Why Syria Doesn’t Want War with Israel

Sharon during the Israeli Invasion of Lebanon

Sharon during the Israeli Invasion of Lebanon

Landis Analysis:

I usually like Robert Baer’s analysis. This time, however, both his psychology and history fail him. Writing in Time Magazine (copied below), Baer argues that Syria will continue to provoke Israel because of “the Alawites’ dark insecurity.” [They have a complex, he argues, because Salafists don’t think they are Muslims]. What is more, he argues that the only way Alawites can prove their Arab-Islamic credentials is by periodically going to war with Israel. He writes: ” they will risk war with Israel if they believe their survival requires it.”

This is pop psychology. The Alawites smashed the Muslim Brothers in Hama, January 1982, well before Israel invaded Lebanon and forced Syria into a war it did not want and sought to avoid. Israel over-ran Syria’s anti-aircraft batteries in the Baqqa valley and cut off its troops excape route to Damascus, forcing Syria to respond.

The vast majority of Sunni Muslims in Syria denounced the radical wing of the Muslim Brotherhood for risking civil war and killing Alawites indiscriminately. Damascene Sunnis, led by Ratib Shallah and others, stood by Hafiz al-Assad and were duly rewarded for their loyalty and wisdom in saving their country from Iraqi type slaughter.

Hafiz did everything in his power to avoid war with Israel. He did not seek it in order to cleanse his “dark insecurity,” as Baer argues. I was living in Damascus at the time of both Hama and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The Palestinians at the University of Damascus were besides themselves with anxiety that Syria would not resist Israel’s incursion. Syria withdrew its forces to the Beirut-Damascus road in an effort to avoid confrontation with Israel. Israel sought out the Syrians, exceeding the red lines they said they would stay behind. They cut off Syria’s ability to withdraw its soldiers from Lebanon by taking the Beirut-Damascus road, the site of Syria’s anti-Aircraft missiles, and forced a confrontation with Syria that Hafiz was trying to avoid.

The reason Syria did not want to join battle with Israel is obvious. Israel shot down almost 100 Syrian MiG 23s without losing one of its own American made planes. Israel had AWACS and advance radar, which the Syrians lacked. Syrian pilots needed to make eye contact with Israel’s F15s and F16s in order to fire their missiles. I spoke to a number of Syrian pilots after the event. They never did succeed in making eye contact with the enemy. The US planes could fire their sidewinder missiles from well over the horizon, using their radar to guide them to their targets. The Syrian pilots knew they were being sent to their deaths, but they did it anyway. Those I spoke to were bitter and cynical. Hafiz called for a truce after a day. Syria’s defeat in 1982 shook the regime to its core. It did not strengthen it as Baer suggests.

Syria has scrupulously avoided direct war with Israel, because it would undermine its hold on power. That is why it must work through militias and non-state actors, which don’t have a return address. If Alawites have dark insecurities, it is because they fear getting into a war with Israel — not because they welcome it. That is why Syria wants peace with Israel and the return of the Golan. There is no upside to war with Israel – particularly not for Alawites. Syria has shown admirable restraint in the face of recurrent Israeli provocations, bombings, and assassinations. This is because the regime is secure. Its legitimacy derives from Bashar al-Assad’s ability to avoid war — both external and internal civil war — not in his desire to provoke it.

Why Syria Will Keep Provoking Israel
By Robert Baer
Time, 3 October 2008

Oddly enough, Saturday’s car bombing in Damascus will serve Iran’s interests. Tehran thrives on chaos, which presents it an opportunity to come to the aid of friendly regimes and causes in the Middle East that need backing. More than likely, Iranian leaders were on the phone with counterparts in Damascus all Saturday, telling the Syrians not to lose heart. The Iranian message to Damascus is simple: If Israel and the United States see any weakness in the Assad regime, they will drive a truck through it and bring it down. And, if history is anything to go by, that’s a message Damascus will listen to.

What we tend to ignore is why Syria has had an uninterrupted record of attaching itself to radical causes and countries like Iran. For starters, Syria is ruled by a besieged and insecure minority, the Alawites, a heterodox-Shi’ite ethnic minority. About 12% of Syria’s population, the Alawites are looked at by extremist Sunni Muslims as heretics, fallen-away Muslims, usurpers who should be put to the sword. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, the Sunni extremists came close to getting their way. During a February 1982 Muslim Brotherhood insurrection in Hama, Syria’s third largest city, Hafez al-Assad felt compelled to flatten it in order to stay in power…

To Americans, it may appear reckless for the Syrians to provoke Israel by beefing up Hizballah —especially with Israel now constrained in how it can respond to Iran’s nuclear program. (The U.S. has made clear to the Israelis that getting into a war with Iran is the proverbial bridge too far, and that Washington therefore won’t support or enable an Israeli military strike on the Islamic Republic.) But, again, Americans don’t understand the Alawites’ dark insecurity — and the fact that they will risk war with Israel if they believe their survival requires it.

Qifa Nabki has written up what he has been told by Lebanon’s Cabbies on the Syria-Israel Negotiations

UN seeks aid for drought affected people in Syria
Chinaview.cn, 4 October 2008

The United Nations launched an appeal Friday for 20 million U.S. dollars to help up to 1 million drought affected people in Syria for a period of six months.

A vast majority of the funding is required for livelihoods and food, said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Syria is currently experiencing a drought that is by far the worst over the past four decades, according to OCHA.

The Syrian government estimated that up to 1 million people — predominantly herders and subsistence farmers — are at risk of losing their livelihoods and of increased malnutrition.

Up to 59,000 small herders lost almost all their herds and 47,000 herders lost 50 percent to 60 percent of their livestock.

Food prices have risen at a rate that has outstripped household incomes and the purchasing power of the general population, especially in the drought-affected areas, Byrs said.

Anemia, malnutrition and diarrhea are on the rise in the country, especially among children under the age of five, as well as among pregnant women.

Availability of drinking water also decreased in the rural areas of north-eastern Syria, particularly in those villages depending on protected wells as their only water source.

The situation is not expected to improve until the spring 2009,if the rains do not fail for a second year in a row.

Danger lies in ties with Kurdish opposition
03 October 2008
By Michael Howie

AN EXPERT on Syrian politics believes any links Jojo Yakob has with Kurdish opposition parties could land him in bigger trouble than his homosexuality if he is returned to his home country. He claims Mr Yakob could be arrested for any ties he might have with Kurdish groups.
Joshua Landis, the co-director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, said: “They will be watching him like a hawk.”

About 200,000 Kurds in Syria have no passport and are on society’s margins.

Offering Mr Yakob a small glimmer of hope, he said gay people could avoid state aggression “if they keep their heads down”.

But he admitted: “I don’t know what the secret police would do to him.”

A spokesman for the Syrian Embassy in London said: “Homosexuality is illegal, but there are no special units to deal with this problem.

“People are not prosecuted – society looks at this as a disease for which they can be treated – it is a similar position to that taken by the Vatican. I cannot give a clearer answer. But we are not Switzerland.”

Israeli General (commander of the northern front) threatens Syria and Lebanon with the Da7ieh treatment (total destruction) during the next military confrontation. (In Arabic: Thanks Alex)
[Addendum Oct 8] David Schenker argues that if there is a formalized arrangement b/t Hizballah and the LAF, or if there is a March 8 Government come the spring, the US will revise its policy toward the LAF to deny it attach helicopters and other equipment. PolicyWatch #1407: The Future of U.S. Military Aid to Lebanon

Syria rebuffs nuclear inspectors
BBC, 3 October 2008

The head of Syria’s nuclear programme has said that the country’s military sites will remain off-limits to international nuclear inspectors.

Damascus said it would co-operate with an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inquiry only if it did not threaten its national security……

Afghanistan wins spot on IAEA board after Syria withdraws
The Daily Star, 4 October 2008

Afghanistan won a place on the 35-member board of the UN atomic watchdog on Friday, after Syria pulled out of the race for the seat. Syria had been competing with Afghanistan for a spot in the body that oversees the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that had become vacant for the so-called Middle East and South Asia (MESA) group after Pakistan’s one-year term expired.

…. “For the sake of unity within the MESA group, Syria has decided to drop its candidacy,” said Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, and added: “There will be only one candidate for the MESA group.”

Had MESA nations been unable to decide on a consensus candidate, the matter would have had to go to a vote by all of the IAEA’s 145 member states.

Syria’s bid for a greater say in the IAEA had run into fierce opposition by the US, which alleges that Damascus was building a covert nuclear facility at a remote desert site called Al-Kibar until it was destroyed by an Israeli strike in September 2007….

