"Why Syria Will Not Get the Golan Back" by Landis - Syria Comment

“Why Syria Will Not Get the Golan Back” by Landis

Over the next week, Syria Comment will post two essays on the peace process. This week I will argue why Syria may not get the Golan back from Israel. Next week I will argue why it may.

Why Syria Will Not Get the Golan Back: Why Israel and the Arabs will continue at War
By Joshua Landis
February 28, 2009, Syria Comment

Jeffrey Feltman

Jeffrey Feltman

Syria’s ambassador in Washington met with State Department officials in Washington for the first time since 2005 on Thursday. Well, the first “polite” meeting. Imad Moustapha was ordered to the State Department in April to listen to a briefing about U.S. intelligence showing that Syria had secretly constructed a nuclear reactor based on a North Korean design. (Israel destroyed the alleged reactor in 2007.) “It was nothing productive,” an embassy spokesman explained. “It was the same old policy of dictating to us.”

The meeting this week between Imad Moustapha and Jeffrey Feltman, the US’s new Acting Assistant Secretary of State, was reportedly polite and meant to discuss a broad array of issues that divide the two countries. All the same, it is not clear how polite or whether the negotiating will get very far because both sides mistrust and misinterpret each other profoundly. Hillary Clinton’s announcement Thursday that“It is too soon to say what the future holds,” underscores this problem. State Department spokesman Robert Wood said on Friday, “there will be no normalization of ties with the Damascus regime until it meets key American demands, including an end to “interference in Lebanese issue issue,” Wood stressed that there are certain principles which Washington will not abandon.

“We felt it was important to communicate our concerns directly and we shall see how the Syrians will respond to it, including the interference on Lebanese internal affairs and their support for terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah,”

Imad Moustapha, however, was up beat and told reporters on Thursday that the talks were “very constructive.” He expects there to be more meetings in the coming months.

“We believe that this meeting has explored possibilities between Syria and the United States to engage on a diplomatic and political level and also to discuss all issues of mutual concern,” the ambassador said. “We think this is a first step and we believe there will be many further meetings.”

The barriers standing in front of a successful peace process are many. First, the debilitating imbalance of power between Syria and Israel stands out above all others.  Second, the US is not an impartial or neutral mediator, but a lawyer for Israel. Third, underlying these problems are the radically different world-views of each side and deep mistrust for each other, due to decades of demonization and warfare. Building trust under such conditions is extremely difficult, especially if it is to be built by the placing a long list of pre-conditions on dialog

Mistrust

An example of mistrust: One State Department official explained to me Wednesday that Syria is holding back appointing an ambassador to Lebanon until the US appoints one to Damascus. This would erode trust, he explained, because Syria had already promised the French it would appoint the ambassador in exchange for Sarkozi’s public embrace of Assad. The implication was clear; the US believes Syria is being a “rug merchant” and double dealing on the Lebanese ambassador issue.

Why would Syria do this? Syrian officials have been saying for over a month that there would be an American ambassador appointed to Damascus by the end of February. This has yet to happen. It is hard to know how each side measures its quid pro quo’s.

Balance of Power

Damascus faces an impossible problem in negotiating with Washington because of its profound relative weakness. The US and Israel work hand and glove to keep Syria weak economically,militarily and diplomatically. The US has helped Israel to bomb Syrian military installations, assassinate HIzbullah and Hamas operatives in Syria, and by designating anti-israeli militias and states as terrorist organizations. A panoply of economic sanctions are also martialed to Israel’s advantage. Israel is incomparably stronger than Syria and getting more so all the time.

Syria stands almost no reasonable chance of getting back the Golan Heights occupied by Israel in 1967 unless Washington makes a clear division between its own interests and those of Israel. Washington should not act as Israel’s lawyer and body guard, which it does today. Instead it must help rectify the terrible imbalance of regional power which allows — in fact encourages — Israel to thumb its nose at international law and continue to annex and settle its neighbors’ land.

Washington has imposed such an imposing list of sanctions, privations, and legal impositions on Syria over the last few decades that Syria cannot hope to negotiate with Israel as an equal. Many of the laws proscribing Syria can be reversed only by congressional vote, which will not be forthcoming unless Syria abandons its allies.

The best example of Syria’s losing battle to rectify the balance of power between it and Israel is the recent report by the IAEA on the indications that Syria was trying to develop nuclear power. This report was made possible by Israel’s illegal bombing with US support of a Syrian military installation in September 2007. Neither the UN nor Europeans objected to Israel’s illegal bombing. Because of the UN sanctioned bombing of Syria — the UN refused to take action against the bombing — the US can now refer Syria to the UN’s Security Council for sanctions unless inspectors are allowed full privileges to scour Syria’s military installations and catalog it efforts at military improvement. Israel will probably gain access to these reports, assisting its efforts to destroy Syria’s attempts to alter its losing balance of power.

At the same time as helping to destroy Syria’s efforts to develop nuclear and advanced technologies, the US helps Israel to improve its own advantages. It transfers advanced missile and weapon technology to Israel. It also protects Israel from any censure by the UN for developing a full panoply of nuclear capabilities.

Practically all of Syria’s friends and allies have been designated as “terrorist” organizations or rogue countries and criminalized accordingly. In the meantime, Israel is protected from international efforts to stop its settlement of and expropriation of Palestinian and Syrian territory. This is a tremendous help to Israel. Israelis understand that they can “play” the US; knowing that no president will dare cross them.

The only reason Israel re-opened indirect negotiations with Syria last year is because of its fear of Iran and Hizbullah. The US has done everything in its power to eliminate these two compelling incentives to negotiate, all the while stating that it encourages negotiations. This contradiction is apparent to Syria and convinces it that the US is not serious about helping Syria to regain the Golan or to encourage the final application of international law on borders.

When the State Department insists that Syria must give up all support for Hizbullah and Hamas before gaining US support for negotiations or engagement, Syria can only understand this as a demand to surrender. ‘Non-interference in Lebanon” means helping to disarm Hizbullah and allowing pro-US and Israeli Lebanese to gain the upper hand there.

Were Syria to actually cut relations with Hizbullah, Hamas and Iran before negotiating with Israel, there would be no negotiations. Israel would have won. It would have no incentive to give up the Golan. As Netanyahu has stated many times, “the Syrian border with Israel has been Israel’s safest for 35 years.” Syria can only pressure Israel across the Lebanese border or by supporting Palestinian resistance. Once these fronts are quite, Israel will have the peace it demands – but without making painful concessions on the Golan.

Step by Step Diplomacy will not Work

The US is playing a difficult game with Syria. It insists on making Syria pay for every diplomatic concession with an equal concession of its own. The problem with this chit-for-chit game is that Syria has few chits to play. Yes, Syria can reopen the American school it closed a few months ago. It can once again agree to issue visa’s to Fulbright professors and American scholars. It can allow Amid-East and other State-Department funded organizations back into Syria. It can let out a few political prisoners, such as Michel Kilo, but these small tokens will quickly be exhausted. The US has a rich array of sanctions and privations it has placed on Syria that it can lift one at a time for many years. Syria has nothing of comparable worth, save support for Hizbullah, Lebanese sovereignty (which, to America, is practically the same thing as disarming Hizbullah) and support for Hamas. These cards absolutely necessary for successful negotiations over the return of the Golan. Syria cannot give them up before getting back the Golan, as the US and Israel are demanding.

Syria cannot trust the US. Even if US diplomats and politicians assure Assad that they will help Syria get back the Golan if it shows good faith by giving up Hizbullah and ending support for Hamas, Syria cannot bank on such promises. The US has demonstrated no ability to force such concessions from Israel since Eisenhower pressured it to give up the Sinai following the 1956 Suez Crisis. Bush the father had to cave on the issue of halting settlement expansion. Clinton failed to get Barak to give up all the Golan in 2000, a expectation that led Hafiz al-Assad to travel to Geneva to meet with Clinton.

How will the Obama administration square its contradictory policy demands: one, that it wants Israel-Syria peace; and two, that Syria must cut relations with Hizbullah and Hamas prior to engagement for such a peace?

Israelis argue that they cannot trust Syria to break with Hizbullah, Hamas and Iran once Syria has gotten back the Golan. In fact they are not even convinced that “flipping” Syria is worth the Golan.  Syria will not trust Israel to give back the Golan once Syria has broken with its allies. In fact, Syria does not believe it should have to break with its allies to get back its rightful territory.

What is clear, however, is that Israel will not offer the Golan to Syria unless the US helps restore the skewed balance of power between Israel and Syria. Secretary of State Clinton has promised that the US will demand that Syria give up its bargaining cards before sitting down at the table. Obama in his interview of al-Arabiyya stated that “Israel’s security is paramount” to the US. He underlined this promise by vocalizing US support for Israel’s Gaza invasion.  Israel was made to pay no price for invading Gaza, just as it paid no price for invading Lebanon in 2006, or bombing Syria in 2007. These freebe operations have convinced Israelis that they do not have to make concessions or compromise with their enemies. The confirmation that war works for Israel can be found in elections earlier this month. Israelis moved squarely to the right. They know that war works; the two state solution no longer has to be entertained, and that the US will side with Israel when it decides to use force rather than diplomacy. For these reasons, it is very difficult to envisage a scenario in which Syria will actually get back the Golan. Yes, there will be talks and plenty of discussions and process, but no peace.

[END]

See Richard Haass’ Newsweek article: Obama Should Talk To Syria Now:

….It may be difficult to make peace with Syria, but it will be all but impossible to make peace in the region without it. President Obama correctly views dialogue as a tool, not a reward. It is time to put the tool to use, and to see what can be built.

Also See Aluf Benn in Haaretz: “Can Israel make peace with Syria without leaving Golan?” This is important as it may reflect Netanyahu’s approach.

On the eve of the election, while visiting the Golan and planting a tree for Tu Bishvat (Hebrew Arbor Day), Netanyahu declared that, “Gamla will not fall again” and “the Golan will remain in our hands.” According to him, “For 35 years this has been the quietest border we have because we are on the Golan, not below it.” On other occasions, he has declared that withdrawal from the Heights would turn it into “an Iranian base.” He sees the indirect negotiations Prime Minister Ehud Olmert conducted with the Syrians as having offered concessions without recompense, as a useless move that served only to extricate Syrian President Bashar Assad from international isolation. An agreement that would include only a limited withdrawal, however, in which Israel would “remain on the Golan,” does not contradict Netanyahu’s principles.

