Will Sanctions and the Mughniyah Killing Make Syria Blink?

The Bush administration believes the best way to convince Syria to compromise with March 14 and improve its record on the Iraq border is by increasing the pain imposed on Syrian officials and the regime. I think this will fail, but one can never tell. We will see. There are those who believe that the situation in Lebanon is being stabilized by the heightened rhetoric of March 14, the killing of Mughniyah, and added sanctions on Syria.

The irony for me is that only 3 days ago, I wrote a policy paper for people in Washington arguing that the US had little remaining leverage over Syria. Sanctions, diplomatic isolation, the Hariri trial, and "sticks" in general had not worked. Only "carrots" and engaging Syria in mutually beneficial arrangements stand a chance of influencing Damascus' policies in a direction favored by the US. On the Iraqi border, the issue I was asked to address, winning greater Syrian compliance would be relatively easy. Syria's main interest in Iraq these days is to increase trade and to make growing commerce with Iraq an integral part of the overall effort to grow the Syrian economy. It wants the Kirkuk-Banyas oil pipeline repaired and opened; it wants subsidies for the 1.5 million Iraqi refugees in Syria, it wants…. There is a long list.

After writing the essay – surprise – Mughniyah was killed and President Bush announced a new order of sanctions, targeting anyone engaged in "public corruption." In essence, the deck has been cleared for a bare knuckle fight between Washington and Damascus.

Many analysts believe that Syria and Hizbullah, enraged by the insult of the Mughniyah killing, will strike out at a high-value Israeli or American target and get trapped in a cycle of revenge killings that only Washington can win. In such a war, America's superior press machine will be able to paint Damascus as a center of terrorism. Washington will lean on Europeans to join it in yet more Syrian sanctions and condemnation.

But Damascus is unlikely to head unwittingly down this path. It's eyes are set on Lebanon and promoting its allies there. It is unlikely that Syria will fall into this trap and allow itself to be diverted from its primary goal by the Mughniyah provocation. Damascus will hold tight in Lebanon, preventing the election of a president and the meeting of parliament. The Lebanese economy is groaning under this regime of paralysis. Saudi Arabia pumped another billion dollars into the central bank last week to keep it afloat. US markets down-graded Lebanese debt and banks to the level of super junk, which serves to raise the price of further borrowing and refinancing for Lebanon. Such economic water-torture is designed to make March 14 suffer – after all, most of Lebanon's wealthy and globalized belong to March 14. Most of the country's poor and less globalized belong to the opposition.

The battle between Washington and Damascus is largely an economic one. Washington has imposed every type of sanction on Syria it can, but to little effect. Syria's economy is growing at almost 6%. Lebanon's economy is stagnating. It has been limping along since taking a 15% dive during the Israeli clobbering of 2006. Stagnation has come despite the 7 billion dollars promised by foreign powers, military aid, and other largess, such as the Saudi infusion, from wealthy allies.

Bashar al-Assad has promised his people two things: to pursue "resistance" against Israel and America in the pursuit of "Arab rights," as his father did, and to grow the economy and globalize. Syrians are fed up with being poor and sacrificing economically for a fight which hardly seems winnable. All the same, they believe in the "Arab values" and Arab identity that go along with fighting for the Golan and fighting Israel, so long as they don't have to sacrifice too much for them. Bashar al-Assad is pursuing the China model – economic liberalization and globalization – while maintaining strict political control and preserving its regional role and leverage to fight Israel and America for the return of the Golan and "Arab rights."

Washington wants to cut Syria down to size and deny it any possibility of pursuing the resistance option of gaining leverage against Israel for a return of the Golan. It wants to destroy Hizbullah and to take Lebanon out of Syria's sphere of influence. It hopes to eliminate Hamas and force Syria to expel whatever resistance-minded Palestinian leaders it harbors in Damascus. In essence, Washington has set itself the task of inducing Damascus to follow a "Syria First" policy, much as Jordan follows a "Jordan First" policy. This is a tall order as it requires Syria making an ideological and strategic about face. It's entire identity would need to be turned inside out.

To stand some chance of success, Washington will have to demonstrate to Syrians that America's allies are winning the battle in the Middle East – both economically and in terms of security. So far, the US is doing a miserable job demonstrating this. The Syrian economy is growing and Syria has stability. Lebanon's economy is dangerously over-extended and living on the mercy of foreign infusions. It has no security. Iraq – we won't talk about it. America calculated incorrectly in Iraq at almost every level. Today, Iraqis have no future. Syrians blame this on America, not Saddam, despite US efforts at public diplomacy.

President Assad is unlikely to change course because of the new sanction law, the Mughniyah killing, and the upping of US funding for the international Hariri tribunal. This increased pressure and use of the "stick" will have to show results that the average Syrian taxi driver will understand.

Washington cannot win the economic war with Syria unless it can crash the Syrian economy. The new sanction law will be hot air if it is not used to paralyse the financial freedom of Rami Makhlouf, the President's cousin and the Mr. Economy for the Syrian regime. He will have to include all the top financiers in the sanctions regime in order to make the economy stumble and scare away foreign capital. If President Bush is serious, he will have to pursue his war all the way to the end.

President Assad is unlikely to blink in the face of President Bush's most recent provocations and warnings. Bush has lost his credibility in the Middle East. He is generally reviled. Most Syrians, and perhaps most Arabs, believe he is a greater terrorist than Assad because of what he has done to Iraq and Palestine. Assad has won the Arab propaganda war, even if he has lost the world propaganda battle. 

People believe he is a wounded lion and merely stringing out his confrontational policy until the end of his administration. Like a wounded lion, he is still dangerous, but his strength is in rapid decline. Few believe he can muster an all out fight. Certainly, he doesn't want to look weak; he doesn't want to abandon his March 14 allies; and he doesn't want to relinquish the "freedom agenda" which has become the core identity of his administration. Bush has taken a big blow in Lebanon due to his failure to anoint a new president who might allow March 14th to carry forward the anti-Hizbullah and anti-Syria fight. Bashar al-Assad and his Lebanese allies defied Western interests. They will pay a price for it. All the same, they expect to absorb the blow.

It is unlikely that they will be diverted from their main policy goals by the Mughniyah assassination. If anything, they will likely rally their supporters by preaching sacrifice and endurance. They will dig in for a new round of economic strictures and pain. If Bashar cannot deliver resistance and economic growth simultaneously, Washington has a chance of winning, but of course, it will be a Pyrrhic victory. Instead of Washington drawing Damascus into a terrorist game of tit-for-tat, Damascus will draw Washington into a game of starve-the-Syrian, which is a lose-lose game for America and everyone concerned.









Aleppo Jazz Quartet  in 2007 at the Citadel: Photo from here

Here are the relevant articles about sanctions, judicial pressure, and the propaganda blame game.

Bush orders sanctions against Syrian officials WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush, stepping up pressure on Syria, ordered new sanctions Wednesday to punish officials in Damascus for alleged efforts to undermine stability in Iraq and meddle in Lebanon's sovereignty and democracy.

Bush, in an executive order, said he was expanding penalties against senior government officials in Syria and their associates deemed to be responsible for — or to have benefited from — public corruption. The order did not specifically name any officials.

Bush signed the order a day after Imad Mughniyeh, one of the world's most wanted and elusive terrorists, was killed in a car bombing in Syria nearly 15 years after dropping from sight. The one-time Hezbollah security chief was the suspected mastermind of attacks that killed hundreds of Americans in Lebanon and of the brutal kidnappings of Westerners.

"The world is a better place without this man in it," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. "One way or the other, he was brought to justice."

The White House said Wednesday's executive order built on one Bush issued in May 2004 that banned all U.S. exports to Syria except for food and medicine. His earlier action followed long-standing complaints that the Middle Eastern nation was supporting terrorism and undermining U.S. efforts in Iraq.

Syria rejects new US sanctions, says Bush administration is corrupt

Syria ridiculed Thursday US president George Bush's decision to expand sanctions on Syrian officials saying that a country occupying the land of others has no right to hurl accusations.

On Wednesday President Bush ordered new sanctions to punish Syria for allegedly trying to undermine stability in Iraq and undercut Lebanon's sovereignty and democracy.

"The ones who steal the resources of other countries through occupation and corruption have no right to accuse others," said a high-ranking Syrian official to the Associated Press. "The Bush administration is not matched by any government in the world when it comes to corruption."

The official, who spoke on strict condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, was referring to reports of billions of dollars wasted by the US government on Iraq's reconstruction.

Fadlallah blames US for prolonging political crisis
America has worked 'to weaken' arab initiative
Saturday, February 16, 2008

BEIRUT: Senior Shiite cleric Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah lashed out at the United States on Friday accusing it of obstructing "any sort of solution" to the 14-month-old political deadlock in Lebanon. "The US has worked on weakening the Arab initiative aimed at solving the crisis in Lebanon and stirring political as well as sectarian tensions among the Lebanese," Fadlallah said during his Friday sermon at the Imam Hassanayn Mosque in Haret Hreik.

The Arab three-point plan calls for electing the head of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) General Michel Suleiman as president, the formation of a national unity government, and the drafting of a new electoral law for the 2009 parliamentary poll.

"The situation in Lebanon is going from bad to worse and the US and its Lebanese allies should be held responsible for the deadlock in Lebanon," he said.

Fadlallah added that the Lebanese live "in a state of fear and uncertainty because they no longer stand united."

Syria is "directly responsible" for the political crisis in Lebanon and the accompanying violence, a senior U.S. state department official said in Paris on Friday. PARIS (AFP)

  "I would describe the situation as one of continuing blockage and the continued eruption of violence in Lebanon … We regard Syria as directly responsible for this situation," said David Satterfield, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's representative for Iraq.

  "The role Syria has to play is very simple: to allow the Lebanese to proceed with free elections. It's not a complicated proposition," he said.  

Satterfield had talks with President Nicolas Sarkozy's foreign affairs advisor Jean-David Levitte and officials from the French foreign ministry. 

He said Damascus had taken action to reduce the number of anti-American insurgents passing into Iraq from Syria, but had done so mainly for its own internal reasons.

"These are dangerous individuals. They are individuals fundamentally threatening to Syria's interests as well. They are not good people to have in your country.

"Syria we believe did take certain steps (but) we do not believe the Syrians have taken any steps for the sake of Iraq to constrain this flow. Whatever they have done has been solely for the  regime's own security purposes," he said.

U.S. doubles its funds for U.N. Hariri tribunal
February 14, 2008

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States plans to double its funding of a U.N. tribunal on the killing three years ago of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Thursday.

Subject to congressional notification, Washington would raise its pledge to $14 million from $7 million to help fund the U.N. tribunal's one-year budget, Rice said in a statement issued to mark the anniversary of Hariri's murder on February 14, 2005.

"Lebanon, on this day of remembrance for former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and all those killed, injured or persecuted in the service of the Lebanese nation, the United States shares your sorrow, but also your hope," Rice said.

"Our commitment to you and your chosen government is unshakable. We and the international community will not rest until your calls for peace, justice and freedom have been answered," she added.

The United Nations has created a special tribunal to try those responsible for the assassination of Hariri, whose killing triggered international pressure that forced Syria to end its 29-year military presence in Lebanon.

"We hope the tribunal will help deter further political assassinations, end an era of fear for Lebanese citizens and impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes, and help protect the sovereignty of Lebanon," Rice said.

U.N. investigators are also looking into other assassinations and bombings in the past three years that reflect Lebanon's lengthy conflict between the anti-Syrian government coalition and the opposition, which is led by the pro-Syrian Hezbollah group.

Syria has denied any involvement in the assassinations.

Lebanon's opposition and the governing coalition have been locked in a power struggle for 15 months that has paralyzed the government and left the country without a president since November.

(Reporting by Sue Pleming, editing by Patricia Zengerle)

Ban creates management team for Special Tribunal
Daily Star staff, Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ban creates management team for Special Tribunal

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has established a management committee of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon being set up to try those responsible for political killings, particularly the February 2005 car bombing in Beirut that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others, a statement issued by Ban's media office said on Thursday.

"The secretary general believes that this step, along with other steps announced in December of last year – the selection of the judges, the appointment of the prosecutor, the finalization of a headquarters agreement with the government of the Netherlands enabling the Tribunal to be based in that country, and agreement on a building near The Hague to house the Tribunal – are decisive landmarks in the process of making the Special Tribunal a reality," Ban's spokesperson said in a statement.

The committee, which will among other tasks provide advice and policy direction on all nonjudicial aspects of the operations of the Special Tribunal and review and approve its annual budget, is composed of the body's main donors, according to the statement.

The spokesperson for Ban also announced that the expected contributions to the Special Tribunal will meet the budgetary requirements for its establishment and the first 12 months of operations. Syrians are preparing to sue the United States for supplying weapons to Israel that later killed Syrians in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, said Syria's foreign minister, a day after Washington announced new sanctions against Damascus.

Speaking at a press conference with his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, Walid Moallem promised that Syria would punish the U.S. for its decision to impose fresh sanctions against Syrian officials.

"This time I tell you we will punish the United States … there are scores of Syrians who became victims during the Israeli war against Lebanon, they will file lawsuits against America, who provided Israel with the weapons, he said.

President George W. Bush ordered new sanctions on Wednesday to punish Syria for allegedly trying to undermine stability in Iraq and undercut Lebanon's sovereignty and democracy.

Bush, in an executive order, said he was expanding sanctions against senior government officials in Syria and their associates deemed responsible for or to have benefited from public corruption.

President George W. Bush ordered new sanctions on Wednesday to punish Syria for allegedly trying to undermine stability in Iraq and undercut Lebanon's sovereignty and democracy.

Bush, in an executive order, said he was expanding sanctions against senior government officials in Syria and their associates deemed responsible for or to have benefited from public corruption.

Damascus: Syrians to sue U.S. for selling weapons to Israel

Imad Mughnieh's body may be back in Beirut and the tangled wreckage of his bombed car towed away by the police but the shattering fallout of the Hezbollah commander's assassination in Syria was still reverberating through the increasingly isolated regime in Damascus yesterday.

The administration, already under pressure from an international investigation into a truck bomb that killed Rafiq Haririexactly three years ago, faced fresh calls from President Bush for tighter sanctions for hosting one of the world's most wanted terrorists.

Analysts said that President Assad of Syria will be under even more pressure to explain to Iran how he let one of its key assets be murdered yards from a base of the Iranian Mukhabarat [intelligence service].

Mughnieh's killing was another blow for Mr al-Assad. Mr Hariri's murder was widely blamed on Damascus and led to protests that forced Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon, where they had played a dominant role for three decades.

That blow to Syria's prestige was compounded last summer by an Israeli airstrike which destroyed what some analysts believe may have been a nascent nuclear facility or chemical weapons plants deep inside the country. Then, as now, Syria appeared confused and weak, its stunned silence gradually giving way to contradictory denials from various official sources.

“In terms of military deterrence Syria has taken a huge hit and they have to make it back. In this region you have to look tough,” said Meir Javendafar, an expert on Iran at the Middle East Economic and Political Analysis Company in Tel Aviv.

Sensing that weakness, Washington was quick to pile on the pressure. Mr Bush ordered expanded financial sanctions against senior Syrian officials whom he accused of actions that “undermine efforts to stabilise Iraq”, where Syria is accused of sending Islamist extremists and weapons. He also charged Syria, a major backer of the Shia militia Hezbollah, with meddling in Lebanon and fermenting problems for Beirut's pro-Western Government.

“I wish to emphasise … my ongoing concern over the destabilising role Syria continues to play in Lebanon, including its efforts to obstruct, through intimidation and violence, Lebanon's democratic processes,” Mr Bush said.

The most intense pressure is likely to come from Iran, which lost, in Mughnieh, a vital asset in its covert, anti-Israeli and anti-American network. The fact that the hit took place in Damascus may raise suspicions that elements of the Syrian security apparatus were infiltrated or even turned.

Comments (188)

Qifa Nabki said:


What are the carrots that you proposed in your policy paper?

If sticks won’t work, then what do you suggest as an alternative? (This is necessarily a policy recommendation for Bush’s successor, since this administration has committed itself to a single direction, in the ME).

What kind of carroty compromise is possible with Asad, vis-a-vis Lebanon? I can imagine the “long list” that you speak of. Return of the Golan, a “comprehensive peace plan” for the region, Jimmy Hoffa’s right pinky finger, and a whole other basket of impossible requests. Why bother compromising when Lebanon will be his soon enough, once the already junked economy goes into free fall, civil war returns, and Syria is forced to take several preventative “stabilizing” measures?

Why is it reasonable to offer carrots to a regime that seems only to deal in sticks?

February 17th, 2008, 1:00 am


Nour said:


I really don’t understand why you stick to the idea that Syria wants to find a way back to Lebanon. I guarantee you that this is the last thing that Syria really wants. They merely wish to see a government in Lebanon that is not anti-Syria and that will not be used by the US or Israel to attack Syria. These are valid concerns, but rather than addressing them, Lebanese loyalist figures are reinforcing Syria’s worries by publicly calling for the invasion of Syria, for the overthrow of its regime, and for the killing of its president.

February 17th, 2008, 1:13 am


Qifa Nabki said:


I don’t think it’s any secret or a M14-inspired conspiracy theory to say that Syria wants to find a way back to Lebanon. The question is, what shape will this “way back” take?

I’m very glad that you raised this, because I have been trying to get Joshua, Alex, and others to respond to in detail to this issue, without much luck. : )

Syria doesn’t want the needless cost of a redeployment in Lebanon, but Asad wants more than a merely “friendly” government next door. You say that “they merely wish to see a government in Lebanon that is not anti-Syria and that will not be used by the US or Israel to attack Syria.” The Syrians cannot tolerate a hostile government in Lebanon, and I agree that M14 has painted themselves into a corner with their rhetoric. It’s hard to see how most of them will be able to reconstruct a viable political future for themselves. (But who knows, if Aoun could do a complete about-face, maybe there’s hope for Jumblatt).

My firm belief is that Syria’s interests in Lebanon go beyond mere defensive measures. As Joshua has said many times, Hizbullah is one of Bashar’s most important cards, and so is Lebanon. If Syria is going to pursue both “resistance” and economic progress, it needs Lebanon to cooperate, and this means exercising a considerable degree of control over what happens and doesn’t happen in Beirut.

How do you think the loyalist politicians should address Syria’s security concerns, while simultaneously addressing Lebanese concerns? As Observer said recently, reforming the Lebanese political system will create safeguards such that the majority cannot crush the minority, and political groups will not be beholden to each other or to foreign powers. Such a system will make it potentially much more difficult for Syria to safeguard its Lebanese interests, even though such a system is patently more beneficial for the Lebanese.

Conflict of interest? I think so.

February 17th, 2008, 1:59 am


majedkhaldoun said:

The investigations in Imad Mughniyeh death, will it take days,weeks,or months?

February 17th, 2008, 2:14 am


Honest Patriot said:

It’s elmentary, Nour. What you refer to as “merely wish to see a government in Lebanon that is not anti-Syria and that will not be used by the US or Israel to attack Syria” translates into dominance over all Lebanese foreign policy to the detriment of Lebanon’s own interest. If you listened carefully to the pronouncements of Prime Minister Saniora you would recognize that all the “Lebanese loyalists” are asking for is true independence and protection from Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs. Lebanon has no interest in being “used by the US or Israel to attack Syria,” and Saniora has stated that Lebanon will be the last Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel. By the same token however, the (loyalist) Lebanese refuse to be used as a battlefront to help Syria continue to foment irritation and trouble with Israel in its quest to regain the Golan which it should only blame itself for losing. The US and Israel have no offensive intentions towards Syria but are acting defensively to stop Syria from harboring and encouraging rejectionists and terrorists who represent the sorry face of the utter failure of the Arab nation to fight effectively for gaining back their rights and the rights of Palestinians.

February 17th, 2008, 2:17 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Very short sighted analysis. Washington does not need to “crash” the Syrian economy to win. All it needs to do is limit substantially the growth of the Syrian economy. The results will come in a few years due to the huge demographic growth in Syria.

To get prespective, take a look at:

(How has the average age of the wedding changed in Syria? I don’t know, but if someone has this statistic it can tell a lot.)

The two things Asad promised his people are incomaptible. You cannot support terrorism and hope for significant growth a la China. 6% is just not enough for Syria. First, if the population is growing 3% per year then the per capita growth is a measley 3%. Second, it is notoriously hard to collect reliable economic data in countries like Syria and the large inflation only complicates matters.

Heady growth means people can consume more. All the indications from Syria are that most people are consuming LESS because inflation has cut the real value of their pay and because the growth there is (or isn’t) is not translating into higher salaries.

Each time Lebanon is hurt, Syria is also hurt. There is less work for the 1 million Syrians in Lebanon and less growth of jobs for Syrians in Lebanon. And isn’t Syria’s main problem job creation?

In short, Bush and the next administration will keep the pressure on Syria until the Syrians understand that Asad has fooled them. This may take 5-10 years, but really, what is the rush? The only way to battle Asad is with patience.

