Israel, Lebanon, Syria

Syria Walks the Tightrope

What is it with Bashar al-Assad? One minute, he’s clinking champagne glasses in celebration of Syria’s return to America’s good graces, and the next minute he’s raising a toast with Ahmadinejad and Nasrallah at a Resistance Reunion. The don’t-trust-Syria crowd is having a field day.

There’s something deeply puzzling about this man. Until recently, I was perfectly willing to call him shrewd, but I can’t help but wonder if he isn’t perhaps too clever by half. In 2008, immediately after the signing of the Doha Accord (which was widely portrayed in the international media as an unambiguous victory for Syria’s allies in Lebanon), al-Assad announced that Syria was engaged in peace negotiations with Israel. The timing of the announcement seemed deliberately calculated to restore a kind of balance: it was a signal to the U.S. and Europe that Syria was willing to play ball as long as its interests were protected.

Over the weekend, al-Assad executed another one of his signature swerves when, shortly after meeting with the American envoy, he hosted both Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hassan Nasrallah for a dinner at his palace in Damascus (which, you can bet, probably serves the most delicious food in the Levant). Again, the event seemed designed to keep everybody guessing, although Abdul-Bari Atwan has suggested that the whole purpose of the meeting was to secure Syria’s support to join in a war against Israel, should Iran’s nuclear facilities be bombed.

One wonders how long this balancing act can be sustained, or whether it is likely to yield any strategic returns. I can appreciate Bashar’s desire to accumulate as many cards as he can, but at some point, surely he has to start playing those cards. What happens then? Will he be on a conference call to Ahmadinejad and Mash`al whispering sweet nothings even as he signs a peace deal on the White House lawn?

Certainly Walid al-Mu`allim (Syria’s Foreign Minister) sees no contradictions in his country’s tightrope policy and has no problem envisioning a Syrian embassy in Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, some partisans of the Free Patriotic Movement were disturbed by the sight of Hassan Nasrallah representing Lebanon at a meeting of presidents.

In other news, my buddy Sean has written an excellent piece about Martin Kramer’s proposal to force Palestinians to stop having babies.

Finally, I’ll be in Washington this Friday, speaking at a briefing on Capitol Hill along with Jared Cohen (State Department) and Mona Yacoubian (U.S. Institute of Peace), co-sponsored by the Safadi Foundation and the Project on Middle East Democracy. My stats tell me that a fair number of you people are based in the seat of empire, so if you are in the neighborhood and free at 11am, come on down.

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Discussion

120 thoughts on “Syria Walks the Tightrope

  1. Elias,

    When you have friends or partners, sometimes you do things because they want you to … as long as you don’t go against your values, there is nothing wrong with that.

    You are too young to remember what Hafez Assad and Syria had to go through when Hafez supported Iran against fellow Arab (and Sunni Muslim) Saddam Hussein’s Iraq … can you imagine? … the US was furious, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar …. all needed Saddam to protect them from some future Iranian invasion … and there was Hafez Assad going against Saddam.

    Don’t worry about what Assad said in that conference. Life goes on… read what Zvi Bar’el wrote about it in Haaretz.

    Posted by Alex | March 2, 2010, 6:37 pm
  2. I think Abdel Bari Atwan is being optimistic, and Zvi Bar’el is right. If the Axis of Resistance wants to go to war with Israel, they don’t need to hold a press conference beforehand.

    The real question is why QN hasn’t posted a transcript of the conversation over dinner at Chez Bashar.

    Posted by Imru al-Qays | March 2, 2010, 6:56 pm
  3. Good things come to those who wait. 😉

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 2, 2010, 7:12 pm
  4. What Alex does not understand is that by his actions and commitment to Iran, Bashar is starting to convince me and many other Israelis that we might as well go for regime change in Syria in case of war. Until now I didn’t fully appreciate Bashar’s commitment to his Iranian alliance. But the “resistance summit” plus the visa requirement cancellation has convinced me that Bashar plans to bring the Iranians to Israel’s doorstep and that there is no peaceful way to change his mind. Fair enough. He and Syria should prepare to suffer the consequences.

    Hafez was smart enough not to make the mistakes Bashar is making and though nobody liked him in Israel, he was always preferable to the Muslim Brotherhood. But now Bashar is letting a country with delusions of grandeur that talks about annihilating Israel to make Syria its forward base. That is much more dangerous for Israel than dealing with Islamists running Syria.

    Bashar should take to heart the lesson from Israel attacking his nuclear plant. We will not sit around and wait for the Iranians to plan an attack on us from Syria. We will preempt even at the risk that this leads to total war. And we will see which country is a “spider’s web”.

    Posted by AIG | March 2, 2010, 7:25 pm
  5. What Bar’el article?
    I found this by Marcus:
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1153284.html

    Posted by AIG | March 2, 2010, 7:31 pm
  6. With issues like this:
    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=aj5si5DHQo38&pos=12

    which the Syrians cannot handle, I do not understand Syrian aspirations to be a regional power.

    With the state Syria is in, is it really wise for Bashar to play the brinkmanship games he is playing? The guy is neither shrewd nor smart, he just does not get the reality of his situation.

    Posted by AIG | March 2, 2010, 8:17 pm
  7. The link doesn’t work. Try another one.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 2, 2010, 8:18 pm
  8. Ustaz Qifa Nabki, I’m sure you are happy to see that I decided to answer AIG 🙂

    Ok

    Dear AIG

    “Bashar is starting to convince me and many other Israelis that we might as well go for regime change in Syria in case of war”

    … the visa requirement cancellation has convinced me that Bashar plans to bring the Iranians to Israel’s doorstep and that there is no peaceful way to change his mind. Fair enough. He and Syria should prepare to suffer the consequences.

    Hafez was smart enough not to make the mistakes Bashar is making … now Bashar is letting a country with delusions of grandeur that talks about annihilating Israel to make Syria its forward base.”

    1) The country with delusions of grandeur you are not a fan of (for moral reasons? Because its president is violating the secret understanding that only Israelis are allowed to talk foolishly?) did not start as many OPTIONAL wars like the other (tiny) country that has a more serious case of delusions of grandeur (you guessed it).

    Listen to your language! … “we might as well go for regime change in Syria”

    Go for it AIG! .. I’m sure you are going to leave the comfort of your New Jersey home to enjoy the moment you enter Damascus victorious!

    Can you imagine how amazing that would feel for a proud Israeli like you?

    By the way, 600,000 Iranian tourists visit Syria each year … for the Iranian people Syria is clearly their favorite friend. The least Syria could do was to offer them the same thing that Syria offered Turkey and ALL the Arab countries … from Algeria to Yemen.

    Anyway .. it was a pleasure to experience the reaction from the always brave Israelis like you and Yoel Marcus who now understand (for once) what it feels like when all the Arabs had to endlessly tolerate insults and threats from Israel’s right wing leaders, journalists, and regular people.

    I am certainly not a fan of Ahmadinejad, and especially his comments about he suffering of the Jewish people in Europe, but I do not ignore the good lesson he is teaching you rude, arrogant, and aggressive Israelis when he attacks your current murderous form of Zionism.

    How about we both stop this stupid tone and we both respect UN resolution (something you think you will manage to do forever) and we both simply sign peace and gradually learn to live together in this small neighborhood as equals?

    Can you tolerate that?

    No? … Syria’s GDp is not as high as stupid Israel’s

    That’s ok. Yalla we’re waiting for you to come show us how you will do that regime change you decided to do (because your pride was hurt this week).

    ok, Dinner time for me.

    AIG … yala, come back to tell me how Israel’s army will replicate its successful strike on Syria’s ILLEGAL NUCLEAR WEAPONS project and how your GDP is marvelous …etc.

    Posted by Alex | March 2, 2010, 8:42 pm
  9. Alex

    Fashayt khil2ak? 🙂

    Eh good. Sarlak zaman ma tkhana2et ma3o, bima2anno nafayto min SC. 🙂

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 2, 2010, 8:48 pm
  10. QN,

    Why not use Assads own words in his defense?

    So if he wants to talk turkey with the west he has to turn his back on those that have stood by him?

    I think we Arabs have grazed our foreheads enough at the feet of the West; Its about time someone showed some spine, dignity and self respect. Why should he sell out, especially at a time when another major player, namely Turkey, is going the other way?

    Why do you not (or Iran) demand Turkey break its links with NATO before becoming chums of the Arab world again?

    Why the puzzlement? Its not a balancing act. Its really easy. They wanna talk, he will talk. But leave the strings at home.

    Meanwhile, some partisans of the Free Patriotic Movement were disturbed by the sight of Hassan Nasrallah representing Lebanon at a meeting of presidents.

    That’s the second time you wrote about this so I went and had a look. I’ll happily admit I did not read all 9 pages of comments but did sample a few and from those I found that:

    a- The original poster who was “disturbed” by this admits further on that he is no longer a member of the FPM and left because of its MOU with Hizballah- So i’m guessing he’s a little biased

    b-Most of the posters respond by telling him he is full of it.

    It did not seem to me reflect a general feeling of “disturbance” amongst FPMers, but maybe those were on the pages i didn’t read.

    In regards to the function you are speaking at:
    “What types of U.S. assistance are needed to empower young reformers committed to non-sectarian politics?”

    ???

    Good luck with that one!

    Posted by mo | March 2, 2010, 9:14 pm
  11. QN,

    I like your analogy to accumulating cards vs playing them. I’m genuinely confused about what he sees as his strategic interest. Syria’s a bit of a black box.

    Posted by netsp | March 2, 2010, 10:07 pm
  12. Alex,

    The Iranians can say that they dislike Zionism as much as they like. I don’t mind that. I do mind when they say they want to annihilate me. And when your favorite dictator who you view as a genius invites and tolerates that language, and basically agrees to be a forward base for this project, then all your talk about peace means nothing.

    UN resolutions and international law? How about applying the very basic aspects of international law towards Syrians first? You know, talking about international law while throwing everyone who speaks his mind in jail is just very strange. It means you don’t even understand what international law is.

    I was about 10 years in the IDF. How many years were you in the Syrian army? And in case of war I will be part of it if my reserve unit is called. How about you?

    For you, just stating our position is an insult. When did I ever say I want to annihilate you like your favorite leaders just said in Damascus? When did ANY Israeli politician say something bad about the Syrian people? Our problem is with Asad, not with the Syrian people. You are backward economically because of choices the Asad’s made. Not Israel.

    You want people to live as equals? What does that mean? Does that mean “equal” as Bashar and his family are “equal” to the rest of the Syrians? Don’t you realize how funny you sound, supporting a dictator and talking about equality? How is the Golan stopping you anyway from living as an equal to Israelis? Do we influence in any way what happens in Syria or is it Bashar and his corrupt regime that decide everything?

    Nothing is stopping the Syrians from being as successful as Israel except the insistence of the Syrian elite and you among them, to support a corrupt dictatorship which strangles every bit of creativity of the Syrian people.

    Do you really not get it? Bashar is playing an enormously dangerous game of brinkmanship. And yes, if there is another war, the regime in Damascus will not be the same at the end of it. And you will have no one to blame but yourself and your blind support of Asad.

    Posted by AIG | March 2, 2010, 10:20 pm
  13. Assad has been hangin’ with Walid J and finds himself in a position of walking a tightrope!

    Posted by Col. Aiz | March 2, 2010, 11:09 pm
  14. It would be better for Muhmmad Safadi to spend his money helping his fellows in Tripoli getting out of their misery instead of spending it on empty talks in the US:
    http://www.lactualite.com/monde/les-jeunes-prostitues-de-tripoli

    I am sure that Mona yacoubian will delight those present with her musing about the co-called “Cedar Revolution!”

    Ah yes, empowering the young passes by twittering and facebooking, and not by fighting Zionist occupation of Palestine, US imperialism and their puppets in different Arab capitals.

    Posted by Jihad | March 2, 2010, 11:31 pm
  15. Jihad,
    It is ironic when one rails agaisnst “twittering and facebooking” through blogging don’t you think? 🙂
    So how much do you think co sponsoring such an activity is going to set the Safadi Foundation back? You don’t think that the Safadi foundation is doing enough in Tripoli? And do you think that the sponsorship of this conference will constrain its activities in Lebanon in any way?
    It is always comforting to learn that some want to wage a Jihad (pun intended)and never miss an opportunity to cast aspersions on all sorts of people just because they do not fit a preconceived mold of “fighting Zionist occupation of Palestine, US imperialism and their puppets in different Arab capitals”. Is it possible for anyone to hold a different popint of view than the heroes and courageous men of the resistance without being agents and without “takhween”?

    Posted by ghassan karam | March 3, 2010, 12:23 am
  16. AIG said:

    “For you, just stating our position is an insult. When did I ever say I want to annihilate you like your favorite leaders just said in Damascus?”

    Amazing .. those loaded sentences of yours. Mr. Netanyahu perfected them and all of you learned how to copy his style.

    – Your position above started with declaring your decision to go for a regime change in my country. I’m so impressed that you served for ten years in the Israeli army. Please tell us if you had any serious action and if that resulted in dead Arabs… surely you can imagine (with your ten year experience) that taking the Syrian “dictator” out by Israeli force will result in a lot of dead Syrians.

    – When did my favorite leader (Assad) say that he wants to annihilate you?

    – And if you are claiming that Ahmadinejad is my favorite leader, then again I suggest you take it easy on the “brobaganda”. There aren’t many idiots here.

    Posted by Alex | March 3, 2010, 1:34 am
  17. I’d like to see this post renamed, “Syria walks the line,” and have a black cowboy hat photoshopped onto Asaad.

    Posted by sean | March 3, 2010, 1:35 am
  18. No it isn’t possible Professor.

