Wikileaks: “Syrian-Iranian Relations return to normal”; Jordan, Turkey, and US Seek Improved Iran Relations; Hariri Tribunal Delayed;

Hariri Tribunal to be postponed until next month in a move linked to a new US approach toward Iran. [Daily Star] Also read Ian Black’s: Rafiq Hariri tribunal: why many in Beirut have lost their thirst for justice and the Hariri Tribunal.

Erdogan becomes first Turkish PM to join Karbala mournings – He reaches out to Turkey’s Alevis … and to Shiis in neighboring states: Syrian, Iraqi and Iranian. Smart.

WikiLeaks: Syria told Iran it would stay out of war with Israel
08 Dec 2010

In one of the most startling Wikileaks disclosures of recent weeks, a document released on Wednesday reveals that Syria refused Iranian entreaties to fight alongside Iran against Israel if it were to strike Tehran’s renegade nuclear program. The statements in the document, dated December 20, 2009, were probably made by a Syrian diplomatic source who spoke with American Embassy officials in Damascus. The Assad regime told the Iranians not to expect Syria, Hizbullah or Hamas to take part in this war. According to the source, Syrian officials replied by saying that Iran was strong enough to develop its own nuclear program and fight against Israel.

Classified By: CDA Chuck Hunter

¶2. (C) On the surface, the early-December visits of three Iranian officials — National Security Advisor Saeed Jalili on December 3, Vice President and head of the Environmental Department Mahammed-Javad Mahamadzideh on December 5-6, and Minister of Defense Ahmad Ali Vahidi on December 8-11 — represented a concerted reaffirmation by both countries of their strong security ties and their commitment to expanded relations. Set against a backdrop of rising international pressure on Iran over its nuclear program and an exchange of threats between Israel and Iran …

¶3. (S/NF) The public showcasing of these three visits contrasted with the secrecy with which Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander/al-Quds Force Ghassem Soleimani conducted his. Reportedly accompanying Jalili, Soleimani returned to Damascus after a long absence, perhaps a reflection of lingering tensions between Iran and Syria that erupted after the February 2008 assassination of Hizballah military strategist Imad Mugniyah in the Syrian capital. XXXXXXXXXXXX spoke very reluctantly about Soleimani’s presence in Damascus, saying only that “he was here,” and “when he visits, it’s usually significant.” XXXXXXXXXXXX reported seeing Jalili and Soleimani at a XXXXXXXXXXXX meeting with Syrian officials that included FM Muallim, as well as unspecified members of Hizballah. “Soleimani represents the DAMASCUS business end of the resistance,” commented XXXXXXXXXXXX, also reluctant to discuss the sensitive issue of Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah military cooperation. Taken collectively, the Iranian visits over eight days were meant to dispel doubts that Syria would or could abandon its ties to Iran ……

¶5. (S/NF) Whatever Syrian rationale there may be for showcasing military ties to Iran, many Syrian observers are emphasizing the shifting balance of power in their bilateral relationship. According to XXXXXXXXXXXX Iran, not Syria, sought the visits as a sign of Syrian reassurance. “Be assured,” commented XXXXXXXXXXXX “they needed these visits far more than we did.” Summing up a view heard repeatedly around Damascus, “things in our relations with Iran are starting to return to normal” after a long period of Syrian dependence, XXXXXXXXXXXX asserted. He added, “U.S. isolation and the invasion of Iraq made it necessary to adopt such extreme measures. But now, things are moving back to equilibrium.” The Syrian government, said XXXXXXXXXXXX, perceived a note of panic in the Iranian requests and some were saying Syria’s renewed relations with Saudi Arabia, its deepening ties to Turkey, and even Washington’s desire to re-engage Syria had made Iran “jealous.”

¶7. (S/NF) While the Syrian government responded positively to Iranian requests for public statements of support on the nuclear issue and against Israel, it remained silent after the Iranian Minister of Defense’s arrival statement denounced Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States. By the time Vahidi arrived on December 8, press contacts noted, the Syrian government’s attitude had shifted to “let’s get this over with,” according to XXXXXXXXXXXX. Indeed, at the same time Vahidi was parading his 20-car motorcade around Damascus, several other visits were occurring, including one by the Turkish military commandant and President Sarkozy’s Middle East advisors, Nicolas Gallet and Jean-David Levitte…..

¶8. (S/NF) Going beyond atmospherics XXXXXXXXXXXX reported several disagreements between Jalili’s delegation and their Syrian counterparts. On Iraq, Jalili reportedly proposed a “joining of Syrian and Iranian efforts” to influence the upcoming Iraqi elections. “They (the Iranians) basically asked us to focus on co-opting Shia politicians and to drop our support for the Sunnis and former Baathists,” arguing that the center of gravity in Iraq lies with the Shia. On this issue XXXXXXXXXXXX reported, Syrian officials expressed great reluctance and continued to insist on the reintegration of former Iraqi Baathists into the political system…

¶9. (S/NF) On Yemen, Vahidi’s public remarks rebuking Saudi Arabia for interfering in its neighbor’s affairs drew sharp criticism from Syrian officials during the Iranian Defense Minister’s meetings XXXXXXXXXXXX Vahidi was clearly trying to drive a wedge between Damascus and Riyadh, but “it didn’t work,” he said. Asad stopped short of publicly contradicting the Iranian official during his visit, but he reassured Saudi King Abdullah’s son Abdul Azziz, in Syria to pay personal condolences after the death of President Asad’s brother Majd, that Syria fully supported Saudi Arabia’s efforts to defeat the Huthi separatists. “There weren’t any newspaper reports of Iranian ministers here (paying condolences),” noted XXXXXXXXXXXX.
¶10. (S/NF) More significantly, Syria reportedly resisted Iranian entreaties to commit to joining Iran if fighting broke out between Iran and Israel or Hizballah and Israel. XXXXXXXXXXXX said Iranian officials were in Syria “to round up allies” in anticipation of an Israeli military strike. “It (an Israeli strike on Iran) is not a matter of if, but when,” XXXXXXXXXXXX said, reporting what Syrian officials had heard from their Iranian counterparts. The Syrian response, he continued, was to tell the Iranians not to look to Syria, Hizballah or Hamas to “fight this battle.”…

¶11. (S/NF) Asked what advice Syria was giving Iran, XXXXXXXXXXXX replied that Syria, along with Turkey and Qatar, was preparing for an Israeli-Iranian military exchange in the near future. “Military officials tell me they have noticed Israeli drones snooping around our sites,” he explained, noting some Syrian officials saw Israeli reconnaissance as an indication that Israel might seek to disable anti-air radar stations as part of a plan to fly bombers over Syrian territory en route to Iran. “We expect to wake up one morning soon and learn the Israeli strike took place. Then we expect an Iranian response. At that point, we, Turkey, and Qatar will spring into action to begin moderating a 004ceasefire and then a longer-term solution involving both countries’ nuclear programs. That’s the best scenario….

¶12. (S/NF) Many Syrian and some diplomatic observers believe Syria is in the process of re-calibrating its relations with Iran and is seeking to avoid choices that would constrain the country’s flexibility as it faces an uncertain regional setting. Does, however, Syria’s instinct for self-survival and desire for less dependence on Iran represent anything other than a shift of emphasis as long as Damascus insists on maintaining its military relations with Iran, Hizballah, and Hamas? Some analysts here argue that Syria’s improved relations with Turkey, France, and Saudi Arabia afford Damascus a greater range of choices in dealing with the West, the Arab world, Israel, and Iran. This school asserts that better ties with the U.S. would further increase Syria’s range of options and its potential to move farther away from Iran. Even if Damascus and Tehran maintained some semblance of their political-military relationship, the extent of their ties would be constrained by Syria’s competing equities in deepening relations with others, including the U.S. Others argue that a wider range of options would only perpetuate Syria’s decision-averse orientation; if the Iranians can’t pin down Syria on matters of war and peace, then what chance would the United States have? Syria could pocket openings offered by Washington and simply use our gestures to play rivals off one another.

¶13. (S/NF) At the end of the day, it may be impossible to assess Syria’s intentions with any confidence until the regional context becomes clearer. In the meantime, the U.S. should take a modicum of quiet satisfaction that Syria is showing signs of wanting to moderate Iran’s influence in its affairs, even though expecting the relationship to end altogether remains unrealistic. If Syria’s improved relations with France, Saudi Arabia and Turkey can initiate cracks in the Syrian-Iranian axis, then perhaps discrete U.S.-Syrian cooperation could add further stress to these fault lines. A willingness to offer concrete deliverables as evidence of a U.S. desire for improved relations would force Syrian officials to calculate how far they would go in response, providing us with a more accurate measure of their intentions. At a minimum, increased Washington interest in Syria would increase Tehran’s anxiety level and perhaps compound Syrian-Iranian tensions, at a time when Syrian officials themselves may be unsure how they will react to unfolding events.