February 17th, 2008, 3:00 am


Honest Patriot said:

AIG is a student of Jean de La Fontaine 🙂
“Patience et longueur de temps font plus que force ni que rage.”

February 17th, 2008, 3:08 am


Honest Patriot said:

… on the other hand … (did you see it coming?)… AIG and AP should really recognize a fundamental human truth magically stated by a famous Arabic poet, Abul Kassim El Shabi –
Translated as: “If a people at one time decide to want their life, then destiny shall no doubt oblige”
Ithassha3boo yawman aradal hayata falaboodda an yastajeebal kadar (…)
The Palestinian people are enduring suffering which, by its sheer duration, is quite possibly superseding the fair claim of persecution of the Jews over the ages. It is an irony of fate that the (main) culprits here are those people themselves who should have the compassion of their experience.

Nour, T, G, Ausamaa, et al. You do need to realize that the Palestinian cause has had no better advocate than Lebanese patriots who want to work within the international norms to redress the injustice they have suffered and continue to. Pity the wretched methods used in vain and the subjugation of the Lebanese people to so much oppression – when they are the ones who can truly be of help.

February 17th, 2008, 3:15 am


Alex said:


When you Google search about Some Syria related topic … your brain filters the other half of the links which are not to your liking … that’s how you keep coming up with these incredibly certain predictions.

Qifa Nabki,

I did answer your question already… remember?

I totally agree with Nour this time … M14 blew it .. so many times. the last one was few months ago when a solution was possible .. but Hariri started to to speak louder about fighting the criminal regime in Syria … he actually escalated his insults and accusations to Damascus WHILE saying that they (M14) are willing to accept many compromise in order to reach a solution.

So Syria understood that the M14 set of Syria haters are not able to get over it … unless wiser people take over from the warlords, there is no solution except with extensive guarantees.

It does not look good. It will either be a bloody confrontation, or in tat case I hope Michel Sleiman will quickly take over in a popular military coup.

I have many Lebanese friends (from all sides) and all of them do not mind at this point to see the popular General show some decisiveness to save the country … then call for new elections in 3 months.

It will be the best way out without causing anyone to feel like a loser … The army is neutral internally and externally … no one accuses the army of being pro Hizbollah or Pro Jumblatt or Pro Israel or Pro Iran.

What do you think QN?

February 17th, 2008, 3:52 am


norman said:

I agree , i think the army chief should take over and call for new election and nominate a committee to set new rules for the election if that can be done or just new election .

February 17th, 2008, 5:09 am


Joshua said:


I do not have an answer for your Lebanon question.

I don’t think it’s any secret or a M14-inspired conspiracy theory to say that Syria wants to find a way back to Lebanon. The question is, what shape will this “way back” take?

I’m very glad that you raised this, because I have been trying to get Joshua, Alex, and others to respond to in detail to this issue, without much luck. : )

I am waiting for your promised proposal. In my policy essay, I was only asked to deal with the problem of the Iraq border and Syria’s unwillingness to shut it down 100% to mujahidiin.

On the Lebanon issue, it is hard to see a compromise right now. I am out of ideas. The general atmosphere has become too poisonous.

February 17th, 2008, 5:24 am


norman said:

‘Mughniyeh, Syria were planning attack’

JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST Feb. 17, 2008


At the time of his assassination, allegedly carried out by the Mossad, arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh was cooperating with the Syrians in planning an attack against Israeli targets to avenge an Israel Air Force strike on a Syrian site in September 2007, according to “informed Israeli sources” quoted by the British Sunday Times on Sunday.

According to “Israeli intelligence sources” quoted by the paper, Mossad agents replaced the headrest of the driver’s seat in Mughiyeh’s SUV with another headrest containing a small cache of explosives.

Israel, according to the Times report, believes that Mughniyeh was also charged with rehabilitating Hizbullah’s arsenal after the blows it suffered during the Second Lebanon War. Mughniyeh allegedly rearmed the group with Iranian Fateh 110 rockets, which can reach Tel Aviv and, according to the report may also be capable of delivering a chemical payload.

According to a source quoted by the report, on the day after the assassination Mossad Chief Meir Dagan was summoned by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Jerusalem, where he was “complimented by his boss” on a job well done and told that his contract at the helm of the intelligence agency would be extended through the end of 2009.



This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1203019395821&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

[ Back to the Article ]

Copyright 1995- 2008 The Jerusalem Post – http://www.jpost.com/

February 17th, 2008, 5:53 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

If you think I am wrong, then explain why by providing contradicting evidence. Psychological mumbo jumbo is not a form of argumentation.

February 17th, 2008, 5:58 am


Alex said:

AIG …. Here is your answer

1)”According to “Israeli intelligence sources” quoted by the paper”

2) “the paper” is owned by who??

You want contradicting evidence? … let me check the official Syrian Teshreen paper.

I am sure you will trust it just like I trust the Sunday Times.

February 17th, 2008, 6:24 am


Mazen said:


I think (and hope) you are right. I do not think that Syria will jump to a thoughtless act in response to the bombing in Damascus. However, I would like to see the promise that Mr. Moalem made to reveal the perpetrators of the bombing come true. What the Syrian government will say in this yet-to-be made statement will determine a lot of the answer.

Let us not forget that this assassination comes a mere 10 days after the assassination of Wissam Eid, a major M14 intelligence figure in Lebanon, said to have been a liason officer for one or more Arab intelligence agencies.

There is reason to believe that the assassination in Damascus was carried out by Arab intelligence agencies, with support from the Mossad, as the clash is escalating and red lines are getting crossed. There is a real war going on at the field executive levels and that is why I’m curious to see what Moalem will eventually say.

If any, the Syrian response will come at the same level, but I doubt that on the strategic level, the events of the last week will make President Assad blink.

February 17th, 2008, 6:54 am


offended said:

Reading Al Syiassa articles, you come across with the feeling that apocalypse is tomorrow.

February 17th, 2008, 8:07 am


why-discuss said:

With the coming departure of the catastrophic Bush administration, things may accelerate. Israel does not feel as safe with the next president (who say they talk to Iran and Syria) as they had with Bush. Lebanon will be in the same situation after having lost the buddy Chirac. 2009 will be a new game. Until then Israel and the moribund Bush administration are trying to have as many cards as they can and create irreversible situations. God Help us

February 17th, 2008, 8:37 am


Jad said:

Le Liban vit “une période d’escalade entre les élites des deux camps”

Elizabeth Picard interview (french newspaper “libération”) http://www.liberation.fr/actualite/monde/310257.FR.php

Question: Les Israéliens semblent prendre au sérieux les menaces de «guerre ouverte» prononcées jeudi par le chef du Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah. Ont-ils raison ?

Answer: Oui et non. Oui parce que depuis 2006, le Hezbollah s’est réarmé et rééquipé en matériel. Oui aussi car ce mouvement n’est pas une girouette: il réclame toujours la libération de prisonniers et des microterritoires comme les fermes de Chebaa. Mais en même temps, les Israéliens ont tort car un immense changement s’est produit depuis la guerre de 2006 : c’est la présence dans le sud de la Finul (Force intérimaire des Nations unies au Liban) qui compte 13.000 hommes et de l’armée libanaise, qui en compte 15.000. Ces deux entités pourraient réagir si la trêve était rompue par le Hezbollah, car leur mandat précisé dans la résolution 1701 du Conseil de sécurité des Nations unies, prévoit le maintien de la paix.

Q: Lors des funérailles d’Imad Moughnieh, homme clé des opérations armées du Hezbollah, Nasrallah a aussi affirmé qu’aucun cessez-le-feu n’avait été déclaré après la guerre de 2006…

A: Disons que le front est assez calme mais depuis la guerre de 2006, ce n’est pas la paix. Le Hezbollah avait promis de ne pas faire de provocation pour que la région n’explose pas et que ses protecteurs, la Syrie et l’Iran, ne soient pas mis en danger : dans les faits, il n’y a presque pas eu d’accrochage.
Mais aujourd’hui il y a une différence qualitative : Imad Moughnieh a été tué à Damas, pas en territoire libanais. Les Israéliens – ou les services secrets occidentaux qui étaient sur la piste de Moughnieh – ont réussi leur coup. Mais ce n’est pas un coup contre la Syrie, dont l’appareil de sécurité est plein de trous. C’est un coup sévère contre les services de sécurité du Hezbollah, formés par l’Iran, et normalement très performants. C’est une grosse défaite et une blessure à l’orgueil. Mais cela ne marque aucunement la fin du Hezbollah. Le mouvement a une structure solide, ils trouvent toujours un homme nouveau. Ce qui m’étonne plus en revanche, c’est l’attitude de la Syrie qui n’a même pas confirmé que c’était bien Moughnieh qui était mort dans l’attentat à la voiture piégée. Certains disent que les Syriens ont lâché Moughnieh. Ce qui semble sûr, c’est qu’actuellement le Hezbollah est plus proche de l’Iran que de la Syrie.

Q: Que signifie le rassemblement de centaines de milliers de personnes pour commémorer les trois ans de l’assassinat de Rafic Hariri ?

A: Je ne sais pas s’il y avait vraiment des centaines de milliers de personnes mais ce qui est certain c’est qu’il y avait plus de monde que le 14 février 2007. Dans la foule, il y a une large majorité de «Monsieur Tout-le-Monde» qui sont exaspérés par les blocages au sommet de l’Etat alors que les activités ordinaires fonctionnent. Ce qu’ils disent, c’est «on veut une vie politique normale, un président, des représentants». L’Alliance du 14 mars (la coalition de la majorité parlementaire antisyrienne, ndlr) donne à voir une image légaliste et tente de capter l’attente de normalité réclamée par la population. Mais en réalité nous sommes dans une période d’escalade entre les élites des deux camps et personne n’a l’exclusivité du discours belliqueux. Nasrallah appelle à la «guerre ouverte» contre Israël mais il y a quelques jours, le leader de la majorité Walid Joumblatt a déclaré «Vous voulez la guerre? Elle sera la bienvenue» : la responsabilité des élites est partagée.

Q: Dans ce contexte, on ne peut être que pessimiste quant aux chances d’élection d’un Président le 26 février prochain ?

A: Oui et on peut même se demander à quoi rime cette réunion après quatorze tentatives infructueuses depuis le 24 novembre pour élire un président. Personne n’y croit. Tout comme personne ne croit plus à la médiation arabe ou à la table ronde voulue par la France. Les demandes des deux camps sont exorbitantes et inacceptables pour l’autre partie. L’opposition veut savoir le nom du Premier ministre avant l’élection du président et veut pouvoir bloquer l’action gouvernementale. La majorité parlementaire refuse, elle, de choisir un Premier ministre de consensus, contrairement à la tradition libanaise. L’opposition a tout de même recueilli 45% des voix aux législatives, ce n’est pas rien et compte tenu du poids de la communauté chiite, elle peut s’estimer sous-représentée.
Les choses ne semblent pouvoir évoluer qu’en cas de grand changement à l’extérieur du Liban ou d’une accélération de la dégradation de la situation interne. Il y a un risque d’éclatement et malheureusement, les «patrons» des deux camps (Syrie et Iran d’un côté et pays occidentaux de l’autre, ndlr) ne cessent de jeter de l’huile sur le feu en excitant leurs représentants locaux.

February 17th, 2008, 8:46 am


Innocent_Criminal said:

I partially agree with QN that Syria certainly, and understandably so, want a lot more than a neutral government in Lebanon. That said an extra-friendly and, most importantly, economically sound government cannot be had without certain M14 factions such as the Hariri family (aka Saudi) which for the short to mid-term look very anti-Syrian. And while Syria will want its allies in Lebanon to control critical aspects of the government & security, it needs the economically savvy elements which their foes have an abundance of. This requires a compromised deal, the one thing both parties seem unable/unwilling to attain at the moment.

I also worry for the general public, who tend to turn short-term bitterness into long term hatred. while leaders like Aoun & Jumblat can pull a flip flop magic trick anytime they like. Unfortunately the leaders of the warring factions are abusing this trend instead of preventing it.

February 17th, 2008, 3:03 pm


norman said:

Saudi king may miss Syria Arab summit over Lebanon 17 Feb 2008 13:52:58 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Andrew Hammond

RIYADH, Feb 17 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah is unlikely to attend the Arab League’s annual summit in Syria next month unless a political deadlock in Lebanon is resolved, diplomats and analysts said on Sunday.

Other Arab leaders may follow suit, potentially spoiling a chance for Damascus to shore up its regional standing in the face of U.S. pressure against it as a “rogue state”.

“What we have heard is that if there is no president in Lebanon, King Abdullah and (Egyptian leader) Hosni Mubarak will not go,” said a senior diplomat in Riyadh.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said last month Syria should pressure its allies in Lebanon to reach a deal. He visited Russia and European capitals last week in what the diplomat said was an effort to solve the Lebanon impasse.

“Saudi Arabia wants to persuade Russia to tell the Syrians to stand back and allow a president to be elected,” he said.

The election of a new Lebanese president has been delayed since November because of a dispute over the division of seats in the new cabinet between the Western-backed government and opposition backed by Syria and Iran.

A second diplomat said Saudi Arabia and Syria would continue to clash over Lebanon as Damascus sees it as key to its national security and Riyadh views it as part of its sphere of influence. “Those two visions are difficult to reconcile,” he said.

Syrian-Saudi relations nosedived after the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, a Sunni Muslim leader seen as Riyadh’s point man in Lebanon. U.S.-allied Arab countries fear the growing influence of non-Arab Shi’ite power Iran and regard Lebanon as a key battleground in holding back the Islamic Republic.

Saudi Arabia has emerged as the leading Arab power in recent years, as surging world oil prices enabled the U.S. ally to play a more forceful role in brokering regional disputes. Saudi Arabia sees itself as the centre of mainstream Sunni Islam.

Dubai-based analyst Mustafa Alani, who has close relations with the Saudi authorities, said Damascus was resigned to Saudi Arabia sending a low-level delegation to the late March summit but wanted to limit the fallout.

“They (the Saudis) will reduce their presence to the lowest representation possible as a means of protest. This will encourage others in the Gulf not to go, or to lower their representation. It will have an impact,” he said.

“The Syrians want to minimise damage. They want to secure the presence of other leaders to show the Saudis that they can act on their own.” (Editing by Andrew Roche)

February 17th, 2008, 3:35 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Innocent Criminal said:

That said an extra-friendly and, most importantly, economically sound government cannot be had without certain M14 factions such as the Hariri family (aka Saudi) which for the short to mid-term look very anti-Syrian. And while Syria will want its allies in Lebanon to control critical aspects of the government & security, it needs the economically savvy elements which their foes have an abundance of. This requires a compromised deal, the one thing both parties seem unable/unwilling to attain at the moment.

Yes! Beautifully put.

February 17th, 2008, 4:27 pm


Alex said:


King Abdullah and Mubarak will not come … but the article is wrong in concluding tat the other gulf states will automatically follow.

Emir ok Kuwait already accepted the invitation, Emir of Qatar will probably come … And since the prime minister of the UAE is visiting Damascus in few days, I would say that the UAE will probably send one of their top figures too… so will Bahrain (prime minister?)

Saudi Arabia’s influence is not regional anymore .. their greatest influence is on Lebanon’s Seniora/Hariri government, not on Kuwait and Qatar.

And Mubarak … 80 year old vacationing all the time in Sharm Alsheikh … his positions have become highly correlated to Saudi positions sine this Administration made it clear they want it this way … in return for his good behavior they stopped bothering him with the D-word.

This is no way to manage the Arab world .. Egypt has to go back to its leading role .. Saudi Arabia has to be content with its leadership of the Gulf region … And Syria’s role should not be aggressively challenged again in the Fertile Crescent.

And I agree with a modified version of IC’s suggestion above … Saudia Arabia AND the rest of the Gulf Arabs would love to invest in Lebanon … Thye should. But I don’t see why ONLY Saudi Arabia should sponsor Lebanon economically … This exclusivity can bring high expectations for a special role for the Kingdom politically … and this worked when Hafez Assad was there because they did not dare to challenge his position in Lebanon .. but with the 83 year old King Abdullah not seeing why he should allow the Syrian president who is exactly half his age to have a bigger role in Lebanon … the old formula does not seem to be working well … The King does not seem to accept the history and Geography argument for Syria’s role in Lebanon .. he prefers to think that his money and his age give him the upper hand there.

February 17th, 2008, 4:29 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

The Arab summit(qummeh) has always been Qumameh(trash), useless meeting,unfulfiled resolutions, dinners,and handshaking, it is not what Arab want.

February 17th, 2008, 5:03 pm


Observer said:

Syria has more cards than the US or Israel for now. It can create a lot more havoc in both Iraq and Lebanon if it wants to. I think the resistance front will wait this administration out.

I did caucus in my district and the district has been a staunch Republican one for over 15 years and I can tell you that the number of people that registered as Democrats was three times that of Republicans and that Obama got 67% of the votes in the Democratic caucus.
Now for the Palestinians in particular and the Arabs in general the situation will not differ much whether it is one or the other administration as we say in the ME, from Halek to Malek to Abbad Al Arwah: from the Slayer, to the Enslaver, to the Catcher of Souls.

However, the country is truly ready for a change of tone and substance as they have identified this administration’s rethoric and actions as pure disaster.

This month’s Le Monde Diplomatique had several articles regarding the ME and the US

First by Ignacio Ramonet about the end of the financial independence of Western banks in view of the credit crunch; second is the article by Chalmers Johnson about the bankrupcy of an economy based on military expenditure that essentially drains the civilian sector of vital resources for research and growth; third an article by Itani about the implementation of Al Qaida in Lebanon and how the Hariri group financed Fatah Al Islam to the tune of $700 per fighter per month in an effort to create a militia to counter HA and how it turned on him and his cronies and the Lebanese Army. Meanwhile, Salafists have implemented themselves in the Palestinian refugee camps and in the Beqaa valley in impoverished Sunni villages. Likewise, so called “peaceful” Salafists are proliferating in Syria and Jordan and it is only a matter of time before they can be mobilized into militancy. This last article showed that the Al Qaida wanted Lebanon as a rear base to train and transfer militants to both the Eastern front in Iraq and the Western front in Europe and the Nahr Al Bared operation disrupted their actions for a while. The longer the impasse remains, the longer they will benefit as the economy weakens and corruption rises, they can easily recruit and bribe and subvert.

One of the main characteristics of the impasse in Lebanon is the fact that the vision and idea of the country is so different among the various confessions: the christian maronites cannot accept the inevitable as the demographics of the country change and their contempt for the Shia is coupled with a stunned realization that these “untermensch” have achieved a huge transformation and are dominating the political and soon the economic landscape. They cannot divorce themselves from their Zaim mentality and their parochial leaders and now speack of “civilization” as their bastion not realizing that this “orientalist” discourse no longer holds after what we saw the result of “civilization” in cluster bombing, shock and awe, refugee displacement, sanctions that kill children by the hunderds of thousands, and kangoorro courts where evidence is obtained by methods invented under the inquisition.

It is no wonder that many a minority in the ME are absolutely terrified of what they see happening right now: after inventing Arab nationalism in an effort to improve their lot, now they see the new phenomenon of Islamic revival and all they think of is that they will become third citizens in this new harsh and forbidding situation. So now we hear about local nationalism such as Jordanian or Emiraty or Kuwaiti or Lebanese or Syrian primacy over the many other common denominators of the people of the region. Well, the experiment of toppling the regime in Iraq for a new one has opened pandora’s box of clan, sect, and religious jinnies. The corner they find themselves in is multifaceted:
they cannot call for free and fair elections for they know that the Muslim Brothers and other Islamists will have substantial presence; they cannot call for a non religious non sectarian constitutional order because they cannot claim to be a special minority that needs priviliges preserved; they cannot ask for a pure secular republic because to have a political voice they will have to have parties and a full political program and agenda that is non sectarian non religious. In this new modernity with globalization, there are alas few new political ideas in many a political system not only in the ME but in many other places as the global system is rendering the average man and woman into a pure non thinking consumer. The Chinese model that Syria is following can work for a limited amount of time. When Shou En Lai was asked about his opinion of the impact of the French Revolution in 1958, he said it is too early to tell. Likewise, Zbignew Brzenski was correct in 79 when he said that the Iranian Islamic revolution is akin to the 1917 October revolution in Russia.
One final point so as not to pick on my fellow maronites; the Sunnis are no less stunned that the Shia, considered at best as ignorant and at worst as infidels could also achieve what they achieved in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and all of this in the name of their religion. It is like the entire edifice on which the Sunni leaders built their credentials came down: after all, the King of Jordan has a problem asking for a Jordan first policy while he claims that he is a descendant of the prophet’s family. He surely is a descendant of Abu Lahab who is a member of the prophet’s family all right.

February 17th, 2008, 5:07 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I just quoted the NY times on a related issue of the demographic explosion in Arab countries. What Israeli intelligence sources have I been quoting? I really don’t understand your answer.

