Interviews, Israel, Lebanon, Syria

Talking about a Revolution: An Interview with Camille Otrakji

And now for something completely different.

If you’ve been following events in Syria, you’d know that the English-language press is mostly deeply critical of the Assad regime (while the Arabic press displays a slightly wider range of views). I thought it would be worth trying to present a minority report on the situation from a Syrian friend of mine, although, as you will see, he argues precisely that his position is actually held by a very significant majority (albeit a rather quiet and frustrated majority) of Syrians.

Camille Otrakji is a Syrian political blogger based in Montreal. Although he tends to keep a low profile, Otrakji has been, for the past several years, at the forefront of many of the most interesting and influential online initiatives relating to Syrian politics. He is one of the authors and moderators at Joshua Landis’s Syria Comment, and the founder of Creative Syria, a constellation of websites including Mideast Image (a vast collection of original old photographs of Middle Eastern subjects) and Syrian Think Tank (an online debate site hosting many of Syria’s top analysts). Last year, Otrakji courted controversy with a new initiative devoted to the subject of Syrian-Israeli peace, entitled He agreed to speak with me about the latest events in Syria, and I’m sure that his views will generate plenty of discussion.


QN: You were recently quoted in The New York Times, arguing that the current situation in Syria is “all being manipulated,” and that the activists are deceiving the Syrian public and the world. Could you elaborate on this?

Otrakji: I believe that a clear majority of Syrians support many of the demands of the peaceful protesters. On the other hand, only a minority of Syrians are willing to risk destabilizing their country in order to try to achieve full regime change after a painful drawn-out conflict.

You might disagree with me if your impression of the state of the protests movement is the product of Aljazeera and BBC Arabic endlessly looping some bloody clip of the day and creating an impression that victory is near for “the Syrian people” who are demonstrating against their despised tyrant. In the early days of the Libyan revolt, Aljazeera created the same “victory-is-easy” impression for the Libyan people and they believed it, and until today they are killing each other and destroying their country.

Despite weekly calls from opposition figures for millions to demonstrate, based on the numbers of people we have seen in the streets of Syria thus far, it is clear that less than 1.0% of the country (about 150,000 Syrians) has joined the protests. This is not Egypt or Yemen, where you had hundreds of thousands or even millions of people protesting every day. In Syria we’ve seen a few thousands here, a few hundred there, mostly on Fridays. And yet western governments, the Syrian opposition, and the media covering Syria are all enthusiastically and casually using the term “the Syrian people” from the first day a few young men demonstrated in the Ummayad mosque. This implies they have the support of the entire Syrian population, which is a very serious distortion of the facts. How do you think the pro-stability Syrians feel when everyone, from Western officials to journalists imply that they are automatically on the side of regime change? No one reported that for weeks Syrians were demonstrating each night in many cities supporting their President. These daily demonstrations, festive and loud, stopped only when interior ministry told the supporters to stop showing their support because they were too noisy. The only time millions demonstrated in Syria was the day Assad’s supporters went to the street in most of Syria’s large cities. It was bizarre that most of the media decided that all these Syrians were chanting and dancing in the streets because they were afraid of the regime, simply because schools and some government offices were given the day off on that day. Ironically, some of the same journalists were also making the point the revolution is bound to succeed because “the barrier of fear has been shattered”.

In addition to distorting the true size of the protests movements, everyone seems to overlook the fact that unlike Egypt’s Tahrir Square, Syria’s protestors have mostly been men. “The Syrian people” include women too, as you can see from the pro-Assad demonstrations. Why didn’t any of those Western financed women rights organizations express any concern after seeing tens of all-male demonstrations so far?

While most protests were genuinely peaceful, many were confrontational and violent. Syria’s police and security personnel are not used to such challenges and sadly in some cases some of them probably reacted with unnecessary violence. But out of an estimated 150,000 protesters so far up to 500 died according to opposition figures. Government claims 78 died, and I believe the real figure is in between, closer to opposition figures. The government claims that many died in armed confrontations. Given that 80 soldiers and policemen also died, it is only logical that non-peaceful armed men were among the hundreds of “civilian” casualties. In other words, not all civilian casualties were peaceful protestors.

Many others probably died through excessive security personnel violence. We need to keep in mind that despite the bitter feeling all of us today have after hundreds died, an investigation of what happened should be conducted.

None of us has access to the truth, but I think it is fair to conclude for now that the numbers imply that it is not true that there is an official  policy of shooting randomly at any demonstrator. Many fatal mistakes took place, but many others died while they were taking part in non peaceful confrontations with the army or police. Those who compare Syria’s casualties figures to Egypt’s need to keep in mind that in Egypt protesters were not engaging the army in battles. The 850 who died there were all non armed.

QN: But surely there is public discontent with Bashar al-Assad, or else people would not be risking their lives to demonstrate against the regime.

Otrakji: The revolt started out as a legitimate one, when it was based in Dar’aa. The people there were genuinely fed up with the local head of security, who was a relative of the president, and so at first they protested against his abuse of power and his corruption. But this took place against the backdrop of the events in Egypt and Tunisia, so certain groups decided to try and capitalize on this act of protest in Dar’aa and turn it into a nationwide revolt.

QN: Which groups?

Otrakji: There are many groups who are trying to destabilize the regime. You have the regime change activists overseas, who are financed by various American programs that the Obama administration continued to finance despite seeking better relations with Syria. And you have American technologies that allow you to manipulate anything online. For example, you can help generate virtual members among some of the 150,000 that the Syrian revolution 2011 page on Facebook is proud of.

Then there are many Salafists around the country, guided by Syrian, Saudi, or Egyptian religious leaders. And it is possible that some of the four anti-regime billionaires might be trying to stir the pot for their own, different, reasons; Abdul-Halim Khaddam [former vice president of Syria, currently in exile in Paris], Ribal al-Assad [Bashar’s cousin, and son of Rifaat al-Assad], Saad al-Hariri [current caretaker Prime Minister of Lebanon and son of the slain Rafiq], and Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud [former Saudi ambassador to the US, among other things].

QN: So this is all the work of these outside groups?

Otrakji: No, of course not. As I said, the revolt had a legitimate spark. And there is no doubt that many Syrians are dissatisfied with many aspects of the current regime. But most Syrians would much rather see some meaningful reforms undertaken in a peaceful fashion over the next five years under the current regime, instead of trying to sweep the regime away and dealing with the prospect of sectarian civil war. If Bashar were to sign several laws: (1) permitting the formation of political parties; (2) lifting the tight censorship in the press; (3) and modernizing and limiting the role of the mukhabarat (intelligence services), I believe that 80% of the Syrian people would be fully on board with that. They would say to the opposition: “Thank you very much for your courage. You did a valuable service by giving the regime a ‘cold shower’. But now we’ve had enough of the protests and we want to go back to work. We will give Bashar the benefit of the doubt, until the next presidential election.”

QN: What do you say to those who argue, like Joshua Landis, that the regime’s days are numbered? Landis recently suggested that even if Bashar can weather this storm, the country’s economic woes are a ticking time bomb and eventually the country’s middle class will abandon him.

Otrakji: Dr. Landis might be right, it will be difficult. But I also want to point out that this is not exactly the first time Syria’s economy was predicted to be near collapsing. President Reagan was not the first to wait for his adversaries (the Soviet Union) to surrender after they go broke.

In 1977, when the United States and Israel decided to make peace with Egypt instead of going for a comprehensive peace treaty that included the full return of Syria’s Golan Heights and the occupied Palestinian territories, a key demand of Hafez Assad, National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski offered this analysis: “The Syrian economy is in grave difficulty, with inflation running at 25%. If the Saudis were to offer major financial backing in return for a Syrian-Egyptian reconciliation, President Hafez Assad might have to assent, no matter how much he dislikes the idea of being forced to negotiate with Israel.”

Thirty four years later, we are facing a similar situation. The west is sending Syria messages through their Gulf Arab allies that say “You are in real trouble, if you play by our rules … if you  terminate relations with Iran and disarm Hezbollah … if you cooperate with us when we need you to, then we can help you stay in power and turn a blind eye like we do in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia”.

This is not the most difficult challenge that the regime had to face. In 1977 it lost its Egyptian peace partner after Sadat signed a separate peace treaty with Israel. At the same time the Syrian regime was in Lebanon busy fighting a coalition of Muslim forces as it tried to protect the much weaker Christians. This led to a coalition of neighboring Arab states aligned with the Untied States and determined to overthrow the Syrian regime by supporting (financially and with arms) the Muslism brotherhood that tried to use force to overthrow the regime. Then Israel invaded Lebanon and defeated the Syrian army stationed there. The Syrian economy was suffering from years of grave and multiple challenges. Yet by 1983, a top U.S. State Department official had to admit: “Hafez Assad is as strong, perhaps stronger, than ever.”

In 2005, after the Hariri assassination, the entire world was out for Syrian blood. The Syrian army left Lebanon, and the Americans, Europeans, and the Arabs all thought that Bashar was finished. They said he was stupid, he had no vision, he was not even half the man that his father was. It is instructive to consider the fact that Bashar did not feel pressured to properly comment on the Hariri assassination and Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon. Rafiq al-Hariri was killed on February 14, 2005. Do you know when Bashar gave his first full address about the issue? November. When pressured, the Syrian regime takes the long view. It is a mistake to assume they have no cards to play.

QN: Can they afford to not communicate for that long?

Otrakji: It seems they believe they can. But this total lack of communication is making them lose popularity among those who used to be independents, and it is making many regime supporters furious. They would like to hear a convincing account of what is happening, but the regime hates to communicate. As a result, many supporters are by now on the fence. They prefer to suspend the revolution and give the regime enough time to reform as promised. But every Friday is forcing them to go through the painful exercise of waiting until the end of the day to hear the bad news. Last Friday, tens died. The regime’s opponents imply they were all peaceful protesters. The regime implies they were all armed men who attacked or were attacked by the army or police. Most Syrians believe the truth is somewhere in between.

On the other hand, I realize that communicating might be near useless anyway. Both the regime supporters and the opposition are engaged in serious propaganda and the result is that the more technology tools we have today, the more confused and suspicious we are. On Twitter you have a massive amount of fabricated opposition claims of regime brutality (in addition to the true ones). On facebook you get to see video clips that every group shares (if they support their arguments) or rejects (if it is embarrassing). This report from Syrian television claims that tens of demonstrators were actually only celebrating rainfall. This clip of a funeral of those who died at the hands of security shows a flying coffin that seems to be empty. I like this clip. It is funny, and it demonstrates how anyone with a bit of technical background, can manipulate digital media with ease.

QN: Why did Egypt go more smoothly?

Otrakji: There is a major difference with Syria. Egypt does not have the complex sectarian and ethnic makeup that Syria does. We have Sunnis, Alawites, Christians, Druzes, Kurds, Armenians, and various other ethnic and confessional groups. We have tribalism. We share borders and complex political ties ad history with Lebanon and Iraq, two of the most volatile countries in the region. We are in a state of war with Israel, and we are a central member of the Iranian-Hizbullah-Hamas axis that puts us in the crosshairs of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. All Syrians are aware of their country’s vulnerability to instability, which is why the vast majority are genuinely supportive, or tolerant, of the current regime, even if they are restless waiting for more reforms. Syrians are risk averse; they’re just not willing to take the risk that Egypt took, because Egypt has much less potential for internal fragmentation. It is 90% Sunni Muslim, 100% Arab, no tribes, no Kurdish issue, has endless empty deserts separating it from its neighbors, and opted to sign a peace treaty with Israel ending its state of war.

QN: So what’s going to happen?

Otrakji: There is no way to know. Ultimately, it’s in the hands of the mostly non-sectarian risk-averse Syrian people, but it could still spin out of control if the current events are manipulated by groups that are trying to stir up sectarian conflict. If you read the older posts on the Syrian Revolution Facebook page (before they got a facelift and professional PR help), you wouldn’t believe how much religious language you find, and also how much deception there is. They were trying to whip up sectarian hysteria, to radicalize Syria’s Sunnis so as to bring down the regime. This is not what most Syrians want, but they have enough Syrians they can potentially influence.

QN: What is the likelihood, in your opinion, that the regime can be toppled by the current opposition, assuming that they can garner more support in the main cities?

Otrakji: The problem with this question – which everybody is asking – is that it fundamentally misunderstands the whole idea of “the Syrian regime”. What does this mean? What are you talking about when you say “the Syrian regime”?

QN: The Assad family, for starters. The major power-brokers and security chiefs. The corrupt oligarchs like Rami Makhlouf. Those are the opposition’s targets.

Otrakji: Corruption is indeed part of the reason many in “the regime” will resist those trying to force them out and I don’t think the Syrian people will rest anymore unless they are convinced that corruption will be curtailed.

But I think we need to look at Lebanon to understand what is really happening in Syria. After decades of Lebanon’s experience with democracy (flawed democracy) you still had  Amin and Bashir Gemayel inheriting the leadership of their party and people from their father Pierre. Walid from Kamal Jumblatt, Saad from Rafiq Hariri… and the same applies to the Frangiehs, Chamouns or the Karamis.

You also have an understandings where a 5% segment of the population (the Druze minority) can sometimes have a veto power over potential decisions that the nation’s elected leaders might be contemplating.

When Druze leader Walid jumblatt switched to the March 8 side, providing them with a new majority and the right to name Lebanon’s next prime minister, Saad Hariri was furious. He warned that only the Sunnis can name the country’s (Sunni) prime minister, regardless of who has a parliamentarian majority.

Although there is no strong regime in power like the one in Syria, Lebanon still did not yet feel ready to take the risk to try to adopt one-man-one-vote democracy. And the same families that collectively held power over the different segments of society are still there decades later. Even Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has been there for decades. Messing up with this imperfect system can open a can of worms.

Iraq’s current government coalition was mostly made in Damascus. Every candidate and major political or religious figure visited Damascus before an agreement was reached. No other capital in the region or outside received that many Iraqi VIP visitors. How did Syria get to be that influential in Iraq?

When Saddam Hussein oppressed Iraq’s Shia and Kurds, Syria protected their leaders in Damascus. Iraqi Prime ministers Maliki and Allawi, President Talibani, and many other Iraqis opposed to Saddam Hussein were living safely in Damascus for years before they went back to the new Iraq to lead it. At that time, all the other Arabs, not to mention the United States and Europe, were trying to be Saddam’s best friends.

Similarly, when Iran’s weight in post-Saddam Iraq tilted the country’s political balance in a way that marginalized Iraq’s Sunnis, Syria opposed its Iranian allies and decided to protect Iraq’s Sunnis, including the Baathist and Sunni tribal leaders in Iraq.

Lebanon’s majority coalition is made of Christians, Shia, Druze and Sunnis … all of them have one thing in common; They are Syria’s allies. Similarly, Lebanon’s opposition is made of a similarly colorful group that also has one thing in common … all are opponents of Syria. When Druze leader switched from being an opponent of Syria to a friend of Syria, the majority and opposition in Lebanon exchanged hats.

The Syrian regime, and only the Syrian regime, REALLY know how the Levant and Mesopotamia work. Try to let the Saudis decide and you will end up with one disaster after the other. Remember Saud Al-faisal‘s brilliant plan to send an Arab army to fight Hezbollah in Lebanon?

The Alawites, and to a lesser degree the other minorities in Syria, will not accept the current system to be swept away overnight and without reforms that guarantee minority safety and rights. You have to understand that most Alawites view Syria in much the same way that the Jews view Israel, the Kurds view Kurdistan, the Maronites in Lebanon, etc. This is the one country in the world where they can dictate their own affairs and don’t have to worry about being repressed as a minority. They are not going to accept that this reality changes overnight. If democracy is to come to Syria, it needs to happen gradually and in a region that is not boiling in sectarian anger. Most Syrians understand this. But many, understandably, do not.

QN: What is your opinion of Turkey’s alleged concerns over the Syrian government’s crackdown? Do you think that this valuable alliance could be in jeopardy if the violence continues and refugees start fleeing to Turkey?

Otrakji: If Syria collapses, this could lead to a potential disaster for everyone in its vicinity: Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, and yes, even Turkey. The Turks have no desire to see Syria’s Kurds beginning to demand their own statelet, as this will impact Turkey’s Kurdish question in a major way. And Turkey surely would not want to see Sunnis and Alawites fighting each other just south of its border. These things can be contagious to Turkey’s own Sunni/Alawite population.