    So we all better learn how to “graze our foreheads” at the feet of the Iranians now so we become self respecting patriotic Lebanese and free Arabs 🙂

    Posted by V | March 3, 2010, 2:00 am
  19. The Islamic Republic of Iran represents a consistent, steadfast ally, with regional goals that while not identical, intersect in certain ways with Syria.

    Iran is certainly a more reliable ally than any other regional or extra-regional power source.

    Assad shows himself as the only independent ME Arab actor. For that he should be praised, not mocked. Unless, of course, US hegemony and Israeli expansionism is something y’all find perfectly charming.

    Posted by Pirouz | March 3, 2010, 3:18 am
  20. Syria ain’t walking no line, and the talk of Israel changing the regime in Syria is ridiculous, even if Israel could do it, which I doubt.

    It seems to me Israel & Syria have a nice arrangement as it is, they don’t need no stupid peace treaty.

    Syria gets to hold up the banner of ‘resistance’ and mess around with Lebanon, while in fact playing only a side-kick to Iran. Do you think it really matters that much to Israel whether Hamas leaders live in Damascus instead of Teheran or whether the Hizbullah missiles come from a Syrian warehouse instead of an Iranian supply ship?

    Israel & Syria have been engaging in mutual peace-masturbation for years, with the occasional orgasm of mutual saber-rattling. Almost as good as sex, without the associated viral diseases. There is absolutely no intention of getting somewhere on either side.

    Israel gets to keep the Golan status-quo with a border so quiet and safe it puts the borders with Jordan & Egypt to shame.

    Only when one side tries to break the “strategic balance” do you got real, though limited action (e.g. the Syrian nuclear reactor).

    So relax, people. No regime change or “great war” coming our way in the immediate future.

    Another Lebanon war / Gaza war – more likely. But you already know how Syria would react to that…maybe an additional Humus fest, nothing more.

    Posted by G | March 3, 2010, 4:45 am
  21. Funny thing V, is that unlike Clinton and Obama, Ahamadinijad is not demanding Assad not be on good terms with the West to stay on Irans good side.

    Or maybe you did not notice that?

    Posted by mo | March 3, 2010, 6:15 am
  22. AIG,

    It’s not that stating your position is an insult, it’s that the existence of an Apartheid Jewish state in the Middle of what has historically been a religiously very tolerant Middle East is an insult. The Pogroms happened in Europe, not in the Ottoman Empire. So did the Holocaust. The first Crusade massacred far more Jews than Muslims. That we are the ones suffering the consequences of all that is insulting.

    And it’s funny that you talk about Syria being a forward base for Iran. Isn’t your very existence based on your being a forward base for colonialism and for the US? Why do you think they supported you? You and I both know it’s not because they like the Jews. Your most rabid supporters in the US are the ones waiting for your annihilation with the second coming. We’re the ones saying let’s live together in peace.

    The way I see it, the Jews in Israel are now stuck in the middle of a struggle between the Middle East and the West, one that has gone on since Persia first fought Greece, and continued through Mohammad and the Caliphs fighting the Byzantine Empire, the Crusades, the Ottoman expansion into Europe, and most recently colonialism and the West’s counter-expansion. That the Jews formed a national identity while being used as tools for colonialism and Western imperialism is sad and tragic.

    Posted by Firas | March 3, 2010, 6:28 am
  23. The first Crusade massacred far more Jews than Muslims. That we are the ones suffering the consequences of all that is insulting.

    Firas,

    Are you insulted that Muslims have killed orders of magnitude more Muslims than the “Apartheid State” (aka Israel)? Or is Israel’s self-defence the only thing that “insults” you?

    Are you insulted that Saddam killed over 300,000 Iraqis in mass graves? His attack on Kuwait with the support of the PLO?

    http://www.usaid.gov/iraq/legacyofterror.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasion_of_Kuwait

    Are you insulted that Assad killed some 20,000 in Hama?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hama_massacre

    Are you insulted that the Lebanese killed nearly 1/4 million of the fellow Arabs?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebanese_Civil_War

    Are you insulted that Iran and Iraq killed several hundreds of thousands in their war??

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran%E2%80%93Iraq_War

    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 3, 2010, 8:19 am
  24. While I understand you questioning Assad’s moves I can’t help but be surprise that you’re finding them so perplexing. Al Jazeera (english) had a show on this particular subject two days ago and Rime Allaf was one of the guests. She did an excellent job in conveying the very simple message that Syria should never have to choose between Iran and the US. On the contrary it should strive to have both as close as possible.

    I wonder if you’re puzzlement is derived from your belief that Syria can be flipped as many western pundits believe? I used be one of those people and maybe I partly still am, but only in the highly unlikely scenario that the Golan is offered to Syria on a silver platter, along with arms and money. And since there is a higher chance of aliens invading earth tomorrow we need to accept the fact there is little offered to Syria in return for dropping an ally that’s been dependable for decades and could potentially become invaluable if they become a nuclear power

    On the other hand, becoming a strategic ally of the US in the foreseeable future is a fantasy, for many reasons other than Syria’s friendship with Iran.

    Posted by Innocent Criminal | March 3, 2010, 8:38 am
  25. btw my last comment was addressed to QN

    Posted by Innocent Criminal | March 3, 2010, 8:39 am
  26. Firas,

    Another 31 muslims got killed today. But don’t be concerned, worry and/or be “insulted”, Israel didn’t do it.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8546744.stm

    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 3, 2010, 9:38 am
  27. More news from the Apartheid State:

    Residents of Kfar Kassem protest outside Egyptian Embassy in support of kidnapped soldier

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3857331,00.html

    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 3, 2010, 9:55 am
  28. Many people have already commented on the inappropriate title of the main article. I add my voice to those who objected to it. Syria is not walking any tightrope. Assad is walking confidently in an open courtyard that is only bound to become more open as the new ME predicted by his guest Mr. Nejjad becomes more real. Where have you been Elias? Have you gone to sleep while insisting on lamenting standing up? I thought that your rationale for insisting on standing up while doing so was simply to keep awake. You seem to have got tired and you should listen to Abi Nawwas and seriously think about taking a rest and sit down (ijlis w ibki).
    My dear friend, Elias, The US is on the run in Iraq and soon it will be in Afghanistan. Iraq is in shambles and is a ready fruit to be harvested by Iran once the US is gone. The democratic experiment is a joke and not even Sultan Qabus would think of it as an imminent threat to his rule. The last show of force in Afghanistan is just the final straw before throwing the gauntlet, calling it quit, declare hollow victory in the media, hand the mess over to the Afghans and quietly swallow the American pride. It all boils down to this, Elias. Resistance has won and Assad has a lot to be proud of with his Culture of Resistance getting the ultimate vindication for having defeated the arrogance of the empire where you will be speaking the empty words (thanks Jihad) from its seats very soon about the effects of blogging on civil activism in the ME and dining with few Arab expats who know not what the hell their old countries really need and can only offer the wretched (of Tripoli, thanks Jihad again) the extravagance of a blogosphere as a means to presumably better themselves.
    Nejjad is right. A new ME is on the Horizon. It is a Middle East free of Zionism, American imperialism, Arab cronyism, proud of its Culture of Resistance and contemptuous of so-called western democracy (yak, what is this supposed to mean?) You on the other hand can go to the seat of the empire and theorize about its achievements in implanting impotent democracy by insisting on lamenting while standing up.
    And so what difference does it make if few FPMers objected to Nasrallah representing Lebanon in Damascus? Who counts these morons to be of any relevance, any way? Isn’t Nasrallah the pride of Lebanon, Arabia and the whole of the Muslim World and the hero of the Resistance?

    Regards,
    Mustapha

    Posted by Ijlisa Nabki | March 3, 2010, 10:25 am
  29. Pragmatism? 🙂

    Posted by Voice from Brazil | March 3, 2010, 10:26 am
  30. It seems that there are several things to respond to.

    First, to the basic argument (expressed by Mo and Innocent Criminal, among others) that Syria should not have to choose between the United States and Iran. I don’t believe that it does, either. Plenty of countries have relations with both the United States and Iran. But as I am frequently reminded by my friends at Syria Comment, Syria is not like many of these other countries (Turkey, Qatar, UAE, etc.) Syria is not interested in sitting on the fence, or having an ambiguous relationship with Israel like Turkey, Qatar, and the UAE.

    As I wrote on SC: “Qatar has a huge American military base and an Israeli trade office. Dubai embarrasses the Mossad one week, but also cuts military deals with the IDF. Turkey gets into a little shouting match with Israel one year, but the only reason anyone notices is because they have had strong relations since 1949.”

    So Syria is in a different position than these countries. That doesn’t mean that it can’t pursue a foreign policy that embraces both resistance and engagement with the West. I’m just wondering how far it will get Syria. How successful has this strategy really been, looking back over the past several decades? Time and time again, it’s been relatively easy for Israel and its allies in the United States to portray Syria as the big bad state sponsor of terror, even during periods when there was overt cooperation between Washington and Damascus (in Lebanon in the 1990’s, for example).

    So my post was not an argument that Syria should “flip” one way or the other. I just don’t know how far the current policy is going to get them.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 3, 2010, 10:46 am
  31. Ijlisa Nabki said:

    “Assad is walking confidently in an open courtyard that is only bound to become more open as the new ME predicted by his guest Mr. Nejjad becomes more real.”

    How, specifically, is this new Middle East going to help Mr. Assad achieve his foreign policy goals? And what are its features?

    “My dear friend, Elias, The US is on the run in Iraq and soon it will be in Afghanistan. Iraq is in shambles and is a ready fruit to be harvested by Iran once the US is gone. The democratic experiment is a joke and not even Sultan Qabus would think of it as an imminent threat to his rule. The last show of force in Afghanistan is just the final straw before throwing the gauntlet, calling it quit, declare hollow victory in the media, hand the mess over to the Afghans and quietly swallow the American pride. It all boils down to this, Elias. Resistance has won and Assad has a lot to be proud of with his Culture of Resistance getting the ultimate vindication for having defeated the arrogance of the empire…”

    Wow, you’re giving Assad a lot of credit. 🙂

    Not only is he responsible for a culture of resistance in Syria and Lebanon, he is also to be thanked for defeating the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan, and who knows where else. Maybe if you share the Koolaid you’re drinking with me, I’ll have an easier time staying awake.

    But more seriously, do you really think that a country’s foreign policy is about defeating the “arrogance of empire”. I can guarantee you that Muallim has much more concrete matters to worry about.

    If resistance is working so well for Assad, why would he risk tarnishing Syria’s credentials by pursuing peace talks? Why would he suggest to the international media that he could even bring Hamas and Hizbullah to the table?

    “A new ME is on the Horizon. It is a Middle East free of Zionism, American imperialism, Arab cronyism, proud of its Culture of Resistance and contemptuous of so-called western democracy”

    I love it: Bashar al-Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadijenad are going to rid the Arab world of cronyism. Bashar’s cousin Rami Makhlouf owns half of Syria and Ahmadinejad is owned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who themselves own half of Iran.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 3, 2010, 11:01 am
  32. Elias,

    Why do people not ask the same question of Turkey, which is in a very similar position to Syria except moving in an inverse direction?

    The point Syria is making is it is willing to move in the direction the west would like but it sees no benefit in doing so conditionally. Giving up the strategic alliances it has in return for what?

    The Syrians believe the west needs them more than they need the west right now. Their policy has so far opened doors to Turkey and the EU.

    I don’t think you can compare Assad the younger with past policies. I think he is far more media savvy and he and his wife have done a good job of portraying themselves as cultured and mature people.

    Assad senior was from another era and preffered the hammer to the scalpel. His son is of a different cloth; Israel and its friends in the media have run a non-stop campaign in painting Syria as the bad guys but its just hasn’t worked – Now they are trying raproachment but with strings attached.

    In this scenario, either the west plays by Syrias rules of the game or Syria won’t play. The Syrian reach out though is progressing well enough now I think for them to believe that the US cannot put them back in the box they were in 2 years ago.

    Posted by mo | March 3, 2010, 11:11 am
  33. Firas,
    We may not be living in the same middle east.
    Syria is an apartheid state where the Alawite minority rules over the others. Egypt is extremely intolerant of its Copts. Saudi Arabia won’t let a church be built there and preaches wahabism. In Iraq, the Shia and Sunni are at each other’s throats while millions of Iraqi Christians have been displaced out of fear for their lives. In Lebanon the Christians get more votes per capita than the other sects and you can’t be the PM or President if you are Shia.

    You are talking about a religiously tolerant middle east???

    You do not even understand Israel. I am an atheist Jew. Israel is extremely tolerant religiously. Your framing of the problem is completely wrong.

    You have got one thing right. The Jews have developed a national identity. You can either accept that and we can live in peace, or you can reject that and have war. That is the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It will not end until the Arabs accept a Jewish state in the middle east.

    Posted by AIG | March 3, 2010, 11:20 am
  34. It’s easy to change the regime in Syria. Just destroy assets of the security apparatus (building, storage, etc..). Once the people of Syria see that their oppressors are paralyzed, they would begin to march towards freedom. After fear is eliminated and Syrians know their records have been destroyed, they will act. That is step one and the most important.

    Posted by Farid Ghadry | March 3, 2010, 11:20 am
  35. Mo said:

    “Why do people not ask the same question of Turkey, which is in a very similar position to Syria except moving in an inverse direction?”

    Mo, Turkey made peace with Israel over 60 years ago. They do joint military training exercises!! Do you understand what that means? The Turks help the Israeli army get better at oppressing the Palestinians, to use resistance-speak. What do you mean that Turkey is in a similar position to Syria? The position could not be more different!

    I know Turks who are angry at their government for deviating from a strategic policy towards Israel that (according to them) has served Turkey very well for decades. The reality is completely different between Syria and Israel. If Ankara was hosting Mash`al, routinely inviting Ahmadinejad and Nasrallah to state dinners, and sending arms shipments to Hezbollah, I think that the world would have a different attitude towards Turkey. Let’s be serious, man.