February 17th, 2008, 5:08 pm


habib said:

I’m listing Israeli hits in Lebanon/Damascus from the ouwet front. It’s amazing that there is one year missing in the analysis…2005…

December 2002 Ramzi Nahara, Israeli agent who defected to Hezbollah and planned attacks against Israel. Dagan knew him personally. Killed in Lebanon by car bomb

March 2003 Abu Mohammed Al-Masri, Al-Qaeda member building cell to target Israeli border with Lebanon. Killed by car bomb in Lebanon

August 2003 Ali Hussein Saleh, Hezbollah explosives expert. Killed by car bomb in Beirut

July 2004 Ghaleb Awali, Hezbollah official with links to activists in Gaza Strip. Killed by car bomb in Beirut

September 2004 Izz el-Deen al-Sheikh Khalil, Hamas official liaising between headquarters in Syria and members in Gaza and West Bank. Killed by car bomb in Damascus

May 2006 Mahmoud Majzoub, Islamic Jihad official liaising with Hezbollah. Killed by car bomb blast in Lebanon

February 17th, 2008, 5:10 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The question to answer is simple: Had this been 2003 or 2004, would Hizballah have shot a few katyushas at Israel following the assasination? The answer is: of course. But they didn’t do it. Things are changing.

I just love how the Lebanese opposition is declaring that Israel killed Mugniyeh without any proof. I am not saying that Israel did not kill him. I am inclined to believe it did, I am just amazed about how different levels of proofs are required in the case of Mugniyeh versus Hariri. It just shows what a bunch of hypocrites Hizballah and Aoun are.

February 17th, 2008, 5:15 pm


T said:


Another interesting thing: I have come across news articles listing the assassinations ostensibly by Syria after Hariri’s death in 2005 that omit George Hawi (because his son is now filing a lawsuit against Mossad for the killing? Odd coincidence? who knows.)


When we get a UN tribunal to look into Bhutto and Mugniyeh like Hariri, your argument will hold water. All should be prosecuted equally-Syria, US, Hezbollah, Israel etc. But Syria has been convicted in the media and diplomatically for Hariri killing without evidence, but that doesnt seem to bother you.
But thank you for not bleating the ‘democracy’ jingle today. Its not just that it is insincere that makes it so unsettling. A cornerstone of democracy is free, uncoerced elections. The antithesis to free elections is a coup d’etat. Yet the US-Israel policy is to enforce “democracy” via serial coup d’etats around the region- profoundly and intrinsically illogical. So it is a relief not to hear that democracy stuff for awhile.

Anyway- this seems like a pretty pro-Mar 14 blog. Maybe us Arab nationalist ‘roguers’ should get on a scrappier, more irreverent site? It seems some of us we have offended SC.

February 17th, 2008, 7:04 pm


Akbar Palace said:

In short, Bush and the next administration will keep the pressure on Syria until the Syrians understand that Asad has fooled them.


How are you so sure the “next administration will keep the pressure on Syria”?

I’m not as optimistic as you are.

February 17th, 2008, 7:14 pm


Shai said:


Though certainly Israel has much to learn from its mistakes and, as it continues to make painful mistakes, we certainly aren’t “there” yet. But, when it comes to Lebanon or Syria, I seriously doubt anyone here believes in a policy of promoting, even if covertly, a coup d’état. Unlike the Americans, we’ve learned the harsh lessons of Lebanon I (1982-83), and even of Iran of pre-1979. Last thing we’d want is to be involved in promoting a regime that will collapse months later, and we’ll be left to blame for. We have nothing to gain by that. Now, one could argue that we’re doing something similar with Mahmoud Abbas, by disregarding Hamas’s crucial role in future-Palestine. But despite the fact that I strongly disagree with the policy of talking solely with the PA (and certainly with trying to sign a “peace treaty” with it), I do believe that the current government of Israel erroneously thinks that Abbas represents the majority of the Palestinians. I therefore cannot imagine that some Israeli official is sitting there with Dubya, or Cheney, or Condi, helping conjure ways of bringing about a coup somewhere nearby. Unlike for the Americans, who are thousands of miles away, for us, such a thing would be utterly self-defeating.

February 17th, 2008, 7:21 pm


offended said:

Great, today there were clashes between the Hariri goons and Palestinian armed men around Tare’ Jediedeh and Sabra and Shatila camps…

But a Shabab Al Mustakbal spokesperson denied its involvement in the clashes

Do you guys notice that each time such incidents take place everybody rush to distance themselves form it, yet they keep happening again and again.

February 17th, 2008, 7:31 pm


T said:

This is not my opinion. It comes straight from the horse’s mouth- Israel’s- JINSA, PNAC, etc all the way back to Ben Gurion. The designs on Syria have been longstanding for a century. In your own words.

My guess is you make too much money to give up the USA- not that your skills are unusable in Lebanon- but suit yourself, it doesnt concern me and is none of my business.
AIPAC and the Lobbies DO NOT play by anyones rules but their own. And they get away with it by violating the rules and exploiting the system- astronomically. Maybe you dont know the history of the ADL and their spying on US citizens etc etc? Have you really been reading my posts? Where Congressmen and press divulge (fearfully) their “terror” of crossing this state-within-a-state?


I have lived with the Israel strangulation of US from before you were born. And have been kvetching about it all the while. I bring it up repeatedly here because this situation has now reached such a crisis point that the very existence of the USA itself (financially and militarily) is on the line with the planned wars ahead. So obviously those of us who have been complaining- havent been doing so loudly enough. We now stand at the brink of launching a nuclear attack on another group of innocent people. That is HUGE.

As far as analysis- here are a few things I did get right:

On the eve of Gulf War 1, in October of 1990, my projection was?
If the US attacked Iraq? Within 10 yrs there would be a major terror attack on US soil. I also said then that in 2000 a Bush son would be elected President, US economy would crash and we’d be right back fighting Iraq War 2 against Saddam. And there was NO ONE ELSE saying this at the time- so I was fully discredited, jeered, mocked, scoffed at and smeared for saying this. (Colleagues in the military didnt laugh though.)
But I learned Arabic in prep starting in the mid-90’s (during which time my ideas were still deemed ‘conspiracy nutty’, crazy, idiot, foolish, ridiculous etc etc.) And there have been many other correct guesses. And no I am not making this up or exaggerating etc (I heard all that too, esp “alarmist and pessimist” or “bad imagination” etc).
But I was accurate; I got it right so I dont care what you say- I am used to YOUR type too, who have limited vision. I wouldnt expect you to believe me, no matter what proof there was. Now go ahead and make your digs/put-downs innuendoes. Thats predictable too. And tired.

February 17th, 2008, 7:51 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

T, I responded to you (without digs!) on the other post.

February 17th, 2008, 7:58 pm


Ghassan said:

Rejecting the involvement of Iran and Hizballah in the investigation of the assassination of Mughnieh by Syria adds to the credibility of the Syrian role in the assassination! Mughanieh, a very secretive person and well protected was killed in the most secure area of Damascus!

February 17th, 2008, 8:39 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am for a tribunal in the Mugniyeh case also. Let’s see if Syria agrees.

The founding fathers of the US owned slaves. Does that mean that Americans cannot be against slavery?

The US instigated coups in its history. So what? The problem in the middle east is democracy in the Arab world whatever the US history is. There is no other solution. I am for democracy in the Arab world but think the Arabs should get there themselves.

Remember what the republicans believe: “Freedom is God’s gift to every person on earth”. If you want to support dictatorships, be my guest, or better, go live in one. They will be happy to hear your theories about Jewish influence.

February 17th, 2008, 8:49 pm


EHSANI2 said:


Given your stated extraordinary abilities in predicting future political and economic trends, I hope that you are putting your God given gifts to full use.

Perhaps you ought to be the next Chairman of the Federal Reserve? Perhaps head of some trading floor on wall street?

In the meantime, the failed economic policies of our region is driving our youth in one inevitable direction:


February 17th, 2008, 9:20 pm


ausamaa said:

Well, we have not answered the question: has Syria BLINKED yet?

February 17th, 2008, 9:31 pm


Enlightened said:

Syria will not blink, even if it blinks, it will not turn into any rapid REM. Its options are limited strategically. Tactically It will stay the course, back the Opposition in Lebanon, delay the election of the president and ultimately wait for the next Lebanese elections. It will also wait for the next American Administration.

Where it can with its allies( The Iranians )is adopt some measures to reignite the insurgency in Iraq if it so wishes, this is where the Americans are vulnerable. The Israeli front will remain quiet.

Where most diplomatic damage will be felt will be in relation to the Arab summit, despite some hopes by the commentators here that diplomatic attendance by the Arab states will be downgraded, my take on these summits has always been indifference, they never achieve much and tend to highlight more the impotence of the regimes attending to resolve their own issues and the regions problems.

So Syria will not blink! It cant afford to at this stage.

February 17th, 2008, 9:59 pm


Enlightened said:


I have a question for you, relating to Chinese investment , In Australia A Chinese company , an investment tool of the Chinese government is seeking to buy a 11% stake in Rio Tinto ( A Australian Mining company and a large one at that), that is currently been reviewed by the Foreign Investment review panel.

Are there any instances of this in America or the ME at the moment where they are trying to buy stakes in the resources sector?

February 17th, 2008, 10:04 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Spot on. And there will not be any economic “miracle” unless Syria stops supporting terrorism and therefore in a few years, Syria will blink or will be swept away by Islamic fervor.

February 17th, 2008, 10:23 pm


Enlightened said:


What is the popular response within Israel regarding the Assassination is there a widespread belief that the Mossad got him?

Be forthright now!

February 17th, 2008, 10:54 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Your post got lost in the sea of other subjects.

I agree with your analysis in its broad outlines.

However, a question for you: presuming the Lebanese can ever get around to actually governing and addressing their problems rather than squabbling, why would the Shi`a embrace a non-sectarian system?

If the choices are between:

a) carry out a full census as a prelude to creating a system that breaks down confessional representation

b) carry out a full census as a prelude to keeping the system in place but re-arranging the allottments of representatives, based on the new numbers

… why would the Shi`a not opt for the latter? One could sympathize, the logic being: you people have dominated us for decades, under the pretense of demographic superiority. The tide has shifted now, so it’s our to use this 7iila.

Your thoughts?

Tabbat yada Abi Lahabin wa-tabba…

February 17th, 2008, 10:58 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I think so. Small bomb, no bystanders killed is the Mossad or CIA preferred mode of operation and the CIA is busy elsewhere.

February 18th, 2008, 12:01 am


Enlightened said:

INTERVIEW WITH: Abdul Halim Khaddam from Now Lebanon:

Talking To: Abdul Halim Khaddam
“I will tell you honestly. There is no support from the 14th of March forces for the Syrian opposition.”
Taylor Long, NOW Staff , February 15, 2008

Former Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam poses for a photo in his Paris residence, January 7, 2006 (AFP/Stephanie de Sakutin)

After serving as the Vice President of Syria for 34 years, Abdul Halim Khaddam dramatically resigned from office in June 2005. Just six months later, after relocating to France, Khaddam came out strongly against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, citing in particular Assad’s many blunders in Lebanon. And, from a man who handled the “Lebanon portfolio” for many years, what Khaddam had to say about the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri made waves. In January 2006, Khaddam formed a government in exile under the direction of his National Salvation Front and called for regime change in Damascus.

This week, marking the third anniversary of Hariri’s assassination, Khaddam, in an interview with NOW Lebanon, speaks out once again against the regime, discussing also the future of Lebanese-Syrian relations. The former VP calls for full recognition of Lebanon’s sovereignty, reiterates that “Bashar Al-Assad will never stop interfering in Lebanon” and complains of a lack of March 14 support for the Syrian opposition.

There is no denying that, in many ways, the futures of Lebanon and Syria are tied to one another. Where to do you see your role in these present Lebanese-Syrian relations?

Khaddam: It seems difficult to see Lebanon stable and regaining its peace and security while the regime in Syria remains. It is also difficult for the people of Syria to live safely and freely under a regime that turned Syria into a big prison.

In my opinion and in the opinion of the National Salvation Front, Lebanon must have full sovereignty, and it is the duty of Syrian patriots to support the Lebanese people in their struggle to strengthen their country’s independence and protect its sovereignty. There is no doubt that change in Syria will allow the two peoples to live in peace, stability and cooperation without either of them interfering in the other’s affairs. I am certain that a democratic system in Syria will achieve the best possible equal diplomatic relations and draw the borders between the two states.

The National Salvation Front in Syria will establish the best relations with the Arab countries, and of course, Lebanon will prosper, which is in the interest of the Lebanese, Syrian and Arab peoples.

Does the National Salvation Front see any potential for reform in Syria or international dialogue with the regime? Or, is regime change the only option?

Khaddam: The despotic regime in Syria is unlikely to change its behavior or to carry out reforms, because totalitarian regimes are, by nature, oppressive, corruptive and based on the confiscation of freedoms and the violation of rights. How can such a regime establish freedom and democracy, revive the constitutional institutions and give the power to the people? Anyone who thinks otherwise is mistaken, and this has been proven by the efforts deployed by some Western countries in order to change the Syrian regime’s behavior. They got nothing but empty promises and more tyranny in Syria.

These regimes are unable to change or develop, and there is no other solution for the Syrian crisis but democratic change and the establishment of a civil state where all citizens are equal in rights and duties irrespective of religion, confession, gender or race.

What do you have to say of the March 14 coalition’s support, or lack thereof, for the Syrian opposition? Is March 14 doing enough, not just to attack Damascus, but to prop up pro-democracy and human-rights movements in Syria?

Khaddam: I will tell you honestly. There is no support from the 14th of March forces for the Syrian opposition, while there should be a close and complete cooperation, especially [given] that any change in Syria is in Lebanon’s interests as well as in that of Syrian people.

The 14th of March campaigns against the Syrian regime might be useful for them when it comes to gathering internal support, but they do not really have any effect on the Syrian regime. The real effect can be achieved by giving support to the Syrian opposition in its struggle against the regime

If I may be forward with this question, some of your detractors argue that your time has “come and gone,” pointing to your 2005 promises to bring the opposition back to Damascus, first in six months and then in a year. Now, in the beginning of 2008, how optimistic are you that real change might soon come to Syria?

Khaddam: I called for change the first time by the end of 2005 but did not set a specific date. Rather, I committed myself to work for change. The first step was to form the National Salvation Front in Syria. I will tell you that one of the reasons the change has not yet been achieved is the Arab and international support for the regime in Syria, despite the amount of errors and crimes committed in Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine. The fear from a popular change causes great concerns for many people outside Syria. In addition to this, there has been an undeclared siege on the Syrian opposition, while this siege should have been against the Syrian regime. There is no doubt that the regime has profited greatly from the Western and Arab legitimization of its interference in Lebanon; the international community called the regime to participate in finding the solutions instead of punishing it for the crimes it is committing in Lebanon.

The Arab and international communities have given legitimacy to a regime that is oppressing its people and committing crimes beyond its borders, by inviting it to pressure its allies in Lebanon to solve the presidential deadlock. While most European countries speak of human rights, they open secret channels with the regime in Syria and grant it support, especially when it comes to acknowledging its role in Lebanon, instead of taking drastic measures against it. I assure you that change will take place in Syria and that the Syrian people will lead the movement of change, break the walls of the big prison that the regime has constructed, and establish a democratic civil state.

Your attendance at former Prime Minster Rafik Hariri’s funeral almost exactly three years ago was greatly commented on by the press. Now, on this February 14 anniversary, how do interpret the success or failure of the Cedar Revolution?

Khaddam: Objectively speaking, and taking into consideration the fact that the Cedar Revolution’s leaders and advocates were subjected to a lot of pressure, I believe they have done their best. They come from different political horizons, and despite all threats, assassinations and explosions, they succeeded in establishing an important popular movement based on true national values.

The Cedar Revolution is, of course, facing great difficulties since the Syrian and Iranian regimes have sowed political and sectarian divisions in Lebanon. That is why they should now be patient, rational and determined; they should deploy all necessary efforts in order to rally to their national cause all Lebanese people in order to preserve their national unity.

Will President Bashar Al-Assad ever allow for the election of a new Lebanese president? Will he ever let Lebanon go?

Khaddam: Bashar Al-Assad won’t allow the presidential process to take its course unless his allies are given an absolute power on the Lebanese political scene. The Syrian president has two main objectives and won’t stop interfering in Lebanon until those are attained; he wants to hinder the establishment of the International Court and [renew] his regime’s hegemony over Lebanon. Otherwise, he and his security agents will spread more terror, tensions and divisions among the Lebanese people.

Bashar Al-Assad will never stop interfering in Lebanon; it is a question of survival for his regime.

For more on the Syrian opposition and its relations with March 14 and other forces in Lebanon, see “Your enemy’s enemies.”
Bookmark this article:

February 18th, 2008, 12:17 am


Friend in America said:

Enlightened –
I do not recall a foreign sovereign investment group purchasing a controlling or otherwise significant ownership in an major American natural resources company. Several years ago a Chinese sovereign offered to buy Chevron Oil Company but was blocked. Further restrictive legislation is currently under review (look for it in 2009) – it will be tricky because presently a major US oil company is owned by the government of Venezuala. The Chinese are, however, looking for longer term supply contracts in Canada as well as U.S.

All –
History shows new administrations effect very little change in international relations policies. The major shift, as I see it, has already happened. Hilliary Clinton knows the score, Obama’s advisors will tell him the score, John McCain knows the score best of all. McCain will offer the most predictability. No matter what the rhetoric is now, none of these will order a rapid pullout of troops from Iraq, until Iraq becomes strong enough to checkmate Iran.

February 18th, 2008, 12:30 am


Ford Prefect said:

“The problem with America,” says Amr, digging into a gelato, “is that everyone thinks Syria and Iran are like Trinidad and Tobago.”

While we are still figuring out whether Syria will blink or not (mostly not!), the above quotation is from a 3-page spread from today’s Washington Post. Enjoy!


February 18th, 2008, 12:54 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Everybody keeps talking about the question of whether or not Bush will strike Iran before leaving office.

No one has considered the more likely possibility of another major attack on a U.S. asset sometime before the end of Bush’s tenure, in order to provoke such a strike.

Assymetric warfare is best waged against a large, inflexible, non-strategic adversary. If the recent press is accurate about the return of al-Qaeda in various places, it seems that they have a limited window in which to provoke this administration into stepping into what they’ve been salivating about for the past five yrs. Future admins will not make the same mistakes, while this one is still searching for a legacy, on the cheap.

February 18th, 2008, 1:00 am


Ford Prefect said:

This Administration is not searching for a legacy, nor will it even know if a legacy fell on it.

Those officials who are left serving in this US administration (who have not yet been either indicted, fired, or just completely ambivalent to anything intelligent) are so inept, so arrogant, and so un-American that the word legacy is meaningless to them.

Here is a small fact that shows how much damage this hapless US administration has done to the the Republican Party. So far more than 21 million people have turned out to vote in the Democratic primaries (and caucuses) as compared to a dismal 14 million Republicans who turned out to vote for their candidates. No wonder all decent republicans are staying home in protest.

Talk about a missed legacy.

But would they still be as reckless as they have been for the past 7 years? You bet, legacy notwithstanding.

February 18th, 2008, 1:57 am


Alex said:

Brzezinski didn’t show up in Israel

“Brzezinski was scheduled to visit Israel, too, and not only Damascus”.

He was “recalled to the U.S.”

The U.S. ambassador put together a group of Israelis to meet with the Rand board, and everyone was there, but Brzezinski.

February 18th, 2008, 4:13 am


Alex said:

Today in As-syassa

السعودية ترفض استقبال المعلم وتعتبره ضيفاً غير مرغوب فيه

»السياسة«- خاص- رويترز:
كشفت مصادر ديبلوماسية عربية عليمة ل¯»السياسة« ان المملكة العربية السعودية رفضت استقبال وزير الخارجية السوري وليد المعلم على اراضيها لنقل دعوة سورية الى خادم الحرمين الشريفين الملك عبدالله بن عبدالعزيز للمشاركة في القمة العربية المقبلة في دمشق.
وقالت المصادر ان الوزير السوري اجرى اتصالاً ببعض المسؤولين السعوديين طالباً تحديد موعد له لزيارة المملكة ونقل الدعوة لحضور القمة العربية, على اساس ان دمشق هي العاصمة المضيفة للقمة في دورتها المقبلة, فجاءه الرد السعودي بالرفض, فما كان من المعلم إلا ان بادر محدثه السعودي بالقول: انا اعتبر نفسي آتياً إلى بلدي, فجاءه الرد السعودي بالرفض ايضاً, ولم تفلح محاولات المعلم باساليب متنوعة في ثني المتحدث السعودي الذي ختم المكالمة بالقول: لا مجال لاستقبالك في المملكة على الاطلاق واذا حاولت المجيء فانه لن يسمح لطائرتك بالهبوط فلا تكبد نفسك عناء محاولة لن تجدي نفعاً.. »فانت ضيف غير مرغوب فيه«

Last year, same place:


ان فاروق الشرع استغل انعقاد الاجتماع في جدة, وحاول لقاء خادم الحرمين الشريفين الملك عبدالله بن عبدالعزيز, إلا ان محاولاته هذه, التي رمت الى فتح قناة حوارية بين دمشق والرياض, باءت بالفشل, إذ قوبل طلبه بالرفض من قبل السلطات السعودية المختصة, وأكدت المصادر ان الشرع غادر جدة مكتئباً ومحبطاً, وأطلق جملة من المواقف السورية المعهودة التي ترمي سوء العلاقات السورية العربية على اميركا, ولا تريد الاعتراف ان اضطراب هذه العلاقات عائد الى سلوكيات ومواقف النظام السوري التي دفعته الى العزلة, وجعلت الدول العربية تنفر منه

February 18th, 2008, 4:50 am


Enlightened said:

Alex translation available?