Afghanistan, which is a US ally, had announced its candidacy on Wednesday. …

Judge orders Syria to pay families of hostages
By Kate Brumback
AP, 3 October 2008

An attorney acknowledged Friday that it will be difficult to force Syria to pay more than $400 million to the families of two American men kidnapped and decapitated while working as civilian contractors in Iraq…..

U.S. High School Joins Forces With Syria to Tackle Iraqi Refugee Crisis
The Wall Street Journal, 3 October 2008

Using drawings from Iraqi children who fled to Syria to escape the war in Iraq, American Conserve School and Syrian Al Enawi Secondary School have published a book in hopes of raising awareness of the 1.5 million Iraqi refugees. A U.S. high school worked with a secondary school in Syria to publish a book that hopes to raise awareness of the Iraqi refugee crisis. The book contains drawings by Iraqi children who fled to Syria to escape the Iraq war.
The book, entitled Through the Eyes of Children: The Iraqi Refugee Crisis 2008,…..

Senior Salafi cleric issues stark warning to Damascus
By Nicholas Kimbrell
The Daily Star, 3 October 2008

Lebanon’s leading Salafi cleric, Dai al-Islam al-Shahhal, has warned Syria to stay out of North Lebanon or risk opening “the gates of hell.” In an interview to be published in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Anbaa, Shahhal made clear that Syrian intervention in Lebanon would be met with stiff opposition.

A military incursion would open “the gates of hell and lead to what is similar to Iraq and its misery,” he said, according to excerpts received by the Lebanese news outlet Naharnet.

“The Syrian command and its allies in Lebanon,” Shahhal added, “are keen on driving a wedge between the Salafi movement and the Lebanese military establishment in order to drag the whole Sunni community into conflict….”

Major powers warn against any Syrian move into Lebanon
By Hussein Abdallah
The Daily Star, 4 October 2008

….. An-Naharnewspaper quoted an official US source Friday as saying that US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch had told Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem that the United States totally rejected any Syrian military intervention in Lebanon.

The source said Welch made it clear to Moallem that recent bombings in Damascus and Tripoli should not be used to justify any kind of military intervention in Lebanon…

Comments (79)

Shai said:


Thank you for the analysis. Many here in Israel are quick to buy anything written up that further demonizes Syria, the Syrian people, or its leadership. The Baer article would convince most Israelis in a heartbeat, because it is almost necessary to attribute greater power and intent to your enemy, in order to justify continuing to hold, train, and fund tremendous assets (army, soldiers) for some apocalyptic scenario with such an enemy.

I love reading “expert” opinions such as Baer’s, which use phrases like “… they (Syrian leadership) will risk war with Israel if they believe their survival requires it.” It is exactly the kind of rhetoric that sounds smart, quite convincing, and most buy it. But if we think about it for just a second, we realize that such a statement can never be wrong, in any scenario whatsoever. If Syria never attacks, the “expert” can simply claim that “the leadership’s survival doesn’t require it yet..” And if there is war, then of course the “expert” is proven right. But I can make the same statement about you, Joshua, single handedly attacking China in the near future. Shai (the expert) says: “Prof. Joshua Landis will risk war with China if he believes his survival requires it.” And, I can never be disproved. And rhetoric that cannot be disproved, is rhetoric that says… absolutely nothing.

I’m actually very glad you made the following statement: “Syria has scrupulously avoided direct war with Israel, because it would undermine their hold on power. That is why they must work through militias and non-state actors, who don’t have a return address.”

Again, most Israelis do not understand why Syria is supporting Hezbollah or Hamas. They don’t understand how weak (militarily) Syria is and has been for almost three decades now. It’s easier to depict Syria as an evil nation, if it has both the ability (and intent) to wage war in a classical fashion, and yet it further contributes to others’ destructive goals against Israel. Most of us in Israel do not understand that without Hezbollah or Hamas, Syria has nothing to bring to the table. It cannot offer Israel anything substantive in return for the Golan. These are their only cards…

October 4th, 2008, 6:04 am


Alex said:

I won’t criticize Robert Baer … it’s ok, the topic he wanted to write about is not easy to master.

Baer is not different from many other Arabs … in the sense that the two Assads (Hafez, and Bashar) were both the target of a special class of conspiracy theories that the other (Sunni) Arab leaders did not generate … starting with the predictable: “Hafez Assad is America’s man” … or “Israel is secretly supporting Assad” … and reaching other theories that I do not want to write about here.

It is amazing what a difference a leader’s religion can make in the Middle East.

Hi Shai : )

October 4th, 2008, 7:14 am


Abe Bird said:

Assad doesn’t want a war with Israel because he knows that he will be severely defeated. I would say in a different way: If Assad would have been sure in his ability to defeat Israel he would than open a war. The Alawi military regime afraid that any major clashes with Israel will destabilize the regime and will encourage the sleepy Sunni big opposition to provoke home violations. That’s the reason why Assad don’t want go further into a peace treaty with Israel, because that peace will destroy the ideology cover of the military regime and will enable old and new civil forces to catch govern and public positions which will threat the very existence of the Assad military regime. Syria is dancing in the middle, making noises of peace just to ease the US burden over her shoulders as long it engages in “peace talks” with Israel.

October 4th, 2008, 1:11 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar has a good article on the Syrian deployment, and explains what it’s all about. I think they’re right.

Arabic is here: http://www.al-akhbar.com/ar/node/95213

English summary to come…

October 4th, 2008, 1:39 pm


norman said:


Israel will not tolerate a long war and no matter how strong Israel is , with a long war the Israeli will be moving away , so the only thing Syria has to do is not to stop a war but keep it open and will see how long Israel can spend monthly on a sustained conflict , as you know i hope , Israel can not occupy Syria,
Time is not on the side of Israel.

It is time for peace.

October 4th, 2008, 2:34 pm


trustquest said:

Dear Joshua,
When you say: “The Alawites smashed the Muslim Brothers in Hama, January 1982, “
Off course you are right, but I never thought that you would dare to say that?

Recent news from Syria.
President Bashar al-Assad made a gift of 280 million, to the people of Malola to revive and develop the archaeological infrastructure.
قدم الرئيس بشار الأسد هدية بقيمة 280 مليون ل.س إلى أهالي معلولا لإحياء وتطوير البنى التحتية الأثرية فيها.


The dictator made a gift to the people; he did not assign a sum of money! no he made a gift, but we could not tell if this gift from his own money or from the budget. I think the Syrian people way smarter to pass this statement without laughing at themselves.

I hope also to bring at least a laugh (of course condemnation is not expected) from the people on this blog who praise the dictator.

After two weeks of no news or the only news the great effort by the Syrian regime to take the seat on the nuclear board, which was a heck of struggle, the Syrian back off and gave the seat to the Afghanistanians.

October 4th, 2008, 2:56 pm


why-discuss said:

It looks like Baer is trying to give more ammunitions to Syria and more psychological pressure on Israel in describing Syria as a bellicose country that can only be tamed by a peace treaty.
If this is what he meant, this kind of “demonizing” Syria could be very rewarding in future negotiations.
Go on Baer!

October 4th, 2008, 3:36 pm


Joshua said:

Dear Shai, thanks for you insights and analysis. You are, of course, absolutely right.

Truthquest, why would I not write something that everyone knows to be true.
Best, J

October 4th, 2008, 4:36 pm


Abe Bird said:


Israel will not tolerate a long war so she will make any effort to smash the Syrian army in few days, and shaking roughly the Syrian regime. It won’t be a war as fought on 2006 against Hizballah. It will be a war between two states and two armies and the time is quite important factor. Israel doesn’t have to occupy all Syria in order to declare a victory. It’s quite enough to hold Damascus and let the Syrian escape to their Dahr a-Shimal area. I mean, that will be the future war if the Syrians will think that it will play on their interests. And it won’t. The Syrians know it well. That’s why the Syrians prefer to avoid a direct war and support the Islamic terror group to do the job.

Time is not on the side of Syria. Israel will do well waiting to better Syrian regime to come while the Golan heights still a sovereign Israel soil.

It is always a time for peace. But Israel should talk only to serious Arab leaders on the other side of the table. And it’s not yet available.

October 4th, 2008, 5:08 pm


Off the Wall said:

Trust Quest

A gift, an appropriation, or whatever it is called, I am happy that Maaloulas will have such a large sum of money to revive their archeological and architectural treasures.

A friend of mine has been an avid researcher on Maaloula threatened architectural heritage and I know that she will be very happy to hear that. To begin with, Maaloula is one of two localities that continue to speak Aramaic. We should support that and help ensure the survival of that language.