    Your argument is that Bashar’s strategy is actually a very good one, because it has allowed him to cultivate relations with Europe and Turkey and some Arab states again, without relinquishing his strategic relationships with Iran, Hizbullah, and Hamas, etc.

    I completely agree that Bashar has played his cards very well (as I said above, I have long considered him to be very shrewd). However, my point is that I really wonder how far he can ride this train. If he just wants to improve relations with the Europeans and other regional countries, it’s a fine strategy. But what about regaining the Golan? What about the conflict with Israel? Etc.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 3, 2010, 11:24 am
  36. At least Ahmadinejad (and Bashar) is an educated person unlike the dumb Yale and Harvard graduate, George W. Bush. The latter, in spite of his utter ignorance (as many of his fellow citizens), owns half if not all of Texas and his cronies own and control most of the US. No one is blind to the deficiencies of the regimes in both Iran and Syria. But by far, they are better than the regimes run by dummies in Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia who, in turn, are still run by policies put forward by a dumb Yale and Harvard graduate whose successor is even dumber, although he is a Harvard graduate, thinks of himself as a “community organiser” while giving billions of people money to mafiosos on Wall Street.

    Posted by Jihad | March 3, 2010, 11:37 am
  37. Jihad

    Tell me, where are you writing from? Are you in Syria or Iran? Surely those would be far better places to live than the West, given that Texas is owned by George Bush and President Obama is so much dumber than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. How’s the weather in Tehran? Or Damascus?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 3, 2010, 11:41 am
  38. Ah yes, and step two Farid Ghadry will enter Damascus on his white horse to find 3 or 5 people at max waiting to salute his dignified courage. Even Abdel Halim Khadam enjoying champagne and croissant in Paris did not come with such a deep strategic formula.

    Posted by Jihad | March 3, 2010, 11:47 am
  39. This is an easy argument about where I live or do not live.

    Posted by Jihad | March 3, 2010, 11:48 am
  40. So I assume you live in the West. Tell me, what is like to be so oppressed? How can you stand it?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 3, 2010, 11:50 am
  41. To Jihad,
    It’s easy to be sarcastic. I was hoping you can manage a good response, which I know you can, to have a meaningful and intelligent conversation.

    Posted by Farid Ghadry | March 3, 2010, 11:52 am
  42. Elias,

    Maybe I was unclear by what I meant by “in an inverse direction”. That is to say they are doing what Syria is doing but the other way round, ie replace Syria with Turkey, replace Israel and the US with Iran and Hizblaah and vice versa.

    So while Syria stays allied and arms Israels opponents while talking about peace and getting closer to its regional and traditional enemies, so Turkey arms and trains with Syria and Irans opponents wjile opening up to them.

    Do you get my point?

    Your argument is that Bashar’s strategy is actually a very good one

    Not really no. My argument is that his strategy has worked for Syria so far – Whether its a good one for Syria and for Assad only time will tell.

    However, my point is that I really wonder how far he can ride this train

    But my point is he does not see himself as being on a train. He is letting the train come to him (to feebly contiue the analogy:))

    If all he gets is improved relations with the Europeans and other regional countries, that works for Syria, in fact I would argue that thats the more important goal for Syria as a nation.

    Syria has lived without the Golan long enough to not miss it. The return of it for peace is a matter of pride not neccessity. There are no real economic or in fact military gains to be had from the Golan; But that is the price for peace, not being told whom they can and cannot have ties with. As for the conflict with Israel, well, Syria has managed to stay out of it for a long time. I doubt that they envisage a huge difference in their situation if the their border was one of peace.

    After all, he only needs to look at Jordan and Egypt to see the abundant dividends peace has brought those nations.

    Posted by mo | March 3, 2010, 11:57 am
  43. QN,

    Every few years I re-read Ajami’s “The Arab Predicament” which was first published in 1981.

    It is just amazing how very little changes in the intellectual landscape of the Arab world. The same mantras of 40 and 60 years ago are still being repeated. It is just surreal.

    As for the categories of Arab thinking that Ajami identified in 1981 I think actually nothing has changed:
    1) You have the Western leaning liberals that are discredited by America’s inability to bring peace to the middle east.
    2) You have the Arab Nationalists discredited by 1967 but still holding on to their impossible utopia.
    3) You have the resistance to the West and Colonialism guys (recycling George Habash but not as funny). They are discredited by the fact that they are not constructive. This movement does not build, it only tears down.
    4) You have the traditionalists, (Hariri and the Gulf Arabs) that are scared of all the movements above and have accepted more influence of radical religion in order to retain power. They are discredited as the fathers of Al-Qaeda and because of their dependence on the US.
    5) And you have the Islamists. The Muslim Brotherhood and its off shots. I think the Arab world has not made up its mind yet as to the success of this ideology.

    We need some new thinking!

    Posted by AIG | March 3, 2010, 12:06 pm
  44. Here’s what the Leverett’s have to say on the subject:

    Last week, just after we had completed our regional tour to Beirut, Damascus, and Tehran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made his own journey to Damascus, for highly publicized meetings with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, HAMAS Political Bureau chief Khalid Mishal, and a “resistance” summit with Assad and Hizballah Secretary General Shaykh Hassan Nasrallah. Ahmadinejad’s trip to Damascus came on the heels of public statements by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Capitol Hill reiterating longstanding American demands on Syria

    “for greater cooperation with respect to Iraq, the end to interference in Lebanon and the transport or provision of weapons to Hizballah, a resumption of the Israeli/Syrian track on the peace process which had been proceeding through the offices of the Turks, and generally to begin to move away from the relationship with Iran which is do deeply troubling to the region as well as to the United States”.

    As Presidents Assad and Ahmadinejad signed agreements suspending visa requirements for Syrian nationals traveling to Iran and Iranians traveling to Syria, the Syrian leader responded to Secretary Clinton’s demand that Syria roll back its relations with the Islamic Republic:

    “We must have understood Clinton wrong because of bad translation or our limited understanding, so we signed the agreements to cancel the visas. I find it strange that they [Americans] talks about Middle East stability and peace and the other beautiful principles and call for two countries to move away from each other”.

    A week before Ahmadinejad’s arrival in Damascus, we had our own conversation with President Assad—a conversation that came one day after U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns met with the Syrian leader. In our session with him, Assad expressed satisfaction over his meeting with Undersecretary Burns. However, Assad also made clear that Syria’s relations with Iran, as well as its ties to Hizballah and HAMAS, are not on the table.

    Syria’s relationship with the Islamic Republic seems increasingly strategic in character. Over the past year, key advisers to President Assad have told us as much; one of them went so far as to describe Syrian-Iranian relations with the French adjective, “intime”. If the Obama Administration is unable or unwilling to acknowledge this reality and the regional dynamics that have given rise to it, the already limited effectiveness of American diplomacy in the Middle East will be further undermined.

    To understand Syria’s increasingly strategic partnership with Iran, a bit of history is in order. The late Hafiz al-Assad inaugurated Syria’s relationship with the Islamic Republic during the Iran-Iraq war. The elder Assad was motivated to side with the Islamic Republic by several considerations, including his interest in winning Iranian clerical endorsement for his Alawi sect’s Islamic legitimacy while he confronted a Sunni Islamist insurgency at home and his interest in resisting American efforts to bolster Iraq as a bulwark against Iran. This latter interest flowed naturally from Assad’s chronic concern about his country’s potential strategic marginalization by the United States and Israel. As Flynt described this concern five years ago in his Inheriting Syria: Bashar’s Trial By Fire,

    “The Assad regime’s inclination to challenge U.S. Middle East policy has not stemmed primarily from the personal obstreperousness of Syrian leaders, but from a particular assessment of what defending Syrian interests required in the face of the U.S. posture toward the region. The United States is, of course, the chief external backer of the state of Israel—from a Syrian perspective, an expansive power seeking regional hegemony. U.S. military and political support has been critical to allowing Israel to expand its territorial holdings and occupy these lands in defiance of what Syrian leaders frequently describe as “international legitimacy”.

    “From a Syrian vantage point, U.S. policy in the Middle East for much of the last thirty-five years has aimed principally at ensuring Israel’s ability to consolidate and maintain its hegemonic position in the region. Given this interpretation of the underlying rationale for America’s Middle East policy, the Assad regime has long been concerned to forestall a worst-case scenario in which Syria would be encircled by regimes hostile to its interests, allied to the United States, and docile toward Israel (that is, a Lebanon that has made a separate peace with Israel, a pro-Western Turkey cooperating strategically with the Jewish state, an Iraq with a regime supported by and supportive of the United States, a Jordan ruled by pro-American Hashemites who have sold out the Palestinian cause and forged security ties to Israel, and a rump Palestinian entity). Under these conditions, Syria would be marginalized in regional affairs, with other states free to ignore or undermine its interests.”

    Seen through this prism, cooperation with Iran proved enormously valuable to Syrian interests during the balance of Hafiz al-Assad’s tenure, on multiple fronts—resisting U.S. and Israeli military incursions in Lebanon; cultivating Hizballah as a military and political asset; using Palestinian Islamist resistance groups like Islamic Jihad and HAMAS to press the United States, Israel, and the PLO not to neglect Syrian interests in the Arab-Israeli peace process; and, in general, underscoring the potential costs to the United States, Israel, and other regional actors of ignoring or threatening Syria’s regional interests. Nevertheless, at the end of Hafiz al-Assad’s life, the Syrian-Iranian relationship still seemed as much tactical as strategic in character.

    Following the end of Cold War, the elder Assad’s preferred strategic option was a peace settlement with Israel that, under appropriate circumstances and with firm parameters for an acceptable deal, could be negotiated bilaterally under U.S. mediation. Assad saw such a course as instrumental to achieving his real post-Cold War foreign policy objective—a fundamental strategic realignment toward the United States, which had emerged from the Cold War as a superpower of seemingly unprecedented proportions. In his last years in office, the elder Assad seemed prepared to modify significant aspects of Syria’s relationship with Iran, including Syrian ties to Hizballah and Palestinian militant groups, as part of the “price” for an acceptable peace deal with Israel and strategic rapprochement with the United States. (Of course, this hypothesis was never put to the test, as the Syria track effectively collapsed just two months before Assad’s death in 2000).

    Bashar al-Assad’s accession to the Syrian presidency in 2000 took place near the beginning of what has proven to be a still ongoing period of dramatic shifts in the Middle East’s strategic environment. These shifts include the effective collapse of the traditional Arab-Israeli peace process, the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, the rise of Hizballah and HAMAS as important political actors in their national and regional contexts, the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri in Lebanon, and the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza as well as subsequent Israeli military campaigns in Lebanon and Gaza. In a previous post, we have described these developments as conditioning the emergence of a new regional “Cold War”.

    Following Ahmadinejad’s election in 2005, the Islamic Republic was able to take advantage of these developments to effect a significant boost in its own regional standing. And, as we and our colleague Ben Katcher have discussed in a number of posts (here, here, here and here), Turkey has intensified its diplomatic engagement in the Middle East, in ways not always congruent with U.S. strategic preferences, thereby boosting its own regional standing.

    For Bashar al-Assad, these developments have created both enormous challenges and, over time, new strategic opportunities. In this context of daunting challenges and emerging opportunities, Syria’s diplomatic calculations have shifted in at least three important ways during Bashar’s presidency; one consequence of these shifting diplomatic calculations has been an ever greater inclination in Damascus to see Syria’s relationship with the Islamic Republic as a unalloyed strategic partnership.

    First, Syria’s ties to regional “resistance” forces—including groups like Hizballah and HAMAS that are also closely linked to Iran—have taken on an increasingly strategic character during Bashar’s tenure. As we have discussed previously, with the removal of Syrian military forces from Lebanon following the Hariri assassination, Hizballah has become an even more valuable asset for Syria. Similarly, on the Palestinian front, it is hard to imagine that, at this point, Bashar would agree to expel Khalid Mishal from Syria as part of a purely bilateral peace settlement with Israel—as, it would seem, his father had been prepared to do. (For our assessment of the strategic implications of HAMAS’s rise as a force in Palestinian politics, click here.)

    On this point, it is noteworthy that, since late 2008, Bashar has adopted a rhetorical position on Arab-Israeli issues emphasizing the need for a “comprehensive” Arab-Israeli settlement, along the lines indicated in the 2002 Arab League peace initiative, and with HAMAS playing a central role on the Palestinian side. When we asked him about this evolution in his rhetoric, President Assad said that, if Israel were prepared to conclude a peace treaty with Syria meeting his longstanding requirements (full return of the occupied Golan Heights to the June 4, 1967 line, etc.), he “could not say ‘no’.” He noted, though, that, while Israel could get a “peace treaty” with Syria, such a settlement would give Israel little more than a “ceasefire” and, perhaps, a heavily guarded embassy in Damascus. For real “peace”, according to President Assad, Israel will need to negotiate a comprehensive settlement, including on the Palestinian track.

    Second, the Islamic Republic has proven its steadfastness to Syria in recent years. Syria and Iran were the two regional states which argued most vociferously that the United States would face serious difficulties in its occupation of post-Saddam Iraq, and their stance was widely viewed in the region as having been vindicated by events. More practically, Syria’s ties to Iran were critical in fending off the heavy pressure applied on the Assad regime by the United States, most of Europe, and moderate Arab states in the wake of the Hariri assassination. As another of Bashar’s advisers said to me recently, it would be hard for Syria to forsake Iran, as Iran, in the period following Hariri’s assassination, had “stood by us when no one else did”. This should not be interpreted as a sentimental statement. Rather, it is a statement that, in an uncertain strategic environment, Syria will continue to need the “hedge” provided by its close relationship with the Islamic Republic.

