Arab Politics, Hezbollah, Interviews, Israel, Lebanon, Peace negotiations

Syrian-Israeli Peace: A Conversation With Joshua Landis

Moving right along in our series of interviews with various experts and friends of the blog, I’m pleased to bring you this conversation with Dr. Joshua Landis, Associate Professor of Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, and author of the widely-read Syrian affairs blog, Syria Comment.

Josh and I sat down over a virtual finjain qahweh to chat about Syrian-U.S. relations and the prospects of a peace deal between Syria and Israel. As always, feel free to leave questions and criticisms in the comment section, and perhaps our guest will respond in person.

*

QN:  Engaging Syria seems to be a low priority for the current administration. At the same time, President Assad looks content to cultivate his relationships with regional powers like Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. With little urgency on either side, how likely would you say it is that we will see any substantive change in the U.S.-Syrian relationship over the next few years?

JL: Without peace between Israel and Syria, there will be no real change in the regional security architecture or the relationships that define it.

Israel and America are very close allies. No US administration is going to be good friends with Israel’s main Arab enemy. There are tremendous pressures in Congress and at every level of US society to punish Syria further.

QN: President Bashar al-Assad has publicly stated that he is prepared to sign a peace agreement with Israel, and the two countries have come close to an agreement on at least two occasions in the last ten years. What is preventing a deal from going forward, and how might the obstacles be overcome, in your opinion?

JL: The single most important reason why Israel and Syria have not been able to achieve peace is that Syria is too weak. Israel does not believe it will achieve sufficient security, economic, or diplomatic gains by giving back the Golan. Syria is not a major threat to Israel even with a beefed up Hizbullah and new friend in Turkey. So long as Washington remains resolutely on Israel’s side, preserving Israel’s military edge, sanctioning Syria, and thwarting diplomatic efforts to hinder Israel’s expansion into neighbors’ land, Jerusalem has little incentive to withdraw from the Golan. Only very heavy pressure will convince Israelis to make the difficult decision to repatriate its 20,000 settlers and allow the 100,000 inhabitants of the Golan who were expelled in 1967 to return to their land and homes.

QN: President al-Assad has suggested that he could bring Hizbullah to the negotiation table, if Israel got serious about signing a peace deal with Syria. Some analysts argue, however, that much has changed since 2000, and Syria no longer has the same influence over Hizbullah. What’s your read?

JL: First, this is a silly argument for not making peace with Syria. Second, it is based on a misinterpretation of the nature of the alliance between Iran, Syria, and Hizbullah. The presumption is that since Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005, Hizbullah no longer has to fear a Syrian invasion of southern Lebanon and thus may thumb its nose at Syrian interests. But this is to misunderstand the nature of their cooperation, which is not based on coercion. It is based on common purpose and interest. Both Iran and Hizbullah have stated that they understand that Syria’s primary national interest is to get back the Golan. They accept this. That is why in 2000, when an ailing Hafiz al-Assad flew to Geneva to sign a peace agreement, neither Iran nor Hizbullah sought to torpedo the agreement.

Syria, Hizbullah, and Iran have preserved their alliance and amicable relations through major changes over the last three decades. Syria has said that the strategic environment in the region will change with peace. Hizbullah will move in tandem with Syria and reposition itself in Lebanon and the region when Syria signs peace with Israel. That does not mean that Hizbullah will cease to exist or commit suicide. But its priorities will change, as will Syria’s.

It must be remembered that Hizbullah’s arms and missiles come across the border from Syria.There is no other dependable route for them to reach southern Lebanon. Syria, for its part, depends on Lebanon’s Shiite community and Hizbullah for much of its influence within Lebanon. The two will need each other even when peace is signed with Israel. They will not break over that issue. They have not in the past and there is no reason for them to do so in the future.

QN: Do you think war is on the horizon? And if so, will Syria get involved militarily?

JL: I do think that war is on the horizon — not the immediate horizon, but it will come sooner or later so long as the casus belli is not resolved. Syria will not give it up without a fight. It is looking for wars to change the balance of power and to push Israel back on its heels.

During the 2006 war, Israel bombed Lebanon with 7,000 tons of explosives, while the explosives from the approximately 4,000 rockets and missiles Hezbollah fired on Israel added up to “only” 28 tons.

This was a very bad deal from Hizbullah’s point of view, and Nasrallah was quick to apologize to Lebanon and explain that he had neither wanted nor intended war. All the same, both Iran and Syria were shocked and gratified by Hezbollah’s professionalism and fighting prowess. The low-tech missiles worked better than anyone could have expected.

In short, the 2006 war was inconclusive enough to provide Syria, Iran and Hizbullah with a strategy for the future — lots of improved, mobile and smallish missiles spread out over a greater expanse, including Syria. Assad has made it very clear that if Israel doesn’t chose peace by returning the Golan, Syria will remain committed to war and keep stocking up on and improving its missiles and air defense systems.

Syria will try to stay out of any war, as it has in the past. But President Assad understands that he must be willing to go all the way in order reassure his allies and push the Israelis to reconsider their assessment that Syria is too weak and incapable. If Hezbollah’s powers and war plan are to be enhanced, it must have the strategic depth that only Syria can provide. This means greater Syrian involvement and risk. Syria has little choice but to assume greater risk.

Damascus figures that its only hope of getting back the Golan is to force Israel to reassess its security calculations. Hopefully, this will happen without another war, but momentum in the region does not seem to be on the side of the peacemakers.

Syrians say that Israel got a small taste of this possibility in 2006. Israelis counter by pointing to Gaza and claiming that in the next round all of Lebanon will be returned to the Dark Ages and the Assad regime will be terminated.

This may all be posturing but I don’t think so. If there is one thing Syrians agree on, it is that the Golan is theirs. They have grown in confidence since 2006 and are convinced more than ever that what was lost in war, can only be regained by war. Likewise, Israelis have become more militant and righteous. They are increasingly convinced that only military solutions can provide them with results that they want and deserve. All of this suggests that war lies in the future.

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Discussion

107 thoughts on “Syrian-Israeli Peace: A Conversation With Joshua Landis

  1. Ya Elias & Josh,

    I wonder how to square this:

    “It must be remembered that Hizbullah’s arms and missiles come across the border from Syria.There is no other dependable route for them to reach southern Lebanon. Syria, for its part, depends on Lebanon’s Shiite community and Hizbullah for much of its influence within Lebanon. The two will need each other even when peace is signed with Israel. They will not break over that issue. They have not in the past and there is no reason for them to do so in the future.”

    with the possibility that Israel may say “Syria will get the Golan, the FULL Golan, etc. but as part of the deal it will have to stop and interdict any weapons shipments to Hizbullah via its territory.”

    Judging from past actions, it seems that Syria would then go for the deal and drop HA, right?

    Posted by MSK* | July 9, 2010, 10:47 am
  2. Surprisingly enough, or maybe not so surprisingly:-), I find myself in total agreement with Dr. Landis.
    Syria is weak, its opposition to the West is not ideologically based, Syrians are willing to play the role of the spoiler in order to be noticed and they will not be satisfied until they get back the Golan.

    The above sounds very much like my personal mantra whenevr this topic comes up. I believe though Dr. Landis thinks that Bashar Assad just like his father before him is an effective leader for Syria. This is where I believe I disagree with Dr. Landis , although the topic did not come up in your conversation with him. A freer and a more democratic Syria would have been a much healthier Syria and a stronger one also. The Assad regime is practically synonymous with the North Korean Dictatorship in the minds of most people. The rigidity and cult of personality have not been good to Syria in the same way that they have not been good to any country. Dr. Landis , a History professor should know that.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 9, 2010, 10:57 am
  3. MSK,

    I’m going to let Josh field that one, and if he doesn’t, maybe Alex will.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 9, 2010, 11:22 am
  4. Landis thinks that Syria is going to try war as an option to get the Golan. This is extremely unlikely for several reasons.

    1) Asad would not put his regime in risk. He and his family are billionaires and are living a good life. Why would he risk that? He knows that Israel will target him and his family personally in case of war.
    2) A war does not square up with economic development. Is anyone going to invest in Syria if the stated policy of Syria is war? I am sure that the Syrians have to convince foreign investors exactly the opposite before they invest. Any war, will put Syria’s economic development on further hold.
    3) Asad did not attack Israel after Israel bombed his nuclear reactor in 2007. In fact, he did NOTHING. Is this the action of someone prepared to go to war?
    4) Missiles could be viewed as a deterrent but how are they a weapon by which Asad can get the Golan back? What is the scenario behind this? Asad would launch the missiles and demand the Golan to stop? That is ridiculous. Only a ground invasion of the Golan will work. Or is the thought that a missile barrage on its civilians will bring Israel to the negotiating table in a better mood for concessions? Yeah, right.

    Posted by AIG | July 9, 2010, 11:47 am
  5. How ’bout a “Conversation” with Akbar Palace?q:op

    AIG,

    We also had this discussion on Professor Josh’s website (the one you’re banned from;).

    The conclusion we reached was actually very simple: relations with Iran are MORE IMPORTANT to Syria than acquiring the Golan back. THAT’S the reason why the US administration gave up so easily on Syria.