The main players in the region have no interest, at the end of the day, in trying to destabilize Assad. Even if they hate to admit it, they know that Syria’s regime plays a stabilizing role across the region. Rami Khouri agrees that  we can expect major problems across the region if Syria is shaken. I think Syria has influence as far as Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iran, Bahrain and … everywhere. In that sense, Syria is really not Egypt or Tunis.

QN: What’s the best case scenario for Syria, in your opinion?

Otrakji: I can’t discuss Syria without also discussing the Middle East. Here is the only thing that will work:

For now, demonstrations must stop, the President must speak to the nation to reassure everyone that he is indeed committed to serious and accelerated reforms that will please most Syrians. Press freedom law, political parties law, decentralization law (more power to the provinces) and gradually (within a year?) undoing the Ba’ath party’s monopoly on power.

The minorities in power in Syria need to start thinking of a five year plan to move to a democratic system. A Senate can help protect minority rights. Maintaining control of the army, like the case in Turkey, can provide another way to reassure the minorities. But otherwise, free elections that might bring anyone to power should be expected… after peace with Israel (please bear with me, I’ll explain)

“The International community” must help Israel and the Arabs reach comprehensive peace in the Middle East. The status quo is not sustainable. A majority of Egyptians want to scrap the peace treaty with Israel. Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states are not going to remain stable forever. Iran and Saudi Arabia are probably going to consider different ways to escalate their cold war. Soon, a third intifada might start in the Palestinian territories. There is one way to start undoing all the pressure, a comprehensive peace treaty that is based on the return to the 1967 borders.

Since 1977 the US and Europe have been trying to weaken or destabilize Syria. This will destabilize the whole Middle East like it did each time they tried in the past. In Washington DC there is a group of legacy Middle East experts who tried, unsuccessfully, over the past years or decades, to weaken and isolate Syria. Dennis Ross, Elliott Abrams, Lee Smith, Jeff Feltman, and many others who passed away. For them, it is a personal battle that they never won. But they succeeded at least in ensuring that Syria never received a visit from an American secretary of State since 2003. No matter who is the President of the Untied States, one of the long term enemies of Syria makes it inside the new administration to help ensure nothing constructive comes out.

If President Obama is serious about progress in the Middle East, he has to personally take charge of relations with Syria. Leave the Syria “experts” out of it. You cannot be a democracy within the borders of the United States but a bully in the way you deal with smaller states. You know that when Syria was considered an ally of the Soviet Union, the Russians allowed Hafez Assad the liberty to meet with American Presidents. They did not punish him for that. The same applies to Iranian allies of Syria. They never complained when President Bashar Assad met with American officials or when Syrian experts were discussing peace with Israelis in Turkey. The US should learn from Iran and the former Soviet Union how is it possible to be a friend of Syria without dictating your terms on your weaker friend.

Religion and politics make an explosive mix. Most of the region’s problems come from Saudi Arabia (Sunni Islam’s Kingdom), Iran (Shia Islam’s kingdom) Israel (the Jewish state) and soon from America’s Zionist Christians. If you want Syrian minorities to be less fearful of full democracy get the Salafists off their back first. This one is calling for sacrificing one third of Syria’s population to get rid of the infidels, while the other one is about to explode if he does not see the minorities out of power in Syria immediately. In Egypt, top leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood are saying their real goal is “to rule the world!”. Salafists in Egypt are already threatening to enter Christian monasteries and to take over Sufi mosques. Even in Tunisia, Jordan and Northern Lebanon, Salafists are increasingly trying to play a big role.

In five years, everything can be resolved. But we have to retire the “moral clarity” mentality that used to consider Hosni Mubarak a part of the “International community” simply because he was a US puppet. Many of the heroes and prophets of moral clarity worked for Qaddafi when he paid the right price. Some of them worked for the Bush Sr. administration when a decision was made to kill tens of thousands of young Iraqi soldiers after they surrendered. That same 1991 war was made possible after many, including the President, lied to the American people to help them support that initially unpopular war. Don’t try again to spend 500 million dollars to manipulate the Lebanese people against Hezbollah before they go to vote. When you do that, the Syrian regime will be more assured that opening up its political system will lead to American (and Saudi) manipulation… until both countries accept to become genuine friends of Syria. It is really wrong for the Obama administration to send an ambassador to Damascus while trying to finance those who are trying to overthrow the regime then to complain that engagement with Damascus is not working too well.

The United States must decide between solving the problems of the region, or letting it explode. Forget what your Syria experts say; Syria is where you need to start. This regime has 40 years of intensive and extensive experience in this region. Make use of it, THEN talk to the regime about what it takes to retire from power while the region is at peace.

Am I confident any of that will take place? … The regime’s reforms yes, the rest no. It is hard not to be pessimistic about what the region will go through this year.
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727 thoughts on “Talking about a Revolution: An Interview with Camille Otrakji

  1. R2D2’s in China; V’s in Kabul… malla globetrotters jame3at qifa nabki.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 6, 2011, 3:12 pm
  2. QN you have fans across the globe but beware we may rebel and end your reign if we don’t see a Qnion piece soon, there’s plenty material in Beirut !

    Posted by V | May 6, 2011, 3:29 pm
  3. Qnion pieces can stop a rebellion? I’ll have to try them on my kids at bedtime.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 6, 2011, 3:35 pm
  4. try the Wiggles on sprout tv, goes like this “hot potatoes hot potatoes…. smashed banana smashed banana ,,, banana banana banana” and the song goes on
    i spent my last R&R watching the Wiggles lol

    Posted by V | May 6, 2011, 3:49 pm
  5. Infamous Danny; Buzz off with your balderdash!
    Miss me yet?

    Posted by HK | May 6, 2011, 4:51 pm
  6. V,
    Please not the wiggles!!!

    I share your thoughts concerning Iceman, I had fun myself a few posts back with the KSA hypocrisy but dont ya think it is getting a little fascist. What makes this blogsite unique, is the differing opinions, which is getting more and more constant by the day.
    Has anyone wondered where the ‘resistance’ camp went to? they have all but disappeared.

    In that regard, Iceman is an asset to this blogsite. He represents a current that holds weight,even though most disagree with it, and in his bigoted views, he unknowingly or knowingly unravels the hypocrisy of the current he represents. Let him be.

    Posted by Maverick | May 6, 2011, 5:02 pm
  7. Iceman,

    There is no obligation or agreement requiring Israel to return to the 67 borders.

    Do you make this stuff up, or is this something you learned in school? With respect to Israel and Egypt, an agreement was signed.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | May 6, 2011, 5:09 pm
  8. Maverick:

    I like Iceman! It may not appear so, but I think he’s one of the most important contributors on this site (despite sectarianism, double standards, hypocrisy, selective reading of history, etc).

    I’ve been a fan of his since the first day I came to QN. In fact I dare say, I think he’s my favorite contributor here.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 6, 2011, 5:15 pm
  9. Gabz,

    You are redefining sarcasm.

    I thought HK would be your favourite.

    Posted by Maverick | May 6, 2011, 5:19 pm
  10. Maverick.

    Seriously, I’m not being sarcastic. I actually like Iceman. I’m not saying I agree with many of his views. And I know that I am and have been crude with him, but mostly it’s to rile him up. I know the feelings are not reciprocated since he’d rather I froze and sunk into the depths of some ocean…

    … but still, I think QN would lose a hell of a load of pazzaz without him here.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 6, 2011, 5:25 pm
  11. Maverick,

    Don’t take whatever gabriel says as sarcasm..If you go back to “the beginning”…iceman (anonymous) and Gabriel were like siamese twins in love forever…playing off each other until a black cat crossed their path. 😀

    Posted by danny | May 6, 2011, 5:25 pm
  12. Iceman is a keeper, no doubt. 😉

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 6, 2011, 5:26 pm
  13. Interesting article by Michael Young;

    What evidence did Akl present for her extraordinary claim that the Syrian army had been targeted by jihadists? She provided a link to an article from The Independent in London, which merely cited Syrian state television to that effect. How persuasive, or surprising, from an official outlet that has been a wellspring of disinformation during the weeks of dissension in Syria, overseen by a regime that has portrayed the domestic unrest as a rebellion by armed Islamists.

    In fact, all the signs, if one bothers to look, have suggested the precise contrary. The anti-regime demonstrations have not been led by Islamists; they have been peaceful, despite the brutality of the regime’s security apparatus and praetorian guard; and the Muslim Brotherhood appeared to join the demonstrations relatively late, at least organizationally, only issuing a statement on participation two weeks ago. But Akl’s flimsy assertion was good enough in the service of a parochial Lebanese agenda feeding off communal paranoia.

    Posted by Maverick | May 6, 2011, 5:35 pm
  14. Gabriel and HP,
    I agree with both your assessments, but I would like to point out that there is tremendous schizophrenia in the Sunni Muslim mind set. On the one hand, we learn from an early age that the Quran is the book of God, dictated to Mohammad. It is sacred and can not be questioned, because if you question the Quran, you question God. On the other hand we are faced with things that are clear in the Quran, but that we can not come to terms with. One example would be that the man inherits double what the woman inherits. Now remember, back then, this was revolutionary. Women did not inherit anything, on the contrary they were themselves inherited like horses and goats. In today’s world, few women would accept this without questioning.
    Sunni Muslims convince themselves that God knows best. We have to follow his word no matter how unconvincing it sounds to us today.
    This is exactly the situation with the Sharia Law.
    My take is that if Omar Ibn Al khattab dared challenge a very clear verse of the Quran, why can’t we today? I think we are always missing the point. Who is God and why is he giving us all these rules to follow? I feel that it is all part of an attempt to organize society when it was in total chaos and disintegration. It seems like we are hanging on to the unnecessary details and forgetting the big message.
    I truly believe that Muhammad’s message was for us Muslims to have high moral standards, have strong work ethics and aspire to achieve the highest educational level we can muster. In today’s Islamic countries, our effort is concentrated on showing everyone that we pray 5 times a day, fast whenever possible, going to Mecca as many times as we can, but have no problem pulling our 9 year old out of school to work at the store, take a few mistresses as long as no one finds out, cheat and lie our way through life and treat people with tremendous unkindness. We are as far from true Islam as one can get.
    We have to take the Quran and place it in the proper historical context. It is the book of God, but we have to have the flexibility to change things according to our current environment. I have a feeling that if Muhammad were alive today he would have agreed. Sorry Iceman. Do you consider this “kufer”?
    On a side note, Gabriel, you really hurt my feelings when you said that Iceman was your favorite.

    Posted by Sheila | May 6, 2011, 5:42 pm
  15. I’m still curious about what our dear neighbors/friends across the fence make of the recent Fatah/Hamas reconciliation.


    I never got a reply as to where you stand on a state solution for Israel.

    I’m wondering wether you should not be called the “Special One” … like Jose Mourinho.

    Posted by R2D2 | May 6, 2011, 5:59 pm
  16. #415 … a one state solution ….

    Posted by R2D2 | May 6, 2011, 6:00 pm
  17. Just wanted to say, Gabriel #390. Excellent comment. Specially the last paragraph.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 6, 2011, 6:26 pm
  18. R2D2,

    Look in the archives, we discussed that issue to death. I am of course against the one state solution, as 99.9% of Israeli Jews are including leading leftists like Uri Avnery.

    Posted by AIG | May 6, 2011, 7:21 pm
  19. As for Fatah-Hamas, let’s wait to see if it even holds a couple of months and then discuss.

    Posted by AIG | May 6, 2011, 7:22 pm
  20. Sheila ya Sheila, you are a breath of fresh air and inspire us to have faith in the future.

    I don’t have the actual statistics but my guess is that a silent majority of Muslims worldwide would agree 100% with you. Heck, I submit that all the women, hence 50% will be unequivocally supportive of your view, and then some percentage of men will be too, making it a majority. The only question I have is how much longer will the world wait before such saving reform lifts Islam up from being a target of true bigots around the world to the status it should have as one of the most important world religions.

    Although a semi-fictionalized account, I was quite moved and impressed by Deepak Chopra’s book “Muhammad.” He was remarkably respectful and imaginative in it and appears to have stayed true to the fundamental beliefs and the historical context. I have very close trusted Muslim friends who would lead exemplary lives that I would ask anyone to emulate. Their beliefs and behavior are a far cry of what those who accuse Islam blindly claim. It is quite disturbing to see what I consider to be inaction on the part of Muslims in combating effectively such bigotry by putting forth definitive and unequivocal statements about their beliefs and how they affect social and political order.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 6, 2011, 11:05 pm
  21. correction: who lead … instead of… who would lead

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 6, 2011, 11:06 pm
  22. HP,
    Here is what I think about the never ending debate in the West about the never coming Reform in Islam, and excuse the clumsiness.
    I won’t claim deep knowledge of psychoanalytic science and I stand to be corrected by anyone who knows best. But I have heard of the need of symbolically killing the father in order to become and independent person. As a mother, I have experienced the process in my own family. Unlike most women in Freudian times, I have my share of authority in the family, and I am duly being killed myself by my children as they grow.
    Back to our subject, it is not the same thing to Kill The Father (in the Freudian sense) than to have one’s father killed. The use of the majuscule-minuscule is not a lack of orthographic coherence: you have somewhere to “kill” the Father –hopefully early on in live, so you give yourself and him time to come back to each other- in order to become a man. But if Someone Else kills him, actually making it disappear by repression, or symbolically by some cultural, economic, you name it war, then you cannot do it yourself and, that fatherly figure will become a father, a martyr, a too revered a figure that you will never be able to criticize and “kill” by yourself.

    I think it is becoming quite clear that Islam will not reform until it sees itself in a relative position of strength. The post colonialist view of the world implies it to be Democratic, to be minimally legitimatized, even in the view of those ex colonialists. Even if some situations give way to atypical solutions (Lebanon being the present referent), democracy DOES imply government by the majority. Sooner or later the culture and baggage of traditions are bound to reflect in the government and laws of the society, if democracy is at work. Once the Father is in command, then it can be “killed”, reformed, ignored, fought at, by the son. Not before. The same logic applies, in my view, on the liberation of Muslim women, in which I have high hopes, but not before the Muslim societies are considered by the majority of believers as functioning “by themselves” and not “under the stick” of some outside Enemy.

    Posted by mj | May 7, 2011, 3:54 am
  23. Sheila,

    I’ve been known to break a few hearts 🙂

    Aren’t we all schizophrenic? Well maybe I should speak for myself only.

    It’s a funny thing. I am born to a Catholic/Greek Orthodox parents. I myself am technically “atheist”. That’s the preamble.

    In Catholic theology there is a notion called original sin. It’s a state of “sinfullness” we are born into. Other faith traditions don’t have this notion, so I’m not sure if you’ll fully appreciate the sort of psychological effect it has on the individual.

    So you may be surprised to know that even though I am not a “believer” (not out of spite or bitterness, but my own reasoned thought), I still carry around with me this “Original Sin”.

    I can’t relay this feeling. I can’t really explain it, but I think people born into Catholic families can probably relate.
    It’s a feeling that creates internal conflict all the time! If none of this made sense to you, my apologies, I can’t really put words to it.

    So I can just imagine that for people who are believers in a certain faith tradition, will likely have an equally difficult time, if not much more, juggling traditions, personal situations, etc.

    On this forum, like I always say… Its a zoo. There’s quite a few characters. Love them or hate them, they each have their charm. I hope you stick around… This forum is not stuffy and suffocating like the one over at SC (I don’t know how it got that way given that it is moderated). We’ve needed to dilute a little of the testosterone around here, and you truly have been quite the breath of fresh air.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 7, 2011, 4:19 am
  24. MJ,

    Very nice analogy it is attractive to think this is the case or reason for lack of reform in Islam. in my humble opinion I think there are countless factors such as the slow social, economic and political development of the Muslim world apart from the father son relationship or the impact of colonialism on the Arab psychology, maybe also there are some divine reasons which are out of our control, who knows maybe our dear Lord God Allah Elohim wants us to live such conflicts in the hopes we will learn and try to find solutions and in the process find our lost humanity.
    Maybe it is time for a new Prophet to consolidate all religions with a set of rules acceptable to all and conforming to the 21st century.
    In case anyone is wondering I am not smoking anything in Afghanistan, it’s just the altitude 🙂


    I apologies for being harsh and constantly critical, I promise i will be more understanding, please forgive the personal attacks and abrasive language


    Posted by V | May 7, 2011, 4:27 am
  25. MJ

    I don’t think you need to be corrected by anyone. Superb analysis (and in fact in line with historical precedents).