    Third, the perceived value in Damascus of strategic realignment with the United States through a carefully conditioned peace deal with Israel is slowly declining as America’s hegemonic standing and influence erode. Certainly, the Syrian leadership was relieved by President George W. Bush’s departure from office and his replacement by President Obama. But, with a right-leaning coalition headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in power in Israel, expectations in Damascus for what Syria would see as major improvements in America’s Middle East policy are not high. And, as President Assad noted to us, poor policy choices in the Middle East by the United States over the last decade have created “vacuums” which “others [Iran and Turkey] filled”. (In this context, Assad argued that Iran’s evolving regional role does not represent “new ambitions” on Tehran’s part.) This has expanded Syria’s strategic optionality. In this context, Assad underscored that the rise of Iran and Turkey to new levels of regional influence has not come at Syria’s expense; rather, all three states have been able to improve their own relations and bolster their regional influence.

    This is not to say that Hafiz al-Assad’s preferred strategic option of realignment toward the West through a “principled” peace with Israel does not remain deeply attractive to his son and successor. But, the longer that Damascus must wait for the United States to deliver on its end of the peace process, the more time that Bashar and his advisers have to internalize what they see as the reality of America’s slow decline. And that has a palpable effect on the price they are willing to pay for realizing Hafiz al-Assad’s preferred strategic option.

    In closing, we would note that we had not had an in-depth meeting with President Assad for five years. Flynt’s Inheriting Syria—for which he interviewed President Assad—was published in 2005, shortly after the Hariri assassination. At the time, many U.S. and Western commentators were predicting the downfall of the Assad regime. We visited Damascus in June 2005, immediately following the withdrawal of Syrian military forces from Lebanon, to observe the Ba’ath Party congress. We came away from that visit convinced—contra the conventional wisdom in Washington—that the Lebanon withdrawal had been well internalized in Syria, that President Assad was more in control of the Syrian government than he had been before Hariri’s assassination, and that U.S.-French efforts to isolate Syria from regional affairs would ultimately fail. That assessment has been powerfully validated with the passage of time. Bashar al-Assad has weathered the storm unleashed in the aftermath of the Hariri assassination and has emerged as a masterful player of the regional game. It is striking that many of the people who argued in 2005 that the Syrian leadership was internally conflicted and uniquely vulnerable to external pressure are now making the same arguments about the Islamic Republic of Iran. They were wrong then; they are wrong now.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 3, 2010, 12:16 pm
  45. Elias

    I was going to quote Leverett, so I’m happy you did.

    He is proud to say that unlike Dennis Ross 9he did not name him) he (Leverett) believed in Assad’s wisdom even at the lowest point in 2005

    I also want to comment on something you wrote earlier.

    Do you know that even abdel Rahman Al-Rashed, Saudi Arabia chief propagandist (head of MBC and Al-Arabiya) and harsh critic of Syria, eventually admitted in Asharq Alawsat:

    ربما سورية نفسها لا تدري حجم ما حققته باستخدام هذه الجماعات في ثلاثة اتجاهات جغرافية. سورية عمليا هي من هزم الولايات المتحدة في العراق أكثر من أي بلد آخر في العالم. من خلال فتح الباب للجماعات المتطرفة، بشكل منظم ومستمر، ألحقت خسائر هائلة بالوجود العسكري الأميركي في العراق بشكل لم يتنبأ به أي سياسي في البيت الأبيض. وقد برهنت دمشق بنفس الوسيلة، ولكن بدرجة أقل، على انها قادرة على التأثير على الوضع ضد اسرائيل، لولا أن الأخيرة ترسم خطوطا حمراء في تحمل الخسائر، ولا تبالي بأي قوانين في الرد على ما تعتبره مصدر الخطر على أمنها

    “Syria, in effect, can take the credit more than anyone else for defeating the United States in Iraq”

    So there you have it … an American and a Saudi telling you the same thing that the proud Syrians have been saying 🙂

    Posted by Alex | March 3, 2010, 12:28 pm
  46. And the problem is that the Israelis still don’t get it. As noted above, they still believe its the Arabs whose mindset has to change.

    Yes, Mustapha may have oversold it, but the Resistance 3 (see they are a brand now) have already changed what the west likes to call the balance of power in the region. In 1981 the most Israel had to contend with was corrupt little man leading a weak organisation professing to be the liberators of Palestine. Compare that to the forces ranged against them today.

    Ironically, Israel has, as a result, become more resistant to peace, less willing to sacrifice anything to get peace, which works out great for those of us opposed to the little colonial project.

    US influence is one the wane, the voices ranged against the full on support of the US for Israel in the US get louder all the time.

    So seriously, if you are head of state of a country on the forefront of all this, why in the world would you give up your relationship with the people on the up so that you could get into bed with the people on the wane?

    Posted by mo | March 3, 2010, 12:29 pm
  47. Alex

    The Saudi is not saying anything different than what the Americans had been saying: that Syria was basically responsible for encouraging the insurgency and sheltering its leadership.

    I think this is different from “admitting” to Syria’s great vision. 🙂

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 3, 2010, 12:34 pm
  48. Mo

    In the 70’s the Israelis faced the armies of an entire region. Today, there’s only Syria, which hasn’t fired a bullet at an Israeli soldier for over thirty years.

    There’s a reason that they see no urgency to seek a peace deal. Where is the pressure coming from?

    Hezbollah has gone to great pains to insist to the Lebanese that it does not want a war and that it will not use its weapons offensively. Syria clearly has no plans to attack Israel, and no one else is offering their services. So how has the balance of power changed?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 3, 2010, 12:47 pm
  49. Mo,
    You are repeating EXACTLY the same things the Arabs said in the seventies. The US was on the wane, stuck in Vietnam, the oil embargo worked etc. etc.

    Your problem is that you do not understand what power is. Both Iran and Syria are regimes that are at war with their own population. Both are failing economies. There is very little innovation coming out of Syria and Iran. Syria cannot handle the problems associated with its drought.

    Keep dreaming though. Your rhetoric is no different than that of 40 and 60 years ago. The forces of resistance are on the rise and the US and Israel are on the wane. I am sure that in 40 years there will be Arabs like you saying exactly the same thing.

    The difference between Israel/US and the “resistance” is structural. Israel and the US make plenty of mistakes, but their societies are flexible ones that learn from mistakes and innovate. They do not devote a huge percentage of GDP to oppress their own people like your favorite states. They devote a huge percentage of GDP to research. In fact, Israel devotes the highest percentage of GDP in the world to research.

    So until there are fundamental structural changes in Iran and Syria, they will never even come close to being as powerful even as Israel let alone the US.

    Posted by AIG | March 3, 2010, 12:57 pm
  50. This is an amusing opinion piece, remarkably complimentary of Assad. Here’s the last paragraph:

    “The current US and French policy is convincing Assad that duplicity pays and that Syria can count on America’s fear of a nuclear Iran and on France’s economic interests to continue its successful juggling. One wonders what else needs to happen for Barack Obama to understand that Assad will not help him on Iran. The only thing Assad can do for his American counterpart is to check his eyesight. Unfortunately, there is no worse blind man than he who does not want to see.”

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 3, 2010, 12:58 pm
  51. Elias 7abibi you are being argumentative here. Bas baseeta, we love you.

    Did I claim that Al-Rashed was “admitting to Syria’s great vision”?

    I copied that quote simply to follow up on your earlier comment in which you wrote:

    “Wow, you’re giving Assad a lot of credit. 🙂

    Not only is he responsible for a culture of resistance in Syria and Lebanon, he is also to be thanked for defeating the United States in Iraq,”

    The obvious point is that Al-Rashed himself gave Assad credit for defeating the United States in Iraq, which you found to be unreasonable.

    Posted by Alex | March 3, 2010, 12:58 pm
  52. Alex

    You’re absolutely right. He did give Assad credit for doing that, and maybe he was right to do so.

    Is it any wonder that the U.S. and Syria can’t get along?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 3, 2010, 1:01 pm
  53. Elias,
    Your kidding right?

    In the 70’s and eighties Israel and the IDF were the invincible power. They “defeated” the might of the Arab armies and rolled into a heavily weaponised Lebanon with ease.

    The greatest threat an Israeli faced in Tel Aviv in war time was missing their tv show because of an extended news bulletin. If there is a next time, those people will actually have to find out where their shelters are.

    In those days, Israels wars weer measured in days and weeks.

    In the last five years, they went to a barrel-shoot in Gaza and destroyed the barrel while missing all the fish. They wouldn’t even risk going into any towns.

    In Lebanon, they fought and (lets be charitable) didn’t win the longest war in their history, despite continuosly downgrading their targets in order to call a “win”. Their much vaunted infantry was held at bay for four weeks by the village battalions!

    And now they scream and shout about Iran going nuclear.

    Syria doesnt need to actually take part in the fighting. It is doing enough as the bridgehead and the facillitator.

    So while no-one is threatening Israel, the consequences of its adventures are now very different to the 70’s.

    AIG,
    And you are thinking like an Israeli of 40 years ago. In fact no, you are worse, Israel of 40 years ago would hae accepted the Beirut Peace plan.

    It is your arrogance and beleif in your power that lets you believe that you can colonise other peoples land and get away with it forever.

    It is your arrogance and belief in your power that lets you think that the Paestinians will sign and accept a peace that gives them 29% of their original homeland.

    And you know very little of what is happening in Syria and Iran if you believe they are not taking massive steps to build their r&d and are at war with their own population – Maybe you should try reading less biased media for your data.

    But lets talk again, not in 40 years but in 10 years.

    Posted by mo | March 3, 2010, 1:13 pm
  54. Elias,

    What Syria did from 2003 to 2008 is not more of a challenge to the US than what Hafez Al-Assad was doing on and off for thirty years, whenever he felt that the United States is implementing dangerous Israeli Likud strategies in the Middle East.

    He led the Arab world’s boycott of Egypt after it signed Camp David (for ten years 1978 to 1988) … he opposed American/Arab efforts to help Saddam defeat Iran in 1980-1988, … he turned George Shultz into his enemy after Shultz’ “peace” (under Israeli occupation) agreement between Lebanon and Israel was scrapped …

    But after all of that, he joined the United States’ coalition that successfully got Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait without occupying Iraq! … a key Assad demand for joining the coalition.

    And he had a very good working relationship with President Clinton… during the 90’s Assad worked with Mubarak and Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to manage the Middle East with America’s blessing for his role.

    The same cooperation can be expected now … why not?

    Posted by Alex | March 3, 2010, 1:17 pm
  55. It seems we’re back talking about Israel. *sigh*

    This is about the point where I get bored.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 3, 2010, 1:20 pm
  56. Alex

    Read the Leveretts on why Hafiz was able to have a good working relationship with Clinton:

    Following the end of Cold War, the elder Assad’s preferred strategic option was a peace settlement with Israel that, under appropriate circumstances and with firm parameters for an acceptable deal, could be negotiated bilaterally under U.S. mediation. Assad saw such a course as instrumental to achieving his real post-Cold War foreign policy objective—a fundamental strategic realignment toward the United States, which had emerged from the Cold War as a superpower of seemingly unprecedented proportions. In his last years in office, the elder Assad seemed prepared to modify significant aspects of Syria’s relationship with Iran, including Syrian ties to Hizballah and Palestinian militant groups, as part of the “price” for an acceptable peace deal with Israel and strategic rapprochement with the United States. (Of course, this hypothesis was never put to the test, as the Syria track effectively collapsed just two months before Assad’s death in 2000).

    The world has changed. Is Bashar, like his father, willing to “modify significant aspects of Syria’s relationship with Iran, including Syrian ties to Hizballah and Palestinian militant groups, as part of the “price” for an acceptable peace deal with Israel and strategic rapprochement with the United States” ?

    That is what Hillary asked of Bashar, and he turned her down.

    Bashar clearly believes that the US is not so powerful anymore as to warrant his modification of relations with Iran, Hizbullah, and Hamas. He thinks that Syria will gain more by sticking with resistance.

    In my opinion, it will be difficult for Syria to sustain a strategy of full-blooded membership in the resistance camp while seeking strong relations with the US. Realistically speaking, I just don’t see it. Something has to give: either Bashar walks away from the Americans because they’re asking too much, or he does what his father did in the 90’s. I personally believe that he will do the former, because the world has changed significantly.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 3, 2010, 1:28 pm
  57. When alls said and done, Israel is the elephant in any room on a discussion on the ME, but when its a discussion on how the US wants to peel a member of the “axis of evil” off that axis, its all about Israel. After all, why else would the US care?

    So when we talk about where is Assad going with this tightrope, what we are really saying is what can the US offer him to get him to step off it on the Western side for the sake of Israel.

    What I think some of us are saying is that if UsIsrael wants Assad at the table, they are going to have to offer him a whole lot more than strings for recognition and a hill.

    Posted by mo | March 3, 2010, 1:30 pm
  58. What exactly is Syria being offered in exchange for changing track?
    Lebanon? It got that.
    A bigger role in Iraq? Why would Iraqis care what Syria thinks if it can’t send/facilitate car bombs in Baghdad?
    The Golan? Israel isn’t willing to forgo the water, so what use are a few more hills?

    The Syrians are, like all politicians, pragmatic. Offer them something better than what they’ve got and they’ll certainly change track. But what do America and the West have to offer that Syria can’t get on its own?

    Posted by Firas | March 3, 2010, 1:33 pm
  59. Time to go back to my real job. Thanks to Mo, Alex, and everyone else (even Jihad and Ijlisa Nabki) for an entertaining discussion.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 3, 2010, 1:33 pm
  60. QN,
    Instead of getting bored, please point to the issues you are interested in discussing.

    Posted by AIG | March 3, 2010, 1:34 pm
  61. “a fundamental strategic realignment toward the United States”

    Realignment … not “flip”

    Assad was not going to turn into Iran’s enemy. He was going to calm down some aspects of Syria’s relationship with Iran and he was going to help Hezbollah transform into a political organization.

