Will Saudi Arabia Solve America's Problems? - Syria Comment

Will Saudi Arabia Solve America’s Problems?

Will Saudi Arabia Be Able to Solve America's Problems? Will it split Iran from Syria?

There has been considerable chest beating by supporters of the Bush administration over the prospect of splitting Syria from Iran and forcing it to relinquish, not only its Palestinian and Iraqi cards, but also its Lebanon card. As proof of Syria's impending downfall, they point to the frequent meetings between Saudi and Iranian mediators, which they claim cut Syria out of the picture. They point to the Mecca deal between Hamas and the PLO, brokered by Saudi Arabia, and to the failure of Hizbullah to carry out a coup against the American backed Siniora government, and even the impending downfall of Nabih Berri, the Shiite president of the Parliament. What is more, they point to new European resolve to back US attempts to impose sanctions on Syria and get the international court fully mandated to try Syria for the Hariri murder. Stratfor concludes its most recent report, claiming: "But from all appearances, the rumors of a rift between Iran and Syria may indeed have some merit."

This confidence seems far fetched, largely because it rests on fragile supports. First, it is driven by President Bush's success in pushing through his troop surge for Iraq in the face of democratic success at the polls and the Baker-Hamilton advice to return to diplomacy. This success will be temporary. The US cannot sustain the cost of or concentration on Iraq. Secondly, it is driven by the administration's seeming success in saddling up the Saudis to do the heavy lifting against Iran and Syria. Some argue that putting US eggs in Saudi Arabia's basket is smart and crafty. By playing on Muslim sectarian fears, the US can harness Sunnis to spend their money and political capital to defeat the growing Shi'a crescent.

No only is this unwise because Wahhabism, which under-girds Saudi legitimacy, is neither tolerant nor a force of moderation in the region, but also because Saudi interests diverge from those of the United States on several important points. Saudi Arabia is the spiritual heartland of al-Qaida. We do not need to be reminded that it gave birth to Bin Laden and most of the 9-11 bombers. Even if the Saudi political elite is capable, Wahhabism, on which it depends, constitutes the theological headwaters feeding the Jihadist swamp. In order to take on Iran and marshal Sunnis against Shiites, Saudi Arabia will be forced to put Wahhabi intolerance on steroids. Here are the words of a Syrian opposition member who has been enlisted to raise the banner of the Saudi jihad against Shiism in his article, "Safavid Sassanian Iranian plan to restore the Empire of Cyrus."

"While the Zionist plan targets Jerusalem, which is holy to us, the Safavid plan targets Mecca and Al-Madina. If you go back to their books – which they do not mention in the media, yet these books exist and are accepted by them – they claim that their Hidden Imam will come to Mecca and Al-Madina, destroy the Al-Haram Mosque and the Mosque of the Prophet, and dig in the graves of Abu Bakr and Omar and burn them both, and then he will command the wind to blow them away. He will also dig in the grave of Aisha, the Mother of the Believers, and will execute her. All this is part of their plan."

This sort of bunkum is not what the US wants to promote. Stirring up sectarian hatreds and medieval myths will undercut any attempt to inculcate secular liberalism in the region. Secretary Rice knows this. She recently chided the Arabs for their failure to uphold Arab national bonds in the face of sectarian feuding. “There’s still a tendency to see these things in Sunni-Shia terms,” Ms. Rice said. “But the Middle East is going to have to overcome that.” It is all well and good for the US to preach ecumenicism, but by asking the KSA to ratchet up Sunni fears of Shiism, it is doing the exact opposite. The late grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abd-al-Aziz ibn Abd-Allah ibn Baaz, called Arab nationalism an alien and atheist creed that should have no place in the land of Islam. The neocons insist the War on Terror is at heart a war of ideas. By throwing US weight behind the KSA, Washington is promoting the wrong ideas.

Supporting Saudi Arabian propaganda would be acceptable if the Kingdom were taking concrete measures to reform. But it is not. Central to US demands that Saudi Arabia distance itself from the more objectionable extremes of its Wahhabi ideology, has been the request that the KSA reform its Islamic school curriculum. The monarchy has held numerous conferences on curriculum reform because Saudi school books preach jihad, takfir, and instruct Muslims not to shake the hands of Christians and other kufar lest they be dragged down to hell by emotional proximity to unbelievers. The outcome of these curriculum conferences is invariably the same. Saudi Imams reject the notion that the curriculum advocates anything dangerous or un-Islamic. Reforms are not agreed upon and results are always "inconclusive" and "inoperative."  The Saudis are not changing their spots. Enlisting intolerant Sunni Islam in the war against Iran and Shiite extremism is exactly what the US should not be doing. Surely this strategy will come back to bite the West, as it did in Afghanistan.

But let us look more closely at Saudi interests to see how closely they dovetail with US interests.

Saudi and Palestine

On Palestine, Saudi interests differ from those of the US. The US offered Saudi progress on the Palestinian front in exchange for closer Saudi support in isolating Syria and tackling Iran. Most likely, Saudi authorities told Washington that in order to align more closely with US foreign policy in the region, which would surely alienate their people, they would have to be able to alleviate Palestinian suffering and find a way to take the Palestinian Authority off the "diet" that Israel and the US imposed on it following Hamas' electoral victory last year.

This is how we got to the Mecca deal. Saudi Arabia has no interest in knocking out Hamas, but it does need to provide a happy PLO veil for Hamas in order to reopen the spigot of international funding for the Territories. Having pictures on al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya of Palestinians suffering and cannibalizing each other as they slowly starved like rats is not tolerable for the KSA if it is to embrace US policy in the region. 

Pro-Israeli interests in the US are insisting that Saudi Arabia deal a real blow to Hamas authority rather than merely cobble together a coalition government for Palestine that would lift a convenient PLO veil over Hamas power. Saudi Arabia has failed to do this in its Mecca deal.

This is why the Washington Post writes that the Saudis have actually complicated Secretary of State Rice's task in visiting the Middle East, rather than assisting her. Here are Rice's words:

"Our position toward the Hamas government was very clear: It did not meet the international test," Rice told a group of newspaper reporters on the eve of her departure. "I have to say that we have not yet seen any evidence that this one will."

Rice added, "I don't deny that it's more complicated" now and that before the announcement of the unity government "it was clear, more black and white."

The problem is that Hamas has agreed to "respect [not accept] international resolutions," but not international demands that the new government pledge to "recognize" Israel, renounce violence, and abide by previous agreements signed by the Palestinian Authority. Hamas officials later told reporters that the movement has no intention of ever recognizing Israel. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni ended discussion on the issue Saturday by declaring that the unity government deal "did not satisfy the demands of the international community," and President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert agreed to shun the Palestinian unity government unless it meets international conditions.

David Makovsky of WINEP sums up what he calls "the less benign interpretation" of Saudi goals. He writes:

what is driving Saudi Arabia is sectarianism, not pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace. Under this view, Riyadh has no problem supporting Hamas's program, so long as it is a Sunni organization and can keep Iranian money and influence at bay.

Therefore, it would be useful for the United States to explore Saudi objectives and strategies. Moreover, for a political horizon to succeed, one needs to consider whether Riyadh and Cairo are willing to do something that they were not willing to do in 2000 at the time of Camp David (July) and the Clinton parameters (December). Namely, they need to provide the requisite political cover for Abbas to compromise. If they do not, they need to know that unlike 2000 they will be politically exposed for failing to do their share. In short, if the Bush administration is really serious about a political horizon, it needs to have a dialogue not just with Israelis and Palestinians but also with America's Arab friends to discern the depth of their commitment to peacemaking in a very specific way.

The Mecca experience suggests that not everyone is on the same page.

Mohammad Yaghi, a Palestinian fellow at WINEP and writer for the Palestinian newspaper al-Ayyam, explains in his article: "Hamas's Victory: From Gaza to Mecca," that Hamas was the winner in the Mecca deal because it bested PLO forces on the ground in recent fighting and was able to translate that advantage into the terms of the Mecca deal, which retains the prime-ministership for Haniyyah and most cabinet positions for Hamas. The PLO panicked and gave away the store, Yaghi writes.

As it stands, the agreement spells significant gains for Hamas politically, institutionally, bureaucratically, and in its relations with the Arab world. It is likely that Abbas and Hamas together will still attempt to use the Mecca accord as a means of alleviating the Quartet's sanctions by claiming the government has accepted its conditions — even if Hamas as a party retains its core political ideology.

The Mecca accord will not end the struggle between Fatah and Hamas to dominate the Palestinian political system, but it does represent an effort to gain a respite from the violence by dividing the PA according to each faction's current position on the ground.

King Abdullah has promised the PA one billion dollars for their new alliance. Rice must make sure it is not received. The US is going back to the drawing board. Underneath the squabbling, the problem is that the US wants to starve Hamas and force the PA to accept much less than the 1967 borders. The KSA wants to feed Palestinians and get them more land than Israel will offer. So much for the Zionist-Wahhabi alliance on matters Palestinian. The dream of the Israelis is that the mutual Israeli-Saudi fear of Iran can be used to turn the KSA into a hammer against Palestinian demands for land. This will not work unless Israel can put a promising deal on the table, something it refuses to do. So long as the US resists pressuring Israel to uphold international law on the 1967 borders, Saudi Arabia will resist falling in line with Israeli plans.

Syria and the Mecca Deal

The Lebanese neocons don't give a fig about Palestine. What excites them is that Saudi Arabia is doing battle with Syria, or so they insist. They argue that because the Palestinian deal was penned in Mecca and not Damascus, Saudi Arabia has stolen the Palestine card from Damascus. But claim is misguided.

From all reports, the Mecca deal was worked out in Damascus, where Palestinian representatives met to hash out the terms of their new proposed coalition government. The proof of this was made clear when various Palestinian heads thanked Damascus for its help in arriving at the settlement. Al-Hayat reporters have covered the Saudi-Syrian cooperation on the Mecca deal in some depth. They write that the deal was struck in Damascus and announced in Mecca, where the Saudis put up the money that cemented the compact. Far from excluding Syria, the KSA worked with Damascus to broker the deal. In the following quote Muhammad Shuqair محمد شقير of al-Hayat writes that Syria pressured Khalid Mashaal to participate in the meetings and prepared the way for "rebuilding trust between the Saudi leadership and Syria. He also indicates that Syria and Saudi Arabia are quietly cooperating for a Lebanon deal.

يف ان دمشق شجعت رئيس المكتب السياسي لحركة المقاومة الاسلامية «حماس» خالد مشعل على حضور الاجتماع الفلسطيني – الفلسطيني لتمهيد الطريق امام استعادة ثقة القيادة السعودية بالقيادة السورية، لكنها بالنسبة الى لبنان لا تستطيع ان تتعامل بالمثل ما لم تحصل على شيء ما يعيد لها الاعتبار في الخريطة العربية ومن خلال المجتمع الدولي.

وترى المصادر نفسها ايضاً ان دمشق تسعى من خلال إمساكها بالورقة اللبنانية الى تقديم أوراق اعتمادها الى المجتمع الدولي من خلال استعدادها للتعاون مع السعودية ومن ثم ايران لتسوية الازمة في لبنان، مشيرة الى انها لن تتخلى عن هذه الورقة من دون مقابل.

Lebanon and Syria

The Coup

Many Lebanese government figures claim that Hizbullah wants to carry out a "coup" against the Lebanese state but has failed, thanks to stalwart western support. Hizbullah, however, insists that far from wanting to overthrow the government or change Lebanon's consociational form of government, it merely wants better representation for the opposition, commensurate with its numbers. Mohammed Ben Jelloun writes that Hizbullah has this to say:

By demanding a national unity government and a veto power over major decisions, Hezbollah and its allies are sticking to the consociational (multi-confessional) letter and the republican (patriotic) spirit of the Lebanese constitution.

Hariri Turns down the rhetoric

In my last post, I wrote that the February 14 coalition turned up the anti-Syrian rhetoric on the second anniversary of their leader's assassination. But a source that I respect in Damascus wrote me a few days ago that I was mistaken. He explained:

Saad Hariri did not mention Syria at all. Quite possibly, the Saudis have warned him to be careful as they are working with Iranians to cool things down in Lebanon. What Janbulat and Geaga said was expected. They do not want any solution for the crisis. They have much to lose from a deal to solve the crisis. 

On the 17th of February, Ibrahim Hamidi of Al-Hayat wrote that the Syrians are confident Iran is not planning to diverge too much from the Syrian positions on Lebanon and Iraq. Although they admit to some differences with Iran, such as:

1) On Iraq: Syria wants a consensus that includes the Sunnis and the more neutral baathists, Iran is more interested in helping its Shia allies.

2) Lebanon: Iran is more willing than Syria to compromise on Lebanon. Out of all regional conflicts, Syria is probably most concerned with Lebanon.

3) On Palestine there is almost no disagreement.

For those who believed that Iran and Syria could be so easily divided by Saudi Arabia without offering real concessions, Asad's trip to Tehran this weekend should put such speculation to rest. The news was about how Assad and Ahmadinejad vowed to form a stronger alliance against the U.S. and Israel.

Syrian President Bashar Assad said that expansion of Tehran-Damascus ties would help resolve the problems of the Islamic world. He accused the U.S. of trying to attract public opinion within the Islamic world by undermining Iran-Syria relations.

The Syrian leader said Muslims worldwide should be informed about “the evil aims by the U.S. and Zionists” which he said were sowing discord among Muslims.

Sami Moubayed, a smart Syrian analyst, claims that Syria believes it is holding its own quite well against US pressures. Here is what Sami writes of Asad's meeting with Khomenei:

Syrian President Bashar Al Assad went to Tehran last Saturday for a much publicised meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His two-day visit received a lot of media attention, coming in the midst of Saudi-Iranian talks over Lebanon, the situation in Palestine and much speculation on how Syria can help combat the insurgency in Iraq.

By all accounts, Syria's allies seem to be winning throughout the region. In Palestine, despite all the thunder, Hamas has been called in to form another government with Esmail Haniya as prime minister. This is a victory for Syria. Its allies in Iraq, headed by President Jalal Talabani, are putting great effort in normalising relations between Baghdad and Damascus. And in Lebanon, Hezbollah is still struggling to bring down the anti-Syrian cabinet of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. They have not won in Lebanon, but they certainly are not losing. The situation in each of these three countries is linked, one way or another, to the Syrian-Iranian alliance. If anything, Bashar's visit to Tehran is further proof that to the great displeasure of the United States, this relationship is intact.  

Russia has announced an arms deal for Syria, which will be financed by Iran.

Syria and Saudi Arabia 

So what does this mean for Saudi-Syrian relations? Although many Lebanese journalists and neocons somehow convinced themselves that Saudi Arabia would work to isolate Syria on Washington's behalf, the opposite seems to be the case. There is no doubt that Saudi-Syrian relations have been terrible since Hariri was killed. Lebanon is a big plumb, and both states would like to have preeminence there. Syria can no longer call the shots in Lebanon, as it once did. But it does insist on having a voice, and through Hizbullah and Aoun has the muscle to paralyze Lebanon. Saudi Arabia knows it is pointless to try to eliminate Syrian influence in Lebanon. It has tried and failed. The stand-off in Lebanon between the pro-American and pro-Saudi Lebanese government and the pro-Syrian and pro-Iranian opposition cannot be solved without compromise. Lebanon will run out of money. Oxford business group argues that the Lebanese deficit is so large that it will eat up the 7.5 billion dollars of foreign donations recently promised to Lebanon in a matter of two to three years. The KSA understands that without a political solution and economic growth, Lebanon may not be able to avoid a hard economic crash. To resist Syria altogether will be to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Neither country is interested in that. Lebanon is too important.

Bahia Mardini writing for Elaph claims that the Saudi monarch is sending a delegation to Damascus to smooth out relations with Asad. King Abdullah wants Asad to come to the Arab League meeting in March and wants to repair relations, strained since the Hariri killing. What is more, Mardini claims that Saudi sources argue that their diplomacy with Iran favors Syria and does not threaten it. Today's Elaph also says that that Salim al-Hoss has traveled to both the KSA and Damascus recently. He will travel to Tehran next week in an attempt to find a solution to the Lebanon crisis. Salim al-Hoss has traditionally been Damascus' choice for PM of Lebanon.

Conclusion

Saudi Arabia is playing a positive role in trying to bring unity to the Palestinians and Lebanon. It is doing this, not by following Washington's policy of confrontation and isolation, but through the sort of intensive diplomacy that President Bush and his team refuse to engage in. In effect, Washington is farming out its diplomacy. In matters of high politics, this may turn out to be a good thing, at least in the short term. All the same, as we have seen with the Palestinian unity government, Washington has refused to recognize or give its blessing to the diplomatic solutions that Saudi Arabian has so far arrived at. If Saudi Arabia can broker a Lebanon compromise by giving the opposition a larger role in the cabinet, will Washington agree to the Saudi brokered terms? There will be many in the White House and in Beirut who will try to torpedo it. Maybe that is the best diplomats in Washington can do at the moment? Better to have some diplomacy rather than none. All the same, the President of the United States should have the vision to carry out his own diplomacy. 

Those who expect Saudi Arabia to isolate Syria and Iran, will be deceived, just as they have been let down by Saudi's Palestine deal. Saudi Arabia has a mind and interests of its own. Its interests are not to follow blindly President Bush's interests. 

In a perverse sense, Washington is using the KSA to do what the Baker-Hamilton report recommended: get Iraq's neighbors together to discuss solutions to regional problems. Hopefully Washington will not spurn the results.

Comments (127)


norman said:

This is interesting analysis by Mubayed
It explains how the US is shooting itself in the foot bacause of poor understanding of the major problem in the midleast ,The Palestinian problem and untill that is solved the US will have enemies in the ARABS.
http://www.gulfnews.com/opinion/columns/region/10105505.html

February 20th, 2007, 12:06 am

 

Gibran said:

Experts believe Nasrallah is depressed.

Nasrallah depressed, researchers say
Lebanese terror group leader’s speeches, TV appearances lack usual zeal and charisma, behavioral researchers say, adding that criticism directed toward Nasrallah from Syria, Lebanon may be cause of his misery
Hanan Greenberg
Published: 02.19.07, 18:52 / Israel News

Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah is suffering from some form of depression, Israeli behavioral researchers said.

The experts, who examined Nasrallah’s patterns of behavior during recent public appearances and compared it to his conduct in the past, said if their assertion was correct it would be difficult to predict the Hizbullah chief’s actions in the future.

According to the researchers, Nasrallah’s current speeches and TV appearances lack the usual zeal and charisma.

