroic” or an “indepependant” person.

BTW, Real Independents exist -if they do- in Academia only.

May 26th, 2008, 10:42 am


SHAMI said:

Aussama ,i know he is not and also bashar is no more baathi than him.

May 26th, 2008, 10:56 am


ausamaa said:

here we go again…

May 26th, 2008, 11:30 am


wizart said:

Dear Ausamaa,

Thanks for noticing there’s an ocean of information on the internet for those interested. It’s pretty obvious to me either from experience or education that there’s certain behavioral characteristics among troubling individuals out there and I find it quite easy with the internet to discover what often lies behind most of our troubles. Here’s some more about what especially residents of Gulf/Arab/Israeli countries can possibly expect to encounter while living, working or raising a family there.


Inability to think, doubt, or question religious information and/or authority

Black-and-white, good/bad, either/or simplistic thinking: one way or the other

Shame-based belief that you aren’t good enough or you aren’t doing it right

Magical thinking that God will fix everything/ do it all, without serious work on our part

Scrupulosity: rigid obsessive adherence to rules, codes of ethics, or guidelines

Uncompromising judgmental attitudes: readiness to find fault or evil out there

Compulsive or obsessive praying and going to religious institutions and quoting scripture throughout the day

Compulsive overeating and/or excessive fasting

Conflict and argumentation with science, medicine, and education

Progressive detachment from the real work, isolation and breakdown of relationships

Psychosomatic illness: back pains, sleeplessness, headaches, hypertension

Manipulating scripture or texts, feeling specially chosen, claiming to receive special messages from God

Maintaining a religious “high”, trance-like state, keeping a happy face (or the belief that one should…)

Attitude of righteousness or superiority: “we versus the world,” including the denial of one’s human-ness.

Confusion, great doubts, mental, physical or emotional breakdown, cries for help

The ultimate temptation of the believer is to assume that his or her way to God is the best or only way for others. The particular Way to God becomes what is adored, not the ineffable and incomprehensible Mystery to which we give the name of God.
In essence we have become addicted to the certainty, sureness or sense of security that our faith provides. It is no longer a living by faith, with hope and growing in unconditional love.

Adapted from When God Becomes a Drug, by Leo Booth

May 26th, 2008, 12:11 pm


why-discuss said:

While the Saudis supported newspaper are pouring anti-Shia and anti-iranian propaganda, Iran is talking about cooperation and sharing common goals in the region. Iran invested more than 1 billion dollars in developing Syria industries, while Saudis are building hotels and apartments.
I am glad to read in Sleiman speech that he attaches more importance in developing Lebanon’s industries and agriculture than tourism. A big blow to Hariri’s vision of Lebanon-Monaco!
Why is Saudi Arabia so afraid of Iran? The Lebanese may be worried about possible restricted freedom and oppression on women, but Saudi Arabia has already that and in much worse!
When are the young Saudis wake up and shake these inept rulers. They tried once with joining Al Qaeda, I hope they find better way to change and modernize their country.

May 26th, 2008, 1:39 pm


Nidal said:

I think that recent comments have ventured off the theme of Hind’s article. Her last paragraph sums it all:

“Syria […] could enhance further its image and acquire additional respect, internally, regionally and internationally, if it becomes more tolerant of sincere and patriotic reform activists and thinkers.”

This should apply to all arab (and non-arab) countries. A good example (although not ideal) would be Qatar. “Tolerance” and “Trust” are the key ideas to a better secular, open and flourishing society.

May 26th, 2008, 1:59 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

But in the paragraph you quote Hind falls into the trap set by the regime because who is going to determine who is a “sincere and patriotic reform activist and thinker”? Why, the regime of course. So Kilo is in jail because he is not “sincere and patriotic”.

Hind has moved in the right direction but is hedging her bets and in doing so is playing into the regime hands. There should be freedom of speech in Syria. Full stop. The majority who are non-sectarian as many claim here should be confident enough to win the public debate. Any other solution just shows that either they don’t beleive they are the majority or that they don’t think their position makes sense.

Only an extermely insecure regime is so afraid of freedom of speech. Only a regime that has a lot to hide would put even Kilo in jail.

May 26th, 2008, 2:25 pm


wizart said:

AIG if you were correct then you and SC would have been banned from Syrian access so you’re actually wrong with your conclusion and you seriously missed the whole point of her article. She’s clearly arguing for a more liberal media policy to protect secular voices which are sincere and patriotic and yes people in charge do make a judgment and sometimes they make mistakes like they do in Israel as Simo pointed out often in the past. If they ban this blog it would be because of people like you who abuse its privilage and use it to gain attention and personal satisfaction.

May 26th, 2008, 3:05 pm


why-discuss said:


“Only an extermely insecure regime is so afraid of freedom of speech. Only a regime that has a lot to hide would put even Kilo in jail.”

Like Egypt and Saudi Arabia?

May 26th, 2008, 3:07 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Yes she is arguing for it, but in English in a blog that does not influence at all internal Syrian debate.

Even Alex agreed that Hind’s benign article would have needed considerable changes if it were to be published in Arabic in a Syrian newspaper. So, I think it is a legitimate question, what is the purpose of Hind’s article? To prove that there are secular people in Syria that want a free debate? We know that there is a call for a more liberal media since Kilo is in jail and we know who decides who is “sincere and patriotic”. Would you like Bush in the US to be making those decisions? Yet you are happy letting Asad do so.

The bottom line is that there is no freedom of speech at all in Syria and therefore the chances of reform are nil. Furthermore, you are caught in a catch 22. There cannot be reforms in Syria until there are changes in Saudi Arabia etc. etc. and around it goes. In the end it is all a bunch of excuses for leaving the regime in power.

May 26th, 2008, 3:23 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Yes, exactly. When you oppress freedom of speech, you are showing that you are insecure and uncertain about yourself.

May 26th, 2008, 3:25 pm


wizart said:


I think you’re wrong. There’s freedom of speech in English and there’s freedom of speech in Arabic although you would not be able to tell the subtle differences since you’re an Israeli from a country committed to a no peace strategy apparently as a pre-condition for its existence because you think it’s a model for a free speech nation. You’re wrong because the sky is blue in Damascus too. Syria is changing to the better while Israel may or may not be.

Just a personal opinion. Dynamic stability is better than a fake Democracy with all its bells and whistles. Syria walks its talk;)

May 26th, 2008, 4:12 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Is Kilo in jail or is it just my imagination? Are scores of other activists in jail or not?

Where is your delusion coming from? Tons of syrians on this blog all agree that there is no freedom of speech in Syria. Even Alex thinks that the internal situation in Syria needs serious improvement. International organizations consitently rank Syria as one of the worst countries for freedom of speech, yet you persist in saying the sky is green.

Dynamic stability? Such orwellian speak does not wash anymore. People can simply compare the track record of Israel and Syria for the last 60 years. “Dynamic stability” has left Syria a third world country with bad education and no technology but with a lot of excuses that many people want to buy. Failure is failure, especially failure over 60 years. If you do not want to change fine, but at least look reality in the face.

May 26th, 2008, 4:24 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Here is what you favorite organization, human rights watch, has to say about Syria:

“Syria’s poor human rights situation deteriorated further in 2006. The government strictly limits freedom of expression, association, and assembly. Emergency rule, imposed in 1963, remains in effect, despite public calls by Syrian reformers for its repeal. The authorities continue to harass and imprison human rights defenders and non-violent critics of government policies.”

May 26th, 2008, 4:29 pm


Nidal said:


I understand your concerns. And you make some valid and interesting points. There are some international bodies that can determine a country’s freedom of speech. Mainly, the UN World Court has respectable influence. Also, there are some excellent NGOs that monitor these issues, such as:



As you can see, Israel ranks highest in the Middle East. However, one should take it relatively, by comparing to other countries. On the other hand, if Syria can work up the rankings (as well as other countries), then that would be a good indication of positive signs of secularism propping up.

Hind’s work is essential. I agree with her method of “brick by brick”. Violence is not an option, nor is it a solution worthwhile. Additionally, neighbouring countries (and influential ones such as the US and France) should work constructively with Syria (in all aspects of issues) to improve trust and eventually encourage it towards reform.

When you corner man’s best friend, you would be foolish enough to think that he (or she) would crawl into submission. Expect a fight for survival. So the world countries (mainly US, Europe and Israel, as well as KSA and Egypt) should use a constructive approach instead of a destabilizing one.

May 26th, 2008, 4:34 pm


wizart said:

There’s a difference between no freedom of speech which you claim and a need for improvment which everybody recognizes including the author and the moderator. The sky is blue in Syria AIG and you need to face off to the reality of it all. Like it or not. It’s no delusion.

“bad education” is better than a propaganda machine from cravel to grave as education like you do in Israel. What a poor job Israel has done educating its young about facing reality the way it is not the way they wish it were. Where’re they going and why should we care?

May 26th, 2008, 4:35 pm


Naji said:

Nassrallah has JUST offered himself up for the first time as a PAN-ARAB (pan-Syrian, actually: Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, SAR…) Resistance Leader…!

On Israel’s sixtieth anniversary of its Nakba, and on the eighth anniversary of the liberation of Lebanon, and on the first day of a newly won victory for democracy and peaceful rule in Lebanon and for constructive and confident regional cooperation, he invoked the same biblical images so familiar in America, Israel, and the entire Arabic and Islamic worlds to deliver a very powerful and lyrical message… and a mission statement… a manifesto…!

This directs his, and his movement’s, resistance energies outside of Lebanon… to a regional leadership role in a “Strategy of Resistance and Liberation”, while allowing the others to take the leadership role in a necessary parallel “Strategy of Growth and Development”. Of course, there will be a price for Lebanon to pay, but leadership never comes without a price…!

May 26th, 2008, 4:45 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I understand what you are saying but look at the case of Egypt. The West is doing there what you want it to do with Syria. The results are exactly opposite than what you expect. Mubarak has gained legitimacy that has allowed him to further restrict freedoms in Egypt. The same will happen with Syria.

The question I have, is whether Hind is really pursuing a brick by brick model. Is what she is doing moving you even one small step towards freedom of speech in Syria? I doubt it.

There is nothing the West can do to move Syria towards reform. It is only Syrians that can do things internally. But as of now, they are caught in a Catch-22 situation that will just perpetuate the status quo.

May 26th, 2008, 4:46 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What does this sentence mean to you:
“The government strictly limits freedom of expression, association, and assembly.”

It means that there is virtually no freedom of speech in Syria. You are splitting hairs.

If you want to take a swipe at the Israeli education system, at least know what you are talking about.

May 26th, 2008, 4:54 pm


wizart said:


Israeli’s education system doesn’t really exist until there’s peace.

What’s the value of your education if your ultimate produce is war?

If you like to quote the UN then why don’t you abide by its laws?

May 26th, 2008, 5:15 pm


Nidal said:


The West is not doing in Egypt what I want it to do in all countries around the world. It is simply solidifying Moubarak’s seat and turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in return for full support to US policies in the region (whether they be economic, political or other). This is not the constructive apporach which I am refering to.

Certainly it is for Syrians to change their own country. But the outside world can do its own part by not “cornering” or threatening Syria, and by addressing its concerns with constructive policies. Nothing of that form, at a major level (surely there are some constructive interactions at very minor levels) has been done with Syria, nor Lebanon (and some other countries in the region).

May 26th, 2008, 5:15 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What do you want the West to do? What is a constructive approach?

Syria is “cornered” because it chose to be a leader of the “resistance”. That is just another Asad tactic to deflect criticism from himself and try gaining power. What is the difference between “understanding” Mubarak and “understanding” Asad? It will lead to the same result.

There is nothing the West can do that will help Syria reform. I urge you to stop buying into the Asad propaganda and accept that all changes must come from within syria and that whatever the West does, is of zero consequence. Blaming the west is just a regime excuse.

May 26th, 2008, 5:28 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I don’t like quoting the UN you do. But I was quoting Human Rights Watch which you like to quote, not the UN. The value of the Israeli education is that it prepares people to be effective in an high-tech knowlede based economy. It also has to improve by the way.

May 26th, 2008, 5:30 pm


Alex said:

SHAMI said:

Alex,once again you avoided to answer me and played instead your baathi cd titled :us or the chaos,this is btw an insult to the syrian people and their history.
I invite you to read the last article of Michel Kilo before he was jailed by bashar ,it underline the difference between a true syrian patriot who doesnt suffer of paranoia toward his nation and those who drank the sectarian logic of asad regime and unfortunately you are one of them.So it’s normal that you fell threatened by me and your own people.
And yes Alex ,we are proud of our arab islamic heritage and this is our reference but that doesnt mean that we are sectarians ,this disease is strong in rural minority communities and this regime is suffering from it not the majority of the syrian people.


I am also proud of Syria’s Arab and Islamic heritage. Syrians are 75% to 80% Sunni Muslims, and most of them speak Arabic and are proud to be Arabs.

And contrary to the impression I frequently give (I know) … I would love to see Syria and Saudi Arabia being the closest allies, surpassing Syria’s alliance with Hizbollah or Iran and Turkey combined… IF the Saudis prove beyond any doubt that they will never again interfere in Syria, or Lebanon beyond purely economic investments which would be beneficial to both sides.

You see, as a truly secular Syrian, you would not accept any additional role for Saudi Arabia in either Syria or Lebanon… exactly the way Syria has no right to interfere and advice and criticize internal Saudi affairs, and the same way Syria has no right to fund and support a Yemeni government that is hostile to the Saudi rulers… or to fund a Saudi Khaddam type who wants to overthrow their Al-Saud family dynasty.

What the Saudis have done repeatedly was outrageous … it was hostile. THEY are PARTIALLY responsible for all the killing from 1979 to 1982. And they would have been responsible to a larger degree for the Sunni-Shia fitna that did not take place in Lebanon, thank God!

Syria, in comparison, was instrumental in reaching the Doha agreement and its role was “decisive”, as Amr Moussa said today and as the Spanish King and French foreign minister admitted.

The only way the Saudis (and some of you) justify Saudi Arabia’s meddling in Syrian and Lebanese affairs, and support it, is .. because Saudi Arabia is the protector of Sunni Islam. Unless if you want to convince me that the Saudis did it for their long-lasting tradition of support for democracy.

The only reason you tolerate Saudi Arabia’s attempt to overthrow the regime in Syria is becuase you are sectarian my friend.

Many of you who insist you are secular Syrians, are in love with the Saudis and you accept any story you read in Saudi controlled media … if you insist that you do not agree with me, maybe I will make a new post similar to the one when I assembled 15 tabloid-level stories in Anti-Assad sites (Saudi, Alsyassa, M14, and “Syrian opposition) that everyone believed at the time even though they were hysterically funny … this time I will assemble my favorite collection of Syrian lovers of Saad Hariri and King Abdullah and the way they reacted after reading and believing those stupid “news”… we have a wealth of those on Syria comment that cleary show who is buying propaganda.

Which brings me to your repeated charge that I am absorbing Baathist Propaganda.

First, let’s stick to facts and avoid political analysis. Can you point to a single time I believed some lie that some “Baathist” site or source produced? … show me please that I am naive to the point of believing what they feed me. This can counter the hundreds of comments of intelligenet Syrians here on Syria comment who keep believing the many many lies (that we know by now) produced by Saudi media.

May 26th, 2008, 5:47 pm


wizart said:


I just think the UN needs some serious restructuring so it can reflect the new balance of power in the world and so it can force Israel to comply with UN resolutions. I can still quote it because you don’t believe you need to abide by its rules although you still insist on building a nation by occupying other countries territories.

Here’s some education 101 for those newcomers to nation building:

So What is International Law?

International Law is the body of rules and general principles that nations are expected to observe in their relations with one another. Some international laws result from years of custom. Others originate in general principles of law recognised by civilised nations. Still others have been agreed to in treaties or determined by judicial decisions.

Many of the customs of international relations have existed for hundreds of years. For example, the ancient Greeks protected foreign ambassadors from mistreatment, even in wartime. For about 2000 years, nations have given ambassadors similar protection.

Treaties or contracts between countries have been in use for thousands of years. Many treaties are for trade between countries. Others are for granting reciprocal rights to citizens, such as extradition treaties.

For thousands of years, international law consisted of only customs and treaties made by two or three nations. In the 1600s, Hugo Grotius, a Dutch statesman, expressed the idea that all nations should follow certain international rules of conduct. For this idea and his writings on the subject, Grotius is often called the father of international law.

May 26th, 2008, 5:56 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

The speech of Nasrallah was good, with few points;
The use of HAA of his weapons was Fitnah, he did not discuss,
He admited that he is from Wilayet Alfaqeeh.
he did not mention his reaction for Hariri murder investigation,.
did not mention anything about Imad Mughnieh

May 26th, 2008, 6:02 pm


Alex said:


Nasrallah said that his Wilayet Faqeeh Hizb is committed to protecting Lebanon’s open, multi-religious and secular nature.

He thanked all the Sunni leaders around the Arab world who did not fall in the sectarian trap when they refused to attack him.

Remember the letter he got signed by 64 Jordanian Sunni leaders that supported him and expressed their trust that he is not a sectarian leader.

May 26th, 2008, 6:06 pm


Seeking the Truth said:

Bottom line is that the Syrian regime is not going to willingly initiate any serious political reforms that will weaken its grip on power.

May 26th, 2008, 6:10 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You do not need to restructure the UN to force Israel to comply with international resolutions. Find the countries that want to do it and create a “coalition of the willing”. The UN has no armies and cannot force any country to do anything. It could not even force Mynamar to accept aid.

Which country would be willing to fight Israel? You cannot even get countries like China and Russia to put sanctions on Israel, let alone go to war against it. Why, you cannot even get Qatar to sanction Israel.

May 26th, 2008, 6:14 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

True, and it can also convince many Syrians that any change is dangerous while makeing sure that the only alternative is the Muslim Brotherhood by strangling all other alternatives. That is the catch-22. The regime has figured out the perfect method to stay in power and stop any secular criticism of it. It is a beautiful plan. By strangling the liberals and allowing religion even more head way into Syrian life, it makes the liberals fear change even more.

May 26th, 2008, 6:19 pm


Alex said:


I am reasonably confident that you are wrong.

I believe the Syrian regime can indeed INITIATE some political reforms if they feel that there is no more outside meddling in Syrian affairs, and Saudi and M14 and American lust for overthrowing the Syrian regime.

I know this sounds like an excuse (that lasted decades) .. but frankly, the past four years were incredible … a concentrated media and political campaign aimed at weakening or overthrowing the Syrian regime … you would not expect them to react positively to that, do you?

I think that as part of the package of improving Syrian American relations, the Untied States (a new, more honest administration) can talk in private with Bashar about starting with free municipal election and a semi-decent new multi-party law that allowed new parties to run for those municipal elections provided their platform is non religious and non ethnic.

What I am saying is that this coordinated pressure on the regime from America, Hariri group, and Syrians sympathizing with them (Khaddam, Mamoun Homsi, Farid Ghadri .. and many others writing in Blogs and Saudi media), has been very counter productive.

Look … there is something symbolic about my timing in publishing this piece with Hind (I worked on it a bit)… I had the article for a month now but with the violence in Lebanon few weeks ago, I did not find it a good time to put pressure on the Syrian regime.

I did it AFTER things calmed downed in Lebanon. I believe that asking for the release of reformers is slightly more practical when Syria (the regime) feel more relaxed now that Lebanon started to calm down and the Saudis almost lost the battle against Syria there.

May 26th, 2008, 6:20 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Only an extermely insecure regime is so afraid of freedom of speech. Only a regime that has a lot to hide would put even Kilo in jail.

Hmmm a guy from a nation which just has deported Norman Finkelstein and before Jamie Spector, Adam Shapiro, Starhawk, Kate and Raphael Bender among others over the last several years due to their criticism of Israeli policies, is lecturing about free speech and right to “different” opinions. Amusing AIG. Doesn’t Shai always “justify” Israel’s opinion climate and attitudes because Israeli Jews are so insecure? If you all are “insecure” isn’t your government insecure?