    Nothing changed. Let them offer the full Golan back and Syria will start to take their intentions seriously again.

    Elias, what changed in fact is not necessarily the perception of America’s weakness, but a realization of Syria’s part that America can be very dangerous indeed. A george Bush/Cheney administration believing in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Clean Break vision for the Middle East which started with invading (and destroying) Iraq, and was planning to go for Syria next (after a quick success in Iraq) was enough to convince Syria that there is no option but to resist American Israeli right wing lunatics in their mistaken belief that they can indeed rearrange the Middle East any way they see suitable for them.

    Syria still wants excellent relations with the United States, but what you heard from Damascus last week was the clearest message to the Americans who still want to order everyone to fit in their plans … no thanks, you are a threat to our region.

    We will love to be be very good friends if you are interested, and we’ll be happy to give you free consultations on what works and what does not when you want to work for a secular and stable Middle East. But keep your crazy plans in your drawer.

    Posted by Alex | March 3, 2010, 1:39 pm
  62. Alex,

    I would go even further. As long as these plans are in the drawer Syria will see it in its long term interest to disrupt American plans for the region.

    QN,

    “it will be difficult for Syria to sustain a strategy of full-blooded membership in the resistance camp while seeking strong relations with the US”.

    Absolutely. Which is why the Syrians are happy to share intel on al Qaeda and make noises about wanting peace with Israel. Expect them to seek renewed Turkish mediation in a month or so.

    Posted by Firas | March 3, 2010, 1:45 pm
  63. Yeah right. The Syrians want a secular middle east but their allies are Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, all radical Islamic entities.

    Alex, keep dreaming.

    What Asad wants is to dance at two weddings at the same time. He wants to be part of the “resistance” in order to bolster his regime but he also wants significant economic growth and modernization. He can’t have both. The sanctions he is under and the corruption and repression of his regime are stopping economic progress in Syria. And so, while pursuing his foreign policy agenda, Bashar will keep grinding down the average Syrian leaving him without hope except in the after life. One day, this will blow up in Syria’s face.

    Posted by AIG | March 3, 2010, 1:51 pm
  64. Qifa Nabki @ 31

    Sorry for causing you to need to swallow Koolaid. If that helps in keeping you awake while standing instead of sitting, then so be it.

    Now to your serious questions.

    How will a new ME help Mr. Assad achieve foreign policy goals?
    Does anyone in his right mind object to a Middle East free of American colonialism, Zionism or Arab cronyism? I am not expecting Zionists or neocons to answer my question for obvious reasons. They do not qualify as those with the right mind.

    Other commentators have already pointed out either directly or indirectly the obvious flaws in your argument, Elias. Your basic assumption is that there is some kind game that is being played in the Middle East and this game has certain rules and a predetermined endgame. You refer to cards being collected and at some point they need to be played at a certain table like what happens in Vegas for example. This is a wrong assumption, but always assumed by the colonialists. First, if we assume there is a game, the end result may still not be predetermined. It may not necessarily be a poker game as you seem to suggest. There is a further assumption behind your argument. It is the classic weapon of the imperialists that they have been using for so long, i.e. the game of carrots and sticks. If sticks haven’t worked with Syria for the last 40 years it is doubtful carrots will have any effect. What about a game of chess instead of poker just for a change? What if the endgame is going to be a checkmate? The possibilities are endless and only fools would expect an adversary to abide by rules that fools would like to lay down and follow.

    Thank you Alex for quoting Mr. Rashed who admitted that Syria was responsible for actually DEFEATING the US in Iraq. This is the actual word (DEFEAT) that Rashed used and not as Elias surmised that Syria just influenced the insurgency in Iraq. Thanks is also due to Elias for quoting Leverett who has clearly shown that the conditions that were prevalent during Hafiz’ era that may have required realigning Syria with the West are no longer relevant. The monopole world of that era is crumbling and there is no advantage whatsoever at this point in time in striving to realign a country with a power waning both economically and militarily. It makes more sense to seek to fortify the current strategic arrangement with the rising star of an Islamic Iran. On the other hand Turkey’s flip to the east is not accidental. It underlines the deep historical anxieties of the Turks in their quest to protect their eastern flank which they can only do by re-examining their quest to become more westernized. The Turks have lost the empire in 1914. They cannot afford to lose the homeland by keeping a blind eye to what goes on around them. These are the exact words that Kamal Ataturk told the French when they tried their luck in invading mainland Turkey from Syria back in the early 1900. In other words Turkey is coming to terms with its historical heritage which it can no longer ignore. We have just witnessed the challenge that Kamali Turkey has come under through the recent unprecedented arrests and trials of its Generals by the Islamists. This battle has just begun as one Turkish General just remarked and it is bound to get even more dramatic as time progresses.

    In such emerging Middle East, who needs American imperialism? Who needs Zionism? Who needs Arab cronyism? They will all crumble like pieces of domino. It will start with Iraq, then Jordan. Egypt and North Africa will follow. Then we will not be too far of from a new Fatimid empire which will cleanse al-Azhar of the abominations of all the corrupt state sponsored fatwas ‘legalizing’ shaking hands with Zionists and making so-called peace with them. In case you are wondering about the Gulf States, does it really matter where they will decide to go? Do they really have a choice?

    Regards,
    Mustapha

    Posted by Ijlisa Nabki | March 3, 2010, 1:58 pm
  65. Mustapha

    Please do stick around and continue commenting. We don’t have enough neo-Fatimid nationalists around here.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 3, 2010, 2:01 pm
  66. QN @65
    It will be my pleasure. Besides it helps in your real work, i.e. becoming a real Mamluk Specialist.

    Regards,
    Mustapha

    Posted by Ijlisa Nabki | March 3, 2010, 2:11 pm
  67. Alex,
    Read what Mustapha writes carefully. There are many that think like him in the Arab world (I wish I knew how many). Don’t you understand that Bashar’s actions are bringing closer the “Clash of Civilizations” EXACTLY the thing you do not want? Bashar keeps feeding logs into this fire and is betting he can keep it under control and use it for his own purposes. It is a very dangerous game of brinkmanship that has a good chance of blowing up in Syria’s face.

    Posted by AIG | March 3, 2010, 2:12 pm
  68. Mustapha

    How do you know I am a Mamluk specialist? 🙂

    Are you a member of the neo-Fatimid intelligence services, the latter-day Assasins?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 3, 2010, 2:15 pm
  69. QN @68
    Better be careful! You never know who or where the Guardians of the Order are.

    Posted by Ijlisa Nabki | March 3, 2010, 2:31 pm
  70. AIG,
    You are wrong that Assad “wants is to dance at two weddings at the same time”.

    He would like to dance at more than two. Indeed, his preference is to dance at those mass multiple wedding parties and keep his options as wide open as possible.

    Israelis like you are used to dancing exclusively at the American ballroom. You are so welcome there that you find it of little use to visit other dance parties.

    Assad does not have such a luxury. Indeed, as long as you guys are there (and you are), he never gets invited and when he does, he is treated like second or third class citizen. At the Iranian wedding ballroom, he finds a totally different reception. He gets treated as well as the Americans treat you (though drinks and food are not as plentiful). They don’t kick him out of the party. He knows that he is always welcome should he want to dance. Given Assad’s experience, he managed to peek into the Turkish party and sure liked the reception he received. He is likely to keep this going. Keep peeking into as many ballrooms as possible and ascertain where he gets the best reception.

    His strategy seems to be working. The American party does not seem as fun as it used to be. While the foods and drinks are still plenty, reports are that they are running short on supply and that the head DJ is rather lost.

    Posted by EHSANI2 | March 3, 2010, 3:42 pm
  71. QN,

    going back to the good old days when you made comment number 30

    you said ‘So my post was not an argument that Syria should “flip” one way or the other. I just don’t know how far the current policy is going to get them.’

    fair enough! but can you please enlighten me on what else can be done? because i have no clue. The Syrians have no natural resources worth mentioning, their armed forces is in disaray, their economy is third world at best. hell, even the GCC countries who can bring the world economy to it’s knees if they wanted are singing to washington’s tune.

    and to make matters worse, the Syrians want certain things that are in direct contrast to Israel’s strategic interest. and since the latter is Washington’s strongest ally I don’t see any enticement for Syria to flip or even do the americans too many favors when you consider that they’re assisting in threatining Syria’s national interests. I know i am stating the obvious but then again your posts main point, as interesting as it is, must come with some sort of suggestion or solution or otherwise it’s just its unconstructive criticism.

    Posted by Innocent Criminal | March 3, 2010, 4:41 pm
  72. Ehsani,

    The American party is the only one in town if you want economic growth. Can you give an example of a country that can grow significantly without trading with the US?

    Its not true by the way that Asad does not get invited because of Israel. He does not get invited because of his policies. If for example, he would stop supporting Hamas and Hezbollah but keep insisting on the Golan, he would get invited. The problem is that he wants to get “resistance” and economic growth. The two cannot go together.

    As for the DJs, they come and go. But until the Chinese start consuming like the Americans (if that ever happens), the American consumer will be the worlds engine of growth. The Chinese and Indians are still poor and at least 50 years away from having the purchasing power and the Europeans and Japanese are slowly disappearing.

    Posted by AIG | March 3, 2010, 5:07 pm
  73. akha Qifa Nabki, be assured that we wish you the best in whatever you do. I personally have issues with Zionists only. And thank you for the space.

    Posted by Jihad | March 3, 2010, 5:13 pm
  74. Innocent Criminal,

    It is a matter of priorities. Why is supporting Hezbollah and Hamas more important than developing Syria’s economy?

    It is not the fact that Syria wants the Golan that is impeding Syria. The US in fact supports Syria on this and does not recognize Israel’s annexation of the Golan. It is the methods Syria uses to advance its policies that the US does not like. You know, blowing politicians up, supporting terrorists etc. The US has a problem with Syria’s methods, not its goals.

    The real problem is that Bashar has to use these methods in order to stay in power. That is the real reason. And when he needs to make a trade off between staying in power and Syria’s economy, you know what he is going to choose.

    Posted by AIG | March 3, 2010, 5:18 pm
  75. I love all the wedding analogies. Very amusing.

    Innocent Criminal, you want me to give Syria constructive criticism? What do you think this is, a self-help seminar? This is a blog ya akhi! Unconstructive criticism is our stock and trade.

    But more to the point: if Iran is such a wonderful ally, why did Bashar feel the need to snub the U.S. so pointedly with his dinner party? Surely a strong ally wouldn’t mind seeing Syria getting cozy with the Americans, if it is in the latter’s interests.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 3, 2010, 5:29 pm
  76. AIG,

    In a funny way, the more Assad realized that the west and the U.S. are not going to play game, the faster the economic reforms have become. Today for example, the largest regional investment bank decided to enter the Syrian market because of the reforms that they see underway. Just two years, this same company felt that it was too early to do so. Syria has concluded that it will have to plan for more time under economic sanctions. To survive, economic reforms have to go in overdrive and I believe they have. As for the U.S. being the economic power and hence the one that still offers the best parties, there is no doubt about it. But, the price of entry is just too high. Ferraris are great cars but when you are asked to pay $2mm for one, one may have to reconsider. Your comment that Syria ought to throw Iran, HA and Hamas under the bus to get in the good graces of the U.S. is like asking Assad to drop all his card down the toilet for a possible-good-thing-down-the-road. Those Syrian old traders will not go for such offers where the odds are not in their favor.

    QN,

    Let us remember that it was Hillary that publicly called for Syria to throw her friends under the bus the day before the Damascus wedding. Assad was sure unhappy to see Hillary prop up her hawkish credentials at his expense. When asked to respond by a reporter about what he thought of Clinton’s remarks, he decided to once and for all kill this crazy flip-Syria nonsense. I personally wondered why the Syrian leadership had not done this earlier. Well, the issue is dead now. The answer was loud and clear. If the U.S. indeed wants to invite him to the party, all they need to do is lift the economic sanctions, send Hillary to Damascus and plan for an Obama-Assad summit. Assad is no fool. When he is convinced that his host is really interested in improving this relationship, he will make the trade that is best for him and his country based the genuinely better option and not on a dictate written as a to-do-list pad.

    Posted by EHSANI2 | March 3, 2010, 7:09 pm
  77. Elias dude,
    You should not be asking “why did Bashar feel the need to snub the U.S. so pointedly with his dinner party? ” but why the US felt the need to try and humiliate him so pointedly? The US wants him to do behave a certain way but they also obviously know that the surest way Assad could undermine his own position would be to “do as he is told” by mummy Clinton.

    Therefore, one can only deduce that the US do not want him to stop being part of the “resistance” or otherwise their demands would have been made on the qt.

    Posted by mo | March 3, 2010, 7:21 pm
  78. And if I may add … reforms also accelerated since Chirac, Buch and Cheney retired and King Abdullah changed his mind about Syria.

    I have been saying it for years … you want faster reforms? leave Syria alone and stop wasting the leadership’s time with your daily “pressure” that is totally counter productive.

    Posted by Alex | March 3, 2010, 7:22 pm
  79. For example, my favorite example of the reform process so far …

    April 21st they will start enforcing the non-smoking laws. All kinds of tobacco products are covered by this law .. including the argeeleh zeft.