The researchers said Nasrallah’s depression may be the result of criticism directed at him from Lebanon and Syria.

Israeli security establishment officials refused to comment on the researchers’ conclusion, but did say that Nasrallah may attack Israel for the very reason that he feels threatened and unsure of himself.

Other officials, on the other hand, said these may be the first signs of decline in Hizbullah’s status.

February 20th, 2007, 2:24 am

 

Gibran said:

Dr. Landis keeps dreaming Disney Land roles to crippled Syrian despot in Iraq among other places. Well, experts who live in the Middle East disagree. In particular they confirm our assertion that Bashar is incapable of getting two Iraqis to meet, let alone the two branches of so-called Iraqi and Syrian Baath:

الدوري يفضّل مؤتمراً في بغداد وآخرون يقترحون اليمن مكاناً لانعقاده … بعثيو العراق يتهمون دمشق بشق حزبهم ويطردون 50 «متآمراً ومأجوراً»
بغداد – ربيع الهاشم الحياة – 20/02/07//

صدام حسين
نفى مسؤول في «حزب البعث العربي الاشتراكي – القطر العراقي» ما تردد من انباء عن فصل (150) عضواً من اعضائه بتهمة «التآمر على الحزب والعمل على شق وحدته»، واصفاً الخبر بأنه «غير صحيح» و «ليس سوى شائعة». الا ان المسؤول (الذي عرّف عن نفسه باسم «الرفيق ابو أوس»…) قال لـ «الحياة» بأن عدد الذين شملهم «قرار التجميد هم اقل من ثلث العدد المذكور» و»ان قراراً بفصلهم من الحزب لم يصدر حتى الآن باستثناء واحد منهم فقط» من دون ان يذكر اسمه، ويرجح ان يكون عضو القيادة القطرية محمد يونس الاحمد الذي تبنى مؤخراً، الدعوة الى «عقد مؤتمر غير رسمي، ولا قانوني، للحزب في دمشق، معتمداً على بعض البعثيين الموجودين خارج العراق، وفي سورية تحديداً، لانتخاب قيادة قطرية جديدة خلفاً للقيادة التي كان يرأسها صدام حسين». وأكد «ابو أوس» ان قرارات اخرى بحق آخرين ممن وصفهم بـ «المخالفين للنظام الداخلي للحزب، والمتحركين في اطار خطة اميركية لشق الحزب كانت خطوتها الاولى اغتيال الرئيس الشهيد صدام حسين لتمهيد الجو لهؤلاء للتحرك الحر» – على حد تعبيره. فما حقيقة ما جرى ويجري في هذا الشأن؟

February 20th, 2007, 3:15 am

 

Gibran said:

I may have found the cause of Nasrallah’s depression. Aoun seems to be the most probable cause. Aoun multiplied his 5’s by his 6’s, added them, divided them and finally got the results. He complains that Christians are not represented but the Shia are represented in government even though they resigned. He now wants to support the international tribunal. Tres bon mon general:

Aoun’s bloc accuses Justice Ministry of ‘negligence’

Daily Star staff
Tuesday, February 20, 2007

RABIEH: MP Michel Aoun’s parliamentary bloc accused the Justice Ministry and the judiciary on Monday of “negligence and laziness,” because they have yet to make progress toward “uncovering the truth behind the numerous crimes that took place in Lebanon.”

After their weekly meeting at the former general’s home in Rabieh, the Reform and Change bloc issued a statement accusing Justice Minister Charles Rizk of “lacking the will to assume his responsibilities.”

“If other judicial employees find themselves incapable of doing much,” the MPs added, “all they need to do is resign from their posts so they will not be considered false witnesses. Otherwise, they have to assume responsibility.”

The statement added that assassinations targeting both political figures and civilians would persist, “as long as the truth behind prior crimes remains hidden.”

The statement also expressed the bloc’s fears that the assassinations were being used to “instigate strife and widen the gap between the Lebanese.”

Aoun, the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), had warned, late Sunday that last week’s twin bus bombings in Ain Alaq should not be “exploited politically.”

He also urged the Lebanese judiciary to “summon anyone who throws random accusations with regard to the crime.”

In a televised interview on the National Broadcasting Network, Aoun said he supported the formation of an international court to try those involved in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri.

“I pledge to sign the settlement for the formation of the international tribunal as soon as I receive some clarification about its jurisdiction,” he said.

Aoun added that it was “his right” to ask for clarifications.
http://www.dailystar.com.lb

Asked about the possibility of the international tribunal being established under Chapter 7 of the United Nations charter, Aoun said that “the formation of this tribunal under Chapter 7 would be a punishment of all the Lebanese, since Chapter 7 is known to entail sanctions.”

With regard to the current political deadlock, Aoun said that the demand of the opposition for “true partnership” was a “Christian demand, not a Shiite one.”

Aoun said that the Shiites are already represented in the government, even if their ministers resigned. “Yet,” he added, “a true representation for Lebanese Christians is missing in the government.”

Aoun said that Christian ministers operating as part of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s government “do not represent the Christian majority.”

How about teaming up with March 14 to kick Lahood?

February 20th, 2007, 3:57 am

 

Alex said:

I’m afraid not Gibran.

1) Reminder: Nasrallah’s, in his most recent TV interview said that to prove to everyone that he is not after making political gains, he does not want a single one from the new seats they are seeking for “the opposition”

So, he already agreed with Aoun to give him the extra seats. No problem there… That’s what Aoun explained today. I’m happy he regained your support this way.

2) Aoun supported the International tribunal, just like Syria supports it … after they all discuss it and propose certain terms that make it much more difficult for the Americans and all your freinds to use it as a good tool to punish Hizbollah and/or Syria.

Again, I’m glad you were satisfied with his position / Syria’s position on this issue.

3) Nasralah’s despression … you know, this is so consistent with a number of similar cases I read about the past two years in Assyassa and Al-Mustaqbal and other Israeli and American fine newspapers … for example, the 4 chiefs of Lebanese security agencies who were jailed by Mehlis two years ago … they were depressed and crying and they admitted everything already! … and one of them was hitting his head to the wall and bleeding. Then we have Asef Shawkat who was so depressed that he asked France to give him a VISA to immigrate there and he promised to bring the billions he stole and Chirac did not allow him. Then there was Bashar who was depressed and crying and suffered from all kinds of other illnesses …

I’m telling you … the good guys are really driving the bad guys to depression.

4) And it seems those Iraqi leaders keep coming to Damascus and they keep calling Syria a significant country and they keep thanking Syria for its constructive role

Here is the one from today … the Iraqi national dialog minister himself.

استعرض السيد فاروق الشرع نائب رئيس الجمهورية قبل ظهر اليوم مع السيد أكرم الحكيم وزير الدولة العراقى لشؤون الحوار الوطنى والوفد المرافق له تطورات الاوضاع على الساحة العراقية.

وفى هذا الصدد اكد السيد الشرع ان المصالحة الوطنية ضرورة حتمية من اجل استعادة امن العراق والحفاظ على وحدته ارضا وشعبا وتحقيق حريته وسيادته مجددا استعداد سورية لتقديم كل ما من شأنه تحقيق الوفاق الوطنى بين العراقيين.

حضر اللقاء السيد محمد ناصيف معاون نائب رئيس الجمهورية والقائم بأعمال السفارة العراقية بدمشق.

واكد الحكيم فى تصريح للصحفيين عقب اللقاء اهمية الدور الذى تقوم به سورية تجاه العراق معربا عن تقديره لوقوف سورية الى جانب الشعب العراقى وقواه الوطنية.

وقال انه لمس خلال لقائه السيد الرئيس بشار الاسد والمسؤولين السوريين خلال زيارته الحالية لدمشق استعدادا كبيرا لدعم العملية السياسية ومشروع المصالحة فى العراق مؤكدا ان هذا الموقف يعد مكسبا كبيرا للعراق.

واضاف الحكيم ان سورية دولة مهمة فى المنطقة وعلاقاتنا معها هامة مشيرا الى ان مرحلة جديدة لهذه العلاقات قد بدأت وهى قابلة للنمو والتطور.

واوضح ان القوى العراقية بكل اطيافها تعتقد انه لابد من علاقات ايجابية متطورة مع دول الجوار وخصوصا مع الدول المحورية.

February 20th, 2007, 4:44 am

 

Gibran said:

Now Alex if you quote some one other than Sharaa I would have given it some weight. But with Sharaa give me a break please. Now don’t go and find me some Mouallim quote or some Imad Moustapha halucination. Come on man cann’t you do any better and find some quotes from independent sources? After all my quotes all came from respected independent sources: Al-Hayat, Ydiot Ahronot, and the Daily Star.

By the way this is not the only speech of Aoun concentrating on strictly Christian issues. He’s been talking about himself mostly in Christian terms recently. I believe he’s had it with Nasrallah. He is too much of a liability for him among the Lebanese Christians.

February 20th, 2007, 5:06 am

 

ausamaa said:

Well, maybe Iraqi poitical leaders should take the hint of Iraqi President Talbani as demonstrated during his recent visit to Syria.

Syria is where the “action” is.. he was indicating in a way.

He is a survivor after all..

Anyway, eventually Syria, Iran and Turkey will have to manage the Iraqi portofolio till God knows when…

Talk about Syria loosing its cards!!!

February 20th, 2007, 5:06 am

 

Gibran said:

Talibani, O’ yes. What did he say just after he left Syria? 50% of terrorist come from Syria, right?

February 20th, 2007, 5:10 am

 

Gibran said:

Nasrallah Facing a Huge Dilemma. Well Alex I got the same result from two different analysts:

The Two-Faced Rhetoric
Elias Harfouch Al-Hayat – 18/02/07//

With regards to the investigation into the murder of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the establishment of the International Tribunal, and its role in the Resistance, Hezbollah is facing two major predicaments: either it confronts these issues like a Lebanese party, or it sides with another project that would keep it out of the Lebanese equation.

Hezbollah’s declared and written rhetoric completely points out that it longs to play a leading role, as if it were saying: ‘If it were not for my circumstances!’ On the other hand, however, its attitude suggests that it is compelled to stand elsewhere.

On February 14, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah wanted to take part in the commemorations for Hariri’s murder. Since his security circumstances kept him from participating openly, as Beirut’s division prevented his party from attending, as well, he wrote an article in the ‘As-safir’ newspaper. Most of this speech could have been delivered by one of the majority’s main figures, as he affirmed that there is an ‘obligation to find the truth’ and to ‘persecute the killers’. He also expressed his ‘feeling about this calamity, as well as his worry and even panic about the possibility that the country could fall apart as a result of the earthquake it was struck by the assassination’. He also said: ‘Truth has become a unifying national request, and there are now many fears that this great martyr’s blood may have been shed in vain’.

In his speech delivered two days ago, during the commemorations for the killing of Sayyed Abbas Moussawi, Nasrallah wanted to take Hezbollah back to the south, after the party had been accused on more than one occasion that its sit-in protest in Beirut had distracted it from the main mission it charged itself with, that is, the liberation. He did so by re-affirming the party’s right to possess arms, and criticized the officials who seized a truck of arms, threatening that the ‘weapons that are confiscated from us are usurped, even if they are taken to the South’. He also confirmed that ‘for us, resistance is a project of life, glory, dignity, survival and continuation’. In other words, he linked the party’s survival and continuation to the survival of the Resistance, and not to the sit-in held in Riyad el-Solh Square or the ‘understanding’ with Michel Aoun.

Nevertheless, the Resistance, as is well known, is a fact on the ground and not propaganda. Otherwise, it would just turn into a political speech using the ‘resistant’ attitude in favor of its internal and regional goals, so that nothing more is said in support of those the Resistance dubs as having ‘surrendered’ and are ‘subjugated’.

However, Nasrallah, by confirming the priority of the Resistance, said at the same time that the party is committed to protecting the international forces (UNIFIL) in the South and avoid any clash, since ‘Lebanon has no interest in stirring problems between the opposition and UNIFIL’. He even accused other parties of instigating and planning such clashes to hold Hezbollah responsible, should they occur.

Hezbollah’s problem with this peaceful speech is that it only goes half-way. If its orator follows this logic until the end, he would meet other Lebanese parties, namely the majority, on one single national attitude. But for some reason and somehow, Nasrallah and his party cannot do that.

It is surprising that Hezbollah’s Secretary General does not find any contradictions between his support to find the ‘truth’ about the assassination of PM Rafik Hariri and his ambiguous stance on the International Tribunal in curtailing the constitutional institutions liable to establish this court.

It is also surprising that he does not find any contradictions between his positive attitude toward UNIFIL and his claim that the party has the right to possess weapons ‘to liberate the land and defend the country’. Indeed, he realizes before anyone else the commitments arranged by UN Resolution 1701 for the Lebanese government. In particular, this Resolution has to do with the government preserving security along the border and authorized weapons in this area. Resolution 1701 states that arms must exclusively be in the hands of the Lebanese security forces or must be present under the Lebanese government’s approval. In other words, ‘liberating the land and defending the country’ is no longer Hezbollah’s exclusive mission.

Before thinking about national reconciliation with others, Hezbollah is now forced more than ever to reconcile its internal political rhetoric with its real stances on the ground. These stances are, at the very least, concealing great embarrassment about the position in which the party has been put and the commitments that have been arranged for it.

February 20th, 2007, 5:20 am

 

Alex said:

No Gibran, it was not Talibani who said that.

And I did not quote Shara .. I quoted the Iraqi minister of national dialog himself … does it get more reliable than that?

It seems you read only the first two lines .. here is the part I quoted … the Iraqi minister’s name is “Alhakim”

واكد الحكيم فى تصريح للصحفيين عقب اللقاء اهمية الدور الذى تقوم به سورية تجاه العراق معربا عن تقديره لوقوف سورية الى جانب الشعب العراقى وقواه الوطنية.

وقال انه لمس خلال لقائه السيد الرئيس بشار الاسد والمسؤولين السوريين خلال زيارته الحالية لدمشق استعدادا كبيرا لدعم العملية السياسية ومشروع المصالحة فى العراق مؤكدا ان هذا الموقف يعد مكسبا كبيرا للعراق.

واضاف الحكيم ان سورية دولة مهمة فى المنطقة وعلاقاتنا معها هامة مشيرا الى ان مرحلة جديدة لهذه العلاقات قد بدأت وهى قابلة للنمو والتطور.

واوضح ان القوى العراقية بكل اطيافها تعتقد انه لابد من علاقات ايجابية متطورة مع دول الجوار وخصوصا مع الدول المحورية.

February 20th, 2007, 5:23 am

 

ausamaa said:

On the other hand, and if King Abdullah remains at the helm, God wishing, it looks like a little “kissing” party would be arranged between Riyadh and Damascus. What with General Michele Suliman as Lebanon’s president, and Hamas promissing to stick to Mecca Agreement at all costs, and Syria urging the Palestinians to do their best to make the Mecca Agreement stick. Everyone is cooling it off. Back from the brinks. And this time, Israel may well decide to play ball. Hurt feelings notwithstanding. Provided Washington agrees to “see” this as the magic compromise, face saving solution.

Heck,some people would be whispering in POTUS ear that he can claim that this will strengthen the “moderates” in the area and it will not really be a defeat for his policies. Cut the losses and run and let us get back to business they would be saying. Maybe use the carrot next time. We have shown that we have a big stick and, mind you, it did not really work very well. Let us explore our options. We have tried, have we not? But this is the Middle East as you well know, they would be saying!

Very tidey.. welcome to “a” new Middle East..and have a nice day all around..

February 20th, 2007, 5:23 am

 

Gibran said:

Alex, that’s even worse coming from somebody who doesn’t want to hear the word Baath altogether.

Sorry to disappoint you dreamer. your ME plan has a big hole in it. Read on from General Michel Suleiman’s mouth:

‘The army does not execute any decision that harms unity’

Daily Star staff
Tuesday, February 20, 2007

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=2&article_id=79688

BEIRUT: Lebanese Army Commander General Michel Suleiman regretted that political divisions in the country were based on sectarianism, praising the army for dealing with the latest conflicts “in the best way in the history of Lebanon.” “Despite all problems the country has gone through, the soldier from Akkar and the soldier from Hermel execute one order from one command and stand together to safeguard the country,” Suleiman said in an interview published by local daily An-Nahar on Monday.

“It is really shameful to say that the army failed to accomplish its duty … The army cannot settle such a severe political discord,” he added.

Suleiman was referring to last month’s street clashes that erupted during a protest called for by the opposition on January 23, and those at the Beirut Arab University two days later. At least four people were killed and more than 160 wounded.

Suleiman said he regretted that the country was divided over sects, which he said “have been given a political form.”

“If divisions [among the Lebanese] were not sectarian, the solution would have been easier; unfortunately, divisions are sectarian par excellence even if they are made to look political,” he said.

Asked if the army could have played a better role in preserving security during the January clashes, Suleiman said the Lebanese soldiers’ performance was “as good as it can be.”

“Politicians [of either camp] should also have a role in this regard and facilitate the arrest of those wanted by the Lebanese authorities instead of protecting them and facilitating their escape,” he said.

According to Suleiman, if the Lebanese are not willing to build a unified country, no one can force them to do so, but ” if the Lebanese want a free, sovereign and independent country, the army will be the tool to execute their will.”

Expressing his rejection of military rule in Lebanon, Suleiman dismissed claims that he was considering running in the presidential elections.

“I will not violate the Constitution, which stipulates that first-rank employees should resign two years before running for the position of president,” he said.

“Expressing his rejection of military rule in Lebanon, Suleiman dismissed claims that he was considering running in the presidential elections.
“I will not violate the Constitution, which stipulates that first-rank employees should resign two years before running for the position of president,” he said.
“My current goal is to rescue the country and the army before holding democratic presidential polls … After that, I will quit the army command,” he added.
“Lebanon cannot be governed by its military or through a dictatorship … It is a country satiated with democracy … but such a great amount of democracy in Lebanon might lead
to chaos.”

Asked about the army’s red lines, the army commander said national unity “is more than a red line that the army cannot surpass or allow anyone to do so.”

“The army does not execute any decision that harms national unity,” he added.

Suleiman also said that soldiers deployed in the South will defend Lebanese land, as well as prevent any Israeli violations.

“The Israelis want to terrorize the army and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon … They are seeking revenge for their defeat in Lebanon,” he said.

Asked about the resistance’s disarmament, Suleiman said “it is a Lebanese issue to be tackled by the Lebanese, exclusively.”

But, he asked, “why has the army not been provided with guided missiles?”