February 18th, 2008, 4:54 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Predictably, Bziz did not have a “peace” message to relay to Israel. As usual he did the stupid thing and decided not to face the music in Israel. Don’t worry, AIPAC will have fun with this.

February 18th, 2008, 5:37 am


Alex said:


Today’s story:

Mouallem (Syrian foreign minister) wanted to visit Saudi Arabia to invite them to the Arab Summit in Damascus… they refused to receive hm. He called back begging: “Oh please let me in .. I consider Saudi Arabia to be my home country!” .. they told him to go to hell.

Lat year’s story:

Farouk Sharaa who was taking part in An Arab meeting in Saudi Arabia asked for permission to meet with King Abdullah … he tried really hard, but all his attempts failed … and he was seen leaving Saudi Arabia looking very depressed.

This is the newspaper that Michael Young and the other Lebanese M14 sites and Syrian opposition sites keep quoting like if it is publishing real news.

February 18th, 2008, 5:44 am


Alex said:


No, he probably did not have a peace message for now … next year though.

Why do I feel like I am threatening you with my optimism about next year’s peace prospects? … don’t worry … it is not a sure thing, many obstacles could surface in the next few months.

February 18th, 2008, 5:53 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

A credible peace “threat” would be Mesh’al out of Syria. Then I will really start getting “worried”. Nothing else will be enough to start any ball rolling.

I don’t know if Syria will blink or blush or weap, but it will pay a huge price for hosting Mesh’al in this age when American adminstrations understand on their own flesh what terrorism is. In any case, Mesh’al is a dead man walking. This year or next year or the year after he will make a small mistake and be killed on Syrian soil.

February 18th, 2008, 7:12 am


offended said:

It’s refreshing to see Alex’s peace threats being reciprocated with death threats from your side.


February 18th, 2008, 8:00 am


Naji said:

NYT today:

February 18, 2008
Op-Ed Contributor
Bracing for Revenge
Tel Aviv

THE assassination of Imad Mugniyah, the Hezbollah terrorist, in Damascus last week was a warning that even the most elusive prey can be hunted down — given skill, determination and patience on the part of the hunter. The blast that dispatched Mr. Mugniyah, a top target for Israeli and American intelligence for most of three decades, was heard loud and clear by Khaled Mashal, the exiled political chief of Palestinian Hamas, who at the time was meeting with Syrian intelligence officers only a few hundred yards away.

In 1997, Mr. Mashal escaped death at the hands of the Mossad, the Israeli spy agency, when a poisoning attempt in Amman, Jordan, went disastrously wrong. This was one in a series of botched operations, culminating in the failures of the 2006 Lebanon war, that nearly wrecked the Mossad’s once-lofty reputation.

Although Israel has denied carrying it out, the Mugniyah hit was exactly the kind of thing needed to restore that reputation. Pinpointing the location of this evasive quarry, placing an explosive charge in his S.U.V. precise enough to kill him and no one else (“Pity about that new Pajero,” chuckled one intelligence official in Tel Aviv), and operating in the heart of an Arab capital saturated with secret police — this is the stuff that gave the Mossad its name.

Indeed, Israeli and American intelligence agencies have recently racked up a number of successes in their clandestine war against Iran and the terrorist movements it backs. It may be no coincidence that the Damascus operation followed the apparent defection to the United States last year of an Iranian general, Ali Reza Asgari, who in the 1980s had helped Mr. Mugniyah establish Hezbollah as a military force in Lebanon.

But however much backslapping and Champagne-cork popping may be going on in Tel Aviv and Langley, Va., the questions remains: Was it worth the effort and resources and the mortal risk to the agents involved? Few would deny that Mr. Mugniyah, who had the blood of many hundreds of Americans and Israelis, not to mention Frenchmen, Germans and Britons, on his hands, deserved the violent death that befell him, or that eliminating this top-flight mass murderer might prevent more death. But this act of combined vengeance, punishment and pre-emption might extract a far greater cost in the future.

At Mr. Mugniyah’s funeral on Thursday, Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, threatened to retaliate against Israel, saying, “Let it be an open war anywhere.” The Israeli Counterterrorism Bureau warned Israelis traveling outside the country to avoid Arab or Muslim countries, remain on “high alert” and beware of kidnapping.

There are precedents. It was on Feb. 16, 1992, that Ehud Barak, then chief of staff of the Israeli military and now minister of defense, gave the order for two combat helicopters hovering over south Lebanon to rocket a convoy in which the Hezbollah leader, Sheik Abbas Musawi, was traveling. Sheik Musawi, his wife and his 6-year-old son were killed. The response was not long in coming: for five days, Katyusha rockets rained down on northern Israel. A 5-year-old girl was killed.

This was only the beginning. Watching television coverage of Sheik Musawi’s assassination at their home in Turkey had been Ehud Sadan, chief of security at the Israeli embassy in Ankara, and his wife. “I hope this doesn’t spark a war of assassinations,” Mrs. Sadan said. Her husband reassured her that nothing would happen. On March 7, he was blown up by a bomb planted under his car. The authorities arrested several members of Turkish Hezbollah, acting under orders from Mr. Mugniyah.

Ten days after that, Mr. Mugniyah’s men blew up the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 people and wounding more than 220. Two years later, in July of 1994, a suicide bomber struck at the offices of a Jewish community organization in Buenos Aires, killing 85. A joint investigation by Mossad and the Central Intelligence Agency uncovered clear evidence of Mr. Mugniyah’s involvement in all three bombings. The telephone monitors of the United States National Security Agency turned up “not a smoking gun, but a blazing cannon,” in the words of a Mossad official. A senior Hezbollah operative, Talal Hamiyah, was taped rejoicing with Mr. Mugniyah over “our project in Argentina” and mocking Israeli security services for not preventing it.

Ever since, the Israelis have been very cautious about assassinating Hezbollah leaders. Two weeks before Israel withdrew from Lebanon in May 2000, military intelligence had Mr. Mugniyah in its sights. Mr. Barak, then prime minister, ruled out a hit, for what he claims were operational reasons, but he surely had the aftermath of the Musawi assassination in mind.

Today, whether Mr. Barak has unlearned his lesson or not, Hezbollah has no doubt that it was Israel who eliminated its top terrorist, and once more it is bent on vengeance. As Hezbollah draws no fine distinctions between the United States and Israel, both nations, along with Jews around the world, might well have to pay the price for the loss of the man whose mystical aura was as important as his operational prowess.

In the immediate aftermath, Hezbollah has chosen not to respond with volleys of rockets aimed at Galilee, as many Israelis feared. But an inkling of how the group might respond can be found in the July 2007 statements of Michael McConnell, America’s director of national intelligence, expressing grave apprehension about Hezbollah sleeper cells in the United States that could go into action should the Americans cross the organization’s “red line.”

This line has now been crossed. Only the severest of countermeasures by the intelligence services of Israel and the United States will prevent last week’s assassination, justified as it was, from costing a vastly disproportionate price in blood.

Ronen Bergman, a correspondent for Yediot Aharonot, an Israeli daily, is the author of the forthcoming book “The Secret War With Iran.”

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

February 18th, 2008, 8:53 am


Akbar Palace said:

Reporters and liberals like Ronen Bergman are wonderful at explaining why Israel shouldn’t assassinate terrorist leaders.

But he isn’t very good at explaining how to make peace with them.

If only Israeli society had something akin to Fox News as an alternative.

February 18th, 2008, 12:09 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Saudi Arabia has just warned its citizens to avoid travel to Lebanon:

“The foreign ministry has advised citizens not to travel to Lebanon due to the unstable political and security conditions it is passing through at the moment”.

They must have concluded that an escalation is underway.

February 18th, 2008, 1:38 pm


Shai said:

Fox news, now there’s an objective (not), quality (not), tell-it-like-it-is (not), news (not) agency (ha)! Fox’s most impressive, highly educated reporters always use the eloquent finishing line: “back to you guys…” like, wow! At least Ronen Bergman has a PhD from Cambridge… Something i don’t think most Fox ‘reporters’ can say…, or pronounce…

February 18th, 2008, 1:50 pm


offended said:

“We will soon witness the destruction of the cancerous scum of Israel at the strong, capable hands of Hezbollah,” said Iran’s revolutionary guards leader in a letter to Hassan Nassrallah today.


February 18th, 2008, 1:58 pm


offended said:

Shai, lol at the “back to you guys”!

February 18th, 2008, 1:59 pm


Shai said:


Relating to your quote from Iran – now please tell me, what on earth has Israel done to Iran to deserve such “warmth”? I understand the entire Arab world’s loathing of our treatment of the Palestinians the past 60 years. I even understand the wars we launched at one another. But the year’s 2008, a former first-lady and an African-American with a middle name “Hussein”, are running for the most powerful position on earth, Bill Gates proclaims that the world “is flat”, Facebook is worth billions, and I’m here typing from Israel to good people like yourself who only a decade ago had only one means of meeting me so close-up, via tank or some other military machine. Why is it that in the first decade of the 21st century, an obviously talented nation like Iran is still using terminology like we’ve heard back in the 1930’s? What purpose does it serve? Does it really unite the Iranians, the Lebanese, the Muslim world? I hope the answer is not “yes”…

February 18th, 2008, 2:24 pm


Akbar Palace said:

At least Ronen Bergman has a PhD from Cambridge…


Liberals think all one needs is a PhD to pontificate about “what Israel should do”. I say bulls_it.

Noam Chomsky and Norman Finklestein are clear proof that this formula is flawed.

You want education? Read Pipes, Lewis, Krauthammer, and/or Dershowitz. Ronen Bergman? LOL.

February 18th, 2008, 2:58 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

There is a very heavy storm moving through the region, with large amounts of snow and rain over Lebanon. This may be a blessing in disguise, on the political front as it will give tempers a chance to cool.

On the other hand, many of the villages in the south have yet to be properly rebuilt since 2006, so the UN has been creating improvised shelters for the people whose houses have collapsed from mud slides and flooding in the roads.

February 18th, 2008, 3:21 pm


Ford Prefect said:

I see your sentiments propagating among decent Israelis and Arabs much faster than the hatred spewed by Washingtons’s armchair war-hungry ideologues (losers like Pipes, Lewis (both of them), and Krauthammer who never fought in a war or lost a limb in a battle).

Thanks for the fresh breeze of peace coming from your end in Israel. Peace will prevail and the cowboy diplomacy will finally eat its cow and perish in November.

February 18th, 2008, 4:02 pm


Observer said:


I am not sure what the Shia community wants, but for the entire region in all of its great diversity, there is in my opinion one of two paths
1. complete separation of religin and politics ( not religion and life and not necessarily complete separation of religion and judiciary as regards to family law )
2. complete openess of religious parties into politics: in my opinion it is essential that fundamentalists parties participate in the process for their partial or complete failure and setbacks will force the argument towards modernizing the religious-political discourse rather than fundamentalize modern life. The same goes with the evangelicals in the US, as they failed with the administration of GWB and through the court appointments to force evangelization of the modern society in the face of profound problems in the society that require all thinkers to participate in the debate without pre conceived ideological baggage; the same goes for those that say Islam is the solution as it is an empty slogan until and unless it translates into a coherent political and sociological plan of action from pollution to jobs to family marriage to inheritance laws to dress code.

On a different note, this is in French from Lebanese resistance and I thought worth sharing with you as it shows that there are people who think that zionism should be ended as its own leaders wanted to do after they “liberated” the jewish people and established a homeland. Zionism has not evolved into a new political entity and like the fundamentalists on the other side be they Christian or Muslim they are stuck in failure and current policies and politics are nothing more than an attempt to hide the bankrupcy.

Des statistiques….au pouvoir démocratique du peuple

67% des israéliens sont favorables à une opération militaire d’envergure contre la résistance à Gaza, selon un sondage publié vendredi par le quotidien “Maariv”.

Toujours d’après cette enquête, ce pourcentage redescend à 51% des personnes interrogées quand elles apprennent que l’armée n’écarte pas, dans ce cas, d’importantes pertes dans les rangs israéliens.

Seuls 25% des personnes interrogées se déclarent opposées à une telle opération et ce pourcentage passe à 38% quand les pertes importantes sont annoncées.

Enfin cette enquête conclut par ce constat : malgré leur soutien à une vaste offensive militaire, les israéliens restent très sceptiques sur les chances de succès de cette opération ; 53% d’entre eux ne pensent pas qu’une telle opération permettrait de faire cesser les tirs de roquettes.

Ce sondage a été réalisé par Teleseker auprès de 500 personnes et comporte une marge d’erreur de 4,4 points de pourcentage.

(Vendredi, 15 février 2008 – Avec les agences de presse)

Ce sondage montre bien que la seule priorité des populations israéliennes est de vivre enfin en paix.

Mais il faudra que ce peuple comprenne enfin que la paix tant souhaitée par tous les peuples ne sera possible que par le renoncement au sionisme, idéologie initiant en permanence l’occupation des terres d’autrui et les logiques de haine raciale et d’extermination des populations et par l’édification d’un état démocratique soucieux des siens, qu’ils soient juifs, musulmans ou chrétiens.

La clé de la solution à cette crise, qui a tant duré et qui n’a apporté que massacres, destructions, souffrances et inquiétudes, réside dans cet acte courageux de renoncement définitif à cette idéologie, acte résistant par excellence.

Il est encore temps que ce peuple, dans toute sa diversité, s’accapare enfin du pouvoir politique en vue d’édifier sa nouvelle société reconnaissant à chacun son droit à la justice et à la paix, brassant avec fierté les apports de trois civilisations qui, à travers l’Histoire, avaient apporté au monde, non seulement un message d’amour et d’espoir dans la croyance, mais aussi l’alphabet, l’art du discours ainsi que la connaissance et la pratique des sciences.

Ce pouvoir là aura de grands chantiers à initier. Il abolira à jamais l’idéologie du racisme et de la colonisation des espaces et reconnaîtra enfin l’espace historique de la Palestine, toute la Palestine.

Il démolira tous les murs matériels et immatériels aujourd’hui séparant les siens.

Il ouvrira ses frontières aux siens, palestiniens réfugiées à travers le monde, depuis la promesse de Belfour.

Il renoncera à l’occupation des territoires des pays voisins et tendra la main pour qu’enfin la paix règne pour toujours parmi tous les peuples sémites.

Il initiera l’égalité sociale qui conditionne le bien être de tous par celui de chacun.

Il tendra la main aux pays voisins par souci de relations de voisinage et de solidarité en s’appuyant sur les intelligences et les compétences des siens.

Il initiera des relations de solidarité réciproque en vue du bien être de tous les peuples de ce Moyen Orient.

Sur l’arène internationale, il rejoindra les résistances des pays et de leurs peuples à la mondialisation du Capital et de ses conséquences dans tous les domaines et apportera sa solidarité envers les peuples souffrant de famine, de soif et d’épidémies.

Il dénoncera toutes les formes de racisme et de fascisme à travers le monde.

La lutte pour ce pouvoir commence aujourd’hui par l’acte résistant du « non, ça suffit et plus jamais » de toutes les logiques de haine, de souffrances, de massacres et de sang versé, initiées, depuis l’hypocrisie de Belfour, par les Olmert d’hier et d’aujourd’hui.

17 février 2008
Raymond RICHA

February 18th, 2008, 4:37 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I think you are reading Bergman wrong. First, he says that killing Mugniyeh was justified. He is just worried about the response and its cost.

Undoubtedly, Hizballah can respond and hurt Israel. But what Bergman does not take into account is that times have changed. The second intifada has been crushed, Bibi is leading very strongly in the polls and at least until January we have the right man in the white house. Bergman reports correctly that when Moussawi was killed, Hizballah shot katyushas. Why doesn’t he ask himself why they did no such thing now?

February 18th, 2008, 4:38 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Just a thought: Bernard Lewis does not belong in the same company as Krauthammer, Pipes, and Dershowitz.

His politics may be suspect, but his knowledge of Islamic history is vast. He is unquestionable the most prolific and diverse scholar of his generation, and his is the authoritative word in an astounding number of fields: from the emergence of modern Turkey, to the structure of Islamic guilds, to pre-modern economic history, and much more.

There is nobody really like him, much less idologues and polemicists like Pipes and Krauthammer.

(And, for the record, Lewis did serve in a war, the big one.)

I don’t agree with his politics all the time, but I always listen carefully (as one should when one’s interlocutor can tell you why your argument is not satisfactory, in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Hebrew, Ottoman, or several other languages).

February 18th, 2008, 4:43 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Mesh’al is the person responsible for murdering about 1000 Israeli civillians on purpose. He sent suicide bomber after suicide bomber into Israel and was very successful in blowing up discotheques and restaurants and other important “military installations”. The guy is good at what he does.

That man will not die in his bed and I would be willing to risk my life to kill him. I think that this is the view of most Israelis. Not for revenge, but because Israel’s red lines need to be explained and understood and to stop him organizing additional such operations.

And any one that hosts Mesh’al and offers me “peace” must think I am an idiot. Such offers cannot be taken seriously. If you give Mesh’al refuge and support, you are supporting his methods. Do you support hosting Mesh’al in Damascus? I don’t need a lecture about how Israel is a “terrorist” state. A simple yes or no will tell me exactly where you stand.

February 18th, 2008, 4:49 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

If you listen carefully to Lewis then you may begin to agree that the problem with the Arab world today is directly related to the Ottoman empire and its inability to modernize or accomodate Western ideas. The evidence Lewis provides is so strong that it is very difficult to refute.

February 18th, 2008, 4:52 pm


MSK said:

Dear QN,

Lewis was great in his time, but no longer is “the authoritative word” in the fields you’d mentioned.

And, having followed his work (academic & non-ac) and experienced him live, I have come to the conclusion that he’s become a grumpy old man, and not much else is left.

His staunch support for the Iraq War (and the reasons why he supported it) and such books like “What went wrong?” are examples.

Scholars, and especially famous ones, face one great challenge: to deal with the fact that their methodology might become superseded, that younger generations might find valid criticism with their work, not just factual, but methodological, that their world view may have been not as objective as they had thought.

Some manage to overcome their ego. Others, like Lewis, don’t.

Now, the truly sad thing is that nobody of the younger generation managed to build a work that can truly compete with Lewis’ books for public attention. The counternarrative to Lewis needs to be written, but in a style that is accessible as the grumpy old man’s stuff.



February 18th, 2008, 5:03 pm


Akbar Palace said:

I think you are reading Bergman wrong. First, he says that killing Mugniyeh was justified. He is just worried about the response and its cost.


Perhaps, but while this typical (Israeli) commentator is “worried” about the response and its cost, what’s his excuse for the unrelenting terrorism Israel faced daily BEFORE the response? Can’t these numbskull newspeople use some logic? Let this clown worry about an Israeli city being shelled daily from the Jew-free Gaza strip.

Bernard Lewis does not belong in the same company as Krauthammer, Pipes, and Dershowitz.

Qifa Nabki,

I agree. And he is more of a scientist than a polemist. And I certainly wouldn’t put him int the same company as Chomsky and Finklestein.


I see your sentiments propagating among decent Israelis and Arabs much faster than the hatred spewed by Washingtons’s armchair war-hungry ideologues (losers like Pipes, Lewis (both of them), and Krauthammer who never fought in a war or lost a limb in a battle).

Thanks for the fresh breeze of peace coming from your end in Israel. Peace will prevail and the cowboy diplomacy will finally eat its cow and perish in November.


cc: Ford Prefect

Just a suggestion: please take your “fresh breeze” and negotiate peace with Maj-Gen Jafari before the “destruction” of your “cancerous scum” entity;)

Iran guards predict Israel demise

Maj-Gen Jafari was writing to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards leader has predicted the imminent destruction of Israel by fighters from the Lebanese movement Hezbollah.

“We will soon witness the destruction of the cancerous scum of Israel at the strong, capable hands of Hezbollah,” Maj-Gen Mohammad Jafari wrote.



February 18th, 2008, 5:08 pm


offended said:

AIG, a theoretical question: are you sure that once Mesh’al is killed there won’t be another 1000 Mesh’al lining up to replace him?