    وزير الصحة : مرسوم منع التدخين نافذ 21 نيسان

    دمشق ..
    قال الدكتور رضا سعيد وزير الصحة إن تطبيق المرسوم التشريعي رقم 62 الخاص بمنع التدخين وبيع منتجات التبغ وتقديمها في الأماكن العامة والمغلقة سيبدأ تطبيقه في 21 نيسان القادم.
    ونقلت صحيفة الثورة الصادرة اليوم تأكيد الوزير إثر اطلاعه على نتائج عمل اللجان المتخصصة والمعنية بإعداد التعليمات التنفيذية لهذا المرسوم، أن سورية بتطبيقها هذا المرسوم ستنضم إلى قائمة طويلة من الدول التي تحظر التدخين في الأماكن العامة والمغلقة وذلك حفاظا على صحة المواطنين.‏
    وأعرب سعيد عن أمله أن يكون لجميع الوزارات والنقابات المهنية و المنظمات الشعبية و المنظمات غير الحكومية والقطاع الخاص والمشترك دور مهم في الالتزام بتنفيذ هذا المرسوم موضحا أن مسؤولية تنفيذه تقع على عاتق الجميع من جهات عامة ومؤسسات وافراد لما لذلك من مردود ايجابي على المجتمع مضيفا أنه لن يكون هناك تساهل مع المخالفين والممتنعين عن تنفيذ هذا المرسوم.‏
    واعتبر سعيد تطبيق هذا المرسوم يضمن حقوق غير المدخنين وفي مقدمتهم الاطفال كما يعد خطوة كبيرة للحد من الامراض التي يسببها التدخين والوفيات الناجمة عنه .
    وشكل الوزير لجنة مركزية ولجان فرعية على مستوى مديريات الصحة لتطبيق المرسوم الذي قضى بتغريم المدخن في الاماكن العامة بألفي ليرة على أن يتحمل صاحب المنشأة غرامة قيمتها 25 ألف ليرة.‏
    وتجتمع اليوم اللجنة الوطنية المعنية بتطبيق المرسوم ضمن سلسلة الاجتماعات المستمرة لاستكمال التعليمات التنفيذية لتطبيق ومتابعة التنفيذ وحسب توضيح الوزير فإن اللجنة تضم 25 جهة تمثل القطاعات الرسمية والخاصة والأهلية.‏

    Posted by Alex | March 3, 2010, 7:25 pm
  80. Ehsani and Mo,

    What does Syria have that the United States wants?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 3, 2010, 8:14 pm
  81. If they U.S. did not need Syria, why is the white house keen on flipping her? The U.S. could have ignored Syria totally.

    Syria is like a magician. It keeps pulling rabbits out of her hat to remain relevant.

    The U.S. has realized the Syria has positioned herself as part of a critical chain that can influence Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories as well as both Iran and and Syria themselves.

    Syria has few resources. It does not have Egypt’s population or Saudi’s oil. It does, however, have those rabbits that she can continue to pull out of her hat to stay influential and keep the pressure on the international community (ie: USA) to help get her land back.

    Posted by EHSANI2 | March 3, 2010, 8:31 pm
  82. Elias,
    To be honest, I’m not sure. For years Syria sold itself as the keeper of Hizballah and tried to use that card. It seems evident that the US has twigged that this is not the case so that card doesn’t get played anymore.

    For the US, the goal is obviously to not just have everyone see Israel as the cute and cuddly country America says it is but to sign treaties that allow Israel to keep just about every bit of useful land it wants to keep.

    Getting various Arab countries to sign unilateral treaties with Israel was a good plan while it lasted so they are likely trying to keep it going until the Palestinians are the last man standing in the hope that by that point they will feel so helpless and without friends that they will sign anything put before them.

    This is obviously only a guess, an educated one but a just a guess. Like I said earlier, the bellicose manner the US is approaching this matter suggests that the US doesn’t actually want the Syrians to come in from the cold

    Posted by mo | March 3, 2010, 8:57 pm
  83. Syria has the Terrorists/Resistance that the Assad regime uses to blackmail the West and sell itself as an essential player in the region.

    Posted by V | March 3, 2010, 10:17 pm
  84. V is right.
    The Syrian “rabbits” are the ones that explode when they get near you. I think a rabbit took out Hariri.

    Posted by AIG | March 3, 2010, 11:43 pm
  85. Rabid Zionist terrorists from the Irgun to the Haganah to Vs and AIGs coming from Russia and the US.

    Please auntie Hillary tell us what you want Bashar and Ahmadinejad to do and they will do it!

    Posted by Jihad | March 4, 2010, 12:18 am
  86. Jihad,
    I would like you to go to Damascus and ask permission to attack Israel from the Golan. I think it would be the honorable thing to do if you are not a coward.

    Posted by AIG | March 4, 2010, 12:30 am
  87. The great Greek orator, Demosthenes, wrote 2500 years ago that “Every dictator is an enemy of freedom, an opponent of law”.
    Since this is still as true today as it was then , may I suggest that such authoritarian rulers as Bashar do not deserve any special efforts to woe them and thus legitemize their rule.
    Dictators both of the left and the right should nether be cuddled nor their reigns of terror facilitated.
    Realpolitik is an abomination.

    Posted by ghassan karam | March 4, 2010, 1:29 am
  88. Pathetic those parasitic hypocrites and ingrates who live in the West, benefit from everything the West has to offer (including all the Jewish cultural, scientific, and technological contributions) yet they turn around and glorify and defend regimes like that of Assad and Ahmadinejad.

    Posted by V | March 4, 2010, 1:35 am
  89. Ghassan @87

    If there is an enemy of freedom anywhere in the world it is the professed defender of this so-called freedom, which I surmise from your comment is the US and Co. And you should know the reason why. It is not Realpolitik and neither is it the modern dictator.

    When some one (or some country) raises the banner of freedom while openly supporting Zionism and cronyism for the only purpose of achieving imperialist goals then he (or it) disqualifies from the task. Hypocrisy eventually seeps through the actions and it becomes plain to the novice that the agent behind these pretentious acts is fake, ridiculous, not worthy of consideration, a shame on mankind and on freedom itself.

    I am sure if Demosthenes were alive today he would have second thoughts about what he said 2500 years ago, or at least he could have rephrased himself clearly to account for recent development in human ‘advances’.

    Regards,
    Mustapha

    Posted by Ijlisa Nabki | March 4, 2010, 1:47 am
  90. IN,
    I never said a word about the US . You seem to enjoy setting up your own straw figures and then destroying them 🙂
    If the US qualifies as a dictatorship then it should not get a pass either. You see, an idea based on morality stops being moral once we start making exceptions. It is a fact that the US has strayed from its republican roots and has acted like the “rogue” states that it opposes. But moral clarity demands that I differentiate between Bashar, the Hamma rules and Obama. To do otherwise will be groaaly unjust. I trust that even Chomsky would have no hesitation in making this distinction. When he was asked at one time why he lives in the US he answered by saying that with all its ills it still is the freest of them all.

    Posted by ghassan karam | March 4, 2010, 2:19 am
  91. AIG,

    your question about developing the Syrian economy is a fair one. And i for one believe the Syrians screwed up that one completely. But you make your whole comment irrelevant when you start blabbering away about blowing people up. Israel has no right to the Golan, let me make this very clear… NO RIGHT to the Golan, and whatever Syria did or didn’t do in Lebanon decades after Israel took the land by force has nothing to do with the Golan issue. Every Arab country is an oppressive dictatorship but that did not stop the US or Israel to cozying up with them, so please spare me the lame B.S

    QN,

    I am not behind the scenes enough to answer why Syria snubbed the US but I highly doubt it was because Syria was afraid it’ll make it’s sweetheart Iran jealous 😉 let’s not forget that Syria has been a very strong ally of Iran since the Islamic revolution. Even throughout the 90s when Syria was in open negotiations with the Americans & Israelis yet it didn’t damage its strategic partnership with Tehran (again a point Rime Allaf made on Al jazeera). But let me turn this question back to you from another perspective. If the US is really trying to mend the ties with Syria why has it extended the sanctions? Why did Obama personally block a deal with Airbus to upgrade Syrian Airlines? a civilian institution that affects the safety of many and has forced the airlines to cut down its fleet to a handful of planes?
    Let me also add that I disagree with some of the ‘syrian defenders’ arguments in the comment section. Syria has made a ton of mistakes in dealing with certain regional and international players which has led it to lose influence compare to its position pre2005. That said I don’t think the way it’s dealing with the US at the moment is one of these mistakes.

    Posted by Innocent Criminal | March 4, 2010, 2:23 am
  92. Ghassan @90
    I do understand the moral dilemma that you’re dealing with. And I also agree that you did not explicitly refer to the US in your previous comment, as I clearly said that I surmise that you’re referring to the US as the defender of freedom which I could still be wrong about what you really meant. Nevertheless, it was a sound assumption on my part in order to make an argument not out of vacuum as we all know what the issues under debate are and who the players are.

    If Obama is not versed in Realpolitik then he should not be sitting where he is sitting right now. He has been given ample time to deliver and all indications seem to indicate he is not up to task.

    Freedom does not exist in vacuum and in order to preach it to others you have to practice it and not only within your borders as Chomsky have come to enjoy. the predicament of the US has been brought upon it by its own making when it unilaterally extended its mandate by seeking to hypocritically bestow its version of freedom on others while supporting rogue movements and ideologies as in the case of Zionism and corrupt regimes acting against the very freedom of their own people that the US is claiming to be a champion of. The US can afford to deviate from its roots within its borders and seek corrections afterwards and it can succeed in doing so. But once you are preaching outside your borders you are under fire about your real goals and intentions.

    So in this case what is the moral advantage that Obama has over Assad or even Nejjad? I fail to see the difference. But again, I am basing my argument on relativism whereas in your case you’re trying to maintain moral absolutism as in a void. I admit it is a dilemma to try to fill in the vacuum and deal with concretes when we face with real world issues. And that is what counts in the end.

    Regards,
    Mustapha

    Posted by Ijlisa Nabki | March 4, 2010, 3:08 am
  93. QN (especially #48),

    I am twice shocked by that specific contribution: firstly, I really, really thought you are an objective observer with a deep thought out strategic stream to your rationale. You are comparing then balance of power between 70s & 80s and today with complete disregard to the facts on the ground, especially with the new formula imposed by HA in terms of a traditional army facing a militia that is well armed, well motivated and knows quite well its strength and weaknesses. Your comment begs the question of whether you stopped to think about the challenges facing the Zionist entity’s existence as we have known it since 1967, such as demography and haste towards a real apartheid state, with all that this bring in its presumed international stature.

    Alas, my second shocking self-revelation is that what I believed was merely aspirational.

    Regards

    Posted by Questionmarks | March 4, 2010, 4:09 am
  94. For me the issue is quite simple: Syria has built a strategic relationship with Iran, while its engagement with the US has never risen above the tactical.

    Iran is the strategic depth of Syria in so many respects (a role Egypt used to play before Camp David). Why will it give up on that? The US consecutive administrations haven’t offered anything tangible. Ironically, while trying to persuade Iran to give up it’s nuclear activities, the West has proposed a whole basket of muffins (or incentives if you like).

    It’s quite difficult to understand why the Obama administration is tying Syria’s relationship with Iran with the US engagement with Syria. Diplomatically it will lead no where, and strategically if you have ulterior motives like that you don’t declare them openly. Is this naivety
    or a pretext for not so serious engagement? I tend to believe in the second.

    What if Syria demands from Israel to move away from the US as a precondition of talks, will lead anywhere? .

    A good issue raised by QN is for how long the Syrians can hold to cards without playing them.

    As I understand it, the ‘resistance axis’ (if you like to call it that) thinks that the time is opportune to play some (if not all) cards. For all the reasons mentioned above, and also because Obama lacks a clear ME policy, Iran and its allies will play some cards very soon. Ahmadinejad is predicting a war in spring on summer.Maybe it’s time to believe his word.

    Posted by XP | March 4, 2010, 5:39 am
  95. Innocent Criminal,

    My comments about explosions were regarding Ehsani’s “rabbit” comments.

    I don’t think it is Syria’s actions after 67 that justify the Golan being Israeli. I think the Golan is Israeli because Syria and Egypt were the aggressors in 67 and lost the war. By closing the Straits of Tiran, Egypt and Syria started the war. Naval blockade of shipping lanes is internationally recognized as an act of war.

    I understand you believe that the Golan is yours. But what is your reasoning behind this? If Syria would have taken the Galilee from Israel in 67, would it immediately used the logic of international law to give it back to Israel? Of course not.

    Posted by AIG | March 4, 2010, 10:52 am
  96. AIG,
    As usual, your argument is inherently self-destructive and idiotic. You’re throwing stones in a glass house and you will suffer for it.

    If Israelis/Zionists/swine take the position you take, the natural result is that those like myself (and the hundreds of millions of Arabs around the world who recognize Zionism/Israel as the violent cancer it is) will also take a “might makes right” maximalist position.

    That position necessitates that Israel and Zionism will be destroyed and we will send you and you kind back to Europe. While you live in your military fortress of occupation and oppression now, in time we will have the upper hand. And we will have no mercy on you because we will be playing by your rules. You will be forced to swallow the consequences.

    We are willing to wait until we have more strategic power. We have that luxury, you don’t. We are willing to sacrifice.

    As was said above, it is your logic that must change or you will continue to hear these tired old arguments until your shit state is burned to the ground. that is a simple fact that you must accept.

    (i will not respond to you, as you are not worth engaging for the purposes of discussion)

    Posted by Joe M. | March 4, 2010, 1:53 pm
  97. Joe M.,
    You have no historical perspective.
    In 1947 the Jews accepted the UN Partition Resolution. The Arabs rejected it. Who took the maximalist position that the Jews should be in the sea?

    In 1967 after the war, Israel was willing to immediately negotiate land for peace. The Arabs went to Khartoum and came back with the infamous 3 NOs.

    In 1978 Israel gave Egypt all the Sinai for peace. The deal was also on the table for Syria? Why did Syria refuse the deal in 1978?

    In 2000 the Barak – Asad negotiations faltered on a few meters touching the Sea of Galilee. Who took the maximalist position?