“The army was not provided with the necessary weapons under the pretext that those weapons would be taken by the Palestinian or Lebanese resistance … The resistance, whether Palestinian or Lebanese, Islamic or national, was provided with guided missiles,” he said.

According to Suleiman, “the army cannot be divided … Those who are dreaming about seeing the army partitioned are mistaken … Soldiers are even more conscientious than many leaders in this country.”

Separately, Suleiman met Monday with Ashraf Rifi, head of the Internal Security Forces, to discuss ways to promote cooperation between the army and ISF in terms of preserving security. – The Daily Star

February 20th, 2007, 5:38 am

 

ausamaa said:

And Josh.., BRAVO..!!

This is the most objective and realistic analysis of the situation I have read anywhere. We have managed to make it through some 150 responses to the previous post, but this article has made the waiting worth our while..

The only “gray” area is what does Israel make of and see in all this. But that area has been gray for decades.

February 20th, 2007, 5:43 am

 

ausamaa said:

And that is General Michele Suliman dealing out the cards masterfuly. Pretty. Is it not. Junblat and Jaja must be having a fit by now. And Harriri Jr.? Well, he does listen to words of Wisdom. Can he not?

Let us keep our fingers crossed. This is the Middle East after all.

February 20th, 2007, 5:49 am

 

Alex said:

Gibran here is another one for you today

الأمير طلال: لا يمكن حل الأزمة بعيداً عن سوريا

رأى الأمير السعودي طلال بن عبدالعزيز رئيس برنامج الخليج العربي لدعم منظمات الأمم المتحدة الإنمائية “اجفند” أن الأزمة اللبنانية لا يمكن أن تحل بعيداً عن سوريا، وأضاف في مؤتمر صحافي أمس في تونس في ختام اجتماعات مجلس أمناء مركز المرأة العربية للتدريب والبحوث “كوثر”، أن سوريا تعد “رقماً مهماً وأساسياً” في المنطقة لا يتعين تجاهلها بأي حال.
وقال إن تسوية الأزمة اللبنانية هي مسؤولية جميع الأطراف والفرقاء اللبنانيين،كما أن لسوريا وإيران دوراً مهماً في تسوية “لا الأوضاع فقط في لبنان، وإنما أيضاً في العراق”.

February 20th, 2007, 5:52 am

 

ausamaa said:

When it rains, it pours. We are counting our blessings now!!

Prince Tallal..!? Nice again.The kissing party seems to be getting on well.

Looks like the next Arab summit in March would have good news for all. We hope.

February 20th, 2007, 5:57 am

 

Gibran said:

And who will kiss who? And where will Meshaal be staying in Damascus? Isn’t he going to take on the offer to move with his entourage to the Gulf with full diplomatic credentials? It makes a lot of sense. Where did the offer come from and why? And please tell me how much ‘convincing’ services Bashar will have left in his pocket? I just admire your wishful optimism! It is the Middle East after all.

February 20th, 2007, 5:58 am

 

Gibran said:

Come on Alex. Everyone knows Prince Talal. He is just a busimessman and you know who his mother is. He is an outsider to the royals even though he is a Prince. I am not suggesting any disrespect but he has no say in politics. They may listen to him when it comes to money. He is no doubt a genius in that field. But that is all it is. Politics is reserved to the select few who really understand it. I don’t want to put the Prince down. But even Juliani snobbed him off and he was only a mayor.

February 20th, 2007, 6:03 am

 

ausamaa said:

Ah, Gibran, sorry. Riyadh kissing Damascus, or vice versa. And never mind who Prince Tallal is. This is Saudi Arabia after all, where everyone knows his limits and does not dare cross them on their “own” initiative. Foriegn policy, no one plays with that unless he is authorised. Look at what prince Bandar got for venturing with that “adventure” authorised Saudi Source stuff last July.

And do not worry about Meshall and Hamas address. They have a long lease on their Damascus offices. So does Nassrallah in Lebanon. It seems the motto now is do not trouble troubles till trouble troubles you.

And you are correct. This is the Middle East. You never go dissappointed here!

And Ya habibi, something is better than nothing. Would you rather see everyone sliding to the brink again?? After all, Politics is the Art of the Possible. Or, so they say.

February 20th, 2007, 6:04 am

 

Gibran said:

Aussama,
I’d say it will be more like Bashar kissing the King’s ass if it ever comes to that. Followed by full sincere conversion to Sunnism with clear disavowal to any resort to taqiyya and several years of rehabilitation at the hands of recognized Sunni teachers. I still admire you optimism but don’t fool yourself.

February 20th, 2007, 6:08 am

 

ausamaa said:

Gibran, Are we getting “personal” again. I can answer by saying that we all know who the traditional ass kissers and apple polishers are. Do we not? But I wont.

Have a nice day, or a nice evening, your time. Hate to leave you now, but gotta get to work now here.

February 20th, 2007, 6:13 am

 

Gibran said:

There is nothing personal in that if you think about clearly. You’re just hyper – it is the Middle East after all where you come from. You are not a seasoned North American yet it seems.

February 20th, 2007, 6:17 am

 

Mo said:

A curious question,

in line with Joshua’s analysis, what would be Jumblatt’s and Geagea’s reactions to all of that?
I mean, if a deal were to be reached between Riyadh & Damascus (& Hariri), and relations normalized again, how would this duo react?

I found 2 plausible answers:
1. live with it, accept the solution, and rebuild relations with Syria, slowly (Assad has shown openness to deal with Everybody in Lebanon, but Jumblatt has NOT: he drew a no-return line in a recent al-Jazeera interview with Ahmed Mansour)

2. use force! To what extent? I don’t know.. Buy time, waiting for a “major change” to happen in Syria (or so they wish).. I don’t think this is going to be the case though, very risky..

February 20th, 2007, 7:13 am

 

Gibran said:

MO
Don’t take every thing you read on this blog seriously. Actually none of Josh’s analyses ever come true. Most of the talk on this blog is just for scoring points as to who can talk more. The truth is none of these supposed deals are actually discussed among the actual players.

February 20th, 2007, 7:55 am

 

SV said:

Gibran,
If Josh’s analyses never come true, why are you here!?! Are you one of those sick-minded Anti-Syrian Lebanese???

February 20th, 2007, 8:40 am

 

MSK said:

Dear Josh,

it’s good to see that you’re stating your own take on the developments and not just list some news articles.

Just a couple of comments:

— Sami Moubayed keeps writing pitiful articles. I’m still not sure if he actually believes what he says or if he doesn’t want to jeopardize his re-entry visa to Damascus. Hamas’, HA’s, and Iran’s alliances with the Syrian regime are TACTICAL. They will break them if they feel it necessary. Syria has been (very smartly) cultivating its connections with those three and in return stayed significant within the region. But the regime cannot count on those alliances lasting, just as those three know that the Syrian regime would break off the relationship in a heartbeat if it got better offers (say, a return of the Golan?). How Sami arrives at the conclusion that Jalal Talabani is a Syrian ally (or that Syria has ANY allies in the Iraqi government) is beyond me. But hey, if it helps him sleep better … fine by me.

— You wrote that “Hizbullah, however, insists that far from wanting to overthrow the government or change Lebanon’s consociational form of government, it merely wants better representation for the opposition comenserate with its numbers.” Well, of course they say that. But that would only work if there were real elections on the local level, so that an official number of just how many people support HA can be ascertained. The problem in Lebanese politics is that nobody trusts anyone else. Giving HA a veto power means paralyzing the government. HA has been the prime force that single-mindedly claims to know what’s best for Lebanon & then just do it regardless of what anyone else thinks, and regardless of the consequences. Oh yeah, and then there’s also the issue with HA’s militia …

— Iran … is using Syria. Or does anyone here believe that the Shi’ite Islamist regime in Tehran has any sympathy for the Ba’thi secularist one in Damascus? The Iranian leadership has an ideological affinity to HA, to large parts of the current Iraqi government, and even to Sunni Islamist groups like Hamas. But the Syrian connection was born out of despair, in the early years of the Iran-Iraq War, and has never been anything but a tactical alliance, a la “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. Syria is useful (& to a large extent also necessary) because of its geographical location. But that has absolutely nothing to do with the Syrian government. Iran is pursuing its own interests. And “friendship with Bashar & his group” isn’t one of them.

— On the Mecca Agreement, do feel free to read this: What the Mecca Agreement could mean for the future of Palestine

Yours,

–MSK

http://www.aqoul.com

February 20th, 2007, 10:35 am

 

Ford Prefect said:

Dear MSK,
Regarding your latest posting, some points from my end:

– Sami Moubayed. The two alternatives you painted missed a very important third one: Patriotism! Sami does not need to appease anyone. I am aware of at least several lucrative offers he received outside of Syria – and they continue to pour in. Inside of Syria, many nice-to-have perks and monies have been offered to him – to speak someone else’s mind. He turned them all down. One simple answer: Patriotism. And Sami speaks his mind and none else. He always does. I disagree with his writings often, but I genuinely admire his independent and free mind.

– Iran/Syria alliance is not new. It is almost 25 years old and counting. It started by the late Hafez and still going. I find it hard to fathom how can such a link be broken overnight and over any deal. It will take a genius several years to untangle this complicated relationship. Also, please add Russia to this alliance – it is deeply involved in this cocktail of asynchronous societies.

– Lebanon/HA. Lebanon has profoundly changed. It will be no longer feasible for anyone to have an absolute say in Lebanon without representing the aspirations and sentiments of the “have-not” of the Lebanese people. Maybe HA will transform itself to Hizb-xxxx. But the old days of taking a large section of the Lebanese people for granted are long gone. There is a new reality in Lebanon. Just imagine a census of the population in Lebanon in the year 2027 and you will have a glimpse into Lebanon’s future that is being shaped today.

Otherwise, as always, I enjoy your postings and insights.
Cheers,
FP.

February 20th, 2007, 12:53 pm

 

MSK said:

Dear FP,

– I agree with your take on Sami, i.e. that he’s driven by patriotism. But in this patriotism he keeps conflating the regime with the people & the country. I would’ve thought him to be smarter than that. Also, patriotism is one thing – but thinking that Syria has “natural rights” in Lebanon & the region is something else, maaheek?

– Iran/Syria: I SAID that the alliance was born in the early years of the Iran-Iraq War, i.e. the early 80s. So obviously I know that it’s 25 years old. Still, at NO POINT during that quarter of a century was the alliance anything more than a tactical one. Assad Sr. never cared much for Islamism (Shi’ite or otherwise) as the future for the whole Muslim world and neither did the Khomeinists in Tehran ever accept secular Arab nationalism a la Ba’th. They allied themselves because they didn’t have much choice. And that’s still the case. Should there be other, better choices … the alliance will dissolve. That goes for the Ba’th regime as much as for the Khomeinists.

– Russia is not part of that alliance. Russia is doing its own politics. And as a matter of fact, they hold both the Arab and the Iranian leaderships even more in contempt than the West does. If you think Russia is a friend, you’ll be in for a very rude awakening.

– Lebanon: I don’t understand your reply since it doesn’t have anything to do with what I said. My argument is that HA is not interested in any consosiacional system, but in having a veto power over anything that happens in the Lebanese national sphere so it can do as it pleases. HA is of a “if you’re not 100% with us, then you’re against us” mentality. That’s not the recipe for power sharing. The smartest thing the Israelis could do is to declare Seniora/Hariri/Jumblatt to be the worst enemies that Israel has ever had, declare Bashar al-Assad to be the best friend that Israel ever had, and to state every day how happy they are that Nasrallah’s politics keeps helping Israel and how much they hope he’ll be HA’s za’im for a long time to come.

Cheers,

–MSK

http://www.aqoul.com

February 20th, 2007, 1:14 pm

 

Gibran said:

FP,
Here is how the census in Lebanon will look like in 2027:
1500000 Christians living in East Beirut, Mount Lebanon, Zahle and the south (we know them soul by soul)
500000 Sunnis living in Tripoli and the north (Also known soul by soul)
500000 Sunnis living in West Beirut (Known to the nth soul)
200000 Sunnis living in Sidon (known to the nth soul)
50000 Sunnis living in west and north Bekaa and the Kharroub (these are very well well known)

400000 Shia living in the Bekaa (very well known)
400000 Shia living in the south (each and every soul is accounted for).
100000 Shia living in the Dahiyya (hopefully not in tents and these are well well known)
400000 Druze living in the Chouf (Jonblat has a record of each and every soul).

Could you now give a breakdown of Syrian census and where the Sunnis, alawis, christians, kurds etc are located?

February 20th, 2007, 1:59 pm

 

youngSyria said:

Dear MSK,
From my small experience in patriotism, “thinking that Syria has natural rights in Lebanon & the region” is something acceptable for me*. I think it’s our right to favor our interests first, even if they intersect with others (or harm them). Because Lebanon and others in the region wont think twice if it’s in there interests to harm Syria and its people.

*the way you play the game is up to you, so your “natural rights” doesn’t have to be always “evil”.

February 20th, 2007, 2:16 pm

 

MSK said:

Dear YS,

there is a difference between “interests” and “rights”.

–MSK

http://www.aqoul.com

February 20th, 2007, 2:25 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Then let us just say “Syrian National Security Requierments” in stead of Intersts and Rights. The US Administration might object to such usage of the term though. By others, I mean.

Also, Syria and Iran has been working closely since the early eighties, since Saddam’s Qadisya. That is more than 20 some years, and counting, but we insist on calling it Tactical so both parties can be painted as Opportunists.

How in God’s name does this relationship fit the term “Tactical Alliance”?

What would a Strategic relationship look like???

February 20th, 2007, 3:32 pm

 

Samir said:

Could you now give a breakdown of Syrian census and where the Sunnis, alawis, christians, kurds etc are located?

A big majority of the syrians are sunni muslims (10% are kurds),12 percent:alawis,druzes and ismailis.Most of the syrian christians live in the big cities,150 000 in Aleppo ,300 000 in Damascus,since the 60’s most of christian villagers are moving to the cities or to outside the country.
alawis and druzes have their own historical lands ,the mountain of nusayris and jabal al druze in the south…nearly 35% of the kurds live in two cities,aleppo and damascus ,the others in kurd dagh north east of aleppo and in the syrian jazeera.

February 20th, 2007, 5:10 pm

 

Alex said:

Dear MSK,

Where did you disappear the past few days?

1) Sami Moubayed’s “patriotism”: … why not? Sami is writing opinion pieces, he is not a news reporter. He is expected to write HIS opinion, and not report the news as it is.

Compare him to for example to Raghida Dergham who reports THE NEWS from the Untied States for AlHayat … she hates the Syrians and she shows it every time she sends a news report to AlHayat or to LBC… She is selective with the news she reports (usually only negative news for Syria) and her emotions (hate basically) reach an almost comic degree… when she appeared on LBC to announce the first Mehlis report that named Maher and Asef as suspects, Raghida was out of breath and jumping from excitement … Alhayat wrote an article about her and how wonderful it was to see her so happy … that is pathetic, I hope you agree.

2) Syrian “rights” … like their right to make sure the neighboring countries which used to be parts of “historic Syria” (or Greater Syria) are at least real friends and not led by paid agents for non-friendly countries like the United States or Israel or Saddam’s Iraq.

You know, we really do not want to take Jordan back. But when you consider that late King Hussein of Jordan admitted he tried to warn the Israelis against the secretly planned Egyptian Syrian war plans in 1973 (to liberate their occupied lands, in case anyone has a problem with the 73 war), and the same king of Jordan who later apologized to Hafez that he tried to assassinate him or topple him through his support to the violence (eh, terrorism in today’s language) campaign of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1979-1981… A campaign that led to the killing of tens of thousands of Syrians, in Hama (Rifaat), and before that everywhere in Syria (at the hands of the Arab governments supported Brotherhood) … and the October 73 war warning to the Israelis which could have caused the death of thousands of Syrian soldiers if Israel believed the King (they did not trust him at that time) …

And now we have a “Moderate Lebanese majority government” that takes orders and accepts limitations from the American Ambassador (and this is not Baathist talk, it is the truth)… a government (sorry Gibran) that is led by true criminals like Junblatt who called for a US invasion of Syria (interview with David Ignatius), then promised to send an assassin to kill the president of Syria…

And we had many others … from Lebanon and Jordan. You think today’s Jordanian king is on Syria’s side or on America’s side?

If those two small new nations, ex-greater Syria, can be truly independent, then good for them and for Syria. But if they can not, then it is “Syria’s right” to limit the risks and potential damage that one can expect from a Junblatt and Jeajea in power.

3) Syria’s “strategic” alliance with Iran and Hizballaha and Hamas … I’ll take a neither nor approach to this one. Hafez el-Assad explained in 1979 (28 years ago) that the overthrow of the Shah presented a significant opportunity for the Arab world to gain Iran as a strategic ally to their causes (the Shah of course was …). Hafez did not want the arab world to fight the Persians … he wanted to make the new Iran a friend. And thanks to him, Iran now is not a serious enemy to the Arabs … remember the opinion polls, don’t listen to some pro American leaders. Even Saudi Arabia, after much resistance, seems to be accepting Iran’s “friendship” … so regardless of the tactical benefits of the Syrian Iranian alliance, what Hafez started 28 years ago still stands … Syria will continue to try its best to remain Iran’s best friend in the Arab world. It reached the popular level too … every Iranian I meet expresses his appreciation for Syria’s support during the 1980 war with Saddam… they like us Syrians. Not every thing is about ideology. Syria has communist Cuba as a friend… it does not mean we fully share their ideology.

As for Hamas and Hizballah … I want you to try to look at Syria’s relations with, and support for those in opposition, and not those who were in power because they were friends to the west … When all the Arab leaders were friends to Saddam, Syria hosted all his opposition leaders. When many of those opposition leaders were selected by the Americans to lead in Iraq, Syria stopped supporting them … it sounds not logical, no? …

Same with the PA … when everyone was supporting Abbas’ leadership, Syria supported Hamas … event hough it was not the one in power.

Here are the two factors that influence Syria’s alliances in the Middle East:

1) For as long as the United States is not doing the right thing in the Middle East, Syria will support those who help in obstructing American messed up policies.

2) Syria will try its best to support the movements which have genuine popular support. For as log as Hamas and Hizbollah are genuinely popular Syria will support them and will take their causes and opinions seriously.

Of course the exception would be when you have a genuinely popular leader, like Seniora who is supported by about half the Lebanese people (Gibran would say, by 85%) yet he is closely coordinating his policies with the American Ambassador…

February 20th, 2007, 5:25 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Dear Alex,

Seniora “COORDENATING” with the American Ambassador???!!! Not carrying out the wishes, not implementing the dictates, but Coordinating. That is a tall order.