By the way AIG I tried some time ago to get from you information about Israeli Arab media. How is it controlled by Zionists, can they really speak about anything they want? Do Israeli Arabs have own tv channels, for example? Can an Israeli Arab paper freely promote for example Hizbollah and make agressive propaganda against the Jewish Reich? I doubt that. But you allow without doubt the extremist Jews to express their views without no limits.

Soon you AIG begin to speak about political prisoners. Well haven’t Israel thousands in prison without any trial? What do you call they are? They are simply political prisoners and bargaining chips of the Jewish Reich.

Try to understand AIG, that when writing about democracy, free speech, political prisoners, torture, human rights, women’s rights, religious extremism, nuclear weapons and other WMD’s etc you simply have no credibility. Especially when you compare the situation between “them” and Haredistan.

AIG do you write comments as actively as here about free speech, democracy and women rights to Egyptian and Saudi blogs? 🙂

May 26th, 2008, 6:21 pm


Alex said:


I will support Simohurtta there … what AIPAC and camera.org are doing in America in trying to minimize (not to say trying to silence) any criticism of Israel is indicative of “an extermely insecure regime is so afraid of freedom of speech. Only a regime that has a lot to hide”

May 26th, 2008, 6:27 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Finkelstein can anytime he wants publish anything in Ha’aretz. His books are sold in Israel. He is not denied ANY freedom of speech in Israel. Same with Camera and AIPAC. What you want is the ability to speak without being criticized. That is not freedom of speach, that is censorship. Say what you want but don’t try stopping others from criticizing you. Why are you afraid of the AIPAC or Camera criticism? Just ignore it. They are not shooting anybody and they are compleltely LEGAL. Your comparison is way off the mark.

Finkelstein has met Hizballah and supported their cause. Why should we let him into israel to spy?

May 26th, 2008, 6:33 pm


Alex said:


You are starting to sound like our Baathists who call everyone a traitor.

Finkelstein wants to reform Israel into a more peaceful entity. And he is not a corrupt politician.

I support allowing Farid ghadry and Khaddam (the corrupt politicians) into Syria. I do not express my support for Syria’s banning of its opponents from entering the country.

AIPAC and camera.org can criticize as much as they want … all I am doing is criticizing them back. I am not against their role in general .. I am against their excessive tactics. That’s all.

May 26th, 2008, 6:40 pm


Alex said:

I don’t agree with parts of this article, but for my freinds here who continue to think that the Saudis are too big to bother with little Bashar, here is one from today’s Australian

Bashar is “THE man holding the key to a new Middle Eastern dawn”

Resurgent Syria keeps region guessing


May 26th, 2008, 6:41 pm


SHAMI said:

Alex,what a pity ,my comment was about regime’s miserable human rights practices which is an internal matter and you keep repeating us the same cd over and over.I told u stay in Syria instead of looking for bad excuses left and right.
And where did u read that i’m secular ?if you have even no confidence in secular syrians so what about the others ?

May 26th, 2008, 7:15 pm


Alex said:


I know you want to speak ONLY about the regime;s miserable human rights practices.

This is my point to you … if you ONLY want to lecture the regime and criticize the regime, you will NOT be able to influence the regime and yo will make more minorities (Christians, Alawites, Ismaelis, Armenians ..) worry that there are still many Syrians who are after revenge from the regime.

But if expressing your anger is what you are after, then you are welcome to do it.

And I do have confidence in secular Syrians … you misunderstood me. Sami Moubayed nad Hind are secular Syrians. I do not have confidence in those who think they are secular only because they “drink wine and have Christian friends”.

Having said that … please tell me what you would like me to talk about in your favorite subject: “the regime’s miserable human rights practices”. I will be happy to discuss anything you like. I hope you try to remember that I started (without needing to be challenged to do so) by posting this article from Hind about the regime’s treatment of its secular political prisoners.

May 26th, 2008, 7:26 pm


MNA said:

Alex, I strongly agree with every thing you said. It is amasing how people complain about the “syrian regime” and find the Saudi royal family as a shining beacon. If this is not secterianism I don’t know what is.

May 26th, 2008, 7:42 pm


Shai said:

An example of extremism in Israel, though this MK is quite a “loony” one, and certainly not representative of the majority of Israelis. Still, in what other nation in our region would the press, or the regime, allow this to be said of its leader? This is the price of freedom of speech:

There are a number of Arabic newspapers in Israel. The list for some can be found here: http://www.al-bab.com/media/newspapers.htm

I’ve never heard from my Arab friends in Israel of censorship they’ve experienced, differently from Hebrew newspapers, but I invite any of you on SC to check out those links, and see if you feel otherwise. Since I do not read Arabic, I cannot even test this claim against our own newspapers, to see if there’s any difference. As for freedom for Arab Israelis to speak their minds, I’ve heard on numerous occasions Arab MK’s calling other Jewish MK’s and leaders, names and titles that would have probably landed them life-in-prison, or worse, in any other nation in this region. They are still very active in our Knesset, and I support and will fight to maintain their freedom of expression, even if it doesn’t always suit my personal opinions.

May 26th, 2008, 8:13 pm


SHAMI said:

Alex,it seem that what you are trying to tell us is that bashar’s respect for human rights can only happen when the saudis and the lebanese are friends of his regime but they were few years ago and not only them.So how do you explain that during this comfortable period were jailed Aref Dalila and many others ?

May 26th, 2008, 8:17 pm


Alex said:

Thanks MNA


This is a fair point.

I did not say that there should be no effort to ask the regime for change.

Of course the regime will be happy to not bother with any risks if no one is complaining.

But all I am asking for is moderation … brick by brick.

And consistency!

When “Syrian opposition” writers in Saudi Media ask for democracy in Syria while praising the wise Saudi leadership … they give a bad name to ALL reformers… they pretend they are idealists who can not accept the totalitarian regime in Syria, yet they can’t hide their admiration of King Abdullah and Saad Hariri.

Similarly, when Kilo was supported by Bush, Chirac, and M14 crooks .. they gave Kilo a bad name… and he is the cleanest of reformers.

That’s why I prefer that the genuinely secular reformers handle the calm pressure for human rights and political reforms… without support from Saudi Arabia, or from Washington, or from Paris, or from Democracy-seeking NGOs and Think Tanks

If you want my opinion, Aref Dalila was jailed because in his last speech (which was very impressive) he demanded change NOW …. he basically said we must reject and overhaul the system immediately. The people listening to him in the Atassi Forum were passionately impresssed and they also escalated their language and a couple of them announced that the Syrian Parliament must undo the mistake of changing the minimum age of the President of Syria back to 40 years, after it was changed to 34 years in order to allow Bashar to become President)

This is the kind of thing that totalitarian regimes will never accept … if you want them to change, give them a decade to do it gradually… don’t practically ask for the president to be kicked out.

Aref is still in jail … his face half paralyzed I heard. Very sad. It is a shame that the regime can not decide to release him.

May 26th, 2008, 8:37 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

This is becoming hopeless. What are you “allowed” to ask the regime now? Or now you are not allowed to ask anything because the situation is too much against Syria?

Is it ok to ask to sit down with the government and make a plan that in 10 years will lead to democracy? Or is even making a plan not allowed?

May 26th, 2008, 8:57 pm


Naji said:

You said: “I would love to see Syria and Saudi Arabia being the closest allies, surpassing Syria’s alliance with Hizbollah or Iran and Turkey combined…”…

Why…??!! What the hell is the matter with you, man…?! These people are vile… simply vile… as a people, as a regime, as a “culture”, and as a “civilizational model”…!! Of course, I would never apply this stereotype to individual Saudi persons, but as a people, as a culture, as a “civilization”, as a country…: they are just vile…!! What would we gain by ” being the closest allies, surpassing Syria’s alliance with Hezbollah or Iran and Turkey combined…”…??!! Are you kidding…??!! How could you compare, and even prefer, Saudi to Lebanon, to Turkey, or to Iran…??!! Just because they pretend to the cause of Sunnis or Arabs…??!! Because they have some petro-dollars…?? You appease them against your better instincts…, for what…?! Because you are Christian and they are Sunni Moslems…?! Screw them…! You have more rights to the determination of Syrian direction and future than they ever would…! What the hell do we stand to gain from any relationship with Saudi…culturally, socially, intellectually, artistically (their sword dance? They can save that for W!), scientifically, civilizationaly, commercially, diplomatically,… what…?! They are the complete antithesis, and the main challenger and adversary, of Syrian Sunni Islam and culture…! Screw them for all the harm they have done Sunnis, Islam, and humanity, in general, …all in fatal collaboration with the empire of the day… even dooming that empire in their moneyed disproportional influence on its policies and blindness…! I would much rather that Israel came to its senses, gave up Zionism, and came back into the Syrian fold, than any alliance with the unholy, uncivilized Saudi tyranny…!

I have accused you previously of undue enthusiasm and apologetics for the Asad regime. Now I accuse you of the same for their Saudi/”Sunni” adversaries…!

May 26th, 2008, 9:05 pm


Alex said:


Khalas … Forget Saudi Arabia.

I will now call for Syria to have best relations with … Sweden and Norway.

OK? : )

Look … I understand what you are saying, and I agree with you to a large extent … but with an important qualification:

Saudi Arabia is part of our Middle East … it is a country in transition between those who came back after getting their Engineering degrees from Boston, and those who are slaves to the fatwas of their most lunatic and backward wahabi religious leaders.

My approach is the same with all the undesirable forces int he region … we can not ignore them and we can not change them by force, overnight.

This applies to corruption and authoritarian nature of the regime in Syria, this applies to Israel, this applies to Iran this applies to Saudi Arbia.

We need to find ways to move forward DESPITE everything that is not perfectly right in each of these countries.

In the case of Saudi Arabia … I said that unless they reach a point where they are convinced that they have no right to mess up with the internal affairs of Syria (and Lebanon), then they will continue to, occasionally, pose a threat to our national interests.

But if they one day accept to stop interfering in Syrian affairs, that would indicate a serious change in their mentality … it would indicate a genuine admission that they are not some guardian of Sunni Islam. They are simply a large, rich, Arab country.

I will be satisfied with that much … if I expect more, then I would be interfering in their internal affairs, like they are interfering in ours.

They did allocate ten billions recently for a new university and research center. Let’s hope they will, with time, continue to move more into that direction.

Naji ya 3azizi … I can not tell the millions of Syrians who want to be closest friends with Saudi Arabia to change their mind because Naji or Alex do not approve of Saudi Arabia’s fanatic character.

May 26th, 2008, 10:06 pm


Akbar Palace said:

It is amasing how people complain about the “syrian regime” and find the Saudi royal family as a shining beacon.


Who finds the Saudi royal family a “shining beacon”? Perhaps you can provide a link backing up your point.

May 26th, 2008, 11:51 pm


trustquest said:

The best two reads on this SC for ever, are:
Alex: https://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=724#comment-151086


Naji: https://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=724#comment-151095

Thank you guys

I think Alex you responded to yourself in this intro

And Naji, my dear fellow Syrian, can please only respect that we have 3 millions humans working for them so they deserve some respect for making a living to those people and brining income needed for their poor country.

This Saudi issue is really intriguing; most of us never had positive of negative problem with them and their stands or their media. Even the regime was and still their friends and their relative. The Syrian media is not attacking them as we see on this forum now. In the last 40 years of the regime, we only see them attack the Sauid for couple of months and them back friends again. Did’nt Refaat Assad was there two months ago.

May 27th, 2008, 12:14 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Hi HP,

As I said, I didn’t get to read the speech in full. Send me a link, if you have one. What I read, however, was good. He outlined the shape of the challenges that lie ahead, and I think most Lebanese people felt good about what they heard.

Here’s an excerpt from the Daily Star editorial from today, on Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah’s speech:

“On the positive side, Nasrallah seemed earnest in reiterating his customary call for genuine partnership. He also acknowledged the need to heal the painful wounds inflicted on Lebanese unity by the clashes that took place earlier this month when his fighters and their allies went on the offensive against their rivals. Perhaps most importantly, he reached out to other communities by underscoring the fact that the “martyrs” who have fallen for Lebanon have included Muslims, Christians and Druze.

What was missing, ironically, was evidence that Nasrallah fully comprehends just how important he and his party are to the future of this country. There was plenty of truth to his description of US interference as a highly destabilizing factor, but there was no appreciation of just how large Hizbullah looms over any discussion of Lebanon’s situation. The fact of the matter is that the resistance movement’s sheer power scares many Lebanese and therefore makes them susceptible to the machinations of foreign meddlers offering to “protect” them.

It is not enough for Nasrallah to declare that his party does not want to rule Lebanon. Its weight – and the opposition’s garnering of veto power in Cabinet under the Doha agreement – are such that it does not need to govern in order to wield enormous influence. What many Lebanese want to know, therefore, are the particulars of how Hizbullah plans to use that influence. Answering their questions would not just soothe their concerns and begin to put up something like a united front: It would also shore up Hizbullah’s own position within that front.

It is true that no other party in Lebanon has fleshed out a proper policy statement, either, and this newspaper will continue to hold them accountable for that failure. It is Hizbullah which is the biggest and strongest player in this game, though, and so it has greater responsibility to be forthcoming, more to gain by doing so, and more to lose by remaining reticent.”

May 27th, 2008, 12:20 am


Qifa Nabki said:

A couple of good pieces in the Daily Star today:

Stop the Iranian right, but don’t feed its paranoia
By Ahmad Sadri

Now We Move On to Hizbullah’s Future
By Nicholas Blanford

May 27th, 2008, 12:50 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Sources: Israel, Hezbollah strike prisoner swap deal
By Yoav Stern and Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondents, and News Agencies

Israeli sources said Monday that Israel and Hezbollah had struck a deal securing the release of two Israeli soldiers captured by the Lebanon-based militant group in a July 2006 cross border raid that sparked the Second Lebanon War.

The sources explained that in exchange for the captives, Israel would release Samir Kuntar, a Lebanese militant currently imprisoned in Israel for the 1979 murder of a Nahariyah family, an Israeli citizen jailed for espionage on Hezbollah’s behalf and four other Hezbollah men captured by Israel during the 2006 war. The deal reportedly will also include the return of the remains of ten Lebanese, currently held by Israel, to Hezbollah.


May 27th, 2008, 2:46 am


Marion said:

Seculars looking to reform the Middle East should consider joining the present popular resistance to U.S./Israel hegemony in the region, which is the primary cause for division in the region that is promoting much distrust between the people and agitating sectarianism. The people in the region distrust the U.S.’s alleged promotion of Democracy. And once the seculars prove that they are not in cahoots with the U.S./Israel hegemony in the region by resisting it, the people of the region will be more open to Democracy.

May 27th, 2008, 2:47 am


Nidal said:

Interesting article by Uri Avnery (worth reading all his columns, btw):


May 27th, 2008, 3:28 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Yes, it seems Olmert is even more stupid than I imagined. He is going to give Kuntar for the two dead soldiers. If they were alive it would be another matter. Makes no sense to me, but he will pay big for it in the next elections.

Which brings me to ask why are the Lebanese so non-chalant about the hundreds of their compatriots that disappeared in Syrian jails? Why is it that what is done to find information about them is so pathetic? And why don’t their brothers in Syria give any info about them?

May 27th, 2008, 4:42 am


why-discuss said:


I totally agree with you. Saudi Arabia is oil-rich but sick country, paralyzed by a suffocating brand of Islam. Their youth have reacted by creating and joining Al Qaeda, a pure sunni-wahhabi terrorist movement. This country with its long indecent intimacy with the US have created a monster in its own land that they can’t eliminate without shaking the mere religious pillars of their society. They are trapped by their weakness toward the US and the Frankenstein they created. All what they do now shows that this society is seriously ill and confused. They invoke the external threat of Iran as to justify their fear of reforms. They accuse Syria of intimidating its allies. They have an incoherent foreign policy. I think the 14 march group realized at their expense that Saudi Arabia was a totally unreliable ally and they preferred to submit to Hezbollah and the iranian influence than to continue hoping for Saudi Arabia to act constructively in Lebanon.
This country needs to change before rotting, would it?

May 27th, 2008, 4:51 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

May 27th, 2008, 5:04 am


Alex said:


There is even a better one:

Eldad: “Ceding land punishable by death

May 27th, 2008, 6:28 am


SHAMI said:

Alex ,i’m sorry but i disagree a little with you ,for us arab moslems these boundaries are only temporary because our ties with the saudis are geographically, culturally,religiously and family related and this is eternal whatever the political regime is.The same is true for Turkey which is not an arab country and with Kurdistan.But that doesnt mean that i feel myself culturally closer to a Saudi than a Syrian christian.And i believe you when you said that you are proud of your arab and islamic heritage and i’m also proud of my christian heritage.
As for the syrian regime ,dont lose your time ,it will not voluntarily change.Knowing the minority paranoid nature of the regime ,they have no choices other than 99 % or 0 % and so was the conclusion of Aref Dalila.

May 27th, 2008, 10:01 am


Honest Patriot said:


A video of the Suleiman “swearing-in” speech is posted by tayyar.org here (FLV format):

The full text of his speech is here:

After the decades away from any real practice of Arabic it was easiest for me to listen to the speech while following the writtend text.

I found it significant in defining clearly the fundamental principles he espouses on many topics.

May 27th, 2008, 11:00 am


Akbar Palace said:

Alex said:

There is even a better one

There’s even a better one than that, actual LAWS put into action:

Three Arabs accused of selling land to Israelis have been found slain in the Ramallah area in the last month. The killings came after the Palestinian Authority’s justice minister, Freih Abu Middein, said on May 5 that Arabs convicted of selling land to Jews would be sentenced to death under a Jordanian law passed in the 1980’s to prevent land sales to the Israelis. Jordan controlled the West Bank before losing it to Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.


May 27th, 2008, 11:02 am


wizart said:

What if Iraq was indeed transfered to the UN in 2003? What if the US indeed yielded its power to the UN? The world would have been better off. Henry Lamb was propagating otherwise and proven wrong.

United Nations Report
Restructuring the U.N.
by Henry Lamb
October 6, 2003

Kofi Annan is fidgety about the future of the UN, as well he should be. His plan to restructure the Security Council and the General Assembly reflects the fading dream of the Commission on Global Governance rather than the reality of a hungry, troubled world.

The world changed on 9-11. No longer can the world tilt at the windmills of a fantasized “global village.” No longer can visions of “sustainable development” be justified in a world where “sustainable freedom” is the only possible solution to the economic and power vacuum that foments acts of terrorism.

It was unprecedented freedom, exercised by individuals, that created the United States, which now, is the supreme economic and military power in the world. To voluntarily yield this power to the UN, as France, Germany, Russia, and other nations want, would condemn the entire world to a system of governance in which individual freedom would be the measured reward for compliance with government’s dictates.

There is a better way.

Nations can and, ultimately, must learn to live as neighbors, free from the web of “international laws” that dictate which activities are “sustainable” and which are xenophobic and unacceptable. Nation-to-nation relationships, just like neighbor-to-neighbor relationships, should be fashioned voluntarily, driven by mutual benefit. For the first time in a century, the United States may be exploring this possibility.

While many people on both sides of the Atlantic are clamoring for the U.S. to transfer Iraq to the UN, the Bush administration is asking, “Why?” The United States would still have to supply the majority of the money, and the military power, to ensure that Iraq did not fall into the hands of another Saddam, while allowing the UN to structure the new government to fit its vision for the future.

The Bush administration is inviting other nations to help the struggling nation to create its own future, based on the principles of freedom rather than on the demands of another dictator, or in the mold of global socialism, dictated by France, Germany, Russia, and Kofi Annan. If these nations choose to be selfish neighbors and withhold their help when it is needed, so be it. As in every neighborhood, what goes around, comes around.