US embassy cables: US works to block Syrian bid to obtain chemical warfare components
2010-12-16 Guardian (GB):
Tuesday, 30 December 2008,
14:27 S E C R E T STATE 135048 SENSITIVE SIPDIS EO 12958 DECL: 12/23/2033 TAGS PARM, ETTC, SY, IN, PREL SUBJECT: SHIELD S04B-08: Classified By: ISN/CB …

2. (S//NF) BACKGROUND: The U.S. has obtained information indicating that a Syrian institution with connections to the country’s chemical and biological weapons programs is attempting to acquire Australia Group-controlled glass-lined reactors, heat exchangers and pumps from the Indian firms XXXXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX . Both firms are believed to have received visits from the Syria institution in the past 3 months and may be close to concluding their respective deals.

3. (S//NF) BACKGROUND CONT’D: We would like to alert the GOI to this information. The GOI has a general obligation as a Chemical Weapons Convention State Party to never, under any circumstances, assist anyone in the development of chemical weapons. ….

— While they have legitimate commercial uses, glass or glass-lined chemical reactor vessels, heat exchangers and pumps can be used in the production of CW agents and therefore are controlled by the Australia Group (AG).

— We are concerned that the equipment in question is intended for, or could be diverted to, Syria’s CW program.

— The Syrian Research Council (SSRC) is a key entity behind Syria’s chemical warfare program and may be behind Syria’s biological warfare program as well.

….we believe Syria is an unreliable destination for dual-use exports, and Syrian end-user statements or other assurances are neither credible nor trustworthy….

Jordan’s king wants improved ties with Iran
Abdullah II accepts Ahmadinejad’s invitation to visit Tehran, says it’s ‘imperative to undertake practical steps for improving Jordanian-Iranian relations’
Associated Press,12.12.10, Israel News

Jordan’s King Abdullah II said Sunday he was seeking “practical steps” to improve his frosty relations with Iran, a contrast to his regime’s frequent criticism of Iran’s policies.

The call came in a closed-door meeting with Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, director of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s office, Abdullah’s Royal Court said in a statement.

Abdullah has been one of Iran’s harshest critics in recent years, warning that its growing influence in the region could undermine him and other pro-American moderates.

The Royal Court statement said Abdullah accepted Ahmadinejad’s invitation to visit Tehran soon, but no date was set.

The Jordanian statement quoted Abdullah as saying it was “imperative to undertake practical steps for improving Jordanian-Iranian relations in the service of both countries, their brotherly people and joint Islamic causes and to consolidate security and stability in the region.” It gave no details of what steps might be taken.

As early as 2004, Abdullah warned of Iran’s growing influence in Iraq and the rest of the region.

In US cables released by WikiLeaks, US Ambassador to Jordan Stephen Beecroft quoted Jordanian officials describing Iran as an “octopus” whose tentacles “reach out insidiously to manipulate, foment, and undermine the best laid plans of the West and regional moderates.”

Iran’s “tentacles” include Qatar, Syria, the militant Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories, an Iraqi government linked to Iran and Shiite communities across the Mideast, according to the cables.

WikiLeaks: will the civil war return to Lebanon? – The WikiLeaks revelations have inflicted epic calamity on pro-Western officials in Lebanon.
Peter Osborne, The Telegraph, 10 Dec 2010

Elias Murr (L), the defence minister has been caught red-handed conspiring with the United States of America to facilitate an Israeli invasion in 2008 Photo: AP

The Foreign Secretary had been accused of pandering to the US ahead of last May’s general election since his private conversations with state department officials became public. The accounts of conversations with members of Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri’s government have revealed collusion with the state’s main enemy. Elias Murr, the defence minister has been caught red-handed conspiring with the United States of America to facilitate an Israeli invasion in 2008.

France Supplies Lebanon with Anti-Tank missiles, annoying US and Israel.

Patrick Seale: Syria won’t abandon Iran
Roee Nahmias
Ynet, 2.17.10

In special interview, British journalist Patrick Seale tells Ynet Israel deluding itself if it believes Damascus will sever ties with Tehran. Peace between Jerusalem and Damascus possible only in framework of comprehensive deal that will include Palestinians, he says, adding that ‘Netanyahu is doing the exact opposite of what is needed’,,,,

Seale does not see a concrete threat of a war between Israel and Syria, despite current Syrian President Bashar Assad’s belligerent rhetoric, but he does not rule it out either. He says the Israeli government is a cause for concern not only in the Middle East, but in the West as well. According to Seale, the settlement enterprise poses a grave threat to western interests. He claims a resolution to the Israel-Syria conflict is possible only if it coincides with a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Assad wants peace; he has said this a thousand times,” Seale says. “Full normalization (of Israel-Syria relations) can only transpire in the framework of a comprehensive agreement that will include the Palestinians. Don’t expect him (Assad) to abandon the Palestinians, or Iran for that matter.” ….

Israel leaves us no choice but to boycott
By Ali Abunimah
December 17, 2010

Palestinians have already given up so much since 1948. It’s up to Israel to end its campaign of ethnic cleansing for the peace process to move forward…..
Prominent Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola recently told the Jerusalem Post that Jews already constitute just under 50% of the population in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip combined. In effect, a Jewish minority rules over a majority population that includes 1.4 million Palestinian (second-class) citizens of Israel, 2.5 million Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank and another 1.5 million under siege in the open-air prison known as the Gaza Strip. All credible projections show that Palestinians will be the decisive majority within a few years.

This injustice is intolerable. Under Israel’s policies and the refusal of the United States to exert any real pressure, there will be no end to it, and the prospects for catastrophic bloodshed increase.

Absent any real action by the United States or other governments to hold Israel accountable, it is up to civil society to step in. ….

Israel Doesn’t Need the West Bank To Be Secure
By Martin van Creveld in Forward
December 15, 2010, issue of December 24, 2010.

When everything is said and done, how important is the West Bank to Israel’s defense?

To answer the question, our best starting point is the situation before the 1967 war. At that time, the Arab armed forces surrounding Israel outnumbered the Jewish state’s army by a ratio of 3-to-1. Not only was the high ground in Judea and Samaria in Jordanian hands, but Israel’s capital in West Jerusalem was bordered on three sides by hostile territory. Arab armies even stood within 14 miles of Tel Aviv. Still, nobody back then engaged in the sort of fretting we hear today about “defensible borders,” let alone Abba Eban’s famous formulation, “Auschwitz borders.” When the time came, it took the Israel Defense Forces just six days to crush all its enemies combined.

Since then, of course, much has happened. Though relations with Egypt and Jordan may not always be rosy, both countries have left “the circle of enmity,” as the Hebrew expression goes. Following two-and-a-half decades of astonishing growth, Israel’s GDP is now larger than those of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt combined. As to military power, suffice it to say that Israel is the world’s fifth-largest exporter of arms.

Syria, Israel’s main remaining hostile neighbor, has never on its own been strong enough to seriously threaten Israel. While Damascus is getting some weapons from Iran, the latter is no substitute for the genuine superpower patron that Syria had in the old Soviet Union.

Overall, therefore, Israel’s position is much stronger than it was at any time in the past. So how does the West Bank fit into this picture?

One of the main threats that Israel faces today is from ballistic missiles. Yet everybody knows that holding on to the West Bank won’t help Israel defend itself against missiles coming from Syria or Iran. Even the most extreme hawk would concede this point.

As far as the threat of a land invasion, it is of course true that the distance between the former Green Line and the Mediterranean is very small — at its narrowest point, what is sometimes affectionately known as “Old” Israel is just nine miles wide. As was noted before, it is also true that the West Bank comprises the high ground and overlooks Israel’s coastal plain…..
it is crystal-clear that Israel can easily afford to give up the West Bank. Strategically speaking, the risk of doing so is negligible. What is not negligible is the demographic, social, cultural and political challenge that ruling over 2.5 million — nobody knows exactly how many — occupied Palestinians in the West Bank poses. Should Israeli rule over them continue, then the country will definitely turn into what it is already fast becoming: namely, an apartheid state that can only maintain its control by means of repressive secret police actions.

To save itself from such a fate, Israel should rid itself of the West Bank, most of Arab Jerusalem specifically included. If possible, it should do so by agreement with the Palestinian Authority; if not, then it should proceed unilaterally, as the — in my view, very successful — withdrawal from Gaza suggests. Or else I would strongly advise my children and grandson to seek some other, less purblind and less stiff-necked, country to live in.

Martin van Creveld is an Israeli military historian and the author of “The Land of Blood and Honey: The Rise of Modern Israel” (St. Martin’s Press, 2010).

“Israel does not know how to beat Hezbollah,” said Giora Eiland, national security adviser to former prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert.

Remarkable State Dept press briefing footage regarding arrested civil rights advocate, Abdullah Abu Rahmah

Watch AP reporter Matthew Lee ask the state dept, day after day after day– through Wednesday– about the imprisonment of Bil’in nonviolent activist Abdallah Abu Rahmah.
The non-answers are stunning. (And the video , sandwiched between Clinton and Obama, cut for hypocrisy factor.)

Linkage and its discontents: What WikiLeaks reveals about Israel-Palestine
Posted By Matthew Duss Thursday, December 16, 2010 –

…..Consider: a report on a January 2008 meeting between a Congressional delegation and Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman notes, “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains the core issue; Suleiman contended a peaceful resolution would be a ‘big blow’ to terrorist organizations that use the conflict as a pretext. For this reason, President Mubarak is committed to ending the Israeli-Arab ‘stalemate.'”