Have you joined the Diplomatic Corps?

February 20th, 2007, 6:10 pm

 

Alex said:

: )

ok, ok, I’ll make it up.

Here:

التقت الملك الأردني لإطلاعه على مباحثات القدس
رايس تلتقي مدراء مخابرات بلدان عربية لبحث الشأن الفلسطيني

عبد الله الثاني يحث الأميركيين على مواصلة دعم السلام في الشرق الأوسط (رويترز)

أفاد مراسل الجزيرة في عمان بأن وزيرة الخارجية الأميركية كوندوليزا رايس التقت في العاصمة الأردنية مدراء مخابرات كل من الأردن ومصر والسعودية والإمارات العربية المتحدة.

وقال المراسل إن اللقاء تم بحضور الأمين العام لمجلس الأمن القومي السعودي الأمير بندر بن سلطان، مشيرا إلى أن الاجتماع أحيط بسرية تامة.

وكان مسؤول بارز في وزارة الخارجية الأميركية رفض الكشف عن هويته أشار إلى أن رايس ستلتقي مسؤولين أمنيين واستخباراتيين من تلك الدول لمناقشة اتفاقية مكة التي تم التوصل إليها برعاية سعودية بين حركتي التحرير الوطني الفلسطيني (فتح) والمقاومة الإسلايمة (حماس) لتشكيل حكومة وحدة وطنية فلسطينية.

February 20th, 2007, 6:12 pm

 

Gibran said:

Mobayyed? Come on you must be joking. Did you see his last piece of joke? You have to dig deeper for me to take you seriously Aussama. And about ragheda Dorgham she is a well respected intelligent reporter/analyst. The problem is with the Syrians. There is not too many good things that can be written about them. Sorry Aussama you have to begin to apply self criticism. I mean what else can you report about Syria except subversive plots of neighboring States? And Syria taking Jordan? Now that would really make me crack laughing! You know full well Aussama that the Hashemites have better clainm over Damascus than any one else – at least much better than the obscure Alawis. We haven’t forgotten Faysal and his legions delivering the Damascenes out of Turkish servitude. I would say it is more like the other way around. Southern Syria is better off joining Hashemite Jordan. Would you care taking a poll of Damascene’s opinions on this issue? That could be a good question to ask on the next Zogby poll! But please don’t touch Jumblat. He is the greatest Lebanese national since Bashir Ibn Shihab the great and we Lebanese will not allow a Syrian intruder to touch even one hair of his. We simply love the way he talks. He is the best talk show on Lebanese TV’s. We are actually in the process of including his dad’s assassination file in the investigation. We will seek to reclaim Hafez bones to face justice beside his beloved Bashar and inflict the appropriate punishment on them as may fit the situation. Siniora, now this is the big problem for Bashar I’d say. Because Seniora screwed Bashar up real good especially with HA and Aoun. And yes Seniora speaks for 85% of Lebanon who always were will always be allied with America. And yes Bashar may soon have to deal with Jaaja as the President of Lebanon – Bye Bye Lahood last Summer for you in Baabda. Now Bashar is in real trouble: O’ Papa I have no body left in Lebanon.

February 20th, 2007, 6:21 pm

 

Ammad said:

Actually Saudi Arabia is a very important player in middle east, Saudi Arabia only competitor in the region is Iran.As far as it is concerned about Syria, Syria present alliance is with Iran, in the future Saudi Arabia might be Syria ally, what I am trying to say that syrian regime is not royal to any one, it has no principles, it is only looking for its interests and not national interest, arms continue to flow from syria to Hizbullah, in iraq syrian involvement is limited to Al Anbar province.

February 20th, 2007, 6:43 pm

 

MSK said:

I’ve tried this earlier today but it didn’t work, so here I’ll try again:

Syrian coast guards fire on Lebanese fishing boat
(AP)

20 February 2007

BEIRUT, Lebanon – Syrian coast guards fired on Tuesday on a small Lebanese fishing boat that had strayed into Syrian waters, killing a Lebanese fisherman, Lebanese security officials said.

The coast guards opened fire as the Lebanese boat of two crewmen was retrieving its nets, which had drifted into Syrian waters overnight, the Lebanese officials said.

There was no immediate comment from Syria.

The officials said one of the two fishermen, Diab Ahmed Kuwaiza, was killed immediately but the other, Kuwaiza’s brother Nimr, survived and managed to steer their boat back into Lebanese waters.

Nimr could not say whether the Syrian fire came from guns on land or on a coast guard boat because he was too shocked by the sudden killing of his brother, the officials said.

A Lebanese naval vessel later towed the fishing boat to the northern port of Tripoli.

Did I miss something overnight? Did Syria & Israel decide to change places & now the Syrians get to harass Lebanese fishermen?

–MSK

http://www.aqoul.com

February 20th, 2007, 6:47 pm

 

norman said:

This will depress Gibran and the other enemies of Syria , I hope president Bush will see the benifit that the US will get from being the champion of peace

Realpolitik: Syria can make a difference
By ALON BEN-MEIR
NEW YORK, Feb. 20 (UPI) — U.S. administration officials are increasingly talking about the wisdom of engaging with Syria to try to gain its support and participation in efforts to stop the already chaotic situation in the Middle East from further deterioration. Although it would have been wise from the first to engage with Syria, talking directly to Syria at this juncture is even more urgent and of paramount importance to the United States and its allies in the region.

Whether Washington likes it or not, Syria does matter, and so it is imperative for the administration to forget about regime change in Damascus and view Syria as a future partner rather than an adversary.

Syria matters because it is at the heart of the Middle East and is the key to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. In Lebanon, Syria matters because, imbedded in Lebanon’s social, economic, and political makeup, it continues to exert tremendous influence over Hezbollah.

As a predominantly Sunni state, Syria matters because it can shift the dynamic of the Shiite-Sunni conflict away from a dangerous escalation with the potential of engulfing the entire region.

Moreover, in any effort to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Syria is crucial because luring Syria out of the Iranian orbit would isolate Tehran and weaken its resolve.

Syria is a lynchpin in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict too because more than any other Arab state, it provides not only a sanctuary for Palestinian radical leaders but is the keeper of the flame of the Palestinian national movement.

In Iraq, meanwhile, Syria plays a key role more than at any other time because the Bush administration desperately wants and needs to succeed there, and Syria can be extremely helpful in any campaign to stabilize the fractured war-ridden nation.

For the Israelis, too, Syria matters because without peace between Israel and Syria, Israel will always remain insecure on its northern front.

And finally, Syria matters in the so-called war on terrorism because it has the capacity to help in gathering intelligence and in reining in many of the radical Islamic elements.

One can argue about the extent to which Syria matters in the search for solutions to many of these conflicts that have swept through the Middle East and seem to be consuming it. But one cannot discount that Syria impacts directly and indirectly on all the region’s major issues and, therefore, its constructive engagement has the potential to dramatically realign the forces behind much of what troubles the region.

Administration officials insist that engaging with Syria is tantamount to rewarding Damascus for its mischievous behavior and transgressions. I cannot say that Syria is totally innocent. But even if we were to assume that at least some of these charges are valid, would it still not make sense to sit down with Syrian officials and deal with these complaints?

To suggest, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently has, that Syria knows what it must do to “qualify” for a direct dialogue with the United States, which is the same as asking Damascus to first admit to the whole world that it is guilty as charged and then to accept President Bush’s terms of engagement.

Regardless of its so-called sins, Syria would reject these terms because they would be a form of submission, which among other things, would weaken seriously its negotiating position. It is true that Syria needs economic aid, modern technology, and a host of other benefits that normalization of relations with the United States would offer. That said, the United States needs Syria just as much. Considering the ever-deteriorating situation in the region, Bush actually needs Syria more than the other way around.

The administration’s refusal to negotiate with Iran and North Korea for more than six years has done nothing but embolden these nations to defy the United States and do so with impunity. Six years of concerted efforts to isolate Damascus has only pushed it into Iran’s belly and, instead of diminishing its regional role, have made Syria more crucial to the search for solutions.

The policy toward Syria must now be reassessed and President Bush must look at Syria as a part of the solution, not the problem; otherwise, he is simply compounding the region’s problems.

On more than one occasion, his administration has in fact worked with Syrian officials, especially immediately after September 11, 2001, in sharing intelligence and tracking al-Qaida operatives. No reason prevents cooperation between the two nations from being resumed unconditionally, particularly now that the Middle East has been thrust into so much turmoil and Syria’s constructive involvement has become even more necessary.

Syria will not readily abandon its ties with Tehran or Hezbollah once the U.S. initiates direct talks with Damascus. But Syria’s serious engagement will have a dramatic impact on the political wind throughout the region.

Along with the Iraq Study Group, many political leaders, academics, and think tanks have recommended that the administration engage with Syria. Bush has not simply refused to heed these calls; he has also failed to come up with any alternative policy option to deal with Syria as an inseparable part of the larger regional picture.

Damascus can wait this administration out, but it is highly doubtful that the Bush White House has the luxury of time in resolving any of the region’s problems without Syria’s active and constructive engagement.

(Alon Ben-Meir is professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international relations and Middle Eastern studies. alon@alonben-meir.comhttp://www.alonben-meir.com)

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February 20th, 2007, 7:49 pm

 

Alex said:

Thanks Norman.

Don’t worry about Gibran. He will brand professor Ben Meir a dreamer, a regime propagandist or a fool.

February 20th, 2007, 8:12 pm

 

Nur al-Cubicle said:

Thank you for the presentation of the facts and your assessment, Josh.

But the Bush administration is in a de facto alliance with Israel (just look at the number of dual nationals among the acolytes!). There will be no change until 2008. The sad part is that the new Democratic Administration in 2008 will be left with the ruins of the Bush/Israeli depredations and face humiliation itself.

So many shifts and turns. Alliances of the willing, surges, outsourcing diplomacy, Greater Middle East initiatives, public diplomacy…the Administration is writhing in pursuit of the impossible: to make the Middle East in its image, to avoid the Palestinian issue and to destroy Islam and the remains of Arab nationalism.

February 20th, 2007, 8:15 pm

 

Alex said:

Nur, I am pessimistic too, but I see a possibility of a limited degree of positive change in the administration’s approach. Now they allow the Iraqi president to visit Damascus and they allow their Saudi allies to host Hamas and to give them money … compare it to last year when they thought that all they needed to do to deal with the unhappy Arabs was to send a P.R. team of Karen Hughes and Dina Powell to explaint to those idiots how wise and how caring and how friendly this Administration is.

I look at it as a hedging strategy … two opposite approaches are taken at the same time; diplomcy and confrontation.

Let’s hope they find out that democracy can work so that they will not have the excuse to go for the more fun military confrontation.

February 20th, 2007, 8:27 pm

 

Gibran said:

Norman says:” This will depress Gibran and the other enemies of Syria”
Actually it doesn’t depress me at all.
Once Syria is no longer under Iranian control and is truly ruled by Syrian Sunnis, then we wouldn’t have any serious problems with it. Isn’t that the premise of your article?
Besides who said the US didn’t get anywhere with N. Korea? Didn’t North Korea just abandon its nuclear weapons? So it is only a matter of time and Iran will follow suit. Not long after that Syria will buckle. And by the way security is beginning to improve in Baghdad.

The main question is what can Syria do in the Middle East? On the Palestinian front, it cannot do much from now on. On the Iraqi front, subversion is a completely different ballgame than stabilization. Syria cannot get two ordinary Iraqis to meet let alone convincing diverse groups to sit down and discuss stabilization under its ‘auspices’. So the only effective thing Syria can do is stir trouble. In Lebanon, Syria is completely rejected except for a handful of paid mercenaries. Certainly there are more responsible and effective States in the region that can do a much better job than the Alawis of Syria. Example: Jordan has historic links to Iraq that can be cultivated to bring back normalcy to its political life. So do the Saudis that are trusted by more Iraqis and certainly have the resources to help create a stable Iraq. The Egyptians are better equipped than any other state in terms of manpower and equipment to help bolster the American troops in Iraq if need be. Egypt’s position as a non-neighboring state to Iraq is even more attractive to the Iraqis themselves who vehemently oppose introducing troops from neighboring states into their country. Pakistan is also well positioned to serve a similar function as Egypt. So Norman, while reminding you that I am not an enemy of Syria as a country, I would draw your attention to the fact that the US has infinitely more resources at its disposal than a Syria in Iraq’s backyard which is more of a liability in terms of realpolitiks itself than benefit by the mere fact of the border it shares with Iraq.

February 20th, 2007, 8:28 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Dear MSK,
Thanks for your eloquent reply. I am happy that there is someone I disagree with, yet have much to learn from. For that, I am truly thankful 😉

If Sami ever advocated any “natural rights” for Syria in Lebanon, then that is his opinion, and I would be deeply disturbed by it and by any one spewing such nonsense. I have not heard or read that Sami ever said so, but I might have missed it.

Regarding the Iran/Syria alliance, I agree with much of what you said but just as the US had Stalin as a trusted ally while fighting Nazi Germany, Syria and Iran do ideologically have common views regarding a common enemy: Israel. This common denominator is actually, in my opinion, at the top of the list, but you hardly mentioned it.

As for Russia, I was trying to draw the attention to the often-unmentioned involvement of Russian with both countries – hence the “under the table” alliance. Maybe Russia is in deep contempt of both regimes and I am in for a very rude awakening, but let us not forget that Russia had, has, and will always have vested interests in the area. The last two bastions of Russia in the area are Iran and Syria. Again, maybe they are politically incompatible with Iran or Syria, but one cannot ignore the interests of Russia and the Russian street in the Middle East. (Point in fact, the Russian press is abuzz with blame and finger pointing as to how and why did Russia lost much of its influence in this important part of the world and what should be done about it. I don’t have the press articles handy to share, but it should not be hard to believe that such aspirations do still exist.)

The last paragraph you have written marks a big departure from your otherwise rational argument. If any one has the slogan: “if you’re not 100% with us, then you’re against us, ” it would be the current US and Israeli government and their puppet government in Lebanon. Not that HA is blameless – advocating religion, as the basis of nationality and social order, as in Israel, is a recipe for racism, bigotry, and arrogance. The point I was making, however, was not in defense of HA, rather, HA is representing the aspirations of a sizable slice of the Lebanese society that was left behind and away from the decision-making process. I was advocating that those days are long gone, and that there is a new reality on the ground in Lebanon. It just simply cannot be the same old politics anymore.

Again, thanks for the telling insights. Keep up the challenging and respectful theme. As Alex said, time spent exchanging ideas on SC is time well spent.

FP.

February 20th, 2007, 8:52 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

FP.

“Besides who said the US didn’t get anywhere with N. Korea? Didn’t North Korea just abandon its nuclear weapons?” – Gibran. 2007. Stellar Revelations. SyriaComment.com.

It might be that Gibran lives on another planet, but on this Planet Earth, North Korea is far from “just abandoned its nuclear program.” To the contrary, North Korea just finished conducting a nuclear explosive test on October 16, 2006 – barely six month ago and in defiance of everything US! Further, thanks to the reckless Neocon and Israeli politics that are endangering every soul and specie on this planet, Iran accelerated its nuclear program, which was ironically started by the Shah with support from the US. Sorry to disappoint, facts are the enemy of the perceived reality.
FP.

February 20th, 2007, 9:11 pm

 

t_desco said:

A brilliant new definition of terrorism by the U.S. Treasury Department:

Treasury targets Hezbollah construction arm

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday designated a Lebanon-based construction company operated by Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, accusing it of bolstering the militant group’s public standing by rebuilding war-torn areas.
WP

So dropping American-made bombs on apartment buildings and destroying entire neighborhood is not terrorism, but rebuilding them is? Brilliant. Simply brilliant. You can’t make these things up.

For the record:

Lebanese Cigarette Smugglers Clash With Syrian Coastguards

One Lebanese was killed and another was wounded when a clash erupted Tuesday between Lebanese cigarette smugglers and Syrian coastguards, Lebanese security sources said.
DPA

February 20th, 2007, 10:21 pm

 

Gibran said:

Ford_Perfect
Why should I even bother to respond to you if you are not even up to date on the news? N’Korea did give up its nukes. You’re probably the one living on different planet!!!

February 20th, 2007, 10:37 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Gibran, don’t bother responding. Just read.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/2340405.stm

February 20th, 2007, 10:43 pm

 

Gibran said:

FORD PERFECT
Sorry to make you look IMPERfect. Now it is your turn to read. Your news is somewhat outdated:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6358797.stm

February 20th, 2007, 10:52 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Gibran, don’t bother responding. Just read and read with an open mind. Of course, you can take the easy route by listening to your Israeli-sponsored government. Israel will do the thinking while al Mustaqbal will happily translate verbatim.
North Korea already said this is “just temporary.” Even your friend and ally who was honored by the Lebanese government, John Bolton, blasted the deal. Read, Gibran, read.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/02/13/nkorea.talks/index.html

February 20th, 2007, 11:01 pm

 

Gibran said:

FORD_PERFECT
You really disappoint me this time. Now I’d say your so imperfect you may want to start looking for another car. How about a Chevy? or a Dodge? And keep that Perfect away this time.
The fact of the matter is there is a deal, temporary or otherwise, and China (main NK ally) is a signatory to the deal in addition to the other states involved.
Now inspectors will be admitted and what will N.K. do after 60 days? Renege on the deal and suffer more economic hardships? the mere fact that a ‘god-like’ ruler such as that of NK is blinking should give you a great deal to ponder on how things are going. Didn’t Kadhafi blink couple years ago? So instead of making yourself look like a fool, by linking a 5 days old piece of news to support your foolish sarcasm and then try to cover yourself from the sun using a sieve with huge holes in it, wait the 60 day term of the agreement and let’s see.
Despots such as Bashar and the self declared ‘infallible’ mullah of Qom are the ones who are not living on this planet as well as those (such as you) who see the sun rising out between their legs? Wake up FP you’re swimming against the tide.

February 20th, 2007, 11:13 pm

 

ausamaa said:

What does “infallible” mean?
Does it apply Mullahs in Qum only or to all Mullahs?
Or is it a just a prefix like “despot” and “regime” and “dictator”.. for things we do not like today?

February 20th, 2007, 11:44 pm

 

Gibran said:

AUSSAMA,
Yo want to know what infallible means? Do you know the meaning of ma’assoum? That is what it means. A Ma’assoum can speak on behalf of God and the word of the Ma’assoum is the same as the word of God. Does it ring a bell?