    And if you can’t make peace with the most liberal, and pro-Muslim president in US history, you just can’t make peace habibi…

    So ye, this follows your correct assessment that a despot like Dr. Bashar needs:

    – to protect their life-time throne/income
    – needs an external enemy to ensure it

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 9, 2010, 12:23 pm
  6. MSK,

    I do not believe that the relationship between Hizbullah and Syria is an either or situation and that peace with Israel will ruin it. Yes, it will change it and put great pressure on it, but not destroy it.

    Why do I say this? Syria has two main interests in Lebanon. 1, Use Hizbullah to pressure Israel to get back Golan. 2. Good relations with the Shiite community to influence the internal political scene and make sure that Lebanon remains within Syria’s sphere of influence.

    If Syria makes peace with Israel, it will want Hizbullah to give up the military fight against Israel and remain and important ally within Lebanon’s political sphere. Perhaps Syria would have to support Hizbullah getting a larger piece of the Lebanon pie in exchange to it changing its stance on Israel. There is room for a deal that precludes cutting relations, as you suggest. Syria will not cut relations. It will work for a larger compromise and readjustment.

    This will be difficult if Iran wants Hizbullah to remain on a war footing with Israel. For this reason, it is smarter of the US to push for a larger accommodation in the region — one that will include Iran. Perhaps something along the lines of what the Turks and Brazil tried to work out.

    If you say that this is unlikely to happen, I will not disagree with you. I believe it is unlikely but not impossible.

    As for AIG’s argument, I believe it expresses the Israeli view that I described in my original statement. He argues that Syria is too weak and has, in fact, accepted Israel’s annexation of the Golan despite its bellicose bluster.

    He may prove to be correct. If Israel can continue to strike out at Hizbullah and Syria, as it has in the past in order to eliminating their efforts to improve their weaponry and shift the balance of power, Israel can keep the Golan.

    Israel will continue its policy of preemptive attacks – or what some have called the Gaza option. This has worked in the past and will work in the future if the UN remains passive and the US continues its support and is able to scuttle any attempts by the international community to interfere in the situation to constrain Israel’s freedom of movement.

    The of course, there is the unknown role of up and coming powers, such as China and Russia, as well as the secondary powers, such as Turkey, Brazil, India, etc.

    Syria is counting on time changing the strategic map of the region in its favor. This may be a false hope and these powers may actually find Israel a better ally, just as America has. It is hard to read the future.

    I cannot say who will win this contest or predict if Syria will get back the Golan some day. I can only say that I believe that both sides still believe that they can get the Golan, which means that renewed conflict seems likely. When? I cannot say.

    Posted by Joshua Landis | July 9, 2010, 1:28 pm
  7. Assad family has a symbiotic relationship with the Israeli governments and military. They limit the military zone to Lebanon and Assad family stays in power. If Israel engages Syria and the regime falls the alternate would be most likely a fanatic Muslim brotherhood junta. Israel has long decided to live with the devil(butcher) it knows.

    As for Dr. Landis’s contention that Syria wants Golan back; I disagree. Syria wants Lebanon! It seems in an inevitable war whereas HA is decimated and Lebanon in ruins; Syria will be asked to move in militarily(supposedly to keep order along the lines of 75-76)and the cycle will be complete.

    Posted by danny | July 9, 2010, 2:41 pm
  8. One wonders how an “Associate Professor of Middle East Studies” can give such a shallow, one-sided explanation for the lack of peace between Israel and Syria.
    If Syria is weak, then it has the option of accepting peace under these circumstances. Return of the Golan can mean many things. Demilitarization, access to the Sea of Galilee, guaranteed uninterrupted water supply – these are reasons (real or made-up) we have heard so far for the lack of an agreement.
    Both sides have decided that it is in their interests not to initiate negotiations. On the Israeli side, that means a democratically elected government, and on the Syrian side, that means the Allawite elite.
    I would argue that it is not that Syria is too weak – rather, it is the Syrian leadership that is too strong. They certainly didn’t mind killing scores of their own people in Hama, so why should they care about the people of Lebanon who are bearing the brunt of their manouvering?

    Posted by Yonatan Amir | July 9, 2010, 3:56 pm
  9. It was only yesterday that we were discussing the Iranian revolution and what a disaster it has become.

    Many might look at this post of mine as off topic, I don’t. There is a tremendous overlap between Hezbollah, Lebanese STL, Israel Syria and Tehran. Actually most of these issues emanate out of Tehran and so whatever affects Tehran will ultimately have major repercussions on Syria, Lebanon and Hezbollah.
    Where is the outrage whether in Lebanon or the other Arab countries regarding :

    (1) A country that discourages a hair style for men on the grounds that it is unislamic. Who was the genous behind such violations of personal human rights. Is this what a revolution is expected to do? Dictate whether one is allowed to have a pomadour or not?

    (2) But more importantly “the Iranian government was set to carry out the barbaric use of stoning against Mohammadi Ashtiani for allegedly conducting an “illicit relationship outside marriage,” despite the lack of any corroborating evidence against her.
    Iranian officials were prepared to bury Mohammadi Ashtiani up to her chest and then throw stones at her head until she died. But after a major international uproar, Iranian officials changed their minds.
    Mohammadi Ashtiani is now in danger of being executed by other means.

    And yet we speak of human rights? Give me a break. So that is what the Iranian revolution is all about; Appoint an old man and give him the power to legislate morality.

    Hezbollah would never shy from adopting these rules and regulations. They have learned from their mentors that the followers of the Faqih are never wrong. It is always their way or the highway even during such diversionary tactics as Hiwar. Buy time and never give in an inch. Just keep on demanding things. The latest is the preparation for what promises to be the next bomb shell from the STL. The Tribunal is democratic and must be used and its findings accepted provided they do not accuse Hezbollah. As soon as it is rumored that people close to the Hizb are expected to be indicted then the Tribunal becomes an “israeli Court” a political game whose only goal is to besmear the reputation of Hezbollah. What a crooked logic , what an example to follow, what a revolution> I have no doubt that this revolution and this logic are doomed to fail. History does not move backwards, it is only a question of time when the tripartite of the current Iranian regime, Syrias’ Assads and Lebanons’ Hezbollah will be thrown into the dustbin of history.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 9, 2010, 5:21 pm
  10. One wonders how an “Associate Professor of Middle East Studies” can give such a shallow, one-sided explanation for the lack of peace between Israel and Syria.

    Yonathan Amir,

    It goes back to supply and demand. There must be a huge wallet in Syria that needs Professor Josh’s services.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 9, 2010, 6:26 pm
  11. Yonathan and Akbar

    Is it too much to ask to conduct yourselves with some common decency? If you don’t agree with someone, feel free to criticize their argument, but attacking a person’s credentials or integrity is not acceptable on this blog.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 9, 2010, 6:30 pm
  12. it is also nice to point out when Mo, Jihad and their like attack the credentials and integrity of those who dont chant death to Israel and America.

    Posted by V | July 9, 2010, 6:39 pm
  13. I did not intend to attack Professor Landis’ credentials or integrity, though I doubt the second, but that’s just my personal opinion, and seeing as the rules have been laid out, I won’t ever mention it again – I promise.
    Now, if Professor Landis’ would care to explain, what exactly does he mean by “Syria is too weak”. The Golan Heights are oen of the worlds’ most militarized locations. Any IDF operation against Syria would require mobilizing reserves – that’s thousands of your typical Israeli, away from home and work and maybe even in harm’s way. The Second Lebanon War almost ground life to a halt in Israel’s northern part, the next one will be worse in that sense. The political ramifications for Israeli politicians in case of war are well-known in advance. There’s really not much one can do to make it less affordable for Israelis and their leaders to risk war with Syria, not to mention agreeing on a peace deal.
    Now, I’m no Associate Professor, but I do know this: Israelis don’t trust the Syrian leadership. Israelis are very doubtful of the prospects of peace with Arab countries (see Egypt, Oslo Accords). Had Professor Landis been an Associate Professor of Syrian Studies, that would make it easier to understand, but since Israel is in the Middle East, and since yours faithfully is an Israeli, I can safely say that the reason there is no peace process between Israel and Syria could be one of many things, but it is not because “Syria is too weak”.

    Posted by Yonatan Amir | July 9, 2010, 7:27 pm
  14. Joshua ,QN ,

    I agree with you , I always said that for any Israeli leader who is elected to compromise , he has to show his people that he has to give back the Golan and he has to reach a settlement with Palestinians , I can see Netanyahu pleading with president Obama to force him somehow so he does not look like giving something ( The Golan )for nothing, that pressure does not have to be military it could economic, legal or even moral by the Jewish community at large ,

    Recently Thomas freedman on CNN was pleading for Netanyahu to go back to Israel and claim that President Obama the Anti Semite as they call him in Israel forced him to reach a deal that will give the Palestinian their self determination in a state of their own , save Israel and make it accepted in the Mideast and compensation for the Palestinian refugees and settlement all around the world if they do not want to go back to the new Palestinian state ,

    War is never a goal but it should an option and no matter how strong Israel is , it can win many battles but can never win the war if it is not allowed to by the other side , via a treaty ,

    Posted by Norman | July 9, 2010, 7:29 pm
  15. loath to intervene, as this has the makings of a nice discussion. but doesn’t anyone want to interrogate dr. landis'(implicit) assertion that the shia of lebanon are syria’s given constituency?

    after all, he’s talking about a scenario that would completely refigure lebanese confessional politics.

    additionally, i’d welcome a conversation with akbar palace. what makes a human being who claims dignity want to be aig’s amaneunsis?