In a January 2007 meeting, Dubai’s ruler Mohamed bin Rashid Al Makhtoum, told U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns that a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians would be “the best thing” for the region, and would make radical groups like Hamas “everyone’s enemy.”

A cable from an April 2009 meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Amman reports, “While Jordanian officials doubt dialogue with the U.S. will convince Iran to withdraw its ‘tentacles,’ they believe they can be severed if Iran is deprived of hot-button issues that make it a hero to many on the Arab street, such as its championing of the Palestinian cause.”

In a July 2009 meeting between Gen. Petraeus and former Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, “Siniora said that Lebanon was encouraged by and supportive of President Obama’s commitment to achieving a comprehensive Middle East Peace.” Siniora “said the U.S. administration’s recognition of the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was an opportunity to push the Arab Peace Initiative forward and to finally achieve a resolution.”

In a February 2010 meeting between Sen. John Kerry and the Emir of Qatar, “Senator Kerry asked the Emir how the U.S. goes about changing its reputation. The Emir said first and foremost the U.S. must do everything in its power to find a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” ….

Square one for the US and Syria?
Stephen Starr, 14 December 2010

Relations were knocked back when a seemingly innocuous statement snow-balled into a something of much greater consequence last spring. In April the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, set off alarm bells by claiming – without evidence – that Syria was shipping SCUD missiles to Hezbollah.

….America’s plan to engage Syria appears to have failed.

In July 2009, amid warming rhetoric from both sides, reports emerged that Barack Obama’s White House intended to look favourably on case-by-case sanctions against Syria “as opposed to the prior administration’s policy”. According to the New York Times this was “another notable instance of the Obama administration opening the door to Syria on what it calls a basis of mutual interest and respect.”….

America’s fault?

Earlier this month a diplomatic spat threatened to further damage ties between the two countries.

Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, said in an interview that only “modest steps” had been taken in improving the US-Syrian relationship and that, “There is a cost to the potential in our bilateral relationship to what Syria’s friends are doing in Lebanon.

“Our interests in a comprehensive peace doesn’t mean that we are going to start trading our other interests in Iraq or Lebanon in order to get Damascus to like us better,” he told the Washington Post earlier this month.

An unnamed Syrian official reacted with venom to what was perceived in Damascus as neo-imperialism, saying: “Yes, Syria is concerned in the stability and security of Lebanon because this is a vital issue for the security and stability of Syria … We don’t need Mr. Feltman’s advice, because Syria exercises its independent decision making to serve the interests of its people and the stability and security of the region.”

Nor is Washington alone in sending out confusing signals.

In October, Syrian President Bashar Assad, launched a tirade against America via the Al Hayat newspaper saying: “Is Afghanistan stable? Is Somalia stable? Did they bring stability to Lebanon in 1983?” when referring to the US.

However, more recently Assad changed his tone, and is quoted as lauding Obama’s ‘peace efforts for the region’ following the visit of John Kerry to Damascus in November.

This back and forth rhetoric illustrates an ongoing gap in expectations that needs to be addressed. Washington wants Syria to stop funding and supporting Hezbollah but what is in it for Damascus? Washington wants it to move away from Iran but why would Syria do this? Has the US and Europe offered to press Israel on beginning talks over the status of the occupied Golan Heights? With over 400,000 Palestinian refugees in camps around Syria it has good reason to want to see an agreement regarding a Palestinian state.

One may ask what can Syria do, but the United States is in the position of power in this relationship and many in the halls of Syrian bureaucracy will be happy for the country to continue its downward economic spiral whilst it maintains the political status quo.

About the author: Stephen Starr is the founder and editor in chief of Near East Quarterly. Based in Damascus since 2007, his work has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Le Monde Diplomatique and the Guardian.

2,100-year-old temple ruins discovered in Syria
2010-12-11 20:41:45.464 GMT

DAMASCUS, Dec 11, 2010 (Xinhua via COMTEX) — Syria  nearthed ruins of a temple dating back to the Nabataean era (169 B.C.-106 A.D.) in Swaida, 106 km to the south of Damascus, Syrian official SANA news agency reported Saturday. Yaser Shaar, an archaeologist of the excavation team, said that the temple was built on the ruins of an older temple from the pre- Hellenistic period.

He added that the excavation also revealed floors from the Islamic period in a cave in the site, as well as remains of a stone cemetery engraved in rock, according to the report. The Nabataean kingdom was located between Sinai Peninsula and the Arabian Peninsula with the city Petra as a capital.

Sami Moubayed writes:

This week’s guest on Qabla An Nansa (Before We Forget) on Aldounia TV is Hersho al-Barazi, who assassinated Colonel Sami al-Hinnawi in Beirut in October 1950.

Our guest, Barazi, is the cousin of ex-Prime Minister Muhsen al-Barazi, who along with President Husni al-Za’im, was executed by Hinnawi in August 1949. In a classic case of revenge killing, the young Hersho Barazi hunted Hinnawi to Lebanon and gunned him down while boarding the tram, to avenge the death of his own cousin, less than one year after Hinnawi had been toppled in Syria. The Episode will run on Monday, December 20, at 7:00 pm Damascus time and be repeated next day, December 21, at 9:00 am.

Comments (49)

Norman said:

Looking at how Erdogan functions and how the king of KSA does explain why the Arabs are not doing well , while Erdogan is able and welling to make friends out of Enemies by going to Iran for the benefit of Turkey and her people , the king of KSA seems determent to make enemies out of friends like Iran , for the detriment of Islam in general and the Arabs in particular ,

It is interesting to know that he is supposed to be the protector of Islam , not Sunni Islam or Shia Islam , it is ISLAM ,

With leaders like these it is no wonder that the Arabs are failing to prosper,and achieve their goals and rights ,

With sanction that the US imposing on Syria and the extend that it goes to prevent any up to date technology from reaching Syria , I see no chance for a peaceful solution to the Mideast problem and i see no chance to improving the Syrian American relation ,

December 19th, 2010, 10:28 am


Shai said:


Yediot Ahronot’s writer Uri Misgav is also warning of a 2010 arrogance reminiscent of Summer 1973…,7340,L-4001329,00.html

December 19th, 2010, 4:06 pm


Norman said:

Hi Shai,
It is good to see my friend , i always write so i can see what you have to say , apparently Uri Misgav is reading what we write , i hope Netanyahu is reading too before it is too late ,

I wonder some time what the Israeli leaders think about the goals that they want to achieve for their people , they must not be looking further than the next election ,

What a waste of time energy and human lives ,

Shame on them ,

December 19th, 2010, 8:04 pm


majedkhaldoon said:

King of KSA is Sunni not Shiite,and he considers Iran ,The Shiite ,as his enemy.
What is going on in Korea is very important,Israel embroiled USA in two wars,put USA in severe financial problems,if USA get involved in another war,as Korea,the american economy will suffer a lot,North Korea has stronger and larger army than the south.
look for Israel to loose if war erupt in Korea.N.Korea can not fight for long,however,this war will be short , if it starts.

December 19th, 2010, 8:05 pm


Norman said:

Majed ,
As i said that he is the protector of Islam , no matter what he is , The prophet would have been distraught about what is going on in Islam ,

December 19th, 2010, 8:41 pm


Shai said:


I always enjoy reading your comments. As for “Israel’s leaders”, I don’t really think we have any right now. A leader is supposed to LEAD us somewhere, hopefully to a better place, but definitely somewhere else. We are standing in place for forty years, unable to decide if the West Bank is ours or not. And in the meantime, we’re acting like we’re going to have the cake, and eat it too. We’re going to settle the West Bank, and have Peace with the Palestinians.

No Israeli leader is preparing his people for accepting the Arab Initiative(s) since 2002. Netanyahu is treating this as a potential business deal between Microsoft and Yahoo – either it’ll happen (if the terms are good enough) or it won’t. He’s not treating this as if it HAS TO HAPPEN.

I don’t know what goes on in his mind, and with each day that passes his time is ending. If tomorrow morning war erupts, no one in the region could say “I didn’t know…” But many thousands will die, and it will not be on a battlefield, it’ll be in our towns and cities, in our homes and our workplace. People will die unnecessarily, because “leaders” couldn’t lead.

December 20th, 2010, 12:45 am


Norman said:


Well said

December 20th, 2010, 7:38 am


5 dancing shlomos said:

“The highest levels( hexavalent chromium),were found in Norman, Okla., where the water contained more than 200 times the California goal.”

December 20th, 2010, 1:14 pm


why-discuss said:

The TSL: …6 to 10 weeks for the judge to confirm or reject fully or partly the indictment.. The defense would have many weeks or months to have access to the file…. the ‘false witnesses’ may be called to testify…The trial would eventually begin in autumn 2011 unless…

L’orient-Le jour 21 dec 2010

“…Par ailleurs, lors d’un contact effectué par la presse, le chef du bureau des affaires publiques du TSL, Crispin Thorold, a confirmé les délais avancés par le greffier, Herman von Hebel , notamment lorsqu’il avait indiqué que l’acte d’accusation « sera très prochainement remis au juge de la mise en état ». M. Thorold a également précisé qu’en principe, l’examen du dossier par le juge de la mise en état devrait s’étendre sur six à dix semaines, à l’issue desquelles il pourra soit confirmer l’acte d’accusation dans sa totalité, soit rejeter un ou plusieurs chefs d’accusation. Une fois l’acte confirmé, la défense aura alors plusieurs semaines, voire plusieurs mois, pour prendre connaissance du dossier, le procès ne devant probablement commencer qu’en automne prochain, comme l’avait prédit M. von Hebel, une date approximative qui reste toutefois à démontrer par la succession des faits. “

December 21st, 2010, 4:33 am


Ghat Albird said:

Wikileaks still leaking !