February 21st, 2007, 12:16 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

تعين على العرب أن يتنبهوا إلى أن إدارة بوش تسعى لتهدئة الجبهة الفلسطينية فقط لخلق أجواء مناسبة لضرب إيران. فهل تنجح الدول العربية في إجهاض مخطط ينذر بكارثة جديدة؟
Hasan Nafe-ah,is right

February 21st, 2007, 3:33 am

 

Enlightened said:

Just read an old Patrick Seale article: Some statistics that I pasted from the bottom, some funny quotes and reading”

“19.04: total population in millions (2005) . . . 74: percentage of population that is Sunni Muslim . . . 3,400: GDP per capita in US dollars (2005) . . . 1918: Arab revolt and establishment of the kingdom of Syria . . . 1920: French rule over Syria begins under League of Nations mandate . . . 1946: independence . . . 800,000: internet users . . . 14: number of regimes throughout history that have occupied Syria (including Hebrews, Persians, Greeks and Romans) . . . 5ft 8ins: average height of a Syrian man (2006) . . . 40,000: troops sent into Lebanon in 1976 . . . 29: years of the Syrian presence in Lebanon that ended in 2005 . . . 17,000: number of people “disappeared” by the Syrian

state in the late 1970s and early 1980s, according to Amnesty International . . . 60: percentage of male population that smokes cigarettes . . . 25: percentage of wives (2005) who reported being beaten . . . 185,180: size of country in square kilometres . . . 58: percentage of Syria covered by the Syrian Desert . . . 420: kilometres of the Euphrates flowing through Syria from Turkey to Iraq . . . 120,000: number of dogs and whores that Yasser Arafat was son to, according to the Syrian defence minister in 1999 . . . 8: number of tourists (in millions) that Syria aims to attract by 2010 . . . 72: average life expectancy . . . 3: percentage of population over 65 . . . 8,000-10,000: date BC from which Damascus, the capital, is thought to have been inhabited . . . 400: years that Syria was under Turkish rule . . . 400,000: number of barrels of oil produced per day (this is the biggest export, though much less than from Syria’s neighbours) . . . 92: number of clay tablets on which 3,800-year-old Babylonian beer recipes have been discovered . . . 2007: year of next elections

Just something to refocus your mind on to , given the serious conversations going on here in the last two weeks.

February 21st, 2007, 3:53 am

 

Alex said:

Very good idea! … need a break from politics.

I’m proud of our Damascus, the oldest continuously inhabited capital in the world .. but that percentage of male smokers …60%! … what a disappointment.

By the way, since Enlightened got all the stats on Syria today, Gibran had two questions he needed an answer for from the Syrian people … do you have those?

February 21st, 2007, 4:49 am

 

Enlightened said:

Alex and forum; we are getting reports here in australia although early, that Britain is pulling some of its troops out by the end of the year! Any other reports in the USA?

Alex I am not Syrian by birth so I would decline to answer questions on behalf of the Syrian people, who I would love as neighbours (note whatever denomination they may be). ( and my very Syrian friends here in Aus some of them are comedians literally Ghawar style).
I know what he is asking!! however dont like discussing religion, its only for the religious (LOLZ)
However if the question was political regarding the Government, That would be fair game, cant tolerate injustice!

February 21st, 2007, 5:34 am

 

Enlightened said:

or non proportional representation!

February 21st, 2007, 6:03 am

 

Ammad said:

According to a secret saudi intelligence, by the year 2020, nearly 60% of saudi population will be originally from syria, according to the research being made that every one out of three saudi is getting married to a syrian lady. It also says that the largest and the most powerful community livung in saudi arabia is the syrian community. They are seen in major saudi cities driving fancy cars, they own companies and land in saudi arabia, it also says that the syrians are prefering to move to saudi arabia rather than going to europe, but the interesting thing which it say that they are syrians who are living in kuwait are funding millions of dollars to the syrian regime

February 21st, 2007, 6:53 am

 

Alex said:

Enlightened, I was joking about answering gibran’s questions. It was sort of a prediction of his comment on the figures you posted.

I hope one day he becomes enlightened too.

February 21st, 2007, 8:29 am

 

Ford Prefect said:

Gibran, your confusion between Perfect and Prefect underscores your continued ignorance. It is not a surprise, however. Your news sources are hovering between the Weekly Standards and your Israeli-backed government. If you consider the murderer of the Shouf, responsible for the ethnic cleansing of the Christians from areas they inhibited for hundreds of years, Jumblatt, as your hero, you are in serious need of therapy. As I said before, read, Gibran, read. Pay special attention to spellings.
FP.

February 21st, 2007, 10:24 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Ford Prefect:

From Gibran’s BBC Article:

“Under the agreement, Pyongyang has pledged to close its Yongbyon reactor within 60 days, in return for 50,000 metric tons of fuel aid or economic aid of equal value.

The closure of Yongbyon will be verified by international inspectors.”

The difference between this agreement and the one Clinton and Albright worked out was that this agreement was conducted by the 6 parties involved. Albright’s agreement was UNILATERAL between the US and NK.

So much for Bush’s “go-it-alone” approach the Leftist media continues to whine about.

Of course it is a first step. If NK doesn’t verifiably close the one nuclear reactor, we’re just back where we started from. The Bush Adm. already admits there is a long way to go.

Professor Josh (again) asks the “important” questions:

“Will Saudi Arabia Solve America’s Problems?”

As if the US has “problems” approaching anything the Middle East is experiencing:

– Extreme poverty
– Extreme violence
– Extreme lack of freedom
– Extreme backwardness
– Extreme economic depression

America’s problems:

– Low unemployment
– Great economy
– Enormous freedom
– Relatively secure
– Huge Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

Just countering our resident academic, Syria apologist, and America-basher…

Have a nice day;)

February 21st, 2007, 12:20 pm

 

Gibran said:

FORD_PERFECT,
I think now you really deserve to be told straight how stupid you are. If you haven’t realized this by now, then you really have a big problem. Buzz off piece of ….
Alex
As Enlightened pointed out very briefly, I too cann’t tolerate non proportional representation! It is your turn to become enlightened I believe.

February 21st, 2007, 1:28 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Gibran, thanks for your civility, as always, shown clearly.

February 21st, 2007, 1:48 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

I am posting the whole article along with the link in case the link is subsequently removed.

http://www.metimes.com/storyview.php?StoryID=20070221-061701-8686r

Commentary: Syria can make a difference
Alon Ben-Meir

February 21, 2007

NEW YORK — US administration officials are talking increasingly about the wisdom of possibly engaging with Syria, gaining its support and participation in preventing the already chaotic situation in the Middle East from further deterioration. Although it would have been prudent to approach Syria from the first, dialoguing directly with Damascus at this juncture has never been more urgent nor of greater importance to the United States and its allies in the region.

Whether Washington likes it or not, Syria does matter, and so it is imperative for the Bush administration to put aside thoughts of regime change in Damascus and view the country as a potential partner rather than an adversary.

Syria matters because it is at the heart of the Middle East and is the key to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. In Lebanon, Syria matters because, embedded in Lebanon’s social, economic, and political make-up, it continues to exert tremendous influence over Hezbollah.

As a predominantly Sunni state, Syria matters because it can shift the dynamic of the Middle East’s Shiite-Sunni conflict away from a dangerous escalation that has the potential to engulf the entire region.

Moreover, in any effort to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Syria is crucial because luring Syria out of the Iranian orbit would isolate Tehran and weaken its resolve.

Syria is a lynchpin in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, too, because more than any other Arab state, it not only provides a sanctuary for Palestinian radical leaders, but it is also the keeper of the flame of the Palestinian national movement.

In Iraq, meanwhile, Syria now plays a role more key than at any other time, given that George W. Bush desperately wants and needs his policies there to succeed and Damascus has the potential to be extremely helpful in any campaign aimed at stabilizing the fractured, war-ridden nation.

For the Israelis, too, Syria matters because without peace between Jerusalem and Damascus, Israel will always remain insecure on its northern front.

Finally, Syria matters in the so-called “war on terrorism” because it has the capacity to help in gathering vital intelligence and reining in many of the radical Islamic elements.

Of course, one can debate the degree of Syria’s importance in searching for solutions to the Middle East’s many all-consuming conflicts. But one cannot discount that Syria impacts directly and indirectly on all the region’s major issues, and, therefore, its constructive engagement has the potential to dramatically realign the forces behind much of the troubles.

Bush administration officials insist that approaching Syria is tantamount to rewarding Damascus for its mischievous behavior and transgressions. And I cannot say that Syria is totally innocent. But even if we were to assume that at least some of these charges were valid, does it still not stand to reason to sit down with Syrian officials and deal with such complaints?

To suggest, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently has, that Syria knows what it must do to “qualify” for a direct dialogue with the United States – effectively asking Damascus to first admit to the whole world that it is “guilty as charged” and then to accept President Bush’s terms of engagement – makes far less sense.

Regardless of its so-called sins, Syria would reject these terms because they would be a form of submission, which, among other things, would seriously weaken its negotiating position. It is true that Syria needs economic aid, modern technology, and a host of other benefits that the normalization of Syrian-US relations could offer. That said, the United States needs Syria just as much. In fact, considering the ever-deteriorating situation in the region, Bush actually needs Syria more than the other way around.

The current administration’s refusal to negotiate with Iran and North Korea for more than six years has done nothing but embolden these nations to defy the United States – and to do so with impunity. Six years of concerted efforts to isolate Damascus have only pushed it into Iran’s embrace, and, instead of diminishing its regional role, made Syria even more crucial to the hunt for Middle Eastern remedies.

The policy toward Syria must now be reassessed and President Bush must regard Syria as a part of the solution, not the problem; otherwise, he is simply compounding the region’s woes.

On more than one occasion, Bush’s administration has, in fact, worked with Syrian officials, especially in the immediate aftermath of the 2001 9/11 attacks, sharing intelligence and tracking Al Qaeda operatives. There is no reason to hinder the resumption unconditionally of cooperation between the two nations, particularly now that the Middle East has been thrust into so much turmoil and Syria’s constructive involvement has become even more necessary.

Of course, Syria will not readily abandon its ties with Tehran or Hezbollah should Washington initiate direct talks with Damascus. Nonetheless, Syria’s serious engagement would have a dramatic impact on the political wind throughout the region.

Along with the Iraq Study Group, many political leaders, academics, and think tanks have recommended that the present administration engage with Syria. Bush has not simply refused to heed these calls; he has also failed to come up with any alternative policy to deal with the pre-dominantly Sunni nation as an inseparable part of the larger regional picture.

Damascus can wait this administration out, but it is highly doubtful that the Bush White House has the luxury of time when it comes to resolving any of the Middle East’s problems without an active and constructive dialogue with Syria.

Alon Ben-Meir is Professor of International Relations at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University, teaching courses on international relations and Middle Eastern studies. He may be reached at alon@alonben-meir.com. Acknowledgement to United Press International.

February 21st, 2007, 1:50 pm

 

youngSyria said:

can any body give me some info about her?
http://www.alarabiya.net/Articles/2007/02/21/31915.htm

February 21st, 2007, 3:22 pm

 

Gibran said:

This is the latest update about HA summer war fiasco coming back to haunt Nasrallah. This is the likliest reason for his reported depression. I guess his ‘divine promise’ turned out more of a phantom than he expected,

Ain Ebel is practically a ghost town and a Shiites were told by Hezbollah: your legs are not for Hezbollah, so we won’t treat you.”

‘Turned away’

“Hezbollah say they don’t differentiate between Lebanese people,” said Sita Balhas, a mother of five in the village of Siddiqine.

“But when my son was wounded in the war, he went to one of Hezbollah’s medical centre, they told him: your legs are not for Hezbollah, so we won’t treat you.”

The Balhas tobacco crop was mostly burned during the conflict, their butchers shop destroyed, but they say they didn’t receive any aid from Hezbollah.

They haven’t received anything from the government either – but their anger seems mostly directed at Hezbollah.

“The government is powerless, they don’t have money. Hezbollah started the war, they should pay us compensation,” said Sita.

Hezbollah wields enormous power and control over the Shia community so it’s unusual to hear criticism of Hezbollah among ordinary people, but disgruntled voices are starting to be heard occasionally.

Widening rift

The nearby Christian village of Ain Ebel is practically a ghost town.

Those villagers who remain blame Hezbollah for the conflict – which started after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers – but are glad about the deployment of government forces in the area.

“After the war it’s so different, after so many years in an area without any Lebanese security forces here we see now the army, we see the checkpoints,” said Emad Lallousse, a translator for Unifil.

He dismisses claims that Hezbollah is needed to “defend” south Lebanon.

“We can live without any war, like the Egyptian, like the Jordanians, like the Syrians, why do we always have to worry about defending south Lebanon?”

February 21st, 2007, 4:43 pm

 

Samir said:

alex ,stop mixing the interests of the syrian people with the interests of assad familly… those are foreigners to our cultural heritage ,our traditions,our manners,our history…syria was never so corrupt and so poor so desolate,they depraved syria ,syria today is no more the happy syria of our fathers….half of our young men are outside the country …it’s the right of the syrian people to be ruled by people close to them and true patriots.

February 21st, 2007, 5:48 pm

 

syrian said:

From the same source as Gibran’s (Earlier in the same article from the BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6376733.stm)

Ali and his friend do not see any problem if Hezbollah units work alongside the regular army in the south.

“The Lebanese army is not strong enough to defend south Lebanon.

“What the army can do against Israeli planes?” asks his friend, also with a strong American accent.

Anger at government

Surrounded by bombed-out buildings, torched cars and a badly damaged mosque, you can really feel the frustration and many people say they’ve been abandoned by their government.

It’s a disgrace, they take our taxes but they don’t even come to see us
Ali Bazzi
Head of Bint Jbeil municipality

“Nobody got any help from the government. In any self respecting country, the government would have come to visit the damaged area, we didn’t see a single minister,” said Ali Bazzi, the head of the Bint Jbeil municipality.

“It’s a disgrace, they take our taxes but they don’t even come to see us. Given the current political situation in Beirut, we have no relations with the central government in Beirut.”

The cash-strapped government has lobbied international donors and brought in international teams to help with reconstruction.

But it was no match for the speed and organisation of Hezbollah, which distributed around $300m in cash straight after the war.

This sentence was added to the article by Lebanese Lobby

Ain Ebel is practically a ghost town and a Shiites were told by Hezbollah: your legs are not for Hezbollah, so we won’t treat you.”

and then there is the post from Gibran …

The article then goes on to say

“Tensions in south Lebanon about who should defend – and control – this region are amplified in Beirut where the political standoff continues between the government and the Hezbollah-led opposition.

Although most people in the south still support the Shia group, the country as a whole is split down the middle and the rift is only widening. “

February 21st, 2007, 5:48 pm

 

Alex said:

YOUNGSYRIA,

Hala is a very talented artist.

Here is her site

I exchanged many emails with her last year to add her profile in creative syria’s Syrian Artists page, but she is not too good with computers and digital arts apparently… I am still waiting for her to find a friend who can send me hi-rs photos of her paintings.

She is a very nice and polite woman.

February 21st, 2007, 6:07 pm

 

syrian said:

Youngsyria above linked to an article on arabyia.net regarding artist Hala Faisal. I checked out and just in the process I thought about what Arabs reading Arabic websites find worth commenting on. So I checked out the list of articles on the front pages and here are the basic results (not the actual title bit a crude understanding of the merit of the story followed by the number of comments):

News
UNSC Agrees to Deployment of African Forces to Somalia
7

Israeli Military Activities in the Golan
0

Egypt arrests 3 palestinians targeting tourism in Sinai
28

Israel/Palestinian lobby quartet to reinforce/lift sanctions
25

Gold Regulation in KSA
37

Iran .v. US Military Excercises
99

Conspiracies/maybe hapenning
Spreading Shiism
91

KSA Lobbies MB’s to Dissolve in Egypt
73

Syrian officer claims Naser stopped plan to attack Israeli Airbases
201

Sensational/Sexually Oriented
Rape of A sunni Woman by Police in Iraq
234

More on the rape case
182

Hala Faisal naked in New York. Actually the story is about an art exhibition she was having in Syria. The article mentioned that she went naked in NY to protest the war in Iraq.
(fromYoung Syria above)
120

February 21st, 2007, 7:17 pm

 

t_desco said:

Wes Clark:

“Whatever the pace of Iran’s nuclear efforts, in the give and take of the Administration’s rhetoric and accusations, we are approaching the last moments to head off looming conflict.”
StopIranWar.com

BTW, Newsweek has issued a correction confirming that the Nimitz will be sent to the Gulf to relieve the Eisenhower:

“Correction: Newsweek reported in its Feb. 19th edition that a third American aircraft carrier “will likely follow” two other carrier groups to the Gulf. In fact, the USS Nimitz is scheduled to replace one of the other carrier groups operating there, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.”
Newsweek

Coincidentally, this is exactly what I had “predicted” back in December.

February 21st, 2007, 7:47 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

T_Desco,
I am now more convinced about the possibility of a new war in line with your predictions, contrary to my earlier predictions. Alex has been predicting a strike as well. But first, look for a “catastrophic and catalyzing” event (aka, kidnapping a soldier or two) to justify the strike. My prediction is that after such a strike, if it happens, Iran will unleash a wave of terror not seen by anyone before, unfortunately. Further, it will strengthen the extremists in Iran at a time when their power is in decline and more centrist sentiments are emerging. One would genuinely hope that your predictions are wrong, this time only! Once again, if it happens, this administration and its Israeli allies would not have spared a moment to put America at risk and show how awesomely incompetent and monumentally ignorant they are. Will they do it? Sure. Will the Dems stop them? Maybe. We are trying very hard.

By the way, “Shooter” Cheney, even after loosing his “Scotter” Libby, apparently can still talk! He has a truly funny line today. He said Blair’s exit from in Iraq is a sign of victory!
FP.

February 21st, 2007, 10:05 pm

 

Alex said:

FP,

I hope you can try harder! : )

I think it depends on the size of the challenge … if 200 American soldiers are killed in an attack that can be surely traced to Iranian backed parties, then the Democrats will not be able to hold the administration from “retaliating” .. or hitting Iran.

I am not necessarily predicting an attack (or any thing else in the Middle East) … But I am convinced that attacking Iran is one possibility that has support withing the administration .. if they can find the right excuse.

For now they are sending the ships to the right places.

February 21st, 2007, 10:47 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

The will have the excuse and, as Chomsky puts it, the “manufactured consent.” That is the easy part.
FP.

February 21st, 2007, 11:02 pm

 

Gibran said:

Bashar can no longer jump ahead of events. Noose is tightening. Keeps turning around in circles -Harriri’s tribunal is haunting him. Question is when will he drop on his knees? Under Bashar, Syria is marching confidently towards irrelevance – Michael Young is echoing our conviction.