    Posted by J of Chalcedon | July 9, 2010, 7:42 pm
  16. Is it too much to ask to conduct yourselves with some common decency?

    QN –

    All I’m saying is, that if Professor Josh doesn’t “toe-the-line”, his Syrian family may be “at risk” from the Baathists.

    So it may be a lot easier for the good Professor to help the regime and stay in “good standing”.

    I mean, isn’t freedom of speech still outlawed in Syria?

    http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/L/Joshua.M.Landis-1/wedding/announcement.htm

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 9, 2010, 10:07 pm
  17. AP says:
    “All I’m saying is, that if Professor Josh doesn’t “toe-the-line”, his Syrian family may be “at risk” from the Baathists.”

    That is not what you said or even implied and you know it Just apologize for a very bad childish reaction. I have seldom agreed with J. Landis but I will never cast such aspersions as :

    “There must be a huge wallet in Syria that needs Professor Josh’s services.”

    which is what you said. You are saying that his blog is for sale full stop.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 9, 2010, 11:48 pm
  18. I think Yonatan is right. “Syria is too weak” does not explain the current peace impasse. One could have used the same logic to explain why Turkey and Syria were hostile to each other till the end of the nineties. In the end, it was the decision of Asad not to go to war with Turkey and stop supporting the PKK that brought peace. In the same way, Asad II can reach the same decision regarding Israel. Stop supporting terrorist groups, stop insisting on touching the Kineret, suggest to lease the Golan to Israel and voila, you can have peace.

    The more likely reason there is no peace is that being in the “resistance” camp is in the interests of the regime.

    Posted by AIG | July 10, 2010, 1:56 am
  19. Norman,

    When will you understand that Israel has already won not just the battle with Syria but the war? Syria is an ultra corrupt and very poor police state in which a small minority oppresses and sucks hope from the masses. 17.8% of Syrian women over 15 are illiterate! No amount of PR about “boutique hotels” in Damascus can mask that.

    And the fact that you can do nothing to really change things but keep blaming outside factors like the US and Israel for the situation in Syria prove that you have lost the battle and the war. The more you say how great and smart Asad is, the more I know that you are completely and utterly lost and hopeless.

    Get the Golan back? Syria will be lucky to be able to feed its people in 10 years without needing handouts.

    Posted by AIG | July 10, 2010, 2:08 am
  20. Wow: stay classy, Akbar Palace.

    Posted by sean | July 10, 2010, 2:15 am
  21. Sean,

    Is it “classy” for Landis to ban me from commenting on his blog? He would not even accept a compromise in which I would post just one comment a day! What is one to think of this amount of censorship and disdain for freedom of speech, especially from an American university professor?

    Posted by AIG | July 10, 2010, 2:34 am
  22. Sean:

    It was very “classy” and I might also note very “astute” of Josh to ban AIG:

    AIG is crying “wolfe” I cant quite remember how many times the words “Anti Semite” “Woman Hater” etc etc were used by AIG against SC commentators so much so that many stopped commenting on the site- his behaviour was not only indecent but lacking class, although I note that his behaviour has some what improved on this site! Which indicated that some can be rehabilitated.

    Akbar Palace has been doing these “classy comments for years” I think Josh has handled them with the dignity that he knows how- they don’t even deserve a response!

    Posted by Enlightened | July 10, 2010, 4:04 am
  23. Sean:

    It was very “classy” and I might also note very “astute” of Josh to ban AIG:

    AIG is crying “wolfe” I cant quite remember how many times the words “Anti Semite” “Woman Hater” etc etc were used by AIG against SC commentators so much so that many stopped commenting on the site- his behaviour was not only indecent but lacking class, although I note that his behaviour has some what improved on this site! Which indicates that some can be rehabilitated.

    Akbar Palace has been doing these “classy comments for years” I think Josh has handled them with the dignity that he knows how- they don’t even deserve a response!

    Posted by Enlightened | July 10, 2010, 4:05 am
  24. qn,

    i wonder if you’d discuss your ideas about moderating comments. i like this blog — because it’s about lebanon. i value it as a very rich resource and discussion platform for readers who actually care about lebanon and who may have various ties to it. but i often read just the articles because the comments can tend to get dominated — even quantitatively — by individuals who clearly have other interests and intentions. if there’s going to be an open comments section, what’s wrong with actively protecting the blog’s focus on lebanon’s welfare, and encouraging constructive exchanges around that? that seems totally challenging enough in itself. thanks.

    Posted by j anthony | July 10, 2010, 6:46 am
  25. Guys,

    Let’s stick to the topic, and leave the discussion about who is classy and who is not for another day.

    J, my general policy on commenting is more or less identical to Syria Comment’s, which can be found here.

    I’m not going to edit every snarky comment that you guys exchange with each other, but when someone is kind enough to do an exclusive interview with the blog, I’d appreciate it if you treat them with a modicum of respect, even if you don’t agree with them. That’s all.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 10, 2010, 8:26 am
  26. A war is won when you can impose your well on your enemy and Israel is not able to impose it’s well on Syria or the Arabs ,so Israel never won a war , America won the war against Germany and Japan because she told them what to do and they complied , do you get this now ,

    Posted by Norman | July 10, 2010, 8:52 am
  27. Class Houses

    That is not what you said or even implied and you know it Just apologize for a very bad childish reaction. I have seldom agreed with J. Landis but I will never cast such aspersions as :

    “There must be a huge wallet in Syria that needs Professor Josh’s services.”

    Ghassan Karam,

    Just because I like your posts and your website, I will apologize. To all, QN, and especially Dr. Landis: I apologize for implying your opinions were due to some Syrian “payoff”. I have no proof of that.

    However, I would like to ask the forum the same question I asked before:

    Is Professor Josh really free to express his opinions about the Syrian government, considering he has family there? I think this is relevent, and may explain why Professor Josh is so pro-Baathist/Asad.

    As far as “class” is concerned, I much prefer this website simply for the simple reason that most of the participants have reached the 21st century, and recognize the State of Israel.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 10, 2010, 9:07 am
  28. This Ynet article is showing that the Syrian government is showing peace signs again. the sleeping Arab giant has awoken!:

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3917648,00.html

    Quite a different story from Dr. Josh’s “classy” (May 2010) post about Israel:

    “US-Syrian relations have been deteriorating for some months now, and Syria is losing hope in any peace deal, and that means that there’s gong to be conflict between Syria and Israel,” says Joshua Landis, a professor at the University of Oklahoma. “Syria’s strategy is going to be to try to isolate the US in the Middle East, and to hang Israel around America’s neck.”

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 10, 2010, 9:19 am
  29. Akbar:

    “Class Aside” and thanks for finally acknowledging that we all don’t want Israel destroyed!

    How accurate is this story? Maybe this story might have veracity to it, hot on the heels of the Obama/ Netanyahu kiss and make up!’ If I remember the outcome Obama was quite adamant that Netanyahu was a “man of peace”!

    Well its slightly more believable than Dubya telling us that Sharon was a man of peace!

    Posted by Enlightened | July 10, 2010, 10:01 am
  30. Enlightened,

    Sharon gave back Gaza without getting ANYTHING in return except for a few thousand Hamas missiles.

    Yeah a real Hilter in Zionist clothing…

    Notice how American resolve against Iran, positive talks with Israel, and pressure on the Palestinians (uh, face-to-face negotiations now please), gets the “Syrian Giant” out of her slumber…

    Better than an alarm clock I must say…

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 10, 2010, 10:24 am
  31. Enlightened/ AP,
    Obviously I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the story as portrayed by the Ynet story about Senator Spectors’ mediation but I would not dismiss it only on the basis that Netanyahou is the PM in Israel. As AP pointed out we should not forget that Gaza was given up unilaterally and had it not been for the unfortunate interncine power struggle then the Palestinians could have used that window to show the world what they plan to do once the Palestinian state is established. Another major development that took place under a “hawk: was the first peace agreement as agreed to under Mr. Begin an ex member of the Irgun.

    As for Assad, as I have always maintained, and it is a personal opinion, Assad does not appear to be ideologically opposed to the US as much as it is a political fight and a struggle for power. He has himself stated that he would love to normalize relations with the US and so I see no conflict in his using the good offices of Senator Spector who is probably looking for a major achievment to end his long carreer. Actually I think the breakthroughs are more likely to occur under hawkish politicians.

    (Finally thanks AP for your public apology to J. Landis. It takes a big person to do that).

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 10, 2010, 11:03 am
  32. Norman,

    When the Syrian-Israeli border is quiet for almost 40 years, it means that Israel has imposed its will on Syria.