WikiLeaks: A Very Short Coincidence Theory
by Maidhc Ó Cathail / December 20th, 2010

It is surely just a coincidence that the law firm – Finers Stephens Innocent – which represents Julian Assange and set up the Julian Assange Defense Fund is also legal adviser to the Rothschild Waddesdon Trust; that the partially Rothschild-owned Economist gave Assange its 2008 Freedom of Expression Award; that Lord Rothschild is deputy chairman of BSkyB, whose warmongering chairman, Rupert Murdoch, and his propagandist father were lauded as fearless advocates of the truth by the WikiLeaks founder in an op-ed in the Murdoch-owned The Australian; that the only world leader “undoubtedly delighted” by the leaks, Benjamin Netanyahu – who often stays with Murdoch in London and has the award-winning pro-Israel media magnate on his “list of millionaires” (i.e. potential donors) – was singled out by Assange as a believer in diplomatic transparency; and that WikiLeaks has provided an unexpected “diplomatic coup” for the criminal state which was first promised to British Zionists in an enigmatic 1917 letter to an earlier Lord Rothschild.

These intriguing connections, which might appear suspicious to those suffering from the “crippled epistemology” associated with anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists, are undoubtedly coincidental.

Maidhc Ó Cathail writes extensively on U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East. Read other articles by Maidhc, or visit Maidhc’s website.

December 21st, 2010, 11:04 am


5 dancing shlomos said:

dont trust wikiL.


the kangaroo court/tribunal sponsored by usrael can return to its sewer home.


i will post this article re jewish calls for honor killings (taken from naqniq blog):

Posted by niqnaq

jewish rally calls for ‘honour killings’
December 21, 2010

Bat Yam rally: Death to Jewish women who date Arabs
Yoav Zitun, Ynet, Dec 21 2010

Some 200 people held a demonstration in central Bat Yam Monday evening against relationships between local Jewish women and Arab men. One of the protestors called out:

Any Jewish woman who goes with an Arab should be killed; any Jew who sells his home to an Arab should be killed.

During the rally, held under the banner, “We Want a Jewish Bat-Yam,” demonstrators also insulted the prophet Muhammad and made racist remarks against Arabs and their saints. Police forces maintained order, but did not act when the demonstrators made racist remarks. One of the speakers said:

We are not racist, we are just Jews. The Arabs are coming and taking our daughters. We will not allow it.

Moshe Ben-Zikri of Eilat said the “struggle” began three years ago in Givat Ze’ev. He said:

There were 330 Arab families there, and the Jewish women would walk around with them freely. We vowed this would not happen again. Just like we triumphed there, we will triumph in Bat Yam as well. We are not afraid of the police, the media or the Arabs. We only fear God.

Bat Yam Mayor Shlomo Lahyani strongly condemned the event and those who took part in it. Lahyani denied claims made by extreme right-wing activists Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel that this was a local initiative, telling Ynet angrily:

The city of Bat Yam denounces any racist phenomenon. This is a democratic country with laws. I would like these honorable gentlemen to find a different tree to climb on, far from Bat Yam. I am certain and I know that most of the protestors are not Bat Yam residents. This is a foolish attempt to create a provocation, which has failed.

Ben-Gvir and Marzel responded to the mayor’s accusations, saying:

Lahyani has failed in his attempt to ignore the harsh reality in Bat Yam, which has been taken over by hostile elements and is suffering from assimilation. The crowd which took part in the protest was furious at the failure to deal with this phenomenon. We suggest that Lahyani stop ignoring the danger.

One of the event’s organizers, Bentzi Gupstein, told Ynet Sunday night:

So many Arabs are dating Jewish women, and the public is fed up with it.

A short distance away, about 200 leftists and Arab residents of Bat Yam held a counter protest. They waved signs reading “We’re fed up with racists” and “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.”

December 21st, 2010, 12:59 pm


Norman said:

Palestinian Statehood to be Decided by UN?
ShareNew 0by stonehenge
Tue Dec 21, 2010 at 01:41:04 PM PST
On November 15, 1988, the State of Palestine was unilaterally declared in Algiers when the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s National Council adopted the Palestinian Declaration of Independence. The independent State of Palestine is widely recognized by over 100 United Nations member countries, although oftentimes in equivocal terms. Although an independent state, it has no universally recognized borders. In 1993, the Palestinian Authority recognized the state of Israel. Now it is the time for Israel and the world to recognize Palestine as an independent state in the 1967 borders.

stonehenge’s diary :: ::
The last thing Israel wants is for the issue to end up in the UN. But why not the UN? Consider that at the creation of Israel in 1947, the UN partitioned the land, allotting the Jews 55 percent of Palestine. The Arabs did not agree to this partition. The action of the UN conflicted with the basic principles for which the world organization was established, namely, to uphold the right of all peoples to self-determination. By denying the Palestine Arabs, who formed a two-thirds majority of the country, the right to decide for themselves, the UN had violated its own charter. Now is the chance for the UN to rectify its 1947 action and give the Palestinians a chance, denied them in 1947, to have a say in their future.

Why the 1967 borders? In the war of 1967, Egypt did not attack Israel. Rather, Israel conducted a pre-emptive strike against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. After the war, the remaining Palestinian territory was captured by Israel. Out of this captured land, Israel created the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by chopping up the land into isolated enclaves surrounded by Jewish settlements and Israeli occupation forces. The Palestinians lost 78 percent of their land to Israel and are left with 22 percent. Under the UN Charter there can lawfully be no territorial gains from war, even if a state acted in self-defense. Therefore, even if Israel’s action were to be considered defensive, its retention of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is unlawful.

A group of prominent former political leaders in Europe – foreign ministers, prime ministers, and other luminaries – has urged the European Union (EU) and its member states to explore the Palestinian statehood issue. In early December 2010, this group addressed an open letter (VIP letter) to the EU. The VIP letter makes reference to the twelve “Council resolutions on the Middle East peace process”, which the EU Foreign Affairs Council adopted on December 8, 2009. Since then, they write, “we appear to be no closer to a resolution” and the reason is that “developments on the ground, primarily Israel’s continuation of settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in East Jerusalem, pose an existential threat to the prospects of establishing a sovereign, contiguous and viable Palestinian state also embracing Gaza, and therefore pose a commensurate threat to a two-state solution to the conflict.”

The VIP letter further states: “We believe the EU should at the December 2010 Council meeting set a date at which it will take further action. It should, for example, say that if there is no progress by its next meeting scheduled for April 2011, this will leave the Council with no alternative but to refer the matter to the international community [the UN] to enable the latter to lead efforts to define a vision and a strategy for a resolution of this conflict.”

Further, the VIP letter quotes from the EU Council’s 2009 document to the effect that the EU “will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties.” In response to unilateral measures by Israel, “we recommend that the EU reiterate its position that it will not recognize any changes to the June 1967 boundaries, and clarify that a Palestinian state should be in sovereign control over territory equivalent to 100% of the territory occupied in 1967, including its capital in East Jerusalem.”

The White House had, prior to the VIP letter’s publication, acknowledged Israel’s refusal to stop settlements.

It is unclear what effect the VIP letter had or will have on the EU. But on December 16, 2010, Palestinian Authority negotiator Nabil Shaath asked the EU and several member states to recognize a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders. Faced with this formal request from the Palestinian Authority and citing growing frustration with the Israeli settlement expansions, the EU warned that it is seriously considering recognizing an independent Palestine along the 1967 borders.

The move by the EU would follow high profile recognitions by Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay in early December. Other Mercosur members and associate members may follow. (Mecosur is an economic and political agreement between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay founded in 1991. Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela currently have associate member status.) In addition, Norway declared its support.

Predictably, the Israelis are outraged. An Israeli Foreign Ministry statement said, “Recognition of a Palestinian state is a violation of the interim agreement signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 1995, which established that the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will be discussed and solved through negotiations.” He also claimed that such a stance violated provisions in the Oslo Accords and the Road Map. But really, has the Netanyahu government ever respected the provisions of those agreements. Israel’s continued building of settlements is one glaring example. And why should Israel have the final say on the borders of a Palestinian state?

What would happen if the Mideast conflict landed back to the UN? In the General Assembly an overwhelming majority would probably vote to recognize a sovereign, independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. But what about the Security Council? How would the U.S. vote?