Learning nothing and forgetting nothing
By Michael Young
Daily Star staff
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Earlier this week, two statements neatly summarized the crisis in Lebanon. The first came from the EU’s representative in Beirut, Patrick Laurent; the second from Syria’s official Al-Thawra daily. Both reaffirmed in their own separate ways that the Syrian regime, since its army was forced out of Lebanon in 2005, has chosen to behave like the exiled Bourbons: learning nothing and forgetting nothing.
In an exchange with journalists, Laurent had this to say about Syrian behavior in Lebanon, and about European efforts to “engage” President Bashar Assad: “We tried everything, as did many others, employing both gentle means and pressure,” but nothing seemed to work. As if confirming Laurent’s doubts, Al-Thawra, in an editorial Tuesday, called for talks between Damascus and the US covering Lebanon, Palestine, the Golan Heights, and Iraq. “Syria insists on a serious and profound dialogue on all subjects without exception,” the newspaper asserted.
Precisely where this extraordinary statement came from was unclear. Syria is a declining power, capable only of spreading instability in its neighborhood to ward off irrelevance. However, this game, which the late President Hafez al-Assad played to perfection, no longer works. By allying itself with an Iran that Saudi Arabia regards as an existential threat, Syria is in no position to make demands of the Arab states, let alone of the United States. The Syrians recently tried to take control of the Iraqi Baath Party, and failed. They tried to midwife a Fatah-Hamas deal in Damascus, and failed again. Assad has even managed to alienate Egypt, by thwarting its peace efforts on the Palestinian front and by ensuring that Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa’s mediation in Lebanon would go nowhere. And in Lebanon, Assad has so angered the Sunni community that the prospect of a Syrian military return seems fanciful.
Most alarming from a Lebanese perspective, the Al-Thawra article showed that Syria has yet to grasp that the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1559 in 2004. In insisting on Syria’s having a say in Lebanon’s future, the newspaper disregarded that the resolution specifically asked Damascus to end its interference in Lebanese affairs.
Assad may have come out of his summit in Tehran last week invigorated by a sense that the Iranians need him in their confrontation with the Bush administration. It was always naive to assume that Iran would pressure Assad on the Hariri tribunal at a time when the nuclear issue was on the verge of reaching a climax at the UN – with more steps possibly coming at the Security Council to impose new sanctions on Tehran.
However, it is precisely because of this that Syria should be careful. Iran’s ultimate guarantee against an American attack isn’t the comradeship of Damascus, but a broad Arab consensus behind the benefits of a dialogue with Iran and the undesirability of an American military response to the nuclear standoff. Iran views its talks with the Saudis as the best means to avoid a war, but also to hinder approval of new UN sanctions and avert a Sunni-Shiite conflict that would cripple Iranian initiatives in the Middle East. In this context, Assad could emerge as a burdensome ally.
The Bush administration is more subtle than it has been given credit for. It authorized the Saudi-Iranian dialogue, realizing that this reflected the central Sunni-Shiite fault line dividing the Middle East. There are some in Washington who would love to bomb Iran, but there is no domestic traction for war, leaving room for diplomacy. This is where the Saudi-Iranian talks fit in. That Bandar bin Sultan, the former ambassador to the US, was named point man on the Saudi side surely reassured the Bush administration, particularly Vice President Dick Cheney.
As the Syrians look on, what is going through their minds? Their agenda can be reduced to a single item: undermining the Hariri tribunal. Neither in Iraq nor in the Palestinian areas is Assad indispensable. In Lebanon, Syria presumably faces Iranian “red lines” limiting the kind of intimidation it can employ, which is why the Syrian-Iranian compromise is for more stalemate, punctuated by controlled Hizbullah escalations. The latest scheme is for a civil-disobedience campaign. Yet this may end up backfiring like other opposition efforts did. Shiites would suffer as much as anyone from obstruction of the country’s public administration.
Iran and Syria can agree over raising the heat in Lebanon to squeeze the Saudis. But beyond that the situation becomes more complicated. The Iranians want an advantageous deal in Lebanon, but not a civil war. They also don’t want to break with the Saudis, because there will be more friction with the US and the Arab world in the coming months. An Arab League summit is to be held in Saudi Arabia in March, and there is nothing Iranian leaders would like less than for the predominantly Sunni Arab states to use that event to warn against the “Persian peril.” This explains why the Syrians are so eager to act now in Lebanon, to ensure they can get something on the tribunal before eventual progress in the Saudi-Iranian relationship pushes their aims to the backburner. A Saudi-Iranian rapprochement would make it much tougher for Assad to kill the tribunal, whose passage the Saudi leadership considers non-negotiable.
Assad senses that the window of opportunity is closing. His last card is a Lebanese civil war, but it’s not one that Iran and Hizbullah seem willing to play. However, the tribunal won’t disappear. At best, if Syria aborts formal Lebanese endorsement of the institution, this will make the move toward Chapter VII of the UN Charter more likely. Only when Assad truly accepts Resolution 1559 and embraces Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, will he persuade anyone that his regime is worth saving.
Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.

February 22nd, 2007, 12:49 am

 
 

norman said:

Can sombody tell me to the reason why Syria has not stopped suppling Lebanon with cheep oil and electristy and with transit to Iraq and the Gulf states.

February 22nd, 2007, 1:23 am

 

Alex said:

Dear Gibran

Michael Young is a Syria hater like you … keep reading him and enjoy sharing the same dreams. Not a Syrian regime hater, but a Syria hater.

I used to take time to comment on his articles in detail … but two years later, as he keeps repeating the same tired prediction “Bashar is surrounded … he is about to surrender” … one can only feel pity for this intelligent man (Michael Young) who is reduced to this boring broken record of predicting the worst case scenario for Bashar’s future fortunes.

Please, let’s try to not link those predictable news sources and commentators… do we bother you with Teshreen and Al-baath opinion pages? so do not bother us with Michael Young, and then follow it with your similarly repetitive predictions.

February 22nd, 2007, 3:36 am

 

Gibran said:

Dear Alex,
I did not expect you to be receptive to Michael Young’s article. But I don’t believe Michael Young, an internationally recognized writer on ME issues, really cares about some pitiful offerings of pity from such an obscure unknown like you for example. Do you have any doubts otherwise?

February 22nd, 2007, 4:03 am

 

Enlightened said:

Alex;

I dont think that michael young is a “Syria Hater” per se, a more apt description would be “Syrian Regime Hater”, like wise for Gibran I dont know him personally, neverthe less I would not descibe him as a Syria Hater, your words are harsh!

I have no sympathy for Iran, Saudi Arabia, egypt, Jordan, Israel ( Akbar note lolz ) etc etc, but my
feelings do not gravitate towards hate, too much negative emotion! My philosophical leanings towards all the arab countries would lie towards this famous phrase that i Learnt from my late father and all his very secular friends, it went like this ” All Arabs are hkerit”, I would repeat it often and ask my father did it mean that all arabs who visited our house are “hkerit”?

After greeeting some guests with that word , followed with a few swift slaps to the head! I didnt repeat it! But i often think about it!

February 22nd, 2007, 4:16 am

 

Alex said:

Gibran,

If I was to be impressed by “internationally recognized” and by “writer on ME issues” then I should be 100 times more impressed by that other internationally recognized Middle East expert.

But the problem is: both of them have been so wrong for so long that if they had some dignity and maturity, they would just pause and listen to those who proved to be real experts … an expert is supposed to be able to predict things right 50% of the time at least?

Your Michael Young is an expert in criticizing Syria and in day dreaming worst case scenarios for Bashar’s future… some how worst case scenarios rarely materialize.

They are as credible as those Baathist predictions in the sixties of defeating Israel and throwing them in the sea … did that materialize? no.

February 22nd, 2007, 4:18 am

 

Alex said:

Enlightened,

YOU are not a Syria hater, you are a Syrian regime hater. You dislike authoritarian rulers. You are against Tyranny. I know.

But our freind Gibran … when challenged, he sometimes tries to sound politically correct. But if you follow his earlier comments you will realize that he hates Alawites, he hates Shiites, and he hates Syrians.

Why do you think he is so motivated to be on this blog for hours every day? Only Hate can be motivating enough …exept if he is in Love with Syria, which I doubt.

As for Michael Young, who sometimes reads this blog, especially when his freidn Tony Badran alerts him to his name being used here, I KNOW from common friends that he basically hates Syria… If you want to put it in milder terms : He hates the Syrian regime so much that in order to get his revenge, he does not mind a collective punishment (Like a US invasion) to Syria in the process if it helps get rid of the Syrain regime … when you are so blinded by hate, it shows … read everything he wrote, and you will realzie he is always pushing the United States to take the strongest actio possible on Syria .. when everyone was joining James Baker in trying to convince President Bush to talk to Syria … Mr. Young mobilized to convince them NOT to do it. Same for Israelis who wanted to talk peace with Syria … I have no respect for this character.

His English in empeccable though. He is a very good writer, when he does not write about Syria.

February 22nd, 2007, 4:27 am

 

Gibran said:

Enlightened,
I think your valuable advice is noteworthy but is wasted when it comes to the ideologue defenders of a pathetic regime. Of course Alex and his comrades cannot distinguish between the country and the despots ruling it. I have to offer him my pities with all the humility lacking the senseless pretense to being on par with some internationally known intelligent writer as Mr. Young.
Now while at it, what can one say to the Alexian twisted logic of equating time spent blogging to hate? I am amazed he can not see yet that my sole purpose behind my comments is to fend off my beloved country against all the malicious attacks conducted on this blog by none other than Alex and the many commentators like him. After all many Syrian commentators here believe they have so-called ‘natural rights’ in Lebanon. Well, Alex I am here to tell you otherwise. So, please go back and read Michael Young and concentrate on the title to understand the message.

February 22nd, 2007, 4:34 am

 

Alex said:

Sure, Gibran, but instead of talking generalities, why dont you tell us your real opinions about:

1) Minorites: you had that famous theory on minorities, please explain to Enlightend what you mean.

2) Alawites: tell us your opinion of Alawites

3) Shiites:

4) Repeat to us your words comparing the Lebanese people to the Syrian people … you know, the Lebanese accrding to you are “phoenicians” .. very different from the less capable “Syrians”

Repeat your eariler comments please, do not modify them politically correct.

By the way, here is one of your previous comments on minorities:

Mr. Atassi you have to remember the minority complex suffered by most minorities residing in Arab countries. Alex should be quite familiar with it being a resident of Quebec. Every one knows about the Quebecois minority complex in Canada! Right Alex. We can read you man as an open page!!!

February 22nd, 2007, 4:47 am

 

Gibran said:

Here Alex my last comment posted ahead of your last post. It seems we are posting at the same time. So we are out of order:

Now while at it, what can one say to the Alexian twisted logic of equating time spent blogging to hate? I am amazed he can not see yet that my sole purpose behind my comments is to fend off my beloved country against all the malicious attacks conducted on this blog by none other than Alex and the many commentators like him. After all many Syrian commentators here believe they have so-called ‘natural rights’ in Lebanon. Well, Alex I am here to tell you otherwise. So, please go back and read Michael Young and concentrate on the title to understand the message.

Minorities: I have no problem with minorities. I feel sympathy to those who cannot overcome the repercussions of being in a minority. The Quebecois case should be a good cure to your case since you are quite familiar with it, being a resident of Quebec. I lived 4 years in Quebec and I’m quite familiar with it.

Alawis: I have no problems with them. I have a problem with the Alawi regime of Syria.

Shia: I have no problem with them. My wife is a Shia and I have quite few Shia relatives. I have a problem with Hassan Nasrallah and his HA militias.

Any more pokings into my likes and dislikes? Please feel free.

February 22nd, 2007, 5:05 am

 

Alex said:

Sure Gibran,

“my sole purpose behind my comments is to fend off my beloved country against all the malicious attacks conducted on this blog by none other than Alex and the many commentators like him.”

Now go back to your old comments one by one and score how many times you left stupid articles that predict that Bashar’s days are numbered, or you discussed Syria/Iraq relations and how Syria can not play a constructive role in Iraq, how many times you boosted of how Saudi Arabia is much more powerful that Syria, and How the Americans will teach the Syrian regime a lesson… How Bahsar’s days are numbered…

You make it sound like you are here on a purely defensive mission.

Gibran Habibi, I am going to sleep now.

I’ll leave you here to defend Lebanon alone … have fun blogging.

February 22nd, 2007, 5:17 am

 

youngSyria said:

Alex,
thanks for the link man…cheers

syrian,
reading comments on arabiya.net makes me wanna go hard-drugs…

for Hala Faisal..It was my first time hearing this story..i dont agree with her action, but I stand in respect of her bravniss.
meanwhile Im enjoying her galary..thanks to alax

February 22nd, 2007, 8:54 am

 

youngSyria said:

I find Interesting article about US confrontation with iran and how its related to trading oil in dollar

http://www.house.gov/paul/congrec/congrec2006/cr021506.htm

“While not well covered in mainstream media, it is well known in US power circles that trading oil in currency other than the Dollar standard would weaken the US global position. Last year US Congressman Ron Paul alleged that Iran’s attempt to trade in the Euro would weaken the US economy and military.”

“If oil markets replace dollars with Euros, it would in time curtail our ability to continue to print, without restraint, the world’s reserve currency.”

“Our intense effort to spread our power in the oil-rich Middle East is not a coincidence.”

“This is why countries that challenge the system– like Iraq, Iran and Venezuela– become targets of our plans for regime change.”

“Ironically, dollar superiority depends on our strong military, and our strong military depends on the dollar.”

“Should Iran or any other country create a viable fourth oil market in Euros it would weaken the overall US global position. Those in power in the US know this, and will do whatever it takes to prevent that from happening. Regardless of Zarqawi’s success in faking Iranian involvement in Iraq, the US will continue it’s propaganda campaign against Iran. The President of the US has repeatedly stated that all options are on the table in order to deal with Iran, including nuclear options.”

February 22nd, 2007, 11:12 am

 

Dameem said:

Alex,
One saying comes in my mind every time you try and have real conversation with Gibran (which I seriously doubt he’s even a real Lebanese)
From our beloved Caliph Ali:
I have never had a debate with a wise person and he had won, and I have never had a debate with an ignorant person and I had won.

No matter what you say, he’ll try to say something which sounds logic (not for him BTW, but for those who are not exactly sure which side is right from wrong) but actually doesn’t make sense at all because the only words in his vocabulary are the words which sticks prejudice towards certain group of people.

Responding to every comment he makes only encourages him and annoys us (although I do understand why if you continued doing so, emotions)

Quite frankly, he talks in a very uncivilized way, I’m kinda wondering how come he isn’t banned yet.
(A young boys perspective)

February 22nd, 2007, 11:46 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

More racism in the Arab press. This time, al-Ahram (and Saudi Arabia is going to help with “America’s Problems”?):

http://www.thememriblog.org/blog_personal/en/682.htm

And for those avid readers of Ha’aretz, you may find this article interesting:

“Syrian MP said denying army deployment closer to border”

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/828914.html

February 22nd, 2007, 12:02 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Dameem is making an excellent point. Answering Gibran’s nonsense drain the collective intelligence of this blog and drag us deeper into typical Lebanese rats nest. Let’s stay above the rhetoric and ignore irrelevant squeaky individuals operating out of hate and despair. We are already annoying them enough with every intelligent and balanced post on SC. Let’s keep the dogs barking, that is what they do best.
FP.

February 22nd, 2007, 12:21 pm

 

Samir said:

alex:that he hates Alawites, he hates Shiites, and he hates Syrians.

alex be honest ,do u know a lot of shias ,lebanese or others who love the syrian people?
i believe as syrian ,i’m more close to gibran than u ,you are suffering from a minority complex not gibran.gibran respect the syrian people ,this is not your case.

February 22nd, 2007, 1:16 pm

 

simohurtta said:

Shia: I have no problem with them. My wife is a Shia and I have quite few Shia relatives. I have a problem with Hassan Nasrallah and his HA militias.

Gibran does your wife and her relatives have a “problem” with Hassan Nasrallah and his HA militias? Propably not such a “big problem” as you. You could ask your wife to write here a comment and describe her opinon. Or is there in your family one MAN one opinion rule?

By the way Gibran why not hold new elections in Lebanon? It is a normal way in democracies to solve a political dead lock and measure the real support of each sides. If Nasrallah and Hizbollah are so unpopular as you claim, they would certainly loose the elections. What is the danger in new elections?

February 22nd, 2007, 1:50 pm

 

Gibran said:

Samir,
Be careful you may drain the “collective intelligence” of this blog – I cann’t find a funnier self praise as pathetic as this! Worse Samir you may soon become non Syrian!
And yes SH My wife and her relatives have big problems with Hassan Nasrallah and HA. And this one is for this Dameem she is from Ahlu al-Bayt and very close to the beloved Caliph Ali.

February 22nd, 2007, 1:57 pm

 

Samir said:

ok gibran ,i agree it was quickly written with poor words but here is not the problem but when alex says in his teshrin baath newspapers style, that bashar has the support of 50% and more,there is something wrong with him…he is laughing at who?he is insulting the dignity of the syrian nation.

February 22nd, 2007, 2:45 pm

 

Gibran said:

Samir,
With more Syrians like you and less like Alex and his self-styled “intelligent” comrades, the Syrian nation will eventually reclaim its dignity.
It is their last fight before their pathetic regime withers away to the dustbin of history.

February 22nd, 2007, 3:26 pm

 

Alex said:

Thanks Dameem.

Believe me, I do understand and agree that it is hopeless to make Gibran think logically.

I have already told Gibran many times that when I reply to him I am only commenting on a serious issue he raised…. for those who are not familiar with Gibran’s mentality (the hundreds of occasional visitors to this blog).

Yesterday, it was about the character of Michael Young. I wanted to say few things about him and Gibran is the best one here who can raise the typical counter arguments that I wanted to continue questioning. They always try to claim the fancy and respectable titles to their Syria haters “he is a Middle East expert” and Junblatt is for “Democracy and freedom for Lebanese and Syrian people”

Samir,

OK, you don’t like Teshreen or Joshua or Alex

Is the BBC good enough for you?

John Simpson said Bahsar is genuinely very popular in both Syria and the wider Middle East

February 22nd, 2007, 4:46 pm

 

Gibran said:

Alex says
It is hopeless to make me think logical and yet he also says I’m the best one to raise the couter argument.

I find it a very illogical statement from some one claiming to know logic.

Perhaps it is best to remember that the one who lacks a virtue is incapable of imparting it to others.