    Posted by Gabriel | May 7, 2011, 4:36 am
  26. Thanks V and Gabriel. V, I never thought to hear from you such invocations (all kinds of Lords, and even a new Prophet with more “rules”!) It’s not the altitude. My guess is that you just smashed Froidaddy very early on in life, so some of It has had time to come back already :)I myself thought I’d “killed” mine in my teens. With a little help of Dialectic Materialism… Until I met (and later married) a Muslim, non practicing but, mind you, a believer. When I first took him home, and he pronounced the world God during conversation, my mom asked him if he believed in God. “Of course I do”, he answered, to the astonishment of my very Catholic mom (who had given up, on matters of faith, on his self-defined atheistic children). To witch my mother answered with evident satisfaction and a big side-smile to me: well, it was about time that a true believer entered this home by the hand of one of my children!

    Posted by mj | May 7, 2011, 5:29 am
  27. Correction to #426:
    ‘… to the astonishment of my very Catholic mom (who had given up, on matters of faith, on her self-defined atheistic children). To what my mother replied with evident satisfaction (and a big side-smile directed to me): “well, it was about time that a true believer entered this home by the hand of one of my children!”

    Posted by mj | May 7, 2011, 5:50 am
  28. Some reading that I found interesting:

    Here, an example of internal debate about politics and Islam, for Iceman, Zenobia, Sheila, Gabriel etc, on LEMONDE.FR | 22.04.2011 “L’essayiste Abdelwahab Meddeb et le théologue Tariq Ramadan débattent sur la religion dans les révolutions arabes”. Sorry I can’t link, for “abonnes” only, and in French.

    R2D2, AIG, about the move towards Palestinian Unity, here’s Mustapha Barghouti interviewed in FP

    Posted by mj | May 7, 2011, 6:39 am
  29. MJ,

    I am yet to free myself more 🙂
    for now i live by the words of Gandhi when asked about his religion he answered that he was Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Hindu. I truly believe there is no difference at all and the constraints practiced by the zealots on all sides are nothing but cultural fears and habits.
    God is truly one in his (or her to borrow from GK) message.

    Posted by V | May 7, 2011, 6:53 am
  30. Other conversations between the two men. It’s still in French, but I’m sure one can find more stuff in English, especially about Mr. Ramadan, who’s definitely a guy to keep listening to.

    Posted by mj | May 7, 2011, 7:03 am
  31. V, I get your point, though I’m dismayed that you left the essential Orisha out of the list 🙂

    Posted by mj | May 7, 2011, 7:11 am
  32. V,

    I took note of your apology.


    Posted by iceman | May 7, 2011, 10:12 am
  33. Well Geez, thanks a whole bunch V!!!

    Does that mean I’m left here carrying the a$$hole flag all by myself? 🙂

    Posted by Gabriel | May 7, 2011, 11:28 am
  34. “Alex” is not doing himself any credit to bring persons such as Michel Chossudovsky as supporting evidence. This such a load of BS, among other stuff this guy has published – all conspiracy theory over the top. His “global research” is only himself. Ann Coulter is also published and renown … that doesn’t make her credible. His piece is rife with claims- that are totally unsubstantiated.

    Posted by Zenobia | May 7, 2011, 12:29 pm
  35. ” Coulter was fired from MSNBC when she told the president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, himself a disabled Vietnam veteran, “No wonder you guys lost.” She was fired from the conservative National Review when she turned in a column offering a final solution to the Muslim problem: “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.””

    Posted by iceman | May 7, 2011, 12:36 pm
  36. Syrian women are actively particpaing in the revolution. Three women fell martyrs in Banias today. They are Layla Sahyouni, Layla Taha, A7hlam 7hawayskeh. While I may be speculating, but the name of the first woman may even indicate participation across sectarian affiliations disproving the regime’s narrative which is seeking to stoke fears the uprising will lead to sectarian conflicts.

    Posted by iceman | May 7, 2011, 12:51 pm
  37. Gabriel lol

    You made an earlier “rapprochement” but were not direct enough to warrant a reply it seems.
    I think you need a lesson on diplomacy from QN 🙂
    come on and be nice now at least infront of the new ladies and say sorry lol

    Posted by V | May 7, 2011, 1:12 pm
  38. re Coulter, indeed Iceman, and yet she still makes a lot of money selling her books – available in every american airport and borders books!…

    really interesting analysis…. i like it.
    Indeed, the symbolic killing of the parent in the service of separation and hence growth – requires the security of knowing that the killing does not result in the actual death of the mother/father or in the end of the relationship. The survival of the ‘parent’ despite necessary aggression, criticism, separation needed for growth – is vital and the key to flexibility and development verses rigidity and stagnation.
    You sound like a good psychoanalyst, to me.
    Unfortunately, the perception of external (or internal for that matter) threat, real or paranoid, and the sense of lack of security is definitely enough to shut down the flexibility to grow and develop independent thought – whether we are talking about the individual or a society. You brought up this analogy in terms of development in Islam. But I would say it is equally applicable at looking at the paranoia and fears present in the situation in Syria right now.

    I had the chance to hear Tariq Ramadan give a talk this past winter here – in English- and I was very impressed. It was very interesting, though some of it beyond my ken.

    Posted by Zenobia | May 7, 2011, 1:20 pm
  39. an added note – re my comment regarding nut cases like Chossudovsky. It always amuses me that you can go to the far far left of the political spectrum or the far far right… and basically they both come full circle and look fairly similar in terms of the level of crazy and adherence to conspiracy as the central explanation for everything.

    Posted by Zenobia | May 7, 2011, 1:25 pm
  40. If “The Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook” represents the main opposition leadership, then maybe Alex is right:

    Al Jazeera today 7th may and also reported by Le Monde
    “Syrian opposition figures called on president Bashar al-Assad to embrace democracy and hold elections within six months, saying he could transform the country and become a source of pride.

    Addressing Assad, The Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page said “The solution is simple: Stop shooting at demonstrators, allow peaceful demonstrations, remove all your photos and those of your father, release all political prisoners, allow political pluralism and free elections in six months.”

    The page, a motor of anti-regime protests, said “you will be the pride of contemporary Syria if you can transform Syria from a dictatorship into a democracy. Syrians would be grateful for that, and it is possible to do”. This is the first time that anyone in the opposition has offered such detailed proposals in seven weeks of protests in which hundreds have been killed in a violent crackdown.”

    Posted by why-discuss | May 7, 2011, 1:29 pm
  41. Why-Discuss.

    I believe our very own Iceman came with this very proposal weeks ago. Maybe the Facebook website caught wind of QN a little late in the game.

    Zenobia. Isn’t it ironic that come election time, Ann Coulter and the majority of Arab Americans cast their ballots for the same party!? 🙂


    All that sincere love, that came with no pre-conditions. And nothing. Absolutely nothing.

    His heart is made of stone! But I still love him anyways.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 7, 2011, 1:58 pm
  42. The regime is hanging on any straw it can find to save itself from drowning. This desperation is clearly portrayed by the apologists who appear here every once in a while to repeat the same mantra as the interviewee. Most respected and objective analysts, however, concluded long ago that the regime is structurally and inherently incapable of salvation and is not even worth salvaging.

    Last week it was Dera’a. News are beginning to emerge about crimes committed against humanity. HRW is even speaking of documented case by case evidence proving such crimes and calling for accountability. The death toll as of now has passed the mark of 800.

    Today, and perhaps for the rest of the week it is Banias. It appears to be the same Dera’a scenario. First communication, electricity and water supplies are cut off, the city is besieged and then tanks accompanied by maher thugs enter the city and the carnage begins,

    The regime has one and only one objective in mind and its message to the Syrian people is loud and clear: SUBMIT. It desperately needs to re-erect the high barrier of fear that it still cannot comprehend has been shattered irreparably

    The answer of the Syrian people is also loud and clear (but I assume Alex and buddy classify this people as INTRUDERS and cannot be called Syrian People or simply traitors by negation of belonging) and simple: al-mowt wala almazale (DEATH is easier than submission).

    If the regime and its goons still delusionally believe any objective is achieved from Dera’a, then here was the result yesterday from across Syria,

    The regime’s time and Bashar’s have simply expired.

    Posted by iceman | May 7, 2011, 2:11 pm
  43. Iceman,

    You are correct in your assessment. The “reformist” ship sailed 800 martyrs and thousands of wounded and injuries ago…

    If Bashar tries to stay on it would be with the brute force and I really do not know what more can he do past bombing his own people a la Hama…

    This regime is rotten to the core and will be held responsible for all the heinous crimes as well as looting of Syria through the past 40 years.

    People like Alex, will lose their privileges and regular folk will be able to breathe freely.

    Posted by danny | May 7, 2011, 2:24 pm
  44. It is wonderful to see that character assassination is still the civilized dialogue style of choice for those who are very passionate about introducing Syria to freedom of speech fast.

    When I linked to Chossudovsky’s article you ignored its content and instead jumped to dismiss anything he says because of his “conspiracy theory” tendencies.

    Let me assure you I do not share anyone’s opinion that the CIA did 911. But I was hoping you will consider some of the evidence that Chossudovsky provided. Here is the part I was planning to mention in my article and forgot to, but he did:

    “Yet in an unusual twist, the images and video footage of several pro-government events were used by the Western media to convince international public opinion that the President was being confronted by mass anti-government rallies.”

    Western and Arab media … both used images and footage of PRO Assad demonstrations to give the impression that anti Assad demonstrations were massive.

    How could several producers make such mistakes?

    But of course we don’t need to look into these details that could perhaps force us to consider other views … Let us instead congratulate ourselves on concluding that the crazy Professor from the University of Ottawa, and Alex who linked his article here, are both exposed for what they are: lunatics!

    I tried to go through the last 100 comments but I see some accusing me of believing that all the demonstrators are criminals … Besides character assassination, when you can’t deal with an opinion, you distort it enough and then you can enjoy your superior counter opinion… Another reason why I highly respect some of you die hard democracy and freedom of speech advocates.

    Now I’ll let you go back to your non-stop conspiracy theories (the Syrian army is shooting all its soldiers, Maher shot Farouk Sharaa …)

    Gabriel, thanks for helping explain and moderate above.

    Iceman .. ask QifaNabki … in 2005 to 2007 there were many commentators like you being beyond sure the Syrian regime’s days are numbered because Mehlis will get Maher and Asef very soon … Because Bush will invade them … Becasue the Syrian army will overthrow the incompetent Bashar who was forced to order his army out of Lebanon …

    Before you conclude that I am sure that nothing will move the Syrian regime, my opinion is that I doubt it, But every thing is possible …

    Posted by Alex | May 7, 2011, 2:54 pm
  45. Alex,

    Can you provide a link to show Western media misusing images and footages of the demonstrations?

    Posted by Badr | May 7, 2011, 3:21 pm
  46. To all, but especially: Alex, Iceman, danny and Gabriel,
    Alex’s opinion presented in his interview, is not part of his imagination. It is totally true that many in Syria feel the same way. It is also true that a good chunk of christian Syrians feel this way too and support the regime out of fear from chaos and the unknown, however, I would like to assert that not all Christians feel this way. A few days ago, I saw a friend of mine (a Syrian christian). She was shaking with anger. She was so upset from the position of some of her friends supporting the regime. She could not believe how any person with any sense of justice and decency could support the Syrian regime. Her last comment was: so the MBs are going to be the replacement for the current regime? so be it.
    Gentlemen, I think only those who had the honor of living under the Syrian regime can appreciate these raw emotions. I can tell you stories that I know first hand, that will make your hair white. The story of the dam that collapsed I think in 2004. killed 20 people and ruined the most important agricultural area in Syria. The reason for the collapse was that one of the relatives of the president was acting like it was his family’s dam. He controled the water flow for irrigation and drinking. The residents of that area would only get water if they paid him money. The dam collapsed because it was a very hot summer and he figured, the thirstier the people get, the more money they would be willing to pay him. He filled the dam beyond capacity causing its collapse. When the investigative committee uncovered the truth, a presidential decree was issued to prevent the prosecution of the culprit. On the other hand, the engineer who noticed the stress in the dam wall and saved an entire village from certain death (a national hero in any other country) ended up in jail. This is Syria for you. Sometimes you really have to wonder if anything could be worse.

    Posted by Sheila | May 7, 2011, 3:31 pm
  47. Gabriel,
    Thanks for the kind words. I am enjoying this blog, but having a hard time keeping up. This can be a full time job.
    I understand your struggle with what was instilled in you as a young boy.
    You know, I also have my issues with the Catholic Church. I cringe when I see the Pope wearing his Prada shoes and look at the extravagance in the Vatican. I always think about all the poor people Puting money in the collection baskets at church and how this money ends up in the Prada shoes. I think the true catholic was mother Teresa.
    I think Iceman will be happy to see me critisize another religion. Taking into consideration that all religions have problems and it is really not inherent in the religion, rather in the people and their interpretation thereof.

    Posted by Sheila | May 7, 2011, 3:42 pm
  48. Danny,

    Let’s assume he survives and he rules by brute force as you said. Then what would we have? An apartheid state supporting a so-called ‘muqawama’ while Egypt calls all the shots further eradicating all so-called ‘legitimacy’ the regime has built only to find itself in a sand castle?


    Now I understand the promised QN frenzy. Is it not wonderful and full of frenzy to have an interviewee who refutes himself by himself?

    “Before you conclude that I am sure that nothing will move the Syrian regime, my opinion is that I doubt it, But every thing is possible …”

    So the 3 to 5 year grace period was just a ploy that Bashar may have hoped to gain as a life line from his first speech which no one in his right believed in the first place.

    Notice that the interviewee and buddy only appear if the regime’s two central are challenged as in comments 434 and 436. These are the so-called sectarian demons and so-called outside conspiracy against Syria.


    We do know what alex is talking about. He is propagating the only propaganda left in the regime’s sinking ship. It is our duty to refute it and not fall into its trappings, especially when people are sacrificing their lives and not buying it any more.

    Posted by iceman | May 7, 2011, 3:45 pm
  49. Earlier, I sent Elias two examples along with explanation. One is a Haaretz example, the other from the BBC that I found on you tube.

    Others were from live TV footage that I can not “link to”. Now I can’t remember western stations (besides the BBC above), but Aljazeera showed footage of Pro demonstrations so many times. And more often, they would show old larger demonstrations from other cities. Since most demonstrations took place on Fridays, Aljazeera and the BBC had to find exciting images from previous days. But the viewer had no way of knowing that today nothing took place and that these are older clips.

    Posted by Alex | May 7, 2011, 3:51 pm
  50. …I think Iceman will be happy to see me critisize another religion…

    You’re completey missing the point. I was neither happy nor unhappy with your ‘critique’. I pointed out your misrepresentation that were too many. That is all. Had it not been for my conviction that the subject cannot be dealt with here, I would still show you that you are still misinterpreting facts of history in 414 in relation to Omar and your presumed challenge he made. We know the story in full detail. So let’s leave at that as you have promised already to drop the subject.

    Posted by iceman | May 7, 2011, 4:01 pm
  51. Sorry for mistakes in 448…

    “…which no one in his right mind believed…”

    And also,

    “…if the regime’s two central narratives are challenged…”

    Posted by iceman | May 7, 2011, 4:06 pm
  52. Alex,

    What is the link to the BBC video stream in question, that you found on youtube?

    Posted by Badr | May 7, 2011, 4:07 pm
  53. I think Sheila that after all these posts we really can reduce the debate issues to the following two points:

    (1) Minority Positions

    (2) External Hands/Influences

    Are the pro-Regimees overplaying these questions? Are the anti-Regimees downplaying them?

    As BV said many eons ago.. there is only one way to find out. The Ballot Box.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 7, 2011, 4:12 pm
  54. Sheila,

    I have Christian friends who hate everything that one should hate about the regime.

    I also hated corruption and wrote criticizing Rami while no one else using his real name did

    I posted this Washington Post article in 2008 and it got a record 544 comments!

    But corruption is everywhere … You think the 3 trillion dollars the Bush administration and America will end up spending by the the time the optional and unfair Iraq war is over, is a good thing?

    They could have saved the planet’s most pressing and most dire problems with 3 trillion dollars, instead of destroying the nation of Iraq.

    Our choices for the future of Syria (and the Middle East) require looking at the real options we have today.

    I am not speaking purely as a Christian. I am secular.

    Posted by Alex | May 7, 2011, 4:14 pm
  55. Alex,

    To argue that Western media are manipulating video (in whatever way) is besides the point, a diversion from the big picture.