It will surely cost America more in the short term if other major nations choose not to help. The long-term reward, however, could well be the model for transforming the world into a global neighborhood of free nations, rather than a global village under the control of unelected, unaccountable administrators who answer to the UN.

The world is, indeed, again in the throes of determining its future. The vision held by globalists–from Woodrow Wilson to Franklin Roosevelt–of a future world, under an all-powerful United Nations institution, has failed. It is time for a new vision.

The United Nations should be restructured. The UN building in New York could be far more beneficial if converted into low-rent housing for the homeless. The UN headquarters in Geneva, the Palaise de nations, could easily house those international organizations that provide useful services, such as standardized postal and communications specifications. Most of the UN organizations and agencies should be de-funded, and forced to earn their existence in a free market place–or die.

The United States is the leader of the world. As such, it can conquer, control, and exploit Iraq, if it chooses, or it can help Iraq form its own government, control its own resources and its own destiny. Ultimately, every nation must realize this vision, free from dictators, and international administrators. Freedom, individual freedom, secured by private property rights, and a government limited by the consent of the governed, is the new vision for the world.

This is the vision that empowered the United States. It is a vision that has been clouded in recent decades, by resurgent dreams of global governance. The United States is teetering on the brink of either falling, irretrievably, into the abyss of global socialism, or rising above the clouds, and launching another experiment in freedom–leading the world to a global neighborhood of free, sovereign nations.

Iraq is, or can be, the model. If the Bush administration yields to domestic and international pressure to turn over Iraq to the UN, the U.S. will begin its descent into oblivion. If, however, the Bush administration stands firm in Iraq, with the support of the American people, then, perhaps, the Iraqi people can begin to discover the powerful benefits of freedom and become a beacon of leadership for other nations in the region.

May 27th, 2008, 12:34 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I commend your vision for countries all living side by side in harmony. But how about first fixing your own home? How about getting the Syrian sects to live peacelfully side by side in a democracy?

May 27th, 2008, 12:52 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Ahh, Lebanon. The country where you can be born a village boy in Amchit, and grow up to have your image plastered across the bosom of Haifa.



May 27th, 2008, 1:10 pm


wizart said:


Visionaries focus on fixing the village they live in before they go on to fixing their own home. Narcissists are unable to do that. So I think the rest of the world are urged to better represent their interests and they will as US military bankrupts the country.


Nice picture although with arms crossed she looks a bit sad or scared of onlookers who might take it as an offence that she’s wearing him over her belly rather than as you said above. If she were to smile she would look appropriately more hopeful. Hind’s picture above indicates religious and cultural depth next to the grand Mufti & the foreign Rabbi which to me representes more the pinacle of religious tolerance and also reflectes Syria’s hopes.

May 27th, 2008, 2:11 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

New billboard in Beirut, courtesy of the FPM who are still smarting a little after Suleiman’s election. Their boy has to find some way to take credit… Kind of brilliant, though.


May 27th, 2008, 2:19 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Grownups understand that the way to fix the village is for every person to fix his own home in it. There is no other way to fix the village. Be especially wary of those whose house is in disorder but think they know how to fix the village. They are the most dangerous people. They eventually cause all houses to be like theirs.

May 27th, 2008, 2:41 pm


wizart said:


There are houses in Syria that have been standing much longer than many countries around the world. Be weary of those whose houses are built on visions of global dominance or on fraudulent credit.

America is built on credit and advertising. Both of which are overextended and Israel is abusing its privilage by defrauding Americans of their ligitimate right in a prospeous global village.

May 27th, 2008, 3:33 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Right, the US and Israel are going down. Why don’t you tell that to all the Syrians that are attempting to immigrate to the US? Why are they leaving such a successful country, Syria, to go to such a failing one, the US? Are they all stupid and don’t know what is good for them?

May 27th, 2008, 3:49 pm


Alex said:

Turkish FM: Israel, Syria forming ‘common ground’
By Reuters

Turkey said on Tuesday the indirect peace talks it is mediating between Israel and Syria could be upgraded to face-to-face encounters if progress is made.

“A common ground is now being formed and that common ground is considered to be satisfactory by both sides,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan told a news conference in Brussels.

“If meaningful and concrete developments take place in these mediated talks, it will be possible at that time to have direct meetings between the two sides,” added Babacan.

However he stressed: “We are at the very beginning of this process and it is not going to be an easy one.”

May 27th, 2008, 4:09 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Syria is being demonized.

What kind of arrogant negotiating partner insists that you end your strategic alliances? If I were Syrian, I would tell Israel that Iran would be given up if an only if Israel stops sucking on Washington’s teat.

I meant to post this a few days ago, but as to Doha, Hezbollah really did defeat Jumblatt and the March 14ists. The Doha deal (remember, Qatar has good relations with Syria and Iran) does not address the strength of Hezbollah and is short-lived (until early 2009). The risk of seeing the Sunni re-militarize is also alive. Moreover, the Hariri tribunal is lost its judicial and political importance.

Last, and this is important. On his trip to Israel George Bush urged Israel to reignite the war with Lebanon to destroy Hezbollah! They could not be convinced!

May 27th, 2008, 4:09 pm


wizart said:


You’re evading the common interest issue of building a viable and prosperous global village and new young nations like the US has always attracted new immigrants or sons and daughters of such.

Evading issues and propaganda are trademarks of Isreali doomed policy and it’s high time their ‘educated” live up to that title.

May 27th, 2008, 4:09 pm


Alex said:


Syria is telling Israel that after peace the whole setup in the Middle East will change and therefore, Syria’s ties to Iran won’t pose a threat to Israel.

But for now at least, the Israelis need to find “concrete” deliverables that they can use to sell the agreement to their people. Cutting Syria’s relations with Iran is for now one of the semi-interesting values for many Israelis. Otherwise, Olmert is finding it difficult to explain to his people what they will get in return for giving back (or giving UP, as they say in Israel) the Golan Height.

May 27th, 2008, 4:26 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

A lot depends on whether Olmert’s people Sharonites, Netanyahoos or the last standing survivors of the Israeli Peace Era under assassinated PM Yitzhak Rabin.

May 27th, 2008, 4:38 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am evading nothing. I viable and prosperous village is built one house at a time. You know best how to improve your own house. I know best how to improve mine. Therefore, the only solution is for each person to improve his own house and that is how the village gets better.

Or do you think you know better than Israelis how to fix their own house?

May 27th, 2008, 4:45 pm


wizart said:


There’s still a need to manage the village because it can not be left to manage itself as we have seen in the past and we both agreed that the UN is ineffective the way it’s been structured.

Our main problem is in how the village is being run and not in how our houses are to be fixed. Agreeing on that would be a giant leap forward.

So just in case that in house plumbing bullshit is out of the way, I would think our difference then logically be transformed into a far healtier discussion of how to manage our global village for the global good and not on petty home improvment projects.

May 27th, 2008, 4:54 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I don’t recall agreeing that “our main problem is in how the village is run and not in how our houses are to be fixed”. In fact I vehemently disagree. If each house would be run well there would not be much need to run the village. I do not think that the UN can be saved or made better. If it cannot even give aid to Mynamar, it is hopeless. How can any organization force the Chinese or Americans to do anything they don’t want?

So you are on a hopeless mission. Better to fix the things you can at home than trying to fight windmills.

May 27th, 2008, 5:12 pm


offended said:

AIG, i have an odd question for you, please feel free not to answer if you dont feel like it.

how did you know the content of President Sulieman speech very early on? (before the translations were circulated?) do you know arabic by any chance?

May 27th, 2008, 5:26 pm


wizart said:


I thought we agreed the UN was broken and in need of major repair and I was surprized you agreed because it contradicts your strategy of having superiority and supremacy over the rest of us mere mortals. So whoever founded the UN after recent world wars must be bracing for another world war or another UN. I did edit my last comment to reflect your prior view on that front. There’s more hope in inspiring people to fight forces of darkness and despair than there’s in leaving their destiny to the likes of self centered corrupt domestic plumbers like you know who on the world stage.

May 27th, 2008, 5:35 pm


Shai said:

Alex, Nur,

A very important point. Olmert (and other Israeli politicians) have no choice but to voice their “demand” of Syria to dissolve its alliances with Iran, HA, and Hamas, in return for the Golan. They know, no less than you and I do, that they cannot truly get this. At best, they’ll get some promise to change the nature of the military alliances, but certainly not the political ones. But in order to “sell” this agreement to 50.1% of Israelis, as Alex said we need to be seen as asking for the maximum, already now. If there was a way to convince Israelis of this, I would go on national TV and tell them that it is in Israel’s best interest to have Syria remain a VERY strong ally of Iran, and also in good relations with Hezbollah and Hamas. That if Iran should go nuclear, I’d much rather have Syria its friend, than its foe. That if there’s a chance a Syrian-Israeli peace will help the Palestinian-Israeli issues, it is precisely because of Syria’s close ties to Hamas that she may be influential in a positive way in the future. But most people find it difficult to see the advantages in maintaining a close relationship with your bitter enemy. Most cannot see beyond the emotional realm, unfortunately.

May 27th, 2008, 5:36 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

No mystery, http://www.nowlebanon.com were giving an english translation in real time.

May 27th, 2008, 5:48 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

My “strategy of having superiority and supremacy over the rest of us mere mortals”? How does wanting democracy in Syria and other countries equate with that?

I probably do not understand what you are saying but it sounds like: The Syrians should try changing the US before they trying changing Syria. That is so crazy I do not know what to say. Syrians should work on improving Syria. Not the US or the UN or China or Russia.

May 27th, 2008, 5:56 pm


Shai said:

Here’s a good article on the decision to ban Finkelstein from entering Israel for 10 years: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/987465.html

AIG, it seems Yossi Beilin is also against the release of Kuntar in return for two dead bodies (if they are dead).

May 27th, 2008, 6:04 pm


Wizart said:


UN not IU

To put it more bluntly you probably want an Israeli Nation IU to replace or throw its weight around outdated old line creatures like the United Nation UN. Your talk about Syria is only a diversion. You fix your own house first before you shift the blame to others’. By the way I’m defending both America and Syria and all its Americans and European friends everywhere against foreign enemies when I advocate restructuring the UN in the interest of world peace and all concerned and civilized citizens everywhere.

May 27th, 2008, 6:09 pm


SimoHurtta said:

I am evading nothing. I viable and prosperous village is built one house at a time. You know best how to improve your own house. I know best how to improve mine. Therefore, the only solution is for each person to improve his own house and that is how the village gets better.

Or do you think you know better than Israelis how to fix their own house?

Do you really want a world village full of “Israels”? Religiously extreme, over aggressively behaving and nationalistic “houses” were everyone is armed to their teeth and women have to sit in the back of cars (like in Israel and Saudi Arabia, by the way not in Iran). Are in all your dream houses a small wing for slaves (=occupied people as you call them)? Well I do not want such Taleban, Hareistan, Saudi Arabia village. I understand that you as an extreme Jew want that, because then the contradiction between Israel and the civilized world would be smaller than it is now.

By the way AIG I did read that in Haredistan your buddies and fellow Zionists are burning holy books. Have you something to say to that?

May 27th, 2008, 6:12 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Are you hallucinating? I do not want an IU or anything like that. Israel is a small country with little weight in the international arena. We know our place and understand that the most we can do is take care of our own business just as you propose. I am not blaming others. I am saying that a UN like you envision is not possible at all. Let’s agree that Israel will take care of its own business and Syria will take care of its own business.

May 27th, 2008, 6:16 pm


wizart said:


Your small country can destroy the world ten times over with all its nuke stockpiles. No I’m not hallucinating but it looks like you’re “distorting the facts” when you claim that you don’t dabble with other people’s business when you reside on a Syrian blog for a few months preaching on how other countries have better fix their houses. Unfortunately, your case might require you to hire a professional shrink and I hope you can solve your own misery and keep your own home improvment skills to yourself.

May 27th, 2008, 6:43 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am not preaching anything to Syrians. You want Syria to remain a totalitarian regime, be my guest. All I am saying, is i am against ISRAEL making peace with Syria until it is democratic. I am preaching to israelis, not Syrians.

May 27th, 2008, 7:05 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The first thing you should do if you believe your own propoganda is convince your fellow Finns to cut diplomatic ties with Israel. If you cannot even do that, you mus represent a very small minority.

And by the way, don’t worry, Nokia Arena is still standing and wasn’t burned down.

May 27th, 2008, 7:07 pm


wizart said:


You obviously can’t be trusted to tell the truth about your intentions unless this blog was called Israel Comment and most people here were other Israelis silently listening to your speel.

Perhaps we’re seeing double or we all became mute reform Jews overnight. We seem to have all sorts of troubles awaiting your fixing.

May 27th, 2008, 7:23 pm


wizart said:

Thanks to everyone consistent, loyal and effective in their support for world peace especially our world class friends the Finns, The Canadians, The Australians, the Americans and many others from around our global village 🙂

Here’s a story I just received from a “wiser” friend on the net..

There was a blind girl who hated herself because she was blind. She hated everyone, except her loving boyfriend. He was always there for her. She told her boyfriend, ‘If I could only see the world, I will marry you.’

One day, someone donated a pair of eyes to her. When the bandages came off, she was able to see everything, including her boyfriend.

He asked her,’Now that you can see the world, will you marry me?’ The girl looked at her boyfriend and saw that he was blind. The sight of his closed eyelids shocked her. She hadn’t expected that. The thought of looking at them the rest of her life led her to refuse to marry him.

Her boyfriend left in tears and days later wrote a note to her saying: ‘Take good care of your eyes, my dear, for before they were yours, they were mine.’

This is how the human brain often works when our status changes. Only a very few remember what life was like before, and who was always by their side in the most painful situations.


Today before you say an unkind word – Think of someone who can’t speak. Before you complain about the taste of your food – Think of someone who has nothing to eat. Before you complain about your husband or wife – Think of someone who’s crying out to GOD for a companion.

Today before you complain about life – Think of someone who went too early to heaven.

Before you complain about your children – Think of someone who desires children but they’re barren.

Before you argue about your dirty house someone didn’t clean or sweep Think of the people who are living in the streets.
Before whining about the distance you drive Think of someone who walks the same distance with their feet.

And when you are tired and complain about your job – Think of the
unemployed, the disabled, and those who wish they had your job.
But before you think of pointing the finger or condemning another –
Remember that not one of us is without sin.
And when depressing thoughts seem to get you down – Put a smile on
your face and think: you’re alive and still around.

May 27th, 2008, 8:10 pm


SimoHurtta said:

The first thing you should do if you believe your own propaganda is convince your fellow Finns to cut diplomatic ties with Israel. If you cannot even do that, you mus represent a very small minority.

And by the way, don’t worry, Nokia Arena is still standing and wasn’t burned down.

AIG Finland has diplomatic ties with the Jewish Reich (Israel), Iran, Saudi Arabia etc. Having diplomatic ties doesn’t mean that Finns in general approve how those countries behave. All intellectual Finns hate countries where people are categorized by religion, where are thousands of political prisoners, where the religious nuts steal land (and trees, we love trees 🙂 ) etc. Especially we do not like countries where nuts are burning religious books and the government claps their hands (= does nothing).

Do you claim that it is propaganda that the Reich has thousands in prison without trial, steals land, separates people by their religion, puts women in the back of buses, develops nukes in secret, wipes its little ass with UN resolutions and commands others to obey them, burn books, throws out people with different “opinions” etc? Well AIG it isn’t propaganda. It is the ugly reality of Haredistan.

Nokia stadium. Hmmm seems that to your sport achievements have not benefited from that famous Finnish town name. Nokia is a small town near Tampere. In sport achievements Israel is light year behind Finland. So it seems that this name is not helping you. Maybe you should try and rename the stadium to New Temple Stadium or something like that to bring some nationalistic “team unity”. 🙂 🙂

By the way AIG do you know how much is Israel paying to Nokia for the usage of that name in the stadium?

AIG why do you not tell me why you IGs are burning New Testaments in Israel? To make you more “popular” among us Christians? Well doing good job on that front.

May 27th, 2008, 8:47 pm


Naji said:

01:13 Fouad Siniora wins parliamentary support to reassume prime ministerial post (AP)

01:07 Assad: Lebanon should talk peace with Israel if Syrian track progresses (Reuters)

23:46 Report: Labor Chair Barak considering making demand that Olmert resign (Channel 1)

23:33 Syria`s Assad dismisses Israel`s demands that Damascus cut Iran ties (Reuters)
22:42 Iran`s Ahmadinejad requests meeting with pope (Reuters)

22:22 U.S.: Rice not expecting to meet Iranian, Syrian FMs during Stockholm meet (Reuters)

19:31 CIA director: Bin Laden`s demise would not end Al-Qaida menace (AP)

19:25 Price of oil fluctuates around $130 a barrel on concerns about demand (AP)

18:40 Mortar shell strikes Sha`ar Hanegev Regional Council; no one hurt (Haaretz)

18:36 Egyptian police uncover 500 kilograms of TNT near Egypt-Gaza border (AP)

18:28 Olmert`s attorney: Talansky`s interrogation was unacceptable, aggressive (Haaretz)

17:44 Ahmadinejad inaugurates new legislative period in Iran (DPA)

17:09 Talansky to be cross examined by defense in PM bribery probe on July 17 (Haaretz)

17:06 Lynch of Arab youths by Jewish teens caught on Jerusalem security camera (Haaretz)

14:17 Turkish FM: Israel, Syria forming `common ground` that may lead to direct talks (DPA)

14:10 Report: Human rights conditions in W. Bank and Gaza worsened over last year (Reuters)

06:25 `Durban 2` anti-racism conference to be held in Geneva (AP)

May 27th, 2008, 10:28 pm


Alex said:


Prepare your answers, I think Simo HUrtta will ask you about these two tomorrow:

17:06 Lynch of Arab youths by Jewish teens caught on Jerusalem security camera (Haaretz)

14:10 Report: Human rights conditions in W. Bank and Gaza worsened over last year (Reuters)

May 27th, 2008, 10:45 pm


Alex said:

Syria’s Assad Dismisses Israeli Demand on Iran
By Khaled Yacoub


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday dismissed Israeli demands that Syria abandon an alliance with Iran as a requirement for a peace deal.

Assad told British parliamentarians that the Baath Party government intended to maintain “normal relations” with Iran while it conducts indirect talks with Israel to regain the occupied Golan Heights, a source familiar with the meeting told Reuters.

“The president said Syria has normal relations with Iran. He made it clear that any suggestion to drop them was not a reasonable request,” the source said.

“He said if Israel could question Syria’s relations with Iran, then Syria could question Israel’s ties with other countries, particularly the United States.”

The parliamentarians, including former interior minister Charles Clarke, are on a trip to hear Syria’s take on the Middle East at first hand.

A week after the announcement, Syrian Defense Minister Hassan Turkmani visited Tehran to discuss closer military cooperation, Syrian government newspapers said.


The official Syrian news agency said Assad underscored to the British delegation need for “comprehensive peace and full restoration of rights,” a reference to the Palestinian quest for a state on all the land Israel occupied in the 1967 war.

Syria’s alliance with Iran dates back to 1980, when Damascus, alone in the Arab world, took Iran’s side in its war with Iraq.

Assad said progress on the Syrian-Israeli peace track would encourage Lebanon and Israel to initiate their own talks.

“The president hinted that it would not be in Lebanon’s interest if it did not have its own talks if Syrian-Israeli talks advanced,” the source said.

May 27th, 2008, 11:01 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

A proposal that merits Hariri’s attention – as well as that of all Lebanese

By The Daily Star
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Bar Associations of Beirut and Tripoli issued a forward-looking appeal on Tuesday that should get the attention of all members of Lebanon’s vibrant civil society – as well as that of the country’s political class, which has on occasion shown a tendency to drag the country backward. The two organizations proposed a wide range of key reforms whose full implementation would significantly strengthen Lebanon’s unity, stability and democracy. They also urged other civil society groups in the country to sign and adopt the document as their own in order to garner as much popular support for the initiatives as possible.