Second, I am all for highlighting Syria’s Christian and Jewish heritage. Syria can and should continue to be a place for cross-cultural fertilization

As for gift, appropriation, I do not blame Bashar, I blame the writers who think that it is their duty to use such language, only they can change that, and they seem incapable of doing so. I do not think that Bashar would have been angry if they wrote “President Bashar Assad appropriates 280 Million SL for the revival of Malola Archeological Heritage”

The decision is a good one, please recognize that Maaloula has been on the tentative list of UNESCO’s world cultural heritage sites since 1999. http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/1299/ I hope this money will be used to expedite the induction of Malola on the full fledged list

On such issues, I do not care who made the decision to appropriate. I like the decision and I am pleased with it. On this one, I am seeing a glass ¾ or 90% full.

October 4th, 2008, 5:33 pm


Jad said:

Dr. Joshua,
I noticed that whenever we mention the bloody history of MB in Syria, the reaction suddenly becomes weird and some people here get aggressive and unrealistic, they even question if the MB did that entire killing or if it was a conspiracy by the authorities and any Syrian other then the MB.
They will either call you a regime lover or an anti Muslim as if all Muslims are naturally full members of that party or as if themselves are the speakers, defenders and have a full membership of that party which I’m almost sure that they are not, and they are just a good hardcore conservative Muslims that they think the MB party talks in their names and looking for their best, not seeing it as using them for different agendas.
For me It’s quite sad to see that some of the highest educated people who lives in the west still have the same way of thinking as if they are in their own closed community, it’s also sad that they didn’t use the great opportunity they’ve got to become a bridge between our cultures and show what the real Syrians are, instead of close up on their own ideologies and shut their doors and blaming everybody else for their own mistakes.

October 4th, 2008, 5:34 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear Jad
Thank you for the nice comment. I agree with your observation. But let me state my own observation.

Over the past few years, the MB has been badly split. The political wing, which has advertized its renouncement of violence as a future method, but is yet to renounce the violent past. This wing can not bring itself to renounce sectarianism, and continue to defend a violent past its intellectual leadership has been largely responsible for. They are caught in a dilemma, if they renounce that past, they risk losing one of the major talking point, which purports to place the MB only as a victim not as an active participant in the violence that rocked our beloved syria in the late 70s and early 80s.

The other wing, which is probably no longer organizationally affiliated with the MB is probably split into many salafi jihadist groups such as those who committed the latest criminal act. These are no an extension of the loose Alqaida alliance. Yet, what the political wing and its sympathizers fail to recognize is that their rhetoric and defense of past violence, if indirectly feeding these splinter groups with intellectual and historical, albeit, shaky, grievances.

My distrust of the MB is further confirmed by their recent tacit approval of the sectarian calls by KSA, Jordan, and Egypt. Their push for the anti-Shia fear mongering is one more reason for me to recognize that they have not reformed as they claim to be.

I have argued before, that some of the earlier intellectual leaders of the MS were intellectual giants, i still believe that, for reading some of their writing is a wonderful trip into a much forgotten beauty and power of the classical Arabic language. I do that even if I disagree with much of their program and views. But as a political party, their lust for power, and their sectarian rhetoric, which is the opposite of the writing of the earlier scholars (at least in style) scares the crap out of me.

October 4th, 2008, 5:55 pm


Jad said:

Dear OTW,
Thank you for the excellent summary of the MB and where do they stand right now.
I totally agree with you about the first intellectuals of MB and I see that this is the case with all political parties in Syria, it always starts with great intellectuals and beautiful ideas till we as society twist it and make it the ugliest thing on earth and let people hate us for even start that party..
I think this is very deep in our nature and you can see the same concept even in the most primitive ideas such as opening a falafel restaurant in Syria, the main owner will open it, it tastes great and it is cheap, then he hires couple people to run it for him and after few months you go to the same place to find out that the best falafel sandwich you had before poisoned you now….
I think that our base is not educated enough to understand how to keep the quality of things and that what we should be concentrating on for the coming 50 years just to elevate that base to become more engaged and smarter about it’s own future instead of selling them the same bad falafel sandwich but cheaper…

October 4th, 2008, 6:23 pm


norman said:

again and again the problem is not Islam it is using Islam to divide Muslims and Arabs to serve the West by some.

October 4th, 2008, 6:27 pm


Jad said:

Hi Noman,
I totaly agree and that is the main point.

October 4th, 2008, 6:36 pm


Shai said:

Abe Bird,

Do you honestly think if you wait long enough, you’ll find a more “serious” (about peace) Arab leader than Bashar Assad? Does Israel have a record of benefitting by waiting for a better leader? Has it EVER been Israeli policy to not explore potential peace initiatives, especially when introduced by an Arab state?

But what I don’t hear in your words is the price of waiting. Is there a price? Is this price predictable? Is it bearable? Could it be underestimated? And what guarantee do you have that waiting will produce a better result? How many more Arab summits do we need, where every single Arab nation has signed the joint declaration that offers the “3 Yes’s”? We’ve had three such summits thus far, since 2002 (Beirut, Riyadh, and Damascus). Should we wait for a 4th or 5th summit, perhaps one in Khartoum…? Time is absolutely not on our side. It has never been on our side, and the mothers and fathers of the dead Israelis who suffered the consequences of this “waiting for a better regime” strategy can tell you.

October 4th, 2008, 7:16 pm


Alex said:

A Syrian friend of mine who was watching with me the Palin-Biden debate two days ago was hired by the Palin McCain people to setup an “Ask Palin” site:


: )

October 4th, 2008, 8:28 pm


Shai said:


And we thought Bush was bad… 🙂

October 4th, 2008, 8:34 pm


Alex said:

“bad” ?

You don’t understand.

They are patriotic.

You need to be a republican to understand. Ask our friend Akbar Palace.

October 4th, 2008, 8:44 pm


why-discuss said:


What about serious Israeli leaders? When anyone of these starts to deal with the realities on the ground and move toward peace, he is either murdered, get sick or is kicked out on corruption charges.
Not very encouraging.

October 4th, 2008, 9:08 pm


why-discuss said:

Abe Bird

see note to Norman

October 4th, 2008, 9:13 pm


Off the Wall said:

Is that for real? 🙂

I am working on an response to your question

October 4th, 2008, 9:17 pm


jad said:

Hi Shai,
What are you talking about man? BAD? Republicans doesn’t have that word, the are only GOOD…
I remember you told me that Palin will chew gum in her debate, well, she didn’t, I was a bit disappointed with her, and she was boring….

October 4th, 2008, 9:23 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear Jad
What you wrote is so true and perceptive. In the five years I have lived in an area with a huge Arabic population, I now only deal with a bakery (mana2eesh) and a butcher shop. Both are from Southern Lebanon and both are honest, hard working, customer oriented businesses.

I can not count the number of restaurants who earned my business during the usual, and rather short, “quality assured” period.

October 4th, 2008, 9:59 pm


Alex said:


Very serious : )

I don’t know if we should worry more because of Sarah or because of these guys:

Saudi cleric urges Muslim women to cover up all but one eye

Saudi cleric Sheikh Mohammed al-Habadan has declared that a Muslim veil, or hijab, that covers all but the eyes encourages women to use eye make-up to look seductive, the BBC reported Friday.

Al-Habadan has called on Saudi women to wear a full veil, or niqab, which covers the entire face, including one eye.

The question of how much of her face a woman should cover is a controversial topic in many Muslim societies.

The niqab is more common in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, but women in much of the Muslim Middle East wear a headscarf which covers only their hair, the BBC reported.

Sheikh Habadan, an ultra-conservative cleric who is said to have wide influence among religious Saudis, was answering questions on the Muslim satellite channel al-Majd.

October 4th, 2008, 10:21 pm


jad said:

Dear Alex,
That was last month news, this month is killing Mickey Mouse and if it’s halal to ride your bicycle…and I’m not kidding.

October 4th, 2008, 10:30 pm


trustquest said:

Dear Joshua,
I was neither sarcastic nor testing of that statement, but I believe this is a taboo in Syria to paint the conflict this way and people still get prosecuted if they dare to say such statement, and that is the irony. The State official rhetoric describes the conflict as was between the system, or the State and the MB. The opposition might go as far as saying the conflict was between the regime and the MB. I believe there is a greave consequence in describing the conflict as one between Alawite vs MB. I have lived that period and I remember that the MB was targeting the Alawite in power not the sect villages. When local and world media start using your term, the whole sect will fall victim. I might agree with you, but I would always restrict myself from describing it this way and I would rather say, it was and may be still between the regime ( or part of it) and the MB. Please correct me if I’m wrong?