To address the root of the problem; you must impart justice to the poor Palestinians, not strangulate them to extinction. Once that is done; Mesha’l will no longer be a threat to you. Period.

February 18th, 2008, 5:14 pm


offended said:

Shai, I wish I had an easy and collective answer to that.
But what I am sure of though is that if more people like you from the other side of the fence could show up and talk in the same way you are doing; the rhetoric in this side of the fence would be immensely changed, for the better of course….

February 18th, 2008, 5:17 pm


Shai said:

Ford Prefect,

In’shalla. Let’s not let these AIG’s and AP’s innate hatred, racism, and other bodily dysfunctions determine the course of our future. Their words do nothing for progress, only for further incitement. They are sure they’re the lens to our blind eyes, only never realizing that they could never see in the first place.

February 18th, 2008, 5:23 pm


Joshua said:

Independent writes:


I always enjoy reading your commentaries and thoughts about Syria and its environs.

Yes you are absolutely right, “The battle between Washington and Damascus is largely an economic one.” Both Israel and the U.S. and its allies in the region fear any kind of regime change in Syria (as the March 14 side would like)and therefore have not acted yet directly against the regime.

While Lebanon is sinking into an economic abyss, you painted too rosy a picture about Syria’s highly subsidized economy (Syria’s economy is growing at almost 6%). In a matter of years, Syria will be a net importer of oil, if it hasn’t happened already (data is not available or otherwise top secret). Any enhanced oil recovery they attempt on their archaic fields will not help in the short run. So today they rely heavily on cheap Iranian oil.

What about prices for flour, sugar, coffee, etc..? These staples of the majority of Syrian society will soon lose government subsidies and will and are becoming more expensive day by day.

All this smells like inflation to me, even though the highly edited official numbers may not state so.

Too rosy a picture Josh!

Independent, You may be correct about the coming Syrian crash. Most people in Washington and Israelis that I talk to believe that Syria will sink into a deep economic abyss in about three years when oil begins to run out.

My sense is that Syria is making the right moves to avoid this in the fields of private banking, foreign investment, privatization, issuing private and government debt, opening a stock market, introducing a VAT tax, parking meters, etc. Whether it can complete this “modernization” process in time to avoid the crash is not clear, but I am more optimistic that most.

Some believe that none of these reforms will matter so long as there is not regime change or the introduction of an independent judiciary.

I was just talking with Ehsani who was expressing his amazement that Syria has not been able to attract more Gulf investment than it has. This is a bad sign, he said. He pointed out that the rise of Dubai is a clear sign of Syria’s and Lebanon’s failure. They have the resources, climate, human capital, etc. that should have made them the obvious “Dubai” of the Middle East, but they screwed it up and have been by-passed. “Opportunities like that come along only once in a hundred years,” Ehsani said.

It is commonly said that oil is a curse to those who have it. The Middle East has avoided reform because of oil. Running out of oil is forcing Syria to confront hard choices it has put off, but it is now globalizing, in large measure, because oil is running out, a fact that is forcing the regime’s hand on modernization. I think it can make the shift. In any case, we will see very soon. Thanks for the nice words – and the skepticism.

February 18th, 2008, 5:36 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

إسرائيل تنشر الباتريوت

Are the patriot will be used against the Katyosha?,No
they expect larger missiles, they expect worse war, if Israel,through Mossad, killed Mughniyeh, and war erupt, it is Israel who started the war,not HA.
This is to prove that Israel is the cause of most trouble in the Middle east.

February 18th, 2008, 5:42 pm


Akbar Palace said:

In’shalla. Let’s not let these AIG’s and AP’s innate hatred, racism, and other bodily dysfunctions determine the course of our future.


My “hatred, racism, and other bodily dysfunctions” never prohibited me from recognizing a people’s right to self-determination and statehood: Palestine or Israel for that matter.

Your inability to confront the real haters, racists, and terror masters speaks volumes.

February 18th, 2008, 5:59 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Whoa, mention Bernard Lewis, and suddenly everyone’s at your throat.

MSK, maybe his isn’t the authoritative word in all of those fields. Let’s change the word “the” to “an”. Satisfied? : )

His support for the Iraq war was unfortunate, as was the support of other knowledgeable people, like Fouad Ajami and Kanan Makiya. They should have known better.

Now, the truly sad thing is that nobody of the younger generation managed to build a work that can truly compete with Lewis’ books for public attention. The counternarrative to Lewis needs to be written, but in a style that is accessible as the grumpy old man’s stuff.

MSK, which books are you talking about? He has written over thirty (maybe more than 50?), and few of them deal with contemporary politics. If that’s the sphere of the counternarrative you call for, then your point is valid. Otherwise, I think it will take many scholars (not one) to respond to his body of work.


I was wondering when you were going to get back to me about the Ottomans. Lewis’s book (“What Went Wrong?”) is valuable for raising in succinct form questions underlying the motivations of neo-cons, Salafists, post-socialist dictators, and ordinary Middle Easterners alike in today’s Arab world. These are questions that should be asked, but I do not always agree with his conclusions.

If you’d like, we can discuss them further, but it will require a much longer post than I have time for at the moment.

(Plus I have to respond to Observer first.) 🙂

February 18th, 2008, 6:05 pm


Ford Prefect said:

I truly believe that peace will prevail when thoughts and actions are transformed to reflect what you are genuinely presenting to us. You are reflecting on your true Jewish heritage and values – the same values that have enriched humanity for thousands of years.

AP, yes, indeed, there are many war-mongers running around and there is enough of them on both sides, unfortunately. For everyone that exists on one side, rest assured that a mirror image of him/her does exist on the other side as well. We can keep talking about them and do nothing, or we can marginalize them and move forward.

Now, we can all drop all hopes and start fighting a military battle that will produce imaginary winners; or we can rationally talk about how to resolve the conflict peacefully by marginalizing bigotry, racism, and war mongering (the causes of all conflicts) by talking and respecting each other’s valid prespectives. I think we all know which side you are on.

You also seem to like to keep hitting hard by use of military power – just like Pipes and the rest of the military kick-ass junta want to keep doing. Fine. Once you succeed, and if there is anyone still standing, I will be convinced and join your cause.

Meanwhile, many Israelis and Arabs beg to differ and we think that conflicts can be resolved without the military option. We also believe that people on both sides, by and in large, are genuine, peace-loving, and decent human beings.

February 18th, 2008, 6:11 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Terrorists will always be a threat as long as there are countries that are willing to harbor them like Syria. That is why, it is most important to take Syria out of the terrorist supporting business.

Of course someone will replace Mesh’al. But most probably he will not be as good as Mesh’al. And in any case, it must be clear to anyone that replaces him that he faces a short life. This is not usually the kind of prospect that attracts high achievers.

As usual you evaded the question only showing that you approve of terrorism as long as you think it helps your cause.

There is no “just” solution to the Palestinian problem that both sides can accept (the issue of right of return) and therefore other measures are necessary.

February 18th, 2008, 6:21 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

We will go soon to elections in Israel and we will see who will win. I am quite sure that people with “bodily dysfunctions” will win over the useful idiots who will get most of the Syrian vote. Fortunately, it does not count in Israel (and it doesn’t count in Syria also). In any case, you will vote for Bibi anyway because he will bring peace, right?

February 18th, 2008, 6:26 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Of course a non-military option is much preferrable to a military option.

But you have to stop talking generalities and platitudes. The minimum the Palestinians can accept as a solution is something the Jews cannot live with. The problem is the right of return. It is an impossible impass that you ignore. Therefore, for the forseeable future we will have a low intensity war. These are the facts on the ground. I wish things were different but I can’t deny reality. And if I am destined to fight this war, I better plan to win it.

So if you want to change my mind or AP’s mind or the mind of most Israelis, tell us how the issue of the right of return will be solved in a way that both sides can live with.

February 18th, 2008, 6:35 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Professor Qifa Nabki, I’m gaining progressively more and more insight into who you are…. it’s only a matter of time before I figure out where this erudition, superb sense of humor, common sense, youthful disposition of thought (b/c I’m sure you cannot be too young of a fella) all come from. When I do, I won’t out you publicly on SC (as I believe Alex once did jokingly — and which outing shows up if you google qifa nabki on google images!). Curiouser and curiouser.

February 18th, 2008, 6:36 pm


Alex said:


You googled Qifa Nabki?? : )


Every time I hear this argument “Syria is in bad shape economically, let us just wait few more years and then we can impose our terms on them”, I remember how many times I already heard this argument.

The next time you are at the CFR and the smart strategic planners propose this creative solution, please show them this paragraph from Time magazine’s

Monday, Dec. 19, 1983
Bidding for a Bigger Role
By James Kelly

“A more serious threat to the regime may be the country’s worsening economy. Plummeting oil revenues and bad harvests have drained foreign reserves. According to an International Monetary Fund report, Syria’s total reserves (excluding gold) dropped from $927 million in mid-1981 to $40 million by early 1982. Electricity is now rationed nationwide. Though unemployment figures are not released by the government, more people are out of work than a year ago and inflation is on the rise. Syrians may not be going hungry, but foreign imports, including television sets and kitchen appliances, have been drastically cut.”

Comparison with today:

1) Syria’s reserves are up from $40 millions to almost 20 billions
2) Oil is still about to run out (like it was in 1983)
3) There are more jobs
4) there is no shortage of anything … everything is availabe.
5) there are announced investments valued at 25 billions from Dubai, Kuwait and Qatar alone.

So .. if Syria survived the 1979 to 1981 attempts at regime change supported by all the “Arab moderates”, the “successful” Israeli invasion of Lebanon (compared to the recent 2006 disaster), and survived Hafez el-Assad’s heart attack and attempted coup from Rifaat, and survived 8 years of boycott by a group of hawks in Washington (Al Haig, Jean Kirkpatrick, Rumsfeld and Cheney …) … and survived the “oil reserves are about to run out” argument, and the 40-million dollar remaining in the Syrian’s hands … then I wonder if those who are today still waiting for Syria to collapse realize that 25 years have passed since this TIME magazine article was published.

February 18th, 2008, 7:01 pm


Shai said:

Ford Prefect,

As I promised earlier not to address these AIG’s and AP’s directly, I won’t. Suffice to say, that their “wisdom” should not impress much upon you. They waste their “learned” years studying one truth – theirs. Education never taught them openness, never taught them to question, question again, and yet again, their own set of beliefs. They cannot understand why us “Syria-lovers” can’t see reality for what it is. So they come up with labels (“useful-idiots”, etc.) That’s all they’ve got in life, labels. Their life is made up of categories and labels: “Themselves – Right”, “All the Rest – Wrong”. They are incapable of looking at things through your eyes, even though they may pretend to do exactly that (caring dearly about democracy in Syria, etc.)

In reality, their words truly are a complete waste of bits and bytes on forums like these. They don’t help to bring anyone closer, only farther apart. They don’t use their imagination to figure out solutions, because they don’t believe in peace. They’re the kind that would have yelled “Don’t be fooled – it’s a trick!” until the last second, just as Sadat walked off his plane at Ben-Gurion Airport in 1977. They are only here to prepare us all, for war. That is the only reality they can exist in. That’s where their rationale works. Until their “democratic” Israel is met by an equal-and-imaginary democratic Syria, or Palestine, or Iran, they see no possibility for progress. So they choose the only alternative (as if there was only one alternative, and not many others), which is war. Sad part is, that there really are many, many others like them on the other side as well. Why is it that they don’t realize that by talking their rhetoric, they are bringing us closer to war, not farther? Even if I was the most resolute believer that peace was not likely, perhaps even impossible, why on earth would I choose to incite, rather than bring closer? Why would I approach this forum at all, unless to try to bridge the gaps?

Haven’t these AIG’s and AP’s got anything better to do with their lives, than to come on these forums, and give their best shot at ruining the atmosphere? Does that really get them going each morning (wow – I’m gonna use all 5 comments Alex gave me each day to show them…!)? You know what, I’m starting to really pity those two (or perhaps it’s the same one, has anyone checked their IP’s?) Shame, though I’m still not convinced AIG lives in Ramat Hasharon… New Jersey does make much more sense… And AP, he’s probably in Chicago… or at an AIPAC meeting.

February 18th, 2008, 7:20 pm


Shai said:

Ah Alex, there you are! I sent you a note the other day… a while back.

February 18th, 2008, 7:25 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Of course the regime can survive. But it cannot provide both “resistance” and sufficient economic growth. Even the Zimbabwe regime is surviving even though the country is going to the dogs.

There are several reasons why things are different now:
1) Hafez never promised what Asad is promising.
2) Sattelite TV has changed significantly the expectations of youth in the middle east.
3) The Syrian population is growing at over 3% a year and it is about double than in the eighties.

As you know, the Israeli aims are not regime change in Syria, just making sure Syria stops supporting terrorism. What Israel wants is to push Syria into a “Syria first” strategy. Asad will have to weigh his options and decide how much the resistance angle is jeopardizing his regime.

Syria will not “crash”. What will happen is that its youth which are 60% of the population will grow more Islamic and more disillusioned the less economic growth there is. This will raise the probability of regime change but certainly not guarantee it. Asad will have to make tough choices over the next decade.

February 18th, 2008, 7:27 pm


MSK said:

Dear QN-

Let’s not have the Bernard Lewis argument here. Not the place & not related to SC.

I think his support for the war, like Ajami’s, was based on his fundamental outlook on the “Orient”, which does not differ that much from the one by many of the neo-cons or, indeed, most Westerners. It’s a modernist outlook: the East is backward because its culture/religion is backward and we (i.e. the modern West) must bring the East from the past into the present. Makiya had different reasons, and afterward he regretted his support. Lewis/Ajami never gave that possibility a thought.

That’s very simplified, but hey, this is just a blog comment section.

Yes, he wrote a lot of books and, at least the stuff he wrote in the 60s & 70s, they were at the height of scholarship THEN. Few of his books are assigned as current reading in grad schools now.

Damn you, now you’ve suckered me into actually talking about the old man …

Very few MidEast scholars gave the 2003 Iraq War such a strong backing as Lewis did. And there’s a good reason for that …

On Syria & its economic situation, maybe they can pull off an Egypt-style project: economic liberalization + enrichment of the “chosen few” + impoverishment of the masses – popular revolt. (Aled, don’t you just love the way I phrased it in a math-ish formula?)

We’ll see …


February 18th, 2008, 7:27 pm


Observer said:

Finkelstein on Memri giving an interview to the Future TV
Absolutely fascinating

February 18th, 2008, 7:32 pm


Ford Prefect said:

I am very happy to read that you also believe that a non-military solution is preferable to a military one. I do now have something in common with you and I highly value and respect this commonality.

They are many aspects of the Arab Israeli conflict that seem fundamentally unresolvable. Or so we are led to believe. We are told that Israelis will accept nothing that is even remotely close to a return of a single Palestinian. And Israelis are told that the Palestinians will accept nothing short of a complete repatriation of all 1948 Palestinians back into their original habitat.

Then there is the question of Jerusalem. Then there is the question of the Golan Heights. Then there is the question of Gaza and the West Bank. There are illegal settlements. There is terrorism. There is Iran. There is oil. There is too much sex in Arabic video clips. There isn’t enough water for everyone. No one is happy with what he’s got, and the vicious list goes on and on.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. These are not insurmountable problems and we should never loose hope because there are people like Jaafari or Daniel Pipes – mouthpieces of hatred and war mongering.

Yes, I am speaking in generalities – but so is everyone from the other side. The old saying of “stop supporting terrorism” is no longer working and it is, practically, counter productive in its generality and immaturity.

To talk about particular solutions of how to resolve these conflicts require courage, parity, and a vested interest in peaceful resolutions. No one can talk about specifics in this highly inflamed and poisoned atmosphere.

Am I going to change your opinion and that of AP? Not sure, but it is certainly worth trying. Many of us have changed – mainly towards peace out of firm beliefs that war, terrorism, and military actions are not working.

Time for the rest to join that common cause.

February 18th, 2008, 7:34 pm


Honest Patriot said:


It’s really hilarious that the first 2 entries that show up when you google “Qifa Nabki” in Google Images are the 2 photos in the links that you and QN used to “out” each other jokingly a short while ago. This was really fun to discover!

February 18th, 2008, 7:38 pm


Jonny Verdorben said:

The economic arguments are often irrelevent regarding the Arab and Persian economies. Academics put heavy emphasis on technical economic indicators while the citizens don’t see extraordinary differences between what academics would call good times or bad times. The everyday drudgery of making a living is relatively tough for the working man when the official economies are flush with cash and times are also hard when the official economies are broke. Westerners have a tendency to contrast the western self-indulgent lifestyle with the Arab / Persian lifestyle and the comparison isn’t particularly valid. The average Arab / Persian has been making do with less virtually forever. Fluctuations in technical economic indicators, good and bad, are not dramatically noticable to the average salaried or hourly wage employee.

In my opinion a long U.S. boycott of Syria will not force Syria into a submissive stance any more than a thirty year boycott of Iran forced the Iranians to yield. There are other suppliers around the world for whatever the Syrians need or want badly and the United States is hardly the only game in town anymore. Most of the planet has come to realise that except politicians and officials in the U.S. government. The Syrians can wait indefinitely for U.S. govt “approval” if they need to and if they never receive it they’ll still be around.

Actually the Arabs and Persians have been forced to become more self-reliant in various fields as a result of American pressure and trade embargoes. So, as time goes on American boycotts become less and less effective as the targets of the boycott learn to manufacture or engineer critical items themselves (or with non-American help).

February 18th, 2008, 7:47 pm


Shai said:

Here’s a completely theoretical pop-quiz:

1) After there’s peace with Syria, where would I rather have Khaled Mashal, in Damascus, or in Sudan?

2) After there’s peace with Syria, would I rather have Iran completely isolated, or at least an ally of Syria?

3) After there’s peace with Syria, would I rather have good relations between Damascus and Hezbollah, or bad ones?

Hmmm… I dunno, these are too tough for me. I need more time. I’m overly liberal, and I’m an innate Syria-lover… and blind to the real terrorists… and… a vegetarian! Okay, I’m not.

February 18th, 2008, 7:47 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


There’s another, far more attractive image that comes up in that list.

How do you know I’m not a woman? 😉


February 18th, 2008, 7:50 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


This forum is not meant to bring people closer. It is meant to analyze Syria. I write what I believe and explain why I believe it. That is the best way to get to understanding and avoid wars. Wars happen when people misinterpret the intentions of others or do not trust them. Several posters here have subtley told you that they have a feeling you are a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, but you have not picked up the hints. No sincere person trashes his own country and then asks other for confidence building measures.

I can assure the Arab posters on this blog though that Shai is sincere. He just believes that if Arabs would just understand the Jewish point of view and our internal difficulties, they would be willing to compromise. He is the real deal. In Israel we call this “yorim ve bochim” (shooting and crying, because we know we shouldn’t be doing it but what choice do we have? Oh, if only the Arabs undertood how internally conflicted we are and how good our intentions really are…boo hoo hoo.)

Instead of arguing the points you keep psycho-analyzing AP and me. That is a sure sign that you lost the argument. For all your effort, you haven’t been able to reach any rudimentary understanding with anybody on this forum about a solution. You are much closer to me in your views than to Alex. Given your rhetoric, the ONLY thing you can consistently argue is that Israel should unconditionally retreat and give the Golan back to Syria. Any other position by you makes no sense. So if this is what you really support just come out and say it. And if not, stop trying to manipulate the Arab readers of this blog.

February 18th, 2008, 7:51 pm


Shai said:


How can we Israelis ever take you Syrians seriously? You say 5 comments, and you enable 10 (at least today). Next you’ll say I’m welcome in Damascus, and you’ll only mean Bosra. Come on!



(P.S. Please tell that character AnotherIsraeliGuy that I never had an argument with him – I don’t argue with someone incapable of listening, believing in only one truth. And, nope, I’m as close to his views as Earth is to Uranus).

February 18th, 2008, 8:01 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am not speaking in generalitis when I say there is no solution to the right of return.

I understand your optimistic streak. But I have gone out of my way to understand how the Palestinian in the refugee camps view the situation and anything short of return to their villages or at least a right to do so is just not going to be accepted. They reject money or any other compensation and what about the Palestinians in Lebanon, what to do with them? Can they be in limbo forever?

I wish things were different but I have to accept the facts on the ground. The Palestinians have been gambling with their future for 60 years and are not going to accept a solution they have been rejecting for 60 years. So for now, low intensity war is the only realistic option.

February 18th, 2008, 8:03 pm


Alex said:


I did not forget your unanswered note … I’ll answer in few hours.

And … the 5 comments of AIG is what you are referring to? : )

It’s ok as long as the discussion topic is relevant to his background (being an Israeli hawk, or a New Jersey whatever).

By the way … I think there is a difference between AIG an AP … AIG is more about enjoying Israeli superiority in any field: “democracy”, higher GDP, a military capability that can destroy any Arab capital in seconds…

AP is obsessed with security of Israel and does not care to look at any other details and he is not capable or not willing to accept the cause and effect factor of the violent events we had the past few decades, preferrng to always start history at a point when Arabs made a mistake and therefore it always starts with their mistakes.