In this regard, on December 15, the lame-duck Congress passed Res. 1765… by a voice vote. Presented by U.S. Representative Howard Berman (D. Cal) — a self-described Zionist — the resolution states that the Palestinians are “pursuing a coordinated strategy of seeking recognition of a Palestinian state within the United Nations, in other international forums, and from a number of foreign governments;” and some Latin American governments are moving in that direction; and, on the other, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has repeatedly said only negotiations can lead to a Palestinian state, a position endorsed by Israel; the Congress therefore opposes any such recognition strategy, calls on Palestinians to cease and desist from such efforts, and rather return to negotiations. The resolution ends with a call on the Administration to “affirm that the United States would deny recognition to any unilaterally declared Palestinian state and veto any resolution by the United Nations Security Council to establish or recognize a Palestinian state outside of an agreement by the two parties.”

What will President Obama do in the face of this biased resolution?

Clearly, pressure is being applied on Israel by the international community. The U.S. cannot continue to be treated like a doormat by Israel. The credibility of the UN, the EU, and the U.S. is at stake. As more and more countries recognize the Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, the matter may ultimately have to be debated and decided in the UN.

Tags: Palestine, Israel, United Nations (all tags) :: Previous Tag Versions

December 21st, 2010, 9:43 pm


norman said:


Did they sell the new T Bonds in Syria on Monday and how did that go ,

December 22nd, 2010, 8:36 am


Ghat Albird said:

Take this opportunity to wish you and othersa Merry Christmas and a Good 2011. Your #12 above was a very intersting read. Thanks.The illogic of the Israel/Palestenian tragedy hopefully is coming to an end. The Palestenians should have on a yearly basis since 1948 submitted their request for recognition to the UN General Assembly. But then hindsight is always clearer than foresight, and Golda Meir’s “there is no such thing as a Palestenian” now sounds real hollow.

December 22nd, 2010, 8:46 am


norman said:

Thank you GHAT , to you too,

I want to get every body’s attention that under UN rules a country can not keep lands occupied by force even if it is attacked .
So 1967 border is the border and can not be changed without mutual agreements .

December 22nd, 2010, 9:43 am


Jad/2 said:

“Forgotten Territory: The Political, Economic, & Social Impact of the Israeli Occupation on the Golan Heights by A. Dillon*”

December 22nd, 2010, 4:16 pm


5 dancing shlomos said:

all borders imposed on palestine/palestinians by outside powers and agencies and invaders are illegal.

the jewish declaration of its state was a declaration of war and aggression.

all palestine belongs to the palestinians.

no jew has a right to one particle of palestinian soil.

those jews who were legitimate palestinians became traitors when they became israelis/zionists. they forfeited all their rights.

December 23rd, 2010, 11:47 am


Ghat Albird said:

Golda Meir’s nightmare becoming a reality.

Israel fears UK moving towards recognising Palestinian state
Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The UK is preparing to confer diplomatic status on the Palestinian delegation in London for the first time, renewing fears in Israel that Europe is moving closer to recognising an independent Palestinian state.

The British Foreign Office confirmed it was studying a plan to see Palestinian “general delegations” upgraded to “diplomatic missions” in a number of European capitals.

Coming just weeks after the collapse of direct peace negotiations, following Israel’s refusal to halt settlement construction in the West Bank, the move was denounced by the Israeli government. Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, said: “This will certainly not encourage the Palestinians to return to direct talks.”

Although the change of status is largely symbolic, Israel has started a major lobbying campaign to stop the move.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian leadership has stepped up its efforts to win European recognition for a state on land occupied by Israel in 1967.

France, Spain and Portugal were the first countries to have upgraded the standing of Palestinian representation.

This month, several South American countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia declared their recognition of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.

December 23rd, 2010, 1:57 pm


majedkhaldoon said:

To All
Have a merry christmass,and happy new Year

December 23rd, 2010, 3:59 pm


Shai said:

I too wish everyone on SC, have a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year! May this year finally bring an end to misery for all in our region, and the long overdue Peace we all wish for.

December 24th, 2010, 5:59 am


Norman said:



December 24th, 2010, 7:47 am


majedkhaldoon said:

another spy,another kohain,in Syria

December 24th, 2010, 11:39 am


Ghat Albird said:

The worm as the saying goes has definitely turned.

December 24th, 2010, 3:55 pm


Akbar Palace said:

The worm as the saying goes has definitely turned.


No one wants a Palestinian state more than Israel. But because the 2 peoples are so intertwined, it would be preferable if Palestinian statehood could be negotiated with Israel.

Also, becoming a new member state goes through the UN,the UNSC, and all permanent UNSC members must agree. Borders and peace (with Hamas running Gaza) may be an issue.

Merry Christmas to all our Christian, jihadist and Zionist friends here on SC;)

December 25th, 2010, 11:29 am


majedkhaldoon said:

“No one wants a Palestinian state more than Israel”
This is absolutely not true, otherwise Israel would have agreed for the establishment of Palastine since 1988,this is a deceiving statement and everyone knows this is not true.

” it would be preferable if Palestinian statehood could be negotiated with Israel.”
This means that the fox determines what is right for the victim
Israel will not give the palastinians what they deserve,and their rights,it dictates on them what Israel wants
A.P. is a deceiver

December 26th, 2010, 12:23 pm


Ghat Albird said:


“No one wants a Palestinian state more than Israel”
This is absolutely not true, otherwise Israel would have agreed for the establishment of Palastine since 1988,this is a deceiving statement and everyone knows this is not true.

Avigdor Lieberman is on record as stating “Peace with a Palestinian state is not only impossible its FORBIDDEN.”.

December 26th, 2010, 1:19 pm


Shai said:

Israel’s finest Foreign Minister, Chief Diplomat, and a moderate open-minded politician:

Netanyahu could not have chosen better… Lieberman is the BEST THING that has ever happened to the Palestinian people. I have no doubt Historians will one day view him as such.

December 26th, 2010, 2:11 pm


Norman said:


The problem is that many Arabs , Correctly , Think that Lieberman says what most Israeli thinks , Except you ,

December 26th, 2010, 3:38 pm


Shai said:


While Lieberman’s party does gain seats in recent polls, he still does not receive more than 16% of the votes. If Netanyahu thought most Israelis agree with Lieberman, he’d support him openly, not oppose him.

The sad truth is that Israeli governments, from Left to Right, decade after decade, have always been held hostage by smaller parties, because of our multiparty system. It used to be mainly the religious parties (such as Shas, Yahadut Hatora, etc.) and recently it’s these ultra-right parties, such as Avigdor Lieberman’s.

Strange as it may sound, I’m not too worried about it yet. By keeping him in his coalition, Netanyahu is adding up “Right-Time”, which he may need one day I hope, when he presents a peace agreement that requires withdrawals to the 1967 borders. If he kicks Lieberman out right now, and replaces him with Kadima, he’ll be deemed more Center than Right, and that may cost him dearly. Plus, as the old saying goes, keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. There’s probably some of that going on as well.

Unfortunately for Israel, in the eyes of much of the World, Lieberman is an abomination.

December 26th, 2010, 3:49 pm


Ghat Albird said:

If Lieberman.. “is the BEST THING that has ever happened to the Palestinian people”…. as implied under #27 then the world is indeed flat.

The real best thing(s) that have ever happened to the Palestenians are Syrian diplomacy in Lebanon and the Iran – Syrian cooperation.

Lieberman is a bogeyman behind whom Netanyahu and his zionist supporters are using.

December 26th, 2010, 4:21 pm


Shai said:


I’m sure the Palestinians terribly appreciate the “help” Syria and Iran are affording them with their own separate regional interests.

But Lieberman, by representing Israel, is leaving no doubt whatsoever about Israeli “diplomacy”, and its attempts to reach peace agreements out of recognition in the continued suffering of others.

Neither Assad, Ahmadinejad, or Sayyid Nasrallah, could shine this light more clearly than Avigdor Lieberman.

December 26th, 2010, 4:30 pm


Norman said:


I hope Netanyahu comes to his senses before it is too late , and a war erupts,

December 26th, 2010, 4:31 pm


Shai said:


To clarify, what I mean with regards to Lieberman is this: It’s not Syrian or Iranian diplomacy in Lebanon or anywhere else in the region that has brought Latin American nations to recognize the State of Palestine. It’s Israel with its Lieberman-face.

World nations are quickly coming to the conclusion that with racist fanatics like Lieberman at Israel’s helm, diplomacy cannot work, and only unilateral and extreme measures might.

December 26th, 2010, 4:51 pm


Norman said:


I agree with you , it is unfortunate that the likes of Abba Eban are not there in Israel while the likes of Meier Kahane and Lieberman are permitted to prosper for the detriment of the long term safety of Israel and the Jews ,

When Kahane said what Lieberman is saying now he was declared a racist and his party was banned while we see Lieberman as foreign mister , things definitely changed in Israel for the worse,

December 26th, 2010, 6:06 pm


idaf said:

Preserving Heritage, and the Fabric of Life, in Syria

ALEPPO, Syria — At first glance it seems an unremarkable scene: a quiet plaza shaded by date palms in the shadow of this city’s immense medieval Citadel, newly restored to its looming power. Foreign tourists sit side by side with people whose families have lived here for generations; women, both veiled and unveiled, walk arm in arm past a laborer hauling tools into an old government building being converted into a hotel.