    When Syria does nothing after Israel bombs its territory, like with the nuclear reactor, it means that Israel has imposed its will on Syria,

    When Syria is forced to keep an emergency law for decades it means that Israel has imposed its will on Syria.

    When Syria is sanctioned and cannot get foreign investments because of its war with Israel, it means that Israel has imposed its will on Syria.

    Syria is a dead end country unless it makes radical changes, which it will not make. It is a brittle society always on the verge of civil war unless a ruthless dictator is in power. Such countries have zero chance of being successful.

    Posted by AIG | July 10, 2010, 11:42 am
  33. But we invented hummus.

    So there.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 10, 2010, 12:31 pm
  34. But Syria has the Lebanese to use as a retaliation tool against Israel..why would they have to change if they have nothing to lose.. Unfortunately when Israel doesn’t hold the Assads accountable for HA action they are protecting this corrupt and brutal regime

    Posted by V | July 10, 2010, 12:46 pm
  35. But we marketed it!

    Posted by Yonatan Amir | July 10, 2010, 12:52 pm
  36. Great comments and interesting discussion. Two points –

    1. One thing that I’ve learned about Israel is that the apparent absence of negotiations between Israel and its neighbors is a sure way to know that negotiations are proceeding in back channels. If the spotlight is now on Gaza, I’d bet a lot of my shekels that Israelis and Syrians are discussing the future of the Golan.

    2. I don’t think Dr. Landis is wrong about Syria being too weak to reach an agreement right now, but I don’t think he’s right about it either. One could just as easily say that Syria is too strong to negotiate, and that if the Alawi regime were weaker, their demands on the Golan would become more flexible and a satisfactory agreement could be reached with ease.

    Posted by Genius | July 10, 2010, 1:47 pm
  37. Genius,

    Syria is perceived by Israel and the Israelis to be weak and that is by itself makes it difficult for any Israeli leader to give back the Golan for peace as that is felt as necessary by the Israeli public , Look at AIG and AP ,

    The more the Israeli leaders make a big deal of the Syrian determination and the willing to fight for their rights , the easier it is for that leadership to compromise ,

    yonatan ,
    I see a cooperation agreement , production and marketing , What a future ,

    Posted by Norman | July 10, 2010, 2:07 pm
  38. I would like to add to Josh’s answer to MSK about Hizbullah’s relation to Syria.

    If the Golan is returned, it would also mean that the Shabaa farms will also be returned. That has been the final ‘legitimate’ reason for HA to keep its arms. therefore if complete Israeli withdrawl from Syrian & Lebanese lands are achieved there will be no other legitimate reasons for HA to keep its ‘struggle’ arms. That said and as Josh mentioned, i doubt they would give them up without a large piece of the ;ebanese political pie. even then i would assume they would find a way to keep some for ‘self protection’ or ‘internel security’ as to avoid being out played by other political parties in the future.

    Posted by Innocent Criminal | July 10, 2010, 3:33 pm
  39. QN,

    You always get me with the hummus…

    Norman’s attitude always reminds me of the Black Knight scene from Monty Python:

    As King Arthur says in that scene: Let’s call it a draw.

    Posted by AIG | July 10, 2010, 4:23 pm
  40. V,

    You are right that in past Israel has been reluctant to hold Syria accountable. But the bombing in 2007 and Mugniyeh’s mercy killing as well as recent proclamations from Israeli officials lead me to believe that Asad cannot be sure that Israel will act the same way in the future.

    Posted by AIG | July 10, 2010, 4:25 pm
  41. Akbar,

    I don’t think that Mr. Landis is a ba’athist, nor I think he’s getting paid by anyone else but the university that hires him. You made a right choice to apologize.

    Mr. Landis represent a relative new perception about Israel. During the ’67 crisis, for example, Israel was perceived as the underdog, surrounded by so many Arabs, and in a threat to the nation’s life. It’s different today. Some people see Israel as an arrogant force that has no respect for others in the region. Many feel humiliated by Israel. They don’t see that in fact, Israel is the weak party here, 5.5 million Jews amidst 350 million hostile Arabs.

    AIG,
    Norman is indeed a valiant keyboard warrior, holding a heavy mouse in his hand, galloping to fight Israel.
    On SC he’s very much respected, probably because he’s a doctor, and Arabs have great respect for doctors and muhandesin. But here on Qifa, we can loosen our Neckties.
    .

    Posted by Amir in Tel Aviv | July 10, 2010, 5:02 pm
  42. @innocent criminal post 38.

    Even Shebaa is returned, HA will want to “defend the newly discovered gas deposits from Zionist schemes”.

    When looking for a pretext, one can always find or manufacture something.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 10, 2010, 5:14 pm
  43. Innocent Criminal: So what you are really saying is that Hezbollah is using Shebaa, Ghajar etc… as an excuse when they are in essence after eaw political power pure and simple. The Mullaha in Qom plus those in Lebanon are part and parcel of the ruling class and they have never had an interest in changing the architecture of society beyond an exchange in those at the top of the pyramid. Pitty the working class. Men of the cloth can never be their saviours.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 10, 2010, 5:15 pm
  44. Akbar Palace Says:

    July 10, 2010 at 10:24 am
    Enlightened,

    Sharon gave back Gaza without getting ANYTHING in return except for a few thousand Hamas missiles
    AP,

    That is exactly the problem and the mistake that Israel made ,
    Barack and Israel left Lebanon after 20 years without an agreement and a fanfare how good Israel is , they just left , everybody knew that it was because of Hezbollah and Hezbollah took credit for it , then Israel expected something in return without talking to the parties and making a deal with them , so Hezbollah continued the pressure and Israel started to cry unfairness ,

    Sharon and Israel repeated the same mistake in Gaza , they left without talking to Hamas or making a deal with hamas to protect their border so Hamas could not stop the other parties from launching missiles as it will look like a security guard for Israel without an agreement , Sharon and Israel could have talked to Hamas made a deal making Hamas look good and in the process hamas will have enough statue to protect Israel because of the Agreement , but what we saw is an arrogant Israel that thinks it can impose peace and war as it chooses , now it has neither ,

    The solution is to make a deal then leave and make everybody declare victory ,

    Amir ,
    by the way , i hope that i am not respected just for being a Dr but for making common sense ,

    Posted by Norman | July 10, 2010, 6:58 pm
  45. Norman, I don’t know where you live and my visits to Syria have always been way too short but the idea that Amir refers to is so true in Lebanon. My friends and I always have fun with it because each of the MD’s in in my group of acquaintances is treated with so much awe and respect that I am sure some MD’s cannot handle. An MD is asked not only about medical issues but is expected to know whether an investment is appropriate whether war is going to break out or whether the world is coming to an end. How do MD’s handle this is beyond me.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 10, 2010, 8:03 pm
  46. Ghassan Karam ,

    That could be because in Syria you have to be in the top 500 kids in high school in the whole country ,and some of us are in the highest 100 , to be able to go to medical school ,

    So medical doctors in Syria are the smartest and the highest achievers , ((PS, they might not be very good in writing ))

    Posted by Norman | July 10, 2010, 8:13 pm
  47. So Norman, please explain to us how a smart person, living in the US and enjoying all its freedoms, can be a cheerleader for a mafioso like Asad? That is what boggles the mind. Are you scared because you have family in Syria? Or do you really think corrupt and unaccountable regimes are a good idea?

    Posted by AIG | July 11, 2010, 1:08 am
  48. Mr. Landis is not a Ba’athist. He probably doesn’t necessarily a supporter of the Ba’ath ideology. But he is a supporter of this current regime, and he endorses Asad. Landis’s view could be summarize: better have a tyrant who brings security, than have a democracy with a sectarian and a jihadi bloodshed.

    “Landis of Arabia” just like Lawrence, is fascinated with Arabs, and thinks of himself as an Arabist. But in fact, he’s a lordly orientalist. He is sure that the Arabs aren’t capable of taking care of themselves, and therefor they need a “benevolent dictator” (a concept he promotes in his SC), to save the Arabs from themselves. This I call patronising.
    .

    Posted by Amir in Tel Aviv | July 11, 2010, 3:04 am
  49. Akbar Palace Says:

    July 10, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Enlightened,

    Sharon gave back Gaza without getting ANYTHING in return except for a few thousand Hamas missiles.

    Yeah a real Hilter in Zionist clothing…

    I am astonished that you would use such language! But having interacted with you for four years you still make me laugh occasionally. Remember these are your words and not mine! I refuse and have never used language of hate; and your remark here smacks of childishness. I think you temporarily forgot who you where talking too!

    You are right Israel got nothing in return for retreating from Lebanon; but I think the Israeli army retreated with its tail between its legs after almost twenty years of occupation, and left its South Lebanese army in the lurch. I think the South Lebanese have learn’t that this scenario will not be repeated if Israel ever invades again and plants the seeds for another occupation. You wont find any allies this tie around if the circumstances repeat themselves.

    The retreat from Gaza, was a strategic mistake that the Israeli leadership repeated. On the balance of things, as Norman stated earlier; with the benefit of hindsight a negotiated retreat would have served Israels purposes much better.