February 22nd, 2007, 5:16 pm

 

Samir said:

alex ,if you are a syrian ,it’s not forgivable to be fooled as some western journalists are, who had spoken about the popularity of khamainai,castro or ceasescu.Thanks to 35 years of terror state,Hypocrisy has conditioned the syrian behavior.
if bashar placed only close relatives in key posts ,he knows,that even the top baathists are khaddam like.If today bashar is toppled no one syrian will move to protect him.

February 22nd, 2007, 6:20 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Samir,
Syria should be moderate like Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. These countries have no hypocrisy, never appoint relatives to key posts, no political prisoners, and have shiny example of tolerance to all religions and political parties. Syria is the only evil in the Middle East.

February 22nd, 2007, 6:44 pm

 

China Hand said:

Excuse me for interrupting the Alex and Gibran show with a question: has anti-Iran, anti-Shi’a, and anti-Syria agitation reached a sufficient pitch that Saudi Arabia could openly cooperate with non-Muslim powers U.S. and Israel in destabilizing and even attacking Syria and Iran without enraging al Qaeda adherents inside Saudi Arabia? I don’t think so. It seems to me that the “contain Iran” elements inside the Saudi government would have to come up with some pretty good “defender of the faith” credentials in the Palestinian situation before they could risk teaming up with non-Muslim infidels, even to attack countries that AQ Wahabbists detest as Muslim heretics and immoral Arab secularists. Which is why I think Rice and the U.S. is incredibly short-sighted not to give Saudi Arabia a win on the Mecca accord, and instead persists in trying to isolate Hamas. My outsider’s take: Saudi Arabia, a rickety monarchy, is more at risk in an open confrontation than Iran is, especially if Riyadh is seen to be carrying out Washington’s bidding and advancing Israel’s interests. Any comments from the experts?

February 22nd, 2007, 6:49 pm

 

Samir said:

Ford ,despite that all the arab states are dictatorship…if the syrian regime accept only 30% of the press and political freedom that exist in jordan and egypt…this regime will not be able to remain in power.

February 22nd, 2007, 6:55 pm

 

Samir said:

Syria is the only evil in the Middle East

not syria ,the regime is.
ford,37 years of asads is not enough ?

let the syrian people choose what they want as they did in the 5O’s and 60’s.

February 22nd, 2007, 7:04 pm

 

Alex said:

Samir,

A Friend of mine did a nice test last year. He tried to post two comments on a Syrian opposition (pro-democracy of course, they all are) web site. His first comment was supportive to the opposition. It showed up on the site. His second comment was critical to them … it showed up then got deleted by the site administrators.

If they can not tolerate mild criticism on a website, let them stay where they are playing with nice slogans about democracy.

The above does not apply to all Syrian opposition of course, but it applies to many.

February 22nd, 2007, 7:09 pm

 

ugarit said:

Saudi Arabia moderate! What’s the matter with some of you. Saudi Arabia is extremely intolerant. I guess women don’t count for some of you.

Egypt has 20,000 political prisoners and Syria has under 1000. Let’s do the per capita calculation and find out which one is more moderate or tolerant.

So it’s ok for Jordan and Saudi Arabia to have monarchies in this day and age and Syria can’t have its own? 😉

February 22nd, 2007, 7:17 pm

 

Samir said:

alex,there is no perfect world and not all the syrian opposition members are democrats,and you should stop searching left and right an excuse to relativize asad crimes.
knowing the human resources and the cultural heritage of this nation it’s not very difficult to make a better regime than the baath.

February 22nd, 2007, 7:22 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Samir, I think you have a valid point. We are all for change in Syria. I left (pretty much ran away) Syria 30 years ago and swore never to return until it is free. I made the US my home and I know how valuable my freedom is. After all, we are all writing here freely.
However, I am opposed to any radical methods of changing things. Liberal democracy does not come in a box and certainly cannot be dictated by bigots and reckless power brokers. Many opposition groups (and I mean many) are self-appointed Ba’athists who think they know better. Even Jumblatt all of the sudden is now talking about democracy in Syria.

I remember when my grandfather was involved in establishing modern Syria. He was freely elected in the 50’s to represent Syrians in the Parliament. We were not mature enough then to protect democracy, and today, we are much better, but not completely there yet. This current government can only be pushed out of existence when the people of Syria reach the critical mass for change. It happened in the USSR. It happened in Spain. It happened in Chile. And it happened in Indonesia.

Yes, I want change. I want freedom. I want social justice. And I want liberal democracy. I have had enough of single-minded, backward, and authoritarian 40 horrible years. Let’s give the people a chance and let’s protect them from violent and sudden changes.

February 22nd, 2007, 7:35 pm

 

Alex said:

Samir, here is from today your preferred Egyptian tolerance

Police Brutality in Egypt

Let us stop dreaming … the whole Middle East is not democratic. The Syrian regime is just another example.. so go ahead and start the slow change process in the middle East tat FP talked about and I am with you. But this lack of objectivity in focusing on the Syrian regime as the cause of all problems (just like junblatt and the neocons’ opinions on this matter) is nothing to be proud of.

February 22nd, 2007, 7:59 pm

 

MSK said:

Dear Site Administrators,

How about starting a new thread? Maybe about Dardari’s BBC HardTalk interview?

Just a thought …

–MSK

http://www.aqoul.com

February 22nd, 2007, 8:01 pm

 

Gibran said:

I second MSK. We’ve heard this regurgitation from Alex over 100 times. I kind of sense a novelty in FP’s thoughts. Does he really want social justice, Democracy, Liberty etc… ? Then go for it full steam. You cann’t have a foot supporting despots and another in ACLU. That’s like fooling yourself. You still think thirty years in exile is not enough? The critical mass is there already.
O’ I forgot you are a special self styled “intelligent” cat which doesn’t bother about Lebanese rats!

February 22nd, 2007, 8:21 pm

 

Alex said:

MSK,

I will post a new thread today … a controversial one

🙂

February 22nd, 2007, 8:22 pm

 

youngSyria said:

I wonder why everybody think that the syrian regime is evel, and talking about change..as if they(the regime) came from mars…it doesnt matters if they are alawis or tizy, they are syrians and this is what syria is offering..they will be changed when syrians mind set changes..
and that goes for evey arab country…

February 22nd, 2007, 8:40 pm

 

Alex said:

Syria can switch camps

Alon Liel

Almost everything has changed since Israel and Syria were last involved in peace negotiations seven years ago. The Israeli-Syrian conflict still exists, but it has become only one of many hot fronts in the global war of cultures and religions. Israel clearly sides with the western/democratic world in this global confrontation, and Syria is an active member of the “axis of evil” coalition, overtly siding with Iran, Hizballah, Hamas and the other Islamic fundamentalist forces.

Seven years ago, Israel and Syria could not work out a bilateral “territories for peace” deal. Even US President Bill Clinton’s personal effort did not help. Today such a deal is no longer on the agenda; a much broader one has to be worked out to fit contemporary circumstances. It can be described as “withdrawal for reorientation”–Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for a total reorientation of Syria’s regional and global policies. Such a deal might drastically change or even put an end to the ongoing global conflict of cultures.

Here is a possible scenario for how things might develop:

* Israel announces that sovereignty on the Golan Heights will be Syrian. Syria simultaneously announces that it is severing its military contacts with Iran and Hizballah, expelling Khaled Meshaal from Syria and ceasing in any way to assist the insurgents in Iraq. Actual withdrawal from the Golan does not start before these changes in Syria’s policy are fully introduced. A trilateral American-Israeli-Syrian committee is established to monitor Syria’s regional activities and set the withdrawal timetable accordingly.
* Once the trilateral committee acknowledges that Syria has changed its regional orientation, Israel and Syria launch peace negotiations aimed at a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights within five to ten years.
* The sides agree that most of the Golan becomes a nature reserve. Israelis and Syrians are not allowed to reside there but are able to visit for tourist purposes and to work in those tourism, agriculture or industrial projects that both sides agree upon.
* The entire area of the Golan Heights is fully demilitarized.
* Syria may not alter the flow of water in the region; Israel is not deprived of the quantities of water it draws upon today from sources on the Golan Heights.
* Israel and Syria sign a peace treaty and establish full diplomatic ties aiming at complete normalization of relations between the two countries and peoples.
* Once Israel and Syria have signed their bilateral agreement the United States removes its embargo on Syria and reverses all relevant anti-Syrian congressional and administration decisions.
* Syria agrees to look into the possibility of granting citizenship to its Palestinian refugees; the international community takes upon itself full responsibility for their rehabilitation.

The Syrian window of opportunity is wide open. No less important is the fact that the Palestinian window looks tightly closed. The newly beautified Hamas government still does not show any sign of readiness to recognize the existence of the state of Israel. It looks unlikely that Israel will negotiate peace with a Meshaal-Haniyeh-led government. The capacity of President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to march alone into negotiations with Israel looks even more restricted than before the recent Saudi-sponsored arrangement.

The Syrian-Iranian alliance is not a natural one for Damascus. A “territories for reorientation” agreement with Syria seems possible. It might not be a very popular deal with the relevant publics in Syria, Israel and the US, but it is the task of leaders to lead their peoples toward a better future and a better world. The popular majority in all three countries will end up supporting the agreement once it is a done deal.- Published 22/2/2007 © bitterlemons-international.org

Alon Liel was director general of the Israel Foreign Ministry under the Barak government. He now lectures at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University and the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzlia.

February 22nd, 2007, 8:43 pm

 

Atassi said:

Ford Prefect,
I commend your thorough knowledge in the last post.you are speaking my mind now 🙂

February 22nd, 2007, 8:44 pm

 

Alex said:

Washington is obstructing progress on Syria

Ghassan Khatib

The issue of Syria is a uniquely good example of the complexities of Middle East peace making.

On the one hand, Syria is an unavoidable party to the Arab-Israel conflict because of Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights. Hence, Syria was rightly part of the failed Middle East peace conference in Madrid in 1991.

At the same time the country is located, geographically as well as politically, between Iraq and Lebanon. Damascus is accused, particularly by the US, of playing an unacceptable role in Iraq and in supporting Hizballah in Lebanon.

In addition, the current US administration has placed Damascus in the Iran-Shi’ite Iraq-Hizballah-Hamas axis that has openly challenged Washington’s Middle East policy and some Arab governments.

Hence, while the Syrians and Israelis by themselves seem readier than ever for serious negotiations over the Golan Heights and direct Syrian-Israeli relations, the US is advising Israel against such a move because of the Syrian role in Iraq and Lebanon.

The paradox here is that the Syrian involvement in both Iraq and Lebanon is motivated, at least partly, by the need to maintain a strong negotiating position vis-a-vis Israel. Israel has proven time and again that in negotiations with Arab countries it respects the balance of power more than anything. Thus, Syria is quite rationally equipping itself with the bargaining chips to ensure a fair deal when the time comes.

Yet it is these same bargaining chips that are used by the US, with Israeli acquiescence, to prevent negotiations from starting. In other words, Washington seems to be saying to Damascus that “you are invited to negotiate but only after you give up the bargaining chips you have.”

The US is also placing Damascus in an impossible situation. Iranian-Syrian relations are a source of strength to Syria on all levels, whether military, financial or strategic. Indeed, they are important to Tehran, giving Iran an important regional presence and strengthening ties with Lebanon and the exiled Hamas leadership in Damascus, thereby extending Iranian influence to Hamas in Gaza.

To lessen the importance to Damascus of these relations requires Saudi Arabia to step in and compensate the country financially and assure Damascus of a leading role in the Arab world. Syria also needs assurances that this route creates a real possibility of ending the Israeli occupation of Arab territories, including its Golan Heights.

Syria has always played the Palestinian card. Historically, Damascus has been keen to exercise its influence through one or more of the Palestinian factions. In the 1970s and ’80s this was evident with the Palestinian Baathist faction in the PLO, as well as others, including elements within Fateh. Recently this influence has been leveraged through the exiled Hamas leadership.

At times that Syrian influence was seen as a burden. Palestinians have often perceived Syria to be using its influence for its own ends, to place itself in an Arab leadership role and strengthen its hand vis-a-vis Israel. At the moment, Palestinians are divided regarding their understanding of the Syrian role.

At all times, however, the absolute Syrian insistence on a complete end to the Israeli occupation is supported by all Palestinians. Most Palestinians also oppose US attempts to prevent the inclusion of Syria in any future political process.

This American insistence on excluding Syria because of its role in Iraq and Lebanon is also precluding the possibility of taking advantage of the Arab peace initiative, which is based on comprehensive Arab-Israel peace in return for a comprehensive Israeli withdrawal from all Arab land, including Syrian land.

Washington seems to believe that the Arab initiative gives Damascus an unacceptable veto power and further strengthens its regional position. But in order to solve crises in the region, one needs to adopt a comprehensive approach that takes into consideration their linkages. That is one of the strengths of the Arab initiative.- Published 22/2/2007 © bitterlemons.org

Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is vice-president of Birzeit University and a former Palestinian Authority minister of planning.

February 22nd, 2007, 8:45 pm

 

Alex said:

America’s veto on Syrian-Israeli talks is counter-productive

Rime Allaf

For years, unlike the other thorny issues that form the Arab-Israel conflict, the status of the Golan Heights hasn’t triggered a sense of urgency in any party. Strangely, this apparent nonchalance also applies to Syria.

Apart from a brief joint Syrian-Egyptian effort in 1973 to retrieve territories invaded by Israel in 1967, the important battles in the Syrian-Israeli conflict have not been fought on the Golan Heights, but in other arenas and even through proxies. This doesn’t mean that its importance has not been recognized or that resolving the issue has not been attempted; numerous interventions by successive American administrations have come and gone, but breakthroughs were always prevented by the changing agendas of the people who could make them happen.

Forty years on, and 15 years after an unprecedented peace process was launched with the Madrid Peace Conference, we seem to have reached an inexplicable impasse again. While Syria has repeatedly indicated it was willing to restart negotiations unconditionally (implying the progress made with the so-called Rabin deposit and the near-agreement with Barak at Wye River could be scratched), Israel has time and again rejected these advances, fully supported by the US, in an erratic and ambiguous attitude serving no long-term purpose.

More recently, any chance of Israeli dedication to the matter has been completely put to rest by the intransigence of the Bush administration, which instructed all its allies to turn a cold shoulder toward Syria, hoping to impose a new isolation. The present administration, in fact, has engineered the most significant change in American policy toward Syria since the 1980s, a change that predates both the Lebanon file beginning with UNSC Resolution 1559 and the invasion of Iraq, the two main current points of contention between the US and Syria. After 9/11, and after having accepted Syrian intelligence cooperation, Washington was transformed from a sponsor of the Syrian-Israeli peace track into a promoter of the Syria Accountability Act.

America’s unjustified indifference to the issue of the Golan Heights and its shameless selectiveness in applying international law are neither new nor surprising, given its life-long blind support of Israel. In the circumstances surrounding the Middle East today, however, such behavior is foolish and counter-productive, for a peace settlement with Syria is a prerequisite to comprehensive calm.

The Bush administration has accused the Syrian regime of every possible crime and misdemeanor in the region, blaming Damascus for problems in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, to mention only the most pressing issues. If Washington is simply looking for a scapegoat, one can only wonder about the benefits of such conduct. But if it really believes that Syrian actions are that powerful, then that is all the more reason to “force” Syria to behave according to American parameters. This could be done in one of two ways: threats, pressure and sanctions (the current modus operandi of the Bush administration), or engagement and promises of mutual benefits. In other words, for the US, Syria can either be beaten into submission, which hasn’t been effective until now, or it can be enticed somewhat into the American sphere of influence.

It has been suggested that “offering” negotiations on the Golan Heights in return for Syrian assistance on other problematic fronts could help achieve several American goals in the region, including a divorce between Syria and Iran, a distancing from Palestinian radical factions, a relaxation of open interference in Lebanon and, most importantly, a pro-active role in the pacification of Iraq. But simultaneously, there are allegations that the Syrian regime is not serious about peace and only wants to escape isolation by negotiating, which is the line that Washington has chosen as its premise.

Such reasoning, such polarization into “us or them”, only serves to perpetuate the deadlock. Syria is being accused of wanting to negotiate for negotiations’ sake, but Israel and the US themselves are only talking peace to achieve other goals.

Furthermore, the long-awaited return of the Golan Heights to Syria should not be marketed as a reward offered to Syria for “good behavior” in other arenas. Unless this conflict is resolved to the letter of the international law that clearly defines its ownership and its borders, the US will only be playing with fire. Turning a national right into a potential fringe benefit is bad politics, especially when the peddler has repeatedly proven its bias in the case.

There never was a bad time to rekindle a peace process, especially in a region where lack of peace doesn’t merely entail frosty relations, but rather ongoing hostilities. Every possible scenario has already passed: active war, quiet non-belligerence and non-peace, rightist and leftist governments in Israel, on and off American involvement, bilateral and multilateral negotiations, resolutions and peace initiatives. The only thing that hasn’t been tried yet is compelling Israel to commit to international law and United Nations resolutions; in the case of Syria, this means UNSC Resolutions 242, 338 and 497, among others.

Sooner or later, Israel must give back the land it has illegally invaded and annexed, an inevitability that the Israeli political class understands full well. Creative solutions to circumvent the obligatory full return of the Golan Heights (such as the dubious non-paper revealed recently by Haaretz) cannot work, and yet Washington seems to object even to that. By needlessly perpetuating the status quo, and by rejecting the sound advice offered by the Iraq Study Group to engage with Syria, isn’t Washington foolishly shooting itself in the foot?- Published 22/2/2007 © bitterlemons-international.org

Rime Allaf is associate fellow at London’s Chatham House.

February 22nd, 2007, 8:46 pm

 

Alex said:

Include Lebanon

Riad Kahwaji

To talk or not to talk to Syria, that is the question on the minds of many officials in Israel and the United States. Syrian leaders have spared no opportunity in the past few months to reiterate their call for the unconditional resumption of peace talks with Israel. In return, Israeli officials have either bluntly rejected the offers or have played deaf. Israelis who welcome the invitation have blamed the United States for their government’s negative position. Officials in the administration of President George W. Bush have said that as long as Damascus is aiding radical groups branded by the West as terrorists, such as Hizballah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad and is not doing enough to stop the flow of weapons and terrorists into Iraq, the international community should continue to isolate Syria.