The following is a small portion of a recent email interchange I had with a military analyst who was tasked with gaming US negotiations with Syria:

Analyst

I am thrilled about our new approach to diplomacy. But we have to be VERY careful with Syria. I genuinely believe Bashar wants to leave the dark side- but I think he believes he is in the cat-bird seat and will get more than he’ll have to give. With Syria’s record, that’s not acceptable.
If I am terrible off track, please let me know!

Analyst on the Hariri tribunal

The analysts I have spoken with here agree that the Tribunal will not find enough evidence to implicate Bashar. They might be able to implicate some Syrian intel officers who Syria won’t turn over the Tribunal. So either way it is sticky. But I am not so sure nothing will be found on Bashar. The Saudis hate Bashar and have already accused Syria of 30 years of political assassinations- including Hariri- and of fermenting turmoil in the region. What if they are able to provide information? (Which they might do if Bashar does not cooperate and pull back on his support to resistance groups and move away from Iran.) If the west is deep in its courtship of Bashar, this could all prove very embarrassing and we’d have to do a 180. From a Red Team perspective, that is what I am writing on.

Landis replies:

I think Syria sees things quite differently. You write:

I genuinely believe Bashar wants to leave the dark side- but I think he believes he is in the cat-bird seat and will get more than he’ll have to give. With Syria’s record, that’s not acceptable.

Syria, of course, does not believe it exists on the “dark side.” It believes America exists on the “dark side” because of its support for Israel’s dispossession of the Palestinians, responsibility for the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis, filling Syria with Palestinian and Iraqi refugees, and support for Israeli’s recent killings in Lebanon and Gaza.

The failure to understand each others’ point of view is a fundamental problem. Both sides have demonized the other and believe that they are blameless and acting honorably when they kill people. Syria believes that it has protected its people from civil war as both Iraq and Lebanon failed to do, or the loss of a state, as the Palestinian leadership failed to do. Syria remains independent, free from terrorism, a defender of “Arab rights,” a regional power — all things that make Syrians proud. Of course they have sacrificed for this in low economic preformance and diplomatic isolation, but, they are not without pride and righteousness.

Syria may believe it has some good cards to play, but it believes that the US and Israel will cheat it because Syria is weak – and Syrians are only too conscious of their military weakness. They must depend on their alliances with Hizbullah, Hamas, and Iran to make up for their own military weakness.

Syria worries that Washington will demand its long list of concessions from Syria and will be unable or unwilling to force Israel to deliver the Golan. This is what happened the last time when Hafiz believed he had the promise only to discover in Geneva that it was not true and Clinton would be a “rug merchant.”

In fact Americans do not know and cannot say with any confidence that they can deliver the Golan.

Iran, Hizbullah, and Hamas are crucial levers to Syria in negotiating with Israel which is so much stronger than Syria. The US wants Syria to abandon them before sponsoring Golan talks. Syria will not do this because it feels certain that Israel and the US only want to divide and conquer – separate it from its allies so it can isolate and destroy it.

As for whether the Saudis have any evidence on Syria that they have held back, I don’t know about such things.

Comments (80)


norman said:

Joshua,

Thank you for the good analysis, and unfortunately i agree with you , Israel has no plan of returning the Golan and is happy with the situation on the Golan,

I always said that the only thing that will make Israel leave the Golan is the price it is paying for being there and so far it is costing them nothing ,

Israel only left Lebanon because the Lebanese fought back and made Israel pay for being there , Israel left Gaza for the same reason while they are still in the West Bank with their favorite Abbas there who gave them everything they asked , Israel would be out of the West bank if the rockets start coming from there,

The only way for the Palestinians , the Syrians and the Lebanese to get their rights including the Golan is war and nothing but war without a ceasefire until Israel abide by international law,
Syria should prepare not for a conventional war but for a war that will last months if not years ,with rockets , car bombs , Gorilla war , Israel will not be able to tolerate such a long war, yes there will be destruction in Syria but without an all out solution to the conflict with a clear winner which i believe will be Syria and it,s allies , Israel and the West will try to keep Syria backward with economic sanctions and and technology transfer to Syria ban, They will not allow Syria to advance in all field including education , health care and technology. winning the war against Israel and forcing a settlment is the only way.

And that is my take.

February 28th, 2009, 6:14 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Dr. Landis,

Your piece is convincing. You now have to beat this analysis in part two if you are to flip us into peace-believers. You have a hard task ahead.

February 28th, 2009, 7:36 pm

 

Shai said:

Joshua,

As usual, an excellent and very convincing analysis. As an Israeli, I unfortunately find myself agreeing with Norman all too often, that perhaps indeed Israel will only begin to “think straight” when it comes to Syria after another painful regional war (and one which we haven’t had for over 35 and a half years).

However, I do think there IS a chance Syria can get the Golan back without war. To put it bluntly, I think one of the main reasons Syria hasn’t been able to do so in previous decades has been poor marketing on her part. No, I’m not brushing any responsibility off my side, and of course Syria had everything going against it. But the reason I’m still optimistic today, is precisely because of articles such as yours. I think today Syria is learning to communicate itself much better, I believe the new administration in Washington will prove a more open-minded and respectful partner than the previous one had been, and I do think the up-and-coming Hawkish government in Israel will not succeed in “lulling” Obama’s team to sleep for another 4 years.

Let us not forget, that Obama needs help in the region. He knows very well that his promise of complete pullout by Aug.31st, 2010 has been noted not only in the U.S., but also by those who can help, or obstruct, in this achievement. Obama knows he needs Syria, just as he needs Iran. If Syria continues to send positive signals about its readiness to help in the various arenas (Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine), while maintaining its tough-stance on not surrendering any of its “cards” prior to an agreement on the Golan, I believe Washington will find the way to work with her. Interaction is key, and Imad Moustapha’s comment that many more such meetings are to be expected, is a good sign. It becomes ever so difficult to keep viewing your talking partner as an evil “Axis member”, over the 4th, 5th, and 6th coffee together. Relations are and will be thawing, and I’d venture to say rather quickly.

For all of these reasons, as well as the pressure-cooker that is the Palestinian problem and continued Israeli Occupation, I believe Washington will soon find itself forced to change its policy vis-a-vis Israel. Netanyahu and Lieberman can already feel it. It’s not by accident that the latter has, for the first time ever, voiced a support for a Palestinian state. Lieberman knows, that fascism and Apartheid are not going to go hand in hand with those American billions that come our way each and every year. At least, not under the Obama administration.

I look forward to your next article.

February 28th, 2009, 8:29 pm

 

AIG said:

Sound analysis. The only points I would disagree with are that Hizballah, Iran and Hamas bring Syria much leverage. After 2006, Hizballah has been basically shut down. Israel was able to change the rules of the game in Lebanon. Look how long it is taking Hizballah to revenge Mugniyeh and their public insistence that this would not be an excuse for Israel to attack Lebanon (because they know that it will be a good excuse).

As for Iran, it is a very short term card. In the next 2 years Iran will be attacked or it will have nuclear weapons. Once one of these events happen, the Syrian-Iranian relationship will be irrelevant.

Hamas proved to be a paper tiger. Israel has them exactly where it wants them to be. One more Gaza like operation may be needed in an year or so, but that will be the end of that. Because of the blockade, Hamas is going to have a very difficult time regaining its strength.

Syria is weak because of its government. Unless that changes, Syria will not likely ever get the Golan back.

February 28th, 2009, 9:07 pm

 

norman said:

Shai,

I am glad to read your note ,and that you still think of the possibility of peace without a war , something has to happen to convince the Israeli public of the benefit of leaving the Golan , so far there is non.

February 28th, 2009, 9:24 pm

 

majid said:

Landis wants the US to force Israel to give up the Golan while Syria continues to harbor terrorist!!! What a skewed frame of mind U of O has among its faculty members!!!
As a reminder Syria lost the Golan territory in a war in which it was the aggressor. Technically, Syria can only have a claim on the territory. The territory currently belongs to the Jewish State. It may choose to give it up willingly or it may choose to keep it for ever. Considering how Syria used the territory prior to 67 in terrorizing Israeli citizens, I would say Israel would be justified to keep the territory off Syrian hands. America has nothing and should have nothing to do with this.

Landis said by putting words on anonymous analyst mouth: “The analysts I have spoken with here agree that the Tribunal will not find enough evidence to implicate Bashar. They might be able to implicate some Syrian Intel officers who Syria won’t turn over the Tribunal. So either way it is sticky.”
The analyst may have failed to analyze the true nature of the Syrian regime: Intel officers in Syria do not act on their own. Their orders always come from the very top. However, the analyst correctly analyzed that the regime will not give these officers up. They may either forcibly commit suicide (remember Kanaan), get killed or made to disappear! Otherwise Bashar would be only one step away from indictment based on possible confessions by the poor officer(s).

February 28th, 2009, 9:42 pm

 

ugarit said:

Majid:

You are quite misinformed about the Golan and the 1967 war:

Along the Syria border there were no farms and no refugee camps — there was only the Syrian army… The kibbutzim saw the good agricultural land … and they dreamed about it… They didn’t even try to hide their greed for the land… We would send a tractor to plow some area where it wasn’t possible to do anything, in the demilitarized area, and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If they didn’t shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance further, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And then we would use artillery and later the air force also, and that’s how it was…The Syrians, on the fourth day of the war, were not a threat to us.

* On the taking of the Golan Heights in 1967, indicating many of the firefights with the Syrians were deliberately provoked by Israel, and that many who pressed the government to take the Golan Heights did so less for security than for farmland; in a 1976 interview with Rami Tal, as quoted in The New York Times and Associated Press reports (11 May 1997)

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Moshe_Dayan

March 1st, 2009, 12:18 am

 

Bashmann said:

Nice Try Dr. Landis 

I had to pinch myself while reading your analysis, for a while
I thought I was reading Teshreen or Ba’ath newspaper. 🙂

Now let us hear part 2 of your wonderful
argument How Syria CAN get the Golan back! Can’t wait.

Judging from this analysis, it would be a piece of cake, I would
just advise Bashar to give up his ludicrous “resistance” policies
and many GOOD things can happen to Syria.

Cheers
Bashmann

March 1st, 2009, 12:49 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Majid, Bashman, et al:

As I sit waiting for my flight to the Zionist Project, I opened my new internet-ready cell phone to read this new thread.

Yes, taking both sides of an argument is quite an accomplishen!t;)

Majid, Bashman…I don’t know what to say… I could make peace with guys any time. You both express a willingness to live in peace with Israel, and you both seeem to acknowledge that Israel isn’t always at fault.