Among the most crucial tasks on the to-do list of painful but necessary reforms, according to a nine-point document released by the two bar associations, is the need to bolster the independence of the judiciary. Nothing would serve to better guarantee a functioning democracy in Lebanon than to strengthen this particular branch of government and make it immune to all forms of external pressure. As the two associations pointed out, justice and its role and institutions have over the course of the years been paralyzed and undermined in this country. It will therefore be impossible to establish a Lebanese state based on justice and the rule of law without first achieving sweeping judicial reforms. The reforms must be aimed at promoting an independent judiciary that can guarantee the equal rights of all Lebanese citizens, without regard for sect, class, gender, age or powerful connections.

The need to achieve judicial reform is all the more urgent in view of the accord reached by Lebanese leaders in Doha. That agreement inked in Qatar represents only a partial remedy for Lebanon’s ills, and in many ways serves to exacerbate existing problems. The new electoral law, for example, is certainly an improvement upon the 2000 law that was designed by Syria’s Ghazi Kenaan. But while the new law is likely to ensure better representation, it simultaneously serves to further entrench Lebanon’s sectarian political process. Creating a properly functioning and independent judiciary would serve as a counterweight to the ongoing sectarianization of Lebanon, as it would lead to the rise of at least one institution in which all Lebanese are judged equally and according to the rule of law.

No one is in a better position to champion such an initiative than parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri. Perhaps nobody in Lebanon has a more intimate understanding of the current flaws of the country’s judiciary. Not long after Hariri’s father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was assassinated in a car bombing in Beirut in 2005, it became apparent that Lebanon’s judiciary was operating under a variety of political pressures and was incapable of rendering a swift and impartial conviction that would hold the killers accountable for their crime. The younger Hariri therefore had to turn to the international community to ensure that the culprits behind his father’s assassination would one day be brought to justice. The best gift that the parliamentary majority leader could give to the country in honor of his father’s memory would be to champion an independent judiciary that would ensure that justice is meted out even-handedly and efficiently in every crime committed on Lebanese soil.

A properly functioning independent judiciary would not only guarantee justice in criminal cases, but would also serve to safeguard the rights and property of citizens, protect (and therefore attract) investments, arbitrate disputes among various branches of government, and uphold constitutional order. In short, it would provide all the ingredients for a prosperous and democratic Lebanon.

May 27th, 2008, 11:46 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

The decision to keep Saniora on was a mistake by M14.

This effectively enables the opposition to complain that nothing has changed, thereby depriving the country of the sense that we have actually had a fresh start. More bickering, more bullshit.

May 27th, 2008, 11:48 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

More fat for Simo’s fire: 3,000 Palestinians homes slated for demolition by Israel in occupied Zone C of the West Bank.

Gee, Saniora has put on about 50-60 pounds.

May 28th, 2008, 12:58 am


Alex said:

Qifa Nabki,

There is tension in Lebanon today. It seems everyone is trying to establish his version of the practical meaning of the agreement.

For example, M14 complained that Nasrallah in his speech yesterday continued to talk about strategic choices … that he alone decided, without asking them to discuss those choices.

Here is an interesting news story about Syria and Iran .. it does not look like there is trouble between the two countries at all.

Iranian defense minister: Israel-Syria talks ‘philosophical’

‘Syria has right to regain sovereignty over the Golan, but current talks between Jerusalem and Damascus are merely philosophical,’ Mostafa Mohammad Najjar says after meeting Syrian counterpart in Tehran

“Iran’s defensive (military) strength will stand by Syria due to Damascus’ strategic importance to us,” Defense Minister Brigadier General Mostafa Mohammad Najjar told reporters on Tuesday in Tehran following a meeting his Syrian counterpart Hassan Turkmani.

Referring to the indirect talks between Israel and Syria, which are being conducted with Turkey’s mediation, Najjar said, “Israel and (US President George W.) Bush estimated that in Iran and Syria would sever ties in 2008, but this visit shows that Israel’s goals are unrealistic.

“Syria, of course, has the right to regain sovereignty over the Golan,” said the Iranian defense minister, “but we realize that these talks were merely formal and philosophical. Israel is weak and is therefore trying to show, through such reports (of negotiations with Syria) that it has successes in the international and diplomatic arena, but everyone knows this is just a failed tactic.”

Turkami told the joint press conference that the cooperation between Syria and Iran was aimed at “establishing peace in the Middle East”, adding that the ties between Syrian and Iran “will always be strategic and based on solid foundations. No one will be able to get in the way of this bond”.

As for the recent negotiations with Israel, the Syrian defense minister said, “We must always remember that past peace talks with Israel were unsuccessful, but we agreed to examine Turkey’s mediation efforts in this regard, regardless of the results and without bias.”

In June 2006 Syria and Iran signed a mutual defense pact against what they referred to as “common threats” presented by Israel and the United States.

AFP contributed to the report

May 28th, 2008, 1:16 am


Qifa Nabki said:


I agree that the news item you posted is interesting.

But I find it interesting for completely different reasons.

Iran’s defense minister seems to be correcting the narrative, so to speak, after having a friendly discussion with his opposite number, Hassan Turkmani.

Iran’s description of the talks as “merely formal and philosophical” is rather deflating, don’t you think? What are they doing in Turkey, then, playing a hypothetical and harmless game of “what if”, with no intention of actually following through? This is the way the Iranians make it sound, which is a bit of a setback for Bashar, who, up until this point, had tried to portray the talks as serious and substantive. Rather than illustrate, as you say, that “it does not look like there is trouble between the two countries at all,” it suggests to me that it does not look like the talks will go anywhere as far as Iran is concerned, at least not for the time being. In other words, Iran threw on the brakes.

The fact that Hassan Turkmani hastened to insist that previous talks were unsuccessful further underscores the suggestion that Syria has not yet won Iran’s green light.

May 28th, 2008, 1:42 am


Akbar Palace said:

AIG responds to Sim:

The first thing you should do if you believe your own propoganda is convince your fellow Finns to cut diplomatic ties with Israel. If you cannot even do that, you must represent a very small minority.

That’s the impression I’m getting too. Sim, just a suggestion, but perhaps you can join an local chapter of some anti-Zionist organization (as a start), and then work hard to increase their political clout.


May 28th, 2008, 1:48 am


Alex said:

QN< I wouldn't take those words too seriously. for example Turkmani also said "cooperation between Syria and Iran was aimed at “establishing peace in the Middle East" The only real information is that Syria and Iran want to send a signal that their alliance is still solid. You need to understand what the lovely Saudis are doing these days .... every headline on their different media says "Syria is negotiating Israel .. Syria's allies are worried that Syria is betraying them ...."

May 28th, 2008, 1:55 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Forget about the Saudis. Why should the Syrians care what the Saudis are saying, if the Iranians are on the same page with them? If Ahmadinejad is fully aware of Syria’s game plan and approves of the talks without any qualifications, then the Saudi papers should be of no concern to Damascus, and should not even merit a press conference by the two defense ministers to assure the world of the strength of their alliance.

Again, I read that statement differently. To me, it demonstrates the uncomfortable incompatibility of the two strategies at play here: peace negotiations and resistance.

Iran’s outlook is dominated by the basic idea that Israel must (and will) cease to exist and that the only acceptable attitude toward Israel is resistance. We can split hairs and say, “Well, what they mean is that Israel will cease to exist as the racist Zionist entity that it is today,” but the fact of the matter is that Bashar is negotiating with that “racist Zionist entity” at this very moment.

Who could blame his political opponents from pointing out this inconsistency in the rhetoric of resistance?

May 28th, 2008, 2:31 am


Alex said:

Shu 3aneed hal zalameh!

I will let Ausamaa answer you.

: )

May 28th, 2008, 2:35 am


Honest Patriot said:


A few comments and a few questions:

– I’m still interested in your take on the swearing-in speech (5itabul-qasam) of Suleiman. I posted the links for the text and video earlier in this thread.

– The speech of Nasrallah was not surprising and the content was cast in (and seasoned with) the usual eloquent style. However, if you watched the video of the delivery, the Sayyed seemed not quite his poised and powerful self. I detected a certain nervousness, uneasiness, and quite a bit of sweating (more than normal). Curious, because he is known and seen to be remarkably calm in the midst of the most tense and dangerous situations. Here we have a situation of detente and the Sayyed doesn’t quite impedance-match to it. The weakest part of the speech was the reference to the Army and the veiled threat and ridiculous equivalence that, just like the resistance weapons should not (and shall not) be used internally for political gain, the Army weapons should not be used to control the resistance. What the heck did he mean by that?

– Regarding Siniora: he clearly did not want to continue in the job. Hariri, wisely, would not take the prime minister post. At the same time, it is clear to me that while looking around for an alternative, no one rose in Hariri’s eyes (and I agree with him) to the statesman’s standard that Siniora has established. There was no close second anywhere in sight. Hence Siniora was asked to stay on, and, sacrificing for his country, Siniora agreed.

Glimpsing a few of the talk shows, the bickering continues. The march towards a truly independent, secular, democratic, non-aligned, prosperous Lebanon with full civic-sense of its citizen is still a very long one.

May 28th, 2008, 2:48 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Thanks for the links; I noted them above. I have not yet had a chance to read the speech in its entirety, but if/when I do, I’ll be sure to respond to you (either here or by email).


If I recall, Ausamaa is against the peace talks with Israel. So maybe we will agree for once. 😉

(Not that I am against them, as you know. But I do think that Iran is going to be more of an obstacle than you think.)

May 28th, 2008, 3:07 am


majedkhaldoun said:

I found that choosing Saniora as PM is a good choice, the military action by HAA was serious mistake, and must be foiled,completely, now we have president,General M Suleiman, PM is Saniora, and HAA signed the Douha agreement saying he will not use his military might against the lebanese, now we know who won,and who lost.

May 28th, 2008, 3:10 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


you wrote:


Prepare your answers, I think Simo HUrtta will ask you about these two tomorrow:

17:06 Lynch of Arab youths by Jewish teens caught on Jerusalem security camera (Haaretz)

14:10 Report: Human rights conditions in W. Bank and Gaza worsened over last year (Reuters)

As for 1, if you would have bothered to read the article you would have noticed that they are being put on trial as they should. The Jewish teens beat the Arab teens, were caught on camera and are on trial. I wish it were always this way when Jews were beaten in Arab countries.

Of course the situation worsened because Hamas is all the time promising painful attacks in Israel. So your logic is that Israel has to make it easier for them? If Hamas want a fight, they will get a fight. If they want a truce so as to get stronger to hit us later I reject that out of hand. Do they think we are stupid? We made the mistake once with hizballah and naively left Lebanon only to let Hizballah arm to the teeth and launch a war.

May 28th, 2008, 3:11 am


norman said:

I do not think that Iran should worry about Syria and Israel reaching an agreement , Israel will not give the Golan back and without that Iran knows that Syria will never agree to peace with Israel , the question now , Is Israel going to make it hard for Syria not to sign on a peace deal .

May 28th, 2008, 3:17 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I think Nasrallah is worried for several reasons:

1) If your excuse for the weapons are that they are needed to fight Israel then you must fight Israel. But since Hizballah cannot fight Israel and will not fight Israel for years now, they will have a hard time justifying their weapons.
2) If there is indeed a prisoner deal, it is without any Palestinian prisoners, only Lebanese. He will receive much criticism for that.
3) Once the prisoner deal is made, the Lebanese people will have to decide if July 2006 was worth it for Kuntar, and I think I know how they will decide.
4) If Kuntar is returned, there will be no more Lebanese prisoners in Israel. Are the weapons for the Sheba farm only? And what happens if Syria as part of the talks agrees to say that Sheba is Lebanese?

Slowly but surely, most of the Hizballah excuses for their weapons are disappearing at a time when they are least popular in Lebanon. Nasrallah is worried for a good reason.

May 28th, 2008, 3:23 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I agree with QN, the rhetoric of the resistance is at odds with the peace talks. But that is why I think it is unlikely that Asad would go for a deal. Without the “resistance” badge he will create both internal and external problems and jeopardize his regime. There can only be two reasons why he would negotiate now:
1) He has concluded that Iran will be attacked and does not want to risk getting in the middle and being forced to attack Israel for Iran. After all, Asad knows who funded his nuclear program.
2) The economic situation in Syria is worse than is evident and he desparately needs to improve the economic situation in Syria. Given what we read about Egypt, this could very well be.

Maybe it is a combination of both.

May 28th, 2008, 3:34 am


Alex said:

AIG said:

1) I wish it were always this way when Jews were beaten in Arab countries.

2) Slowly but surely, most of the Hizballah excuses for their weapons are disappearing


AIG … if a Syrian jew (one of the 60 remaining today) was attacked and beaten by non Jewsih Syrians … ask Syrian Jews n NJ what they think will happen to the teen who beat up the Syrian Jews.

as for yor HA point …. same was sad in 2000 when Israel withdrew and Ehud started to talk about his incredible smart move when he withdrew unilaterally from Lebanon thus, he thought, rendering Hizbolla’s weapons and role … both obsolete.

It did not happen… and it will not happen until there is a total peace settlement.

As for the way you read the sitation, which is amazingly very similar to the way the Saudis and their admirers here read it, I can’t prove you wrong yet, but I am confident that in Syria they are trying very hard not to show how happy and empowered they feel these days.

There is no fear of a “successful” strike on Iran .. there is no fear of a weakened Hizbollah .. there is no Iranian Syrian split …

But we can only observe from here. Your opinion is as good as mine for now.

May 28th, 2008, 3:36 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

There are 60 old Jews left in Syria from 50,000 in 1947. In 1947 there was a pogrom in Aleppo. Jews were killed and beaten and most of their stores burned. Was anybody punished? The Jews were hassled for decades in Syria and were scared all the time. Was anybody punished?

So now you use the excuse that Syria is taking good care of 60 old men who are all that is left of a hundreds year old community of tens of thousands.

Maybe Israel should use the Syrian method. We should scare all the Arabs into leaving and then keep 60 and treat them real nice, and when someone complains we can say: Look how nice we are treating our Arabs! Oh, and we can organize photo ops with some of them showing how they praise the Israeli state’s kindness.

May 28th, 2008, 3:48 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Following the perspective I gained from the 2006 war I have come to the conclusion that Hizballah’s weapons are not a problem for Israel any more. They are a problem only for Lebanon. Since the rules of the game have changed, Hizballah cannot use their weapons without risking a large war and therefore they cannot use their weapons against Israel. The weapons are basically useless. I even doubt they will use them when Iran is attacked since they will have a lot to answer for to their Lebanese compatriots if they do. After all, why should Lebanon be flattened for Iran?

May 28th, 2008, 3:53 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Based on what do you claim that Syria is “trying very hard not to show how happy and empowered they feel these days”?

The Syrian nuclear program was attacked and they did nothing. Mugniyeh was assasinated in Damascus and they did nothing, they did not even say who it was. Inflation according to all sources is out of control and salaries are buying much less. Except for maybe Qatar, Syria is isolated in the Arab world. So what is exactly empowering the Syrians in your opinion?

May 28th, 2008, 4:02 am


Alex said:


Look, I know you would looooove to establish some kind of moral equivalence between the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians (and Arabs) by Israel with the case of Syria’s Jews who immigrated to NJ.

Good strategy .. but … it is not working AIG … really.

I suggest you ask Syrian Jews themselves … not the 60 old ones in Syria, but the tens of thousands who immigrated to NJ

1) Read the link below how many of them love Hafez Assad and they love their Syrian friends and they love Syria and they explained that the main reason they loft was that they were not sure if they will be able to leave in the future … they simply decided to take advantage from the fact that Hafez Assad FINALLY accepted to let them go! … he wanted them to stay 7abibi … he received their leaders in his office many times in the 80’s telling them he is personally responsible for their safety … that Syria is their country…

And some of them left because (read the interviews below link) they felt guilty for eating and drinking from Syria while loving Israel more … they did not feel good betraying their Syrian freinds who were good to them.


2) Read how they organized a fund raiser last month and raised 70,000 for sick children in Syria … and they gave the check to Syria’s official ambassador to the US …. they like him a lot too. ANd he keeps inviting them to visit Syria or to return to Syria.


By the way .. I asked some old people from Aleppo .. what happened in in 1947 was … violence against Jews that resulted in … a few of them killed… very few AIG … numbers comparable to the ones your lovely Israeli army kills every week these days.

And the only time it happened was late 40’s in Aleppo when Israel was established … it was not a trend Mr. AIG like the trend of killing Palestinian civilians by Israelis that did not stop for decades … or the trend of stealing Palestinian lands … don’t make me imitate Simo again.

May 28th, 2008, 4:08 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Israeli Minister: Peace with Syria would Isolate Iran, Hizbullah

Any peace deal between Israel and Syria would dramatically change the face of the Middle East, in particular by isolating Iran, an Israeli cabinet minister said on Tuesday.

“Peace with Syria would break up the current strategic situation because it would isolate Iran and silence Hizbullah,” said Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer.

“We are talking about a true peace, an end to hostilities, an opening of the borders, and Israel is ready to pay the price for such a peace and coexistence with Syria,” he told public radio.

Israel and Syria confirmed last week that they have launched indirect peace talks through Turkish mediation, a process that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said began in February 2007.

The last round of peace talks broke down in 2000 over the fate of the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau which Israel seized in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed in 1981 in a move not recognized by the international community.

Ben Eliezer said he would visit the Golan on Tuesday to discuss with the local population its electricity and development needs.

Opinion polls show that two thirds of Israelis are opposed to withdrawing from the Golan, which is now home to some 20,000 Jewish settlers and about 18,000 Syrians.

Ben Eliezer was also questioned about an eventual prisoner swap with Hizbullah.

“I pray that Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser are still alive,” he said, referring to two Israeli soldiers captured in July 2006 by Hizbullah in a deadly cross-border raid.

“For two years, we have been doing everything possible to bring them home, and we are ready to pay the price for that,” Ben Eliezer said.

Military radio has reported that Israel is prepared to free five Lebanese prisoners and return the remains of 10 Hizbullah fighters in exchange for Regev and Goldwasser.

Among the prisoners who could be freed is Samir Kantar who was sentenced in 1980 to 542 years in prison for killing an Israeli civilian and his daughter as well as a police officer in an attack that shocked Israel, the radio said.(AFP)

May 28th, 2008, 4:16 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Please continue convincing us that Asad is a philosemite. The facts on the ground are simple. There were 50,000 jews in 1947, there are 60 now. What kind of excuse is that the Jews left only because they were afraid they could not leave later? Why would the Jews care about that if everything was so great? The fact is they left because they were scared. They were scared because of how they were treated. For decades they were harassed by the regime.

The Jews were ethnically cleansed from Syria. One day the story will be written in full. I commend you for actually asking old people from Aleppo about the pogrom. How many were killed? A few? No, MANY were killed and half the Jews of Aleppo left. By the way, almost ALL of the Jewish stores and synagouges were trashed and burned. And you know the worst part? Not even ONE Arab bothered to document it and it has been erased from the collective memory of the Syrians. People from Aleppo do not know about it. Why wasn’t there even ONE Arab that cared enough about his Jewish neighbors to document what happened to them in Aleppo? Can you explain this to me?

May 28th, 2008, 4:21 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

And yes you are welcome to post all the UN resolutions Israel ignored and all what it did to the Palestinians. As if this justifies anything about the Syrian Jews or the Aleppo pogrom. What you and Simo post is anyway mostly Israeli material.

Where is the Arab account of what happened in Aleppo in 1947? Where is it? Perhaps some Syrian wrote a poem about it? Is there a commemorative plaque for the Jews killed? Have people in Aleppo admitted their mistake in attacking their neighbors and apologized? Isn’t there ONE Syrian non-Jew who is willing to stand and advocate for the Jews of Aleppo like there are a multitude of Jews who stand with the Palestinians? Where is the brave Arab that is willing to document what really happened in Aleppo in 1947, like the Israeli academics that have written the definitive history of what happend to the Palestinians in 1948?