February 18th, 2008, 8:25 pm


Ford Prefect said:

These are very tough, yet very valid, questions you are asking. But I beg to differ with your notion that, in totality, those Palestinians WILL reject anything short of a return. If you’d take a fair, non-Fox News survey of their aspirations, the results might surprise both of us. There are 4 times more Lebanese all over the world than there are in Lebanon. Do they all dream of going back to Lebanon and settle there?

I appreciate your statement that facts on ground are different. But what I am advocating is the emergence of a fresh political actors who view things from a different, but peaceful perspective – capable of leading their people into acceptable, often painful, compromises from both sides.

I am also arguing that minds that have created the conflict (e.g., gambling with the Palestinian future, or let’s kill all terrorists whether they are or not) cannot be the same minds (or mindsets) that will resolve it (to borrow from Albert Einstein).

Finally, I am still perplexed of your notion of “low intensity war”? Not that I don’t understand it or know its origin, but exactly what kind of a “realistic” option that is for us to be comfortable with?

February 18th, 2008, 8:31 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What was the cause and effect of the 1947 pogrom in Aleppo? What did the Jews in Aleppo do to cause the pogrom? This is a serious question.

Do I enjoy Israeli economic, technological and military superiority? You can say that again. I owe my life to it. Without it I would most probably be dead or enslaved.

February 18th, 2008, 8:34 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Let me start with your last question. Historically speaking, this has been the situation most of the time. Take the Greeks and their wars or the wars between tribes in middle east or between the principalties in Europe. There are thousands of examples. Sometimes, a total war is not worth fighting and peace is not possible. Therefore you have long periods of low intensity war.

As for the beginning of your post. I am not interested in meta-processes. Instead of advocating new faces, become a new face or help a new face emerge. Show me results, don’t tell me how to theoretically get to results. that is no help at all and I can do it myself.

February 18th, 2008, 8:40 pm


Shai said:


Thank you for that clarification. I can now sleep better at night… 🙂

You know, it’s funny and puzzling at the same time. Sadat, and Arafat, and Hafez Assad, all were responsible for many, many more Israeli deaths than Khaled Mashal, or Imad Mughniyeh, or Hassan Nasrallah, all put together. And yet Begin, and Bibi, and Sharon, all talked to these guys and were ready to put the past behind. Imagine this AIG-guy advising Menachem Begin in 1977: “Listen Mr. PM, don’t make this mistake with Egypt. They’re not a democracy yet. We don’t know what 51% of Egyptians REALLY want. Plus, Sadat has so much blood on his hands. Let’s wait until we get a “cleaner” leader in power… a more democratic one, okay? Oh and wait, I think they’re still harboring the Muslim Brothers, and the Fedayeen…! And unless they end their military alliance with Syria, forget it!” So was Begin blind? Was he unaware of the terrorists, and the real bad guys, and the dictatorship, and how “warm” this peace would be, as long as the Palestinian issue was unresolved? No. But it was better to give up the Sinai, and have a luke-warm peace, than to continue fighting every 6-10 years a bloody war, that caused thousands of deaths, and many more injured. Because it gave us a chance to look towards a brighter future, even if it would be as bright as we dream of in only 20, or 30, or 50 years.

Sun Tsu once said: “If you want peace, prepare for war.” No one ever said ALL of his lessons had to be learned, or adopted. We actually do have our own brains, and can make up our own mind. If we subscribe to AIG-magazine, we’ll be in an ever-bloody regional war in no-time. Israel will “win” this next battle, by inflicting disproportionate damage, and by forcing a halt to all other sides. But it will lose the aftermath, which might last another 50 years, this time with the support of a billion-plus Muslim world. AIG is willing to take that chance. I can’t, at least as long as there are Sami D’s, and Offended’s, and Ford Prefect’s out there (and others I failed to mention…) who are here ready to talk peace with me. Ready to put aside our bitter past, and talk about a real and a better future for our children. AIG must have already forgotten one of his founding fathers, in fact, THE founding father of our Zionism – Theodore Herzl, who said “If there’s a will, there’s a way”. That’s a lesson worth learning.

February 18th, 2008, 9:02 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Let’s play a game.

The date is October 2009.

You are the chief negotiator for Israel at a major peace conference, sponsored by President Barack Obama and supported strongly by the Europeans, Russians, and the Arabs (even Bashar, who has been brought in from the cold). The talks are being held in Barbados.

There is great optimism. This may be the best chance in a generation to make real progress towards peace.

What are your demands, your concessions, and your “red lines”? (The private and final ones, not the initial bargaining offer).

February 18th, 2008, 9:06 pm


Shai said:


I hear tumbleweeds… do you?

February 18th, 2008, 9:11 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Frankly speaking, your thoughts can remain basting in their own juices of low-intensity war until fully cooked.

Meanwhile, the march towards peace is on – mainly with courageous thoughts. Short of determination and hope, there is really nothing we can offer you, so you can stop asking.

February 18th, 2008, 9:28 pm


Ford Prefect said:

For those interested in joining the peace movement that Shai is so eloquently promoting, here is a list of organizations that will tickle your peaceful senses.


February 18th, 2008, 9:47 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Quite simple.
1) The border between Israel and Palestine is about where the wall is now. In exchange the Palestinians get extra land somewhere else. All other settlements are evacuated.
2) No right of return but instead significant monetary compensation.
3) The Palestinian country must be unmilitarized and Israel will have the right to monitor the Palestinian border crossings for several years (otherwise the Hizballah scenario repeats itself).
4) Before the deal is implemented, there must be a referundum among Palestinians and at least 60% must support it.
5) East Jerusalem can be shared but the Jewish holy places will be under Israeli rule.

February 18th, 2008, 10:06 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Imagine this AIG-guy advising Menachem Begin in 1977: “Listen Mr. PM, don’t make this mistake with Egypt. They’re not a democracy yet.

Imagine this Shai-guy advising Sadat in 1977: “Listen Mr. President, don’t go to Israel to address the Knesset, please don’t talk of peace with the Zionists and don’t agree to a demilitarized Sinai: Israel has not yet made peace with the poor Palestinians.”

Yup, the “hard-line” Likudniks made peace.

But, when will the Islamofascists?


Sounds reasonable to me. Much more reasonable than the terrorist death threats Shai always ignores.

February 18th, 2008, 10:15 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I guess you make no distinction between suicide bombing and other forms of warfare. Well I do and so do most Israelis.

What terror acts did Sadat committ or sponsor against Israel?
Talking to Arafat was counterproductive. I supported the Oslo process until afte Rabin’s murder when Araft let the Hamas start the suicide bombing campaign that got Bibi elected instead of Peres. So in retrospect, it was a big mistake to talk to Arafat. The second intifada is the direct consequence of the awful Oslo process. I am not about to repeat such mistake with Mesh’al. When a person has no problems sending people to blow up in passover celebrations, there is no use talking to him or trusting him or whoever decides to support him and make him a guest.

When a man becomes a serial killer, I don’t care why he became one. You either put him away for life or kill him to make sure he does not murder again. Similarly, I don’t care what causes Palestinians to become suicide bombers or to use them as a weapon against civillians. I want nothing to do with such people or with a society that accepts such means of war. I would rather lose a war than use suicide bombing of civillians and I would never support any politician that would support suicide bombings.

February 18th, 2008, 10:18 pm


Shai said:

Ford Prefect,

While I strongly advocate joint Arab-Israeli projects, here inside Israel, and abroad, I find myself in recent days (months) asking where to best channel my energies. I fear there are too many independent forces at play that could easily destabilize the region to the brink of war. And, I fear, this next war could be more severe than any we’ve seen in the past 60 years. That is, because the battles will be fought not against one or two modern and conventional armies, but rather four differing fronts, some conventional and others not. How can Israel fight Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas, without doing terrible damage to many innocent civilians? And if this scenario ever occurred, isn’t it clear that most Israelis would view it as a truly existential threat, and perhaps enable our leadership to use means never before introduced in our region? Not to mention any use, even minor, of unconventional weapons by any side, leading to the same consequence.

This fear, whether rational or not, leads me to search for more substantive ways to contribute my two-cents’ worth. And one of the main reasons I am here, in this forum, is because I’ve become 100% convinced that Syria is the key to peace in our region. The Palestinian track is hopeless at the moment. Threats from the East (Iran) are growing intolerable on a daily basis almost. Hezbollah and Hamas are tempting Israel into further adventures. Only Syria has reached out its arm in peace for the past 2-3 years, more than ever before. Syria is a major player in the region, and must be addressed as such. It must be looked upon as an equal partner, must be respected as such, and must be given a fair chance. We cannot dismiss these overtures any longer. What right do any Israelis have at dismissing them, at calling them “a fake”, at placing one-sided preconditions, at not giving Bashar Assad a chance to show he’s serious? History does not give us a multitude of opportunities to make peace, but it does provide us plenty of wars. The peoples of this region have suffered enough, and it is high time to put the past behind us, to begin chipping away at that thickest of walls of suspicion, hatred, and fear.

By engaging Syrians and other Arabs on this forum, I’m able to better understand their (your) concerns, your views, how you see potential solutions, and what you can and cannot accept. The same vice versa. The actual process is in itself a CBM (confidence building measure), and my place here is to try to search for any and all such CBM’s. I’m ready to use my wildest imagination, my greatest level of patience, and openness, to reach this goal. I’m willing to hear almost anything, as long as the goal in the end is to make progress towards peace. If some commentators want to tell me what a wishful-thinking ride I’m on, that’s fine. But I will not engage these in a serious manner, as they contribute nothing to my quest. Others, however, may say that my suggestions are not feasible (e.g. Alon Liel’s Park on the Golan), but try to come up with better ones. That’s the idea. That’s what I’m looking for.

The internet has done something unthinkable ever before – brought people together. Could a Syrian and an Israel ever think of talking, discussing ideas so easily ever before? After all, we’re not the only ones reading these words and, if we’re lucky, perhaps some good ideas brought up in these forums could actually find their way to the “right places”. Am I optimistic? Absolutely. Why? Because I have no reason on earth to waste my time being pessimistic. It is because of people like yourself, that I find it so easy to be here in this forum. You are welcoming, you are sincere, you are kind, and you are open to hearing me. I can’t ask for any more than that.

February 18th, 2008, 10:19 pm


offended said:

AIG, on the Syrian front, will you give up (give back) the Tirbris lake and the water resources?

February 18th, 2008, 10:21 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

The offer has been made.

Any care to negotiate for the Palestinians?

February 18th, 2008, 10:21 pm


Shai said:


You’re right, they are different (AIG/AP). AIG is definitely the more educated. But both are thick as a post.

February 18th, 2008, 10:28 pm


Shai said:


I thought AIG reminded us that this forum is about Syria. Why is he not answering your question with regards to Syria? I hear those tumbleweeds again…

February 18th, 2008, 10:30 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Are you joking?
My family works closely with Israeli Arabs and Palestinans. We both employ them and trade with them extensively. We do it not because we are on some peace mission or whatever but because it is the natural thing to do and we have been doing it for years and it makes economic sense for both sides.

Before the first initifada the west bank and gaza were really part of the Israeli economy. It was the one state solution people were talking about at least from the economical stand point.

We do not need speeches about how to live and work together or “understand” each other. My grandfather’s business partner was an Arab (they were contractors). We do not need to change frames of minds or look at things differently. What we need is no violence. All the rest will take care of itself.

Why don’t you humor me and research about the development of the West bank and Gaza between 67 and 87. You would be surprised.

February 18th, 2008, 10:31 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

…I don’t care what causes Palestinians to become suicide bombers or to use them as a weapon against civillians. I want nothing to do with such people or with a society that accepts such means of war. I would rather lose a war than use suicide bombing of civillians and I would never support any politician that would support suicide bombings.

AIG, how is it that the “war is war… people get killed” train of thought that we so regularly seem to hear when we talk about Israeli aggressions does not apply to the issue of suicide bombings?

What is the difference between dropping bunker busters on southern Beirut and littering south Lebanon with cluster bombs, and firing Qassams into Israel? (I’m speaking on a FORMAL level… we know what the real differences are: many more Lebanese casualties than Israeli ones).

In the case of Israel’s war, the bombing of civilian areas was a means to an end: a message to the supporters of Hizbullah to reconsider their actions and strategic allegiances. In the case of Hamas, the suicide bombings are also a means to a similar end.

Your attempts to obviate this equivalence in terror amount to sophistry, my friend.

February 18th, 2008, 10:33 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The lake of Tiberias has to remain Israeli.

As for Syria, my view is that the Golan should not be returned unless it democratizes. But I would be willing to consider a process in which the Golan is returned over a period of time in exchange for verifiable reforms in Syria.

Furthermore, the Golan needs to be demilitarized.

And I would not sign a deal that does not include Syria stopping immediately supporting terrorists. I would not negotiate with Syria unless it agrees to stop supporting terrorists first or at least makes sure they are on vacation while the negotiation is ongoing.

February 18th, 2008, 10:40 pm


offended said:

Shai, what do you think of the same subject? The Tibris lake and the water?

February 18th, 2008, 10:46 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Not at all.

What is important in an act of war, it is the intention behind it. If a terrorist hides behind a civillian and I kill both in my attempt to kill the terrorist, I am not a terrorist.

If I kill a civillian because I am targeting a civillian I am a terrorist.

Suicide bombers predominantly attack civil targets like restaurants or shopping centers. Their purpose is to kill civillians.

When Israel bombs the Dahye (giving warning first) or uses cluster bombs its aim is to kill the Hizballah fighters and hurt their installations. Israel does not intend to kill any civillian. You may not believe me, but it is the truth.

If Israel would have a weapon that if fired into a civillian area will only harm the Hamas or Hizballah fighters it would use it and only it. In fact, Israel is attempting to develop such weapons all the time. On the other hand, Hizballah and Hamas want to harm civillians as they are their main target. That is the difference, and the “we do it because we don’t have F-16s argument” does not convince anybody.

You do not intentionally target civillians. Period. If you do, you are beyond the pale.

February 18th, 2008, 10:51 pm


Shai said:


I cannot imagine a treaty that gives Syria control of the lake. Full Syrian sovereignty over the Golan, up to a certain distance (10, 50 100 meters, etc.) from the water, should certainly suffice. Again, we’re talking about a treaty between two nations that have yet to start trusting each other. 10-20 years down the line, I easily see the borders taken apart, and Israelis and Syrians driving in and out without visas and all that. Question of the water is a major issue for Israelis (as for Syrians), and I believe there’s more than tremendous willingness on the part of the Turks to partner up with both of us, and reach some amazing solutions that could solve most if not all of our water needs.

February 18th, 2008, 10:54 pm


offended said:

Some good news….
The day has passed without troubles in Lebanon.

Will we be counting days from now on?

February 18th, 2008, 10:56 pm


offended said:

Shai, I see that you are up late : )

I don’t understand this though: wasn’t Tibris a Syrian lake before 67?

This is not a question of water demand my friend, this thing can be sorted out separately; in fact, getting back the lake is a matter of sovereignty.

It holds symbolism to more than few people in Syria.

February 18th, 2008, 10:59 pm


Shai said:


What do you think AIG would say about the Americans in WWII? He probably doesn’t know it, but America systematically destroyed between 50%-90% of Japan’s 60 largest cities (cities equivalent in size to NYC, LA, Chicago, etc.), killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, and all this BEFORE it dropped the two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki! That makes America a terrorist-state, doesn’t it? Certainly disproportionate to Japan’s attack on military installations in Pearl Harbor, no?

February 18th, 2008, 11:01 pm


offended said:

I brought up the issue of Hiroshima and Nagasaki a while ago as an answer to the argument with AIG over the raid on Owserat nuclear reactor. He didn’t respond to that. I assumed he lost the argument.

February 18th, 2008, 11:04 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Neither the US nor Japan nor Germany nor Engalnd nor Russia is proud of every decision made in WWII. There were un-necessarry targeting of civillians by everybody.

But what is your point anyway? That it is OK to fight wars like the powers did in WWII? Or that if you judge most countries by today’s standards you would find them deficient? I thought we have advanced since then. So if you think it is ok to target civillians just say so.

Slavery was legal in the US till the civil war and there as blatant racism and discrimination in the South till the sixties. Does that make the US today a slave state or precludes Americans from being against slavery? I hope you understand how wrong your argument is.

February 18th, 2008, 11:10 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

When Israel bombs the Dahye (giving warning first) or uses cluster bombs its aim is to kill the Hizballah fighters and hurt their installations. Israel does not intend to kill any civillian. You may not believe me, but it is the truth.

AIG, this is sophistry.

When Israel gives warning first, do you think the Hizbullah fighters are going to stick around? The goal of destroying Dahye is to target the civilians. Perhaps not directly, in the way of direct murder, but certainly indirectly, through destroying property, livelihood, etc. of the families of the fighters.

Intentions are meaningless when they don’t correspond to actions. Levelling Dahye while claiming to be “intending” to only kill fighters is as convincing as blowing yourself up at a passover celebration while claiming to be “intending” to only kill enlisted soldiers.

You are no better off for all of your theory, if you end up killing more civilians than your enemies! And this despite your advanced technologies!

Let’s stop bulls_itting each other, and solve the problem.

February 18th, 2008, 11:15 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The decision in front of Truman was the following. Convince the Japanese to surrender or conquer Japan at a loss of about 1 million American soldiers.

He decided to use the bomb. Japan did not surrender after the first bomb. There were still voices saying the US had only one such bomb and they should continue to fight. After the second bomb they surrendered.

I visited the museum in Hiroshima devoted to the atom bomb attack and I fully understand its consequences both short and long term. I hope I never have to make the decision Truman had to make, but I will certainly not judge him. I am sure many American mothers were very grateful to him and ironically many Japanese mothers. Because if the war would have gone on to the bitter end, many more Japanese would have died than those killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

February 18th, 2008, 11:16 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sorry, this is not bullshit. Hizballah built its bunkers and command centers under Dahyeh. We both know it is true. That is what Israel was after, those installations.

And as for the numbers, it does not matter. What matters is the intent. Israel hopes it harms as few civillians as possible and Hamas and Hizballah do not, in fact they hide behind civillians.

February 18th, 2008, 11:20 pm


Shai said:


I understand your point about the lake, but that was a major difficulty as well between Barak and Al-Sharaa in 1999, from what I understand. Let’s first find the formula for the entire Golan, then decide the waterline issue. The example of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was made to point to these AIG’s that what seems to have been the most murderous, cruel terroristic acts some 60 years ago by an ally, have almost been “brushed off” today as part of war. But we don’t need to wait another 60 years – already today many of Israel’s allies are doing the same “brushing off” of almost-daily Qassam attacks over the past 7 years on Sderot, and even those suicide bombers of a decade ago are almost “forgotten” by some.

You do not close doors to anyone, even those who harbor terrorists, and support terrorists, as their only efficient “cards” to pressure Israel to come to the table. If Syria didn’t harbor Hamas, didn’t supply Hezbollah, didn’t ally itself with Iran, would any of us even think of giving back the Golan? If the Palestinians didn’t find the way to recruit their young to give up their lives in suicide attacks, would we ever think of pulling out of Gaza and the West Bank? I think even this AIG-chap knows the answer to that one.

February 18th, 2008, 11:25 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I’m offering you a way out, as you’re on a slipperly slope. Why can’t you recognize Israel’s tactics in Lebanon as morally repugnant? Either that, or at least stop trying to define your enemies as embodying a degree of malevolence deeper than yours.

This fairy tale of intent is so amusing to me, coming from you. You are such a hard-nosed realist in other matters, something that I admire about you.

Let me put it this way. What good is your intent if it offers no real check on the means, methods, or limits of your warfare? Would you have condoned dropping a nuclear bomb on Dahye, if it could assure you that the bunkers would be destroyed? Why or why not?

February 18th, 2008, 11:32 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Your comment above is well said and I applaud your courage. Your courage is further underscored by the difficulty for an average Israeli to extend an arm for peace at a time where some feel (fueled by ideologues in the US who envisioned the Clean Break doctrine) it isn’t necessary as long as Israel is supremely powerful and capable of defending itself.

While I can appreciate the thoughts of the average Israeli who is touched by the horrors of the conflict, it is the same here on the Syrian side. Syrians do view that the war with Israel is an existential one. Whether this is a rational thought or not is irrelevant. It is there and it must be factored in.

But your courage to seek peace is also inspiring many of us who can make a difference back home in Syria. Syrians are now better conditioned to accept peace with Israel than they were 20 or even 10 years ago. It is not because they are afraid of Israel – as some in US would like us to believe. It is because, in general, Syrians are mainly pacifists and not true worriers of any God.

Many historians have confirmed the placidity of the Levantines that even Saladdin wasn’t a true war-hungry liberator. When presented with a choice of war or peace, he chose the latter. He reached peaceful compromises long before he chose the battlefields to resolve conflicts.