    The big picture is: this is a criminal regime shooting its own people directly in their faces (bloody hell, have we seen the same videos or did you watch cindrella !!??). I can imagine most Syrians are scarred and most do not feel safe to protest. Heck, I would not dare go out myself if I was against the regime.

    All this to say, after about 1000 deaths and thousands of arrested and tortured and cities stormed by tanks, the number of protesters still protesting is not something you can use to undermine the authenticity and the message behind the revolution.

    You argument will only be accepted when people feel safe to protest, then, and only then, number counting can begin.

    Posted by rm | May 7, 2011, 4:38 pm
  56. rm,

    I can argue that in Libya where Qaddafi’s troops probably killed over 10,000 protesters using everything he has in his army, Libyans are in the streets.

    In Yemen where one day they had 40 people killed by snipers, they still went out to protest in large numbers… this Friday you had another million protesting in Yemen.

    It is clear that Daraa, Banias, and to a lesser degree Homs, have genuine large opposition to the regime. Large numbers demonstrated in those cities despite the regime’s use of power there. Ten thousands in Daraa, 300 in Aleppo.

    I agree that more Syrians would have demonstrated had it been a fun day at the park type of experience… 2, 3,4, or 5 % of Syrians might demonstrate. But many more will demonstrate against them if they have to. The regime will not stop its supporters anymore from demonstrating.

    The big picture is that most of us Syrians prefer evolution to revolution, and that the Middle East will not take it if there is a revolution in Syria. That is my opinion.

    We will agree to disagree I hope.

    Posted by Alex | May 7, 2011, 4:52 pm
  57. This line about media has been repeated endlessly.

    Let’s repeat it one more time. Otherwise it will be like he said, she said.


    Posted by iceman | May 7, 2011, 4:55 pm
  58. I agree that more Syrians would have demonstrated had it been a fun day at the park type of experience… 2, 3,4, or 5 % of Syrians might demonstrate. But many more will demonstrate against them if they have to. The regime will not stop its supporters anymore from demonstrating.

    Then stop all this deception and charade and submit to an internationally supervised election and go to the ballot box and elect a new government that will be entrusted in drafting and implementing reforms while limiting the current so-called president to a transitional care taker for a specified period when a more suitable President can also be elected by the ballot box and also for a maximum of one or two 4-year terms..

    Also dissolve the thugs brigade of Maher and turn all those who committed atrocities for trial under the UN in a place such as Lehigh.

    Posted by iceman | May 7, 2011, 5:02 pm
  59. 1) As QN mentioned, maybe this should be the subject of another post, but I would recommend consulting Talal Assad (no direct relation with the Syrian dynastic rulers, but an established anthropologist), especially his Genealogies of Religion andMohammed Arkoun, especially Rethinking Islam, and for those who really want understand the historical development of Islam in the ME, Hussein Mroueh is must read (in Arabic, al nazaat al maddiya fil falsafa alarabiya alislamiya). The belief that Sunni Islam is the orthodox way of following Islam (and that Shia or Ismaili beliefs are illegitimate heresies) are part and parcel of the orientalist and western interpretations of a petrified Islam where people define ijtihaas merely official schools of interpretation of the sets of beliefs and practices associated with Islam. Fundamentalism itself is a modernist western alternative (developed by Qutb and Maudoodi). Much more can be learned about the subject from reading those who have devoted their life to such studies (and in some cases, as with Mroueh, were killed) and to the pursuit of freedom, justice, and truth from the Arab-Islamic perspectives and experiences (which include experiences of Sunni, Shia, Christians and Jews, and non theistic believers in the best of human ideals).

    Posted by parrhesia | May 7, 2011, 5:35 pm
  60. We didn’t “skip” anything…. what he said – relied on totally unsubstantiated claims that only fit together balanced upon one big conspiracy theory.

    Posted by Zenobia | May 7, 2011, 5:55 pm
  61. rather we didn’t “ignore” anything….

    Posted by Zenobia | May 7, 2011, 5:57 pm
  62. Alex:

    > Following on your thoughts… why are you against calling elections earlier rather than later?

    > Do you really believe that if elections were held today, that only 2, 3, 5% of the Syrian population would reflect the views of the protesters?

    Posted by Gabriel | May 7, 2011, 7:06 pm
  63. Alex says he prefers evolution to revolution.
    I don’t think anyone would argue with that.

    The problem is, there is no “evolution” and there hasn’t been for 40 years or longer.

    Your choices appear to be de-volution or revolution.
    Which do you choose then?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 7, 2011, 7:25 pm
  64. Gabriel,

    1) Because with a system (black box) that is stable somehow today … it takes some serious thinking how to re-engineer it without messing up the whole thing.

    We need to start new parties … empower other existing parties (the SSNP or the communist party for example) …

    We need a senate …

    We need to practice first through parliamentary elections and municipal elections …

    2) I did not say that if elections were held today only 2,3,4, or 5% would vote for the opposition. I said that if the army and police did not show up for Friday protests, more people will be protesting … twice as many, 3 times, or even 5 times as many. But that will still be way less than the percentage of Cairo or Alexandria that demonstrated each day.

    If elections were to be held … it depends on many things. But if they are held today, the Ba’ath party and the Muslim brotherhood will win everything. There are not other serious parties yet.

    I will go for a meeting now, but I’ll leave you with today’s news from Free Egypt

    And Tunisia

    Posted by Alex | May 7, 2011, 7:36 pm
  65. Gabriel,

    Point 1 above: those demonstrating are the most passionate ones. Those voting (larger numbers) are the ones who have at least a slight preference one way or the other.


    We have to give it a real chance … demonstrations must stop for a month and the government have to show us the new laws they want to introduce.

    It is irrelevant what happened the past 11 years since Bashar came to power. Things changed now and the Ba’ath party and the intelligence community recognize they can not resist change like they used to (they still will limit

    You can read what Syria was busy with until 2008

    You can blame Bashar for not moving it after 2008 though.

    We’ll see …

    Posted by Alex | May 7, 2011, 7:44 pm
  66. Alex,

    I’m trying, believe me I am, but I get ever more confused on your position.

    You say Syrians want evolution rather than revolution by which I suppose you mean that the majority of Syrians want an evolution from the baath and Bashar.

    Since I have no reason or data to dispute this point with. I’ll assume it’s true.

    In a free and fair election, how many votes would go to MB and how many to the Baath. Is it 60-40 70-30 50+1-50?

    If this assumption is true, why is it any chip of Bashar’s shoulder to come on TV and say that elections will be held in 6 months? Knowing fully well he can win those elections?

    If demonstrations stop today for 1 month, giving Bashar some time to draft new laws. What type of changes would the majority you believe exists in Syria, expect. And if he falls short on those expectations, would you change your position and support the opposition?

    Given the choice between a democratically elected MB and an authoritarian Baath, what would you personally choose?

    Posted by Gabriel | May 7, 2011, 8:21 pm
  67. Alex,
    Thanks for bringing up that monumental work of yours. It was a good work. However, I would like to point to the last post in the thread # 155. It was a post from me to Hind, dated on April 2, 2010, a year before anything resembling the Arab spring has started. Here it is:

    Dear Hind

    While many of us disagree with many aspects of the present regime, most of believe that working in solidarity with our leaders for the greater good of the Syrian people is vitally important, most especially in our relationship with the rest of the world.

    when I read the above segment, I was about to stop reading the rest of your comment because until recently, I had the same ambiguous notion about standing with the leaders on foreign policy issues. However, i decided to continue reading, and I was somehow relieved when your post clearly recognized a few of the very conscientious voices that are being silenced by agents of the leaders in what seems to be a revisit of the much despised 80 and 90s of a century past.

    Many bright Syrians are starting to feel the blunt instruments of state security. Granted, the style is now more “open” in the sense that trials are being conducted. The fact, however, is that these trials continue to be conducted in security courts and are held on pitiful charges that would have been laughable if they were not insulting to the intellect of the Syrian people and to their patriotism.

    The Syrian people will eventually recognize that while they were standing with the leadership on important national issues, the leadership had no intention of reciprocating on the internal front, and perhaps is now using the strength it gained, primarily through the sacrifices of the Syrian people to cement its power base against progress on the political and human rights fronts. To many, it seems that new wave of arrests, laughable courts, subversion of professional unions (especially lawyers guild) are serious breaches of the implicit contract the Syrians signed with their leadership during Bush’s criminal mad-dog years. And Syrians do not like broken contracts .

    Posted by Off the Wall | May 7, 2011, 8:23 pm
  68. Alex,

    Greetings! and thanks for your explanations which, in my opinion, provoke a lot of thought and considerations about the complexities involved in the situation in Syria.

    I do have one important question, though, and I have to apologize in advance if it has been covered before:

    – One of the seemingly very valid critiques of President Bashar Al-Assad and his government is that they have been in power for 10 years and yet have not effected the kind of reforms that was hoped for. Ten years represents a very long time. What is then a valid explanation for this delay and how would you address the claims by some that the current regime has demonstrated that it is not capable of reform on its own and that waiting another 5 years will simply not produce anything. Hence the necessity for the popular uprisings to bring about the needed reforms.


    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 7, 2011, 9:08 pm
  69. Today, The Resistance saved Lebanon.

    Posted by dontgetit | May 7, 2011, 11:16 pm
  70. HP,

    The ten years that president Assad had in power were not uneventful, from the invasion of Iraq to the move to go left by the American army to destroy Syria while at it to the assassination of Hariri and the blame and the sanction that were put on Syria to destroy it’s economy and political free choice, during that time president Assad put priorities to the economic reform and restarted the economic engine of Syria, education reform, he did everything accept political reform as it was very difficult to change something he and others, probably the majority of Syrians did see broken, they were wrong and now they understand that, reform is on the way, i rarely disagree with Alex but i do not think that Syria can tolerate another 5 years for reform , the reform has to be within six months,
    The way i see is for the opposition to call of all the demonstration and put faith in the president and push by claiming him as the leader for the reform and that they are behind him, Multiparty system will be established and districts will be set and election in these district for the parliament to follow, the reform has to come out of calm not violence as any reform without the calm will be taken as weakness and will scare the minorities, The Syrian army will be the safeguard for the protection of the minorities and the peaceful transfer of power when the time come, i will put up what i wrote on SC of the plan that i think will work.

    Posted by Norman | May 7, 2011, 11:22 pm
  71. Alex,

    Again, gonna have to agree to disagree.

    1) The percentages you mention for Cairo or Alexandria were not all that huge either. You perhaps forget that Egypt has what, 80 MILLION people? How many of those showed up Tahrir square? 0.01%?
    Your argument there still doesn’t hold.

    2) Stop the protests for a month? And give the regime the breathing room to crack down completely? No. It doesn’t work that way. Egypt and Tunisia showed us the way it works. If the Tunisians had stopped protesting when Ben Ali spoke of giving raises and reforming, they wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. If the Egyptians stopped protesting when Mubarak promised reforms but said he’d serve out his term, he’d still be in power today.

    See, the fallacy in your argument is that you believe that the Assad regime is willing to reform if given a chance. If only the protesters would give it a chance!
    But history across the region has shown us that these dictators do not think like that. Any reprieve is used to tighten their grip on power, reinforce their position and crackdown on opponents.

    The difference between you and me (and others here) is that you’re starting off on the assumption that Bashar got the message loud and clear and that he will now reform if given a chance. I and many others are very skeptical to that assumption. Bashar and his ilk (and Mubarak before him) have shown that they will do anything to cling to power and that they will only pay lip service to such demands if at all, followed by an even stronger crackdown.

    If Bashar had ever given me any inkling that I should put my faith in his promises, we’d be having another conversation. But he hasn’t. He hasn’t shown me anything that would lead me to believe he’d do anything positive if the protests were to stop.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 7, 2011, 11:57 pm
  72. Norman,

    Excuses, excuses.

    There will always be excuses.
    In the past 10 years it was Iraq, Hariri, blah blah blah.
    If we wait another 5 years, I can promise you the world will not be devoid of any incidents. There will never be a calm/quiet period for you to make these reforms.
    When you want to make reforms, you make reforms. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in Iraq/Afghanistan or Timbuktu.

    By your logic (and this has been the Baath’s excuse for 50 years), as long as the region is unstable, we cannot make reforms. Therefore, as long as the Israeli-Arab conflict is not resolved, we can’t make reforms. Isn’t that the excuse they’ve used for a state of emergency for 40 years?
    And even more convenient when neither Israel nor Syria have any interest in negotiating for peace. Talk about a ready made excuse that prolongs as long as the Syrian regime wants it to.

    Again….this kind of circular logic, filled with excuses, has got to stop flying. Eventually no one’s gonna buy this line of bull anymore.
    Sadly, enough people still do to warrant even us having this discussion.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 8, 2011, 12:03 am
  73. In addition to the reasons put forward by Norman as to why the Assad couldn’t bother with reforms during those 10 years, let’s not forget the great Assad was very busy plotting how to keep Lebanon under Syrian tutelage, laundering and stealing money from Banks like Al Madina, extorting from and threatening most politicians in Lebanon culminating in the assassination of Hariri and many others.

    most importantly Assad was busy providing HA with weapons to “liberate the Golan and the rest of the Arab occupied lands” and sending resistance fighters to Iraq to blow themselves up in weddings and funerals of course all in an effort to foil the American grand scheme of occupying Damascus.

    Lets be fair and give the guy a break and allow him another 5 years so he can reform himself out of office.

    Posted by V | May 8, 2011, 12:11 am
  74. It is now a familiar scene. We saw a poorly shot video that still conveyed the picture of the 10s of military vehicles moving towards Dera’a. That was last week, however.

    Tonight the video captures a much clearer picture of the same army with its vehicles packed with soldiers moving into Homs in Bab 3Amr at 2:20 am Homs time.

    Bashar and Maher are very quick and dedicated in carrying out ‘reforms’ in Syria city by city and town by town – no waiting grace period is required, rest assure The speed of ‘reform’ depends only on how fast the army vehicles can move around to eventually cover all of Syria.

    Few hour after this video appeared, loud explosions were reported in that district of Homs. There are also reports of massacres taking place in Banias at this moment. At least one huge demonstration is repoted in Moaddamiyya, Damascus in support of Banias and Homs.

    Posted by iceman | May 8, 2011, 12:24 am
  75. O and I forgot to mention it in my last comment. Homs is Norman’s birth city. So now he can go to sleep happy that his city has been ‘reformed’.

    Posted by iceman | May 8, 2011, 12:34 am
  76. I am not asking to give him 5 years, i am asking the opposition to call off all the demonstrations for the next few weeks and see if he moves on the reform , that is if they really want reform and not the destruction of the country.

    Posted by Norman | May 8, 2011, 12:37 am
  77. Iceman,
    I am so proud of you that you know my birth place, do you know what hospital?, that will be scary.

    Posted by Norman | May 8, 2011, 12:40 am
  78. Ok.

    I think everything that needed to be said about Assad and Syria has been covered.

    Can we move on … and back to what’s going on (and not going on) in Lebanon?

    Posted by R2D2 | May 8, 2011, 12:41 am
  79. Thanks, 3ammo Norman!

    Six months to reform is indeed reasonable, if only there was a way to get a number of opposition leaders to meet 1-on-1 with Pres. Assad and negotiate these future steps!
    Do you think there’s any chance of some cool heads arranging to make that happen?

    Alex makes the point that there are also some elements, perhaps with foreign incitement, looking to destabilize the country, not just to have reforms. If indeed this is the case, is it really that difficult to find a way to unmask them in a clear, unambiguous fashion, in such a way that the majority public opinion in Syria, including the genuine opposition leaders, act to abort the negative parts of what these destructive elements are sowing?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 8, 2011, 1:10 am
  80. Norman,

    Scary? For you?

    I thought you’d be scared of nothing?

    But what can be scarier than what is already?

    I thought of becoming ‘mukhabarat’, but then I figured it no longer has any effect. It lost its allure all of a sudden and for reasons incomprehensible.

    Posted by iceman | May 8, 2011, 1:15 am
  81. If Assad wants 30 days to implement reforms, he should say so clearly and also say which reforms he plans to make in the next 30 days. To prove his sincerity he should immediately free many political prisoners. That will buy him 30 days. Otherwise, the opposition will not stop.

    Posted by AIG | May 8, 2011, 1:16 am
  82. Aren’t you all tired of Billary who is still expecting Bashar Assad’s “Reforms”…
    The effects of the association in the infamous White House Murder INC, are
    long lasting for Damascus on the Potomac.