    You are correct about the alarm clock though I truly believe that it is only five minutes to midnight, and the real issue is the Iran nuclearization and the clock has not rang yet!

    We still have five minutes!

    You are correct

    Posted by Enlightened | July 11, 2010, 5:20 am
  50. Ghassan:

    I concur that the “Israeli right” have both the history and the motivation to initiate and conclude a peace treaty, it is more palpable (mainly to the Israeli public). The perception that this segment of the political class can best drive the hardest bargain is I think a panacea, Israeli perhaps don’t trust the left; I don’t know; maybe rockets and suicide bombings have scarred them?

    But maybe I am also cynical enough to suggest that the left in Israel has not really produced a Leader of Rabin’s stature,since his unfortunate passing. Maybe the peace legacy died with him!

    Posted by Enlightened | July 11, 2010, 5:33 am
  51. AIG,

    I am not afraid about anybody in Syria and you saw that on Syriacomment there are many people who criticize Syria ,many have families there ,

    I like to look at the glass as half full not half empty but show the way to make full without being in charge or take credit for the improvement ,
    Democracy will come to Syria when there is middle class in Syria as having many poor and few rich is a way for a revolution , Syria is following the Chinese model not the Russian one ,

    I went to public school in Syria , paid nothing , went to medical school in Syria , paid 15 dollars /year , had free health care in Syria , paid no taxes still pay no taxes to Syria , what did i do to be able to criticize ,
    Syria has to move at it’s own pace as without security and safety there is no freedom ,

    Posted by Norman | July 11, 2010, 7:16 am
  52. Norman,

    Is that the way you spin jailing human rights activists for “daring” to criticize the tyrant? “Security and safety”…”it’s own pace”???Wow even in the west you still seem terrified irrespective of your declaration.

    respectfully

    Posted by danny | July 11, 2010, 7:51 am
  53. danny

    The problem with the opposition is that they complain and offer no alternative , they complain about corruption and many of them are corrupt themselves , look at khaddam and Refaat Assad , human right activists should use the legal system and challenge their jails sentences in court , the legal system needs to mature and they will find judges that will rule in their , complaining to the outside world how bad Syria is can only be used to justify their jailing ,
    like having a fight with your spouse and telling the naibours , making up can become more difficult ,

    Posted by Norman | July 11, 2010, 8:22 am
  54. Norman,

    I did not mention Khaddam or Rifaat Assad who both are complicit in the murder of thousands of innocent civilians in Syria ans especially in Lebanon! I was talking about the likes of Michel Kilo; Haitham al Maleh & Muhammad al-Hassani (just jailed recently)…among hundreds (thousands?)! Besides being an MD it seems you moonlight as a comedian at night :D

    Norman; “as a comic in all seriousness” did you really mean what you wrote about these activists not presenting any alternatives?..or challenging their sentences in the courts(kangaroo)?

    My friend your comments stand on its own merits. I will not comment any further as your comments are glittering in the dark!

    Here’s a link. Maybe it can help you reboot your memory about the brutal regime you adore!

    http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/syria

    Posted by danny | July 11, 2010, 8:44 am
  55. Danny,

    AI and others are used to criticize Syria ,

    what are the contribution of these people you mentioned , did they try to help the people of Syria ,

    I agree with you though , Syria should not imprison people for their views, the government should discredit them in the media ,
    I still think that these people should challenge their sentences in the court system ,

    I do not know anybody in the Syrian government and i am not trying to defend the mistakes that took place in Lebanon , all of all , Syria helped Lebanon achieve stability and protected the christian minorities there ,
    Danny ,
    i was in Syria in 1976 when Pier Gemayel was calling 16y old to arms to protect the Christian presence in Lebanon , that is the time of Syria’s intervention ,I can not forget that without Syria’s intervention The Christians of Lebanon would be scares and it would have spread to Syria,
    Syria should be credited that Lebanon is still standing as a unified country ,

    Posted by Norman | July 11, 2010, 9:35 am
  56. Danny, AIG, Amir

    Many would say that the “pace” of democratic reform in Syria is rather too slow, if existing at all. As opposed to “democratic” Israel, ignoring the regular practice of bombing her ethnic population with napalm.

    The Palestinian question remains central to this conflict, that’s why no comparison can be made between the Golan and Turkey’s Iskandron. Arabs enjoy normal life in Iskandron, citizens in a secular state. This is not the case in Golan, or anywhere in occupied Palestine for that matter.

    If Syrians in Turkey were living behind barbered wire, take my word for it, the Syrians could never drop its claim to the area, regardless of the capability of its economy or army against the Turks. A none elected government doesn’t mean it has no need for legitimacy. Perhaps it needs it more than an elected one.

    Now both of Syria and Israel can hardly have any claims about democracy. Furthermore, insisting on comparing their systems against each other on a back drop of Western values is ridiculous: One is patriarchal and the other is ethnic-religious. Can you guess which is which?.

    Israelis here ask Syrians not to defend their government because it is not democratic. But as a Syrian, I do not disagree with their policy on Israel, Hamas or Hizb. From this point on, the legitimacy of my government is my business, not yours.

    Democracy is never the issue unless you’re promoting your cause in the US, And I honestly find it demeaning that promotional language is replacing real dialog.

    The issue is how do we move from here:

    How do you see the future of your country from its current standing? Syria even more paralyzed by thugs? Israel even more paralyzed by paranoia and religious schools?

    Breaking the circle of violence and hatred is not done by toeing the line, if you know what I mean..

    Posted by Chase | July 11, 2010, 9:39 am
  57. Mr. Landis is not a Ba’athist. He probably doesn’t necessarily a supporter of the Ba’ath ideology. But he is a supporter of this current regime, and he endorses Asad. Landis’s view could be summarize: better have a tyrant who brings security, than have a democracy with a sectarian and a jihadi bloodshed.

    Amir in Tel Aviv,

    As a “supporter of this current regime”, which, as you know is Baathist, it follows that Professor Josh is, at least, a passive Baathist sympathizer.

    Moreover, you are implying that only “tyrants” can bring security. The opposite. Democracy can only bring real security. All nations will opt to both secure their country and make it at the same time.

    “Landis of Arabia” just like Lawrence, is fascinated with Arabs, and thinks of himself as an Arabist.

    If you ever bothered researching Middle/Near East academia, you would find the Earth is filled with such people. A dime a dozen. Find an ME professor who can speak fluent Hebrew, and who can criticize despotic Arab nations, now you’ve really found a diamond in the rough.

    But in fact, he’s a lordly orientalist. He is sure that the Arabs aren’t capable of taking care of themselves, and therefor they need a “benevolent dictator” (a concept he promotes in his SC), to save the Arabs from themselves. This I call patronising.

    Now you seem to speaking for Professor Josh. Personally, I’m not convinced Professor Josh’s opinions are completely free due to his wife’s Syrian family and his father-in-law’s ties to the regime (retired Navy Admiral).

    That is just my opinion. In conclusion, freedom provides for BOTH security and economic development, and as an Israeli, you should know that.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 11, 2010, 9:49 am
  58. Norman says

    “The problem with the opposition is that they complain and offer no alternative , they complain about corruption and many of them are corrupt themselves , look at khaddam and Refaat Assad , human right activists should use the legal system and challenge their jails sentences in court , the legal system needs to mature and they will find judges that will rule in their , complaining to the outside world how bad Syria is can only be used to justify their jailing ,
    like having a fight with your spouse and telling the naibours , making up can become more difficult ,””

    I have yet to see such a short paragraph whose aim is to justify oppression and that is more replete with mistakes:-)
    Did you ever stop to think about the fact that when one demonstrates against corruption then one is asking for a non corrupt system :-) Isn’t that an alternative?

    As for the spousal abuse analogy there isn’t much to say. It condemns itself. Women are not to seek relief from abuse but should grin and bear it. Is that what making up is supposed to be ?

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 11, 2010, 10:22 am
  59. Chase,

    You say:
    “From this point on, the legitimacy of my government is my business, not yours.”

    Let me understand, so if tomorrow Israel kills and jails thousands of it Arab citizens, you would say nothing about it because it is an internal Israeli problem?

    The legitimacy of the Syrian government is a critical issue for many Israelis. If the Syrian government does not represent the will of the Syrian people, what is the value of an agreement with Syria? What was the value of signing agreements with the Palestinians if Hamas once elected has decided to ignore them?

    In my opinion, unless Syria becomes democratic it is a waste of time to sign any agreement with it. Not only will the agreement be worthless once the Muslim Brotherhood take power peacefully or otherwise, signing such an agreement will not help Syria become democratic.

    And if you are pro-democracy, I can maybe understand how you would support Asad’s pro-Hamas strategy, but the pro-Hizballah strategy? What would you think about Saudi and Israel arming radical Sunnis in Syria in order to destabilize the state? This is exactly what Hizballah is doing in Lebanon. And don’t tell me that a religious and armed Sunni movement with cash to spend on social services would not be very popular in Syria. And by the way, they would also fire an occasional rocket at the Golan.