May 28th, 2008, 4:31 am


Alex said:


I think we need to stop saying “the fact is” if it is only what AIPAC likes to claim is a fact.

Your “The fact is they left because they were scared. They were scared because of how they were treated. For decades they were harassed by the regime.“… is contrary to many statements from Syrian Jews themselves about Hafez Assad who was in power for the last three decades!

Look … I understand you hate to read what contradicts your AIPAC strategies … so I selected a few parts for you for Robert Tuttle’s interviews with Syrian Jews who Immigrated to NJ

“But among the assortment of memorabilia, the Syrian doctor [a Syrian jew] is particularly fond of a small stack of folded newspaper clips that show him and other Jewish leaders shaking hands with the late Syrian President Hafez al-Asad.

“For us, of course, he was like the Messiah,” Hasbani said. Before him “you could not walk for four kilometers [without permission]. You could not buy and sell [property]. Walking in the street, you were afraid to say I am a Jew. There were [Jewish] schools. But there was someone from the government sitting on your head, and capable of doing whatever he wanted.”

Asad, Hasbani said, was different from past Syrian leaders in that he was the first president to truly pay attention to the concerns of Syria’s Jews.

“When we met with him in 1976, people [the Jews] rose,” Hasbani said. “When you sit with the president, people outside would not dare to do anything to you. He who is against you can do nothing to you because he saw the president receiving you and taking pictures with you.”

Such sentiments about a man long regarded as Israel’s most formidable enemy might surprise some people who follow the pulse of the Middle East. But they are quite typical among the approximately 3,000 Syrian Jewish émigrés who left for Brooklyn and Israel more than a decade ago.”


AIG .. they said he was like the Messiah for them … they collect until today newspaper clips with their photos with him … they said he TRULY paid attention to the concerns of the Jews … and Robert Tuttle said that these sentiments were common among thousands of Syrian Jews who immigrated to the United States.


May 28th, 2008, 4:32 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I have spoken to quite a few Syrian Jews. Tuttle is providing anecdotal evidence that is far from representing the view of most of them. In the end, your heart breaks for them. They so much wanted to be part of Syria but they were rejected and many of them just wasted years of their life and could never really fit in Israel or the US when they immigrated out of fear.

As for Asad, he cynically used the Jews as part of his negotiations with the US. They were never people with rights for him but always a card to play when required.

May 28th, 2008, 4:44 am


Alex said:

Oh I see .. we are back to “anecdotal evidence”

Good nght. I leave you with your “I spoke with many Jews” .. enjoy it as EVIDENCE that surpasses Tuttle’s no-good “anecdotal evidence”

May 28th, 2008, 4:46 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The BASIC INCONTROVERSIAL evidence is 50,000 Jews in 1947 turn into 60 today. Does this fit more with your theory or my theory? Do communities that are taken care of and supported by the government DISAPPEAR? Or do they grow? Yes, my evidence is ancedotal also, but it fits completely with the basic facts and common sense. Your evidence does not and so should be discounted.

May 28th, 2008, 4:51 am


Qifa Nabki said:

أوضاع طبيعية وكاملة عبر رسائل الجوال لمشتركي الشرق الأوسط
موقع إسرائيلي يقدم مشاهد جنسية بين عرب ويهود لـ”نشر السلام”

دبي- حيان نيوف

ذكرت تقارير صحفية أن موقعا اسرائيليا على الانترنت تمكن من جذب مئات العرب والاسرائيليين، من هواة التمثيل الإباحي، لإنتاج وعرض أفلامهم على الموقع، وذلك كطريقة جديدة ابتغاها الموقع للتقريب بين الطرفين فيما فشلت السياسة في صنعه- وفق هذه التقارير.

وربط خبير فلسطيني بارز في الشؤون الاسرائيلية بين هذه التقارير وإقدام حماس مؤخرا على “فلترة” الانترنت لحجب هذا الموقع وغيره، مؤكدا وجودها وعملها من أراضي 48 ، ومحذرا منها لأنها تعمل تحت إشراف المخابرات الاسرائيلية على حد قوله.
عودة للأعلى

مئات المشاركين

وفي تفاصيل الموضوع، أعلن “شي مالول” مدير الموقع الإسرائيلي “باربر 1” 27-5-2008 أن الموقع تمكن حتى الآن من جمع 325 عربيا واسرئيليا، في تجمع خاص لهواة الافلام الإباحية في الشرق الأوسط، وذلك كطريقة فريدة من نوعها تجمع العرب واليهود بشكل ودي جدا، وهو ما فشل السياسيون وواضعو خطط السلام من تحقيقه، على حد تعبيره.

وكان الموقع انطلق في العام 2000 من قبل مواطنين اسرائيليين، يؤكد أحدهما -وهو “شي مالول”- أنه حقق حلم طفولته ويقول “إن اسرائيل حالة استثنائية ولذا قررنا أن نقدم إباحية اسرائيلية خالصة”، وفق تقرير لوكالة الأنباء الألمانية ورد باللغة الإنجليزية.
عودة للأعلى

مشاهد جنسية طبيعية

وقال “شي مالول” إن الموقع يوظف المولودين في اسرائيل فقط، سواء كانوا مسلمين أو يهودا، مشيرا إلى استقدام من 3 إلى 4 ممثلين جدد كل شهر من بين الطلبات العديدة التي يتلقاها الموقع.

وأضاف “نصوّرهم وهم يمارسون الجنس بشكل طبيعي أمام الكاميرا بدون سيلكيون أو مكياج بالضبط كما يمارسون الجنس في بيوتهم، وبالضبط كما يرغب البعض برؤية جيرانهم وهم يماسرون الجنس”.

وأكد “شي مالول” أن الموقع يقدم خدماته أيضا عبر رسائل الجوال مقابل مبالغ مالية، وفق عدد ايام الاشتراك التي يختارها مشتركون من الشرق الأوسط.

ويقول إن الموقع لديه 20 ألف متصفح يوميا يصلون إلى 50 ألف في نهاية الأسبوع، وبصرف النظر عن انتقاد الموقع في أول سنتين على انطلاقه -عندما كانت الانتفاضة في أوجها- بقية ردود الفعل كانت إيجابية حتى من إيران ، على حد قول مدير الموقع “شي مالول”.

و”باربر1″ معناها الفراشة ، ويقول صاحب الموقع “نعتقد أن كل شخص منا هو فراشة تريد حريتها”.

عودة للأعلى

مواقع من أراضي 48

من جهته، ربط الدكتور سمير قديح، الخبير الفلسطيني بالشؤون الاسرائيلية، بين انتشار هذا الموقع وإقدام حماس خلال اليومين الماضيين على فلترة الانترنت، وحجب المواقع الإباحية لمنع الشباب الفلسطيني في الغزة والضفة من الاتصال على فتيات المواقع الإباحية في أراضي 48.

وقال لـ”العربية.نت” إن “معظم المواقع الإباحية تنطلق من أراضي 48 مثل حيفا ويافا والناصرة، وفيها فيتات عربيات يروجن الافلام الإباحية من خلال تجار اسرائيليين”.

وأوضح ” أقصد أراضي 48 لأن سكانها تأقلموا مع السياسة الاسرائيلية، ولصعوبة تفرقة عرب 48 عن اسرائيل حيث انخرطوا بالمجتمع الاسرائيلي وبعادات وتقاليد اليهود”.
عودة للأعلى

تجنيد الشباب

وأكد د. سمير قديح وجود مشتركين لهذه المواقع عبر الجوال، إلا أنه رفض القول إن هذه المواقع تجمع العرب واليهود فيما فشل السياسيون بجمعهم.
وقال: كلام مدير موقع (بابرا1 ) هو كلام شخص تاجر وسمسار يريد جني الأموال واستحالة أن يتحقق السلام عبر هذه المواقع.

وقال قديح إن معظم المواقع الجنسية الاسرائيلية تعمل تحت إشراف المخابرات الاسرائيلية، وتعتمد تجنيد الشباب من خلال الجنس وما يسمى “عمليات الاسقاط”، حيث أن معظم عمليات الاسقاط والاغتيال تقوم بها المخابرات من خلال النساء، فضلا عن استخدام مرتادي الموقع من خلال أساليب الضغط والابتزاز.

وحذر د. سمير قديح من هذه المواقع، مؤكدا أنها تتصيد الفلسطينيين وخاصة أبناء غزة والضفة الغربية، مطالبا الطلاب الفلسطينيين الذين يسافرون إلى الخارج من عدم السقوط في فخها.

يذكر أن الصحافة الاسرائيلية أوردت العام الماضي أن نسبة مرتادي المواقع الإباحية الاسرائيلية من الدول العربية ارتفع، فبين 2-10% من متصفحي المواقع الإباحية الإسرائيلية هم من تونس والأردن ومصر والاراضي الفلسطينية، وهو ما دفع بعض المواقع لتقديم خدماتها باللغة العربية.

May 28th, 2008, 4:55 am


Alex said:

QIfa NAbk,

this is from al-Arabyia’s site


Exactly what Averroes said lasw week .. they always attract readers with at least one daily story with sexual content.

AIG : )

If you cared to read the long article, they explained that even though things were very good under Hafez Assad, they did not know if in the future things will remain good … for example if there was a bloody war between Israel and Syria .. what would they do? .. in their hearts they side with Israel …

And if you want to rely on logical deduction .. how come the same Jews collected 70,000 last month and gave the check to Imad Moustapha?

May 28th, 2008, 4:56 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

They collected the money Alex because their identity is partially Syrian and even though Syria rejected them, they cannot reject their identity and how they see themselves. It is an act that has helped them feel more complete. They raised the money in spite of how Syria treated them and not because of how Syria treated them.

I read the long article. I don’t understand your question about the war. What do you mean what they would do? They would do nothing. They could not influence the war either way. And now also they are traitors because in their heart they side with Israel. In any case you are proving my point if you think they left because Asad could change his mind about them. They were scared of him and did not trust him.

May 28th, 2008, 5:08 am


Alex said:


Don’t worry. I’m sorry if I, temporarily challenged (for a second) your satisfying and deeply held belief that Assad and the Syrian people are savage Jew haters.

Forget all the disturbing good feelings towards Syria that you read about from the quotes in that article .. they can all be explained in the opposite way if one tries really hard …

Hey! .. remember Tlass’ book!

By the way, since you are here, sorry for the delay in posting your article and the new topic on CS … I am still getting more articles. Tomorrow night I will post everything inshallah.

May 28th, 2008, 5:32 am


Alex said:

A good articles (in my opinion) from a Saudi writer

لماذا نجحت قطر وفشلت السعودية؟

مقال نشر في القدس العربي بتاريخ 26-05-2008

السعودية اليوم تحصد ثمار سياسة خارجية فاشلة عمرها ربع قرن. منذ أن اعتبرت القيادة السعودية نفسها اليد اليمني للامبراطورية الامريكية وسياستها الخارجية التي بدأت بعد انهيار نظام شاه ايران في عام 1979، خرجت السعودية من دائرة القطب المحايد القادر علي لعب دور بناء في المنطقة العربية او العالم الاسلامي.

الشراكة السعودية ـ الامريكية التي بدأت بتحرير افغانستان من الاحتلال السوفييتي ومن ثم التعاون المفتوح لضرب افغانستان عام 2001 وبعده الموقف المتذبذب من احتلال العراق عام 2003 وما قبله الموقف المؤيد لحصار العراق خلال التسعينات، كلها مواقف أخرجت السعودية من دائرة الحيادية وأدت الي تقليص بل انعدام قدرتها علي تبوؤ منصب القيادة علي الصعيد العربي والاسلامي، حاولت السعودية أن تجمع فصائل متناحرة في فلسطين والعراق من خلال مؤتمرات مكة مستعينة بذلك بثقلها الديني والمادي ولكن دون جدوي، بينما نجد دولة قطر الصغيرة قد انجزت نجاحاّ باهراّ خلال أقل من اسبوع لتوحيد الصف اللبناني واخراج أهله من دوامة الاحتراب والاقتتال الداخلي، عندما وقفت السعودية متفرجة علي تدمير لبنان خلال صيف 2006 سعت قطر من خلال مجلس الأمن لايجاد مخرج او اتفاق علها بذلك تنهي تساقط الصواريخ والقنابل علي لبنان.

أما السعودية فراحت تلوم الضحية ومغامراتها حسب خطابات القيادة الرسمية. وعندما اقترب اللبنانيون من حرب داخلية دموية أطلقت الصحافة السعودية العنان لمنابرها لتدين طرفاّ واحداّ. وساعدتها بذلك فتاوي العلماء الذين استحضروا خلافات عقيدية قديمة ليسقطوها علي وضع سياسي جديد، اصبحت السعودية طرفاّ في نزاعات العرب الداخلية ولم تمنع نفسها عن السقوط في مستنقعات عربية معقدة ومتشابكة،

وبما ان السعودية تطمح لأن تكون القطب المحرك للعالم العربي وجبهة قوية في الخليج تواجه القوة المتصاعدة لايران الا انها لن تجمع العالم العربي وتحشده خلفها ان ظلت طرفاّ في الصراعات الداخلية او أداة لتمرير عمليات سلام فاشلة لا تقبلها الجهات المعنية مباشرة مثل الأطراف الفلسطينية او العراقية والآن اللبنانية، لقد ساهمت السعودية ومن خلفها الولايات المتحدة بالانقسام والشرخ العربي الذي يتبلور اليوم بين معسكرين. احدهما يدعي الاعتدال والآخر يدعي الامتناع، تدهور العلاقات السورية ـ السعودية خلال الاعوام السابقة فتح الباب علي مصراعيه أمام تبلور المعسكرات العربية المتصارعة التي تنضم تحت رايتها دول وأنظمة من الطرفين،

ان ارادات السعودية فعلاّ ان تلعب الدور القيادي الذي تطمح اليه يجب عليها اولاّ ان تنفض الغبار عن سياستها الخارجية وربما تستبدل الطاقم الحالي القديم بطاقم جديد عنده من الحيوية والنضارة ما يجعله يستقطب الرأي العام العربي ليس بالشعارات القديمة عن وحدة الصف واللحمة العربية، بل باجراءات وقرارات تطبق علي الأرض وربما تشتت القيادة السعودية ذاتها وتعدد مصادر القرار داخلياّ هما ما يجعلان السعودية غير قادرة علي توحيد صفها الداخلي قبل ان تخرج للعالم العربي طامحة لقيادته. ان تقلبات السياسة العربية وارتباط حلول المشاكل الداخلية بالوضع الاقليمي والعالمي يتطلبان تغييراّ جذرياّ في السياسة الخارجية السعودية. لن تستطيع السعودية ان تتحول الي محور قوي طالما انها تركض وراء المشاريع الامريكية ومتطلبات الأمن القومي الأمريكي. وطالما ظلت السعودية نفسها رهينة لتعددية مصادر القرار في السعودية ذاتها، ورغم مرور اكثر من عامين علي تولي الملك عبد الله منصبه كملك للبلاد الا انه لم يستطع ولن يستطيع ان يحسم التعددية الداخلية السعودية، اذ انه محور واحد ضمن عدة محاور، كل منها يفرض رأيه وقراره ليس فقط علي السياسة الداخلية، بل ايضاّ علي المواقف من أزمات المنطقة العربية. لقد انهكت القرارات المتضاربة والممارسات المتناقضة الساحة السعودية الداخلية وشلت قدرة السعودية علي لعب دور قيادي علي الساحة العربية. فلا اصلاحات الداخل التي وعد بها الملك تحققت، بل تزايدت عمليات القمع وطالت اصحاب الرأي والأقلام من كتاب وأكاديميين ومدونين علي خلفية وعود وهمية بالانفتاح والحرية والتعددية. وكما هوحال الوضع الداخلي المتردي نجد ان السياسة الخارجية هي ايضاّ رهينة المواقف المتباينة والتصريحات المتناقضة التي تصدر من أقطاب متعددة داخل السعودية والتي لكل منها آلة اعلامية وأقلام تروج لها، وبينما التزمت قطر بمواقف موحدة لأن سياستها لا تدار من قبل أطراف متناقضة ومتناحرة نجد السعوية تغرق في تصريحات متباينة تصدر من قبل أقطاب متعددة داخل قيادتها. احادية القرار الخارجي في قطر تقابلها تعددية هدامة في السعودية قلصت من قدرة السعودية علي الخروج من دوامة التناحر الداخلي والتباين في المواقف ازاء الأزمات العربية المتكررة.

ان الدولة المركزية التي بناها الملك فيصل خلال الستينات والسبعينات لنا عليها الكثير من المآخذ ولكن يبدو ان هذه الدولة استطاعت ان تحد من التناقضات السياسية خاصة في العلاقات الخارجية. حينها كان العالم يعرف المحور الأساسي المحرك للسياسة الداخلية والخارجية السعودية، أما اليوم فنحن امام حالة جديدة أبرز معالمها تشرذم القرار السعودي الداخلي الذي وقع فريسة لتصارع الأمراء في مرحلة التسابق الي الوصول الي أعلي مركز في الدولة، الدولة السعودية اليوم هي أشبه ما تكون بقبيلة دون رأس رغم كل المحاولات والشعارات وطقوس الوحدة المزيفة التي تستحضرها القيادة السعودية في مهرجاناتها وطقوسها المعروفة.

ان كانت دولة ما لها من الموارد والثروة كالسعودية تطمح في قيادة العالم العربي او لعب دور اكبر في حل قضاياه العالقة والمستعصية فيجب عليها ان تتحول الي مسار تقنين السلطة وحصرها بيد طاقم واحد وليس تفكيك مسارها من خلال تدخل شريحة كبيرة من الأمراء وأبنائهم في مسارها. وأهم من ذلك علي السعودية ان تفك الارتباط مع مسارات الأمن القومي الأمريكي لأن الأحداث الحاصلة علي الساحة العربية تبرهن يوماّ بعد يوم ان مصالح الولايات المتحدة ليست بالضرورة هي مصالح الأنظمة العربية الحاكمة.

تحتاج السعودية الي نقلة نوعية تنتزعها من حالة تشرذم القرار الداخلي وتعددية مصادره بالاضافة الي استقلالية واضحة وصريحة تبعدها عن مسار الخطوط العريضة للسياسة الأمريكية في المنطقة. عندها فقط تستطيع السعودية المحاولة من جديد وبطريقة اخري ان تحشد الرأي في العالم العربي خلفها وتنتزع نفسها من متاهات التشرذم والتهميش وحتي العداء من قبل شرائح كبيرة في العالم العربي لا تزال مقتنعة ان السعودية ليست الا ذراعاّ للسياسة الأمريكية. يجب علي السعودية ان تقف ضمن مساحة واحدة من جميع الأطراف المتنازعة في أي عاصمة عربية علّها بذلك تنجح في مساعيها ليس فقط في حل المنازعات بل في فرض نفسها كمحور مهم وقوي في السجالات الدولية والعربية. ربما المال وحده او الثروة النفطية لا تضمن الدور القيادي ان لم تلازمها سياسة حكيمة اكثر قرباّ من مصالح المنطقة وبعداّ عن المصالح الخارجية. وهذا يبدو لنا نقطة انطلاق لقرار سياسي صعب ان لم تحسمه السعودية اليوم فستظل علي هامش الحدث، بل ستجلب لنفسها مصاعب قادمة قد تتخطي الصلح اللبناني وتتجاوزه الي أبعد من ذلك خاصة وان المواجهة قد تنتقل من البحر المتوسط الي الخليج ذاته ان كان الأمن القومي الأمريكي يتطلب مواجهة مع ايران في المستقبل.