I hope to get a feel from the Zionists I meet to get a feel for the current mood. Bye for now…

March 1st, 2009, 1:17 am

 

Enlightened said:

Lucky there is a follow up essay.

Josh this analysis is quite pessimistic. The average layman or reader with no familiarity regarding the Middle East would view the case as hopeless, after reading this. In fact after a very sleepless night with the kids, I am starting to wonder why I even got out of bed after reading this.

Lets just recap what Obama promised during his election campaign, a firm departure from the Bush administration policies and more engagement. While I agree with parts of your assessment regarding:”unless Washington makes a clear division between its own interests and those of Israel”. It is still too early to tell which way this engagement will go after Obama’s short time in office.

The more pressing issue regarding Iran is more likely to receive a “larger focus” of American diplomacy, than Syria’s concern regarding the Golan.

I personally feel that the Americans are taking a “wait and see” approach regarding Syria in the next 6-12 months, of more importance will be Syria’s behaviour or actions regarding the upcoming Lebanese elections and who takes power there. Where Syria can receive big “Ticks” or slaps on the back will regarding the withdrawal from Iraq. The Americans need Syrian co-operation here, to keep the Border quiet from infiltrators. This will be the first step to gauge Syrian co-operation, and a step that Syria should take up with gusto.

I think all else can wait a little while. However I am looking forward to the second part, devoid of pessimism of course.

March 1st, 2009, 1:23 am

 

norman said:

Enlighted one ,

Actually , solving the Palestinian problem and the Golan will take away Iran,s argument about Israel ,

Unfortunately , I do not think that Israel and the US are smart enough to figure that out , so far they did everything to give Iran the argument that Israel does not want peace but it wants to take the land and throw the Palestinian away.

March 1st, 2009, 1:48 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

Syria and Iran alliance,with HA there,(this is very strong card,).US is leaving Iraq,Turkey is more and more friendly to Syria, all what it takes is for Egypt to switch, Israel will then return the Golan to Syria,in return for peace.

“But I am not so sure nothing will be found on Bashar.”
Syria will face more sanction,if they do not cooperate, at the end Syria has to cooperate,and those who are accused,will lead to the top.

March 1st, 2009, 3:54 am

 

norman said:

This is new ,

Sponsored ByObama Should Talk To Syria Now
Damascus is signaling that it’s ready to negotiate a separate peace with Israel. It won’t happen without America’s help. The silent treatment has to stop.

Richard N. Haass
NEWSWEEK
From the magazine issue dated Mar 9, 2009
Opportunity” and “Middle East” are rarely mentioned in the same breath, and for good reason. The Middle East is a part of the world in which history is often defined by conflict. A sense of despair grips the region for other reasons, too: it trails Europe, Asia, Latin America and much of Africa by many measures of social progress, including the quality of education, the presence of democratic institutions and the treatment of girls and women.

All the same, there may be an opportunity now—to make peace between Israel and Syria, two countries that have been in a state of war for more than six decades. The opportunity exists even though Syria has been a principal supporter of both Hamas and Hizbullah, the two groups that have waged recent conflicts with Israel, and despite the fact that only 18 months ago Israel attacked a Syrian site suspected of being part of a fledgling program to produce nuclear fuel.

This opportunity should not come as a total surprise. Syria and Israel have negotiated partial agreements in the past (in the wake of the 1973 war, for example) and have come close to concluding a full peace several times. The basic contours of a deal—with Israel returning all of the Golan Heights in exchange for diplomatic recognition and formal peace—are well known and acceptable to both sides, including many conservatives in Israel. After nearly a decade in power, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad looks to be strong enough to overcome domestic resistance to making peace with Israel. He may be able to accomplish what his father could not: make the country whole.

During a recent visit to Damascus, I was told by a senior official that Syria is prepared to forge a separate peace—a bilateral agreement that would not include a resolution of the Palestinian issue. Syria also seems prepared to distance itself from Iran. The people I met in Damascus seemed far more interested in building relations with Iraq, a multiethnic Arab country on Syria’s border, than in remaining close to the theocratic Shia regime in Tehran.

Israel has long sought peace with Syria. With treaties already in place with both Egypt and Jordan, a peace with Syria would leave Lebanon as the only “confrontation state” among Israel’s immediate neighbors. This would allow Israel to focus on other security challenges—radical armed groups such as Hamas and Hizbullah, and an Iranian government that sponsors terror and is hard at work producing enriched uranium, the critical component of a nuclear weapon.

Moreover, Israelis are more open to peace with Syria than with the Palestinians. Tens of thousands of Israelis live in the Golan Heights, not hundreds of thousands. The land is far smaller in size than the West Bank and Gaza and is of strategic—not theological—value. Domestic political resistance to giving up the Golan Heights, while considerable, does not begin to compare to the opposition to giving up the Palestinian lands also captured in 1967.

Israel’s security could be further buttressed by demilitarizing the territory returned to Syria. Technology could provide early-warning systems. Peacekeepers (possibly American) could be stationed there, much as they are in the Sinai to buttress the peace between Israel and Egypt. And the Syrian leadership is sufficiently strong that it could live up to security commitments, something the weak and divided Palestinian leadership could not.

There is one other incentive for Israel to compromise: Syria is in a unique position to influence Palestinian politics. Damascus is a base for Hamas, and the Syrians provide the group with support. It is possible that Syria’s desire to normalize relations with the United States and the moderate Arab states—to enter the World Trade Organization, get out from under U.S. sanctions and gain Arab economic aid—could lead it to rein in its support for Hamas.

Any accord between Israel and Syria would require a push from the outside. Turkey has been hosting talks between the two countries, but it cannot succeed on its own. The United States needs to become a participant. For much of the administration of George W. Bush, Syria was treated as a de facto member of the Axis of Evil. It was heavily sanctioned. (No U.S. ambassador has been resident for four years.) But not talking to Syria has weakened U.S. influence, not the standing of the government in Damascus. Last week Syria’s ambassador to Washington, Imad Moustapha, met with Acting Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman. This is a step in the right direction.

It may be difficult to make peace with Syria, but it will be all but impossible to make peace in the region without it. President Obama correctly views dialogue as a tool, not a reward. It is time to put the tool to use, and to see what can be built.

Haass, a NEWSWEEK contributor and president of the Council on Foreign Relations, is also the author of “War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars,” to be published this May.

URL: http://www.newsweek.com/id/186954© 2009

March 1st, 2009, 4:11 am

 

norman said:

Sponsored ByObama Should Talk To Syria Now
Damascus is signaling that it’s ready to negotiate a separate peace with Israel. It won’t happen without America’s help. The silent treatment has to stop.

Richard N. Haass
NEWSWEEK
From the magazine issue dated Mar 9, 2009
Opportunity” and “Middle East” are rarely mentioned in the same breath, and for good reason. The Middle East is a part of the world in which history is often defined by conflict. A sense of despair grips the region for other reasons, too: it trails Europe, Asia, Latin America and much of Africa by many measures of social progress, including the quality of education, the presence of democratic institutions and the treatment of girls and women.

All the same, there may be an opportunity now—to make peace between Israel and Syria, two countries that have been in a state of war for more than six decades. The opportunity exists even though Syria has been a principal supporter of both Hamas and Hizbullah, the two groups that have waged recent conflicts with Israel, and despite the fact that only 18 months ago Israel attacked a Syrian site suspected of being part of a fledgling program to produce nuclear fuel.

This opportunity should not come as a total surprise. Syria and Israel have negotiated partial agreements in the past (in the wake of the 1973 war, for example) and have come close to concluding a full peace several times. The basic contours of a deal—with Israel returning all of the Golan Heights in exchange for diplomatic recognition and formal peace—are well known and acceptable to both sides, including many conservatives in Israel. After nearly a decade in power, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad looks to be strong enough to overcome domestic resistance to making peace with Israel. He may be able to accomplish what his father could not: make the country whole.

During a recent visit to Damascus, I was told by a senior official that Syria is prepared to forge a separate peace—a bilateral agreement that would not include a resolution of the Palestinian issue. Syria also seems prepared to distance itself from Iran. The people I met in Damascus seemed far more interested in building relations with Iraq, a multiethnic Arab country on Syria’s border, than in remaining close to the theocratic Shia regime in Tehran.

Israel has long sought peace with Syria. With treaties already in place with both Egypt and Jordan, a peace with Syria would leave Lebanon as the only “confrontation state” among Israel’s immediate neighbors. This would allow Israel to focus on other security challenges—radical armed groups such as Hamas and Hizbullah, and an Iranian government that sponsors terror and is hard at work producing enriched uranium, the critical component of a nuclear weapon.

Moreover, Israelis are more open to peace with Syria than with the Palestinians. Tens of thousands of Israelis live in the Golan Heights, not hundreds of thousands. The land is far smaller in size than the West Bank and Gaza and is of strategic—not theological—value. Domestic political resistance to giving up the Golan Heights, while considerable, does not begin to compare to the opposition to giving up the Palestinian lands also captured in 1967.

Israel’s security could be further buttressed by demilitarizing the territory returned to Syria. Technology could provide early-warning systems. Peacekeepers (possibly American) could be stationed there, much as they are in the Sinai to buttress the peace between Israel and Egypt. And the Syrian leadership is sufficiently strong that it could live up to security commitments, something the weak and divided Palestinian leadership could not.

There is one other incentive for Israel to compromise: Syria is in a unique position to influence Palestinian politics. Damascus is a base for Hamas, and the Syrians provide the group with support. It is possible that Syria’s desire to normalize relations with the United States and the moderate Arab states—to enter the World Trade Organization, get out from under U.S. sanctions and gain Arab economic aid—could lead it to rein in its support for Hamas.

Any accord between Israel and Syria would require a push from the outside. Turkey has been hosting talks between the two countries, but it cannot succeed on its own. The United States needs to become a participant. For much of the administration of George W. Bush, Syria was treated as a de facto member of the Axis of Evil. It was heavily sanctioned. (No U.S. ambassador has been resident for four years.) But not talking to Syria has weakened U.S. influence, not the standing of the government in Damascus. Last week Syria’s ambassador to Washington, Imad Moustapha, met with Acting Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman. This is a step in the right direction.

It may be difficult to make peace with Syria, but it will be all but impossible to make peace in the region without it. President Obama correctly views dialogue as a tool, not a reward. It is time to put the tool to use, and to see what can be built.

Haass, a NEWSWEEK contributor and president of the Council on Foreign Relations, is also the author of “War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars,” to be published this May.