October 4th, 2008, 10:33 pm


Off the Wall said:

The site seems legit, in the sense that it links to McCain Palin web page, I am still unclear as to whether it is for or against Palin. It is rather a sexist site, and women everywhere should be angry at concerned moms if they are trying to defend Palin by showing her as an airhead. If it was a spoof, then It would be more understandable!

Those Fatwa generous guys not only scare me they make me very sad. But I continue to hope that their excessive prohibition is a sign that these prohibitions are actually not being taken seriously by the majority. But if they are, I see their world eventually hitting a snag, where humanity continues to progress and they will find their societies either locked in perpetual anti-historical era

October 4th, 2008, 11:16 pm


Off the Wall said:

Dear Trust Quest
I lived that Era too, I have names of wonderful intellectuals and doctors who were murdered in cold blood and they were not in power. Even without trying two names come to my mind. But I will refrain from naming anyone to avoid re-opening personal wounds. These two wonderful people were close acquaintance of my parents, and one of them was a close friend, who was not even living in Syria (i.e., not in power) but was murdered during a visit.

MB targeted every alawite they could. They did not target villages because they could not. Had they been able to, god forbid, Syria would not be out yet from civil war and ethnic cleansing.

October 4th, 2008, 11:34 pm


trustquest said:

Thanks OTW,
I too have friends who have been killed from both sides and I was living in Damascus at that time.
I do not dispute what you are saying but I may have not cleared my point. I’m saying that it is NOT appropriate at this time to call the conflict as one between Alawite and MB.
I stand on this point in support of the regime sensitivity, but not to the extension of saying that it was between the State and the MB. I would rather describe it as between the regime and the MB, as most opposition literature does.

The subject as you know is very sensitive, and even if there are a lot of signs support that, still we can not be sure and we can not quantify that. In my views the MB was aiming for power, they did all dirty and unethical tricks to get their objective including playing the sect card. Now, at what stage the war between the two turned to all out war between Alawite sect and the MB. I do not think it happened in that picture from both sides as we have seen in Iraq. I think historically, we heard about splitting in the organization and we heard of even some kind of peaceful accord between the regime and the MB at one time.

It is only in the small circle of the regime they might explicitly consider it between Alawite and MB, even at that level, we as Syrian we should reject that. We would be doomed if we accept that, because there is no way out of war and no place for reconciliation.
I’m not a fan of MB never was, but I’m the one who witnessed this era and would like to come up with the right language of describing it and the right story and keep that level of sensitivity not to play into the Iraqi’s Shia Sunni game, where they reached the point of no return.

October 5th, 2008, 12:19 am


norman said:


Let me tell my take on that period, I was in Damascus at Damascus University , I am originally from Hama,

The MB wanted to take power from the secular Baathist and in pursuing that goal they killed many Regime sympathizers and government officials , They elected to not kill corrupt Sunni government officials to try to divide the country between Sunni on one side and Shia and Christians on the other side , and yes they killed non government officials , They killed Muhammad AL Fayad dean of the school of law , they killed DR Sayegh because he was the president’s DR and Christian ,

It is terrible what happened in Hama , but probably it saved Syria from an Algerian type civil war.

About that appropriation to Malolo , I think all leaders in the Mideast act like Khalifs and appoint and give instead of submitting to the Parliament to approve their suggestions.

Things will change but might take time.

October 5th, 2008, 1:15 am


norman said:

Al Futtaim to develop ‘town centre’ in Syria
Staff Report
Published: October 05, 2008, 00:02

Dubai: Majid Al Futtaim Group, the region’s premier developer of shopping malls, has announced plans to invest an initial $1 billion to build Syria’s largest ever mixed-use development.

Strategically located in a residential part of Damascus, known as ‘New Damascus’, the company plans to build a landmark master-planned development, which will serve as a new ‘town centre’.

The project’s site, located in the Sabboura Yafour district, is strategically positioned on the Beirut to Damascus highway and identified as a key growth corridor by the Syrian government.

Once complete, the development will cover a floor area of one and a half million square metres including a two-level shopping centre (200,000 square metres), hotels, serviced apartments, souq, offices, mosques, alongside a range of villas and apartments.

The mall, anchored by a Carrefour Hypermarket, will include a 14-screen cinema, Magic Planet, leading retailers, an international food court and a restaurant precinct.

The project’s design, unique in Syria, is centred around a new ‘town centre’ concept, providing a focal point for local families.

Majid Al Futtaim Group has also announced that 30 per cent of the site will be kept for landscaped parks, gardens and pedestrian and cycle paths.

The group has already entered into discussions with leading international retailers to be a part of the first stage, which is due to complete in 2012.

Range of choices

Commenting on the announcement, Anders Moberg, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Group, said: “Our commitment to Syria is significant and we plan to offer the people of Damascus the same fantastic choice in shopping and entertainment as everywhere else in the region.

“Our centres are places [where] people do more than shop; it’s where they go to share time with family and friends.

“We have always cared to provide the highest standards in all our developments and Syria is no exception.”

October 5th, 2008, 1:42 am


Off the Wall said:


I concur with the need for a language that is less combative and more towards possible reconciliation. I too lost friends and relatives on both sides and I now can hear what you are saying loud and clear. Your analysis is appropriate and thoughtful, and I never doubted your intentions, nor would I doubt the intention of any Syrian on this site. When you clarified them, I can only say that they are noble.

I think Norman in his wisdom made a very good point. If I am to combine all of our points, I can see that part of the MB tactics in their quest for power was to incite civil strife and sectarian divisions. We are all the better that this was not allowed to succeed. But like all, we always must think of and regret the price. No need for rationalization here for such would dishonor the memories of all the dead.

October 5th, 2008, 2:07 am


norman said:

Joshua is in the news ,

Brief talks with Syria spur speculation
By Jim Lobe
Saturday, 10.04.2008, 06:18pm

WASHINGTON (IPS) — A series of meetings between U.S. and Syrian diplomats, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her counterpart, Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, at the United Nations over the past week is stirring speculation that Washington may at last be moving toward engaging Damascus.

Instead of focusing on specific issues of special interest to the U.S. — mainly Washington’s demands that Syria crack down hard against the infiltration of Sunni extremists into Iraq and stop supplying Hizbullah in Lebanon — the discussions also reportedly covered other topics as well, notably Damascus’s appeals for Washington to involve itself directly in a burgeoning peace process between Syria and Israel.

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad talks to a man who was wounded in a car bomb explosion on Saturday, at al-Mowasat hospital in Damascus October 1, 2008. REUTERS/Sana
Both Damascus and Tel Aviv have called for U.S. engagement as a way of furthering year-old indirect talks that have been mediated by the Turkish government. While Rice has publicly blessed the process, hawks within the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, particularly Vice President Dick Cheney’s office and a deputy national security adviser in charge of the Middle East, Elliott Abrams, have opposed any additional involvement.

“Nothing is a breakthrough, and I’m not sure that there will be,” Rice, who met with Moallem on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York Friday, told Bloomberg TV Monday. “But it’s time to talk about some of the changes that are taking place in the Middle East.”

While the Rice-Moallem contact reportedly lasted only 10 minutes, her chief regional deputy, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch, met with the Syrian official in a longer meeting Monday, according to the Wall Street Journal which suggested that the talks portended a “potential thaw” between Washington and Damascus.

”I consider this a good progress in the American position,” Moallem told the Journal in a reference to his meeting with Rice. “The atmosphere was positive. We decided to continue this dialogue.”

Still, some observers voiced skepticism that the meetings signaled a major shift in Washington’s willingness to seriously engage Damascus in the nearly four months before Pres. Bush leaves office.

“It’s clearly time for a re-think of [Syria] policy, and I think Rice and others in the administration are trying to shepherd it forward,” said Joshua Landis, a Syria specialist at the University of Oklahoma who publishes the widely read http://www.syriacomment.com blog. “Rice is definitely open to it — and the whole Department of Defense has been kicking for this for a long time — but she can’t get it past the White House.”

He noted that Bush himself had referred to Syria as a ”sponsor of terrorism” in his speech to the General Assembly just last week.

As with Iran and North Korea, the split between administration hawks and realists over Syria is a familiar one. While Rice’s predecessor, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, argued for engaging with Damascus both before and after the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, the hawks — then led by Cheney and Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld — favored a policy of ”regime change” against the government President Bashir al-Assad.

Amid charges that Syria was facilitating the smuggling of Sunni extremists into Iraq, Washington’s hostility toward Damascus grew steadily after the invasion and climaxed after the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri which the U.S. blamed on Syria.