كاتبة واكاديمية من الجزيرة العربية

May 28th, 2008, 6:21 am


Alex said:

الأسد يتّهم السعوديّة بالتآمر على نظامه

كشف مصدر دبلوماسي عربي بارز في المنامة لـ«الأخبار» أن الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد اتهم قيادة المملكة العربية السعودية بالتآمر على سوريا، وبالعمل لقلب نظام الحكم فيها. وأبلغ الأسد، بصفته رئيساً للقمة العربية، الأمين العام للجامعة العربية عمرو موسى رفضه تحويل المشكلة السعودية ــــ الإيرانية إلى مشكلة عربية ــــ إيرانية، داعياً إلى البدء بجهود خاصة لتعميم نموذج اتفاق الدوحة اللبناني والانتقال مباشرة إلى البحث في المصالحة الوطنية الفلسطينية. وقال المصدر إن موسى الذي زار دمشق بعد مشاركته في جلسة انتخاب الرئيس ميشال سليمان في بيروت، عرض للرئيس السوري تفاصيل ما جرى في الدوحة، وأبلغه بأن اللجنة العربية تدرك أن دمشق أدّت دوراً محورياً في التوصل إلى الاتفاق، معرباً عن أمله في العمل على تنقية الأجواء في العلاقات العربية ــــ العربية.
وأوضح المصدر أن الأمين العام للجامعة العربية سأل الأسد عمّا إذا كان رئيس الاستخبارات المصرية عمر سليمان سيزور دمشق قريباً، فرد الأسد بأن لا علم له بهذا الأمر، لافتاً انتباه ضيفه إلى أن سوريا عاتبة على القيادة المصرية. فقد سبق أن سأل الأسد شخصياً الرئيس المصري عن عدم زيارته دمشق، ورد الأخير بأنه ينوي القيام بها ولكن في ظروف أفضل، ليتبيّن لاحقاً أن الرئيس المصري لا يريد أن تنزعج منه السعودية إن هو زار سوريا. كما أبلغ الأسد موسى أن الرئيس المصري لم يؤدّ دوراً مساعداً في لمّ الشمل العربي، بل عمل حتى على عدم انعقاد القمة العربية في دمشق، وأنه زار البحرين وطلب من ملكها المساعدة على نقل مقر القمة إلى شرم الشيخ، ثم قرر خفض مستوى تمثيل مصر في القمة.
كذلك شرح الأسد لموسى وبإسهاب تفاصيل ما تقوم به القيادات الرئيسية في المملكة العربية السعودية ضد سوريا الدولة، وضد النظام فيها، عارضاً أمامه الوقائع عن مواقف واتصالات أجراها الملك عبد الله ووزير خارجيته سعود الفيصل ورئيس الاستخبارات مقرن ومسؤول الأمن القومي بندر بن سلطان، من أجل جر «الأجنبي الغربي» إلى غزو سوريا وضرب النظام فيها، أو التحضير لأعمال تهدد النظام العام وتهدف إلى قلب النظام في سوريا.
وقال المصدر الدبلوماسي إن موسى خرج من هذا اللقاء بانطباع عن صعوبة تطبيع قريب للعلاقات بين سوريا والسعودية، وسمع كلاماً حاداً من الأسد عند إثارة ملف العلاقات مع إيران. وحسب المصدر، فإن موسى اقترح على الأسد، بصفته رئيساً للقمة، أن يوافق على تأليف لجنة تعمل على حوار عربي ــــ إيراني لمعالجة ما سمّاه موسى المشكلات القائمة حالياً. وحسب المصدر، فإن الأسد رد رافضاً الفكرة، قائلاً: «تريدون تأليف لجنة حوار بين العرب وإيران، وهذا يعني أن هناك مشكلة عربية ــــ إيرانية، فهل تقول لي ما هي مشكلة المغرب أو الجزائر أو مشكلتك أنت كمواطن مصري مع إيران؟ ومن قال لكم إن هناك مشكلة لبنانية أو سورية أو فلسطينية مع إيران؟ نعم هناك مشكلة للسعودية مع إيران، وهي ناتجة من قول السعودية إنها تعاني من موجة تشييع مفترضة، وهي ليست صحيحة. وبالتالي، فلتذهب السعودية وتعالج مشكلتها هي مع إيران، ولكن لن أقبل بأن يجري تحميل العرب كافة مسؤولية السياسة السعودية، لأن لا وجود لمشكلة عربية ــــ إيرانية».
إلا أن الأسد ــــ يضيف المصدر الدبلوماسي العربي ــــ قال لموسى إن المطلوب الآن معالجة ما هو قائم من مشكلات حقيقية. وها نحن جميعاً أمام مشكلة قائمة وخطيرة، وهي التي تتصل بالخلافات القائمة بين حركة فتح وحركة حماس في المناطق الفلسطينية. وعلينا أن نستفيد من تجربة اتفاق الدوحة للعمل بقوة على تحقيق اتفاق بين الفلسطينيين الذين يحتاجون منا اليوم إلى كل دعم، حيث الحصار المفروض عليهم من جانب العدو، وحيث العرب لا يقدّمون لهم أي دعم، وهم الذين يحتاجون إلى الطعام والدواء قبل أي شيء آخر».
وقال المصدر إن الأسد حيّا جهود موسى والجامعة العربية في إنجاح اتفاق الدوحة. وكرر استعداد سوريا للمساعدة على حسن تنفيذ هذا الاتفاق وعلى القيام بما يلزم لتحقيق اتفاق فلسطيني ــــ فلسطيني.

عدد الاربعاء ٢٨ أيار ٢٠٠٨

May 28th, 2008, 6:24 am


Shai said:


My Arabic is a bit rusty these days… how about some English links? 🙂 (if there are any).

May 28th, 2008, 6:44 am


Alex said:

Shai .. I wish .. I started to translate them .. then I remembered that I really have to finish my article for the Creative Syria topic!

Basically the Saudi writer is saying that her country lost any chance of being successful as a leading Arab country because 25 years ago the Saudis became total puppets to the United States which does not suit them too well when there are so many conflicts in the Arab world and Saudi Arabia’s hands are tied with American policies.

She gave an example in 2006 when the Emir of Qatar visited the Shia parts of Lebanon that Israel destroyed and he promised to help rebuild everything. This helped him use this good credit with the Lebanese opposition in Doha last week.

In contrast, the Saudis blamed “the victims” (Shia population of Lebanon) and did not want the war to stop in practice.

The second article is loaded … I will not even attempt to translate it .. it is quoting a Bahraini diplomat who explains how bad things are between Syria and Saudi Arabia … basically Assad tells Amr Moussa that he will not accept to form an Arab delegation to discuss the Arab Iranian conflict because … Algeria does not have ay problem with Iran .. it is only the Saudis who have imaginary problems.

Oh and supposedly Assad told Moussa that the Saudis tried recently to overthrow him.

But that’s a small detail : )

Anyway … Al-akhbar is usually reliable, but it is clearly a pro-opposition Lebanese paper … so … maybe yes, maybe no.

May 28th, 2008, 6:52 am


Shai said:


Shukran for the summaries. I found Assad’s response to Israel’s “demand” regarding Iran a very good one. If Israel suspects Syria’s relations with Iran, perhaps Syria should suspect Israel’s relations with… the U.S. For a young and rather inexperienced politician, he’s a pretty smart cookie. The only way for Israelis to understand Syria and Syrians, is to put ourselves in their place, and see if we would act differently. I must say, though not to the liking of many of my brethren, I would certainly act the same. In fact, Syria is showing a sense of responsibility and temperament that is unusual for this region, and that should be commended. (Did you find time to watch the movie?)

May 28th, 2008, 7:07 am


wizart said:

Mullen Remembers Sacrifices, Praises Troops During Memorial Day Interviews
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 26, 2008 – Americans can be proud of the men and women in uniform and must remember the sacrifices military personnel have made, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told television morning shows today.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also said there has been dramatic progress in Iraq, but that any withdrawal of American troops remains rooted in the actions on the ground.

Mullen spoke with NBC, CBS, CNN and FOX news networks from the Pentagon. The highest-ranking member of the U.S. military said morale among the troops is high and they are proud of the work they are doing.

“They are the best troops I’ve ever been around and I have almost 40 years of service,” Mullen said. “They are serving a noble cause, and serving it exceptionally well.”

Memorial Day is a day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, but it should also be a day to remember and help those wounded in service to America, Mullen said.

Thousands of American servicemembers have been wounded in the war on terror and have returned home, he noted.

“We need to reach out as a country take care of them, take care of their families,” he said. “We have the resources and to do it in a way that recognizes their great sacrifices for our country.”

In addition to the young men and women lost in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mullen personally remembers uncles who served in World War II and classmates from high school and the Naval Academy who died in Vietnam.

He urged Americans that if they see Americans in uniform, “simply go up and say thank you. It means a lot.”

The morning anchors asked Mullen about conditions in Iraq. The past week saw the lowest number of incidents in the country since 2004, according to Defense officials.

“Things are better in Iraq, and it’s principally because the troops have performed so well in the surge,” he said. “We’re at a point now where they’ve created security so the politicians can move forward, and that’s happened. I’m modestly optimistic right now.”

The chairman stressed that any further withdrawal of American troops after July will only take place if conditions on the ground merit it.

Al-Qaida in Iraq’s capabilities have been significantly degraded. But the terrorists “remain a very lethal enemy, very dangerous and they are certainly not gone,” Mullen said. “But we’ve had them on the run now for the better part of several months and we will continue to press.”

Iraqi military operations in Basra, Sadr City and Mosul have been going very well, the chairman said. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the operations against criminals and Special Groups in Shiia areas and al-Qaida.

The Iraqi troops have done well, Mullen said. “They may have turned a corner in that regard,” he said. “They’ve executed some good operations so I’m a little bit more optimistic than I was a year ago.

“The prime minister himself clearly has generated political support that he didn’t have before,” he added. “He’s taken charge of his military – they are more successful.”

Iran is still a troublemaker in the Middle East, Mullen said. The United States has to use all elements of national power – economic, financial, diplomatic and political, as well as military.

“I think we need to bring pressure on the Iranians to change their behavior in that part of the world,” he said.

Mullen has visited Iraq and Afghanistan a number of times and met with military personnel from all levels. He said troop morale is high.

“They know they are on important missions and they are performing exceptionally well,” he said.

May 28th, 2008, 9:50 am


wizart said:

“I thought of the 900 men and women, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, friends and neighbors who won’t be returning to their own hometowns. I thought of the families I had met who were struggling to get by without a loved one’s full income or whose loved ones had returned with a limb missing or nerves shattered, but still lacked long-term health benefits because they were Reservists.

When we send our young men and women into harm’s way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they are going, to care for their families while they’re gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return and to never, ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace and earn the respect of the world. ”

–Barack Obama, keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention

“You are either alive and proud or you are dead, and when you are dead, you can’t care anyway.” — Steven Biko

“They still come here and ask us to speak French. It’s ridiculous. If they wanted people here to speak French, they shouldn’t have helped to kill people here who spoke French.” – Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda, when asked about his feelings on the support France gave to the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide due to their desire to preserve the “Francophone Imperium”. As interviewed by Philip Gourevitch.

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. –Elie Wiesel

I see the infinite beauty which infuses the entire universe.– Bhagavad Gita

“If you start out depressed, everything’s kind of a pleasant surprise.” — Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack

May 28th, 2008, 9:55 am


wizart said:

Bush compares today’s wars to World War II efforts By BEN FELLER, Associated Press Writer
49 minutes ago

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – President Bush, linking the wars of his tenure to the deadliest one in history, is asking the country to commit anew to postwar rebuilding.

In an address for Wednesday to more than 1,000 graduates of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Bush frames their futures by drawing back to the World War II generation. He links the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to postwar Germany and Japan six decades ago.

“America has assumed this obligation before,” Bush said in prepared remarks released by the White House. “After World War II we helped Germany and Japan build free societies and strong economies. These efforts took time and patience, and as a result Germany and Japan grew in freedom and prosperity and are now allies of the United States.”

The result, Bush says, was “generations of security and peace” in the United States.

“Today we must do the same in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he says in the prepared comments. “And by helping these young democracies grow in freedom and prosperity we will once again reap the benefits in generations of security and peace.”

Today’s wars aren’t over yet. As reconstruction unfolds, the enemy keeps fighting — not national militaries but a complex mix of militias and terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another difference: It remains in debate within the country whether the pre-emptive Iraq war has bolstered U.S. security or weakened it. Bush has expressed no doubts it was warranted.

At least 4,085 U.S. military members have died in the Iraq war. More than 430 members of the U.S. military have died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to the Defense Department.

The U.S. death toll in World War II was roughly 406,000. Overall, tens of millions of people died. The conflict transformed the globe; chief U.S. enemies of that day, Germany and Japan, re-emerged as major allies.

Bush’s speech was expected to compare air power and warfare techniques of World War II and today. He also was to talk about the differences in the enemies that U.S. forces face.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said Bush would zero in on one constant — “that freedom has the power to overcome tyranny and transform societies.” That theme has underpinned Bush’s foreign policy and was the calling of his second inaugural address.

The president is on a three-day trip through five states. The purpose is mainly to raise money for Republicans, something Bush remains strong at even as his influence wanes.

After the commencement, Bush was heading to Utah for two closed events to raise money for John McCain, the Arizona senator and presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and other GOP candidates. Bush held a similar event on Tuesday in Arizona, raising an estimated $3 million.

May 28th, 2008, 10:02 am


wizart said:

Report: Billions in defense spending unchecked By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer
Tue May 27, 4:39 PM ET

WASHINGTON – Pentagon auditors say billions of dollars in military spending is going unchecked because they are having trouble keeping pace with the ever-expanding defense budget and combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a recent report, the Defense Department inspector general estimates that nearly half of the military’s $316 billion weapons budget went unchecked last year because the IG’s office lacked the manpower. Whereas 10 years ago when a single auditor would have reviewed some $642 million in defense contracts, individual investigators are now charged with auditing more than $2 billion in spending.

The IG also has been stretching its staff to investigate corruption and fraud cases overseas, primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan where the military is hiring contractors to help run operations.

“The continual degradation of audit resources that is occurring at a time when the (Defense Department) budget is growing larger leaves the department more vulnerable to fraud, waste, and, abuse and undermines the department’s mission,” the report states.

“Our coverage of high-risk areas and defense priorities is weakened and will continue to be weakened by insufficient personnel to accomplish our statutory duties,” it adds.

The March assessment was obtained by the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group based in Washington.

In this year’s budget, Congress approved an additional $24 million for the IG office to improve contract oversight. According to the IG, it will need another major boost — $25 million more than President Bush requested — to meet its requirements in 2009.

The IG says it plans to hire some 481 new personnel in the next seven years, expanding to more than 1,900 full-time employees.

May 28th, 2008, 10:07 am


wizart said:

Wartime PTSD cases jumped roughly 50 pct. in 2007 By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press Writer
Wed May 28, 2:02 AM

WASHINGTON – The number of troops with new cases of post-traumatic stress disorder jumped by roughly 50 percent in 2007 amid the military buildup in Iraq and increased violence there and in Afghanistan.

Records show roughly 40,000 troops have been diagnosed with the illness, also known as PTSD, since 2003. Officials believe that many more are likely keeping their illness a secret.

“I don’t think right now we … have good numbers,” Army Surgeon General Eric Schoomaker said Tuesday.

Defense officials had not previously disclosed the number of PTSD cases from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Army statistics showed there were nearly 14,000 newly diagnosed cases across the services in 2007 compared with more than 9,500 new cases the previous year and 1,632 in 2003.

Schoomaker attributed the big rise over the years partly to the fact that officials started an electronic record system in 2004 that captures more information, and to the fact that as time goes on the people keeping records are more knowledgeable about the illness.

He also blamed increased exposure of troops to combat.

Factors increasing troop exposure to combat in 2007 included President Bush’s troop buildup and the fact that 2007 was the most violent year in both conflicts.

More troops also were serving their second, third or fourth tours of duty — a factor mental health experts say dramatically increases stress. And in order to supply enough forces for the buildup, officials also extended tour lengths to 15 months from 12, another factor that caused extra emotional strain.

Officials have been encouraging troops to get help even if it means they go to civilian therapists and don’t report it to the military.

“We’re trying very hard to encourage soldiers and families to seek care and to not have them feel in any way, shape or form that we’re looking over their shoulder or that we’re invading their privacy,” Schoomaker told a group of defense writers.

Noting that stigma is a problem in American civilian society, not just the military, he said, “I think that’s the preferred way to do it.”

The accounting of diagnosed cases released Tuesday shows those hardest hit last year were Marines and Army personnel, the two ground forces bearing the brunt of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Army reported more than 10,000 new cases last year, compared with more than 6,800 new cases the previous year. More than 28,000 soldiers altogether were diagnosed with the disorder over the last five years, the data showed.

The Marine Corps had more than 2,100 new cases in 2007, compared with 1,366 in 2006. More than 5,000 Marines have been diagnosed with PTSD since 2003, the data showed.

Navy officials who would have data on Marine health issues did not return a phone call seeking to confirm the numbers released by Schoomaker’s office.

Schoomaker said he believes PTSD is widely misunderstood by the press and the public — and that what is often just normal post-traumatic anxiety and stress is mistaken for full-blown PTSD.

Experts say many troops have symptoms of stress, such as nightmares and flashbacks, and can get better with early treatment.

The Pentagon had previously only given a percentage of troops believed affected by depression, anxiety, stress and so on — saying up to 20 percent return home with symptoms of mental health problems. A recent private study estimated that could mean up to 300,000 of those who’ve served have symptoms.

The Veterans Affairs Department said recently it has seen some 120,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have received at least a preliminary mental health diagnosis, with PTSD being the most common diagnosis at nearly 60,000.

An undisclosed number of troops also go to private care providers who are part of the huge military health care system. Schoomaker noted that National Guard and Reserve troops often go home to communities where there is not a veterans facility nearby.

“We’re working very hard with the VA and with the National Guard and Reserves to get a better feel for, a grasp on, how big this is,” Schoomaker said, adding that over time officials will be able to collect data and get “a better feel for, handle on, the numbers.”

May 28th, 2008, 10:11 am


Nour said:


Those were great responses Asad gave to Moussa. He communicated exactly what I was feeling, and I couldn’t have said it better myself.

May 28th, 2008, 11:28 am


Akbar Palace said:

Alex asks:

Hey! .. remember Tlass’ book!

Alex –

Why do you ask? We already know how moderate and peace-loving your Assad regime is.


Shai states:

The only way for Israelis to understand Syria and Syrians, is to put ourselves in their place, and see if we would act differently. I must say, though not to the liking of many of my brethren, I would certainly act the same.


Many of your brethren in Israel DO put yourselves “in their place”. You, much of the Israeli media (Ha’aretz), the liberals who make up a large part of Israeli society, as well as much of the university staff and “intelligentsia”.

I don’t think you need to reach down so “deep” into your pockets to find a handful of liberals such as yourself. I know this may sound crude Shai, but you’re NOT special;)

And what about Barack’s comment that if he were Palestinian, he’d be a terrorist too? This was uttered by an Israel PM Shai.

Please inform your audience here, using as much detail as possible, as to what the Syrians are doing to put themselves “in OUR place”.


May 28th, 2008, 12:08 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

So let me see, if you were in Asad’s place you would suppress freedom of speech and you would put activists in jail? You would continue with having the Syrian press insite against Israel? You would help fund Hamas suicide bombings? You would use Lebanon as a place to fight Israel from instead of risking Syria?

Would you really do those things? Is there anything Asad does that you would not support?

May 28th, 2008, 12:36 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Lebanon is gearing up for its first parliamentary fight, over the choice of PM. March 14 is stupidly sticking with Saniora, while the opposition has proposed some other candidates, including Layla Solh, Mohammed Safadi, and Bahij Tabbara.

I personally would not mind seeing Layla Solh step into the role, although it appears that Lebanon’s clique of megalomaniacal alpha males is not quite ready for that.

Whatever the outcome, it looks like round 1 will go to the opposition.