URL: http://www.newsweek.com/id/186954© 2009

March 1st, 2009, 4:28 am

 

Shai said:

Akbar Palace,

“I hope to get a feel from the Zionists I meet to get a feel for the current mood.”

I’ll give you a head start – ask your “Zionist” friends what they think about Bibi’s latest idea of offering a withdrawal from a few Druze (Syrian) villages, in return for Syria publicly accepting non-belligerence towards Israel as well as disconnecting herself from her allies Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas.

Personally, I think this is a wonderful idea. We give next to nothing, we get everything we want, and we can all go home neat and happy. Too bad the attachment this idea has to reality is about as much as statements I heard recently from someone here on SC, who said “… but Palestine is Judenrein,” and “The change GWB brought to the ME was the best change in 40 years.”

After your visit to the Zionist Entity (here we call it “Israel”), please share with this forum just how “Judenrein” occupied Palestine is, and how GWB’s wonderful changes are effecting our daily lives in the region. If I had to wager, I’d say your visit will be so uplifting, that you’ll probably consider cutting it short by a few days… 🙂

March 1st, 2009, 7:29 am

 

why-discuss said:

Norman, Joshua

Why would Syria sacrifice their country security by engaging in wars to get back the Golan? prestige for Bashar? In syria, no one I met seems to attach such an importance to liberating the Golan so urgently. The most important issues are the bottleneck in growth of the country because of the crippling sanctions but most of all because of the socialist inherited bureaucracy and the corruption at all levels. The syrians will rejoice much more if they see any of these been tackled. Renewed ( and failed) attempts to make a deal about the Golan seem only to serve the Syrians and the Israelis on the international arena. They appear as they want peace. It worked very well for Syria that, since these talks were made public, started to be looked upon as a possible partner to the US policy in the ME. It is obvious that Syria will express openly again the willingness to negotiate, knowing perfectly well that it will never work but it may gain some support in the west. Israel on its side will play the game to appear ready to make concessions on their illegal occupation and also as a diversion from the extremely complex issues of the West and Gaza. So Israel and Syria are both happy to travel to Turkey and talk endlessly about that possibility.
Iran and Syria are growing closer and closer, signing all kinds of economical agreements. While Hamas and Hezbollah are valid cards, they are much weaker and less reliable than Iran on log term.
Iran is becoming the most powerful and stable moslem country in the region, despite the rhetoric about the collapse of the regime, the attacks by Isreal, the SC sanctions etc.. the country seems to develop in all areas. The continuous US and Israel threats are pulling the iranians together and feeding the revolutionary mentality. Therefore as long as the US will threat or humiliate Iran, the country will grow more united and stronger. Iran involvement’s Iraq is far from ended and Syria influence on Iraq is still strong. Iran’s alliance is Syria’s best and most reliable card.
Article on Dennis Ross
The Fox Guarding the Chicken Coop: Dennis Ross and Iran
…Dennis Ross might be able to finish the unfinished business of the neoconservatives, the containment of Iraq and Iran. The Israelis and pro-Israel communities must be jumping with joy once again!..
http://www.payvand.com/news/09/feb/1330.html

March 1st, 2009, 10:44 am

 

Enlightened said:

Shai:

Akbar is not going there to “feel” anything, hes simply landed a job to circumvent any outreach towards peace, and sabotage it in its entirety.

The rumour mill is Liebermann is considering Akbar for an important post!

March 1st, 2009, 10:47 am

 

Shai said:

Enlightened,

Maybe in response to Lieberman’s recent “I’m all for a separate Palestinian state” announcement to Jewish media sources in the U.S., Akbar is here to inform Israeli media that “Lieberman was well-intoxicated at the time, and clearly did NOT mean it!…” 🙂

Btw, few in the media noticed that Lieberman’s final words were somewhat subdued, ending with “… on the Moon.”

March 1st, 2009, 12:56 pm

 

norman said:

WD ,

Something has to change to transfer the chronic disease that we have there that people can live with but can not be cured to an acute disease that can , It is like having low grade Lymphoma that people can live with to a large cell Lymphoma that can kill people within 3 to 6 months if not treated but can be cured if treated aggressively with Chemotherapy with many side effects , (( WAR ))

something has to change and have a settlement so Syria can be secured from forign interference and sanctions , many of the wrongs that are in Syria come from lack of expertise many of the Syrians around the world will come back and help build the country if they feel that their investments are secured and sanctions will not cripple every thing they do ,
The settlement can not be only for the Golan , the Palestinian problem has to be solved , return of the Golan is not enough , Israel does not seem intended on doing that ,without pressure.

for the above reason , I feel that war and only war can put some sense in the Israeli mentality.

I agree with you about Iran , In the last few years Iran proved to be more friend than most Arab countries ,

We have to remember that Iraq was attacked from Arab land ,

Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran could be the new power in the Middle East that can force Israel to seek a solution and stabilize the region.

March 1st, 2009, 3:09 pm

 

norman said:

Khaleej Times Online >> News >> REGION Iran’s Ahmadinejad calls for stronger alliance with Syria(DPA)

1 March 2009 Print E-mail
TEHRAN – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday called for a stronger alliance with Syria in a bid to resist Israel and its allies over the Palestinian crisis.

In a meeting with visiting Syrian Prime Minister Mahmoud Naji Otri, Ahmadinejad praised the two countries’ position on the international and regional issues, particularly the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.

‘Recent developments in the world proved that Iran and Syria were moving on the right track insisting on the need of resistance against enemies,’ the Iranian leader said.

Tehran does not recognize Israel and is the main supporter of the Islamist Hamas movement which controls Gaza.

Israel and the United States have accused Iran of training Hamas militants in Gaza as well as providing them financing and weapons. Tehran however insists it only gives spiritual and political support to anti-Israel militia groups both in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.

‘If Iran and Syria have an eminent position in the region, it is because of their resistance based on their correct decisions,’ Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the website of state television IRIB.

Iranian Vice President Parviz Davoudi, in a separate meeting with Otri, urged Damascus to be more on alert about their political enemies’ tricks, saying: ‘Both countries (Iran and Syria) should be active in supporting unity among all Palestinian groups and the reconstruction of Gaza.’

Iran was on the side of Hamas in its conflict with Israel last month and harshly criticized the United Nations and some Arab states for not reacting firmly against Israeli attacks. Angered Arab states in response warned Tehran to stay out of internal Arab affairs.

Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by major Western countries, has recently agreed to conciliatory talks with the secular Palestinian Fatah movement, whose representatives were expelled from Gaza by Hamas in June 2007.

March 1st, 2009, 3:18 pm

 

Elie Elhadj said:

Dear Dr. Landis,

As always, your analysis is sound and thought provoking.

I would like to add the effect of Wahhabism’s political designs on Syria into the mix.

Wahhabi intolerance towards other Islamic sects and religions is a threat to Syria’s age-old religious and ethnic harmony. To Syria’s ruling Alawites, Wahhabi belief that the Alawites, indeed all Shi’ites, are non-Muslim heretics could endanger the very existence of the Alawites and their regime, let alone Syria’s other minority religions and sects. Within the context of the current regional Shi’ite/Sunni politics, Syria would resist Saudi attempts to make Lebanon a gateway for Wahhabism into Syria. Syria’s support of Hizbollah is more than politics: It is existential.

It follows that even if Syria reaches its own peace agreement with Israel in the future, which is rather unlikely, Damascus would continue to strive to keep Lebanon free of Wahhabi control.

While Syria and Israel remain in conflict, on the other hand, Damascus worries that a Saudi controlled government in Lebanon would compromise the defenses of Syria’s own border with Israel—another reason for Syria to want to influence events in Lebanon.

Elie ELhadj
http://www.daringopinion.com

March 1st, 2009, 6:36 pm

 

majid said:

UGARIT opines:”Majid:

You are quite misinformed about the Golan and the 1967 war:”

IS THAT RIGHT?!

March 1st, 2009, 10:42 pm

 

Ghat Albird said:

Dr.Landis’s erudite but somewhat pessimistic commentary does not detract from the reality that Syria does exist and does matter in the geopolitical maneuverings in the expanding regionalization of the importance of the ‘arab/muslim’ control of oil resources from the syrian border all the way “now” into the Afghan basin.

Given the increasing radicalization of Israeli politics and the growing anti-american sentiments in south-east Asia the ongoing “socalled Syrian” problem is for the US to resolve and this one man’s opinion is that the US is the one that has to figure out its long term relations with not only Syria but with the whole region. Which in short translates into the US and Israel are the ones that will have to do most of the accomodating.

Objectively and starkly real in geopolitics terms the Golan Heights are more Isreal’s lodestone. The refusal by most all members of the UN not to join Israel and the US in boycotting the UN’s Durban II Conference is a major milestone in the changes brought about by the new world socalled order.

March 1st, 2009, 10:56 pm

 

Amir in Tel Aviv said:

I fully agree with BASHMANN. This is Tishrin.. in English.

Landis wrote:

“…The problem with this chit-for-chit game is that Syria has few chits to play”.

and,
“…Syria has nothing of comparable worth, save support for Hizbullah, Lebanese sovereignty (which, to America, is practically the same thing as disarming Hizbullah) and support for Hamas”.

Syria has nothing, and Syria is the only to blame for having fig.
Why blame Israel or the US for Syrian deeds and decisions, that
were taken for internal Syrian considerations?
No one forced Syria to put itself in a difficult position, it’s in.

As BASHMANN puts it, if not the “ludicrous *resistance* policies”
(for internal consumption), Syria could have been in a much more
comfortable point right now. What Syria has remained, it’s her
blackmail methods and the arsenal of blackmail.
.

March 1st, 2009, 11:15 pm

 

ugarit said:

Majid:

I see that you don’t attempt to refute the facts that Moshe Dyan said. He’s one of the fathers of Zionism and would definitely know the intentions of Zionists. Let me re-paste so you can re-read carefully:

Along the Syria border there were no farms and no refugee camps — there was only the Syrian army… The kibbutzim saw the good agricultural land … and they dreamed about it… They didn’t even try to hide their greed for the land… We would send a tractor to plow some area where it wasn’t possible to do anything, in the demilitarized area, and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If they didn’t shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance further, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And then we would use artillery and later the air force also, and that’s how it was…The Syrians, on the fourth day of the war, were not a threat to us.