The administration, which offered strong support to the subsequent “Cedar Revolution” in Lebanon, withdrew its ambassador from Damascus as part of a much more comprehensive effort to weaken and isolate Assad. During the month-long war between Israel and Hizbullah the following year, Abrams, presumably with Cheney’s backing, reportedly assured Israeli policymakers that Washington would have no objection to their expanding hostilities into Syrian territory.

Rumsfeld’s resignation in November 2006 and his replacement by the more realist Robert Gates — not to mention the stunning deterioration in Washington’s regional position resulting from the war’s outcome, the routing of Fatah by Syria-backed Hamas in Gaza, and the growing sectarian violence In Iraq — tilted the balance of power within the administration.

Over the strenuous objections of neo-conservatives and other hawks, Rice invited Syria to take part in last November’s Annapolis Summit that launched the formal resumption of direct talks between Israel and the Palestine Authority (PA).

It was shortly after the meeting that Turkey began mediating indirect peace talks between Damascus and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, reportedly centered around the return of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in exchange for Syria’s agreement to normalize ties and cut its links to Hizbullah, Hamas, and Iran.

While, according to virtually all accounts, those talks made major progress, they have been suspended since early September pending the formation or election of a new Israeli government. Olmert, who last week resigned as head of the ruling Kadima Party due to a corruption scandal, is currently serving as a caretaker.

In addition, Damascus has long insisted that a final peace accord could be reached only if Washington strongly endorsed the deal and normalized ties, something that the White House, despite the urging from the State Department and several former senior U.S. diplomats — including the ex-head of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) — has so far ruled out.

Meanwhile, however, Washington’s efforts to isolate Syria have eroded significantly in recent months. Hizbullah’s victory over pro-Western forces in Beirut last spring followed by the Doha Accord that gave pro-Syrian forces there a virtual veto over major policy decisions marked a major political defeat for Washington’s Lebanon policy.

At the same time, the replacement of French President Jacques Chirac, Washington’s closest ally in isolating Assad, by Nicolas Sarkozy dealt another major blow.

In July, Sarkozy became the first West European leader to host Assad — at the annual Bastille Day celebration, no less — since Hariri’s death. Sarkozy followed that up with a visit to Damascus earlier this month where he offered to co-sponsor Israeli-Syrian peace talks when they resume. At the same time, Assad announced several moves seemingly designed to appease Washington; among them, sending ambassadors to both Lebanon and Iraq.

Whether the past week’s meetings suggest that the balance of power within the administration has shifted should become clearer in the coming weeks, particularly if Washington sends an ambassador or senior-ranking official to Damascus, as has long been urged by Syria.

According to Landis, the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, pressed the White House last December to go there himself but was rebuffed. Now head of U.S. Central Command and a White House favorite, Petraeus could decide to renew his request which, if granted, would likely be seen as evidence of serious shift.

Saturday’s car-bombing that killed some 17 people in Damascus itself could bolster the Pentagon’s longstanding case that greater intelligence cooperation with Syria could serve the interests of both countries. Most analysts have pointed to Sunni extremists, possibly tied to al Qaeda, as the most likely perpetrators.

“With its Lebanon policy a shambles and its efforts to isolate Syria defied by France, Turkey, and Israel itself, it really doesn’t make sense for the White House to continue stiffing the Syrians,” said Landis. “It’s really just pure stubbornness at this point.” g

Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy, and particularly the neo-conservative influence in the Bush administration, can be read at http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/

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October 5th, 2008, 2:39 am


Shai said:

JAD, OTW, Alex,

In light of recent developments (America falling in love with Sarah Palin), I’m giving serious consideration to joining the Chinese space program. They want to put a man on the moon, and I’d like to join him… and stay for a while. Skinning deer, killing Mickey Mouse, I can’t handle this stuff… 🙂

October 5th, 2008, 4:31 am


jad said:

That is hilarious..I can’t stop laughing
Take me with you please.

October 5th, 2008, 5:28 am


Shai said:


What time shall I pick you up? Training starts at 0800 hours. Bring along as many sane people as you know…

October 5th, 2008, 6:00 am


Alex said:


You and Jad can go with the Chinese.

I am going with …

October 5th, 2008, 6:21 am


Shai said:


Yes, I understand. But the Chinese didn’t actually specify that it must be a “man” on the moon. It might still be a woman… Btw, for about 10 years of my childhood, every Saturday morning I’d wake up to the earthshaking soundtrack music of Space Odyssey 2001. My father had a bit of an infatuation with it… 🙂

October 5th, 2008, 6:32 am


Jad said:

Be careful she might be an alien…

Don’t forget to pack your falafel in very small balls and bring tahine in tubes…lol

October 5th, 2008, 6:50 am


Shai said:


What are the Lebanese saying about recent statements coming out of Israel, that response would be far more devastating than in 2006, should Hezbollah seek revenge for Mughniyeh’s assassination? If Giora Island’s recommendations are accepted, regular Lebanese citizens could suffer terribly in a future “round” with HA. Here’s the latest: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1026313.html

October 5th, 2008, 10:32 am


Abu Zatar said:

To “trustquest” :

you said:

“The dictator made a gift to the people; he did not assign a sum of money! no he made a gift, but we could not tell if this gift from his own money or from the budget.”

In this kind of dictatorial regimes where i live there is not difference between “his own money” and the “State budget” because the dictator and his fellows own the country, they are the country (Luis XIV: La France c’est moi!).
Not different sort in Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia etc…

welcome to the arab world!!!

October 5th, 2008, 12:40 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I’ve actually asked a few people this very question.

Answers depend on political alignments. Pro-Hizbullah types are defiant. They say: “Let them try to do what they want. We will retailiate by raining thousands of rockets down on Tel Aviv.”

Then you’ve got those who hate Hizbullah, but aren’t exactly enamoured of Israel either. They don’t need an excuse to despise the Hizb, so Israel is not winning them over.

The people in between seem to prefer sticking their head in the sand, and praying that we don’t get another round of 2006. Many in Israel are itching for a second fight with Hizbullah, but I also think that most of this is just talk. What have they discovered in the past two years that they could put to positive effect now? Hizbullah is even more entrenched now than they were in 06.

October 5th, 2008, 2:57 pm


why-discuss said:

“If Giora Island’s recommendations are accepted, regular Lebanese citizens could suffer terribly in a future “round” with HA.”

After some many years of wars and the August 2006 Israeli’s devastating attack, I think Lebanese have become cynical and resilient. I am less sure about Israelis’ resilience when they’ll get rockets on Tel Aviv or Haifa.
Israeli leaders are becoming boring with their threats. I doubt they will dare make a new military war. They seem to prefer to use ‘terrorist’ tactics to kill palestinians and Hezbollah commanders to deter and undermine the resistance. This is ‘safer’ on israeli lives and on national and international public opinion. The question is how long Hezbollah will accept this and what will be their reply if Moghnieh’s murder is proven to be an Israeli action. It is left to your imagination.

October 5th, 2008, 3:20 pm


Shai said:


Two things worry me about the recent rhetoric between Israeli generals and HA leaders – first, that HA may indeed be planning to retaliate for Mughniyeh’s assassination, and second, that the military and political leadership in Israel is interested in proving their deterrent capabilities (something they obviously failed to do in 2006).

No one in Israel wants thousands of rockets showering over Tel-Aviv. But for some, not having real deterrence is even worse. From people like Giora Island’s point of view, Israel failed to severely punish Lebanon, and instead focused on HA. Some believe that no real pressure was placed upon the Lebanese people to “think twice” before allowing HA to run the show. And this is something they want to do next time around. Hence the severe and disproportionate punishment to be expected (yes, even worse than a million cluster bombs, I’m afraid).

Sometimes, in order to prove a point, people are willing to do stupid things. I’m not sure most within the current leadership (Barak, Mofaz, maybe even Livni), when faced with either new anti-air missiles, or certainly some retaliatory act by HA against Israeli or Jewish targets, won’t give the go-ahead to attack. And this time, as they say, targeting the missile launchers will be secondary. The real mission will be severe punishment. Once again, the Lebanese people will be paying the price for a conflict that relates to others (Israel, Iran, Syria, etc.)