May 28th, 2008, 12:39 pm


wizart said:

A Jewish boy comes home from school and tells his mother he has a part in the play. She asks, “What part is it? The boy says, “I play the part of the Jewish husband.” The mother scowls and says, “Go back and tell the teacher you want a speaking part.”

May 28th, 2008, 1:03 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

At least whatever the result, it will be played out in parlaiment, and not on the streets, and that is what matters.

May 28th, 2008, 1:05 pm


norman said:


Israel defense minister says Olmert must step down

Associated Press Writer

May 28, 2008


Israel’s defense minister issued a tough ultimatum to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday, saying he would use his considerable power to topple the coalition government if the Israeli leader does not step aside to face corruption allegations.

The comments by Ehud Barak increased the growing pressure on Olmert to resign in the wake of a New York businessman’s court testimony that painted Olmert as a money hungry politician with a love for luxury. It also cast doubt on Israel’s efforts to reach peace with Syria and the Palestinians.

Olmert has denied any wrongdoing and said he would resign only if he is indicted.

Israeli prosecutors are investigating tens of thousands of dollars in donations collected by Olmert before becoming prime minister in 2006. They suspect he may have violated campaign finance laws or accepted bribes.

On Tuesday, the key witness in the case, Morris Talansky, testified that he personally gave Olmert $150,000 over 15 years, often in cash-stuffed envelopes.

Talansky, a businessman and philanthropist from Woodmere, Long Island, also discussed Olmert’s love for luxury hotels, first-class travel and expensive gifts. Olmert’s lawyers are scheduled to cross-examine Talansky on July 17.

There was no immediate reaction from Olmert. But earlier Wednesday, Olmert aide Tal Zilberstein said the prime minister “doesn’t have any intention to resign or to step down temporarily, even if Barak asks him to.”

Olmert’s spokesman, Mark Regev, said the prime minister was continuing his daily schedule. “It’s business as usual,” Regev said.

Nahum Barnea, a respected analyst with the Yediot Ahronot newspaper, said the moral implications were much greater than any legal ones at this point.

“What is to blame is the ease with which public figures live beyond their means, the intolerable ease of the sponging, the parasitism, the illusion of ‘I deserve it,”‘ Barnea wrote in the mass-circulation daily.

Israeli dailies were plastered with quotes from Talansky’s testimony and headlines blasting Olmert. “Disgusting,” read one on Yediot’s front page.

Talansky said he did not get anything in return for the money, though he said Olmert made a failed attempt at his own initiative to get three businesspeople to work with a company owned by Talansky.

The 75-year-old New Yorker said he overlooked questions about Olmert’s request for cash due to his belief in Olmert’s ability to unite the Jewish people.

Talansky said he gave Olmert money beginning in 1991. Olmert became Jerusalem mayor in 1993, serving for a decade at the end of which he was named ministry of industry and trade.

Talansky’s testimony is the latest blow to Olmert, who has been deeply unpopular since Israel’s inconclusive war against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon in 2006.

Olmert has set a year-end target for reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians. Last week, he also announced the resumption of peace talks with Syria after an eight-year break. Now, both peace efforts are in jeopardy.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat dismissed the crisis as an “internal Israeli matter” and said the Palestinians “hope this will not impact the ongoing negotiations.”

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

May 28th, 2008, 1:12 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I agree.

There is an interesting piece in the Boston Globe today (“A look at Lebanon’s new leader”) which argues that Michel Suleiman will be the new target of foreign influence, as he will quickly lure the Christian swing vote in parliament away from Aoun.

It will take a few months to see whether this really happens. People who have met Suleiman say that he is a humble and modest man who does not like to express personal opinions. As such, he is the very antithesis of Michel Aoun, and so he may not want to get involved in a turf battle with the General. However, some members of the Change & Reform Bloc may read the writing on the wall and defect of their own accord, as Michel al-Murr did.

May 28th, 2008, 2:08 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

What did I tell you, Alex? 😉

Syria: Israeli PM’s weakness may affect talks

The revived peace talks between Syria and Israel may be hindered by a weak Israeli prime minister beleaguered by a domestic crisis, Syrian analysts said Wednesday.

Syria and Israel announced last week they were engaged in indirect talks under Turkish auspices over the future of Syria’s Golan Heights, which has been under Israeli occupation since June 5, 1967.

“Syria fears that Israel’s weak government may become an obstacle to a peace that Syria wants to achieve,” Mahdi Dakhlallah, a former minister of information, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

In 1981, Israel annexed the Golan, which is not only rich in water resources and fertile land but is also of strategic importance.

There have been reports that Syria may agree in a final peace settlement to leasing the Golan to Israel for 25 years. But those reports have been categorically denied in Damascus, which insists, at least publicly, on the return of every inch of its occupied land.

“Syria has no land for lease,” the former minister said.

There will not be any talks over anything other than the pre-June 5 border, Dakhlallah added.

May 28th, 2008, 3:03 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Lebanon’s election law needs an overhaul
By Michael Meyer-Resende and Ammar Abboud
The Daily Star
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A key part of the Qatar agreement signed by Lebanon’s political players is a reform of the parliamentary election law. The discussion focused on changes to the shape of electoral districts, which is the most sensitive political aspect, because it impacts on the electoral prospects of the different political groups.

In contrast to most countries in the region, the Lebanese Parliament is a crucial player in the institutional balance of the Lebanese state. Although by agreement the president has to be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of Parliament a Shiite Muslim, Parliament decides which individuals fill these posts. Therefore the election law was the most crucial point of the negotiations in Qatar.

Traditionally Lebanon’s political players are not interested in the “technical” aspects of Lebanese elections except the districting. The result is an election process which is archaic and out of line with international obligations and best practices. The most obvious flaw is that a developed country like Lebanon does not print official ballot papers. Voters can write their choice on any piece of paper; it could be – and sometimes is – no more than a paper napkin. In practice political groups distribute “their” ballot papers to voters, undermining the secrecy of the vote.

There are practically no regulations on campaign financing and media conduct, which means that there is no level playing field in election campaigns. Consequently the 2005 elections were uncompetitive and sterile in many parts of the country. In most districts large blocks won all the seats. More than 20 percent of the seats were won without elections at all, because nobody was willing to stand against powerful political blocks. It is no wonder then that European Union election observers concluded after the 2005 elections that the election law is “in need of urgent reform” and listed 26 recommendations for change.

What reform could look like is clear since the government-appointed commission under former Foreign Minister Fouad Boutros presented in 2006 a new draft election law that remedies key weaknesses of the current election law. Positively, the Qatar agreement refers to the Boutros commission draft as the basis for changing the election law. It is to be hoped that the key improvements of that draft, such as the official ballot, regulation of campaign finances and media conduct, and the establishment of an independent election commission will be maintained when the draft is discussed in Parliament.

Some details of the draft law deserve close study by Parliament to assess their feasibility and potential impact on the running of elections in the future. For example, the draft stipulates that votes from several polling stations should be counted in central counting facilities. On the positive side, this would make it impossible to detect voting patterns of small communities and therefore increase the secrecy of the vote. However, it requires ballot boxes to travel around the country and may severely slow down the counting process, which could contribute to tensions after elections. Electronic counting may address this problem, but could make scrutiny by candidate representatives and observers more difficult.

While there will be an interest to have the changes agreed in Qatar quickly adopted in Parliament, this should not come at the expense of a detailed review of all changes to the electoral law. The last thing Lebanon needs next year is an election that runs into technical difficulties. The Parliament must be given time and support in analysing and debating all changes to the law to ensure that it provides a workable and efficient framework for elections in line with international standards.

May 28th, 2008, 3:42 pm


Rowan Berkeley said:

Some of you may recall a previous discussion on here about whether the various Israelis were mossadniks or merely trainee likud propagandists. I can confirm that one of them is a mossadnik : the one who calls himself “shaul.” I know this because I have detected him using Europol software to snoop at least one of my communications accounts.

May 28th, 2008, 3:46 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

From Saniora’s speech:
“We all hope to form good relations with Syria, our sister, based on mutual trust … which would allow us to protect Lebanon through joint Arab action and implement international resolutions on returning the Shebaa Farms and Lebanese prisoners to Lebanon. ”

A not so subtle request to Syria to agree that Shebaa is Lebanese and a not so subtle statement that it will not be freed by force.

May 28th, 2008, 4:49 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Should the agreement in Doha succeed in being more than just a temporary political Band-Aid, the United States and the international community need to reconsider their Lebanon policy….Suleiman is no pro-Western democrat, that’s for sure. Yet he is set to emerge as a leading force within the influential Christian community and the only party capable of exerting added pressure on Hezbollah and other pro-Syrian and pro-Iranian groups.

QN –

I fear whatever the outcome, if Mr. Suleiman steps out-of-line, he may become another in a long list of car-bombing statistics. When an “opposition” is armed and doesn’t have to answer to anyone, how stable can that be?

May 28th, 2008, 4:58 pm


Shai said:


You’re right, I’m nothing special. But I don’t think I ever claimed to be (and if I did, or insinuated that, I apologize). What I meant by “my brethren” was those 70% of Israelis against the withdrawal from the Golan, even in return for peace. They are not like you or like AIG. They refuse to give back the Golan, because they cannot understand or accept Syria’s rationale behind its alliances with Iran, HA, and Hamas. From our point of view, as Israelis, these alliances are indicative of past, present, and future evil intentions. These same 70% are, in my mind, either not capable of, or refusing to, put themselves in Syria’s shoes, and see that they would act exactly the same way. You’re right, there are many liberals in Israel, though at the moment it seems only about 30% of Israelis would call themselves that (if even that much). By the way, I would not call myself a liberal, or even a Leftist. I am very much for making peace with an enemy that has been almost “begging” for it through every possible channel these past 4 years, namely Syria, but at the same time I’m for NOT forging any peace treaty with the Palestinians right now and, in fact, completely disconnecting any contact with Fatah until there is one Palestinian body with which to discuss.

As for fighting Hamas, on the one hand I’m for talking to them in any opportunity possible (they are our bitter enemy, and with enemies you also talk), but at the same time, I’m for fighting them continuously, as is the case in war. Except, that I’m not for huge military operations into Gaza which kill hundreds of innocent civilians, and in the end accomplish the opposite of our goals, but instead for fighting more “proportionally” and “respectfully”, by using single artillery shells for each Qassam lobbed at Sderot. In the end, it could have been this type of attrition which may have caused the people of both sides to realize where violence takes them. And this way, we don’t humiliate our enemy, but rather look him at eye level.

But the best case for not being liberal, is my more-than-subtle hints as of recent that it may well be the case that only Netanyahu will be able to deliver on a peace agreement with Syria and the Palestinians. No Leftist or liberal would voice that kind of rationale, I imagine. On some issues, I’m right up there with Meretz, and on others, with Bibi.

AIG, you know that I’m not condoning lack of freedoms, or dictatorships as a good alternative to democracy. Of course not. When I commend Bashar Assad for doing some very honorable and responsible things in the past 4 years, I’m not absolving him of any of his other faults. Can Olmert or Barak not be commended of certain things they do (ok, don’t answer that…), despite the obvious corruption charges against them? Well, I think you know what I meant, and I certainly haven’t suddenly fallen in love with the authoritarian regime in Damascus. But Assad is showing good signs of running an excellent foreign policy. I think so, at least. What he does internally is, of course, something completely different. And it is up to the Syrians, not Israelis or Americans, to deal with.

May 28th, 2008, 5:29 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


There have been far less subtle requests for Syria to demarcate its borders with its sisterly neighbor, to no avail. Saniora can hint and insinuate all he likes… there will be no solution to Shebaa before the Golan is returned.


I think Suleiman knows what the red lines are, otherwise he wouldn’t have made it this far. The best that we can hope for is that he will preside over Hizbullah’s transition from national resistance to national defense force, in a responsible fashion.

May 28th, 2008, 5:35 pm


Zenobia said:


Syria welcomes expatriates home

By Lina Sinjab
BBC News, Damascus

Syria is changing its legislation in order to attract its large number of expatriates back to the country, bringing their skills and capital with them.

President Bashar Assad himself lived in the UK for many years before coming to power in 2000 after the death of his father.

Measures include economic incentives and exemptions from military service. The latter was one of the main reasons expatriates would not even come back to the country to visit their families.

Baha Issa, in his 30s, lived for more than 15 years in the UK and Dubai. He has now left his job as a communications officer for Microsoft to work at the newly established Sham Holding company in Syria.

“I am very excited to come back. In a developed country you have slowly to climb the career ladder, but here you are part of a team that is taking the country to a different level,” he says.

It is a message the government – which estimates that 15 million Syrians are living abroad, compared with 20 million at home – is keen to promote.

High qualifications

Dr Buthaina Shabaan is in charge of a special ministry set up to encourage them to return, bringing their business know-how with them.

“The ministry is established to facilitate relationships between expatriates and Syria. Many of these expatriates are highly qualified. It would be very beneficial to get them back, not necessarily to leave their countries, but at least to build bridges.”

Dr Shabaan admits Syria is not always an easy place to work. As a country in transition, its institutions still have a long way to go to achieve efficiency.

“Don’t think that we can make Syria a better place [immediately]. You are coming back to participate in making Syria a better place, including fighting bureaucracy, corruption and every negative aspect that we all suffer from.”

Some believe that the culture of the homeland, along with new business opportunities, compensates for difficulties.

In the 1990s, Samer Kallas – an architect in his 50s who lived the US – was reluctant to live in a country that was lagging behind the West technologically and in terms of development.

I came back because it is my right to come back. I don’t think much has changed in the nature of authorities
Artist Yousef Abdalki
But after 11 September, 2001, his view changed.

“There is no perfect place on earth. Syria has a lot of obstacles, but we should not expect everything to be available and ready and given.

“After 11 September, the whole atmosphere in the US became distorted, especially towards Arab origins or background, so I felt more freedom to come back to the Middle East”.

Absent freedoms

But for many returning Syrians, the greater economic freedom does not fully make up for the lack of political freedom.

Yousef Abdalki, a well-known artist who went to France in the 1980s after being jailed for membership of the Socialist Labour Party, has now returned to settle in his old home town.

“I came back because it is my right to come back. I don’t think much has changed in the nature of authorities or their security control, but the global situation has changed.

“We still have people imprisoned for expressing their views. I don’t think a country can develop while freedoms are absent.”

Nevertheless, he says he has great hope that Syrians will one day enjoy freedom of expression.

In the old city of Damascus, young musicians prepare for a concert at a small theatre. Theatro is a popular venue that was opened by actress Mai Skaf. She is keen to offer young Syrian artists a place for free expression.

“Theatro started with an idea which was a dream that we as young artists have energy, enthusiasm, and a desire to work in a field that we know and that is an entity for us.

“Cultural movements raise the infrastructure of the society and create chances for young artists to stay and achieve their dreams here. Personally I feel I am not able to see my project or myself outside Syria – to live and work outside Syria, I feel I would lose my identity.”

Significantly, perhaps, most of the musicians here are planning their future in Syria.

While exact figures on the number of Syrian returnees are not available, anecdotal evidence suggests many people are being attracted back.

The real test of the government’s success, though, will be whether members of the younger generation decide this is where they want to live too.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/05/28 04:51:33 GMT

May 28th, 2008, 5:40 pm


Shai said:


Not to worry so soon. First, Olmert is still in power. Corrupt politicians in Israel tend to have thick elephant skin. Despite the fact that he is said to have dressed up as a brunette one night in Beirut, and “took out” a few PLO guys in the middle of the night, I’m not sure Barak has ever shot with an elephant gun… Second, even if pressure does grow unbearable for Olmert, and he does step down temporarily, it is not clear at all that we’re going to new elections. It is up to the President (Peres) to elect someone, probably from Kadima, who may have a chance at forming a new government. Since most in the current coalition do not want to lose their nice volvos and leather chairs and fancy offices (to Netanyahu in the next election), it is doubtful they’ll be unwilling to function even under someone inexperienced as Tzipi Livni. Internal primaries may also elect someone else to lead the coalition.

But if Barak for even a moment gets overly-cocky and thinks he may have a chance at an upcoming election, he could break up the coalition by pulling out Labour, and then indeed no one will be in charge of the Syria-Israel talks. There will be new elections, Netanyahu will likely win, and then we’ll have a short pause, until he studies everything on his own. Then, he’ll elect his own people instead of Olmert’s rep’s, and they’ll be the ones flying to Turkey to talk to the Syrians. Netanyahu already started negotiations with Syria in the past, with a far tougher negotiator (Hafez Assad). He’s not going to miss this opportunity to be the one bringing an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict (first Syria, then Palestine). But things will move a bit more slowly, that’s all.

May 28th, 2008, 5:56 pm


Seeking the Truth said:


I’ll be much more pleased for the sake of the Syrian people, if my judgement of their regime turns out to be wrong, than if it is right.

May 28th, 2008, 6:00 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I agree completely with your analysis.

The only thing I would add is that time itself is such an important factor in Middle Eastern affairs, that it may as well be considered a partner sitting at the negotiating table, and a particularly fickle one at that.

I feel that the current arrangements in both Lebanon and Palestine are not sustainable for long. We need some kind of pressure release soon, or the region will be at war again.

By the way, what are your feelings about Lebanon’s place in the Syrian-Israeli negotiations? I personally believe, as you know, that Lebanon should be on board from the very beginning. Given that one of Syria’s most important cards is Hizbullah, wouldn’t it make more sense for the negotiations to occur between the three nations together?

May 28th, 2008, 6:19 pm


Shai said:


Yes, you’re very right about the issue of time. And I too, like you, fear its tendencies to almost always play against us, unless we “tame” it first. People close to the Israeli negotiators are saying that we’re now 85% at agreement with Syria, and that some of the remaining 15% include issues like where the border will actually pass, along the shores of Lake Kineret, 10 meters away, or much more like Bibi originally wanted. All in all this is good news, but you’re right, we need some VERY good news coming out, somehow. Personally, I can think of nothing better than a high-level face-to-face meeting. Forget the content, forget the 15%. Just to show Israelis that Syria is serious enough, to want to meet their counterparts, whomever they may be. I hope Bashar’s advisors are suggesting this to him now more than before, especially in light of Olmert’s problems now.

As for Lebanon participating already at this stage, that’s a good point, and I’m not sure I have a clear answer in my own head. On the one hand, no doubt that Hezbollah will be a major issue in talks with Syria, and so will the general stability in non-interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs by Syria. But adding Lebanon may first require a near-total agreement by both sides about purely Israeli-Syrian issues regarding the Golan. Plus, to have Lebanon truly represented in such talks, I doubt it could do so without someone from Hezbollah (what do you think?), and I’m quite sure Israel is nowhere near ready for that yet (unfortunately of course). Having said that, it does seem like Israel and Syria are “selling” Lebanon out by making all sorts of deals that may pertain to Lebanon, without consulting with or receiving its agreement. I have to think about it more, now that at least it seems there’s once again unity in Lebanon. In theory, and perhaps in practice, there’s finally one address in Lebanon. I wonder what our Syrian friends here think about this point. I haven’t read anything yet – have you?

May 28th, 2008, 6:35 pm


offended said:

Al Arabiya website couldn’t get more whorish.

In one piece item:

An Israeli website specialied in making of joint porn films of Arab and Jewish porn stars says that it hopes to bring communities closer and thus push the peace process.

In other one:

Study shows more Egyptian females are inclined to befriend dogs due to the increase of average marriage age

May 28th, 2008, 6:42 pm


Shai said:


Even “The National Enquirer” wouldn’t get that low… sad.

May 28th, 2008, 6:50 pm


offended said:

Hello Shai, how have you been? : )

The fact is Al Arabiya website (along with their TV) is turning into a very trashy and cheap tabloid, but with a vicious agenda. The first news item reminded me of an incident I’ve witnessed couple of days ago: a really grumpy but otherwise wise british guy was asked by this pretentious and indeed silly girl which part of sex he likes the most, he said: “I really like the part where you go and f**k yourself”…

I have the urge to say the same thing to Abd Al Rahman Al Rashid (Al Arabiya manager) right now.