    Posted by AIG | July 11, 2010, 11:18 am
  60. karam ,

    you do not have to make fun of my writing , i did that myself ,

    i did not mean by fighting you wife is beating her , i meant your family disagreement at home should be solved at home not with family and neighbours , Americans do not go out of the country and criticize the US , neither should Syrians , Lebanese or Israelis

    Posted by norman | July 11, 2010, 12:51 pm
  61. Norman,
    I was not making fun of your writing. This is the last thing on my mind. I was only alluding to the logic/illogic of the statement.
    Since when do Americans shy from criticizing their government openly? Often the most vocal critics of the US foreign policy are Americans. (Who was it that savaged the Bush policies and who is it that is even attcking the personal integrity of Obama, who is it that is a world leader in promoting the notion that the Republic has become an Empire…)In a global and transparent world one does not have to sweep ones dirt under the rug for fear that the neighbours would find out the truth.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 11, 2010, 2:01 pm
  62. ghassan,
    political leaders of the opposite party do not criticize the US (( OUT SIDE THE US ))in public ,

    Posted by Norman | July 11, 2010, 2:14 pm
  63. By the way , i do not want corruption either , who does , so am i in the opposition , the question is how to get rid of corruption , it is a little more complicated than saying we do not want corruption ,

    Posted by Norman | July 11, 2010, 2:20 pm
  64. Norman,
    We choose to make it more com plicated than it deserves to be. If we take a strong stand against corruption then in a vibrant responsible democracy we can influence the results of the elections in order to force a change.
    The same thing is true in most important areas. What is important is to make ones views known, that is the only way that history moves forward. If we do not make our concerns public then the other side will not feel the pressure to either reevaluate its position or to consider fine tuning it. Paradigm shifts take place only as anomalies gain in stature and they are usually the product of a small peripheral group.
    Whether it is war, women rights, slavery, civil rights or corruption the process is the same. A paradox is identifies then a group of people articulate that vision until it forces the accepted orthodoxy to change. As you can see as soon as the accepted orthodoxy changes then practically instantaneously it would sow the seeds of its own destruction and that is the way that it should be. No one should ever feel comfortable that a regime is so well established that it needs not respond to the new and ever changing demands of its constituencies.
    But if we don’t articulate these anomalies and if we are scared of challenging the established bureaucracy and if we fear speaking truth to power then we will be condemned to a very long and miserable existence under the yoke of those that we shy away from challenging.
    If a people do not approve of corruption then unless they voice their concern at each and every opportunity then corruption goes on. I do not have to come up with a specific detail of what to do at each level of government in order to stop corruption, it is enough if I insist on a corrupt free government. But since none of this is workable under dictatorships that are infallible by definition then change in the case of countries like Syria is likely to occur only at the point of a gun. And that is a shame.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 11, 2010, 3:15 pm
  65. AIG, Akbar Palace,

    Yes, democracy in my country is my business. Because I don’t view Israeli politics as an example of it. You see, since Madrid, it seems that Israelis will not back their leaders working for peace with Syria, preferring the security produced by the military to a peaceful resolution.

    If Syria, as a system and a state, is unable to deliver their end of the bargain, we’d have witnessed a different outcome to the Turkish-Syrian mending of fences. The Syrian government, I repeat with regret, is far from being democratic. But it has always kept in touch with the people on national issues, so it enjoys legitimacy, and I might add a lot of support as well. The letting go of the Syrian territory to Turkey definitely reflected public sentiments of the Syrian people.

    But it is not lack of Syrian democracy that worries Israelis so much. If I understand you a little bit, you’d prefer an oppressive enemy to democratic friend. The reason is the following: “Why give them something that they can’t take by force?”.

    Today, Israel can hardly keep a friend without aggressive lobbying and arm twisting. Gosh, where do you think you’re going with this?! You’re really green behind the ears, aren’t you?

    Isn’t that the Israeli public belief, that force is the only guarantee for peace? Isn’t that how you consistently treat your neighbors and ethnic population? Israel is far from being a democracy. So stop lecturing us about ballot boxes, the facade might be convincing in the US Congress, not here.

    It’s never been anything except exclusivity that you are after. Democracy is secular and humane, you can not claim to join the two unless.. well, we all see the result.

    The sad truth is that you might eventually end up using force against your own. It’s a simple history lesson, read it: The circle of exclusivity will always get narrower.

    I will never wish that to anybody.

    Posted by Chase | July 11, 2010, 3:31 pm
  66. Ghassan,
    we should move from blaming the tribe to blaming the person or the offender if a government official comet a crime , expose him and shame him , we should not shame the whole government for the crimes of some , in the US a republican fund raiser called Abramov was selling access to the white house for donation during the Bush presidency , while bill Clinton sold sleep over in the lincoln bedroom for donations , last year or the year before a Democratic member of congress was caught with more than a 100000.00 in his freezer , nobody blamed president Bush or Clinton , the Republican party or the democratic party for these crimes but both offenders were sent to jail when they were exposed

    The offenders should be punished not the whole government as there are many honest people , that is if you don’t think that everybody in Syria is corrupt ,

    Posted by Norman | July 11, 2010, 7:00 pm
  67. Zionist “Arm Twisting” NewZ

    we should move from blaming the tribe to blaming the person or the offender if a government official comet a crime

    Norman,

    I agree with you. BTW, who gets the “blame” for:

    – Syria’s floundering economy
    – Syria’s lack of freedom
    – Syria’s lack of progress
    – Syria’s lack of international standing

    It seems to me, the Syrian people have one president-for-life to point to.

    Today, Israel can hardly keep a friend without aggressive lobbying and arm twisting.

    Chase,

    Your “hyperbole” is nice.

    Here’s a list of countries Israel has good relations with:

    http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/About+the+Ministry/Diplomatic+missions/Israel-s+Diplomatic+Missions+Abroad.htm

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 11, 2010, 9:18 pm
  68. lak yasinoooooooooooooooooo… wloo 3ala amteeee

    Posted by V | July 11, 2010, 9:34 pm
  69. Chase,

    The fact of the matter is that YOU have used force against your own. Hama anyone? The prisons where Syrians disappear without being heard of? Are you joking about the circle of exclusivity? What exactly is Asad’s regime if not that? An ethnic regime? What exactly is the Alawite regime if not that? Are you blind or what?

    But I see you need to complain about Israel instead of solving your own problems. Have fun with Asad. Let us know when you replace him.

    By the way, did you serve in the Syrian army or did you pay money not to serve?

    Posted by AIG | July 11, 2010, 9:58 pm
  70. Interesting and I think accurate assessment:

    http://www.jpost.com/Features/FrontLines/Article.aspx?id=180890

    Posted by AIG | July 12, 2010, 12:15 am
  71. AIG, AP & The Prince of Tel Aviv,

    Though, I’m very critical of the syrian regime overall, and especially vis a vis Lebanon. My observation of your accumulated posts is that you keep on hammering on the form/type of the syrian regime and how dictatorial it is, etc. But somehow, I get the impression that you are doing this just to divert the subject away from the land dispute at hand, which is the Joulan/Golan.

    Regardless of what type of government syria has, israel’s occupation of the Golan is illegal under international law, with several UN resolutions to back this up. Full stop.

    Trying to suggest that syria should have the equivalent of a western form of government before their occupied land is returned is nothing but a dishonest attempt to keep the land illegally.

    BTW, israel is no model democracy. Far from it, and should be the last to lecture about democracy. Just read the majority of western papers these days and you’ll see what I mean. Heck, just take a read of Haaretz. Israel’s dirty loundry is out in the open.

    My point is that, this is a land dispute and the focus should be on resolving this dispute to promote long lasting peacefull coexistance. Your hopes for a swiss like civic life for the syrians does not strike me as genuine, but a diversion to keep on holding stolen property.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | July 12, 2010, 12:30 am
  72. AIG,

    Yes, Hama. But you don’t even read.

    If someone pays you money, will you or will you not fight for them?

    Akbar,

    That’s a list of diplomatic missions. You missed the point.

    Posted by Chase | July 12, 2010, 1:29 am
  73. Your hopes for a swiss like civic life for the syrians does not strike me as genuine, but a diversion to keep on holding stolen property.

    Ras Beirut,

    Your thesis falls apart when Israel asks Syria to drop their relationship with Iran.

    The Syrian government prefers a relationship with an anti-semitic, pro-terrorist regime than their “stolen property”. That is why even the liberal Obama administration isn’t very ethused with Assad.

    Chase,

    You have no point. Israel has PLENTY of friends and trading partners around the world. And I certainly don’t know what “arm-twisting” you are referring to.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 12, 2010, 8:42 am
  74. Ras Beirut,

    Perhaps we were not clear enough. The Golan was annexed by Israel. For me it is clear that Israeli law trumps international law.

    Furthermore there is NO binding UN resolution saying Israel needs to leave the Golan.

    And also, even if there were a binding resolution and there were no Israeli law on the issue, why would we respect this law when the mafia in Syria does not? Do you see it respecting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which is at the basis of international law? So, when Syria respects “international law” then perhaps we can start talking about solving the conflict based on international law. Until then, it is just another unfair argument against Israel.