Compared to Western adventures and racism against Jews; residents of the Levant region are pretty much lame ducks (if not outright chicken). Our history never produced evils like Hitler, Stalin, or Mussolini.

Many of us here and in Syria share your optimism. Yes, we do have problems to work out – anywhere from human rights to liberty and democracy. But I, like you, never lost hope. In fact, I tell my children that peace is happening in my lifetime, so they can adjust their schedules accordingly.

But while we are building and parading CBMs, we must simultaneously work on affecting public opinion in places where it matters to force politicians and leaders to adopt peaceful strategies with the US being the starting point.

Working with many Jewish and Arab activists, I see it as conceivable that someone like Alon Liel can influence and counter balance war policies being formulated at think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and similar hawkish institutions.

I truly believe that peace-loving Israelis like you and Alon (more so than any Syrian can do) have the biggest chances of influencing US policy-makers – especially when we have a president in the White House who is committed to just and lasting peace. I think the opportunity is now ripe for Israeli leadership in pressing for a change towards peace.

Press on, Shai! I am sure we will be having many exchanges here. Looking forward for good things to come out of our continued dialogue.

February 18th, 2008, 11:36 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

And by the way, historians have long since called into question that piece of classroom wisdom taught to all American students in social studies, decade after decade, namely that Truman just had to drop the bomb, or many more people would have been killed.

See for example A.C. Grayling’s “Among the Dead Cities”.

February 18th, 2008, 11:36 pm


Shai said:


Though your arguments certainly are valid, and I don’t think they’re out of place at all, if I may ask, why are you having them? What are you hoping to achieve? Where will that get you? Why aren’t we discussing the future? The recognition you seek will obviously not come anytime soon, not by most Israelis at least. At least a generation or two will have to pass before confident enough Israelis (and Arabs) will be able to look each other in the eyes, and apologize. We must not allow admission of responsibility to become a prerequisite to peace. Obviously, it will be so for forgiveness to take place. But not for peace, don’t you agree?

February 18th, 2008, 11:40 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

No real checks and balances? Israel could have inflicted much more damage in Lebanon. As you say, Israel could have nuked Beirut but didn’t. I think that what Israel used was not effective enough but certainly was reasonable given that the whole of the north of Israel was being shelled. In similar situations I am quite sure most other countries would have been more destructive than Israel.

And I see you do not believe the intent issue. I was for about 10 years in the IDF. I know tons of people who were in the IDF in all its arms. Most Israelis are in the IDF. I have never heard of even one case that an order was given to intentionally target civillians. Never. If Shai has heard otherwise, let him say so.
Further, I doubt that given an order to target civillians intentionally, an Israeli officer would carry it out. It is an order that is obviously illegal.

Israel fights its wars like modern western armies do. I will not apologize for that. This means extensive use of air power. Hizballah knows that and having no answer to Israel’s air power it hides behind civillians. Israel must take this into account but it cannot be stopped fighting Hizbollah at the expense of collateral damage. Hopefully, in the future Israel will have more accurate and more discriminate weapons.

Let Hizballah and Hamas only target soldiers or military facilities. That is their right. But once they target civillians intentionally they are beyond the pale.

February 18th, 2008, 11:53 pm


Shai said:

Ford Prefect,

Your words mean a lot to me, and be sure that I am sharing with many here samples of my communications on this forum with amazing people like yourself. When I hear you, I can’t help but feel the infinite shame and waste of time and life gone forever in searching for our differences and trying to force upon one another our “truths”, rather than embracing one another as human beings first, settlers of this region from ancient times, and brothers. I too believe that peace is possible in our time, and I promise you that I will do what I can, as little or great as my contribution may be, to achieve that goal. I am in constant contact with Alon Liel and his organization, and we will be aiming our efforts at the new and upcoming American administration, as well as at politicians here at home. Please know, that like in any country on earth, Israel too has its “silent majority”. Not long ago, during the years of Yitzhak Rabin, most Israelis believed in peace, were willing to make sacrifices, and we were almost there. Those same Israelis are still here. Their opinions may have changed some, but they can be changed back quite easily (at least when it comes to Syria). When enough CBM’s have been brought forth, and when a new administration starts voicing its vision of the Middle East, we will see change, and we will find the path to peace. My friend, I too look forward to many exchanges with you, and I thank you with all my heart for the effort and time spent on working towards our common goals.

Now signing-off… as it’s nearly 2 am here…. 🙂

February 18th, 2008, 11:56 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

it is back to AIG,A.P. and Shai

February 19th, 2008, 12:03 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Ok Shai, I’ll call it off.

AIG, we can discuss this elsewhere and at another time. In the meantime, what do you deem “significant monetary compensation” and how will this be administrated?

February 19th, 2008, 12:33 am


Enlightened said:

Interesting Posts by Shai, FP, QN and AIG:

I Have one question for AIG.

Is peace not a better alternative to bringing up children in a place where they can reach their potential and live free of fear and uncertainty?

I communicated with you once about my late fathers fears about bringing us up in the ME, and he chose a very long time ago to get out, seeing no hope for a resolution in his lifetime, I dread the day when I have to take my 9month old son to the ME ( To show him Beirut, Damascus and Jerusalem )to show him where his ancestors came from and there will be no peace, but I will wait until his teens. I know we can go anytime, but it would be much more enjoyable if there was a lasting peace.

I honestly believe that you AIG are not an extremist, but have been fed too much right wing paranoia that some of it (but not all of it) has made some indelible impression on you regarding Arabs and peace. But that goes also for many Arabs and their view on Jews and Israel.

What next, I take Shais point that many within Israel ( Rabin Days ) can be brought back towards the peace camp. But to get public opinion on both sides to admit that they do not hold the moral high ground is a big task. More in the Arab and Jewish Diaspora have to take the lead, because the politicians have failed in sixty years to resolve this conflict. Sixty years of misery.

February 19th, 2008, 12:34 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am not an expert on this but I would think some amount that would make a big difference in the life of most refugees (about $25,000 per person?). I was thinking it would be dispensed by unwra like food is dispensed to the refugees today but really I am not an expert.

What paranoia do I have about Arabs and peace in general? If you think that I have some prejudice or preconceived notion about Arabs, please let me know.

February 19th, 2008, 1:17 am


Akbar Palace said:

I think I found an example of what AIG is referring to in the Middle East. I suppose this phenomenon can be best explained as the result of being brainwashed by a dictator and religious fundamentalists over the course of 40+ years…


February 19th, 2008, 1:18 am


Enlightened said:

Answer The first question posed first…. Simple yes or NO

February 19th, 2008, 1:23 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I didn’t answer the question because the answer is obviously yes.

February 19th, 2008, 1:36 am


Qifa Nabki said:


This guy is hilarious. MEMRI says he’s a researcher, but he looks like a slightly insane taxi driver.

(I have many such people in my own family!)

The best bit is where he says: “Have you watched the movement of the sun? I have!

February 19th, 2008, 1:42 am


Enlightened said:

Well its a YES

” Please note AIG I said paranoia not prejudice! ( Dont confuse the issue

“What paranoia do I have about Arabs and peace in general? If you think that I have some prejudice or preconceived notion about Arabs?

Your Paranoia is “That Arabs are not worthy of Peace until they mirror your pre conceived notion of a Democratic Society, and until they do they are not worthy of peace or engagement!

February 19th, 2008, 2:01 am


Ford Prefect said:

I hate to drag this subject on any longer and start listing simplified and personal examples of who did what to whom, but I am sure you know that Israel did fight wars where it used internationally banned weapons.

After spending 10 years in the IDF like you said, you should be fully aware of this fact and it should not be a shocker to you.

Have you already forgotten, according to your now-so-friendly UN, the millions of cluster bombs dropped over southern Lebanon in the final week of the July war and ahead of the pending seize fire? Millions of cluster bombs, millions, to fight 3,000 HA fighters?

Further, please do not force us to be thankful to the Israeli mercy on our souls by not nuking Beirut. We continue to be unimpressed by that humane gesture.

And to say that Israel fight wars like Western armies do should not be considered a compliment to your army. Rather, it is a crying shame to be compared to the Western armies characterized by “killing for sport”. We Americans have repented our horrific experience in Vietnam and fully understand our colossal mistake in Iraq. Have you?

Vast majorities of Arabs, from Iraq to Morocco and everywhere they exist never condoned the killing of civilians by anyone and anywhere. Those who do approve of violence are equal in principles and in action to the same people on your side. They exist on both sides, unfortunately. The rest of us have and continue to profoundly reject them. Time for you to come and join us in rejecting all of them.

February 19th, 2008, 2:03 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

He is a Koranic Scientist. I think that beats jumbo shrimp as the best oxymoron ever.

February 19th, 2008, 2:07 am


Enlightened said:


Clip is quite funny, I think its the date today that Copernicus published his findings that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Obviously the mad taxi driver did not get this part right in his elementary education.

February 19th, 2008, 2:10 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

“That Arabs are not worthy of Peace until they mirror your pre conceived notion of a Democratic Society, and until they do they are not worthy of peace or engagement!”

Where did I ever say that? What I say is since I respect what the Arabs have to say, how can you forge agreements with dictators that do not represent the Arabs but only their own interests? And what are these agreements worth anyway since they do not represent what the Arabs want?

February 19th, 2008, 2:12 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

1) Cluster bombs are still legal.

2) You say: “Those who do approve of violence are equal in principles and in action to the same people on your side”. Nobody serious on my side is for killing civillians intentionally. Asad, the “leader” of the “resistance”, a head of state, has as a guest Mesh’al who has made a career out of targeting restaurants and other targets in order to kill civillians on purpose. In fact, he is proud when he succeeds in doing it. There is just no comparison between Israel and Asad and Mesh’al. You will not be able to convince me and you will not convince the majority of Americans or Europeans.

You want to fight Israel, that is ok. But if you target civillians intentionally you are beyond the pale. And if you support Asad for hosting Mesh’al you are insincere about your desire for peace.

February 19th, 2008, 2:23 am


Qifa Nabki said:


Would it make you feel any better about Hamas if they declared that they did not aim to target civilians?

What if they claimed that their suicide operations were geared to targeting (off-duty) Israeli soldiers?

Would the profession of such an intention suddenly make it acceptable to attack areas in which there were both civilians and soldiers?

By the way, Nasrallah has said that his fighters waited for three months before ambushing the Israeli patrol in 2006, purposefully avoiding launching an attack that would harm civilians in the area.

Does that make Hizbullah’s actions legit, in your eyes?

February 19th, 2008, 2:44 am


norman said:

1) Cluster bombs are still legal

Why can’t the Arabs buy them and use on Israel , An eye for an eye and a head for a head .

February 19th, 2008, 2:48 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I would feel better if Hamas did not target civillians and civillian targets like shopping centers and restuarants. I do not care what they say. I can see what they target and what they consider a success. In the last suicide bombing in Dimona they rejoiced at killing a 70 year old woman doing her shopping. Are you trying to play word games or is it really not obvious to you that they are targeting civillians?

If Nasrallah wants to target soldiers, as a way of fighting it is legitimate, especially if the soldiers are in Lebanon. What is not “legitimate” is crossing an international border to do so. As a way of fighting it is legitimate, but it is an act of aggression and not of self defense. Also, When he kidnapped the soldiers he also shot katyushas at civillian targets as a diversion which was also not legitimate.

February 19th, 2008, 3:00 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Who said they can’t? I am sure they can find someone to sell it to them if they don’t have them already.

February 19th, 2008, 3:01 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Are you trying to play word games or is it really not obvious to you that they are targeting civillians?

Thank you. This is what I’m saying. Your hair-splitting about “intention” amounts to word games, AIG.

When you drop a million cluster bombs all over the Lebanese countryside, in the final days of an armed conflict, you are targeting civilians, no matter what you declare your intention to be. When you drop huge bombs on civilian areas, you are targeting civilians, no matter what your declared intention is.

This is true whether you look at it from the perspective of theory (which is what we’re doing now through our comparisons) or practice, when you look at the numbers of Lebanese civilians killed.

My argument is the following: if you are going to denounce Hamas for its actions, you also have to denounce similar actions by the Israeli Army. If you are satisfied with the Israeli Army’s tactics, then you have to accept those of Hamas as well as being legitimate acts of war.

I reject both.

PS: Are you sure you’re in Israel and not NJ? You must be a night owl.

February 19th, 2008, 3:31 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

We will just not be able to agree on this.
The bombs on Dhaye were aimed at the bunkers that were there.
The cluster bombs were a failed attempt to stop the katyusha firing crews.
They were not meant to harm civillians and Israel is NEVER happy that it kills civillians. Hamas rejoice when they do it. If I can’t convince you this is a major difference, so be it.

February 19th, 2008, 3:42 am


Qifa Nabki said:

By the way, AIG, for someone who is constantly hounding the Arabs on this blog to criticize their governments and make them live up to universal standards of decency, human rights, etc., I don’t hear a symmetrical criticism coming from you. And this despite the fact that you don’t have to worry about being thrown into prison.

In fact, you ridicule Shai for the slightest piece of criticism of Israel.

This is not right. Your points (which I sometimes agree with) will be more credible if you are more critical of your own government’s travesties and failed policies.

February 19th, 2008, 3:44 am


Qifa Nabki said:

Ok, let’s call it a night.

Apologies to all for the blah blah blah.

February 19th, 2008, 3:47 am


Enlightened said:

AIG: I am not claiming you said that, I am concluding that this is your position after you have been on this blog for a few months, and we can safely assume from the thrust of your arguments here, with many of the commentators on this site:

and then you quote

“What I say is since I respect what the Arabs have to say” AIG you need some honesty and perspective here, I just witnessed your exchange with QN and others earlier, while I admire your unflinching love for Israel ( a trait that most Arabs lack for their states), you need to temper that with some un biased perspective. ( Dont worry there are others on this site with a similar position re their positions ).

February 19th, 2008, 4:05 am


Ford Prefect said:

I was about to post another answer to AIG who is justifying the use of a million cluster bombs as legal affair in fighting HA.

But, instead, I counted to 10. It feels a lot better, actually!

February 19th, 2008, 4:06 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

What do you mean? I think Olmert is an idiot that mismanaged the war in Lebanon. I wouldn’t have shot the cluster bombs for many reasons, but I am sure it was not done for the purpose of harming or hurting civillians. It is just not a thing the IDF does. I know it looks different on the receiving end.

We are only talking, there is no need to apologize for anything.

February 19th, 2008, 4:10 am


Enlightened said:

LOL FP Maybe I should have done the same

February 19th, 2008, 4:11 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Indulge me, what is not legal about it?
I agree it was not effective, but why was it not legal? The way the bombs were used was to identify by radar a katyusha shooting and to fire cluster bombs to that area in the hope of getting the Hizballah crew firing the rockets. Seems legal to me.

February 19th, 2008, 5:15 am


Nour said:


A UN investigation in 1996 found that Israel deliberately targeted the UN shelter housing civilians. You are a hypocrite and a liar just like your government. Your terrorist soldiers always target civilians and they have done so for some time, yet you always play the victim and assert a moral superiority on your part when nothing can be further from the truth. No matter what evidence is presented that your sick, criminal army targeted civilians, you merely say “no, the IDF would never do so, you are wrong.” But your propaganda does not work with people who lived through your terror. Civilians who were targeted know that they were targeted. They are not imagining things. When an ambulance is deliberately struck, when a civilian car is deliberately bombed, when hospitals, schools, apartment buildings are deliberately destroyed,you are targeting civilians. So spare us your nonsense and your typical self-righteous rhetoric for we are not stupid enough to buy it.

February 19th, 2008, 5:18 am


Shai said:


Judging from his level of awareness, and from other responses of his at similar hours of the day, I’d say AIG is as close to Ramat Hasharon as I am to New Jersey. Which, if that is the case, makes him a plain liar, and a coward. Incidentally, most officers in the Israeli army who’d served 10 years, wouldn’t tell you they did – a bit of innate humility mixed with a sense of security – neither of which your AIG knows. I think Alex is right – he is a hawkish, neocon, ex-Israeli, now-American, living comfortably somewhere on the East coast, telling US Israelis how to run our future. Last time he did something for his country was when Hafez was still alive, and in his early 50’s… Ha, what a joke.

February 19th, 2008, 5:23 am


Shai said:


Seems you and I (unlike some other “Israelis”) are on the same time zone. Please understand that the last thing I want to do is agree with anything this ex-Israeli “AIG” says, but on the issue of targeting civilians as a policy, I do have something to say. It is true that it is almost never the case that an Israeli army officer receives orders to target civilians. I say “never” because obviously there are times when an air-force pilot is given a target he knows involves innocent civilians as well. Things we’ve done in Lebanon, and are doing in Gaza, don’t attest to what I say, I know. But that is because Israel still hasn’t figured out what it wants. We haven’t figured out that we cannot possibly be deemed “humane” if we continue to “accidentally” or “inefficiently” use cluster bombs. Our problem is that we fight like in war, yet pretend that we can limit that war. The harsh reality is, that we can’t. That is why we must choose – either to continue to lie to ourselves, and hurt innocent civilians in the process, or to seek an alternative, and an end to our need for a superior might.

I know all this is meaningless to those who have suffered at the hands of the Israeli Army. Nothing i say can make you suddenly love me, or forgive me, or even understand me. But I am trying to at least send across the message that there is no policy in the IDF to hurt civilians. Almost twenty years ago, just after the first Intifada had started, I was in Officer’s school. My group was sent to a week’s patrol in the streets of Gaza. One evening, one of the cadets forced his way into a house, and wreaked havoc all over the place. It made those of us who saw it plain sick. It stood against everything we knew. We barely understood what we were doing in Gaza in the first place, but to see this inhumanity was too much. A few days later that same cadet was court-martialed, spent a bit of time in jail, and was kicked out of Officer’s school.

As I’m writing this, I’m asking myself “who am I kidding – that’s supposed to make Nour feel better?” But I guess I’m just trying to give you a sense that most of us on this side of the fence still do not accept any act of inhumanity, still do not rejoice at your suffering, and still long for the day our children can grow up in peace together.

February 19th, 2008, 6:15 am


Nour said:


I’m sorry, I don’t buy that. Many of the targets of Israel make no military sense whatsoever and cannot be deemed to be anything but civilian targets. Moreover, Israel has used weapons such as napalm and vacuum bombs over civilian areas. As for rejoicing in the killing of civilians, many Israelis do rejoice and have been taped celebrating civilian deaths. Many Israelis have been on tv stating that all Arabs should be killed. When Baruch Goldstein massacred innocent Palestinians in a mosque, many of the settlers were celebrating his accomplishment and mourning his death, with one Rabbi stating “a million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail.”

February 19th, 2008, 11:02 am


MSK said:

Dear QN,

The Palestinian demand for a peace agreement (we’re talking final deal, not initial claim) is simple:

– Borders based on pre-67 Green Line with minor adjustments so that Palestine receives the same amount of land from Israel that Israel receives from the West Bank but overall not more than 3-5% — that way some settlements are inside Israel

– Most of East Jerusalem will be part of Palestine — if Israel receives East Jerusalem land there will be land compensation elsewhere — but the parts of EJ that Israel receives will be minor – like a corridor up to Mount Scopus …

– The Old City will be Palestine except for the Jewish Quarter & the Western (Wailing) Wall that will be Israel — The Old City may also be administered together, in a kind of Israel-PA-UN administration

– Israel will recognize the Right of Return & Palestine will not implement it — The refugees in Lebanon will be offered to move to Palestine (Gaza/WB) or another Arab country OTHER than Lebanon or receive compensation. The refugees in other Arab countries will be offered to stay and receive compensation. A token amount of refugees – say 10-50,000 – will be allowed to return to what is now Israel in the framework of “family reunions”. The compensation for refugees will be paid by international donors (read: EU/Japan/etc).

– Palestine will agree to only have a token armed force – a “beefed-up” police if you want – its security guaranteed by the Arab League and the U.N. Israel will not have the right to conduct police/security operations in Palestine but for a limited number of years (10? 20?) the border crossings (Gaza-Egypt / WB-Jordan) will be jointly monitored by Israel/Palestine/EU

In the end, we’re talking about some kind of Geneva Accord thing.

Now … the big “if” is whether Hamas would honor such an agreement. But the vast majority of Palestinians would go for it. One thing that Westerners always seem to not get is that the solution of the problem is as much about justice & dignity as it is about land and money.