* On the taking of the Golan Heights in 1967, indicating many of the firefights with the Syrians were deliberately provoked by Israel, and that many who pressed the government to take the Golan Heights did so less for security than for farmland; in a 1976 interview with Rami Tal, as quoted in The New York Times and Associated Press reports (11 May 1997)

March 2nd, 2009, 12:59 am

 

Bashmann said:

I must add one important point which Dr. Landis could have missed in this profound analysis, and in which I just happen to come across in a TV interview I did a few months ago with Mr. Khaddam here.
http://www.zanoubia.tv/main.aspx?content=723725775873

Feel free to fast forward towards the part where he brings up the issue of an Alwite being unable to sign a peace treaty with Israel. An interesting perspective which I personally did not think to be characteristic of the late Assad.

Cheers
Bashmann

March 2nd, 2009, 1:14 am

 

Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

Dear Elie Elhadj,

Sorry this is off-topic… but since you popped here again I wanted to ask you whether the discussions during the conference on one-state solutions next month are going to be recorded or the proceedings available to non-attendees?

Thanks.

March 2nd, 2009, 2:51 am

 

Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

I think Why-Discuss has hit the nail right on its head in comment #16. Resolving the Golan issue is not really an urgent priority for Syria (both the regime and the people) while at the same time the existence of the Golan issue as a bone of contention is useful both for the Syrian and the Israeli regimes.

Syria has no urgency in retrieving the Golan from an economic perspective. From a political perspective Assad will definitely stand to gain from returning the Golan, under some scenarios, but not at all cost. If the cost is too high, he will lose face. Assad is reportedly popular as is, so from a political perspective, why fix something that isn’t broken? The important thing from Syria’s perspective is to maintain the clear perception in world opinion that the Golan is occupied territory that must be returned eventually. The only threat to Syria’s *eventual* (but maybe not near-term) retrieval of the Golan will be massive settlement there by Israel that will establish “facts on the ground”. But it doesn’t seem to be in the cards. If it does turn out to be in the cards then Syria should start thinking more creatively about the problem (e.g., sue Israel for material damages, arrange marches to the border of 100,000 Golan refugees etc.)

Let’s imagine for a second what Syria’s and Israel’s position would have been today had the former not lost the Golan in 67 to the latter. In the case of Israel, it’s clear that to a right-wing government such as the one that is being formed by Netanyahu, the existence of the conflict over the Golan is a blessing. It would serve as the pressure valve that Bibi will so desperately need to get the Americans off his case, and it will allow him to be accepted with some credibility in world capitals, simply by virtue of talking peace over *something*. In the case of Syria and Assad, it’s harder to tell. Would Syria still be allied with HizbAllah and Iran had Syria not lost the Golan in 1967? It’s not clear… but for certain, the conflict with Israel over the Golan serves a good excuse for supporting HA, from a military perspective, even if the US doesn’t publicly accept this rationale. If there was no conflict over the Golan, how would Syria explicate the support for the non-state militia?

Due to all of the above… I don’t think it’s a matter of life-or-death for anybody whether Syria gets back the Golan soon or not. So it makes absolutely no sense for any actor to go to war over the Golan.

Having said all of that I really hope that a peace treaty between Israel and Syria is in the cards since this may nudge general public opinion in the Palestinian and Israeli sides towards peaceful solutions to their problems, and will enable the Syrians to mediate (or at the very least not sabotage) such efforts.

In the past I have argued that the Syrians should not ditch the Palestinians and settle for their own deal. I have changed my mind about that. I don’t think that the Palestinians need the Syrians in order to reach a just solution. In fact, the Syrian support for Hamas may be doing more harm than benefit to the Palestinian cause. The Palestinian should just surrender, dismantle the PA and request Israeli citizenship. That’s their only hope and Syria has no significant role in that struggle. On the contrary, if Syria signed its own deal with Israel it may be much more credible in criticizing Israel over not giving equal rights to the Palestinians in the West Bank.

The odd-man-out is Gaza. Since the militaristic Hamas take over on Gaza, and since it was easy to delineate it from the rest of Israel and Palestine, the ground is set for excluding it from any future one-state solution. This can be seen as the fruit of the right-wing policies of Israel combined with the support for Hamas from Syria and Iran.

March 2nd, 2009, 3:45 am

 

Shai said:

Yossi,

“On the contrary, if Syria signed its own deal with Israel it may be much more credible in criticizing Israel over not giving equal rights to the Palestinians in the West Bank.”

I couldn’t agree more. That’s been my thesis all along, and I still believe in it very strongly (as does Alon Liel, btw). Syria will not only be more credible, it will also be in a position to truly help both sides. It could, in fact, become the best honest-broker in talks between Israel and Hamas/Fatah.

As for Syria not necessarily feeling any urgency in retrieving the Golan, I’m not sure I agree with you. In the Syrian leadership there is not only fear that Israel will suddenly begin to force “facts on the ground” with substantial increase in settlements on the Heights, but I believe also that Israel will find, through some “funny constellation”, an excuse in starting a war with Syria. Enough that a few HA rockets hit a school in Kiryat Shmona, and some Yuval Steinitz pressures some Bugi Ya’alon to pressure some Bibi Netanyahu to hit Syria, we could suddenly find ourselves in war. And Syria doesn’t want that. It wants stability, and it wants its land back. It’s not at all clear that time is playing in its favor – perhaps the opposite. Based on the past 4-5 years of watching Syria’s (through Bashar) endless appeals for peace, I must conclude that they are very sincere, and under a very real sense of urgency (as should we be).

I strongly advise all of us not to allow ourselves to be “numbed” by the existing stagnation or negative developments. These should have an opposite effect on us all – they should highlight the urgent need for a solution. If we learn to “accept” a Lebanon 2006 here, and a Gaza 2008/9 there, what will we accept next?!?

March 2nd, 2009, 6:14 am

 

jad said:

Dr. Landis, Great analyses, thank you.

Bashman, you state that Dr. Landis article is ‘Tishreen’ like, I wished that your comments had anything with importance to add. or if you don’t have anything to add at least explain to us why you read the article this way.

Regarding your sectarian comment:
“—the issue of an Alwite being unable to sign a peace treaty with Israel”
I’m wondering; is it more 7alal for a Sunni, a Christian, a Durzi, a Shia, a Syriac, a Yazidi, an Ismaili, a Kurds, or even a Syrian Armenian to sign a peace treaty with Israel than a ‘bastard’ Alwite, and Why? Iftili yaha sama7tak.

BTW: That TV logo of yours has an “Abbasi’ sword style to it which doesn’t reflect neither a peaceful nor a futuristic reflection as it should be.
Something else, please correct “Wachington” on your site it’s (Washington) in case they don’t know.
Bisa7tak (Cheers)
———

The funny comment I read was Amir in YAFA, he agreed with Bashman about Tishreen’s remark, as if he reads it every morning in Yafa? Do you have it delivered to your house? you are a very funny for a Prince in Yafa

March 2nd, 2009, 6:23 am

 

jad said:

Ya Yossi ya m7tal!
You built your own blog?
GREAT STEP and good luck

March 2nd, 2009, 6:25 am

 

Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

Thanks Jad! You’re the first commentator ever. It’s a blog Shai and I will run together. Check out the “about” page 🙂

But I’m sure Shai was looking forward to a more ceremonial inauguration, so I’m sorry I kind of stole his thunder with this clumsy introduction 🙂

March 2nd, 2009, 6:44 am

 

Yossi (AKA Rumyal) said:

Shai,

Regarding: urgency. I guess what you’re saying is that Syria is anxious to get a deal that will ensure stability, more than it’s anxious to get the Golan back (but of course it will not take a deal that doesn’t include the Golan). You’re also saying that we can get war out of accidental escalation with HA, which is essentially the instability that Syria wishes to avoid.

HA from a Syrian perspective is both a deterrent against Israel but also the source of unpredictability. Syria would like to have a deal such that a flare-up with HA doesn’t expand into a war with Israel. But from an Israeli perspective this is basically tantamount to letting Syria attack Israel using HA with impunity. The conclusion is that a deal is impossible unless Syria drops HA or unless the deal includes HA. Hmmm… a March 8 victory may pave the way for a trilateral deal?

March 2nd, 2009, 7:49 am

 

Arab said:

Golan can only be liberated through war, negotiations will not lead anywhere.

March 2nd, 2009, 8:36 am

 

Shami said:

Train services start between Mersin and Aleppo

ADANA – Train services between Syria’s Aleppo and Turkey’s southern province of Mersin will begin March 13, Turkish State Railways Deputy Director General Erol Inan told the Anatolia News Agency on Saturday.

He said train services between Aleppo and Turkey’s southeastern city of Gaziantep would begin within the next two months as soon as the border had been cleared of land mines.

March 2nd, 2009, 9:07 am

 

Elie Elhadj said:

Dear Yossi,
Thanks for your point. However, the issue of what’s expected of Syria in return for getting the Golan back; namely, cutting off its support of Hizbollah, is prominent in Dr. Landis’ analysis. Dr. Landis wrote: “How will the Obama administration square its contradictory policy demands: one, that it wants Israel-Syria peace; and two, that Syria must cut relations with Hizbullah and Hamas prior to engagement for such a peace?” My argument explains why, in my view, the Wahhabi threat forces Syria to support Hizbollah. For more on this issue, you might wish to read my “The Battle for Lebanon”:
http://daringopinion.com/Lebanon–The-Battle-for-Lebanon.php

Re. the one-state conference, I really don’t know the answer to your question. I suppose that, yes, the proceedings should be recorded and printed. You might wish to look-up:
http://onestateforpalestineisrael.com/

Elie

March 2nd, 2009, 10:56 am

 

Sarsura said:

i hope they will get it back someday..

March 2nd, 2009, 11:52 am

 

why-discuss said:

Yossi, Shai

You seem to ignore the Iranian card in Syria’s deal with Israel.
HA is not reliable anymore as it is politically entangled in the lebanese governement with chances, in the next election, to become part of the ruling majority, then any move from HA will mean destruction of Lebanon. Therefore I think HA may be neutralized. The same may apply more of less to Hamas if they become part the palestinian governement. The only consistent and reliable allies in mid term for Syria are Iran and Turkey. Turkey will talk politics , Iran will talk military power.
If Iran arranges a serious mutual defense deal with Syria, Israel will think twice before attacking Syria. Iran is the only shield left Syria has against any aggressive behaviour of Israel.
While Israel is “annoyed” by Hamas and by Hezbollah , it is plainly terrified by Iran. Just look at how many times Bibi repeats that Iran is a existential threat.
Syria will continue entertain a closer relation with Iran and Turkey.
Israel, with the right wing governement emerging will face bickerings and collusion with the US vision of the area. I won’t be surprised that this governemnt does not last long.
Syria will have to “actively” wait and see as it always does. Syrians have a resilience that Israelis so not, and time IS playing against Israel.