    And of course you do realize that Ha’aretz is an ISRAELI newspaper. By pointing at how critical Ha’aretz is of the government you just have proved how democratic Israel is. Can you imagine a paper like Ha’aretz in ANY Arab country? Even in Lebanon, Ha’aretz would have to moderate itself if its writers did not want to get assassinated.

    Israel is one of the most democratic countries in the world. Democracies are judged during war and stress. Not during peace and prosperity. How long have Syria and Egypt had emergency laws because of the war with Israel? Next time there is a wave of suicide bombers in the US and Europe like in the second intifada, let’s see how they react and what would happen to the Arab and Muslim communities there. In Israel there were no pogroms and no changes in the freedoms. That is a the mark of a strong and true democracy.

    Posted by AIG | July 12, 2010, 9:10 am
  75. Chase,

    I think it is a fair question that cuts through the hypocrisy:
    Did you or did you not serve in the Syrian army? If not, how come?

    If you are not willing to fight and die for Asad’s regime, I am certainly not willing to give them the Golan. If you do not trust them, why should I?

    I served 10 years in the IDF and did a lot of reserve duty over the years.

    Posted by AIG | July 12, 2010, 9:32 am
  76. Daniel Pipes’ collection of quotes showing how many Palestinians are more critical of PA/Hamas rule than Israeli rule:

    http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/2005/04/hamas-is-worse-than-israel-worse-than-sharon#latest

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 12, 2010, 11:28 am
  77. Perhaps an internal Israeli dimension to the recent array of maps and intelligence about Hizbullah?

    http://coteret.com/2010/07/11/israeli-finance-ministry-explains-recent-idf-sourced-hezbollah-stories/

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 12, 2010, 1:43 pm
  78. QN,

    The budget cut dance between the Israeli Treasury and the Ministry of Defense happens each year with the usual ad hominem attacks and leaks to the press. Since the Treasury would use anything the IDF does against it in this fight and has done so since I can remember, it is very hard to discern the noise from the signal.

    Posted by AIG | July 12, 2010, 4:05 pm
  79. AIG

    Let me ask you this:

    What is more likely?

    1. The IDF lets Hizbullah know that it has thousands of hard targets ready to destroy in the next war (potentially giving the organization a chance to move its most important assets around).

    2. The IDF doing its annual dance with Treasury?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 12, 2010, 4:35 pm
  80. This is no surprise, as AIG points out, this is a yearly ritual, for every government body: the health ministry, police, welfare ministry – everyone releases reports of how much bigger the challenges they’re facing are going to get. The IDF usually gets this message across in the Knesset’s Security committee, so this probably also has to do with last month’s attacks on the French peacekeepers:

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5i3sS5o4xkpaFhLH9We2CM5Z6MrpQ

    Though I’m sure Barak is happy with the timing of it.

    Posted by Yonatan Amir | July 12, 2010, 4:37 pm
  81. Qifa, perhaps the IDF wants Hizballa to move these assets.

    Posted by Yonatan Amir | July 12, 2010, 4:43 pm
  82. QN,

    Barak would not compromise Israel’s security to score a few points in a bureaucratic feud.

    I think the target disclosure was a concession to the US and Lebanon as it creates more stability and reduces the chances of war.

    Posted by AIG | July 12, 2010, 7:19 pm
  83. Ras Beirut,

    In other words, what you say is basically: the regime in Syria is not you f****n business. Right?

    I think it’s very much our business. Asad wants the Golan. He says, you give me the Golan, and in return, I’ll give you peace.
    But the peace Mr. Asad wants to give us, doesn’t belong to Mr. Asad. It is the asset of all Syrian people. He wants to give us a stolen property. Would you accept stolen property? It’s stolen free choice, from all, and each and every Syrian. May be the majority of Syrians do not want peace with this usurping entity.?

    The peace that Asad promises to us, is a peace between the Israeli people (directly via referendum, or through it’s legal representatives), and Asad. This peace will last as long as there is Asad.
    We need a peace between Israelis and the Syrian people. For this we need a mechanism that can reflect the will of the Syrians. This mechanism is called Democracy. Till then we need lotsa patience.
    .

    Posted by Amir in Tel Aviv | July 12, 2010, 7:55 pm
  84. As an academic, Dr. Landis is adequately addressing the political role of HA in relation to Syria-Israeli interactions, by providing facts. 1) He focuses on how HA is dependent on Syria to receive arms. Very few would contest that “reality on the ground”. 2) He mentions the co-dependence of Syria and HA based on mutual interest–Syria’s support of the minority Shi’a in Lebanon is a current strategy, considering its alliance with Iran and its internal ethnic and religious relations. Both of these facts may change, and are described as reflecting the current political situation.

    Unfortunately, people who are not academic specialists bring their own obsessions, and not facts, to their analyses of the region. While I would not question economic analyses by Mr. Karam –or hummus expertise by AIG– I cannot accept as fact Mr. Karam’s obsession with a particularly shallow ideological brand of “freedom” and “democracy.” It is tiring to hear constantly about how Qum is in control of HA, and how the Iranian or the Syrian control the shi’s. etc. This is a racist position that strips all Lebanese shi’a from their national identity and identifies them as foreign agents. I know this is a common popular practice in the Middle East but it is precisely NOT an academic practice.

    Posted by Parrhesia | July 12, 2010, 8:18 pm
  85. ya Prince ya zalame, 3ala mi7lak shweyeh!! ok. My overall wish is to have a workable solution for the arab/israeli conflict, and that’s why I support the Beirut 2002 initiative as a Foundation of the negotiation, and finish this ugly conflict once and for all. Yet it is evident that israel does not want a comprehensive resolution, as it will entail giving up territories acquired by war. Please check the 4th Geneva convention in regards of this issue.

    Bottom line is israel is placing artificial and untenable conditions to hold on to the real estate in question. Asking syria to be a model democracy before you give back the golan sounds very hollow and does not fool anybody, as you seem quite content with the deal you made with egypt & jordan, yet you are not asking for the same. It is simple logic, that’s all.

    You might have a very valid point about how assad is going about things. The current syrian strategy of getting the golan back peacefully is very sloppy to say the least. Syria is trying to have the cake and eat it too when it comes to its insitance on keeping a relationship with HA, Hammas & Iran, regardless of a peace deal with Israel. Simple, Syria should just clarify that after a peace agreement these relatioships, especially the iranian one will be purely economic & void of any military content.

    Remember, syria haven’t shot one bullet since 74 from its front as opposed to Lebanon. So who is carrying this resistance business burden? The thing is syria doesn’t see that its strategy of “remote” resistance is not working. For me this is also not right, as my beloved Lebanon keeps on paying a heavy price from both ends.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | July 12, 2010, 10:17 pm
  86. Ras Beirut,

    First let me say that it is certainly bad that Lebanon has to pay the price of Syria’s “resistance”. But you know, the May 8 camp is about 50% of Lebanese, so I think it is fair to say that Lebanon is also responsible for much of Syria’s “resistance”. Some Lebanese have been useful idiots and have been manipulated by Syria. The issue of “resistance” is an internal problem that Lebanon has to solve eventually, it is not just a Syrian problem.

    Posted by AIG | July 12, 2010, 11:32 pm
  87. Parrhesia #84,
    To mention that Hezbollah is dependent on Syria and Iran is academic but to say that Hezbollah was established by Iran, trained by Iranians funded with Iranian money supplied with Iranian weapons and pays spiritual allegiance to Iran, all of which are facts, is not? You make me laugh.
    BTW, I have never objected to Hezbollahs rights to practice politics in any way they choose provided it is legal, the objection has always been to their illegitimate maintenance of an armed force that is not subject to the laws of the land. And they use that force, financed, trained and supplied illegally to hijack political institutions. The only reason that Lebanon has been holding the so called dialogue about the Hezbollah arms is due to the fact that illegitimacy has wonso far by carrying the larger stick, an illegal one. The law of the jungle might be acceptable to you but it sure is an issue that many will never consider. Might is not right.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 12, 2010, 11:44 pm
  88. #84.”It is tiring to hear constantly about how Qum is in control of HA, and how the Iranian or the Syrian control the shi’s. etc. This is a racist position that strips all Lebanese shi’a from their national identity and identifies them as foreign agents. I know this is a common popular practice in the Middle East but it is precisely NOT an academic practice.”

    Is that the typical HA spin? Anytime you do not like a comment called them racists or collaborators? Feel free to refute that; among other things:

    1. HA was established by the Pasdaran.
    2. HA receives millions annually from Iran (illegally though as HA has never paid taxes lol)
    3. HA’s leader SHN has declared his allegiance to the Willayat el Faqih.
    4. HA’s SHN has pledged that Israel will be bombed by HA in the event of a strike on Iran.
    5. HA’s SHN has volunteered to offer our limbs and lives as a sacrifice at the alter of Khameini.
    6. HA’s leader acted as the head of state of Lebanon when met with Assad & Ahmedinajad in Damascus.
    7. HA’s operatives have been arrested in Yemen; Egypt; Iraq; Afghanistan….

    etc… etc… etc…

    Yes Parrhesia they are acting alone as a huminarian NGO’s…but oops with an affinity to act as a terrorist militia; which it definitely is!