But this quiet plaza is the centerpiece of one of the most far-thinking preservation projects in the Middle East, one that places as much importance on people as it does on the buildings they live in. The project encompasses the rebuilding of crumbling streets and the upgrading of city services, the restoration of hundreds of houses in the historic Old City, plans for a 42-acre park in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods and the near-decade-long restoration of the Citadel itself, whose massive walls dominate the skyline of Aleppo, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and a gem of Islamic architecture.

The effort, led by a German nonprofit group and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture working with local government, is the culmination of a major philosophical shift among preservationists in the region. It seeks to reverse a 50-year history during which preservation, by myopically focusing on restoring major architectural artifacts, sometimes destroyed the communities around them. Other restoration efforts have also sparked gentrification, driving the poor from their homes and, at their worst, fostering rage that plays into the hands of militants.

By offering an array of financial and zoning incentives to homeowners and shopkeepers, this approach has already helped stabilize impoverished communities in a part of the world where the most effective social programs for the poor are often still run by extremist organizations like Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The project in Aleppo is quite an exceptional model,” said Daniele Pini, a preservationist who has worked for Unesco, the United Nations cultural arm, throughout the region. In places like Cairo and Jordan, he said, those who would restore historic buildings and those who live in them are often at loggerheads. The Aleppo plan, he said, “allows people to adapt the old houses to the needs of modern life.”

Correcting Past Blunders

The role of postwar urban planning in the rise of fundamentalism is well documented. In the 1950s and ’60s nationalist governments in countries like Egypt, Syria and Iraq typically viewed the congested alleys and cramped interiors of historic centers not as exotic destinations for tourists but as evidence of a backward culture to be erased. Planners carved broad avenues through dense cities, much as Haussmann had before them in Paris. Families that had lived a compartmentalized existence — with men often segregated from women in two- or three-story courtyard houses — were forced into high-rises with little privacy, while the wealthy fled for villas in newly created suburbs.

But while preservationists may have scorned Modernist housing blocks, they were often just as insensitive to the plight of local residents who got in their way. Even as they worked to restore architectural monuments in the Muslim world, they could be disdainful of the dense urban fabric that surrounded these sites. Neighborhoods were sometimes bulldozed to clear space around landmarks so they would be more accessible to tourists.

Agencies like Unesco often steered governments toward a Western-style approach to preservation. Traditionally a family might have built onto a house to accommodate a newly married son, for instance, adding a floor or a shop out front. But those kinds of changes were often prohibited under preservation rules.

“The word ‘athar’ — ‘antiquities’ — became a horrible word because it meant preserving our houses but not our traditions,” said Omar Hallaj, the chief executive of the Syria Trust for Development and a preservationist who has worked in Syria and Yemen.

These tensions grew with the boom in global tourism, as cities around the world sought to give travelers the “authentic” experience they craved, but in a safe, tidy and germ-free environment. The Old City of Damascus, for example, has in the last decade become a major draw both for the international tourist set and for Arabs who began traveling closer to home after Sept. 11. According to informed estimates, the number of foreign visitors to Syria has quadrupled over the last five years.

Even as the city government races to preserve its character, its courtyard houses are being converted into boutique hotels and fashionable restaurants. Many 20th-century structures — including impressive examples of early modern architecture from the time of the French mandate period — remain unprotected. The city has introduced incentives to keep some homeowners, but many preservationists think it’s too late.

Militant Islamic hardliners, meanwhile, have had equal disdain for both the modernizers and for the preservationists, many of them Western, who followed them.

“I remember when we first moved into the city of Zabid in Yemen, the local imam started going to the mosque saying, ‘The Germans are here to transform your towns into cabarets and brothels,’ ” Mr. Hallaj said.

What many militant extremists are fixated on is a utopia of the past: a vision of Islam in the era of the Prophet. Not only Western influence, but also three centuries of Ottoman rule — the period when the fabric of most Arab cities was created — is seen as a form of corruption.

“What is interesting about this whole argument between the modernizers on the one hand and fundamentalists on the other is that it all happens on the level of ideology,” Malise Ruthven, a historian who has written books on Islamic fundamentalism, said in a recent interview. Mohamed Atta, the central planner of the 9/11 attacks, once wrote an urban planning thesis on the Old City of Aleppo in which he said he wanted to tear out centuries’ worth of buildings, Mr. Ruthven said. He dreamed of “an Islamic city that was pure and unchanged — frozen in aspic.”

Benefits for Residents

At first sight the plan for Aleppo’s rehabilitation may not seem a radical departure from preservation as usual. Led by GTZ, a nonprofit organization owned by the German government, it began with a two-year analysis of the city’s historic structures that included hundreds of interviews with residents.

With GTZ’s guidance the government began laying more than 323 miles of sewage and water pipes, removing the webs of dilapidated electrical wiring that stretched across its alleyways and replacing missing cobblestones. To encourage building owners and their tenants to stay, the group set up a pilot program that offered interest-free construction loans. For those who accepted, it helped ensure that any renovations followed preservation guidelines.

“The rationale was that if the state is forcing preservation on people,” Mr. Hallaj said, “then the state has a responsibility to pay for that burden. So if they want a historical hand-carved window instead of an aluminum one, the state pays the difference.” Other incentives were put in place to encourage local businesses to stay — the kind of small neighborhood commercial establishments whose importance was championed by urban thinkers like Jane Jacobs.

What makes the project such an auspicious model for the region, though, is its clear grasp of how architecture can both shape and define relationships among social groups. Long before developers got an inkling of what was going on, GTZ and its government partners divided the Old City into zones, with new hotels and restaurants confined to two areas, one around the Citadel and the other in the Jdayde neighborhood. (GTZ describes Jdayde as an area of crooked streets and tiny shops with a large Christian population that would be more accepting of tourists than some of the more heavily Muslim areas.)

These zones, in turn, are being anchored by increasingly ambitious — and often architecturally magnificent — public spaces. The first, Al-Hatab Square in Jdayde, is a small patch of stone shaded by a few trees. Once partly built over with squalid sheds, the square has become a vibrant mix of Syrian families and foreign tourists, framed by old jewelry shops, fish markets and cafes.

It has been a decade since the Aga Khan Trust for Culture began its meticulous restoration of the Citadel. Its enormous moat was cleared of garbage and lined with low-growing plants. The ruins of houses and shops built by Ottoman soldiers stationed here in the 18th century, and destroyed in the 1828 earthquake were torn down. The mazelike interior walls — a monument to medieval paranoia designed to keep invaders from reaching the court’s inner sanctum — were cleared of rubble.

Just as important is the social vision behind it. The road surrounding the Citadel, which choked it with cars and exhaust fumes, has been replaced by a pedestrian walkway bordered by the newly landscaped moat on one side and scattered historical buildings on the other. Many of these are being beautifully restored, including a palatial 1930 neo-Classical structure that is being transformed into a hotel by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development. But if some of them — former government ministries built during the early half of the 20th century — are being turned into luxurious hotels for the wealthy, it is the buildings, not the public, that seem to be confined behind iron gates.

What’s particularly striking is the sense of shared ownership and belonging. The poor seem as comfortable strolling along the Citadel’s paths as the rich, which is all the more striking given that Syria is controlled by the authoritarian government of Bashar al-Assad and the ruling Baath Party. It is a expression of how public space, when thoughtfully designed, can promote a more egalitarian vision of civic life.

This atmosphere filters into the surrounding streets. The cobblestones look freshly scrubbed; the heavy wood shutters that front the old shops have yet to acquire the patina of age. But the clash of historical styles and eras that shaped Aleppo — and that made it one of the world’s great cosmopolitan centers — have not been smoothed over. And for the moment at least, you get the encouraging feeling that it is possible to push back at the forces of displacement. It’s a city being adapted for human beings, not for some abstract vision of a global consumer.

There is more to come. A few months ago the Aga Khan Trust for Culture began building the foundations for the 42-acre park in an impoverished neighborhood just outside one of the gates of the Old City. This hilltop site is now strewn with garbage. A sprawling asphalt parking lot borders it on one side; crumbling modern apartment blocks — the kind that 9/11’s mastermind envisioned demolishing — and decrepit 19th-century houses line the other.

The project, which is being modeled on an earlier one in Cairo, Al-Azhar Park, will feature rambling walkways and gardens with views over the Old City to the refurbished Citadel. The trust plans to train local people in traditional crafts like carpentry and stonecutting so they can take part in the park’s construction.

In a speech he gave in Aleppo two months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Aga Khan described his mission as creating an intellectual garden “where there would be no possibility of suffocation from the dying weeds of dogma” and “beauty would be seen in the articulation of difference,” a statement crystallizing what preservationists hope will happen now in Aleppo.

A Search for Continuity

The tricky question — and the one that may have the most longstanding impact for the Middle East — is whether Aleppo can carry its vision of social and historical continuity into the future. The government recently started an architectural competition for a new cultural complex that will include a 1,600-seat opera house, library and exhibition space in an area built during the French mandate.

And the city’s mayor, Maan Chibli, said that he recently asked GTZ to help plan for the redevelopment of the informal ramshackle settlements that have sprouted on Aleppo’s outskirts.

“These settlements date from the 1970s,” Mr. Chibli said. “They are part of a social pattern that leads back to the old villages. Someone arrives, then his brother follows. So the idea, as before, is not to destroy these areas. It is to begin by providing them with infrastructure and services, then work programs.”