March 2nd, 2009, 12:26 pm

 

Shai said:

Why Discuss,

I’m not ignoring Iran – I think you’re right, Syria must continue to develop its relationship with Iran, and it will certainly NOT drop Iran for any deal whatsoever. With Obama’s long-overdue approach of diplomatic engagement, rather than isolation, there are ever more reasons for Syria to remain a strong ally of Iran, and vice-versa. If and when Netanyahu will ever consider relinquishing the Golan peacefully, he will have to market the idea to the Israeli people with an attempt to depict himself as having “removed” Syria from the “Axis”. The Israeli public will not be fooled into thinking that Syria cut off its ties to Iran (because Syria won’t), but it may be fooled into thinking that Syria no longer has any threatening military relationship (alliances) with Iran, Hezbollah, or Hamas.

I disagree with you that Israel is “plainly terrified by Iran”, as you called it. I do agree that our political leadership is doing everything it can to terrify our public, but those who need to know, know full well that the likelihood Iran will attack Israel anytime in the near future is nil. While it may help the likes of Bibi, AIG, and AP, to depict the Ayatollah regime as dangerously unpredictable, perhaps even suicidal, our leaders know that the Iranian regime would not risk their own political existence, and the lives of millions of its citizens, by attacking Israel. The “Existential Threat” mantra is good for elections, but all the experts have long been saying that 1, 2, or even 5 atomic bombs do not destroy a nation even the size of Israel. And, if Jimmy Carter is right in his recent disclosure, Israel obviously has more than enough missiles to destroy most if not all of the modern cities of Iran. So while the average Israeli citizen may be terrified, our leadership certainly knows better, but for obvious reasons isn’t sharing their beliefs with us…

March 2nd, 2009, 1:32 pm

 

norman said:

Elie,

How do explain the lack of understanding Syria’s concern about the Wahhabi influence in Lebanon by the US in light of 9/11 and Al Qaeda.?

March 2nd, 2009, 1:49 pm

 

norman said:

Clinton Shakes Syria’s Hand
Posted by George Baghdadi | Comment On This Post

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shook hands with her Syrian counterpart Monday as the two attended a conference in Egypt on rebuilding the Gaza Strip.

The simple handshake before lunch was the highest-level contact between the two countries in years.

(AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi)It was clear that the gesture had been arrangement, as Foreign Minister Walid Muallem (seen at left in a file photo) chose the first table in the banquet hall in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheik. He sat there and waited. Clinton seemed to head straight over to shake hands with him.

The pair of senior diplomats stood for a couple of minutes as Clinton introduced Muallem to her team, including George Mitchell, the new U.S. Mideast envoy — who excluded Damascus from his first trip to the region a couple weeks ago.

The handshake came after weeks of slowly-building diplomacy between the two nations — sparked by the change of power in Washington.

The United States withdrew its ambassador from Damascus after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and accused Syria of allowing Islamist fighters to infiltrate Iraq. Cooperation between Syria and Iran has also angered Washington.

In past weeks, several U.S. congressional delegations (most recently, one led by Sen. John Kerry) have visited Syria to try and find a path to renewed relations.

Many observers and analysts of the Middle East peace process (not to Mention Syrian leaders) have stressed the role Syria could play in reconciling Palestinian factions and facilitating negotiations with Israel.
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March 2nd, 2009, 2:07 pm

 

Bashmann said:

Jad, I would love to state the many fallacies in Dr. Landis thorough analysis, but that would mean writing a whole new paper refuting them one by one, beginning with the biggest fallacy in his argument stating that Washington IS the cause of the problem. Here is how he puts it:
“Syria stands almost no reasonable chance of getting back the Golan Heights occupied by Israel in 1967 unless Washington makes a clear division between its own interests and those of Israel. Washington should not act as Israel’s lawyer and body guard, which it does today.”
This is an old line from Hafaz Assad days and is repeated in every major official newspaper in Syria. “Washington is not an honest broker”, “Washington is a lawyer for Israel”, “AIPAC has much influence over Washington”, etc. etc. etc. ….
There are many more of this types of rhetoric inserted rather eloquently in his article.
Thanks but we do not need someone to spell out the United States interests for us. I’m sure every astute observer of the region knows it. We all know the many reasons why the United States sees Israel’s interest as an integral part of its own therefore Syria could not and will not be able to change a 50 years old policy of the United States. Syria WILL NOT and I repeat WILL NOT be able to undermine, break, or influence the U.S/Israeli relations in any way or fashion, especially when it refuses anything and everything from the U.S. and builds and feeds a culture of anti-Americanism. Let’s get this clear and out of the way. The U.S will always be biased towards Israel.
Syria must look for ways to improve its OWN relations with the U.S REGARDLESS of the U.S/Israeli relations.
Now I know that Mr. Landis believes that Syria has done everything possible to do just that, and we can both argue this point further in details. But many observers might tell you that is not the case. In fact Syria has done everything else to aggravate, irritate, and in some cases oppose Washington’s wishes and plans for the region every step of the way. Remember Damascus is the heart and soul of the “Resistance” club against the Imperialist and Zionist enemy.
This is only a sample of what I see wrong with the article.

As for your other gun blazing accusation about my “sectarian comment” as you put it, please read my post again, your quick judgmental opinion of me is simply WRONG. I never made such a comment and would never do.
I simply wanted everyone to go to the interview and watch what Mr. Khaddam said about this subject. As I stated that what he revealed during the interview regarding this subject was uncharacteristic of the late Hafez Assad, and to be fair Khaddam himself said this about his old Ba’athi comrade. But the 1995 Israeli/Syrian peace negotiations which prompted the incident which Khaddam was retelling in this interview and was talked about in the upper echelons of the leadership in Damascus, if true, puts things in perspectives about the nature of the internal psychological and sectarian conflict within Syria. Granted Syria is the most tolerant country in the region when it comes to sectarianism, but we must not ignore the fact how this regime is perceived by the majority Sunni population and how it perceives itself within this context. It’s about 22:00 minutes from the beginning of the interview.

Cheers
Bashmann

March 2nd, 2009, 3:01 pm

 

Ghat Albird said:

Bashmann stated emphatically that:

” Syria WILL NOT and I repeat WILL NOT be able to undermine, break, or influence the U.S/Israeli relations in any way or fashion, especially when it refuses anything and everything from the U.S. and builds and feeds a culture of anti-Americanism. Let’s get this clear and out of the way. The U.S will always be biased towards Israel.
Syria must look for ways to improve its OWN relations with the U.S REGARDLESS of the U.S/Israeli relations.”

Such emotional conviction bordering on almost delusional sanctifications always entail a cost. Excuse my french, “but why should Syria give a f%ck” about how and where the US and Israel are cojoined at the hip?

A more appropriate and judicious statement would read as follows’ “the US must look for ways to improve its OWN relations with Syria REGARDLESS of its Israeli relations”. If the US is incapable of such actions then its stature as a world power has declined at a faster rate than expected.

In geopolitical relationships Syria’s policies have stood it in good stead and in fact continue to do so. Can one say the same for the opposition?

March 2nd, 2009, 4:53 pm

 

Elie Elhadj said:

Dear Norman,
The Saudi propaganda machine succeeded in deflecting the world’s attention from Wahhabi culpability for 9/11 and for fueling religious extremism in Saudi Arabia and in the Arab and Islamic worlds. Influential Americans who act for the Al-Sauds, for the Saudi government, and for the Saudi private sector in return for hefty fees as lawyers, advisors, consultants, investment managers, and business partners have aided in this outcome. The world’s press barons helped too; they do not wish to be banned from accessing an important rich market and the loss of Saudi generosity. Recall the film Fahrenheit 9/11!

Further, a culture of secularism in America seems to make Americans oblivious to the effect of Islam on shaping the personality and behavior of Muslims.

Elie

March 2nd, 2009, 5:58 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Dear Elie,

Can you expand on your comment that Islam has an effect on shaping the personality and behavior of Muslims?

I am not sure that I fully understand it.

March 2nd, 2009, 6:07 pm

 

norman said:

Dear Elie,

Do you thing that the problem is Islam or how it is taught in KSA ,in mosques and Madrases as we do not see the same problem , at least in that scale in Syria where Islam and Christianity are taught at school.and probably with the right understanding of Islam as a religion.

I think there is something wrong with Wahhabi not Islam.

March 2nd, 2009, 6:19 pm

 

Alex said:

“Lazy Iraqi Police get motivational speech”

March 2nd, 2009, 7:46 pm

 

Elie Elhadj said:

Dear Ehsani2,

To Muslims, Islam is the perfect religion and the ideal way of life. Islam distinctively amalgamates the spiritual and the temporal into an inseparable unit. Islam rules the theological, ritual, judicial, political, ethical, and business realms. Islam regulates a Muslim’s every waking minute, including personal hygiene, diet, healthy living, good manners, and family affairs.

The extent to which the Prophetic Sunna regulates the tiniest details of a Muslim’s daily life may be appreciated from the extensive coverage of the Sunna collections. Al-Bukhari’s (810-870) Sunna collection, for example, a 7,500 sayings and acts, deals with how the Prophet reportedly reacted to the myriad circumstances that he encountered day and night during his mission. Five other collectors add to the intensity of the coverage with thousands more of attributed sayings, though there are repetitions.

Several factors combine to make the Muslim Arabs feel as God’s supreme race. The first of these is the pride that Arabs take in the fact that God’s word in the Quran was revealed in Arabic, the language of paradise. The second factor is Arabs’ pride in the belief that God described them in the Quranic verse 3:110 as “The best of peoples evolved for mankind.” The third factor is Arabs’ feeling of honor that the Prophet was an Arab from the Meccan tribe of Quraish. To Arabs’ pride, every companion of the Prophet who reported his sayings and actions were all Arabs. The fourth factor is Arabs’ pride in that Islam’s holiest shrines are located on Arab lands—in Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem.

This ethno-linguistic connection makes Islam an Arabic religion. The Arab people are conscious and particularly proud of this distinction.

It is difficult to prove Islam’s dominance in Arab life quantitatively. However, a 2005 survey of 50,000 people in sixty-eight states conducted by Gallup International for the BBC World Service program, “Who Runs Your World”, might provide evidence. At least in Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country of 80 million inhabitants, the survey found that Muslims in Egypt are the most likely to define themselves by religion of any in the world. 87% of Egyptians said their religion was their most important defining characteristic.