    The “gift” that will keep on giving: “Al Qaeda” documents prove Bin Laden was planning 9-11-11 rail attack on U.S. Now Napolitano can use her “Pistole” to fondle kids at Union Station.
    CTA briefed on “terror threat” following document “capture” from Pakistan. Watch out Chicago — you have Rahm Emanuel, one of Giuliani’s cronies coming to head your police, suspicious financial transactions, and a phony rail threat: the perfect storm for the neocons and their new czar, Obama.
    Two imams pulled from flight to North Carolina because of their clothing. Perhaps we should have all Muslims wear yellow crescents: Chertoff and his tribe of kapos would like that idea.
    SEALS unsure of height of “Osama” they killed. SEALS forgot to bring a tape measure.
    The Neoconned Angela Merkel sued for her gleeful Bin Laden death comments. Merkel violated Criminal Code says retired judge.
    Phone numbers sewed into Bin Laden’s clothing, says Washington Compost. But Bin Laden avoided phones. The official story breaks down as the lies become more apparent….
    This is a snapshot about the crumbling Empire of Obushma!

    Posted by HK | May 8, 2011, 5:11 am
  83. HP,

    I think it is not difficult for the president to meet anybody, the problem is who, the opposition do not have clear representatives to talk to and the hardliners in the government, after what they saw happen to the Baath party and the army in Iraq apparently able to convince the president that if the opposition really want only reform and are not trying to destabilize Syria so it will become a toy for the money of Saudi Arabia and control, they would have been happy with the reform movement and called for a time out to move on reform and multiparty system,

    About outsiders who are interfering as Alex said, I think in any troubled waters outsiders try to fish and influence events, Syria is not different,
    I think that Syria is trying to look into what they have to see if these interventions are government supported or individual supported and if Syria wants to talk to these government or create enemies and starts wars with them I think they have not made their mind yet on what to do with they have,

    are there legitimate demands, yes, people are tired of looking over their shoulders, are tired of lack of a chance to get rich, if they do not know somebody, or even live a middle class life if they are good at school. a life is not good any where if there is no chance to improve and achieve and i think that is the main motivation for the Syrians and the Lebanese to migrate West.

    Posted by Norman | May 8, 2011, 11:34 am
  84. I am confident that the Lion of Damascus will hold strong in the face of the “israeli” influenced plots that are currently stirring up dissension in Syria. The Resistance has always been loyal to its Syrian friend and knows that the arms of Hizbollah are available to fight the Zionists and those who do their bidding wherever necessary, whether in Banias, Homs or Jaffa.

    Posted by dontgetit | May 8, 2011, 12:03 pm
  85. Has anyone ever written a book on what the Levant and the Middle East would probably be like today, had the state of Israel not been created in this region?

    It would make for interesting reading.

    Posted by R2D2 | May 8, 2011, 12:14 pm
  86. There’s been so much talk of tribalism recently that I wonder how the region would have shaped up throughout the last 70 years, in an Israel-less Arab world.

    Posted by R2D2 | May 8, 2011, 12:18 pm
  87. R2D2: Why the need for a book? It will soon be current events and you can read about it in the newspaper. It is well known that the Zionist Entity will not be able to survive their next encounter with The Resistance, which will be even more devastating for them than SHN’s Divine Victory in 2006. Though their fear of Lebanon’s heroes have kept “israel” from invading, the Zionis’s arrogance will overcome their fear and they will surely overstep their bounds and provoke the patience of The Resistance into unleashing another victory. Then you can write the book you want yourself.

    Posted by dontgetit | May 8, 2011, 12:41 pm
  88. Would Iraq, Egypt and Syria still be Kingdoms?

    How would the United States and the Soviet Union have played out their cold war in the region?

    Would there have been a Palestinian state … or would the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan still be rulers of the land?

    What would the state of (Arab) Islamism have been today in the Levant, Egypt, Iraq and the Arab Gulf? What about Iran and the Shi’ites in the region in an Israel-less Middle East?

    Posted by R2D2 | May 8, 2011, 12:44 pm
  89. Would the Republic of Lebanon have survived ?

    Posted by R2D2 | May 8, 2011, 12:57 pm
  90. I’m traveling to Istanbul end of this month, by the way.

    Am looking forwards to soaking myself into the diverse current Turkish social classes and their thinking on the Middle East.

    Posted by R2D2 | May 8, 2011, 1:17 pm
  91. HK,

    You criticized and ridiculed my reference to the book by Basbous and Laurent on the Lebanese war commeding instead Menargues’s book. Well, I started reading Menargues’s book and his thesis is generally quite consistent with the one Basbous and Laurent put forward especially concerning Assad’s policy in Lebanon.

    I hate to say this, but please try not to criticize views and authors for the sake of it. But I believe it is pointless to engage in a constructive discussion with you.

    Funny trivia, Menargue claims General Michel Aoun’s code name in meetings with Bachir Gemayel was Gebrayel جبريل. Quite an Archangel he turned out to be.

    Alex, it is extremelly ironic for you to write let us agree to disagree … don’t you think??

    Posted by rm | May 8, 2011, 4:51 pm
  92. Lion of Damascus NewZ

    I am confident that the Lion of Damascus will hold strong in the face of the “israeli” influenced plots that are currently stirring up dissension in Syria.


    I don’t get it. Aren’t all the DEAD people who have been shot in Syria these past few months ARABS?

    Or do you have other information we’re missing?

    And what if the shoe were on the other foot and the GOI shot dead 600 Israelis? Would you blame the Israeli government?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | May 8, 2011, 5:11 pm
  93. Were any of the Toronto crew at the najwa karam/Milhem Barakat concert?
    I thought I saw a skirmish between Gabriel and Iceman…

    Posted by danny | May 8, 2011, 6:54 pm
  94. Dan,

    Have you ever been to any ‘Juste pour rire’ festivals in Montreal?
    O’man. I hate TO.

    Posted by iceman | May 8, 2011, 7:21 pm
  95. Ya AP, dontgetit is a jokester who pops up every now and then and uses sarcasm, irony, to ridicule the role of the “Resistance” through his statements which obviously cannot be taken literally and must be understood with a generous dose of salt and many other spices.

    If you’re not inclined to see through such silliness then I suggest you skip over his posts just as I do think you should skip over the posts of HK.

    You’re too serious, man! You should come down to the Middle East and develop the local sense of silliness.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 8, 2011, 7:46 pm
  96. I am not important. Just remember . . . whatever you may think of me, The Resistance is serious business.

    Posted by dontgetit | May 8, 2011, 8:18 pm
  97. Salafis go to concerts?!?!

    Who knew? 🙂

    Posted by Gabriel | May 8, 2011, 8:37 pm
  98. How did these people know the soldier who was killed in Homs and is being buried was actually killed by the regime? Apparently Syrian TV was present in the funeral and then ran away when the people turned the funeral into a demonstration.

    Posted by iceman | May 8, 2011, 11:24 pm
  99. The Koombaya moments of the Egyptian revolution seems to have wound down. The secular faces are taking a little break from pressing matters of revolution, and the Salafis are out in full force.

    There seems to be quite a lot of crazy chaps wanting to Live Under the “Law”. It’s not clear if their “Law” is in line with our very own Iceman’s “Law”.

    Apparently, despite it being the 21st century, the Egyptians who support the “Law” seemed not to have gotten the memo yet.

    Over in Pakistan, Obama, who got Osama, finally started growing some balls. The Pakistanis, like the Egyptians, and Iceman, are also fans of the “Law”. They also didn’t get the memo about this being the 21st century.

    It seems Obama is pushing the Pakistani government to investigate whether any of its officials knew that Osama was living a stone’s throw from one of the top military academies.

    If the Pakistanis didn’t help much on the matter of Osama. What makes him think they’d own up and identify who got busy hiding the chap.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 8, 2011, 11:42 pm
  100. … and just so that i can be post#500…

    here’s another post!

    Posted by Gabriel | May 8, 2011, 11:43 pm
  101. It is very likely Mahmoud Ahmadi may fall before Assad. But that is not because of a popular uprising. It is more like falling from grace,

    Posted by iceman | May 9, 2011, 12:47 am
  102. From the inside job of 9/11 to the infamous White house Murder INC, with Asef Shawkat in the Levant, to the theatricals of OBL.

    The openness of lies actually becomes yet another weapon used against us in manner of “Yes, we are lying and what are you going to do about it?”. It further serves to produce resignation, hopelessness and a feeling of being overwhelmed at the exhibition of omnipotence by the regime. When they start lying so proudly, cynically and openly, it is another form of psyops to own up to their lies. I have seen this in totalitarian governments who ran the same thing on us. And yes, it is another alarm in how far beyond the point of no return things are. Tyrants with this much power never give it up. It has to collapse entirely and we will have to pick through the ashes to look for a Phoenix after the fall of the Fourth Reich which I fear will be very bloody on a global scale.

    Posted by HK | May 9, 2011, 1:04 am
  103. Bad Vilbel Says:

    1) The percentages you mention for Cairo or Alexandria were not all that huge either. You perhaps forget that Egypt has what, 80 MILLION people? How many of those showed up Tahrir square? 0.01%?
    Your argument there still doesn’t hold.

    hmm … please go to you tube and do a search for “million” cairo or million Alexandria …

    This report says on one particular Friday there were 5 million Egyptians demonstrating.

    On another day, they reported two millions, including hundreds of thousands in Alexandria …

    Posted by Alex | May 9, 2011, 2:38 am
  104. And Wikipedia says there were 750,000 protesters in ALexandria …

    its population is 4 millions. Not larger than Syria’s second largest city of Aleppo that had 300 protesters.

    Posted by Alex | May 9, 2011, 2:43 am
  105. Honest Patriot

    Syria showed convincing evidence of foreign interference to Arab and other ambassadors.

    Syria never showed the public evidence of interference by other Arab countries in its affairs although that happened many times in the past.

    Russia’s ambassador to the UNSC is convinced. Readers of QN will never be convinced.

    Posted by Alex | May 9, 2011, 2:53 am
  106. Off the wall,

    As I said in my answers to Elias, there are many legitimate reasons for protesters to express their frustrations. Each one has his own reasons to protest. I hated corruption for example and was never satisfied with the pathetic efforts to fight corruption.

    I will not try to convince you, we have to agree to disagree. But going beyond this point is a fatal mistake. Demonstrations should have stopped 3 weeks ago.

    سوريا أمام الجدار: ليتوقّف الجميع
    ابراهيم الأمين

    الجميع أمام الجدار في سوريا. لا أحد يقدر على مزيد من التقدّم. دوّامة العنف التي انطلقت لامست حدّ الانفجار. واستمرار الوضع على ما هو عليه يعني الانتقال إلى مرحلة خطيرة للغاية من الشحن. واقع سوريا اليوم، بعد نحو شهرين من الاحتجاجات والتحركات الشعبية والأعمال الأمنية وآليات القمع، والخطوات الإصلاحية للنظام، وقلق الأهالي، ونوبات الخارج المستعدّ للتدخل، ينذر بما هو أصعب. وهذا يشرح بعض القلق الذي ينتاب معارضين سوريّين مخلصين، فتراهم يدعون إلى الوقوف لحظة تأمل. كل ذلك يقود إلى نتائج بديهية:
    أوّلاً: أن سوريا لا يمكنها العيش خارج سرب الإصلاحات التي يشهدها العالم العربي، وأن أيّ علاج لحركات الاحتجاج لن يقفل هذا الملف.
    ثانياً: أن أيّ إصلاحات منتظرة، لم يعد أحد من المعارضين قادراً على أن يضعها في سياق إسقاط النظام. فقد أظهرت 7 أسابيع أن مجموع الذين خرجوا الى الشارع لا يمثّلون أغلبية حقيقية. وهذه حقيقة بمعزل عن الرغبات التي قد تدفع مغالين من المعارضة إلى قول العكس، كما أن شعار إسقاط النظام تحوّل ـــــ بمعزل عمّا أوصل الأمور إلى هنا ـــــ إلى مادة تعبئة وشحن، لها ما يؤثّر سلباً في الكثير من المواجهات الدموية، لكن على النظام أن يدرك أن عدم رفع شعار إسقاطه يعني منحه الفرصة الأكبر للدخول في عملية تنفيذ الإصلاحات بصورة سريعة، شفّافة، وذات نتائج عمليّة.
    ثالثاً: أن التعقيدات التي رافقت موجة الاحتجاجات دلّت، مباشرةً، على خطر حقيقي وغير مفتعل، وهو ليس وهماً، يتمثّل في خطر الحرب الأهلية، التي سوف تمزّق سوريا وشعبها، وهي مع الأسف حقيقة أقوى من كل التنظير السياسي وخلافه.
    رابعاً: أن حصول تدخّل من الخارج بات أمراً موثّقاً، وأن تورّط مجموعات أردنية وفلسطينية وسعودية وجهات مسلحة تتبع للإخوان المسلمين بات أيضاً حقيقة توجب على السلطات في سوريا حسن تظهيرها. وربما يجب أيضاً على السلطات السورية اللجوء إلى آليّة تتيح لها إقناع شعبها أوّلاً، والعرب ثانياً، وأهل الإقليم والعالم ثالثاً، بأنّ ثمّة أجهزة أمنية عملت على استغلال الاحتجاجات المطلبية، وفتح باب التخريب لجرّ سوريا إلى مستنقع المواجهات، في سياق وهم تكرار تجربة شرق ليبيا. وقد يتطلب الأمر من السلطات حضور لجنة مراقبين من روسيا، تركيا، أو أيّ جهة مستقلّة، موثوق بها من جانب السلطات ومن جانب العالم، لبتّ الأمر وتظهيره للجمهور.
    خامساً: أن التعبئة الطائفية والمذهبية التي قامت، سواء بقرار أو برد فعل أو بشعور غرائزي، أدّت إلى نتيجة واحدة، هي اصطفاف قسم كبير من السوريين خلف متاريس تنذر بكوارث سيكون لها آثارها المدمّرة على البلد، وعلى المحيط القريب وحتى البعيد.
    سادساً: أن سبعة أسابيع من التحركات الشعبية عكست مرةً جديدة الغياب الواضح لمعارضة منظّمة، وأظهرت قسماً كبيراً من الانتهازيين، من داخل سوريا وخارجها، يقبض بعضهم الأموال من الأميركيين والأوروبيين (آخ لو تنطق ويكيليكس)، ويضم جيش هؤلاء ليبراليين، وإسلاميين، ويساريين ومستقلين، لكن معظم المقيمين منهم في الخارج يطالبون الغرب اليوم بالعمل بكل الطرق لإسقاط النظام في سوريا، وهؤلاء هم أسوأ ما في سوريا. ولا يشبههم سوى بعض الأبواق الذين تطوّعوا لخدمة النظام في سوريا، لكنّهم أساؤوا أكثر ممّا أفادوا، حتى لو حصلوا على الثناء من النظام في دمشق، وإن تدخّل بعض اللبنانيين منهم هو تماماً كأنصار تيار «المستقبل»، الذين تورّطوا في دعم معارضين للنظام.
    سابعاً: بما أنّ المبادرة لا تزال، حتى إشعار آخر، بيد النظام، فإنّ على القيادة السورية القيام بخطوات من أجل احتواء الموقف واستيعاب الوضع وتنفيس الاحتقان، وإعطاء الإشارات العملانية إلى الدخول في مرحلة جديدة. وليس أفضل من الدعوة إلى مؤتمر حوار وطني شامل، تكون وظيفته الإعداد لانتخابات نيابية بعد إقرار قوانين جديدة للاقتراع، وللأحزاب والإعلام وللسلطات القضائية المشرفة عليها.
    ثامناً: يصعب على أحد التحكّم في الأمور ومآلها، لكن يمكن كثيرين التوقّف عن صبّ الزيت على النار. وهو كلام يخص بدرجة أولى وسائل الإعلام العربية، التي باتت في الآونة الأخيرة محلّ تندُّر لجهة فقدانها الموضوعية والصدقية، كذلك وقف حملات التشهير التي يقوم بها إعلام تابع للدولة السورية أو مناصر لها، وهي حملات تذكّر بمحاكم التفتيش، وخصوصاً عندما يتعلق الأمر بأشخاص ليسوا في المعسكر الآخر.
    ما تمرّ به سوريا اليوم، صعب للغاية، ويبدو أنّ خطورته أكبر بكثير ممّا يظنّ كثيرون، وربما يجب فتح الأعين على أشياء كثيرة مقبلة على المنطقة، يمكن أن تُفهم من خلالها أبعاد عمليات التحرش الخارجية بالنظام في سوريا. وأبرز ما يفترض بالمراقب الانتباه إليه الآن، هو أنه يفترض في وقت ليس ببعيد أن تنسحب القوات الأميركية من العراق. وهذا إن حصل في موعده فسوف يجعل المنطقة تنتقل سريعاً الى وضع مختلف جذرياً عمّا هو عليه الآن. فهل يعقل أن يترك الأميركيون المحور المعارض لهم في حاله بعيداً عن الانفجارات التي تصيب دول محورهم؟

    Posted by Alex | May 9, 2011, 3:05 am
  107. Gabriel,

    At least you ask the most reasonable questions.