The same goes for Lake Tiberias and Syria’s access to it. Of course Syria will get all the land back and recover its full sovereignty. But then … maybe part of the Israel-Syria agreement is to lease the shoreline to Israel for 99 years …


February 19th, 2008, 11:14 am


Honest Patriot said:

I think MSK’s outline is an excellent crystal seed on which much can be built. The one issue I have is with the losseness of:
“- Israel will recognize the Right of Return & Palestine will not implement it —”
I realize perservation of “dignity” and the ability to claim victory is always dear to the Arab heart but, within the context of an enforceable peace agreement, the statement as written is a non-starter. Maybe OK to use it as interpretation by Arab leaders of a more crisply defined agreement but something like that cannot go in the official agreement.
I’m sure details can be worked out in this element, and, in general, this reinforces my strong belief (as an observer, not an expert) in what I’ve often repeated: that the elements of a definitive solution are known. I also believe that what’s lacking is the courage of a true statesman in Israel (as Rabin was) to take the first step and make peace happen.
Shai, are you running for elections any time soon ? With you in Israel, QN in Lebanon, Alex (if he’s willing?) in Syria, this can be pulled off in real time.

February 19th, 2008, 12:42 pm


MSK said:

Dear HP,

Recognizing the Right of Return is not just a question of dignity, or even “ability to claim victory” – it is first & foremost a question of international law. Refugees have the right to return to their homes. Period.

And as QN outlined above, we’re talking about what the absolute red lines are, beyond which a negotiator cannot retreat. On the Palestinian side, the Right of Return is one of those.

The trick is to sign & publish a document in which (1) Israel recognizes the Right of Return and (2) Palestine forfeits its right of implementation at the same time. 😉


February 19th, 2008, 2:06 pm


Shai said:


I do understand you. But although some of your information regarding the IDF is incorrect, there’s certainly no point arguing it to death. Suffice to say that civilians have and do suffer at the hands of our army, unfortunately. As for Baruch Goldstein and his hord of settlers, I certainly hope you don’t view most Israelis as being similar. Most of us really are human beings, not monsters like Goldstein and his supporters.

February 19th, 2008, 2:15 pm


ausamaa said:

I really hope this is not a Good Cop-Bad Cop sort of thing…! Why am I so suspicious some times? Bad experinces I guess!

February 19th, 2008, 2:41 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Dear MSK (Love the niceties :-)), OK, sold. To me (and maybe I’m cynical) we’re into the semantics. There is agreement on the substance so why isn’t this being done? I tell ya, if this was an objective commercial endeavor all them leaders would have been fired by now. The equivalent is for them to be voted out of office, but, alas, this requires a majority of free, reasonable, and engaged people. I still think the breakthrough (to reach to what there is evident agreement on) is a courageous leader – preferably from Israel, since it’s their turn after Sadat made history.
Life is what happens to you while you’re waiting for peace in the Middle East 🙁

February 19th, 2008, 2:51 pm


MSK said:

Dear HP,

(Call me old-fashioned but I strongly believe in style & thus judiciously choose whom to “dear” and whom … not.)

The major issues between Israel & Palestinians are the Right of Return & Jerusalem.

The first one is linked to an Israeli “admission” to have established their state on other people’s lands & houses, the second is linked to the post-67 religio-fication of Israel, in which J’lem morphed from a place where weird (& despised) religious Jews dwell to the “eternal & indivisible capital of the Jewish nation”.

And while a solution to No 1 will be painful – for both sides – I am not sure if one for No 2 is possible.


February 19th, 2008, 3:06 pm


Honest Patriot said:

I changed my mind. Instead of QN, now I want MSK to run for President of Lebanon. 😉
(OK, if MSK is not Lebanese, then we’ll stick with QN and vote for MSK as President of whichever country he’s in.. [even if the US! – If Obama can do it, so can MSK])
You guys not only amaze me with the eloquence (and elegance) of the simplicity with which you articulate what otherwise are confusing issues, but also with your poise, humor, and civility.
There IS hope for the world.
(Why do I have the feeling that both MSK and QN are erudite long-term academics somewhere in the ME? Am I getting close? Alex: Help, the curiosity is heating up)

February 19th, 2008, 3:26 pm


Akbar Palace said:

The major issues between Israel & Palestinians are the Right of Return & Jerusalem.

MSK* –

It is clear from your writings you aren’t Jewish.

The major issue between Israel & Palestinians is peace. The Right of Return and Jerusalem was (for all intents & purposes) agreed to.

The real sticking point was a verifiable peace. And with Hamas now totally out of the control of the Palestinian Authority, I don’t see them putting down their Qassam salvos.

The first one is linked to an Israeli “admission” to have established their state on other people’s lands & houses, the second is linked to the post-67 religio-fication of Israel, in which J’lem morphed from a place where weird (& despised) religious Jews dwell to the “eternal & indivisible capital of the Jewish nation”.

Firstly, I don’t see any “admission” solely coming from the Israeli government. I see this as a mutual statement coming from both parties to the conflict, not just the State of Israel.

Secondly, you may think Jerusalem only contained “weird & despised religious Jews” prior to ’48 (we can see your glaring “objectivity” here in full view), but in my point-of-view, these Jews had every right to live there as they did for generations. And, BTW, most, if not all, were “kicked out” during the ’48 war. Palestinians were not the only refugees created during Israel’s War of Independence.

Lastly, your quotation marks around “eternal & indivisible capital of the Jewish nation”, is a further sign of your unending bias. Jerusalem is and always has been the center of Jewish thought including the direction Jews pray toward on a daily basis.

MSK*, try to do better in your objectivity and maybe you’ll win a prize;)

February 19th, 2008, 3:58 pm


Honest Patriot said:

AP, maybe you make good points, but you also dismiss the influence of religious extremists in Israel and their contribution to the inflamation of negative feelings and paranoia. We need balance and a situation where each of you “reasonable” folk admit to the negative influence of your “crazies.”

February 19th, 2008, 4:04 pm


Akbar Palace said:

HP –

How do you define an Israeli “religious extremist” or “crazies”? And what percentage of Israelis to you think these people represent in Israeli society?

February 19th, 2008, 4:27 pm


Honest Patriot said:

AP – Good questions. I don’t know the answer to the percentage question, but I clearly see their impact on positions and decisions taken by the state of Israel. As far as definition, then it’s basically those elements who, believing that it is their God-given right to occupy all of the Biblically “Promised Land,” oppose any land-for-peace agreement, continue the pressure to unceasingly expand the settlements, and believe in ethnically cleansing any part of Israel that is currenlty under Israeli control. Again, I’m no expert, but judging from news reports over the last 50 years or so, and from history books and reports, those elements do exist and are active.
I will hasten to add, AP, that on the Arab side, there are equally fanatical crazies, and, regrettably, those have way too much influence on both sides, probably disproportionately to their numbers, to the point of being, I believe, a major factor in preventing, so far, a peaceful settlement.
And, while portions of othe ME spirals downward, life and progress continue in many parts of the world…

February 19th, 2008, 5:19 pm


MSK said:

Dear HP-

I’m not giving away anything … 😉


My reference to “weird & despised religious Jews” is to the way how the Israeli leadership thought about Jerusalem’s inhabitants for a long time. If you don’t know the history of your own country … that’s not my problem.

As for refugees – of course there were Jewish refugees from Jerusalem in ’48, but contrary to your assertion they were not the majority of J’lem’s Jews. The Jews of the Old City were kicked out, not the tens of thousands of Jews in West J’lem (almost none lived in East J’lem at the time). Again, read your history books.

And just to make it crystal-clear – Jews have a right to live wherever they damn well please, and especially in the sites of their ancestors be that Jerusalem, Aleppo, Baghdad, Beirut, Berlin, Lvov or Tel Aviv, Manhattan, Paris. That goes for everyone else as well.

Now, within the framework of a MidEast peace settlement in our time … we may just have to accept that, for reasons well known, for the foreseeable future Arabs won’t be allowed to immigrate into Israel and Jews/Israelis won’t be allowed to immigrate into Palestine (and maybe also not into other Arab countries). That’s unfortunate but a fact.

As for my quotation marks – I was quoting a law & thus used quotation marks. I wanted to make it clear that I’m quoting & not necessarily subscribe to the idea myself. And I don’t see what a division of Jerusalem into an Israeli and a Palestinian part (with a kind-of division of the Old City) has to do with J’lem being the center of Jewish prayer. Having West J’lem as capital of Israel and East J’lem as capital of Palestine doesn’t impede anything.



February 19th, 2008, 5:43 pm


Akbar Palace said:

My reference to “weird & despised religious Jews” is to the way how the Israeli leadership thought about Jerusalem’s inhabitants for a long time.

MSK* –

Please post your reference to the above quote. My copy of Howard Sachar’s, “A History of Israel”, 2nd Ed., p. 324 says there were about 85,000 Jews living in Jerusalem. And near as I can tell, the “Jewish troops” fought rather hard for Jerusalem. H. Sachar claims:

“On May 2, under the cover of a heavy Transjordanian artillery bombardment, Eygptian infantrymen stormed the kibbutz of Ramat Rachel, lying astride the entrance to southern Jerusalem. What followed was the single most furious encounter of the Palestine war.”

You claim that J’lem morphed from a place where weird (& despised) religious Jews dwell to the “eternal & indivisible capital of the Jewish nation” is just a swipe at Israel and Jews. Jerusalem has always at the center of Judaism.

Take notes MSK*

And just to make it crystal-clear – Jews have a right to live wherever they damn well please

Does that include Hebron MSK*?

Good questions.

HP – Thanks.

As far as definition, then it’s basically those elements who, believing that it is their God-given right to occupy all of the Biblically “Promised Land,” oppose any land-for-peace agreement, continue the pressure to unceasingly expand the settlements, and believe in ethnically cleansing any part of Israel that is currenlty under Israeli control.

HP –

Most Jews (like myself) believe G-d promised them the Land of Israel for an “everlasting eternity”. That said, most Jews realize the need for a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians per the “land for peace” formula. This includes those who adhere to the Meretz, Labor, Likud, Kadima, and even some religious parties. I would agree that the beliefs you described above is an apt description of an Israeli “extremist”, but the percentage of Israelis who adhere to it, IMHO, is no more than 5%. Further, a small minority of this 5% believes in targeting innocent civilians.

Again, I’m no expert, but judging from news reports over the last 50 years or so, and from history books and reports, those elements do exist and are active.

I’m not saying they DON’T, I’m just saying they are a small fringe in Israeli society.

I will hasten to add, AP, that on the Arab side, there are equally fanatical crazies, and, regrettably, those have way too much influence on both sides, probably disproportionately to their numbers, to the point of being, I believe, a major factor in preventing, so far, a peaceful settlement.

IMHO, the fanatics and “crazies” on the Arab side far outnumber those on the Israeli side. That includes Iraqi scientists who still believe the world is flat.

And, while portions of othe ME spirals downward, life and progress continue in many parts of the world…

We just have to try harder to work for peace.
Our little discussion is probably the best thing;)

Thank you for the questions (shukran),


February 19th, 2008, 6:34 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Everytime you praise MSK or myself, you make it that much more difficult for either of us to be elected president.


Don’t you know that Joshua is a Syrian regime mole, monitoring the private views of all political aspirants? Now you’ve gone and let the cat out of the bag! The Syrians will never go for us now.

February 19th, 2008, 6:45 pm


Shai said:

Honest Patriot,

You wrote a bit earlier that the much needed breakthrough in our region might come through a courageous Israeli leader. I hate to ruin your hopes (and mine), but I just don’t see that happening anytime soon. Unfortunately, there are no new faces on the horizon. In theory, if the Winograd Report would have created enough public pressure, Barak might have been forced to give the Kadima-led government an ultimatum which basically says “Olmert can no longer be our PM, take him out (or rotate him), replace him with someone else (Livni?), and then we’ll stay in the government and not call for new elections”. Hence in theory, Tzipi Livni (our young and rather inexperienced foreign minister) could have found herself leading this nation into whatever near future she may have had in mind. But, as Israelis have grown numb to the infinite ups-and-downs of our region, so too have they basically decided to dismiss the true ramifications of the Winograd Report, and all potential pressure is basically gone. I now don’t see elections happening anytime soon, so Netanyahu won’t be PM just yet, and so we’ve got the same leaders, and the same impotency. They might be particularly good at executing unbelievably bold operations (if Israel did indeed eliminate Imad Mughniyeh), but they are certainly particularly bad at planning and bringing us closer to peace.

Olmert, Barak, and Netanyahu have all failed miserably. But in Israel’s bizarre political reality, they’re all still around. Don’t expect your “breakthrough” to come through one of those clowns. I’d much rather bet on someone from the other side of the fence, like Syria. Or, maybe we do need to await a new administration in Washington, with a Clinton or a McCain in power (I doubt Obama will make it), and hope they’re bold enough to remind Israel where most of its financial and military support comes from. And then, like Baker-Bush did some 17 years ago (Jesus, how time passes… what a waste!), force all sides back onto the negotiation table (Madrid II, Barcelona III, or Barbados XXXVII).

February 19th, 2008, 6:46 pm


Anaconda said:

February 16th, 2008 — !

Bush’s strangest Syrian bedfellow: Assef Shawkat, Head of Syria’s Military Intelligence… At center of suspicion in Hezbollah leader’s car bombing…. of America’s “Most Wanted” Imad F. Mugniyah.

The head of Syrian military intelligence, Assef Shawkat, is no stranger to working with the CIA. Syria has, since 9/11, served as a host for the torture of “extraordinarily renditioned” prisoners captured by the CIA. Shawkat has been at the center of the CIA’s program.

WMR has learned from reliable sources that the car bombing in Damascus of Hezbollah military commander Imad Mugniyah on February 12 was carried out by Shawkat with the active encouragement and support of Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams and Israel’s Mossad. WMR has reported in the past that Abrams is the coordinator within the Bush White House of political assassinations, particularly those in the Middle East, and specifically, similar car bombing assassinations in Lebanon. WMR has also previously reported that many of the car bombings in Lebanon were the result of coordination between Israeli, American, and Syrian operatives, including “rogue” Syrians and Lebanese agents in the employ of Assef Shawkat.

Mugniyah was wanted by the United States and Israel for a number of terrorist attacks in the 1980s and 1990s, including the 1983 bombings of the US Embassy and Marine Barracks in Beirut, the 1985 hijacking of an Athens-to-Rome TWA flight in which Navy diver Robert Stethem was murdered, and the kidnapping and murder of Beirut CIA station chief William F. Buckley in 1984 and Marine Corps Lt. Col. William Higgins in 1988.

Significantly, the Israeli Prime Minister’s office has denied any role in Imad Fayez Mughniyeh’s assassination. However, Israeli government and intelligence officials are ecstatic, happy, delighted and pleased with Assef Shawkat’s “proven” and tried… performances, and that it occurred, finally in Damascus…

Mugniyah’s car exploded at around 10:45 pm in the up-market Tantheem Kafer Souseh neighborhood of Damascus. WMR has learned that the car bombing of Mugniyah was to be timed with the February 9th birthday of President Ronald Reagan, a gesture by Shawkat to the Americans, but the specially designed Mitsubishi seats containing the bombs were installed, or “activated…” later… due to “Political calculations… “, linked to the Intelligence “aims” sought….and security Concerns…, resulting in the February 12th assassination, a timing quite reminiscent for Assef Shawkat and his brutal “Henchmen”…. [ Assef’s last “promotion” dates to February 13th 2005…]
The “ultimate Promotion” for Assef Shawkat’s LONG Murder career, with MOSSAD and CIA … is around the corner now…Assef is on the HOT SEAT for Blowback…
Whoever carried out the operation demonstrated very impressive capabilities, in particular in collecting intelligence. That’s Assef Shawkat.
Such an operation requires the most exact planning for months in advance. Precise information is needed, which must come from the target’s inner circle. That’s Assef Shawkat.
They must have provided details on his daily routine, movements, hiding places and security arrangements.That’s Assef Shawkat.
Planning such an operation also requires precision in getting the operators where they need to be, and even more important, they must know how to get away. That’s Assef Shawkat.
And all this must be done without leaving a trace….. That’s also, Assef Shawkat.
The car, a brand new Mitsubishi Pajero SUV, was badly damaged in the attack “like a shredded metal can,” according to Housham Nasaiseh”, 19, who works in a sweetshop nearby, and arrived at the scene a few minutes after the explosion. At least nine other cars were also damaged. All this was done without leaving a trace….. That’s also, Assef Shawkat….

By this morning, the car had been towed away. The scene had been cleared, and the only signs of the attack were a black mark on the ground and damage to nearby buildings….reminiscent of the car bomb attack on Mr. Elie Hobeika in Hazmieh Lebanon, January 24th 2002, 9.40 AM, when the whole area was “washed away” within a couple of hours from the attack, on orders from Syrian Military Intelligence….
Typical and Vintage Assef Shawkat…. and his goons.

In the Middle East, dates, particularly anniversaries, carry much weight. The assassination of the popular Christian Leader, Lebanese Member of Parliament, and ex-Minister in several Hariri Governments, Mr. Elie Hobeika on January 24th 2002, coincided with the birthday of Elliott Abrams…, the then-National Security Council Middle East director. Hobeika’s car bombing assassination in Beirut was also carried out by Shawkat’s operatives, according to WMR’s Middle East sources. The Hobeika assassination was the first in a series carried out by the CIA and Mossad with the assistance of Shawkat’s intelligence operatives in Lebanon.

Shawkat, by delivering the goods on the assassination of America’s “Most Wanted” Imad F. Mugniyeh, has ensured that he will now receive the protection of the Bush White House in the current UN investigation of car bombings in Lebanon, most notably that of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri.
Now, the 241 Marines, William F. Buckley, Colonel Higgins, Robert Stethem, the 63 Murdered at the US Embassy in 83, and many others, including French troops at Drakar, can now rest in Peace…. 25 years later…..

February 19th, 2008, 7:28 pm


Honest Patriot said:

Shai, I’m an optimist. Guess why?… hmmm, think, think,…..

(give up?, OK)…

Yes, it’s because of people like you. Now, you have a genteel way about you which makes you subject to accusations of softness by your compatriots but, as Ausamaa in a stroke of brilliance hinted (in his good cop / bad cop remark), you certainly are (understandably) a strong supporter of the state of Israel and of the well-being of its citizens and the promise of its future. Now, do you think you’re unique? Don’t you think there may be more “Shais” in Israel and that perhaps one of them will emerge with the leadership skills, vision, and charisma, to first win majority support, then the premiership, and then go on to the bold initiative I claim should come from Israel (after the Arab League so obvious opening at the Beirut summit)?

As I see it (and heck, I’m no expert of the standing of Professors QN or MSK 😉 — which is probalby why many here choose to ignore me [and I’m OK with that]), there is no way a bold initiative will come from Damascus. I think you agree, which is why you’re advocating Confidence-Building-Measures, i.e., small steps. I don’t see these either happening because there are so many divisions among the Arabs that each group is watching the other waiting to use a “Gotcha” against them and to one-up them in who is the best true defender of the Arab cause.

OK, so now here’s your assignment (Oops I think I’m being inspired by them Professors on this blog)…
Take a second look at those compatriots of yours who are of the same general inclination as you, identify the courageous leader, and encourage them to enter the political arena. The rest will take care of itself.
(And after everything works out, I will accept a citation in the History books).

— No offense meant to anyone in the peppering of humor here. Just thought to lighten a bit the otherwise serious message. —

Shalom, wassalamoo 3alaykum wa ra7matoollahee wa barakatoh

February 19th, 2008, 9:37 pm


Shai said:

Honest Patriot,

Thank you for the kind words. It’s not that I think a great leader can’t rise in Israel to lead us into a better and brighter future. We’ve got people that lead in many fields in the world (Hi-tech, agriculture, etc.), so talent is there. The problem is this numbness I spoke of, which many of my own compatriots are experiencing. Sad as it may be, because now is exactly the WRONG time to be numb, many Israelis are just fed up with the situation, seeing how these immortal political dinosaurs never vacate their seats for the next generation to try out their abilities, how corruption is widespread, and frankly, how the mideast is turning from its normal soup of “rotten vegetables” to a soup of you-know-what. You’re right, this is when bold and courageous leadership is required, not when things are “ham-de-la”, but I just don’t see it happening soon.

I can tell you that there are those of us who are searching to support potential leaders, including ones who may not have entered politics yet. And we may yet succeed. But to see someone rising in the next 2, 3, or even 4 years is doubtful. The system here is made up of people who care more about their Volvos and their nameplate with an MK before their name, than about their country. They are people who love themselves so much, that they cannot possibly contemplate failure, or the desperate need for replacement. Hence they’ll make it nearly impossible for a “rising star” to indeed rise. Even people like Ami Ayalon, who truly have leadership capabilities (he’s done amazing things in the Navy, and later in the Shaback), have found themselves stuck between old and impotent dinosaurs, who’ll do next to nothing to promote newness. The rest are too busy dodging police investigations into corruption allegations, or sexual harassment (seems to be a recent favorite for some reason…), or whatnot.

Do I sound depressed? Yeah. Am I still optimistic? Yeah. Why? Because like I’ve said earlier, I don’t have a moment to waste on this earth being pessimistic. It gets us nowhere, and we become useless. Only way to see change, is to go make it happen. The reason why I’m here, on this forum, is part of that quest… If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to tell my children’s children one day, that their grandfather did something positive in his lifetime towards achieving peace in our region.

February 20th, 2008, 6:13 am


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