Further evidence is the high percentage of pilgrims who travel from Arab countries to Mecca and Medina annually during Eid Al-Adha. While Arab Muslims represent around 20% of the world’s Muslim population, estimates in recent years indicate that almost 60% of these pilgrims come from Arab countries.

Elie

March 2nd, 2009, 7:47 pm

 

Alex said:

The more things change …

Here is Jemal Pasha after giving a similar speech to Iraqi tribal leaders

http://www.mideastimage.com/viewimages/viewimage.aspx?id=213

March 2nd, 2009, 7:53 pm

 

jad said:

Dr. Elhadj,
Thank you, I do appreciate your explanation, it sounds great and I do enjoy and like reading your essay
One very small correction about your sentence
(To Arabs’ pride, every companion of the Prophet who reported his sayings and actions were all Arabs.)
“Boukhari” who wrote most of Hadith was a Persian not an Arab, this might be Shia-Sunni differences as well.
Am I wrong?

March 2nd, 2009, 8:11 pm

 

jad said:

Bashman,
Thank you for explaining your points, it’s much better when people referring to something with some explanations.
I still think the comment language you wrote sounded can easily be interpreted as a sectarian when identifying one religious as unable to make peace, I appreciate the clarification.

March 2nd, 2009, 9:13 pm

 

Elie Elhadj said:

Dear Norman,

Muslims of different persuasions find in the Quran, often on the same subject, the inspiration that suit their inclinations. Moderate Muslims, the great majority among Muslims, choose the peaceful and the tolerant Quranic verses. Islamists, a minority among Muslims, focus on the intolerant verses. Jihadists, a minority among Islamists, concentrate not only on the intolerant verses, but also on the verses that urge jihad and violence. For specifics, you might wish to look-up “Apologists and Propagandists”:
http://daringopinion.com/Islam–Apologists-and-Propagandists.php

Wahhabi Saudi Arabia adheres to the extremist parts of Islam. Wahhabism is based on the teachings of a ninth-century scholar, Ahmad Bin Hanbal (d. 855), the most orthodox among the four surviving Sunni rites. Due to its extremism, only 2% of world’s Sunnis are followers, mainly in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan (the Taliban) plus indeterminate number among some of the tens of millions of Muslims who had worked in Saudi Arabia over the past three decades and those who continue to work there. The rest of the world’s one billion Sunnis follow the other three surviving rites, Hanafite, Malikite, and Shafeite.

The Saudi government manifests its Wahhabi agenda through enforcing the Wahhabi way of life in, among others, education, radio and television, Shari’a laws and court system, denying women many of the rights that men have, and in obtrusive brigades of the religious police. You raised the issue of education.

The Saudi educational curriculum is overwhelmingly skewed toward subjects pertaining to Wahhabi Islam. Of the sixteen core subjects that comprise the curriculum of the twelfth grade in Saudi high schools, nine are on Islam and related studies. The teaching of philosophy is prohibited.

Starting with the first grade, according to the Center for Religious Freedom of Freedom House with the Institute for Gulf Affairs (2006), children are taught that Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims are destined to ‘hellfire.’ As the children grow up, the same message is honed more explicitly. In the ninth grade, students are taught “in apocalyptic terms that violence toward Jews, Christians, and other non-believers is sanctioned by God.” Tenth graders are taught that, “in law, the life of non-Muslims is worth a fraction of that of ‘free Muslim men.” Eleventh graders are taught, “If one comes to a place where there is a mixture of Muslims and ‘infidels,’ one should offer a greeting intended for the Muslims.” The eleventh graders are also taught that, “Muslims do not yield to Christians and Jews on a narrow road out of honor and respect.” Twelfth graders cap their high school years by learning that the spread of Islam through jihad is a religious duty and that jihad in the way of God “is the summit of Islam.” Eighteen-year-old students learn that Islam “arose through jihad and through jihad was its banner raised high.” They are also lectured that jihad “is one of the noblest acts, which brings one closer to God, and one of the most magnificent acts of obedience to God.” Outside schools, the public discourse reinforces those ideas.

Three of the eight Saudi universities are dedicated to Islamic studies. In 2000, 4,500 university graduates specialized in Islamic studies. In comparison, Syria, a country of a similar indigenous population at that time, produced 600 university graduates in Islamic studies. The profile of Saudi university graduates reflects the type of the jobs in demand in the labor market: teachers of Wahhabism, judges, jurists, and so on.

Elie

March 2nd, 2009, 9:42 pm

 

Elie Elhadj said:

Dear Jad,
Thanks for your kind words.

Kindly note that what I said is this: “every companion of the Prophet who reported his sayings and actions were all Arabs.”
Said differently, every companion of the Prophet who WAS QUOTED by Bukhari and in the other five canonical Hadith collections was an Arab. I did not say that Bukhari was an Arab.

Bukhari is regarded as the most authoritative among the collectors. He produced around 7500 sayings (traditions). The other five collectors were not far behind Bukhari in the number of saying that they collected. A close second in importance is Muslim Bin Al-Hajjaj (d. 875) whose collection contains 7,563 traditions. The remaining four collectors are: Ibn Majah (d. 886); with 4,341 traditions, Abi Dawood (d. 888); with 5,274 traditions, Al-Tirmithi (d. 892); with 3,956 traditions, and Al-Nasai (d. 915); with 5,761 traditions.

Hope that this is helpful

Regards,
Elie

March 2nd, 2009, 10:05 pm

 

ehsani2 said:

Dear elie,

I always thought that religion-related jobs are most recession proof. Your note on saudi graduates confirm my suspicion. Syrians reading your comment may get an idea now and become part of the tiny 600 group of students bound for religion-related jobs.

March 2nd, 2009, 10:24 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

Some of Bukhari hadiths collections are wrong, and canot be part of Islam.
the other people you mentioned were student of Bukhari.
At the time Bukhari and the others explain Quran,there were few people knew how to read,that is why there are several mistakes in explaining Quran,new explanations are needed,and correct the previous ones.

March 2nd, 2009, 11:47 pm

 

norman said:

Elie,

Reading your note makes me sure that the US attacked the wrong country after 9/11 , They should have got rid of the abscess that is causing periodic septicemia , (( KSA )).

March 2nd, 2009, 11:49 pm

 

kingcrane jr said:

Joshua,
At the end of the thread, you mention “analyst’s” opinion that Bashar should get out of the dark side. Once again, comparaison n’est pas raison; in the Star wars trilogy, the only individual who gets out of the dark side is Luke Skywalker’s dad, Darth Vador (born Anakin Skywalker), thus rescuing his son Luke, and dying immediately afterwards. My opinion is, however, that there is no dark or light side; the color is in the eye of the beholder. And history, because it is always written by the winners of armed conflicts, will give biased Faux colors to winners and losers alike. I ponder if the Mongols, with their amazing military attributes, and despite the fact that their leaders were unsatiable killers, had won at Ain Jalut, and proceeded to conquer all of Europe, then the Americas: they would be portrayed today as the “good guys” and their victims as the “bad guys” ALL INFERENCES TO RECENT OR CURRENT EVENTS, SUCH AS SABRA, SHATILA, OR GAZA, ARE PURELY LEFT TO THE READERS…

Alex,
I watched the video; this is hilarious; the guy thinks he is Joe Pesci; he used the f–k and the s–t word numerous times; he is stupid; his first question “if you support the Mahdi militia, raise your hand” proves his IQ is less than 80…

March 3rd, 2009, 4:47 am

 

Elie Elhadj said:

To: EHSANI2
Saudia’s way of life requires around 4,500 Islamic studies graduates annually. Syria’s society needs 600. Thus, the demand for Sharia related jobs in Saudia is approximately eight times as big as that of Syria, which gives us an idea of how hugely different the way of life in those two countries (same population size) are! If the supply of Sharia graduates in Syria exceeds society’s demand for such jobs, there would be unemployment among the ranks of Syria’s Sharia graduates. So, EHSANI2, do not worry about Syrian students being attracted to Sharia studies to secure future employment. Syria’s society in its tolerant religious outlook will ensure that the demand for Sharia jobs is under control.

To: Majedkhaldoun
You are absolutely correct. Thanks for bringing the important issue of historicity of the Hadith. As you recommended, you might like to know that Turkey’s Department of Religious Affairs has already commissioned a team of theologians at Ankara University’s School of Theology to carry out a fundamental revision of the Hadith. An adviser to the project says some of the sayings can be shown to have been invented hundreds of years after the Prophet Muhammad died, to serve the purposes of contemporary society.
On the historicity of the Hadith, may I suggest that you read “A Turkish Martin Luther?!”:
http://daringopinion.com/Islam–A-Turkish-Martin-Luther-!.php

To: Norman
Looking forward, I would say that to fight terrorism, not only must the material and the financial infrastructure of jihadism be destroyed, but also the religious foundation upon which jihadism rests, starting with Wahhabism. To eliminate a terrorist cell or two or a hundred or a thousand cells will fail to root out terrorism.
For more on this, you might wish to read: “Saudi Islam, 9/11, and Further Dangers”:
http://daringopinion.com/Saudi-Arabia–Saudi-Islam%2C-9-11%2C-and-Further-Dangers.php

Elie

March 3rd, 2009, 8:43 am

 

Joe M. said:

Alex,
How is the relationship between Syria and Libya these days? I wonder why they are not closer?

March 3rd, 2009, 9:56 am

 

why-discuss said:

Shai

I agree with you that the mantra “Existential threat” is for public comsumption. Yet if Iran is cleared from the pending accusations of developing nuclear weapon, Israeli leaders might be isolated in their attempts to demonize it and present it as a threat to the world.
This is why I am afraid the Mossad may soon organize some ‘terrorist” attacks in a western country they can pin on Iran, Hezbollah, Syria or Palestinians just to shake up the western countries who are becoming too sympathetic to Iran and the Palestinians: Israel must constantly justify that Iran and Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria are terrorists.
I won’t be surprised to see a flurry in the jewish media of wild accusations as soon as the US moves closer to Iran.

March 3rd, 2009, 12:14 pm

 

Shami said:

Elie El Hadj what was true 30 years ago is no more valid nowadays,the syrian society in 2009 is by far more conservative and religious than the saudi one.
If the saudi women were not obliged to be veiled you would see less veiled women in Saudia Arabia than in Syria.
Today 90% of Syrian womena are veiled ,even in the richest districts of Damascus we see a majority of veiled women.
I think the number of the veiled women is a good indicator to estimate the weight of religion on the people mind.