    1) Why doesn’t Erdogan pass a new law that makes it obligatory for women to cover their hair?

    Because the Turkish army won’t allow him to do so.

    Similarly, Bashar has to respect the expectations of the army, the Ba’ath party, the minorities … “the regime” is not only the Assad family as some would like to suggest.

    Why doesn’t President Suleiman call for one-man-one-vote true democratic elections in Lebanon in six months?

    As for your other question. It does not matter what percentage I expect the Brotherhood to get today .. what matters is that if elections were to be held in 6 months, you will see the brotherhood gaining support fast. The Saudis will spend billions to buy them support and to spread feelings of guilt among many (not all) Syrian voters to make it difficult for them to vote against the party of God.

    I hope I did not forget to answer anyone

    rm … I have no idea what you want me to say … I will not agree with you and you do not have to agree with me.

    Posted by Alex | May 9, 2011, 3:20 am
  108. Lat email

    Gabriel, just to clarify … “the party of God” in Syria’s case would be the Brotherhood.

    And here is an article from today about how Saudi Arabia might be interfering in Egypt …

    Posted by Alex | May 9, 2011, 3:40 am
  109. Gabriel,

    I agree with your post 499.


    Let’s talk about this “foreign interference” (FI).

    1.) What exactly IS this FI?

    2.) Why are so many Syrians being killed? Why not go after the states sponsoring this FI?

    3.) Where is the proof that there is FI?

    At this point no one believes the Syrian government, because they refuse to let foreign news sources in to see the evidence.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | May 9, 2011, 7:28 am
  110. BV,

    You have been trumped by PRESS TV lol… 😀

    Gabriel I was visiting Toronto with a couple who are devout Muslims and they seemed to be enjoying the concert…were you in the fight with the Saudi’s. 😀

    Iceman, I hope to visit the show one day…Don’t hate TO man. There are nice people there like Gabriel… 😀

    Posted by danny | May 9, 2011, 7:32 am
  111. Danny.

    I’m confused. Are you are you not Canadian?'s_All_Hate_Toronto

    Also, I thought you lived in Montreal. Dude, we send over all our tax dollars to your city so you can enjoy free shows, and you haven’t gone to Just for Laughs yet?!?!?

    Posted by Gabriel | May 9, 2011, 7:54 am
  112. Alex:

    Re: Turkish example. Do you really believe this? That without army intevention Erdogan would force Turkish women to don the veil?

    If so, why do you think it’s a good thing that the army is used to keep this at bay (against the so-called Democratic will)?

    PS. I don’t agree with this statement.

    Also, re: Egypt. Articles in newspapers aside, the religious issues in Egypt predate the “democracy” revolution. If the Saudis have a success in their “interference” policies, it means they have a willing audience. You can’t possibly believe that all it takes is some Saudi dollars and six months… and Syria’s population will transform from one being anti-MB to one being pro-MB!

    Posted by Gabriel | May 9, 2011, 9:07 am
  113. Speaking of interference by the ‘all mighty’ KSA and its flamboyant dynamic Bandar the old time buddy of Mr. Bush and the ‘necon/ziocon/aipac/CIA murder Inc. machine’, there is a whole series of clips courtesy of the Syrian Ministry of miss-information. I would never miss watching it for all the Montreal comedy you can find in the world.

    But you should also go back in the Syriacomment archives, particularly to the time when QN started blogging, you would discover the fine art of ‘Realpolitiks’ articulated by the owner of the blog and side kicked by the interviewee and the few other die-hards that are still currently engaged in that same forum in justifying the killing of the regime of the Syrian people.

    Never miss those posts and comments as they relate to all things that Lebanese never understood as to why the murderous regime of Syria was and still is dealing with Lebanon as its own backyard, all justified by so-called spheres of influence without any regard to neighbour’s sovereignty, independence or even cordial neighbourly relation.

    Now the shoe is in the other foot. By the same logic of the eminent professor and his Syrian exiled chorus, some of whom never set foot on Syrian soil, the Saudis, The Turks, the Jordanians and others would have the same claim to such spheres of influence and so-called ‘Realpolitiks’in Syria under the current abhorrent regime that the world and the people of Syria can live much better without it in that part of the world.

    So there is in fact no such thing called interference. It is just plain old Syriacomment Spheres of Influence. Why complain?

    Posted by iceman | May 9, 2011, 9:13 am
  114. Danny….(btw)

    Who said devout Muslims don’t go to concerts? Some of them also drink alcohol and eat pork.

    Only Salafis would disagree with this statement.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 9, 2011, 9:28 am
  115. Gabriel,

    QN is more than a blog…It is a continuing education forum. I guess I will learn always. Thanks.

    Posted by danny | May 9, 2011, 9:32 am
  116. Man, I give up. There simply is no convincing anyone of anything once they’ve made up their mind. That much is clear.

    I would point out the irony of Alex using the western media’s estimates of the size of Egyptian protests when it suits his point.
    But when we talk about the size of protests in Syria, he insists that the media “exagerates” and “overinflates” the numbers.

    One last thing: Name ONE revolution/protest in the entirety of history. All 5000+ years of recorded history. Where protesters got reform by stopping their protests (note here that the regime, in the meantime, will not stop its arrests and crackdown).
    Honest question: If there is such a case in history, I’d like to hear it. I’m curious if that ever actually works.

    This will be my last post on this subject…

    Let’s talk about something else for a while.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 9, 2011, 1:34 pm
  117. I found this saying from professor Landis noteworthy:

    “And in order to enforce his control, he’s going to resort to greater sectarian divide-and-rule, which will ultimately weaken Syria and eliminate the possibility of deep reforms. So this looks like a lose-lose situation.”

    Posted by Badr | May 9, 2011, 1:42 pm
  118. Bad Vilbel

    “One last thing: Name ONE revolution/protest in the entirety of history. All 5000+ years of recorded history. Where protesters got reform by stopping their protests (note here that the regime, in the meantime, will not stop its arrests and crackdown).”

    Well-said. My point exactly.

    Posted by democracynow | May 9, 2011, 2:09 pm
  119. BV…

    I think the conversation got stale about 400 posts ago 😛

    Since this is ostensibly a Lebanese forum, perhaps the new direction it should take is how changes in Syria will affect things like the STL in Lebanon.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 9, 2011, 2:18 pm
  120. BV

    If you read carefully, I did not say the 5 million estimate was necessarily true

    In fact I have a screen shot of where on the same page they had two headlines by two different reporters, the first says “two millions at Tahrir square” the other one says three Millions.

    But I would expect a logical person like you to try harder not to find an easy escape from my argument. Try to accept the the two number 2 cities in Egypt and Syria have similar population size … Alexandria had hundreds of thousands demonstrating (if not 750,000 like Wikipedia claims, think 250,000) … Aleppo had 300 demonstrators.


    In 2003 or 2004 I think Erdogna’s party wanted to pass a law that made sex outside marriage illegal. They could not because …

    And if you do not like Turkish examples, let’s go back to Lebanon … no Maher Assad and no republican guards. Why don’t you reform your messy political system into a functioning western democracy?

    Because … enough Lebanese people are risk averse … they do not want to experience the risk of what they might end up heading into.

    I answered your question already!

    Posted by Alex | May 9, 2011, 2:51 pm
  121. Alex:

    I don’t know what the 2004 issue was about. First and foremost I think we should be strict with definitions (not that the end result is different). There’s enough murder of the English tongue going around, we hardly need to add more to it!

    I believe the issue was adultery, and not sex outside marriage. These are two separate issues that should not be conflated. One involves infidelity, the other the personal choice of 2 individuals to make their choices.

    It seems from what reports were made at the time, Erdogan was eyeing the former, not the latter.

    Also, I don’t recall that the issue was stopped by the army, rather than it being a very divisive law that saw massive civil opposition from within Turkey. There are enough people there it seems that unlike our Iceman, are not proponents of the “Law”.

    But on an unrelated note, what is Syria’s current legal system say about infidelity or sex outside marriage?

    Drawing on this example from Turkey betrays the simple fact that Syria- with or without the Baath, is a highly conservative society (both Chistians and Muslims there!). So needless to say, I don’t think the army there has been playing the role of vanguard of personal liberties!

    Posted by Gabriel | May 9, 2011, 3:31 pm
  122. Alex…

    A little on “honor killing” in Syria.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 9, 2011, 3:39 pm
  123. Alex:

    Sorry, and on risk aversion.

    I think you will find, that short of a couple of sectarian fellows… most posters who visit QN are quite pro-deconfessionalizing the system in Lebanon.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 9, 2011, 3:52 pm
  124. Gabriel

    If you are interested in understanding, the Lebanon example is clearer. If you are interested in arguing about adultery vs sex outside marriage, then … you win.

    Syria has conservatives and liberals.

    Posted by Alex | May 9, 2011, 3:53 pm
  125. Alex, fair enough.

    I will concede that we are not seeing in Syria 250,000 protesters (at least not by any accounts that I’ve seen reported anywhere).

    I think that was besides the general point though.

    My argument has been this (and I repeated it earlier today): What makes you think that if the protests were to stop, the regime would go ahead and reform? I have asked for examples of this happening in history. I suspect, there are none. For good reason. That is not how things work. You may have some reason to believe that it will work that way in Syria, but you have yet to give me a convincing argument. All signs, both historical (throughout the world) and historical to this particular regime, show us absolutely ZERO Sign that stopping protests works in getting the govt. to respond and reform.

    As you say, I am a logical person. I look at historical precedent, I look at common sense and I draw my conclusions. You want me to believe that the Assad regime is unlike any in history, and will do what is right, if only the protests would stop. I frankly find that hard to believe.

    Specially, considering it wouldn’t take much for Assad to show us proof of his intentions. Someone suggested already that Assad could come out today and say “I’ll submit to elections in the next 3 months.” or something along those lines. What’s stopping him from doing that? A protests of 300 people (by your own account)? Really? Again, I just don’t see it.

    The people of Egypt showed us that they are willing to wait once they see action. They have for the most part backed down from protesting, and await the military transition period, and the upcoming elections later this year. People DO back down from protests once they see reform. But I would argue Assad has to show SOMETHING. Cracking down with tanks (all this for a mere 300 people, mind you) seems the wrong message and is hardly encouraging me or anyone else to believe that he’d reform if given a few months or years of “calm”.

    The fact that you choose to believe what you believe, contrary to all common sense and historical precedent, is what has me puzzled. I don’t mean this to be personally insulting (although it may very well be), but people who refuse to go against historical precedent and common sense are either disingenuous, or naive. I’d like to think you’re not naive. Which leaves disingenuous. Again, this is not meant as a personal attack, but you can see how one would follow this train of thought to arrive to such a conclusion. And I’m afraid the burden is on you to convince us that your argument is worth listening to. Again, i’ll repeat, when all of history goes against what you’re saying, the burden of proof is on you. If I were to clamor today that World War II never happened (to the contrary of common sense), the burden would be on me to provide some kind of logic or proof, or, be discounted as a lunatic or a moron. Not the other way around. I can’t make such a ridiculous statement and then wonder aloud why no one’s believing me.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 9, 2011, 4:30 pm
  126. BV

    1) I already said that many Syrians have legitimate grievances. The 300 in Aleppo (or Damascus, or Hassakeh or Tartous) do not hide the fact that Daraa and Banias (and Homs) have a larger number of opponents to the regime, many of them who want regime change.

    150,000 in total is my estimate of the number of those who demonstrated … I did not estimate 300 in total.

    2) Egypt is not Syria … Syria is closest to Lebanon and Iraq.

    3) I follow Egypt very closely. Many are very unhappy with the Government that failed to deliver because a few months passed already. Here is a sample. I doubt you are reading everyday Egyptian newspapers like I do.

    Mona Eltahawy, the voice of the Egyptian revolution is one of my best friends. You can see my name at the bottom of her website

    It would help if you managed somehow to lower your confidence level and try to understand instead.

    Posted by Alex | May 9, 2011, 5:35 pm
  127. FYI Just in

    U.N.: Syrian authorities have stopped a U.N. team from visiting Daraa to assess the humanitarian situation there (Source: Naharnet)

    I am still looking for some kind of possible scenario analysis which attempt to predict the various possible events in the next weeks, months, in Syria. Any ideas? Articles?


    Posted by rm | May 9, 2011, 5:37 pm
  128. This interview was just quoted in The Guardian

    Posted by rm | May 9, 2011, 5:39 pm
  129. Assad on the battlefield in full gear

    Posted by rm | May 9, 2011, 5:43 pm
  130. Alex,

    What is Mona’s position about Syria?
    What does she think of your position?

    You did not answer BV’s main question:
    Why are you sure Assad will enact significant reforms once the protests stop?

    Posted by AIG | May 9, 2011, 5:53 pm
  131. Yup iceman #450 we do know the facts all to well to conclude so easily that a Caliph has challenged in any way whatsoever the LAW.
    I know that we dropped the subject, but it is now 2 days that I’m reading this thread, and you are always 100 comments ahead of my reading pace…! but still, keep posting folks

    QN, for your audience map, I’m posting from Dublin 😉

    Posted by Nour | May 9, 2011, 5:57 pm
  132. R2D2 #76 – I fell you… OK, I go back to my reading..comment 470 I guess

    Posted by Nour | May 9, 2011, 6:11 pm
  133. Thanks AIG,

    Alex, I am indeed still waiting for you to explain why you truly believe (and I don’t doubt that) that given some calm for a month, Assad will indeed reform.

    Heck, you even mentioned that Egyptians are NOT happy with the pace of reforms there. Doesn’t that corroborate my point that protests are necessary to keep the pressure or else the govt gets complacent or puts off reforms?

    I am HONESTLY trying to understand. But again, there’s another contradiction, you say protests should stop to give the regime time to work out reforms. Then you cleverly throw out how in Egypt, people are unhappy with the military govt now that they’ve essentially stopped protesting. (And yes, I do follow what is going on in Egypt, and I know it’s far from over…etc.

    Here’s hoping you’ll answer my question.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 9, 2011, 6:16 pm
  134. Will try to put up a new post tonight, because this one’s gonna crash WordPress if it keeps going….

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 9, 2011, 6:23 pm
  135. Alex:

    I am not here to win this argument or that argument- just to explore arguments. I know that this issue may be personal to some (Sheila, yourself), where questions of family, etc may be other dimensions to the political bantering.

    To date, your two central points have gone uncontested.

    (1) “Outside Interference”.
    (2) “Minority Politics”.

    Nobody can really address those two points, because we know that they are going to be issues. We know, if not from Syria- from Egypt and Turkey and Iraq. And we know the neighborhood is a tough one.

    So what have we achieved?

    On the central point that this is a demonstration of “brotherhood” types, we have seen no substantial evidence.

    In fact, judging by QN’s readership. The closest character we have to a Brotherhood/Salafist type is Iceman (no, he’s not really a Salafist). And yet, when he opined on the “Law”, the biggest rebuttals made against him came from two, Sunni, Syrian, women. And those women are supportive of the “Opposition”.

    Forget the technical merit of all the discussions, many of which have very little technical merit, and step back and think about what happened on this forum alone.

    Arab women are no longer chattel that take a backseat role, servile and responsive to the misogynist will of their menfolk.

    We simply have to believe that people like Sheila and Zenobia, and many others besides will carry this burden, will organize politically, will be part of grassroots movements that challenge orthodoxy.

    Whatever else we may conclude from the data presented to date, the Baath has not delivered. Not only in the last 10 years, but in the last 40.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 9, 2011, 6:40 pm
  136. Let me summarize and move on to a new post please. This is simply splitting hairs.

    1) Assad does not want reforms. He and his regime do not know what that means.

    2) Assad misses the fear barrier and he cannot operate without it.