But how to make the final link between historic preservation and the creation of a contemporary city remains blurry. Many preservationists working here, including some at GTZ, see the last 70 years as unworthy of their interest. And most contemporary architects, whose clients are almost uniformly drawn from the global elite, are out of touch with the complex political realities of the poor in the region.

These are not merely esoteric issues. They have to do with the real lessons that cities like Aleppo and Damascus can teach. Their power is not just the beauty of historical layers. It is that the coexistence of those layers, often piled one on top of the other, embodies a world in which every generation — including ours — has the right to a voice and individual creativity triumphs over ideological difference. It is the point at which tradition and modernity are no longer in violent conflict.

December 27th, 2010, 4:28 am


norman said:,0,5933585.story
Syria a bright star in the Middle East
Tourism is on the upswing in Syria, with a more modern government, lavish hotels sprouting up and cuisine and culture evolving in striking ways.
December 26, 2010


Syria, in the ancient heart of the Middle East, used to be rough, insular, politically extreme and all but off the map for travelers. Now, with a more forward-looking government, tourism increasing by almost 50% a year and opulent new hotels opening by the score, the luster is back on the magic lamp, making Syria one of the world’s most compelling destinations for 2011.

Recent visitors from the U.S. report that the largely Sunni Muslim population receives non-Islamic Westerners courteously, that tourists are allowed to shop and browse without annoyance from hard-selling touts and merchants, and that culture, cuisine and the arts in the former French colony have developed in strikingly stylish ways.

Other Syrian attractions are of much longer standing, beginning with the 4,000-year-old capital Damascus, once the richest city in the Arab world and paradise on Earth, according to the prophet Mohammed.

Its National Museum displays such treasures from the deep past as a clay tablet with mankind’s first recorded alphabet.

The landmark Umayyad Mosque began as a temple to Jupiter in the Roman era, then served as a Christian cathedral dedicated to St. John the Baptist before its conversion into an Islamic house of worship, where some of the Arab world’s greatest heroes were buried.

Before trendy cafes, restaurants, bars and galleries came to Strait Street in Old Town, it was noted in the Bible as the place where St. Paul regained his vision after his conversion on the road to Damascus.

Precious metals and essences, damask and silk spill from the El Hamidiyeh souk, and boutique hotels in renovated Byzantine-era mansions offer guests accommodations from a tale told by Scheherazade.

And that’s just Damascus, suitable for a long weekend getaway from major European gateways. For travelers with more time, the rest of Syria beckons: archaeological sites such as Palmyra; Krak des Chevalier, an 11th century crusader fortress near the Lebanese border; and the great mercantile city of Aleppo, western terminus of the Silk Road.


— Susan Spano

Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times

December 27th, 2010, 8:55 am


5 dancing shlomos said:

tourists are hell and damnation for any area.

December 27th, 2010, 1:58 pm


norman said:

Somebody in Syria is reading what we write on SC,

Print Back to story Syria Asks Companies to Bid for 10-Month Contract for 2 Highways
By Lina Ibrahim and Nayla Razzouk – Dec 27, 2010 Syria invited companies to bid for consultancy services to evaluate pre-qualification offers on a project to build two highways, according to the tender documents.

Interested companies have until 3:30 p.m. Damascus time on March 1 to submit tenders for the 10-month contract, according to the documents obtained today from the government’s Public Establishment for Road Communications in the capital.

One of the highways will cross Syria along 432 kilometers (268 miles) from the northern border with Turkey to Jordan in the south, it said. The second project will run along 351 kilometers from the western city of Tartous to the eastern town of Tanaf on the Iraqi border, it said.

Construction of the two highways is expected to cost $1.8 billion, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported on April 1, citing deputy Transportation Minister Mahmoud Zanbouha.

Nine companies from Germany, Greece, Turkey and Italy have submitted tenders to build the highways, Ath Thawra newspaper reported on Oct. 11, citing Yusuf Hammoud, director general of the Public Establishment for Road Communications.

Syria this year started a $5 billion, five-year plan to modernize its transport infrastructure.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lina Ibrahim in Dubai at; Nayla Razzouk in Beirut at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Maher Chmaytelli at


December 27th, 2010, 3:14 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Shai Knows the World Nations

World nations are quickly coming to the conclusion that with racist fanatics like Lieberman at Israel’s helm, diplomacy cannot work, and only unilateral and extreme measures might.


Since you know some much about what the “world nations” are thinking, please tell us what were they thinking before Lieberman was FM?

You’re a silly man, Shai.

And while you’re at it, tell us more about the “extreme measures” they will take? Recognize a State of Palestine? That’s what the Leftists have been begging for all these years.

But I doubt very much this would get past the UNSC, especially with Hamas in the mix.

December 28th, 2010, 1:52 am


Shai said:

Dearest Akbar,

Compared to your Neoconish views of Life, I’m sure my ideas seems “silly” to you. Funny, however, how you don’t call Netanyahu “silly”, when he publicly opposes Lieberman, when he sends his representatives to work out an apology with Turkey, when he accepts The Oslo Agreement (remember? or did you erase that from your memory?), when he kissed Arafat on the cheek, and referred to him as “a friend”, when he sent Ron Lauder in 1996 to offer Hafez Assad terms for a withdrawal from the Golan, and all these other little things one could only call “Leftist” in nature.

Do you think Netanyahu was “a silly man” when he did all these things?

By the way, I’m for returning fire when a Qassam rocket hits any inch of Israeli territory. Quite a few Qassams have been launched since Netanyahu became PM. Why are you not angry at him for not launching a 2nd Operation Cast Lead? Why is it that Centrists (Olmert) and Leftists (Barak) go on a killing spree in Gaza, but your Rightist Netanyahu doesn’t??? Doesn’t HE at least deserve the title “silly”, no less than me? 🙂

December 28th, 2010, 5:56 am


majedkhaldoon said:

It seems that the spy who was executed in Syria,Ayman Habal.has been in jail for several years,it may be that there is another spy , was arrested recently,he is still under interrogations.
Israel has many spies in Lebanon,some go to Syria freely.
one spy is more dangerous than 10,000 soldiers

December 28th, 2010, 10:06 am


5 dancing shlomos said:

poem copied from a gilad atzmon post:

“Wind of Change”

Gather round! Come gather round!
See the Caterpillars on stolen ground
Break the branch and rip the root,
Build Apartheid Wall and persecute!

(God?!) How can you talk to us of Love!
Your twisted zealots scream high above
To pain the humble and crush the dove.
The Zionist fist in a Cast lead glove.

So! Is this your ‘promised land’
This prison-camp of bloody sand?
And if they are your ‘chosen people’
Should they wreak such racist evil?

Flesh-smudged concrete, pulverised bone,
Even the brutalised are’nt left alone.
We can see your Zionist ‘kind’ ;
Sinister evil of the Fascist mind!

Crimes of Aggression. Crimes of War.
Then sound-bombs again for ‘The Settlers’ score!
Who will win your political election,
The Zionist bigot, or the Zionist whore?

Your ‘chosen people’ fear no blame!
Add Olives and Water to their list of shame:-
Shatila. Sabra. Quana. Jenin.
Elders clutch keys as their memories scream

(God!) How will you talk to us about Love
Collective Punishment ordained from above?
Your gifts of siege and deprivation
Compliment the cruelty of your Zionist Nation!

So! Witness the Flechettes, the D.I.M.E.-shredded gowns,
The White Phosphorus casings and bulldozed towns!
This hell-on-earth which you bestow……
Will light your pyre!

People of Conscience gather round
Now blow! BLOW !
(Arthur Jewell. Jan 2009)?

December 28th, 2010, 11:38 am


5 dancing shlomos said:

de evolution. but from what?

these pitiful creatures and their idol of worship are a disease upon all the earth.

Jesus Recruited to Help Ethnic Cleanse Forest
God-TV Helps Israel Oust Bedouins


A sign posted a few kilometres north of Beersheba, the Negev’s main city, announces plans to plant a total of a million trees over a large area of desert that has already been designated “God-TV Forest”.

The Jewish National Fund, an international non-profit organisation in charge of forestation and developing Jewish settlements in Israel, received $500,000 from God-TV to plant some of the trees, according to the channel’s filings to US tax authorities last year.

A coalition of Jewish and Bedouin human rights groups have denounced the project, accusing God-TV and the JNF of teaming up to force the Bedouin out of the area to make way for Jewish-only communities.

No one from God-TV was available for comment, but in a video posted on its website, Rory Alec, the channel’s co-founder, said he had begun fundraising for the forest after receiving “an instruction from God” a few years ago. He said God had told him: “Prepare the land for the return of my Son.”

Standing next to the “God-TV Forest” sign, Alec thanked thousands of viewers for making donations to “sow a seed for God”, adding: “I tell you Jesus is coming back soon!”

Part of the forest has been planted on land claimed by the Aturi tribe, whose village, al-Araqib, is nearby.

Al-Araqib has been demolished eight times in recent months by the Israeli police as officials increase the pressure on the 350 inhabitants to move to Rahat, an under-funded, government-planned township nearby.

Earlier this year, Joe Stork, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, criticised the repeated attempts by Israeli authorities to eradicate the village and displace its residents.