    Posted by danny | July 13, 2010, 9:18 am
  89. 1. HA was established by the Pasdaran – Bull****, it was estb. by Lebanese, learn your history
    2. HA receives millions annually from Iran So? Israel recieves billions from the US, do you see Israel doing what Obama tells it to do? Illegaly? Bull****
    3. HA’s leader SHN has declared his allegiance to the Willayat el Faqih – And Catholics & Maronites follow Papal decrees, so what?
    4. HA’s SHN has pledged that Israel will be bombed by HA in the event of a strike on Iran – Bull****
    5. HA’s SHN has volunteered to offer our limbs and lives as a sacrifice at the alter of Khameini.- Bull****. Shia don’t have altars
    6. HA’s leader acted as the head of state of Lebanon when met with Assad & Ahmedinajad in Damascus – Thats just your jealous take on it. But bull****.
    7. HA’s operatives have been arrested in Yemen – Bull****; Egypt- Yes; Iraq- Bull****; Afghanistan- Bull****…. And so what if they had? Whats it got do with you? Or Lebanon in general?

    “act as a terrorist militia; which it definitely is” – Prove it, but its bull****.

    In fact between the Israelis on here and the friends of Israel on here there is more bull**** than the Pamplona Bull Run.

    Posted by wtf? | July 13, 2010, 11:29 am
  90. wtf,

    Sorry, there is no separate, American-funded militia opperating in Israel outside of the IDF.

    Try again.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 13, 2010, 12:05 pm
  91. wtf or Jihad: Bull****

    Posted by V | July 13, 2010, 12:49 pm
  92. “This is a racist position that strips all Lebanese shi’a from their national identity and identifies them as foreign agents.”

    I think a good number of the Lebanese Shia (and other sects too, actually) have done a fine job stripping themselves from their national identities all on their own, with no help from Ghassan’s “racist position”.

    National identity? Please.
    99% of Lebanese have no “national identity”. Figment of your imagination.

    People with national identities take care of their own interests, not those of Syria, Iran, Israel, the US or France.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 13, 2010, 1:06 pm
  93. BV/V/Danny…
    What I have found out to be very paradoxical is when those like Jihad aka wtf? , adopt a revolutionary vocabulary and apply it to Iran and Hezbollah.
    It is beyond the difficult to make a case that these two manifestations of the same ideology are progressive. The Iranian regime and Hezbollah by association must be one of the most backward and reactionary movements that are intent on recreating a golden past that existed largely in their imagination and on practically a literal interpretation of a holy book. No one who has ever thought to political philosophy , evolution of history, Hegelian dialectics or Marxist historical materialism can ever confuse the leadership of a theocracy with progressive thought. The only reason that many give them a pass on this issue is their obsession and deep rooted enmity to the Great Satan, the US. Guess what , you could be an enemy of the US and be a Nazi and a Fascist . Opposition on a knee jerk reaction basis to the US might be sufficient to build up ones credentials as a revolutionary in some circles but the logic and the flaws in such positions are so deep that they speak more about the pretender than anything else. A revolution that is satisfied by changing those at the top is not a revolution at all, it is a farce.
    Inspite of all the above Hezbollah has the right to its ideas as a political party but why the insistence that the illegal militia is to be not only tolerated but accepted as a daily in your face existence that violates the very principle of state sovereignty and state power? The answer to the question is simple and straight forward, Hezbollah derive their “legitimacy” and power from their illegal arms. They do not trust the citizens and so they enforce their demands at the point of criminal guns.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 13, 2010, 2:17 pm
  94. I am asking out of curiosity and not ridicule:
    Anyone know what happened to the Lebanese flotilla?

    Posted by AIG | July 13, 2010, 2:26 pm
  95. i THINK there was some kind of hitch where Cyprus wouldn’t let them sail out or something.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 13, 2010, 2:54 pm
  96. Probably the organizers are having second thoughts about the timing of a Lebanese love boat to Gaza, since it’s HA sponsored, Israel made it very clear to Lebanon about any such provocations and their consequences.

    Posted by V | July 13, 2010, 3:40 pm
  97. Why would you line up with America and its Allies when they’re so close to the end?

    That makes no sense. Assad knows America is heading towards a wall, he’s better off keeping in with the Iran team.

    Posted by nasrallah | July 13, 2010, 4:24 pm
  98. wtf? You need to find a washroom :D
    Also, you overwhelmed us with your factual rebuttal!! Yasooo!!

    Posted by danny | July 13, 2010, 4:24 pm
  99. America and its allies are so close to the end?

    Wow!

    Just wow!

    The degrees of self-delusion that some people exhibit is just…wow. I have no words.

    While the US may not be the perfectest of perfect places in the world, it’s far from “close to the end”.

    If anyone is “close to the end”, it’s the morally and culturally bankrupt, medieval backwards tyrants of the middle east.

    There’s a reason why all the younger, smarter, ambitious people from that part of the world are choosing to emigrate to the “close to the end” countries to further their education and put their talents to good use. I don’t see a lot of people moving to Iran or Syria or Egypt to accomplish anything productive with their lives.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 13, 2010, 5:11 pm
  100. Racism is about stripping a group of people of their agency and attributing to them sub-human–or inferior–status. “Orientalism” as described by Edward Said would introduce you to this kind of apporach to “othering” that is at work in many discourses–especially in global discourses about “Islam.”

    My point is that an academic analysis does not use “eternal truths” or “generalities” in describing situations but always acknowledges possibilities of change–both historical and human transformations.

    To keep on claiming that Hizbollah is an Iranian or a Syrian agent (it should be described instead within a current context that is suject to change) without acknowledging that this is a “party” or a “popular movement” or whatever you want to call a dispositif like it — there are real people, real political, cultural, and economic forces, etc., involved in what HA is and how it is “becoming”– and not merely a set “ideology” or a simplistic reduction. It is not defined by its origins, leadership, dominant discourses or practices; it should be “described” as such in a particular social-historical situation, or otherwise, the approach is the same as calling all “jews” or all “arabs” this or that –an eternal quality or a particular “charateristic” considered essential. This is definitely a non-academic and a racist apporach.

    Cheers,

    Posted by Parrhesia | July 13, 2010, 6:37 pm
  101. Well let me see if i can reinvigorate this thread that is essentially about Syria.

    What do you think Is Syria back in almost as much of control over Lebanese politics as it was in 2005 but in a more subtle way? Notice all the trips to Damascuss by the PM, Jumblat, Aoun, Suleiman, Nasrallah…Note the lack of any progress on demarcation, Note the never ending supply of illegal weapons to Hezbollah, and finally note that the Lebanese authorities failed to renew the visa of a Syrian political refugee.
    Was there ever a so called Cedar revolution or was the Syrian withdrawl only the result of a misreading by the Syrians of the US reaction at the time?

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 14, 2010, 6:41 pm
  102. “Was there ever a so called Cedar revolution or was the Syrian withdrawl only the result of a misreading by the Syrians of the US reaction at the time?”

    This. In my opinion.
    The withdrawal was but a minor setback. Syria thought, for a moment, that the US was going to push for “regime change” and Bashar would be next after Saddam.
    Once it became clear that was not gonna happen, well…we all know how it played out.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 14, 2010, 7:52 pm
  103. Ghassan & BV,

    That was my comment initially regarding Landis’ assertion about Syria’s desire to have Golan back! On the contrary Syria always wanted the golden goose that is Lebanon. If peace were to break out; between Syria and Israel; the whole dynamic that keeps these tyrants would change; HA will become irrelevant as far as “Lebanese” matters are concerned…
    So why negotiate with Israel over a patch of land where they can have Lebanon??

    Posted by danny | July 15, 2010, 8:11 am
  104. It is becoming more obvious every passing day that Syria never left Lebanon.It looks , and this is total speculation on my part,that Syria did coordinate with Hezbollah prior to its withdrawl from Lebanon. Syrian regular troops move out but Hezbollah fill the vacuum with Iranian and Syrian blessings provided that HA would move their respective agendas forward in Lebanon.

    (I have never taken black helicopters seriously but in this case I just cannot get rid of the idea that Syrian troop withdrawl was a sham. I hope that I am totally wrong)

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 15, 2010, 8:52 am
  105. Ghassan,

    It was rumoured that only the regular rag tag “soldiers” (you would know what I mean had you seen them in “training” in the mornings)pulled out. The mukhabarat just changed their modus operandi and merged into the population areas as regular “syrian labour”.

    As for political influence…You are correct. HA however attained more freedom of decisions and movements in their day to day activities!!

    Posted by danny | July 15, 2010, 9:25 am
  106. There is nothing “black helicopter” about your theory Ghassan. In fact, it would be stupid to assume that after 30 years of infiltrating every aspect of Lebanese society and institutions, the Syrians would just up and leave in any way but a cosmetic one, as Danny pointed out. It’s a pretty well known fact that the “tentacles” remain.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | July 15, 2010, 12:30 pm
  107. Ghassan:

    Did it bother you as much when March 14 politicians would regularly meet with US officials and representatives?

    Posted by Nour | July 15, 2010, 7:18 pm

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