    3) All his actions so far indicate a futile quest to re-erect the barrier which has been irreversibly shattered. Hence Assad and his goons are fools.

    4) As a diversion, Assad and goons use deception and misinformation to sow sectarian divisions and propagate sheer lies about so-called foreign interference while savagely engaging in massacres against the Syrian people and also the honourable soldiers of the Syrian Army.

    5) Assad and goons must be handcuffed and handed over to the Haig for trials for crimes against humanity.

    6) Criminals cannot be Reformers.
    7) Prisons and execution squads have been created just for such similar cases.

    OK, QN time to move on.

    Posted by iceman | May 9, 2011, 7:39 pm
  137. Hmmm….QN…This was a small challenge from a Syrian regime apologist and dreamer..Now can we go back to Lebanon? May be you should address the amazing Qassem that thinks that M14 have a militia mentality lol…this is coming from the perpetrator of May 7th 2008 to say the least…

    May be you should discuss the impact of the black shirts…or the downfall of Amjad or…the upcoming STL indictments on the Beirut summer season.. 😀

    Posted by danny | May 9, 2011, 7:59 pm
  138. And also let’s end on this blog it the way it started. Here’s the summary status of the Syrian Revolution as it stands today,

    Posted by iceman | May 9, 2011, 8:04 pm
  139. O’ my…… type type type above,

    And also let’s end it on this post…

    Posted by iceman | May 9, 2011, 8:06 pm
  140. Ice,

    The best way to end this is to call out all those HA sympathizers who have gone into hiding under their mothers’ skirts…Bunch of hypocrites!

    Posted by danny | May 9, 2011, 8:08 pm
  141. lets just say the next season of ‘Bab-al Harra’ should contain the Baath regime as the perpetrators as opposed to the French imperial forces.
    Anyone denying that these protests consist of ordinary folk from across the spectrum demonstrating against autocratic rule and repression is delusional.
    Forget the hair splitting arguments of figures and statistics, cases for exceptional-ism and the rest of the disinformation. These protests fall in line with the rest of the protests of the Arab spring and should be viewed as such.
    A picture tells a thousand words, and we have seen enough videos to suggest otherwise.

    Posted by Maverick | May 9, 2011, 9:16 pm
  142. QN Demonstrations Broke out on the Internet NewZ

    I am full of ANGER™ and RAGE™ because the owner of this forum is a CRIMINAL DICTATOR who REFUSES to REFORM his website and open a new thread. We’re up to 541 POSTS – NO JOKE!

    Consequently, my computer locks-up everytime I log onto this ILL-MANAGED, DESPOTICALLY-OWNED forum. I SUFFERING™ from lost time. IT is HUMILIATING™, to say the least, and I am ready to go out into the STREET™ and call for REGIME CHANGE™. We should stand together on this, and demonstrate against the UNELECTED website owner!!!


    Posted by Akbar Palace | May 9, 2011, 10:26 pm
  143. Not so fast Akbar,

    I want to leave you with an opinion piece by Jihad elkhazen today about the prospects for the big success story

    Post revolution Egypt is bad news… 70 billion pounds is the cost to the Egyptian economy so far … by the end of this year the country would have depleted all its foreign currency reserves.

    And the Salafists are out of control.. and the “moderate” Muslim brotherhood is defending them no matter what they do!

    Posted by Alex | May 9, 2011, 11:30 pm
  144. Peaceful demonstrations

    (since you do not believe the pictures from Syrian TV when they show confessions of those they have been catching since day one and their weapons)

    Posted by Alex | May 9, 2011, 11:40 pm
  145. Alex,

    Is your argument now basically that the Arab world is not ready for democracy?

    Posted by AIG | May 9, 2011, 11:49 pm


    Is it me?!?!?!??!

    Or is Jumblatt jumping ship, yet again :D.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 9, 2011, 11:52 pm
  147. One of my arguments in the article is that a series of revolutions is very dangerous … especially when it arrives to Syria.

    This is not Eastern Europe where everyone is a christian (or a non believer) and where they had no Sunni/Shia issues … no tribes … no Esoteric offshoots of Sunni or Shia Islam being considered heretics …. no Saudis financing Salafists … no Arab Israeli conflict … No Kurdish separation problem in four states (Syria/Iraq/turkey/Iran) …

    I like the fact we have people demonstrating to get the reform process accelerated, and Egypt is a simpler case even though even there I am not optimistic…

    But this kind of dramatic change requires a few years … I have not changed my mind that this should take about five years

    Posted by Alex | May 9, 2011, 11:59 pm
  148. Alex,

    I think all the angles have been exhausted at this point. I seriously doubt 5 years will be enough to transform the Middle East. It will take a generation at least, and even then I’m not so sure.

    On another unrelated note. I just checked out your website Creative Syria. Very nice job.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 10, 2011, 12:04 am
  149. So now the only realistic option is to adopt a defeatist attitude, in choosing between Salafists or corrupt autocratic regimes.
    pretty damn extreme, dont ya think.

    If Jumbo is really a weathervane, then M8 must be up sh**t creek with no paddle.
    A development in the STL, Syrian unrest, Iranian inner quarrels and a complete and utter failure to form a cabinet without hindrance from the opposition spells troubles in little Dahyi.

    Posted by Maverick | May 10, 2011, 12:09 am
  150. Maverick .. it is obvious I am going for a moderate, 5-year plan, not a defeatist attitude except if you are not open to considering anything but your “pretty damn extreme” .. revolution NOW.

    Anyway .. since Gabriel managed to find something nice to say, I will take advantage of this opportunity and leave here on his positive note.

    Best wishes to all of you. This was fun (at times).

    Despite our differences, I was glad to find out most of us are Canadian.

    You can go back to discussing Junblatt. I think he is near the fence now, he did not flip yet.

    Posted by Alex | May 10, 2011, 12:26 am
  151. Lebanese politics have become petty in comparison to the tumultuous times everywhere, what are we gonna discuss that we haven’t done so many times already. Those impotent and incompetent pathetic M814 fuckers can’t even form a Gov. and they have no one to blame but themselves.

    It would serve best if we have a new post about cooking, how about them fried Kibbeh Balls 🙂

    Posted by V | May 10, 2011, 12:34 am
  152. The thought of being canadian sends shivers among us Floridians! eh

    Posted by V | May 10, 2011, 12:37 am
  153. I thought Florida was pretty much Canadian territory. At least in winter :D.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 10, 2011, 12:44 am
  154. Alex,

    No hard feelings, I was never attacking you personally but arguing content. I was never calling for revolution ‘NOW’, but called to respect the protesters’ intentions,as a wider expression of discontent in the Arab world. Whatever the future holds, positive or negative, we are all in the same boat.

    Anyways, good luck with the 5 year thingy, i hope that becomes a reality for the sake of the ME not falling into that black and white situation mentioned above.

    I just hope it is none of those scenarios and a refreshed and hopeful generation lead by example and smash the myths of both the Huntingtons and the Qutbs.

    Posted by Maverick | May 10, 2011, 12:46 am
  155. Thanks Maverick, I share the same hopes.

    Posted by Alex | May 10, 2011, 1:18 am
  156. By the way, Elias and I are redoing this interview face to face. Here is a preview:

    Posted by Alex | May 10, 2011, 1:36 am
  157. No hard feelings here either, Alex, I hope.
    I’m still not convinced by your argument, but I guess we’ll wait and see.

    And what’s this “We’re all Canadian” BS? 🙂


    Lebanese politics is BECOMING petty??? You kidding, right? BECOMING?

    PS: I noted that hilarious statement by Naim Qaseem about militias. As usual, that guy leaves me speechless.
    Next, he’ll be informing us, with a straight face, that the sun actually revolves around the earth, and that night is actually day, and day is night. The degree of how ridiculous the HA narrative has become is simply…well, ridiculous. It’s sad that anyone still believes that stuff.

    Jumblatt is right (regardless of his flip flopping): M8 has proven that they cannot form a govt even with their “majority”.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 10, 2011, 1:42 am
  158. FYI, our buddy Ghassan is alive and kicking 🙂

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 10, 2011, 1:46 am
  159. M14th Thugs are CIA Proxy Militias wall to wall.

    –Lebanese Paper: Hariri Trained 15,000 Sunni Militiamen in 2008

    –Geagea Has 10,000 Fighters Ready to Fight Hezbollah…

    Caretaker Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri had trained 15,000 Sunni militiamen in Beirut in 2008, while Lebanese Forces arch-clown and a criminal snake Samir Geagea Samir Farid Geagea (Arabic: سمير فريد جعجع, also Samir Ja`ja`) born October 25 1952 is the leader of the CIA Proxy Militia Lebanese Forces (LF) . said he had 10,000 fighters ready to fight Hizbullah, :

    reported on Tuesday, quoting what it said were unpublished WikiLeaks cables detailing secret meetings between March 14 Lebanese politicians and U.S. Embassy officials. The paper, which is close to the powerful Shiite Hizbullah group and Syria, has been publishing Wikileaks cables about secret meetings between politicians mainly from the pro-Western March 14 coalition and U.S. Embassy officials in Beirut. In most of these meetings, the March 14 politicians, including members of the then-Prime Minister Fuad Siniora’s government, had told U.S. officials that they wanted the Israeli army to continue its war in 2006 on Lebanon until Hizbullah’s military infrastructure was entirely destroyed.

    According to according to
    1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

    2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

    3. a WikiLeaks cable dated April 4, 2008, Druze leader MP Walid Jumblat, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party The Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) (Arabic “الحزب التقدمي الاشتراكي” al-hizb al-taqadummi al-ishtiraki
    ….. Click the link for more information. (PSP (PlayStation Portable) See PlayStation. ), expressed during a meeting with the-then U.S. Charge d’Affairs Michele Sisone his concern over reports indicating that Hariri’s Future Movement was training a Sunni militia in Beirut and the northern city of Tripoli, AL AKHBAR said. Jumblat, who at the time was a main pillar of the anti-Syrian March 14 coalition and was engaged in a political confrontation with Hizbullah, also voiced his concern over the military training undertaken by supporters of Geagea and the Marada Movement Marada Movement (Arabic: تيار المردة), is Lebanese political party and a former militia active during the Lebanese civil war under the name of Marada Brigade.
    ….. Click the link for more information. leader Suleiman Franjieh, the paper said.

    During the meeting with Sisone, Jumblat spoke about reports indicating that Hariri was training about 15,000 Sunni militiamen in Beirut and more than this number in Tripoli. Jumblat said that the establishment by Hariri of private security companies in Beirut and Tripoli indicated that “some persons”, like Major General Ashraf Rifi General Ashraf Rifi (Arabic: أشرف ريفي; also spelled Achraf Rifi) (born April 1, 1954 in Tripoli, Lebanon) is the general director of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (the
    ….. Click the link for more information., director general of the Internal Security Forces (ISF ISF – Information Systems Factory ), were giving Hariri bad advice, AL AKHBAR said. It added that during his meeting with Jumblat, Wissam al-Hassan, currently the head of the ISF’s Intelligence Branch and very close to Hariri, said that Rifi was wrong in advising Hariri to establish a Sunni militia.

    According to the paper’s report, Jumblat said that Hariri’s militia might cause heavy damage to the March 14 groups, especially since the Lebanese Forces led by Geagea and Franjieh’s Marada Movement were training their supporters at the same time. Franjieh, now a lawmaker for the northern city of Zghorta, is an arch foe of Geagea and a key member of the Syrian-backed Hizbullah-led March 8 alliance.

    Geagea’s Comments

    In another WikiLeaks cable dated May 9, 2008, Geagea paid a surprise visit to the U.S. Embassy where he met with Sisone, telling her that he had from 7,000 to 10,000 fighters ready to move to fight Hizbullah, but probably they needed arms, AL AKHBAR said. Geagea told Sisone that it was important that all parties pressure the Lebanese Army to do its job, saying that he was unsure the army can protect Christian areas against a possible Hizbullah attack.

    If the Lebanese army failed to protect Christian areas, Geagea said he wanted to make sure that Washington was aware of the presence of “7,000 to 10,000 Lebanese Forces-trained fighters ready to move and fight against Hizbullah, but we needed your support to obtain arms for those fighters,” the paper said.

    Geagea’s meeting with Sisone came two days after sectarian street fighting erupted between pro- and anti-government groups in Beirut and other areas after Hizbullah’s fighters briefly took over the mainly Muslim sector of the capital to protest a decision by the Siniora government to dismantle Hizbullah’s private telecommunications network. The Siniora government was forced under street protests by Hizbullah’s supporters to revoke the decision. During the meeting with Sisone, Geagea, a former warlord warlord, in modern Chinese history, autonomous regional military commander. In the political chaos following the death (1916) of republican China’s first president and commander in chief, Yüan Shih-kai, central authority fell to the provincial military governors who led the Lebanese Forces militia, the most powerful Christian militia against rival Muslim militias during the 1975-90 civil war, stressed the significance of supporting the then-Army Commander General Michel Suleiman and the Siniora government, which was at the time locked in a fierce power struggle with the Hizbullah-led opposition. Hizbullah and its March 8 allies had camped in downtown Beirut, a few meters from Siniora’s offices, for more than a year and a half staging street protests and sit-ins in an attempt to bring down the Siniora government.

    Geagea also proposed the idea of deploying Arab peacekeeping forces in Lebanon (to confront Hizbullah fighters), the paper said. It added that the U.S. cable said that this idea was first proposed by the Saudis. Geagea proposed asking friendly Arab states to send troops to maintain peace in Lebanon and he recommended that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia and other states supporting Lebanon be pressured to send troops, AL AKHBAR said. Geagea estimated that 5,000 Arab soldiers would be sufficient to maintain peace in Lebanon and back the Siniora government. “Hizbullah will find itself in an impasse and victory will be achieved even if eventually it was decided not to send Arab forces,” Samir Geagea the arch-criminal and head of a CIA/MOSSAD Proxy Militia said.

    Posted by HK | May 10, 2011, 5:06 am
  160. #559

    Ever since Ghassan made it onto the BBC World News channel … he’s snubbed us.

    Posted by R2D2 | May 10, 2011, 6:13 am
  161. Alex @557, Oh! Oh! How I miss those lovely face-to-face encounters. I almost forgot what you guys look like! Thanks!

    Posted by Honest Patriot | May 10, 2011, 6:24 am
  162. Hurrah’s, Kuddos, Dittos and more praise to the Leader of the Resistance of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the most honorable Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. May God keep him safe from the prying eyes of Syria’s military intelligence goons of Asef shawkat, who are desperate to make a deal with the Devil to save their utterly crumbling criminal empire of the Assad mafia in Damascus on the Potomac, partners in crime with the infamous white house Murder INC, in the Levant ever since January 24th 2002, and feb 12th 2008, We will never forget.

    Posted by HK | May 10, 2011, 10:20 am
  163. Microsoft buying Skype for $7 billion. NSA will now be on every Skype call…

    Obama: “We Could Not Say Definitively That Bin Laden Was There”

    התעמולה בוט בשם ברכות (.) מודאגת מאוד לגבי הציונים באמצעות ארה”ב! מדוע ישראל חייבת לעשות מלחמה, מלחמה, מלחמה? רובוט מודאג, מודאג, מודאג!

    Oh dear! Now they claim to have killed one of bin Laden’s sons in the raid with one more son missing….I smell “Return of the bin Ladens, part 2” here…maybe they’ll have the fake bin Laden’s fake son, with Dick Cheney’s daughter carry out the next false flag attack.

    Osama Bin Laden Son Missing From SEAL Raid, Pakistan Says

    All administrations lie but this one does it so badly that it is painful to watch…

    מיומנויות עברית שלך יקרים מעולה, שלי! אנחנו חייבים למצוא לך רופא נחמד או בעלה עורך דין יהודי!

    Posted by HK | May 10, 2011, 11:26 am
  164. HK,

    Well whadyano it turned out SHN is a CIA tool like everyone else !!

    Posted by V | May 10, 2011, 11:32 am
  165. Once again, the controlled corporate/government press is trying to take the place of real American democratic action, by telling us what the acceptable consensus opinion towards proving the claims about the alleged killing bin Laden should be, if we actually participated in our own “national conversation.” This is much like the election night process of broadcasting East Coast “exit polls,” before Western polls have even closed, in order to influence a large portion of the Western voting public, only here, the subservient press is attempting to influence world opinion.

    The truth about Obama’s big lie about killing Osama bin Laden can be seen in his expression in the accompanying photos released by the utterly corrupt Black house in DC.