May 28th, 2008, 6:57 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I’ve read odd things here and there. Actually, the various political blogs have taken it up, with the Aounists a bit paranoid that the U.S. is going to sell Lebanon to Syria again as the price for a deal with Israel. (This is terribly comical to me, for some reason).

Allow me to play devil’s advocate. I guess I feel that figures like “85% complete” are somewhat suspect. Of course, this is an important start, and it is better than nothing. However, what good is agreeing on 85% of a detailed plan if it is impossible to implement? It would be like two architects devising a detailed blueprint for a large and complicated building, but agreeing to tackle the question of its foundations only after the structure goes up.

We saw the Iranian defense minister say that the talks were “merely formal and philosophical”… What kind of philosophical discussion can produce an agreement that is “85%” complete? Obviously there are two different realities being marketed here: one in which Syria is just dipping its toe into the negotiation pond, while holding the hands of its allies on the bank. And another reality in which Syria has already dived head-first into the pond, but is tied to its allies by a rope connected to a life-preserver. So which is it?

And what is the end game supposed to look like? Israel and America cut the rope? Syria pulls its allies in after her? The pond gradually expands (due to global, or regional, warming) to swallow up the bank such that the allies are now swimming in a larger pond?

Can you tell me what lies in our fishy future? 😉

May 28th, 2008, 6:59 pm


Seeking the Truth said:


How do you argue against that if you don’t reach peace, you’ll soon have war with all its tragic consequences for everyone involved?

May 28th, 2008, 7:03 pm


Shai said:


I am no fortuneteller… unfortunately… 🙂 Of course I agree with you that the so-called “85% agreement” is worthless, until it becomes 100%, and implementable (on paper things can look really great). And I also agree that it is doubtful the U.S., or anyone really, is going to “sell” Lebanon to anyone. This is perhaps language and concepts from the 1980’s, back during the Cold War, and the very-Warm War here in the ME. I also don’t see Bashar ordering his troops into Lebanon so quickly (as long as there’s no civil war). But I still don’t know if Lebanon can already participate in these early-stage negotiations. My feeling says no, not because it’s not right, but because neither side would be interested in it right now.

As for our “pond”, I’m of course hoping that Syria isn’t sampling out the negotiation waters, just for kicks. My suspicion is that it’s not. I’m basing that on Bashar’s near-endless attempts over the past 4 years to relaunch talks with Israel. While some claim the real reason is not the Golan as much as it is the U.S. and Europe, I personally have no problem with that either. But certainly Bashar wants to be the one returning the Golan to his people. He, unlike his father, listens to country music on his iPod. That means he’s a modern man, living in a somewhat less-than-modern environment. But he’s trying to eliminate the biggest hurdles first, which he believes are the external threats (Israel). I think he is sincere in his attempts, and in his strategic decision to make peace with Israel.

I don’t believe there will be a need to detach anything of a political nature from Iran, HA or even Hamas. Syria will demand its right to ally itself with any nation, organization, or political chapter, anywhere on earth, just as Israel has that right. What Syria will have to do, most likely, is to change completely the nature and character of its military alliances. And for that, there will be 3rd party guarantors, for Syria’s security. So Syria will stop importing Iranian weapons, will stop enabling shipments to reach HA, and will stop aiding indirectly Hamas (militarily). I think Syria can swallow this bitter pill, and so can (and will) her allies. Iran is not interested in slamming the door on Syria, especially if Syria will suddenly become the U.S.’s newest buddy. HA by then will, hopefully, morph into a purely political body and/or a “Golani brigade” (as Norman likes to call them) type of the Lebanese regular Army. And Hamas, well, they’ll still rely on Iran more heavily than on Syria.

The pond will hopefully get larger, due to “regional warming” as you called it, but warming not in the threatening, warlike sense, but rather the peaceful kind. So if Syria is serious, and if Israel’s government can remain in power long enough (1-2 years further), then there’s a good chance we’ll see a peace agreement by 2009-2010. If either side is either not serious, or not capable, then things will be delayed a year or two. Unfortunately, delays could indeed mean war in the interim period, though I doubt it would be initiated by either Israel, Syria, or Iran. Chances are, it would start with an out-of-control scenario with Hamas, or less likely, HA. Personally, I really don’t give Iran that much credit, in being able to call Syria’s shots. Iran may be very much in control of HA, and may have tremendous influence within Hamas. But Syria is still Syria, and even if Iran went nuclear, Syria would still stand up for herself, and look out for her own best interests first.

May 28th, 2008, 7:27 pm


Shai said:


Hey habibi! Did you see how the Jews (owner and manager) almost beat Man U? But, again the Jews lose… (that rhymes), like with CSKA. Oh well, I guess 2nd place is also not bad… 🙂

As for the saying you mentioned, you don’t know how many times I’ve wanted to use that exact phrase with certain people when talking about our region. There are many out there, who make it a habit, perhaps a profession, to become real spoilers to good things. They can’t stand it when others succeed. They feed on failure, on fear, on scaring others, on ruin. I always wondered what these people will say to their grandchildren one day, when asked “So, Grandpa, what did YOU do all those years in the Middle East, to try to bring about peace?”

May 28th, 2008, 7:33 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why would there be a war? If there was no war after Israel attacked the Syrian nuclear facility, why would there be war now? Who would start it and why? Even when the US and Israel attack Iran I believe there will not be a regional war.

May 28th, 2008, 9:01 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I guess news is a matter of taste. What is so trashy about Al-Arabiya? So Egyptian women are more prone to buy pets because they get married later. Maybe not the most important news but not trashy.

As for the “make love not war” site, it is quite interesting that they have a market for that kind of stuff. I think it is news worthy if reported with tact.

May 28th, 2008, 9:08 pm


Honest Patriot said:

AIG, you said “when the US and Israel attack Iran” !
Do you know something we don’t know? I can tell you from the standpoint of common wisdom and public opinion in the US there’s absolutely no stomach for any such adventure except under direct and serious provocation that would be threatening to the US. I don’t see it. If anything, the experience with the Iraq war has made the threshold for authorizing an attack on Iran much higher.
I don’t personally hold any strong views on this one way or the other. Just reporting on the prevailing mood and at the same time curious to know if you had any inside information or news that is not generally known.

May 28th, 2008, 10:49 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

HP, check your email.


May 28th, 2008, 11:51 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Hi QN – the ether must be viscous these days – no email yet. I’ll look for it.

May 29th, 2008, 12:11 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Hassan Nasrallah is trapping himself

By Michael Young
Daily Star staff
Thursday, May 29, 2008

Listening to the speeches of President Michel Suleiman and Hizbullah’s Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah earlier this week, it is becoming apparent that there are really only two projects in Lebanon today: There is the project of the state, which Suleiman and the parliamentary majority embody, assuming the president abides by his public statements; and there is the project of a non-state, supported by Hizbullah and its allies.

If that wasn’t plain enough, then consider what happened on Monday night, after Suleiman had spent his first day at the Baabda Palace. Hizbullah and Amal partisans, as has become their habit lately, fired in the air to celebrate Nasrallah’s speech, then took to the streets and began firing at their political adversaries. In the Bekaa Valley much the same thing happened. There was a message there, perhaps more a Syrian than an Iranian one this time around, and it was that the new president should not imagine he will be able to build up a state against Hizbullah.

Thanks to the Israelis, who may soon hand a grand prisoner exchange to Hizbullah, Nasrallah may earn a brief reprieve for his “resistance.” It’s funny how Hizbullah and Syria, always the loudest in accusing others of being Israeli agents, are the ones who, when under pressure, look toward negotiations with Israel for an exit. Hizbullah has again done so to show that its “defense strategy” works and to deflect growing domestic insistence that the party place its weapons at the disposal of the state.

Nasrallah has started peddling what he thinks Lebanon’s defense strategy should be. Hizbullah’s model is the summer 2006 war, he explained this week. But if the defense strategy Hizbullah wants us to adopt is one that hands Israel an excuse to kill over 1,200 people, turn almost 1 million civilians out into the streets for weeks on end while their villages are bombed and their fields are saturated with fragmentation bomblets; if Nasrallah’s strategy is one that will lead to the destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure, the ruin of its economy, the emigration of its youths, the isolation of the Shiites in a society infuriated with Hizbullah’s pursuit of lasting conflict; if that’s his defense strategy, then Nasrallah needs to get out of his bunker more and see what is really going on in Lebanon.

The only good thing that came out of the 2006 war, the only thing that both a majority of Lebanese and the Shiite community together approved of, was the deployment of the Lebanese Army to the South, the strengthening of UNIFIL, and the pacification of the border area. The Lebanese approved of this because it made less likely a return to Nasrallah’s inane defense strategy. Unless of course the Hizbullah leader is now telling us that the neutralization of Hizbullah’s military activities along the frontier with Israel was also a part of that strategy, because in practical terms it too was a result of the 2006 war.

Nasrallah’s speech only reaffirmed that Hizbullah cannot find an exit to its existential dilemma, other than to coerce its hostile countrymen into accepting its armed mini-state. Very simply, the days of the national resistance are over. The liberation of the Shebaa Farms does not justify Hizbullah’s existence as a parallel force to the army, and it does not justify initiating a new war with Israel. After all, the Syrians have a much larger territory under occupation and have preferred negotiations to conflict in order to win it back. As Suleiman implied, the best thing that can happen now is for Hizbullah to share with the state its resistance expertise, which was a gentle way of saying that the party must integrate into the state.

Nasrallah’s defensiveness also revealed something else, almost as worrying as his untenable position on Hizbullah’s defense strategy. It revealed that the party views Doha as a setback. Nasrallah is right in that respect. The agreement negotiated by the Qataris was several things. It was, above all, a line drawn in the sand by the Sunni Arab world against Iran and Syria, telling them that Lebanon would not fall into their lap. In this the Qataris were part of an Arab consensus, and the Iranians, always pragmatic, backtracked when seeing how resolute the Arabs were.

But the Doha agreement was mainly a failure for Syria. Damascus had planned to use the open-ended political vacuum in Beirut as leverage to bring in a new president and government on its conditions, to negotiate Syria’s return to the Arab fold from a position of strength, to torpedo the Hariri tribunal, and to prepare an eventual Syrian military return to Lebanon. The Qataris thwarted this, and in a conversation between Syrian President Bashar Assad and Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Assad was pushed into approving Suleiman’s election. As a last measure he tried to prevent the granting of 16 ministerial portfolios to the March 14 coalition – a simple majority in the 30-minister government allowing the coalition to have a quorum for regular Cabinet sessions. Sheikh Hamad rejected this and Assad had no choice but to relent, before instructing Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to accept the Qatari plan.

Hizbullah’s plan was little different than that of the Syrians, so the Qataris substantially complicated Nasrallah’s calculations as well. Suleiman is still an unknown quantity, but if he sticks to the principles highlighted in his inauguration speech, Hizbullah will be squeezed. Unlike the time when Emile Lahoud was still around and formed, with Berri, an alliance against Siniora, if the next prime minister and Suleiman can craft a joint strategy to strengthen the authority of the state, it is Berri, as the senior opposition figure and Shiite in office, who may find himself out on a limb.

Speaking of Berri, Hizbullah’s bloc may have made a grave mistake in choosing yesterday to name no favorite as prime minister. That means that the bloc is ignoring the wishes of the Sunni community to bring back Siniora. Recall that when Berri was elected as Parliament speaker in 2005, those parliamentarians voting for him defended the choice on the grounds that “the Shiites want him.” By inference, in not naming Siniora yesterday, mainly because the Syrians oppose him, the opposition has given the future majority in Parliament, if it happens to be a majority opposed to Hizbullah and Amal, an opening to reject Berri’s re-election as speaker in 2009, regardless of whether the Shiites want him.

The ink on the Doha agreement is barely dry, but already Hizbullah and Syria are trying to water down its terms. Nasrallah’s speech showed that he has no intention of entering into a substantive discussion on his party’s weaponry. His promise not to use his guns in the pursuit of domestic political goals was meaningless, as he has already done so. In fact, his reading of what he can do with his weapons is much more advantageous to Hizbullah than what the Doha agreement stipulates. But Nasrallah has a problem. Most Lebanese want a real state and most Shiites don’t want another war with Israel. Hizbullah, in contrast, doesn’t want a real state but needs permanent war to remain relevant. That’s Nasrallah’s trap.

May 29th, 2008, 12:23 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Oops… I just realized that I sent it to the wrong address. Check again, and also check your junk mail.

May 29th, 2008, 12:27 am


Honest Patriot said:

OK – just got it. Thanks. Plse ignore the resend email request. — HP

May 29th, 2008, 12:30 am


Honest Patriot said:

Michael Young hit the nail on the head – dead center. Then again, it was all kind’a obvious, wasn’t it?
The saga continues. Will Lebanon every know real peace and stability? I hope so but will believe it when I see it.

May 29th, 2008, 12:42 am


Honest Patriot said:

Enlightened, this one’s for you (in case you haven’t already seen it):

May 29th, 2008, 12:50 am


Nour said:

Michael Young continues to establish himself as a pure propagandist of the highest form. Anyone who knows anything about Lebanon would clearly tell you that Young’s description of the so-called two projects is as far from reality as UFO sightings. The problem is that the ignorant will find it easy to believe such nonsense. The camp that Young claims to represent the “project of the state,” includes individuals who have never shown anything but utter contempt for a real, effective, modern state in Lebanon. They include tribal and sectarian leaders who have repeatedly refused to in any way disturb the utterly corrupt sectarian system in Lebanon, which has been their bread and butter and the reason for their prominence. These are the people that Michael Young claims to represent the “project of the state.” But then again Young is interested in one thing, and only one thing; namely the realization of the neo-con agenda and the elimination of any and all resistance to US and Israeli hegemony in the region. However, he cannot merely come out and state such a devious position, so he masks his true intentions by feigning concern for the establishment of a state in Lebanon.

Young then goes on to engage in the most pathetic form factual distortion and propagandistic bluster. He claims that HA and Syria, who have maintained a position of resistance against Israel, “are the ones who, when under pressure, look toward negotiations with Israel for an exit.” This is truly the work of a frustrated person seeing the Bush Doctrine fail at just about every corner. Engaging in indirect negotiations for the purpose of releasing Lebanese detainees in Israel through a prisoner exchange is made by the master propagandist equivalent to collaborating with Israel against the interest of your country.

Not surprisingly, Young then goes on to put a spin on the Doha Agreement in order to make it appear as a victory for the collaborative camp. The fact that the Opposition in Lebanon was able to obtain the exact conditions it had been demanding since the beginning of its protest against the government is completely disregarded. Rather, it is the opposition, along with Syria and Iran, that are the biggest losers, because the Doha Agreement did not achieve the goals that Young has designated to be the true goals of the Lebanese Opposition, Syria, and Iran. Young of course is clearly engaging in a straw man fallacy, but why should logic and facts get in the way of his propagandistic ambitions?

And in keeping in the spirit of the neo-con agenda, Young also had to throw something out there about Sunnis and Shias, just to maintain that incitement to sectarian strife that the neo-con and collaborative propaganda outlets have excelled in.

May 29th, 2008, 12:57 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Hi folks

This post is groaning under the weight of almost 400 comments.

Let’s send it to the record books…

A new post has just been published:


May 29th, 2008, 1:53 am


Alex said:

Nour said:

Young then goes on to engage in the most pathetic form factual distortion and propagandistic bluster. He claims that HA and Syria, who have maintained a position of resistance against Israel, “are the ones who, when under pressure, look toward negotiations with Israel for an exit.” This is truly the work of a frustrated person seeing the Bush Doctrine fail at just about every corner.

Nour, I think it is not only a simple case of not being able to admit to reality, Michael Young tune is in harmony with the same tune played on a daily basis on Al-Arabiya and Asharq Alawsat.

Yo can always see the top headlines focusing on this story: “Syria negotiaing with Israel”

After spending the past few years ridiculing the Syrians for being not as flexible as them (the “Arab Moderates”) … now they are saddened after learning that Syria actually listened to their advice.

Total losers … Michael Young being a much more sophisticated loser than the others.

May 29th, 2008, 1:59 am


Alex said:

Qifa Nabki … now it has 400 comments exactly!
(I am busy at work, but wanted to close the 400th commment)

Second largest post, yes.

May 29th, 2008, 2:01 am


Akbar Palace said:

You’re right, I’m nothing special. But I don’t think I ever claimed to be (and if I did, or insinuated that, I apologize).


Just clarifying, you are not special in terms of Israelis who want to make peace and who are critical of their government (Israel) for not “doing enough” to make peace. Sometimes, you give the impression that “most” or “all” Israelis are anti-peace: ya’ani, YOU are “special”.

For example you state that 70% of Israelis are NOT willing to give up the Golan for peace. I think that number is misleading. I did a quick search for that statistic, and it looks like it depends on the question. One article said was just about half (52%). Also, these polls vary wildly on the mood of the country. Most Israelis were willing to give up the WB, Gaza half of the Old City of Jerusalem to the Palestinians before Oslo met its death.

Even you, Shai, give mixed signals:

As for fighting Hamas, on the one hand I’m for talking to them in any opportunity possible (they are our bitter enemy, and with enemies you also talk), but at the same time, I’m for fighting them continuously, as is the case in war.

Israel is ready to make peace, but it takes two to tango.

May 29th, 2008, 2:26 am


Enlightened said:


Thanks, I was not aware of it! Damn fine voices we Australians have. I have been waiting for this post to finish, I had one meagre comment, considering the Post was not one of my favourite topics.

Anyways, we were looking forward to The Lebanese soccer team to come to Australia two years ago (06), but we got the Iraqis this year playing Australia on the weekend ( can you tell how much I hate talking about religion?)

Anyway thanks for the link, we move on to QN’s new post about Mubayed’s article. Interesting discussions for sure.!

Ps I sent you a email a few months ago, no response did you get it?

May 29th, 2008, 4:19 am


Honest Patriot said:

Hmm – Enlightened, did not get ur email; otherwise I’d have responded. I’ll try fishing in the spam folder. — Cheers

May 29th, 2008, 4:54 am


Shai said:


I am not suggesting that most Israelis don’t want peace. I don’t know of one nation on earth where that statement would be true. I am suggesting that, according to polls taken over the past decade, including in recent days, some 70% of Israelis are unwilling to give up on the Golan (not WB, Gaza, E. Jerusalem), even in return for peace. So they want peace, but not to give back the Golan. By the way, I’m glad you mentioned that 52% figure, because on the day the announcement was made, May 21st, Yediot Ahronot’s printed edition’s front page had a 48% “for” figure, and Alex asked me to find an English link showing this. I wasn’t able to, also not in Ynet, and never found it again. But I did see many of the 70% figures again… So I think as stated above, most in Israel still aren’t willing to give back the Golan, and of those 70%, we need to switch over some 20.1% to have a majority “for”. I read somewhere this week that Yossi Beilin reminded people that also before the Camp David Accords were presented to Israelis, a similar 70% were against withdrawing from Sinai. After seeing the agreement, 70% were for it.

With regards to the Palestinians, I agree with you, Israel was certainly ready to make peace, and even Sharon was ready to start withdrawing from the West Bank, but then two bad things happened – Sharon fell ill, and Hamas took over Gaza. So now we’ll have to wait. Btw, I think I’m inconsistent only when I say one thing one day, and the opposite the next day. I’m not inconsistent when I say in the same breath peace with Syria – war with Hamas. A person can be dovish in one realm, and hawkish in another, without being inconsistent, I think. Most, however, would rather categorize me quickly into either Liberal or Leftist, and then indeed see an inconsistency. But as I said yesterday, I’m neither one. In fact, I refuse to identify with any political party. I don’t like more than 50% of the agendas of all the parties in Israel, and am quite against a multiparty system. But even if/when in Israel there will be a Left, and a Right, I hope to still see myself as neither one.

May 29th, 2008, 5:10 am


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