October 5th, 2008, 4:39 pm


trustquest said:

Abu Zatar,
Thank you for the comment, you made my day. I thought this forum is to cover all the bad and the good things happening in Syria, but when I posted negative news, (and there are plenty every day), I found that I was not welcomed and start reading excuses (even from people I have great respect for), I was not happy about that, because I do love to see this forum balanced in covering that part of the world.
I know it is Luis XIV country like others, but our anecdote criticism might push for better time ahead.
I’m afraid now from two forces, the authority and their supporters when they do not keep balance.
Here is another bad news from Syria:
In the news this morning the Syrian Parliament is discussing the decrees issued by the president in the last three months, 17 of them. The decrees are already effective since they are effective from they issued. So, the question, what are these smart people in the parliament is discussing. Here is a link:


October 5th, 2008, 4:47 pm


Off the Wall said:


I would love to join you, but I have already signed up with the South Korean Space program. I hear that they are getting ready for a launch within the next few years, and they are going to Jupiter.
You can not beat that, it is much farther from Palin’s world than the moon. At least, she can not see Europa from Alaska, but she can see the moon. 🙂

I’ll ask my friends, they may have a couple of places

October 5th, 2008, 5:17 pm


Shai said:


Is it possible to enroll in two space programs at the same time? Under Palin, NASA will stand for “National Association for the Skinning of Antelopes”… Oh well.

Are you saying Hyundai will soon be advertising themselves as “Also selling our cars on Jupiter… How ’bout you, Honda?”

October 5th, 2008, 5:25 pm




I hate to sound like pro-regime again, for I am fiercely independent. But issuing presidential decrees and appointments during parliamentary break is common even here in the US (of course not in the same manner). It is constitutional prerogative given to presidents and prime ministers in most countries including well established democracies. Once the parliament is in session again, these appointments and decrees can be ratified, or rejected. Please understand that this is not a defense of regime, or government. It is merely a piece of information that I believe is relevant to this discussion.

It was the way BUSH forced Bolton’s appointment as US Ambassador to the UN. When he was up for re-appointment the congress made it hard on him to a point where he withdrew. And American presidents have used the recession appointments frequently to bypass pre-appointment congressional hearings and to force the legislative branch to accept de-facto conditions.

As for gifts or appropriation, my argument was not to defend the authoritarian nature of such appropriations, but to agree with the decision to support Maaloula, no more and no less. `I am a firm believer that the power of the purse should not be in the hand of the executive but in the hand of the legislator, with the executive having the right to recommend budget request and to reject budgets and send it back for revision to the legislator.

October 5th, 2008, 5:33 pm


Off the Wall said:

We have been a HONDA family for the past 18 years.

As for enrolling in 2 space programs, if Palin can be a Republican and a Reformer at the same time, why not? 🙂

October 5th, 2008, 5:40 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


What exactly do the Israeli hawks think that the Lebanese should do about Hizbullah? Fight them on Israel’s behalf? They are the most popular single party in Lebanon! Why are they popular? Not because they want to annihilate Israel, but because the Lebanese are sick of being cannon fodder…

(Of course, this is also why many hate Hizbullah).

You should meet my friend Abbas. You could discuss all these questions with him, and he would tell you what the various probabilities are. 🙂

Here’s a sample of a recent conversation I had with him (he is one of the people I mentioned, whom I asked the question about the next Israel-Hizbullah war).

October 5th, 2008, 6:24 pm


Alex said:


About once a month you write about this blog’s bias and the way you feel not welcome or the way your comments do not get published.

Can you please let me know by email if you feel that anything of the above takes place?

And please do not be over sensitive to other comments that do not support yours. Off the Wall’s opinion, for example, is different from yours, but that does not mean you are “not welcome” here.

October 5th, 2008, 6:27 pm


EHSANI2 said:

According to Israel Radio, US officials claim that the US sanctions against Syria will be lifted in the near term.

If the report is true, the young lion of Damascus can claim a massive win in his 8-year old duel with this White House.

The regional powers will take notice of this development fairly soon to be sure.

Damascus stood to the world’s superpower and won. No one can take this away from the young Syrian leader.

Though the signs have been there for a while, the lifting of these sanctions will constitute the final chapter of the attempt to isolate Syria.

October 5th, 2008, 6:33 pm


Alex said:


I usually do not believe Syria related news from Israel.

But inshallah.

Here is the full article

‘US considers lifting Syrian sanctions’
Oct. 5, 2008
Jpost.com and Herb Keinon , THE JERUSALEM POST

Washington is considering a possible change of policy towards Syria in the near future, which would entail lifting sanctions against the country but would not include returning the US ambassador to Damascus, Israel Radio quoted senior US officials as saying on Sunday.

The officials reportedly said that discussions were being held over the best way for the US to influence Syria, in light of the improved relations with France and the visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy to the country in September.

A US official said there were several encouraging signals on the Syrians’ part, including the decision to renew diplomatic ties with Lebanon.

On October 2, a senior Israeli diplomatic official said Jerusalem had no problem with the US engaging in dialogue with Damascus.

The official made the comment in response to two US-Syrian meetings held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York earlier last week.

“The Syrians are putting out all kinds of feelers to the US to set things in motion before the upcoming elections,” the official said. “Damascus has already gotten credit for engaging in indirect talks with Israel and is now trying to capitalize on that with the Americans.”

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke for 10 minutes with Syrian Foreign Minister Wallid Muallem at a dinner with Arab foreign ministers on September 28. The next day she dispatched her top adviser, Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, for a more lengthy meeting with Muallem.

CNN quoted a State Department official as saying that at the Welch-Muallem meeting, the two traded long-standing grievances, and also discussed Washington’s support for Israeli-Syrian peace talks, Syria’s role in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, and its ties to Iran.

Welch, according to the CNN report, also said Syria should play a more positive role in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations and stop supporting Palestinian terrorist groups.

He also raised the issue of Syria’s strategic relationship with Iran.

It is precisely here, according to Israeli officials, that a US dialogue with Syria could be productive.

According the Israeli official, Israel realizes that if the West wants to move Syria out of Iran’s orbit, the US will have to play a more active role in Israel’s negotiations with Syria in general, as well as increase its own dialogue with Damascus.

October 5th, 2008, 6:50 pm


Shai said:


And once again Israel missed a beautiful opportunity. We could have sat at the table with Syria, and pretended (both sides) to do anything and everything to help end Syria’s isolation. I say “pretended” because we see how helpful Israel has been… Still, this gesture would have been appreciated by Syria, and reciprocated by various CBM’s perhaps. But instead, Syria’s gone and done it all on its own… Indeed if the U.S. sanctions are lifted, Bashar will have proved to all that his strategy worked.


You know, I often ask myself the same question about the hawks here. And then I’m reminded of the entire EXCOM around John Kennedy in October of 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Everyone around him, generals, national security advisers, heads of intelligence, you name it, all supported attacking Cuba. And why? Probably because deep within each one of them, there was some finished belief in the inevitability of a clash between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. And if that were the case, then better now, when the odds still favored the U.S. Same here in Israel, perhaps. Certain people (I claim almost the entire Right) feel that clashes with the Arab world are inevitable. As such, it is better to fight HA today, than wait for it to get sophisticated anti-air missiles tomorrow.

So to be honest with you, I don’t think the average Israeli hawk really gives a damn about what the Lebanese people can or cannot do to stop Hezbollah. In a way, it is better for him/her if they could do nothing. It’s a bizarre way of looking at life (with certain fates), but perhaps most conservatives anywhere form their belief systems and actions in such a way. Certainly when I hear rhetoric by commentators such as AP or AIG, it seems they too believe in this “fate” (the inevitability of endless clashes).

October 5th, 2008, 6:57 pm


Off the Wall said:


I sure hope that you are not intimidated by any of my comments. If that is the case, then I apologize. As you can see, I have agreed with and supported your arguments regarding the language of the describing our recent history. And I have occasionally opposed your arguments as well. If I ever use inappropriate tone or language, please feel comfortable to let me know and to berate me for all to see. I feel welcomed here and I have no reason or right to make others feel otherwise.

This is what I would call “Breaking News”. But how near is near-term, was there any indication and how trustworthy is the source?

October 5th, 2008, 7:04 pm


EHSANI2 said:

No, there is no confirmation as of yet.

Of course, this is the very first hint. Much needs to be clarified.

The main loser here is KSA. The U.S. seems to have come to the conclusion that its policy had not worked and that it was time to try something different.

Again, the news may turn out to be wrong and this is why I qualified my comment by saying “if true”.

Dr. Landis has been urging everyone that cares to listen to do just this for years. Many have criticized him for making the suggestion.

October 5th, 2008, 7:10 pm


shibl said:

Hi Off the Wall,

I am one of the authors of Palin bot thingy.

Thank you for your comments, we modified the site a bit to make it clear it is a spoof. Have a look and tell me what you think? We tried to still make it subtle to keep the user guessing for a few seconds.

It is neither for nor against Palin, just having fun at her robotic answers.

I disagree with the sexist part, but u have to agree that the sexy librarian thing is part of her perceived persona.