    So we know for a fact that historically the Arabs have taken the might makes right argument. It is only when they don’t have the might, that they sing a different tune.

    Furthermore, in EVERY Arab country bar none, the might makes right principle is used for internal government. So the Arabs use the might makes right principle both in internal and foreign affairs.

    The bottom line is that threatening that the Arabs MAY take a might makes right position is a joke since it is clear that this is the prevalent view in the Arab world already. It is clear to all Israelis that if we lose a war you will rape our women and murder all of us. We do not expect more from any Arab victor. As you yourself admit, you will show us no mercy. I hope for your sake that Israel does not change and become like you. Because if we follow your logic, isn’t the smart thing for Israel to do now is show YOU no mercy instead of waiting till you are stronger than us?

    You will never have the upper hand until you reform your societies. So I suggest that instead of wasting your time getting angry about Israel, you should get angry about the Arab regimes that keep you so weak and manipulate you to be angry at Israel instead of at them.

    Posted by AIG | March 4, 2010, 3:04 pm
  98. AIG,

    It is so easy to escape reality by twisting historical facts. You can continue to do that if you want to, but I hope you realize that Israel’s image is going downhill in the Arab world. You are surely aware that between 2003 and 2007 many Arabs were quietly sliding towards Israel. There was even some respect for Israel’s strength and effectiveness.

    Today, many of those same secular and moderate Arabs ridicule and/or despise Israel. What you read on blogs is often the politically correct form of what is on everyone’s mind. “the Zionist entity” became mainstream again.

    Even Tzipi Livni said “Since you [Netanyahu] took control, Israel has become a pariah country in the world,”

    Do you know how your leaders will react to the rarely flattering feedback they are getting? … they will commit more foolish (and probably bloody) mistakes.

    Going back briefly to your Israeli version of history:

    In 1947 the Jews accepted the UN Partition Resolution. Even Ben Gurion admitted that if he were an Arab he would have rejected at first the 1947 UN partition plan. It is only natural that wen outsiders decide on your behalf that they are taking half your home, you would be furious. I’m sure you AIG will not be that generous if the local police told you that they decided to award half you house to someone else. David Ben Gurion agrees, try to retire this argument. It does not justify your endless crimes since 1947… I can imagine in 2050 when you are an old man and Israel is still killing innocent people indiscriminately you would still write (if you can) “But it was the Arabs who refused in 1947 the UN partition plan”

    Here is Ben Gurion’s quote if you forgot it:

    “I don’t understand your optimism. Why should the Arabs make peace? If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it’s true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been antisemitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations’ time, but for the moment there is no chance. So, it’s simple: we have to stay strong and maintain a powerful army. Our whole policy is there. Otherwise the Arabs will wipe us out.”

    – You said: “In 1967 after the war, Israel was willing to immediately negotiate land for peace. The Arabs went to Khartoum and came back with the infamous 3 NOs.”

    Wrong … Israel was split. Some were willing to return the Golan and Sinai, others only the Sinai, while some did not want to return anything … almost everyone wanted to keep the west bank and Jerusalem. Sadat was sending messages to Israel since 1970 to let them know that if they return the 67 territories then there will be peace, but he was frustrated by Israel’s refusal. I can get you very reliable sources if you insist the waste my time by denying the above.

    You said: “In 1978 Israel gave Egypt all the Sinai for peace. The deal was also on the table for Syria? Why did Syria refuse the deal in 1978?”

    Because Syria believed in comprehensive peace (and Syria is absolutely right, event keep showing us) and more over, the Golan was not offered. Menachem Begin did not even want to give Sadat back his Sinai … President Carter had to pressure him in many ways until Begin accepted to give the Sinai back (that is AFTER Sadat went to Israel and after they met in Camp David)

    You said: “In 2000 the Barak – Asad negotiations faltered on a few meters touching the Sea of Galilee. Who took the maximalist position?”

    True, but Syria’s position was not maximalist. When you have a right, you do not negotiate it … It is a fundamental point that Assad was making to all his American visitors… he will trust Israel and accept Israel ONLY when Israel makes it very clear it will not rely anymore on its power to keep some territorial advantages. Through wars or negotiations. Returning the Golan in full is the right thing to do and when Israel is ready to do that (instead of being smart in negotiations) we will accept this new Israel.

    Posted by Alex | March 4, 2010, 4:27 pm
  99. Alex,
    The UN partition did not take any land from anybody. NO ARAB LAND WOULD HAVE BEEN TAKEN FROM ITS OWNERS. The only thing the partition decided is in which country the land would be. You just do not understand the partition. Your analogy with taking someone’s home is completely incorrect.

    Let’s assume Ben-Gurion’s quote is correct. What is he saying? Exactly what I am saying. That the Arabs will never compromise and always take the maximalist position and therefore we need a strong army. I thought you would disagree with this position.

    After 67 the official and Israeli government position was to negotiate land for peace. This is a fact. It was the Arabs that refused to even start negotiations.

    In 78 the Golan was offered because it was a Sadat condition. Also, before Sadat came to Israel he was promised all the Sinai. Learn your history. Asad played into Begin’s hand by rejecting the American proposals.

    I see, so demanding access to Israels main water source is not maximalist. It is a “right”. Yeah right. So Israelis demanding all Jerusalem because of rights are not maximalists? And demanding all the land because of Biblical rights is not maximalist? Do you hear what you are saying? The UN resolutions do not say that ALL the territory needs to be returned. Your insistence on “rights” is a sorry excuse.

    I believe, as most Israelis, that almost all Arab countries are on their way to Islamic rule or civil war and it is a waste of time to negotiate with them now. When you become democracies, that would be a different story. Even though the Golan belongs to Israel, I would be happy to give it to a democratic Syria as a gesture of goodwill.

    Posted by AIG | March 4, 2010, 4:54 pm
  100. Dr. Mason explains that he “went for a walk” into the eastern perimeter of the site – an area that hasn’t been explored by archaeologists. What he discovered is an ancient landscape of stone circles, stone alignments and what appear to be corbelled roof tombs. From stone tools found at the site, it’s likely that the features date to some point in the Middle East’s Neolithic Period – a broad stretch of time between roughly 8500 BC – 4300 BC.

    It is thought that in Western Europe megalithic construction involving the use of stone only dates back as far as ca. 4500 BC. This means that the Syrian site could well be older than anything seen in Europe.

    At a recent colloquium in Toronto, Canada, Mason described his shock at discovering the apparent tombs, stone circles and stone alignments: “I was standing up there thinking, oh dear me, I’ve wandered onto Salisbury Plain,”

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/archaeology/news/syrias-stonehenge-neolithic-stone-circles-alignments-and-possible-tombs-discovered-1914047.html

    Posted by Alex | March 5, 2010, 4:04 am
  101. AIG,

    Your either mendacious or full of it. It was all Arab land and neither you, the British or the UN had authority or mandate to take any of it.

    Posted by mo | March 5, 2010, 8:36 am
  102. Mo,

    All the land the Jews had prior the war of 1948 was BOUGHT. Nothing was taken. You have such a distorted view of history. It is just amazing.

    And again, neither the British nor the UN nor anybody took Arab land. What was Arab property would remain Arab property during the mandate and according to the Partition Plan. So what if some Arabs and their property would be citizens of a Jewish state? If Jews could be part of an Arab state, why can’t Arabs be part of a Jewish state? Why couldn’t the Arabs live with this compromise? The answer is of course inherent racism.

    Posted by AIG | March 5, 2010, 9:56 am
  103. Distorted? Please coming from the nation who has had to twist and distort history to such an extent to justify their existence!

    Fist of all Bought from who? Absent Ottoman Turks is who. You were basically buying stolen property.

    Second of all, buying the land does not equate buying a nation. And ALL the land belonged to the Arabs in Palestine whether as individuals or as a nation just like all of France belongs to the French regardless of whether I buy a chateaux in Normandy – Purchasing property in a foreign country does not give you the right to then declare that property independent to the nation.

    And fourth and most laughable of all, your accusation of racism. Your country by its very deifinition is a racist one – Unlike the Jews in Arab nations, Non-Jews in Israel do not enjoy the same rights as Jews.

    But hey, you are a people who actually try to convince the world that all the holy land was empty before you populated it. You are the people that laughably claim that you have the right to the land because you were forced to leave it 2000 years ago, both of which are claims that are patently untrue.

    So please dont lecture me on distorting history.

    Posted by mo | March 5, 2010, 11:51 am
  104. Mo,

    Arabs that are Israeli citizens have more rights than any Arab in any Arab country. That is a simple fact. While the Jews in Arab countries were driven out. Why is the population of Arabs in Israel growing while that of Jews in Arab lands has gone down to zero? Because you are treating them well? Who are you kidding? On average, the Israeli Arabs are richer, more educated and have more rights than the average Arab in any other Arab country. Get used to this fact. Israel treats its Arabs BETTER than any Arab country.

    Yes, you get to decide what is buying land legally and what is not. Basically you are saying Jews had no right to buy land in Palestine. That is a blatantly racist statement.

    Furthermore, Israel did not take its nationality from anyone. It was given its nationality by the UN. Who are you to determine which UN resolutions are fair or not? I decree that it is Israel that decides which resolutions are fair and which it abides. How do you like that? Either you accept UN resolutions or you don’t. You cannot pick and choose according to what YOU think is fair.

    Palestine was not empty when Jews populated it. You are fighting a straw man. But Jews had every right to immigrate to Palestine and buy land. It is just sad that the Arabs could not bring themselves to live peacefully with the Jews. Why the Hebron massacre of 1929? Why the rejection of partition? The only explanation is inherent racism.

    Posted by AIG | March 5, 2010, 12:23 pm
  105. You can keep pushing your racist meme all you like – no-one is buying it. You think if this colonialism was done by a bunch of Buddhists we’d have said oh thats fine, just as long as your not Jews! Thats just plain ignorance.

    “While the Jews in Arab countries were driven out”

    LOL…Yes by Israelis planting bombs amongst them. You people dont even mind killing your own if it pushes the Zionist program forward.

    And stop setting up your own straw men. The argument is not a comparison of treatment of Arabs. You can believe what you want about what rights Arabs have in their own country but no matter how bad you think it is, it is equally bad to all.

    The point is no matter how well an Arab is treated in Israel, he still does not enjoy the rights of a Jew. That is racism, that is Apartheid.

    Where did I say you had no Jew had a right to buy? Perhaps if you spent more time reading and less time trying to push your “racism” quota you would have seen that my point was not about whether the buyer has rights to buy but whether the seller had a right to sell.

    Furthermore. the UN had no right to be giving anyone Palestinian land and seriously, you decree that it is Israel that decides which resolutions are fair and which it abides? Are you trying to make us laugh? The only damn resolution you Israelis accept is that of partition plan and even then Ben Gurion is on record of saying they would accept it only so they could expend energy fighting for the rest afterwards.

    And please, you make it sound like Hagannah and Irgun were charity collection organisations and not a bunch of murderers who were intent on creating the State of Israel partition plan or not.

    But yes, if a resoultion is passed at the UN because the US conducts what the Irish ambassador called “the worst diplomatic arm twisitng I have ever seen” then I can happily ignore it. When the US is threatining to cut off aid to nations ravaged by WW2, then yes I will ignore such a resolution. And when the UN is stealing land then I will ignore it. I get to decide which UN resolution I accept for me.

    “Palestine was not empty when Jews populated it” – Perhaps you should check with some of your fellow Zionists who love to push that theory.

    Sorry, exactly what “right” did you have to immigrate to Palestine? Are you suggesting that anyone in the world has the right to immigrate to any other nation without the blessing of that nation? What utter nonesense.

    “It is just sad that the Arabs could not bring themselves to live peacefully with the Jews.”

    Seriously, stop with this racism thread – Its such crap. We lived quite happily as Muslim,, Christians and Jews for over a thousand years. Its just that we could not live peacefully with colonials who intent on stealing the land of others.

    Posted by mo | March 5, 2010, 12:56 pm
  106. Mo,

    Abba Eban famously said:
    “If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.”

    So not only do you have an automatic majority for any idiocy you want to push in the UN, when once in a hundred years you lose, you get to say that the resolution is unfair! Give me a break.

    The Irgun and Hagannah were a reaction to the 1929 Hebron Massacre. You know, that massacre in which the Palestinians for no good reason murdered and ethnically cleansed the Jews that were living in Hebron for 400 years.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1929_Hebron_massacre

    So are you saying that the Jews had a right to buy land? If so, why are you complaining about the Jews doing that? If the problem was the people selling the land, complain to them.

    Israel has to improve in the way it treats its Arabs, just like the US needs to improve in how it treats its African Americans. This does not make Israel or the US apartheid countries. And yes, the absolute rights that people have are important, not just the relative rights. No society is completely equal. There are always differences between minorities. And when you complain about how Arabs are treated in Israel when they are treated much worse in the Arab world, you just sound disingenuous.

    The Muslims lived “peacefully” with Christians and Jews as long as the latter were dhimmis. But the thought of the possibility of a Jew ruling over a Muslim drove your society into blood lust. In fact, there is plenty of evidence that Jews were treated badly in Muslim countries long before Zionism. Why don’t you read Friedman’s “The myth of Arab Tolerance”?
    Here is a little excerpt:
    “One Caliph, Al-Hakem of the Fatimids devised particularly insidious humiliations for the Jews in his attempt to perform what he deemed his role as “Redeemer of Mankind”. First the Jews were forced to wear miniature golden calf images around their necks, as though they still worshipped the golden calf, but the Jews refused to convert. Next they wore bells, and after that six pound wooden blocks were hung around their necks. In fury at his failure, the Caliph had the Cairo Jewish quarter destroyed, along with it’s Jewish residence, in”.

    Have you heard of the Damascus blood libels? Probably not:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damascus_affair

    The bottom line, you just do not know history and make false claims based on a utopian past that you have invented.