“Tearing down an entire village and leaving its inhabitants homeless without exhausting all other options for settling long-standing land claims is outrageous,” he said.

Human Rights Watch and other international human rights groups have criticised Israel for harsh measures taken against the people of al-Araqib and the other 90,000 Bedouin who live in Negev villages that the Israel refuses to recognise. They accuse the government of trying to pre-empt a court case moving through Israeli courts aimed at settling the Bedouin ownership claims.

God-TV’s involvement in the dispute has prompted fresh concern.

Neve Gordon, a politics professor at Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, said the JNF, which has semi-governmental status in Israel, had set a “dangerous precedent” in accepting money from God-TV.

“The Israeli authorities are playing with fire,” he said. “This dispute between the Israeli government and the Bedouin is a long one that until now focused on the question of land rights. But the involvement of extremist Christian groups like God-TV is likely to turn this into a religious confrontation, and that will be much harder to resolve.”

The JNF did not respond to questions about its involvement with God-TV or the Negev forest.

Gordon said it was particularly worrying that Alec was using the language of Biblical prophecy in justifying his decision to finance the forest.

The channel, which has become one of the most popular global evangelical stations since its founding in Britain 15 years ago, claims a potential audience of up to a half-billion viewers, including 20 million in the United States.

Stephen Sizer, a British vicar and prominent critic of Christian Zionist groups, described God-TV as part of an evangelical movement that believes Israel’s establishment and expansion are bringing nearer the “end times” – or the moment when, according to Christians, Jesus will return for the second time.

Its followers, he added, believed that, by dispossessing Palestinians of their land and replacing them with Jews, Jesus’s return could be expedited.

“Funding aliyah [Jewish immigration] and planting trees in the desert may look innocuous but it’s actually their way to side with the Israeli right’s hardline policies towards the Palestinian population.”

Sizer said there was increasing co-operation between Israeli institutions and Christian evangelical groups, which have begun basing their operations in Israel.

God-TV has proclaimed itself the only television channel to broadcast globally from Jerusalem, following its relocation there from the UK in 2007.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the head of the Union of Reform Judaism in the US, has repeatedly called on Israel to sever contacts with Christian Zionist and evangelical groups, describing them as opposed to “territorial compromise under any and all circumstances”.

God-TV has close ties to Christians United for Israel (Cufi), an umbrella group founded in 2006 by John Hagee, a Texan pastor, that lobbies on behalf of Israel in Congress.

Hagee, a frequent preacher on the TV channel, has regularly courted controversy with comments seen as anti-Semitic. Most notoriously, in a sermon in the late 1990s, he called Adolf Hitler “a hunter” who carried out God’s plan for the Jews to return to Israel by leaving them “no place to hide” in Europe.

Cufi and the other evangelical groups have lobbied strenuously in Washington on behalf of the illegal settlements in the West Bank and for Israeli control over the holy sites in East Jerusalem, said Sizer.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has been especially keen to seek out support from Christian evangelical groups, according to Shalom Goldman, a professor at Atlanta’s Emory University, who recently published a book on the Christian Zionist movement.

Last year Cufi announced a $38 million marketing drive to bring more Christian tourists to Israel, including the establishment of a “task force on global Christian relations” jointly overseen by Hagee and Netanyahu.

Haia Noach, the director of the Negev Coexistence Forum, which campaigns for Bedouin rights, said her organisation feared more of God-TV’s trees would be planted on Bedouin lands in the coming weeks. A depot has recently been established close to al-Araqib to store four bulldozers.

“The villagers refuse to abandon al-Araqib, even though it has been destroyed many times. But once a forest is planted there, there will be no chance to go back,” she said.

She said she feared the goal was to build Jewish communities on Bedouin land. She cited the case of Givat Bar, which was secretly established by the government on part of al-Araqib’s lands in 2003.

Repeated letters to the JNF for information about their forestation programme had gone unanswered, she said.

Awad Abu Freih, a community leader at al-Araqib, said the house demolitions and forest-planting were only the latest measures by the government to remove the villagers.

Repeated destruction of al-Araqib’s crops by spraying them with herbicides was ruled illegal by Israel’s Supreme Court in 2004.

Efforts to move 90,000 Bedouin off their lands close to Beersheba have been intensifying since 2003, when the Israeli government announced plans to move them into a handful of townships.

The Bedouin have resisted, complaining that the official communities are little more than urban reservations that languish at the bottom of the country’s social and economic tables.

December 28th, 2010, 12:03 pm


5 dancing shlomos said:

news report borrowed(will be returned) from niqnaq site:

devolved, diseased minds acting what they are: a curse upon humanity:

Wadi Hilweh Information Center – Silwan: Settlers’ noise
Monday, 27 December, 2010
Silwan, Jerusalem (SILWANIC) — A group of right-wing Israelis set up large-scale sound systems at Dung Gate of the Old City this afternoon, blaring loud noise pollution at the nearby homes in Silwan. This practice has become commonplace, with music played at decible levels so loud that it actually shakes the inside of their homes, nearby residents say. Families of Silwan are extremely disturbed by the increasingly regular noise attacks, which can cause injury or loss of hearing if sustained.
The noise pollution attacks are part of a continuing campaign of settler groups in Silwan to upset what little calmness or sanctity can still be found in the neighborhood. Many times settler groups have organized loud celebrations in the neighborhoods that continue late in to the night, with no thought to the residental areas they are located in. Life in Silwan is already characterized by a jarring cacophany of problems, barriers and noises, with wide-scale settlement and excavation projects taking place throughout the village, frequent traffic jams arising from checkpoints and road closures and the constant “security checks” Israeli forces subject Palestinian pedestrians and vehicles to.

December 28th, 2010, 12:15 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Men of “Ideas”

Shai states,

Compared to your Neoconish views of Life, I’m sure my ideas seems “silly” to you.

Shai, your comments I quoted in your post #34 are devoid of any “ideas”. Your post only contains your own opinion based on no facts at all.

You know nothing about “world nations”, and you know nothing about their “unilateral and extreme measures”. You simply make this up in your head. But it does make the anti-semitic readership here happy, so in that sense, keep up the good work.

these pitiful creatures and their idol of worship are a disease upon all the earth.

Dear 5 Dancing Ahmads,

What have you been doing to fight this perceived “disease”?

December 29th, 2010, 12:23 am


Shai said:


Thank you for the clarification, especially about the contribution to the “antisemites here”. I’m sure my words make them hate Jews even more.

As for “world nations”, about whom I know nothing, I was of course referring to Latin America who recently almost unanimously chose to recognize a State of Palestine, about certain unimportant European nations such as France and Britain, and even about the United States that was first to raise the status of its Palestinian delegation to diplomatic. (Israel, btw, condemned only these actions taken by Latin American nations, not when taken by our allies…) Maybe these things aren’t facts – please correct me where I’m wrong.

I know recognition in a State of Palestine is meaningless to you, but apparently it is important enough for Israeli leaders and politicians to send a clear message to the United Nations (where “world nations” convene) and to our allies, saying that such recognition will only push us away from negotiations. Supposedly, Israel is very interested in negotiations, and it is therefore seen in Israel as a very negative thing. To some of us, it is very meaningful, and not in a positive way.

I happened to notice that you completely ignored my questions to you about Netanyahu, and whether the actions he took / takes as described in my Comment 41 above, are worthy of your title “a silly man”. Please take a minute or two to respond to these questions, as I’m sure many here on SC would appreciate and benefit from your opinion on the matter.

December 29th, 2010, 4:39 am


Ghat Albird said:

If the SHAI/AKBAR point counterpoint above is indicative of earnest dialogue then the die is cast for another war acording to intelligence reports quoting what thoughtfull Israelis are worried about………

“Somebody wrote this week that America’s support of Israel is a case of assisted suicide. Those whom the gods want to destroy, they first make mad. Let’s hope we (israelis) recover our senses before it is too late.”

December 29th, 2010, 10:52 am


Akbar Palace said:

Shai’s Self-Importance (con’t)

I’m sure my words make them hate Jews even more.


IMHO, you’re words here are like the cherry on top of the ice cream. But please don’t assume your words have any real impact here. And your pat on your own back is premature. The anti-semites here on Syria Comment wouldn’t be any more or less anti-semitic even if you never wrote a single word.

As I showed before, only 19 member UN states (Arab and Muslim states) do not recognize the State of Israel out of 192 member states. Israel’s economy and trade is humming along despite the state of war between the Hamas entity, the PA, Lebanon and Syria. And Palestinian Statehood has been declared in the past and it has been discussed ever since the 1993 handshake.

I think John Bolton discusses the issue realistically in the article below. I seriously doubt it will ever be brought to the floor of the UNSC (need to register).

Because the Palestinians and the Israelis are so intertwined, the best way to settle the matter is by negotiation. This cannot be forced, and I think the Obama Administration understands that.

There are no “extreme measures” being discussed, and supporting a Palestinian State is not an “extreme measure”. Forcing Israel to a border that doesn’t include the Old City of Jerusalem is an “extreme measure” and it won’t fly. That is why it will never come to a UNSC vote.

December 29th, 2010, 12:26 pm


Post a comment

Neoprofit AI beylikdüzü escort