The new URL is:

October 5th, 2008, 7:20 pm


Alex said:

Meshaal Calls For Syria-Saudi Thaw: Arab Diplomat
2008-10-05 14:22:32.810 GMT

RIYADH (AFP)–Exiled Hamas supremo Khaled Meshaal has called for a thaw in ties between Saudi Arabia and Syria during a recent visit to Saudi Arabia, an Arab diplomat said Sunday.

“During meetings with Saudi officials, Meshaal raised the issue of Saudi-Syrian relations, which have long been tense, and stressed the importance of improving those ties,” the diplomat told AFP, requesting anonymity.

Relations between Riyadh and Damascus have been tense since the February 2005 assassination of Lebanese former premier Rafiq Hariri, a close Saudi ally, in a bombing widely blamed on Syria.

Meshaal, who lives in exile in Syria, visited the Saudi holy city of Mecca in September to perform umrah, or smaller pilgrimage, and to meet with Saudi officials.

Fresh tensions between Syria and Saudi Arabia surfaced after a deadly car bombing in Damascus last month that killed 17 people, with Syrian official media complaining that the Saudi authorities did not condemn the attack.

Syrian authorities blocked the distribution of the Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat after the Sept. 27 car bombing, the paper’s Beirut bureau chief told AFP on Thursday.

The head of the Palestinian Islamist Hamas also met in Mecca with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, the Arab diplomat said.

Meshaal also met with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman for talks on Cairo’s efforts to broker a reconciliation between Hamas and the rival Fatah party of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, the diplomat added.

October 5th, 2008, 7:26 pm


EHSANI2 said:

The financial crisis has hit the EU hard. The Euro has hit new recent lows in early Asian trading. The rescue plan for a troubled German mortgage lender (Hypo) seems to have hit a snag over the weekend. Germany’s response was to guarantee all private savings accounts.

October 5th, 2008, 7:31 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:


THe article doesnt seem to be from an israeli source. As mentioned in the article its also quoting CNN. One of my guesses is that the current administration feels compelled to start building some of the bridges with Syria because both nominees want them to. Its an act of descensy of some sort to the next administration. Unless of course some sort of deal has been struck prior to the Rice-Welch-Moullam meeting we dont know about???

October 5th, 2008, 8:22 pm


Off the Wall said:

Interesting words from the architect of the end of history

I have argued the same, but way much less elegantly than Fukuyama

Excerpts from his new article (just saw it on NEWSWEEK vis huffpost). I am reading the article now,

Ideas are one of our most important exports, and two fundamentally American ideas have dominated global thinking since the early 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was elected president. The first was a certain vision of capitalism—one that argued low taxes, light regulation and a pared-back government would be the engine for economic growth. Reaganism reversed a century-long trend toward ever-larger government. Deregulation became the order of the day not just in the United States but around the world.

The second big idea was America as a promoter of liberal democracy around the world, which was seen as the best path to a more prosperous and open international order. America’s power and influence rested not just on our tanks and dollars, but on the fact that most people found the American form of self-government attractive and wanted to reshape their societies along the same lines—what political scientist Joseph Nye has labeled our “soft power.”

It’s hard to fathom just how badly these signature features of the American brand have been discredited. Between 2002 and 2007, while the world was enjoying an unprecedented period of growth, it was easy to ignore those European socialists and Latin American populists who denounced the U.S. economic model as “cowboy capitalism.” But now the engine of that growth, the American economy, has gone off the rails and threatens to drag the rest of the world down with it. Worse, the culprit is the American model itself: under the mantra of less government, Washington failed to adequately regulate the financial sector and allowed it to do tremendous harm to the rest of the society.


October 5th, 2008, 8:41 pm


ausama said:

What is next after survying Lebanese Cabbies about Syrian-Israeli negotiations? Survaying Mono street Bar Girls about the prospects of an Iranian-Israeli confrontation?

But the good news is that we now have a qifanabki blog (at a great eventual intelectual loss to the visitors to Syria Comment of course) where we can be “subtly” reminded of the clear and present danger represented by a possible Syrian Army entry into Lebanon!

Let us all pray for the day Akbar Palace and AIG follow suit and open their own blog thing and leave us alone to our “doomed fate”.

October 5th, 2008, 9:29 pm


OFF the Wall said:


I love the change, simple, barely noticeable, and if I did not know, it would have taken me sometime to recognize. This is very smart. Good job. I also like the questions, I asked few and your answer generator seems to have a nice list of answers, simple and composite, which are consistent with the personality in question

October 5th, 2008, 10:53 pm


why-discuss said:


The scenario of the re-entry of the syrian army or at least a stronger influence of Syria in Lebanese politics, while dreaded by the 14 Mars fans, could in fact be a protection not only from islamic hysterics in the North of Lebanon but also from the Israelis recent threats. Syria would easily rein Hezbollah, eliminate the Al Qaeda cells in Northern Lebanon by helping the lebanese army and bring a cleaned up Lebanon into the Israeli peace process.
The other scenario of snubbing Syria’s help will oblige the over stretched Lebanese army to fight an endless and bloody war against al Qaeda that may spill easily to Beirut. It will also allow Hezbollah to flex its muscles and provoke Israeli violent retaliation. And finally, it will not encourage Syria to include Lebanon in the peace negotiations, therefore leaving Lebanon in the cold with only the help of the useless UN.
Is the possible Saudi-Syria thaw a sign that Syria may get a greenlight to re renter lebanese politics with the benediction of the Saudis and the Americans? Is the elimination of US sanctions on Syria an incentive to encourage Syria-Israel negotiations and boosting possible Syria’s role in Lebanon?
Are the threats to Lebanon from Israel a disguised suggestion to Lebanese leaders to operate a rapprochement with Syria so Hezbollah become neutralized?
Signs are showing that for the West, Syria has become the only serious road to peace with Israel. Therefore should be given a special treatment. Are we seeing this?

October 6th, 2008, 12:27 am


jad said:

(Just an observation, nothing more, and I’m absolutely not hassling anybody at all. so please, nobody take this personally.)
It’s kind of interesting when we have some drama go on SC, but for someone to be so sensitive about it is wrong, and to ask to be treated differently because they are on one side or the other doesn’t fit into the balance that people are asking for.
In any debate you can’t expect people to fully agree with you especially with ME folks who’s everyone of them thinks that he is the smartest man on earth and he knows everything!? I also think it’s your duty to convince whoever read your comments with what you believe in and your ideas and that is the goal we should be looking for.
I’m sorry OTW, but to apologize for your thoughts out of courtesy and politeness doesn’t sound that right to me. (I’m just saying that out of respect OTW, and I truly hope that you understand my point and not take it the wrong way)

October 6th, 2008, 3:40 am


Zenobia said:


Barbarella? !?

the more I learn , the more I discover what a cheese ball you are.

tell the truth, do you listen to Martin Denny late at night and make fake martinis for the right effect…: )

i still haven’t gotten over those other you-tube links you posted awhile back with the couple running on the beach etc. I was hoping that might have just been an anomaly… but…

October 6th, 2008, 4:01 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Ya habibi you are welcome any time to comment on the blog. I would love to debate with you there.

But the prerequisite is that you actually read the commentary instead of assuming you know what I’m saying.


In the case of the Syrian invasion, I think I concluded that it was a ridiculous idea.

But who needs to read, when one just knows!?

October 6th, 2008, 4:24 am


Alex said:

LOL .. Martin Denny?!!!


I’m too Syrian to appreciate Martin Denny music.

Ya3ni if I am to escape this planet and go to the moon, my options are limited, I hope you realize

1) With Shai, Jad, and a Chinese man stuck in some small Chinese spaceship.

2) With that Barbarella, listening to “fly me to the moon”

And I don’t drink Martinis or Alcohol in general… don’t like it. Like a good old Syrian I drink Fruit Juice only … carrots, Orange, fruit cocktail …etc.

October 6th, 2008, 4:25 am


Jad said:

Juice eh!, So you are RAMEZ fan…
I’m not sure if you heard about Ramez mania in damascus, when he open his little shop (jugo juice kind, syrian style of course…) on Aleppo st. he was so IN at that time, it was end 80s.. and everybody used to go there, he then open the one on Baghdad st. I’m not sure if he is still IN…

October 6th, 2008, 4:55 am


Johnny said:

Josh, though I agree with the following comment in general:
“Syria has scrupulously avoided direct war with Israel, because it would undermine its hold on power. That is why it must work through militias and non-state actors, which don’t have a return address”

I beg to differ on the return address. The militias and non-state actors may not have a return address inside Syria proper, but ask any residents in the occupied territories and southern Lebanon and we will tell you otherwise. The return address is more often than not on top of our heads.