However, the growing influence of Tehran in Damascus and Beirut is a new and important factor that ought to be considered. Recent events in the region, especially the war in Lebanon, have revealed Iran’s strength and how deeply it has entrenched itself in Lebanon and Syria. Hence those in the Israeli-American camp who favor engaging Syria are saying that talks would help drive a wedge between Damascus and Tehran and would subsequently weaken Iran’s influence. Skeptics respond that Tehran has taken advantage of the weak Syrian leadership following the death of Hafez Assad and has now got Syria under its thumb, hence talking to Damascus would only buy the Syrian-Iranian axis some precious time to improve its regional position.

Many Lebanese officials have discreetly joined US and Israeli leaders in opposing resumption of Syrian-Israeli talks before first resolving the current conflict between Damascus and Beirut. The main fear in Beirut is that Syria could use the peace talks as an opportunity to strike a deal with Israel that would help Damascus reestablish its dwindling influence in Lebanon. Also, Lebanese government officials are worried that Damascus could take advantage of the peace negotiations to improve relations with Washington and subsequently talk the Americans into halting proceedings for an international tribunal to probe the assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafiq Hariri. Many observers believe that strong personal relations between Bush and some Lebanese leaders like Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Saad Hariri have influenced Washington’s position on Syria and peace talks with Israel.

In fact, isolating Syria and not engaging it has not achieved the desired objectives. Rather, it has only pushed Damascus closer to Iran and further complicated the situation in Lebanon and Iraq. Israel has gained nothing; on the contrary, this policy has brought Iran closer to its northern borders via Syria and Hizballah in South Lebanon. This situation, perceived by Israel now as a serious security threat, will become a strategic threat once Iran possesses nuclear weapons.

With the isolation policy failing to achieve its objectives, Israel must seriously consider engaging Syria. Besides, peace talks are the best and only way to test Syria’s true intentions. But first the Israelis must convince the Americans–who in turn must ease the fears of the Lebanese government and at the same time recognize the benefits of engaging Syria.

One good way to do this would be for Israel to restart talks with both Syria and Lebanon simultaneously. Israeli leaders must accept Syria’s invitation to the talks provided that Damascus allows a Lebanese delegation to sit in on the first few meetings to discuss a major shared issue: the disputed Shebaa Farms. Afterwards, Lebanese and Syrian tracks would proceed separately with a pledge from Damascus that it would not use its allies in Lebanon to undermine the Lebanese government. Lebanon, in return, would assure Syria it would not sign a treaty with Israel before Damascus does.

This approach would achieve several major objectives:

* The Lebanese would not be concerned about a Syrian-Israeli deal at their expense, and subsequently there would be no pressure from their side on Washington to block the talks.
* Iran would not be able to use Hizballah to undermine the peace talks because of Syria’s stance and due to the presence of a much stronger UN force in South Lebanon.
* Under successful peace talks that would include the return of the Golan Heights, Syria would not perceive a need to be so close to Iran, hence would distance itself from Tehran and cut off military support to Hizballah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
* Hizballah and other opposition forces in Lebanon would not be able to complain significantly about their government talking to Israel at a time Damascus is doing so.
* Successful Syrian-Israeli talks would reflect positively on relations between Damascus and Washington and subsequently lead to better Syrian cooperation in ending the insurgency in parts of Iraq, especially Anbar province.
* The potential Iranian strategic threat to Israel would not be on Israel’s borders but rather thousands of miles away.
* The Palestinian Authority would become more unified and in better control and thus capable of negotiating a lasting settlement with Israel.
* Most important, al-Qaeda would lose ground in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territories.

This approach would only work if Israel were willing to give up the Golan Heights. It is far less costly and dangerous than the current policy that leads to more wars, death and destruction and further complicates the Middle East conflict, especially the Arab-Israel rapprochement that ended after a very good start in 1991. With a growing Shi’ite-Sunni rift, the regional conflict is taking on an ethno-sectarian dimension, and if nothing is done to restart the peace process future wars will be on religious grounds rather than based on national interests. It would be only a matter of time before wars reach the borders of Israel and Europe from many directions. Nuclear weapons might deter people pursuing their national interests but would do very little against holy warriors seeking a place in paradise.- Published 22/2/2007 © bitterlemons-international.org

Riad Kahwaji is director general of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA) in Dubai, and Middle East bureau chief for Defense News.

February 22nd, 2007, 8:47 pm

 

Atassi said:

Lebanon fines newsmen for defaming under-fire president

22 February 2007
10:20

BEIRUT, Feb 22, 2007 (AFP) –

Lebanon’s press court fined two staunchly anti-Syrian newsmen Thursday for libelling under-fire pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, judicial sources said.

Al-Mustaqbal daily director Toufic Khattab and journalist Zahi Wehbeh received fines of 50 million Lebanese pounds (more than 33,000 dollars) each for having “libelled and damaged the reputation of President Lahoud” in a 2005 article, the sources said.

The paper is owned by the family of the late former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, who was killed in a February 2005 bombing widely blamed on Syria and its local allies.

“Of course I’m going to lodge an appeal,” Khattab told AFP, playing down the significance of the press court’s verdict.

The offending article headlined: “His Excellency the Murderer,” was published in June 2005 a few days after the murder of anti-Syrian journalist Samir Kassir.

Wehbeh’s lawyer, Fuad Shbaklo, argued that the headline could not be taken as a reference to the president as an official decree had long since forbidden the use of such terms of respect for the head of state.

The legitimacy of Lahoud’s presidency has been challenged by anti-Syrian politicians ever since it was extended by three years through a controversial Damascus-inspired constitutional amendment in 2004.

Lahoud in turn has refused to recognise the rump anti-Syrian cabinet of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora since six pro-Damascus ministers quit last November.

February 22nd, 2007, 9:00 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Just finished watching Walid Jumblatt on Marcel Ghanem’s Kalam Al Naas. I have never been a fan of Jumblatt (especially when he overwhelmingly supported the Syrian presence during Hafez/Khaddam reign) but tonight and for the most part (he had some very low moments too), I saw him to be reasonable and speaking out of genuine passion and patriotism to Lebanon – right or wrong notwithstanding. If and when he tones down the nonsense rhetoric, he can really present a rational argument. Could there be another person in that body? (But wait, what person would ever want that gorgeous body? It must be him!)
FP.

February 22nd, 2007, 9:44 pm

 

MSK said:

Dear Alex,

I suggest you move the BitterLemons articles into a new thread – that way we can actually debate them.

–MSK

February 22nd, 2007, 10:21 pm

 

Atassi said:

Learning nothing and forgetting nothing
Michael Young
22 February 2007
Daily Star
English
(c) 2007 THE DAILY STAR, BEIRUT, LEBANON.

Beirut — Earlier this week, two statements neatly summarized the crisis in Lebanon. The first came from the EU’s representative in Beirut, Patrick Laurent; the second from Syria’s official Al-Thawra daily. Both reaffirmed in their own separate ways that the Syrian regime, since its army was forced out of Lebanon in 2005, has chosen to behave like the exiled Bourbons: learning nothing and forgetting nothing.

In an exchange with journalists, Laurent had this to say about Syrian behavior in Lebanon, and about European efforts to “engage” President Bashar Assad: “We tried everything, as did many others, employing both gentle means and pressure,” but nothing seemed to work. As if confirming Laurent’s doubts, Al-Thawra, in an editorial Tuesday, called for talks between Damascus and the US covering Lebanon, Palestine, the Golan Heights, and Iraq. “Syria insists on a serious and profound dialogue on all subjects without exception,” the newspaper asserted.

Precisely where this extraordinary statement came from was unclear. Syria is a declining power, capable only of spreading instability in its neighborhood to ward off irrelevance. However, this game, which the late President Hafez al-Assad played to perfection, no longer works. By allying itself with an Iran that Saudi Arabia regards as an existential threat, Syria is in no position to make demands of the Arab states, let alone of the United States. The Syrians recently tried to take control of the Iraqi Baath Party, and failed. They tried to midwife a Fatah-Hamas deal in Damascus, and failed again. Assad has even managed to alienate Egypt, by thwarting its peace efforts on the Palestinian front and by ensuring that Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa’s mediation in Lebanon would go nowhere. And in Lebanon, Assad has so angered the Sunni community that the prospect of a Syrian military return seems fanciful.

Most alarming from a Lebanese perspective, the Al-Thawra article showed that Syria has yet to grasp that the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1559 in 2004. In insisting on Syria’s having a say in Lebanon’s future, the newspaper disregarded that the resolution specifically asked Damascus to end its interference in Lebanese affairs.

Assad may have come out of his summit in Tehran last week invigorated by a sense that the Iranians need him in their confrontation with the Bush administration. It was always naive to assume that Iran would pressure Assad on the Hariri tribunal at a time when the nuclear issue was on the verge of reaching a climax at the UN – with more steps possibly coming at the Security Council to impose new sanctions on Tehran.

However, it is precisely because of this that Syria should be careful. Iran’s ultimate guarantee against an American attack isn’t the comradeship of Damascus, but a broad Arab consensus behind the benefits of a dialogue with Iran and the undesirability of an American military response to the nuclear standoff. Iran views its talks with the Saudis as the best means to avoid a war, but also to hinder approval of new UN sanctions and avert a Sunni-Shiite conflict that would cripple Iranian initiatives in the Middle East. In this context, Assad could emerge as a burdensome ally.

The Bush administration is more subtle than it has been given credit for. It authorized the Saudi-Iranian dialogue, realizing that this reflected the central Sunni-Shiite fault line dividing the Middle East. There are some in Washington who would love to bomb Iran, but there is no domestic traction for war, leaving room for diplomacy. This is where the Saudi-Iranian talks fit in. That Bandar bin Sultan, the former ambassador to the US, was named point man on the Saudi side surely reassured the Bush administration, particularly Vice President Dick Cheney.

As the Syrians look on, what is going through their minds? Their agenda can be reduced to a single item: undermining the Hariri tribunal. Neither in Iraq nor in the Palestinian areas is Assad indispensable. In Lebanon, Syria presumably faces Iranian “red lines” limiting the kind of intimidation it can employ, which is why the Syrian-Iranian compromise is for more stalemate, punctuated by controlled Hizbullah escalations. The latest scheme is for a civil-disobedience campaign. Yet this may end up backfiring like other opposition efforts did. Shiites would suffer as much as anyone from obstruction of the country’s public administration.

Iran and Syria can agree over raising the heat in Lebanon to squeeze the Saudis. But beyond that the situation becomes more complicated. The Iranians want an advantageous deal in Lebanon, but not a civil war. They also don’t want to break with the Saudis, because there will be more friction with the US and the Arab world in the coming months. An Arab League summit is to be held in Saudi Arabia in March, and there is nothing Iranian leaders would like less than for the predominantly Sunni Arab states to use that event to warn against the “Persian peril.” This explains why the Syrians are so eager to act now in Lebanon, to ensure they can get something on the tribunal before eventual progress in the Saudi-Iranian relationship pushes their aims to the backburner. A Saudi-Iranian rapprochement would make it much tougher for Assad to kill the tribunal, whose passage the Saudi leadership considers non-negotiable.

Assad senses that the window of opportunity is closing. His last card is a Lebanese civil war, but it’s not one that Iran and Hizbullah seem willing to play. However, the tribunal won’t disappear. At best, if Syria aborts formal Lebanese endorsement of the institution, this will make the move toward Chapter VII of the UN Charter more likely. Only when Assad truly accepts Resolution 1559 and embraces Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, will he persuade anyone that his regime is worth saving.

February 22nd, 2007, 10:37 pm

 

Gibran said:

O’ I just got unexpected help from Atassi by reposting the excellent article of Michael Young that I posted last night. Thanks Atassi for highlighting the importance of this analysis. I think the title of article neatly summarizes the situation in the ME.
Need some logical persons to present some feedback. How about Dr. Landis providing some valuable criticism/insight?

February 22nd, 2007, 11:25 pm

 

Enlightened said:

Any of you read this one?

What are your thoughts?

Al-Hayat Editor in Satirical Piece: Syrian Intelligence Reports Say Rafiq Al-Hariri Must Be Assassinated Again

In a satirical article titled “Reports Say He’s Weeping,” editor of the London daily Al-Hayat, Ghassan Shirbil, writes that Syrian authorities know from “Syrian intelligence reports” that assassinated Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri still lives, and that these reports recommend assassinating him again, this time with two car bombs. The idea conveyed by the article is that Al-Hariri’s spirit – the spirit of free Lebanon – has not been assassinated.

The following are excerpts: [1]

“This is a Man Whose Death Cannot Be Taken for Granted, Even if His Body Has Been Blown to Pieces”

“The security apparatuses must raise [their level] of alert. The number of detectives and spies must be increased, cameras and eavesdropping equipment must be repositioned. Negligence is inconceivable and even dangerous. Those who write reports must be more perceptive and more vigilant. This man cannot be trusted. There must be a central operations room to pick up every snippet of information, to gauge the accuracy of data and rumors, to carry out subtle in-depth analyses, to interpret every murmur and mumble. There is a rumor that he did not [really] die… but was only wounded, that he has only become more obstinate, and that he continues to pursue his dreams as he always did. He refuses to rest and to let others rest. This is a man whose death cannot be taken for granted, even if his body has been blown to pieces. They must place detectives in the [very] veins of his mind, to decode the signs and symbols. They must expose the ambush he is preparing, the conspiracy he is forming and the uprising whose seeds he is sowing. This is a man whose innocence cannot be taken for granted even when he is lying flat surrounded by flower wreaths.

“Report No. 1: He still gets up early in the morning, listens to the news and smiles, and receives morning visitors. A few days ago, he was seen surrounded by advisors, opening maps and examining them in detail. He asked about dates, his face reflecting disapproval. The urge to get things done has not left him. [He believes that] the reconstruction enterprise must not be hindered by the scorn of those who scoff. Rumors say that at night he secretly sets out to patrol the city and beyond it. He is pained by the scenes of destruction and is angered by the delay in repairing roads and bridges…”

“The First Assassination Has Failed to Affect His Abilities…”

“Report No. 2: We suggest intensifying the efforts to bleed and exhaust him. It is a mistake to ease the pressure on him and to imagine that he is gone. The first assassination has failed to affect his ability to prepare surprise [attacks]. He will seize every opportunity to resume his activities. If left alone for even a moment, he may open a highway, repair an entire neighborhood, lay a cornerstone for a school or hospital or establish a clinic or a university. Who knows, he may even reconstruct an entire city, or resume granting scholarships and handing out diplomas to the graduates. This is a man who does not change his habits just because his place of residence has changed.

“Report No. 3: We must make sure that his phone lines are disconnected, that his Internet service is off and that no carrier pigeon dares approach [him]. There are rumors that his telephone never rests, and that it always awakens the decision makers in the capitals where decisions are made. It can be stated with certainty that he has made too many phone calls in the recent weeks, and that the third Paris conference has its fingerprints on it. These fingerprints must be picked up and kept with the other evidence, in preparation for his coming trial.”

“This is a Man Who Refuses to Die, Refuses to Learn… We Recommend Assassinating Him Again…”

“Report No. 4: At night, a scent of weeping wafts through the air. The detectives say that he wept when he met Samir Kassir, George Hawi, Jubran Tweini and Pierre Amin Gemayel. He also wept when Israel sowed death in the Al-Dhahiya neighborhood [in Beirut], in the South [of Lebanon] and in the Beqa [Valley]. He weeps whenever the scent of civil war rises [in the air]…

“Conclusion of the reports: This is a man who refuses to die, refuses to learn. He interferes in the country’s affairs on a daily basis, as though he [still] sits in [his] Qureitem [palace], as though he still sits in the government building. He stole the show as prime minister, he stole the show as an oppositionist and [now] he is stealing the show as a martyr. We recommend assassinating him again, this time using two trucks [full of explosives]…”

February 23rd, 2007, 2:38 am

 

Gibran said:

Very nice post Enlightened.
You can find more about Mr. Harriri’s life at:

http://www.yabeyrouth.com/pages/index301.htm

February 23rd, 2007, 5:31 am

 

Syrian said:

Now posting the same opinion piece from M Young twice is too much. There are plenty of people here who make all kinds of assertions without foundation, do we really need to be quoting the baseless assertion of an external source.

“They tried to midwife a Fatah-Hamas deal in Damascus, and failed again.” Both palestinian parties to the deal stated unequivocally that the deal would not have been made without the Syrian itervention.

“The Syrians recently tried to take control of the Iraqi Baath Party.” According to an Iraqi Baathist residing in Jordan. Pretty sure Syria has plenty of influence with the Iraqi Baathists residing in Syria. Remember the ruthless dictator who scares the shit out of anyone in Syria..

“By allying itself with an Iran that Saudi Arabia regards as an existential threat, Syria is in no position to make demands of the Arab states, let alone of the United States.” When did Saudi Arabia view Iran as an existential threat and when did Iran threaten the existance of Saudi Arabia. What is even more hallarious is that Saudi Arabia and Iran are talking about settling the dispute in Lebanon.

Gibran, why not tell the Saudi’s and the Iranians to BUTT OUT and stop discussing Lebanese problems and proposing solutions for Lebanon.

“Assad has even managed to alienate Egypt, by thwarting its peace efforts on the Palestinian front and by ensuring that Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa’s mediation in Lebanon would go nowhere.” Again G, why are you not incensed that Mr Young seems to think that the EGYPTIANS should have been allowed to SOLVE lebanese problems and not be thwarted by the Syrians.

“However, it is precisely because of this that Syria should be careful. Iran’s ultimate guarantee against an American attack isn’t the comradeship of Damascus, but a broad Arab consensus behind the benefits of a dialogue with Iran and the undesirability of an American military response to the nuclear standoff. Iran views its talks with the Saudis as the best means to avoid a war, but also to hinder approval of new UN sanctions and avert a Sunni-Shiite conflict that would cripple Iranian initiatives in the Middle East. In this context, Assad could emerge as a burdensome ally.” Are you serious. Like the broad arab consensus that the US should not attack Iraq really helped Saddam Stay in power. He looked pretty good on the news last night.

And when did Saudi Arabia and the Arab nations in general get veto power on the UN security council; was that a bit of news I missed. I have been pretty busy lately…

‘and there is nothing Iranian leaders would like less than for the predominantly Sunni Arab states to use that event to warn against the “Persian peril.”’ Yes Michael, those meetings of the Arab League are really powerful in driving world opinions and perceptions of … wait a minute, no one gives a shit where the arab league meets and what resolutions they pass, remember the comprehensive peace plan from the Beirut summit, what stage of implementation is it now anyway…

You know Iran may accept labels such as a memeber of the “Axis of Evil” and the “Shiite Crescent” but the “Persian Peril” a little too much of a label to handle…

February 23rd, 2007, 6:26 am

 

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