    In the picture, he is obviously nervous as hell (looks like a nail-biter), as he worries about whether the American majority will swallow the bullshit he has just spoon-fed them–much like the captured image of George Bush in Florida’s kindergarten when the inside Job of 9/11 was launched by the crooked criminal Dick Cheney and as he delivered the great lies at the beginning of the Iraq Invasion…

    You can see the mental contortions these two puppet presidents were going through as they lied to the American people in order to initiate their plans for unjust wars of aggression–resource wars, meant to keep the dying system of capitalist fascism alive, at the world’s expense. You can tell by watching these official liars that they are being internally tortured by their own consciences, which they can sometimes ignore (with extensive practice), but never really escape from.

    Obama, Bush, Clinton, Old Bush, and Reagan have all systematically gained the trust of the American people with seemingly sincere appeals to join in the blood-lust in the name of some weird form of patriotic honor, in order to carry-out their new plans for mass-murder in the name of the American Empire. It is way past time that we changed our ways and began to call “bullshit,” every time one of these guys opens their mouths.

    Posted by HK | May 10, 2011, 12:09 pm
  166. I congratulate our neighbors across the fence on the leadership they have voted into office.

    Posted by R2D2 | May 10, 2011, 12:18 pm
  167. R2D2,

    Congratulations accepted. Only a stupid government would give money to enemies that want to destroy the country it governs. If Hamas do not renounce violence, are we really expected to give a government that includes Hamas money so that they can shoot rockets at us?

    Posted by AIG | May 10, 2011, 12:43 pm
  168. I have to say that the govt. of the PA does not currently include Hamas.
    Just because the 2 parties reconciled does not mean they are formally in govt.
    As far as I’ve heard the upcoming govt will be one of technocrats that does not include Hamas members.

    I happen to think Israel and the USA are taking the wrong stance here. With the “threat” of unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state later this year (and apparent recognition by France and other european countries) it would be in everyone’s best interests to sit down and talk right now. Hamas and PA have done exactly that: put aside their differences and seem to be attempting to do something constructive (from their point of view). I think such a step should be encouraged (obviously as long as Hamas is abiding by the ceasefire). I think it is in Israel’s best interests right now to take advantage of the seeming “confusion” in the rejectionist camp (the events in Syria being key) and encourage a real Palestinian agenda (as opposed to an agenda that was manipulated by Syria and Iran).
    I guess what I’m saying is that maybe the Palestinians are starting to recognize that they need to do something constructive on their own, and not necessarily be pawns in the hands of Syria/Iran.
    I think such steps should be encouraged.

    At least that’s my current opinion.

    I don’t think Bibi is quite on the right track (and hasn’t been for quite a while now). I’m actually somewhat surprised that you guys south of the border are still putting up with him.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 10, 2011, 1:07 pm
  169. BV,

    Isn’t in Israel’s best interests to wait until it is sure that the new PA government is not influenced by Hamas ideology before giving it money that may be used to attack Israel?

    As for Netanyahu’s popularity, have you checked how well Israel’s economy is doing? 4.5% growth is fore-casted for 2011. For a developed economy this is quite phenomenal.

    Posted by AIG | May 10, 2011, 1:23 pm
  170. 4.5% growth is fore-casted for 2011. For a developed economy this is quite phenomenal.

    Whatever. Your hummus isn’t even 4.5% as tasty as Lebanese hummus. So there.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 10, 2011, 1:27 pm
  171. Kashink !$$

    For some reason I see a Louis de Funes figure in AIG, typing away on his computer … 🙂

    Posted by R2D2 | May 10, 2011, 1:38 pm
  172. AIG,

    I wasn’t talking about economic performance. No argument there I guess.
    My comment about Bibi was more tongue in cheek. I personally feel like as far as the Palestinian issue, he’s increasingly seeming the “bad guy” in terms of being completely intransigeant. I know you won’t see it that way from your perspective, but it seems to me, that with the Palestinians moving towards unilateral declaration of a state, they’ve all but given up on Bibi coming to the table.
    You’ve often used the words “putting your house in order before you talk to us” (or something along those lines) when talking about the Arabs, or the Lebanese.
    I think that’s exactly right, and I think the Palestinians are trying to do just that at the moment.

    I do understand your logic: You wanna make sure Hamas ideology is not present in the new govt before giving it money. I suppose that makes sense. But I also think maybe now’s the right time for a leap of faith on the part of Israel (because of the reasons I mentioned above)?
    It is looking increasingly likely that with the Palestinians moving on their own, Israel becomes in danger of being left behind, so to speak, or being left out of having a say in any future direction things may take. Don’t you think?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 10, 2011, 1:41 pm
  173. BV,

    Leaps of faith are a hard thing to sell logically 🙂 but nice try. I have noticed that quite often those “leaps of faith” are advocated by those who carry little risk if the leap is into an abyss.

    Bibi stopped settlements for 10 months. Abbas did not want to negotiate then also. Bibi has said many times that he is open to any negotiations. If the Palestinians want to unilaterally declare a state, they should go right ahead. It won’t help them one bit. Unilateral moves will not bring peace.

    Posted by AIG | May 10, 2011, 1:57 pm
  174. QN,

    Yes, I know, having a leader that actually worries about the economic welfare of his people is an anomaly in the middle east. Who wants those kind of leaders anyway?

    Posted by AIG | May 10, 2011, 1:59 pm
  175. What is economic growth compared to the satisfaction of knowing that we invented hummus?

    That knowledge is what keeps me warm at night and fuels my nation’s vitality.

    You, on the other hand, invented Teva sandals, which are hardly as inspiring (but probably do taste better than Israeli hummus).


    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 10, 2011, 2:13 pm
  176. Yeah. I realize my “leap of faith” argument is hard to swallow from your side.
    Thing is, I can’t quite put into words what I’m seeing. Call it a gut feeling.
    But with the “Arab spring” (specially the Egypt and Syria dimensions) changing the parameters in the region, I think the status quo that’s really served Israel so well for the past few decades is not gonna be tenable for very much longer.
    Yes, Israel doesn’t have much to lose at the moment by staying put. The facts on the ground tip in favor of Israel at the moment and you really aren’t pressed to make any concessions right now. Completely understand that. You get to sit pat, continue settlements, and no one is really firing at you (Be it in the Golan, South Lebanon or the Palestinian territories) so why give anything. Completely understandable.
    However, taking the long view, I get the gut feeling that unless Israel gets more proactive, with the region changing around you, you’re in danger of being left a bit behind.
    I view the current climate as an opportunity more so than a “status quo”.
    With the Palestinians trying to put their house in order (let’s assume that doesn’t fall apart), what better time to sit down at the negotiating table? Syria is distracted at the moment. Egypt is trying to redefine itself (in a good way, I think, read the interview with their PM from yesterday if you can get your hands on it) and the Palestinians maybe having realized that they cannot continue relying on Syria/Iran (I think that’s a big reason why this sudden reconciliation came out of nowhere), I think this is the perfect time to make something happen.
    And really, Israel doesn’t have that much to lose. You’re still negotiating from a position of strength (You still occupy and control the WB for all intents and purposes, etc).
    Let’s say negotiations fail. Or let’s say Hamas starts firing rockets again. So what? It’s happened before. You pull out of the negotiations (as has happened many times before) and you really haven’t given up anything.

    I don’t see what Israel has to lose by taking this “leap of faith”, to be honest.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 10, 2011, 2:13 pm
  177. BV,

    $100 million dollars can be used to build many Qassams and buy quite a lot of weapons. That is what Israel has to lose. As for willing to negotiate, the door is open. It is the Palestinians that are refusing.

    Your optimism is welcome and I hope the Arab Spring turns out as you expect. But while I share your hope, I do not share your optimism. My assessment has been for many years as readers of this blog and SC can attest, that the Egyptian and Syrian dictatorships were likely to succumb to Islamists sooner than people expected. All the reasons why I was right still hold. That is not to say that Egyptians and Syrians should not be given every chance in the world to put in place true democratic regimes, they should. But one has to be clear minded and realize that such efforts will most likely fail. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

    Posted by AIG | May 10, 2011, 2:29 pm
  178. QN,

    For all I know the Lebanese also invented fire. Congratulations on that also 🙂

    The question though is what are you doing with it?

    Posted by AIG | May 10, 2011, 2:33 pm
  179. AIG,

    Survival of the fittest 😉

    Posted by R2D2 | May 10, 2011, 2:46 pm
  180. AIG:

    Allow me to weigh in on the Hummus debate. I believe Fontaine Sante (and their dips products) is beginning to expand into the US. And while I cannot attest to its origins, the company is based in Ville St. Laurent in Montreal, which is little Beirut.

    Also, and this in no way betrays any personal bias, it tastes a lot better than Sabra :D.

    On your note on Islamism and Egypt/Syria. You confuse me. You don’t want to gamble with Israel, and yet you expect Alex to gamble on Syria. (Shooting on their own citizens non-withstanding).

    Also, given that you feel that “That is not to say that Egyptians and Syrians should not be given every chance in the world to put in place true democratic regimes, they should. But one has to be clear minded and realize that such efforts will most likely fail.”… you seem to bolster Alex’s original argument (and agree with him) that the end result will likely not be that great.

    Posted by Gabriel | May 10, 2011, 2:51 pm
  181. It certainly isn’t easy for QN to decide what topic should be brushed on next … with the multitude of issues ongoing locally and regionally.

    Reaching 600 comments will be something to brag about. it seems (?) when nothing significant is happening.

    Personally, I’d love to address the thorny Israel issue in light of developments in the region.

    Posted by R2D2 | May 10, 2011, 3:00 pm
  182. Humus Shmumus.. wait till Ras el 3abed takes off in China, Lebanon will rule the world 🙂

    Posted by V | May 10, 2011, 3:00 pm
  183. Gabriel,

    I never said Sabra tastes great. It is not bad, but certainly not great.

    As for Alex’ argument, where did I say that I expected Alex to gamble? All I am saying is that Alex should be clear that he believes Syria cannot be a democracy instead of obfuscating with the usual Israel, KSA, etc. rhetoric.

    The people who gamble are usually those that have more to win than to lose. That is why Syria is unstable, because Assad has created a huge percentage of the population that unlike Alex, are willing to gamble.

    I also strongly believe in liberal democracy, so when I see people yearning for it, I am inclined to be sympathetic with them, and not with their oppressors, even though I know the odds are stacked against democracy. There is no contradiction in supporting someone while not believing they will succeed. After all, I support the Israel national soccer team but I would never bet that they will win the world cup.

    Posted by AIG | May 10, 2011, 3:09 pm
  184. V said: “Humus Shmumus.. wait till Ras el 3abed takes off in China, Lebanon will rule the world”


    Btw, I’m seriously not trying to run up the score (or comment count) on this post. I just haven’t had time to think of something else to write. Maybe tonight. Or maybe I’ll watch the NBA playoffs.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 10, 2011, 3:11 pm
  185. Just to clarify, I am not saying that I’m convinced Egypt or Syria are going to successfully turn into democracies. And even if they do, it won’t be overnight.

    I’m just saying there’s a bit of a “vaccum” at the moment in the “rejectionist camp” (Iran/Syria) that I can see Egypt trying to exploit (for example, they brought Hamas and Fatah back together).
    Even in transition, Egypt is moving back into the thick of things, after being marginalized from the Arab world and nearly becoming irrelevant in the past 2 decades.
    My point is that these current conditions make for a good “opening”, a propitious opportunity for making something happen before the window may close again (due to other factors, such as the Syrian revolt failing, or whathaveyou).

    I’m seeing this as “There’s an opening, let’s grab it quick before things change again”, moreso than seeing an issue of Islamic extremism, or whathaveyou. When your enemies are in “disarray”, that’s the best time to be proactive, in my opinion. Sitting on the sidelines may or may not end up being the right move. Time will tell. But I certainly feel like Bibi’s tactic is to “sit on the sidelines and wait things out”.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 10, 2011, 3:13 pm
  186. AIG,

    You give such a brilliant example of who you and your own defined “kind” are.

    Keep talking.

    Posted by R2D2 | May 10, 2011, 3:15 pm
  187. QN,

    I watch the food channel.

    Whatever works for you 😉

    Posted by R2D2 | May 10, 2011, 3:17 pm
  188. Alex,

    Can we make a trade? We won’t talk about Syrian human rights violations, and you won’t talk about Israeli human rights violations?


    Posted by Akbar Palace | May 10, 2011, 3:26 pm
  189. V, They have been rebranded ‘Tarbouche’ Luckily, Ghandour realized the awful taste calling them Ras el 3abed left in the mouth.

    Posted by Johnny | May 10, 2011, 5:18 pm
  190. Chickpea chickpea…who would’ve thought you’d amount to something one day.

    That would be the right thing to do, actually it would be the left thing to do. 🙂
    Avigdor ain’t no pansie.

    Posted by Maverick | May 10, 2011, 5:41 pm
  191. Or Johnny, The Lebanese are becoming more politically correct. To foreigners anyway….

    Posted by Maverick | May 10, 2011, 5:45 pm
  192. Almost 600 comments and still counting. Time for reality check. If you answer yes to any of these questions, you should go on vacation and not come back.

    (1) Do you use your computer while your spouse is in bed?

    (2) When people ask “What’s Happening”, do you describe the status of your computer programs?

    (3) Do you send electronic messages after 6:00 PM or before 6:00 AM.

    (4) Do you leave for vacation with your computer and forget your family?

    (5) Are your children named Picard, Gates, and Seagal?

    (6) Do you keep time in terms of upgrades?

    (7) Is the only sport you play or the only exercise you get on a screen?

    (8) Are there more computer manuals than novels or biographies on your bookshelf at home?

    (9) Do you look at others to know when to laugh?

    (10) Is Amnesty International an organization to protect programmers rights?

    Posted by iceman | May 10, 2011, 8:04 pm
  193. Many good points here. But ultimately this is a counter revolutionary viewpoint and the person is trying to disguise his pro-regime position by making liberal qualifications every now and then.

    We could have easily thought in the same logic during the revolts in Egypt, and indeed many people did. Not all Egyptians were in the streets, and given Egypt’s population you could have also said it was not representative of “the Egyptian people”. What number would qualify for a good representation? There was never more than 1-3% protesting in Egypt.

    And then there is the issue of peaceful versus non-peaceful protestors. How does this commentator know other than taking the regime propaganda at face value? If soldiers were killed can we not say that this is from protestors defending themselves? Is using violence on the part of protestors in defense of themselves the same as violent rebellion? Didn’t Egyptians also use violence? In the Suez they even used armed violence, as in machine guns. And many people were saying that the protestors should go home and give Mubarak a chance as he had made some concessions.

    When you compare what people were saying in Egypt this view comes very close to those against revolt and part of the forces of counter revolution. The difference is that in Egypt the regime fell after 18 days, whereas in Syria analysts like this one have had time to make their counter revolutionary cases. The more this view is allowed to get out in public discourse the more it will stick and the more it will serve the counter revolutionary force.

    Finally, this person’s discourse is part of an old era that we need to reject openly. The Assad regime is the only one that knows the Levant and Mesopotamia? Seriously? The commentator is again repeating the sectarian discourse of the elite powers, the same discourse that maintains their power. This idea that our region is primordially sectarian is, I’m sorry, a show of ignorance when it comes from supposed experts. Our regimes use this sectarianism to rule us. And this commentator chooses to see things in the uni-dimensional prism of sectarianism. All of a sudden, with Egypt, he can be orientalist and paint the society as homogeneous with no divisions. But in Syria people are more complex. Seriously? Can one not look at Egyptian society as divided as well, not just Copts and Muslims (we see those divisions come out), but also city and rural, poor and rich, and God knows what other divisions I’m sure we can politicize if it suited our analysis or elite rule. Oh, religious versus secular is another. Sects do not have to be defined religiously or ethnically, they can also be defined ideologically.

    And sorry if these views have been expressed in the 500 other comments. I can’t be bothered to read them all and i come to the discussion late.

    Posted by joe | May 10, 2011, 9:17 pm
  194. Ice dude based on #3…You are either screwed or will be on a well deserved vacation.

    I guess all the Just for Laughs gags have got you comical…

    Posted by danny | May 10, 2011, 9:24 pm
  195. Hey… we all need a vacation…

    … or in my case, a nice cold Arctic ocean, and an anchor to keep me securely in its depths! 😀

    Posted by Gabriel | May 10, 2011, 9:35 pm

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