October 6th, 2008, 11:01 am


Joshua said:

Johnny, habibi — Allah yukhalli rasak. Kish barra wa ba`iid.

You are absolutely right. Syria’s weakness has obliged it to fight a non-traditional war. The result is that many Lebanese are held hostage to a larger struggle that they want no part of.

All the more reason for not misinterpreting the war’s causes. If one believes that it is due to “dark Alawite insecurities,” as Baer and others argue, the proper strategy to end it is indeed regime change in Syria, whatever the cost. Many Lebanese neocons and some Israelis argue this.

I think such a policy is stupid and misguided. It will only lead to increased Lebanese chaos and suffering, not to mention lots Syrian chaos and suffering. This is a cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face policy.

The real solution is to help end the Arab-Israeli conflict and restore the Golan to its legal owners. Once this is accomplished, Syria will not have incentive to destabilize Lebanon. Certainly, it’s Lebanon strategy will not depend on supporting “resistance” and an armed Hizbullah. For Syria to give up support for Hizb before getting the Golan back, is to give up its claim to the Golan.

Syria will continue to work for a “friendly” Lebanon, but that will not be so objectionable – even to right wing Lebanese – if Syria is at peace with Israel and supports a Lebanon at peace with Israel. Everyone will be the richer and every-one’s house will be safer – everyone but the 20,000 Jewish settlers on the Golan – which is where the real problem lies.

All of this “dark Alawite” hocus-pocus is a diversion from the real problem of occupation at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict. No matter who rules Syria, they will need to fight for the Golan and they will need allies in their struggle. I doubt that the Muslim Brothers or the NSF have a better plan than the present Syrian regime has. During the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, they recommended that Assad attack Israel on the Golan in order to support Lebanon and defeat Israel. That would have been a losing strategy for Syria, but, of course, that was the point. They want Syria to be defeated again in order to bring down the present regime that they abhor.

This is the quintessential cut-of-your-nose-to-spite-your-face strategy. Lebanon and Syria are linked by geography, economy, and culture. Only a happy and peaceful Syria will help to bolster a happy and peaceful Lebanon. And the same goes for a happy and peaceful Israel. The international community should put its shoulder behind the task of easing the return of the Israeli settlers back to Israel proper and returning the 300,000 Golani refugees in Syria back to their homes and land, rather than seeking to crush Syrian efforts to get back the Golan.

October 6th, 2008, 3:35 pm


ausama said:

Dear QN, Thanks for the warm invitation and Mabrook anyway.. good luck..

I am gonna be visiting Damascus and Beirut next week and I will try to give my version of what cabbies there think. And will try to get a feedback from the Mono street crowd as well. I hope my version will match yours, but Lebanese cabbies usually keep telling me: We Lebaneses have learned nothing.!! we will see this time.


October 6th, 2008, 6:12 pm


ugarit said:

“It’s hard to fathom just how badly these signature features of the American brand have been discredited.” — http://www.newsweek.com/id/162401

They were discredited when they were pronounced but Fukayama and his ilk just realized what was going on. Need I remind Fukayama of “Voodo o Economics”. Who in their right mind would have thought that the US truly stands for democracy! Let’s ask South America what the US and Reagan did to them.

October 6th, 2008, 7:04 pm


Alex said:

Robert Fisk’s World: When it comes to Palestine and Israel, the US simply doesn’t get it

6 Oct 2008

Palestinians ceased to exist in the United States on Thursday night. Both Joe Biden and Sarah Palin managed to avoid the use of that poisonous word. “Palestine” and “Palestinians” – that most cancerous, slippery, dangerous concept – simply did not exist in the vice-presidential debate. The phrase “Israeli occupation” was mercifully left unused. Neither the words “Jewish colony” nor “Jewish settlement” – not even that cowardly old get-out clause of American journalism, “Jewish neighbourhood” – got a look-in. Nope.

Those bold contenders of the US vice-presidency, so keen to prove their mettle when it comes to “defence”, hid like rabbits from the epicentre of the Middle East earthquake: the existence of a Palestinian people. Sure, there was talk of a “two-state” solution, but it would have mystified anyone who didn’t understand the region.

There was even a Biden jibe at George Bush for pressing on with “elections” – again, the adjective “Palestinian” went missing – that produced a Hamas victory. But Hamas appeared to exist in never-never land, a vast landscape that gradually encompassed all the vast and black deserts that stretch, in the imagination of US politicians, from the Mediterranean to Pakistan.

“Pakistan’s (nuclear) missiles can already hit Israel,” Biden thundered. But what was he talking about? Pakistan has not threatened Israel. It’s supposed to be on our side. Both vice-presidential candidates seemed to think that our ally in the “war on terror” was now turning into an ally of the axis of evil. Even Islam didn’t get a run for its money.

Indeed, one of the funniest reports of the week, yet another investigation of Obama’s education, came from the Associated Press news agency. The would-be president, the Associated Press announced, had attended a Muslim school but hadn’t “practised” Islam.

What on earth did this mean, I asked myself? Would AP have reported, for example, that McCain had attended a Christian school but hadn’t “practised” Christianity? Then I got it. Obama had smoked Islam but he hadn’t inhaled!

Travelling across the US this week – from Seattle to Houston to Washington and then to New York – I kept bumping into the results of America’s White House-induced terror. A well-educated, upper-middle-class lady at a lunch turned to me and expressed her fear that Islam “wanted to take over America”. When I suggested that this was pushing things a bit, she informed me that “the Muslims have already taken over France”.

How does one reply to this? It’s a bit like being informed by a perfectly sane and rational person that Martians have just landed in Tennessee. So I used the old Fisk trick when confronted by ravers of the “admit George Bush did 9/11” school. I looked at my watch, adopted a shocked expression and shouted: “Gotta go!”

But seriously. There was Biden on Thursday night, telling us that along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan – he was referring, of course, to the old frontier drawn by Sir Mortimer Durrand which most Pushtuns (and thus all Taliban) regard as fictional – “there have been 7,000 madrassas built … and that’s where bin Laden lives and we will go at him if we have actually (sic) intelligence”.

Seven thousand? Where on earth does this figure come from? Yes, there are thousands of religious schools in Pakistan – but they’re not all on the border. In another extraordinary bit of myth-making, Obama’s man told us that “we kicked the Hizbollah out of Lebanon” – which is totally untrue.

And, of course, Israel – a word that must be uttered, repeatedly, by all US candidates – became the compass point of the entire Middle East, this “peace-seeking nation … our strongest and best ally in the Middle East” (quoth Palin) of whom “no one in the United States Senate has been a better friend…than Joe Biden” (quoth Biden).

Israel was “in jeopardy” if America talked to Iran, Palin revealed. “We have got to assure them that we will never allow a second Holocaust.” Thus was the corpse of Hitler dug up yet again – just as McCain resurrected the shadow of the Second World War last week when he blathered on about Eisenhower’s sense of responsibility before D-Day. That Israel can quite adequately defend herself with 264 nuclear warheads went, of course, unmentioned, because acknowledging Israel’s real power undermines the image of a small and vulnerable country relying on America for its defence.

Israelis deserve security. But where were the promises of security for Palestinians? Or the sympathy which Americans would immediately grant any other occupied people? Absent, needless to say. For we must gird ourselves for the next struggle against world evil in Pakistan.

Biden actually demanded a “stable” government in Islamabad, which was a little bit hypocritical only a few days after US troops had crossed its sovereign border to shoot up a Pakistani house allegedly used by the Taliban. As General David Petraeus told The New York Times this week, “The trends in Afghanistan have been in the wrong direction … wresting control of certain areas from the Taliban will be very difficult.”

It’s an odd situation. Obama and Biden want to close down Iraq and re-conquer Afghanistan. The Palin College of Clichés characterised this as “a white flag of surrender in Iraq” while continuing to warn of the dangers of Iran, the name of whose loony president – Ahmadinejad – defeated McCain three times in last week’s pseudo-debate.

But it’s the same old story. All we have learned in America these past two weeks, to quote Joan Littlewood’s Oh! What a Lovely War, is that the war goes on.

October 6th, 2008, 11:40 pm


sadek seklawi said:

la youjad ay jaysh bel 3alam men wen makan fe ywa2ef l mokawame b lebnan w 5osousan ” hizbollah ” la2enno shefna be3younna w howwe l 2ossa kella :D:D ne7na 3esha2 shhade 2owe w 3azem w 2iradde ( w allah men fo2 bye7mina w byensorna ) .

October 8th, 2008, 10:51 am


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