March 3rd, 2009, 1:44 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Joshua

This looks very bleak indeed.

I guess there’s only one thing to say.

March 3rd, 2009, 1:59 pm

 

Shami said:

Elie el hadj ,you should avoid to categorize the muslims as you are doing.
And the Talibans are not Hanbali nor Wahhabites,they are Hanafis and Deobandi Sufis.
These 4 mazhabs are not as hermetic toward each other than some people think ,for example being Hanafi or even Shafi’i Ashaari in aqida and being Hanbali in fiqh is very common.

March 3rd, 2009, 2:09 pm

 

jad said:

Is “Shami” the new name of old “Karim”?
It seems that you upgrade your numbers of veiled women these days, from 85% couple months ago to 90% today, your numbers are as good as the stocks market.
with your rate, couple months from now your magic numbers will reach 100% with a need of ‘m6aw3een’ in every Syrian city, town and village.

“Elie el hadj ,you should avoid to categorize the muslims as you are doing.”

Shekhna Karim, Is is 7aram or Forbidden by a Saudi fatwa to categorize Islamic different schools?

March 3rd, 2009, 3:37 pm

 

Shami said:

Jad efendi;be nice 85 or 90 we are in the same range of percentage ,it only means that the overwhelming majority of the syrian women are veiled,in the meannwhile ,i did a quick survey in Al Malki ,i was surprised by the number of veiled women in the syrian bourgoisie.Tell us about your own observation.

Jad the problem with Elie is that he categorizes the muslims as follow ,those who belong to mazhab of Ahmad Ibn Hanbal ,the dangerous extremists and thanks God they are 2% vs the others who are the moderates.This is not academically valid.

March 3rd, 2009, 5:16 pm

 

jad said:

Karim, sorry, Shami, or whatever you want your name to be:
You wiped out a whole 5% of Syrian women population with your makeup percentage.
I told you before and will tell you again, don’t make up numbers out of your observation of one area, how about me telling you that 95% of Alquerda7a are not veiled does that count?
When you make up numbers don’t sign your comments with this funny note
“This is not academically valid.”

March 3rd, 2009, 5:27 pm

 

Alia said:

Jad,

I agree with Shami on the significant increase in religiosity in Syria over the past couple of decades, as well as the veiling of women, their attendance in groups of religious instruction given by other women of more or less definable qualifications, their previously unheard of presence in the Mosques etc…

Dr. El Hadj,

Again with Shami, although Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Wahhab adopted the belief of the Hanbalis, he rejected Taqleed (imitation) but did build his following on the highly controversial Sheikh Ibn Taymayah. Subsequent Wahhabis deepened this controversy…they do not recognize the 4 sects of Sunnism, not even that of the Hanbalis and in turn are not considered Sunni Muslims as descendants of Hanbalites would be- they are rather considered by the majority of ahl-sl-Sunnah as modern day Kharijites.

http://www.livingislam.org/n/nkhar_e.html

Also would you kindly refer me to a source on the national representation in the Hajj population. Your cited percentage of 60 % Arabs is very intriguing. Thanks.

March 3rd, 2009, 5:33 pm

 

jad said:

Alia, I’m not arguing with Kareem/Shami, my point is about stating numbers and percentage out of his own observation as facts, which doesn’t reflect any academic based numbers except his own imagination.
I agree that veiled women numbers increased in the last decade, however, that only happened in cities not in rural areas where lots of Syrian lives as well, so when someone like Kareem/Shami comes with such numbers in most of his comments without a base, that is where I have to correct.
Nothing personal, just asking commentators to be more objective, to be real and to stop living in their own closed one sided world. It’s not healthy.

March 3rd, 2009, 6:48 pm

 

Nour said:

Alia,

There is no doubt that religious fundamentalism has been on the rise not only in Syria, but in the region in general. But to claim that 90% of Syrian women are veiled is a bit extreme I think, and to argue that Saudi women are less religious than Syrian women is also quite an outlandish statement, as it is not based on any scientific study but rather on the speculative perception of a single individual.

March 3rd, 2009, 9:09 pm

 

Shami said:

Alia ,
The site http://www.livingislam.org contain interesting articles written by G F Haddad a Sheikh of Lebanese Christian origin , he studied Islam in Damascus.
The articles are instructive but we should take into account that they represent the opinion of traditionalist Sufis who share a a radical anti Salafi stance.Every party has its extremists and its moderates… both Salafis and Sufis are the two major trends of Sunnism which should not be limited to the 4 schools of thought,the door must be open to other attempts of ishtihad,like the Wahhabiya and the Neo Mutazila.
There is an important development that took place in Saudi Arabia recently ,the Saudi council of Muslim scholars,the top religious body of the kingdom, is now expended to include Maliki ,Hanafi and Shaf’i members.
http://www.thenational.ae/article/20090215/FOREIGN/363075254/1133/SPORT

March 3rd, 2009, 9:14 pm

 

jad said:

I post this before after Karim same comments couple months ago regarding Hijab.
I’ll post it again, it’s hilarious yet true.
Enjoy

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_5sbGWuqTOog/Rl_8rTMwVmI/AAAAAAAACe0/SLEqWGthN2Y/s1600-h/Syrian_Hijab.jpg

March 3rd, 2009, 9:19 pm

 

Shami said:

Nour,such high percentage is not far from the reality ,without doubt the veil is more visible in Syria than in Turkey ,guess what says the scientific surveys in Turkey ,according to them 70% of turkish women cover their heads.In Turkey they also have Alevis(15%) whose women don’t wear headscarves.

March 3rd, 2009, 9:48 pm

 

Shami said:

LOL Jad ,but your cartoon only shows the damascene versions.
In Aleppo we have among others :
http://farm1.static.flickr.com/171/403968369_5229d6ca9f_o.jpg

March 3rd, 2009, 10:03 pm

 

jad said:

Karim Pasha, Just to prove that your comments are “fundamentally” superficial and extremely wrong:

Turkey Almanac:
(Religions: Islam (mostly Sunni) 99.8%, other 0.2% (mostly Christians and Jews))

Turkey Wikipedia (Islam is the largest religion of Turkey. More than 99 percent of the population is Muslim, mostly Sunni. The Alevi community, a group of non-orthodox Muslims, make up 1–10 percent of the population. )
(1-10% not “15% and all of them doesn’t wear hijab”, have you ever been to any of the villages there? old women actually wear scarves

Syria Almanac: (Religions: Islam (Sunni) 74%; Alawite, Druze, and other Islamic sects 16%; Christian (various sects) 10%; Jewish (tiny communities in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo))
Those numbers destroy the whole 90% you came with since 26% of Syrian society is not Sunni, even “if” 100% of Sunni women wear hijab its barley 74% not 90%

Where do you come with a statement as this:
(without doubt the veil is more visible in Syria than in Turkey?) as if it’s a competition of who wear the hijab more than others, does wearing a hijab make someone better Muslim than others? Very superficial comment
——————–
Back to the subject; I have no idea why you are getting somehow defensive, in your reply to Dr. Elhadg comments that “only 2% are extreme” You should be happy reading that not defensive.
Your other point was to prove to us that what Dr. Elhadg wrote about Syria is not true at the present time.
“So, EHSANI2, do not worry about Syrian students being attracted to Sharia studies to secure future employment. Syria’s society in its tolerant religious outlook will ensure that the demand for Sharia jobs is under control.”
Is a one religion Syria a better place for your taste Karim?
Do you prefer Saudi like society to be implanted in Syria Instead of the existing one?
What is making you so defensive and scared of any idea you read about multi-cultural multi-religions and tolerated Syrian society?
———————–
Nice pictures you have there; I think Aleppo needs a whole category by itself.

March 3rd, 2009, 10:42 pm

 

Alia said:

Jad,

I was not even arguing the percentages. More instructive to me for example is the fact that in my own extended family the mothers and grandmothers were not veiled but their daughters in their 20s are; and more often than not are exerting a certain pressure on the older generation. Also the groupings, studying and reading of Qur’an in circles in neighborhoods that all did not exist when I was young. I could not quantify the changes…but they are significant.

The cartoons are adorable!!! and the Aleppo picture now, that is familiar and was more prevalent among a certain class of women/families I think; it was not necessarily related to religiosity. On a visit to KSA I saw Bedouin women with metal face masks- evidently they use them for protection from men 🙂

Shami,

I am familiar with the writings of Sheikh Gibril Haddad, he can be extreme in his opinions- but if you are willing to suspend judgment, you can learn a lot from his detailed rebuttals. yes, I read about the new Saudi developments, they are very mistaken in not involving the Shia who are abysmally mistreated in KSA. I am not interested in exclusions, unless we get over the Sunni-Shia divide things will continue to be chaotic. There are extremes on both sides.

Nour,

I do not interpret the veiling of women automatically as a symptom of rising fundamentalism. There are multiple motivations behind it.

March 4th, 2009, 12:02 am

 

Shami said:

Alia ,i like Sheikh Haddad but i also respect Ibn Taymiyya,here is an interview with him.
He cites al-Dhahabi and Abu Ghudda(spiritual leader of the Ikhwan in Aleppo) among his favourite scholars.

http://www.livingislam.org/o/igfh_e.html

Abu Ghudda had rehabilitated Ibn Taymiyya in Syria and Imam Al Dhahabi was one of Ibn Taymiyya students.

March 4th, 2009, 2:37 am

 

Elie Elhadj said:

Dear Alia,
The source is: “Hajj by the numbers”, Saudi Aramco World, May/June issue 2002, P. 27.
I calculated the subject % from the data in page 27.

Elie

March 4th, 2009, 8:09 am

 

why-discuss said:

The veil for rich or poor?
In poor countries, and in main cities, it costs less to wear a white or a fashionable veil than to visit the “Kuafor”. This is also a reason not to ignore, when it comes to Syria, Lebanon, Egypt or Turkey.
In Iran it is mandatory so only rich women who can afford the kuafor complains about it.

March 4th, 2009, 11:09 am

 

Shami said:

Elie,there is a quota assigned to each country that doesnt concern the inhabitants of saudi arabia ,so half or more of the piligrims are saudis.

March 4th, 2009, 11:18 am

 

Elie Elhadj said:

To: Shami,
The number of Saudis in 2002, the year I used in my estimate, was 183,000 out of total pilgrims that year of 2.4 million, or 7.63% .

Elie

March 4th, 2009, 2:30 pm

 

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