    Posted by AIG | March 5, 2010, 1:26 pm
  107. Mo,

    Abba Eban famously said:
    “If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.”

    So not only do you have an automatic majority for any idiocy you want to push in the UN, when once in a hundred years you lose, you get to say that the resolution is unfair! Give me a break.

    The Irgun and Hagannah were a reaction to the 1929 Hebron Massacre. You know, that massacre in which the Palestinians for no good reason murdered and ethnically cleansed the Jews that were living in Hebron for 400 years.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1929_Hebron_massacre

    So are you saying that the Jews had a right to buy land? If so, why are you complaining about the Jews doing that? If the problem was the people selling the land, complain to them.

    Israel has to improve in the way it treats its Arabs, just like the US needs to improve in how it treats its African Americans. This does not make Israel or the US apartheid countries. And yes, the absolute rights that people have are important, not just the relative rights. No society is completely equal. There are always differences between minorities. And when you complain about how Arabs are treated in Israel when they are treated much worse in the Arab world, you just sound disingenuous. (continued in next post)

    Posted by AIG | March 5, 2010, 1:27 pm
  108. The Muslims lived “peacefully” with Christians and Jews as long as the latter were dhimmis. But the thought of the possibility of a Jew ruling over a Muslim drove your society into blood lust. In fact, there is plenty of evidence that Jews were treated badly in Muslim countries long before Zionism. Why don’t you read Friedman’s “The myth of Arab Tolerance”?
    Here is a little excerpt:
    “One Caliph, Al-Hakem of the Fatimids devised particularly insidious humiliations for the Jews in his attempt to perform what he deemed his role as “Redeemer of Mankind”. First the Jews were forced to wear miniature golden calf images around their necks, as though they still worshipped the golden calf, but the Jews refused to convert. Next they wore bells, and after that six pound wooden blocks were hung around their necks. In fury at his failure, the Caliph had the Cairo Jewish quarter destroyed, along with it’s Jewish residence, in”.

    Have you heard of the Damascus blood libels? Probably not:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damascus_affair

    The bottom line, you just do not know history and make false claims based on a utopian past that you have invented.

    Posted by AIG | March 5, 2010, 1:27 pm
  109. But the thought of the possibility of a Jew ruling over a Muslim drove your society into blood lust.

    AIG,

    Exactly. Most Arabs cannot tolerate Jewish political independence even though they have 22 Arab/Muslim states. It boils down to intolerance and racism.

    But that’s OK, Nejad will free the Palestinians just like Saddam and Nasser did.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 5, 2010, 2:42 pm
  110. AIG,

    The above shows you one of the reasons you are not in SC. You might be happy that you can continue to answer anything by anyone non stop 24 hours a day … but you are really wasting that person’s whole day if he or she tried to keep up replying to your tactics.

    I know that because I wasted two hours yesterday.

    I’ll leave you with proof that what you claimed yesterday is a joke, that Israel was really ready to give back the occupied territories but it was the Arabs who refused to make peace:

    Watch this

    then

    Israel, with great difficulty, accepted to give back the Sinai .. that’s it … the full Golan was never on the table.

    Oh, and I really liked how you explained why you refuse to respect ALL UN resolution (after the one and only partition resolution you liked) by quoting what an Israeli minister said about the UN. I’m sure you also would welcome us quoting Hamas officials to backup a point we are trying to make.

    Posted by Alex | March 5, 2010, 7:45 pm
  111. You still dont get it. Its not that you are Jewish, its that you are white, European land stealing colonial interlopers thats the problem.

    We have the UN under our thumb? You must really be suffering under the weight of all those sanctions then !

    The terrorists were a reaction to Hebron?!! Learn your own history dude.

    And you have a problem understanding the difference between a racist culture and a racist state. So let me make it easy for you. If the state, through legislation, regards one group as superior to another group and accords it rights that the other group is not entitled to, that makes it a racist state.

    But I notice you did not answer my question.

    What “right” do you claim your people had to immigrate to Palestine and create your own state?

    Posted by mo | March 5, 2010, 8:54 pm
  112. Mo,

    We were slaughtered and kicked out of Europe. Europe rejected its Jews. The Ashkenazi Jews are not Europeans. They tried to become Europeans but were not successful. The major impetus for the Zionist movement was the Dreyfus affair which proved to Herzl and the Western European Jews that they could never be really a part of Europe.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreyfus_affair
    And the Holocaust was just further proof that Herzl was right.

    As for the Eastern European Jews, they constantly suffered from pogroms and discrimination.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Jewish_pogroms_in_the_Russian_Empire

    I am an Ashkenazi Jew whose family came from Eastern Europe. It is racist to judge me by how I look. I am not European. My grandparents were refugees from Europe. Saying that Jews are European colonialist is like blaming American foreign policy in the 19th century on African Americans.

    The Jews had nowhere to go. No country would accept them. As many that could went to the US, Australia etc. but these countries put severe quotas on Jewish immigration.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89vian_Conference

    None of this is your fault. But it is not our fault either. We were weak and exploited and you were weak and exploited. The Europeans made us fight each other. By saying that we are Europeans you are just simplifying the problem to suit your needs. The issue is much more complex than that.

    As for the UN, yes, the Arabs can have a majority in the General Assembly for any idiotic notion they put forward. So far, the Jews have been protected by the US in the Security Council we can met out sanctions.

    By far the major fighting Jewish force in pre-Israel Palestine was the Haganah and it was re-created as a large and more modern force because of the Hebron Massacre. That is a fact. And by the way, can you point to ONE Jewish terrorist attack before the Hebron Massacre of 1929? You will not find one.

    As for Israel being a racist state, I challenge you to find ONE Israeli law that discriminates according to race. There is no such law. But please, all the laws of Israel are online, see if you can find one law that discriminates between Arabs and Jews.

    The right the Jews had to immigrate to Palestine is the right that any person has to survive. Pure and simple. From a legalistic point of view the Jews were allowed to immigrate first by the Ottomans and then by the British.

    Posted by AIG | March 5, 2010, 11:01 pm
  113. Mo,

    We were slaughtered and kicked out of Europe. Europe rejected its Jews. The Ashkenazi Jews are not Europeans. They tried to become Europeans but were not successful. The major impetus for the Zionist movement was the Dreyfus affair which proved to Herzl and the Western European Jews that they could never be really a part of Europe.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreyfus_affair
    And the Holocaust was just further proof that Herzl was right.

    As for the Eastern European Jews, they constantly suffered from pogroms and discrimination.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Jewish_pogroms_in_the_Russian_Empire

    I am an Ashkenazi Jew whose family came from Eastern Europe. It is racist to judge me by how I look. I am not European. My grandparents were refugees from Europe. Saying that Jews are European colonialist is like blaming American foreign policy in the 19th century on African Americans.
    (continued in next post)

    Posted by AIG | March 5, 2010, 11:01 pm
  114. Mo,

    We were slaughtered and kicked out of Europe. Europe rejected its Jews. The Ashkenazi Jews are not Europeans. They tried to become Europeans but were not successful. The major impetus for the Zionist movement was the Dreyfus affair which proved to Herzl and the Western European Jews that they could never be really a part of Europe.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreyfus_affair
    And the Holocaust was just further proof that Herzl was right.
    (continued on next post)

    Posted by AIG | March 6, 2010, 12:14 am
  115. As for the Eastern European Jews, they constantly suffered from pogroms and discrimination.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Jewish_pogroms_in_the_Russian_Empire

    I am an Ashkenazi Jew whose family came from Eastern Europe. It is racist to judge me by how I look. I am not European. My grandparents were refugees from Europe. Saying that Jews are European colonialist is like blaming American foreign policy in the 19th century on African Americans.
    (continued on next post)

    Posted by AIG | March 6, 2010, 12:14 am
  116. The Jews had nowhere to go. No country would accept them. As many that could went to the US, Australia etc. but these countries put severe quotas on Jewish immigration.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89vian_Conference

    None of this is your fault. But it is not our fault either. We were weak and exploited and you were weak and exploited. The Europeans made us fight each other. By saying that we are Europeans you are just simplifying the problem to suit your needs. The issue is much more complex than that.

    As for the UN, yes, the Arabs can have a majority in the General Assembly for any idiotic notion they put forward. So far, the Jews have been protected by the US in the Security Council we can met out sanctions.

    By far the major fighting Jewish force in pre-Israel Palestine was the Haganah and it was re-created as a large and more modern force because of the Hebron Massacre. That is a fact. And by the way, can you point to ONE Jewish terrorist attack before the Hebron Massacre of 1929? You will not find one.

    As for Israel being a racist state, I challenge you to find ONE Israeli law that discriminates according to race. There is no such law. But please, all the laws of Israel are online, see if you can find one law that discriminates between Arabs and Jews.

    The right the Jews had to immigrate to Palestine is the right that any person has to survive. Pure and simple. From a legalistic point of view the Jews were allowed to immigrate first by the Ottomans and then by the British.

    Posted by AIG | March 6, 2010, 12:15 am
  117. AIG,
    No one is contesting the fact of how much suffering the Jewish people have suffered at the hands of Europeans and what they did (which makes your claims of Arab racism pale into insignificance).

    And it was not the first time in history that Jews persecuted in Europe have come the the Arab world for safety.

    Nevertheless, claiming all the above gives you the RIGHT to take someone else’s land makes you a hypocrite. Saying all this gives you the RIGHT to take another peoples land and create your own state by force is just immoral.

    And just to show you that my position is not based on your Jewishness, I apply the same beliefs and principles when it is done by Muslims such as what was done in Kosovo.

    To me you are and always will be European, and it is as racist for me to judge you as such as it was for a black South African to consider a white one as a European. You can make of that what you will.

    And saying it is not your fault is again disingenuous. The Jews did not come to Palestine just because they were abused and no one elese would take them. They came as part of the Zionist plan to create the state of Israel – That was the plan from day one – Maybe I am simplifying by using Europeans but you are colonials.

    Yes you are right that before 1929 there we no major Jewish terrorist attacks but at that point you had the British and the Hashemites on side and the Palestinians hadn’t quite grasped what was planned. Its only after they realised the full consequences of the Zionist plan that they began to fight back.

    AS for Israeli law, well I think you know well that its far smarter than straight forward legislation – We cannot have that for our “light unto nations”.

    Far better we dont allow Arabs to build by refusing permits and then taking the land when they build anyway.

    Far better to spend an average of $192 per year on each Arab student compared to $1,100 per Jewish student.

    Far better to keep the Arab infant mortality rate at three times the Jewish one.

    Far better to rely on Jewish Law to define what is “redeemed land” and what is “unredeemed land”

    You see AIG, there are many ways for a state to discriminate without actually spelling it out in law

    So you have given me lots of reasons for your “Right” to come to Palestine but still not a single one for taking a peoples land by force and starting your own nation

    Why not just be honest and admit that you wanted the land, you were stronger than the Arab peasants so you took it. Why do you try to couch it all in some sort of sob story of Arab racism and European hate when it was the Zionist goal from day one?

    Posted by mo | March 6, 2010, 8:58 am
  118. Mo,

    First thank you for admitting you are racist. How can YOU view me as European when the Europeans did not view me as European? Do you know better than them? You are just not willing to look the facts straight in the face because it would make your narrative false.

    You are just wrong about taking people’s land by force. Take one of my grandmothers. She came to the Macabbia Games of 1936 and stayed as an illegal immigrant. Why? She was afraid to return to Poland because she saw the writing on the wall. Did she do the right thing? Of course. Did she take land from any Arab? No. She lived in a rented flat with several other women until she met my grandfather. You keep talking about taking land, but prior to 1948 no land was taken!

    The Jews had a hope to have a state of their own, yes. But imagine what would have happened if the Arab accommodated them instead of fighting them. Then there would have been no need for a Jewish state and non would have been formed. The one state solution would have been adopted from the beginning. It is the hostilities of the Arabs, like in 1929 that helped create a Jewish state.

    And where did you get your skewed statistics about differences between Arabs and Israelis in Israel? They are plain false. ALL are false. Just one example. The average infant mortality in Israel is 7 per thousand and 8.6 among the Arabs. There is a difference, but it is not significant. As a comparison in Syria the infant mortality is 25.6 per thousand! Indeed, three times worse than the Israeli Arabs. Your whining about discrimination is just bogus and unfair.

    The facts:
    http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Society_&_Culture/israeliarabs.html

    Also look up the two following articles in Wikipedia for the rest of the data:
    Demographics of Israel
    Demographics of Syria

    Posted by AIG | March 6, 2010, 1:38 pm
  119. If fighting colonialism is racism then you have your standards skewed.

    I couldn’t give a damn if the Christians of Europe didn’t accept you. Your lineage, by your own admission, comes only two generations ago from Europe so you are a European. And even if you weren’t your are alien to the Middle East and an interloper.

    Oh if only the Arabs had accommodated you. What bollocks!

    The mass immigration, the Balfour declaration, the entire zionist project was about getting a Jewish state. The Arabs did accommodate you until they realised what you were up to. Hostilities or not, there would have been one and trying to portray otherwise is just asinine.

    We are just going round in circles so I’m going to stop here. You are not going to convince me to accept your land theft and I’m not going to convince to admit you’re a land thief. I only hope that the people of Palestine never give up the struggle for justice and that one day justice is done.

    p.s. If you are going to get your facts from the bogus and bullshit laden jvl then don’t bother.

    Posted by mo | March 6, 2010, 6:59 pm
  120. If fighting colonialism is racism then you have your standards skewed.

    Mo,

    In the English language, the term “Colonialism” doesn’t pertain to the independent State of Israel.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonialism
    colonialism

    Maybe, you just want to “fight” Israel because it isn’t an Arab or a muslim state.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 6, 2010, 8:36 pm

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