Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The US Ups Pressure on Syria

The US inches closer to adopting a policy of "regime change" in Syria. Washington is looking for a second act now that UN Resolution 1559 is over.

A number of sources are patching together America's latest moves on the Syria Front.

The Washington Post explained that Patrick Leahy, a senior U.S. senator,

said on Monday he had no doubt Syria was behind the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik al-Hariri, according to intelligence he had seen.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, made the comments to reporters after meeting U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on a variety of issues and offering him support.

"I have seen enough of the evidence on Hariri to know that they (Syrians) were behind it," Leahy said without elaborating. "I don't think there is a single person in Lebanon and probably no one in Syria who doesn't believe they were behind it."

"There is no question -- no question in my mind -- that they were behind the assassination," the senator said.
The article also explains that Kofi Annan is sending its evoy Larson to Syria to dress down the Syrians.

`Imad Makki of al-Sharq al-Awsat who gets the best story in his article:
مصادر في واشنطن: النصيحة للنظام السوري .. تقاعدوا

He explains that State Department officials recently called a meeting of all Arab ambassadors in Washington to get them up the pressure on the Syrian regime to "change its politics". Imad Mustafa, the Syrian embassador was not invited.

One Arab diplomate said that the US administration is talking about "changing the old Syrian regime."

هناك إحاديث واضحة داخل أروقة الإدارة الأميركية، تتحدث الآن عن «تغيير النظام السوري القديم»

That means "retire" as one official interpreted it.

This is one step away from actually and officially calling for regime change in Syria. But the upsot is that Washington is clearly looking for complete international cooperation in isolating Syria and placing the squeeze on Bashar. The Arab regimes are just one side of the story.

State Department officials are meeting with their French counterparts to look for a way to tie the Kassir murder into the overarching investiagation into the Hariri murder dnd to figure out how they can revive a Syrian element of UN resolution 1559, which was so effective in driving Syria out of Lebanon.

According to Washington, Kofi Annon prematurely announced that Syria had withdrawn from Lebanon two weeks ago. It has denied that Syria pulled out and is no doubt behind the Larson visit to Damascus.

Annahar reports that indications are that that the new UN German investigation team may switch back to the "under the road" bomb theory and reject the Irish UN team's assertion that it was a car bomb which killed Harriri. Many believe that if the bomb was planted under the road, this would prove that Syria and the Lebanese state secret service under Syrian control would have to be responsible.

Farid Ghadry, the head of the "American" Syrian opposition is trying to spin the story that Washington has announced "Regime Change." He sent out this email circular:
State Department Wants "Regime Change" in Syria
Washington DC, June 7, 2005/RPS/ -- For the first time ever the U.S. State Department said yesterday that "regime Change" in Syria of the "Old Guard and the new one" has become a necessity.

Saudi owned al-Sharq al-Awsat reported this morning that David Welsh is spearheading a new strategy to gain the support of the Arab countries to put pressure on Syria in regard to Hezbollah, Iraq, and Lebanon. Towards that goal, a meeting of all the Arab Ambassadors took place at the US State Department without the presence of the Syrian Ambassador Imad Mustapha to seek that support. Excluding the Syrian Ambassador has isolated Syria, even amongst the Arab countries, for the final blow.
This opinion piece in the Christian Science Monitor, a normally leftish paper, is representative of the negative stories that are beginning to come out of the conference, and doubtless only scratch the surface of the negative reation it is producing in Washington.

Syria's 'Great Leap' Sideways
June 08

It's not over until Thursday, but Syria's Baath Party conference - billed by dictator Bashar al-Assad as a "great leap forward" for his country - looks so far to be a leap toward disappointment....

To date, Assad's most meaningful "reform" has been withdrawing Syrian troops from neighboring Lebanon. But that was a move forced on him by the popular uprising next door - and international pressure.

It could be that reform can take hold only by forcing Assad's hand....

In his speech, Assad assailed external pressures on Syria. But after five years, he has yet to prove himself capable of reform from within.

Buthaina Shabaan's remarks yesterday will also not please Washington. (Thanks Tony.) She accused the US of racism, saying:
Syrian Expatriates Minister and congress spokesperson Buthaina Shaaban accused the U.S. of seeking to undermine Arab identity by fostering religious and ethnic divisions.

"If we are not Arabs what could we be? Do we want to be Sunnis and Shiites and Christians? Or do we want to be Arabs? I think I can speak in the name of million of Arabs that we want to be Arabs," she said. "If the Baath Party was not there I think we would have to invent it."
What happened to Syrian national identity? It has been suppressed by the Baath Party. Ever since the Baath took revenge on the Syrian Social Nationalist Party for the killing of Adnan Malki in 1955, Syrianism has been effectively banned and taken out of Syria's curriculum and national textbooks. I write about this in my article: "Islamic Education in Syria" Also Translated into Arabic here .

The word "Syria" or "Syrian nation" does not appear in any of the text books used in the twelve years of Islamic education in Syrian schools. Only the Arab Nation and Islamic Nation are referred to. The Syrian government has suppressed Syrianism in favor of Arabism.

One of the great hopes of this conference was that the government would begin to back away from Arabism and begin to define a more practical Syrian national identity which could protect the country and its citizens should there be regime collapse or dramatic change in the future. How else will Syrians learn not to revert to their sectarian loyalties, if they aren't educated to give their loyalty to Syria, their actual nation? Arabism, everyone admits, is no longer a practical national identity. Yes, it has a role in binding together the Arab people who share a common culture and history. But it is no substitute for a Syrian national identity, just as being a member of the common European federation is no substitute for being French, Spanish, or Italian.


At 6/08/2005 08:31:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Syria Leader Looks Set to Stay the Course
At his Baath Party congress, Bashar Assad avoids mention of political change and calls technology a threat to the identity of Arabs.

By Megan K. Stack
LA Times Staff Writer

DAMASCUS, Syria — Buffeted by criticism and demands for reform, Syrian President Bashar Assad opened his party congress Monday by sidestepping all mention of political change, pledging continued devotion to pan-Arab nationalism and calling modern technology a threat to Arab identity.

The 39-year-old president had touted this week's Baath Party gathering as a turning point for a nation under pressure. Analysts had predicted the sessions could lay the groundwork to ease emergency laws, remove obstacles to opposition parties, weed out some of Syria's aging functionaries and extend citizenship to thousands of stateless Kurds.

Yet only a few hints of change emerged Monday. Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam — a stalwart of the "old guard" and a key backer of Syria's now-defunct political control over Lebanon — reportedly announced his resignation. Assad did call for overhauling Syria's largely state-run economy.

But on the whole, Assad's brief speech made it plain that old Baathist principles would remain very much intact.

"We believe that the ideas and teachings of the party are still relevant and current and respond to the interests of the people and the nation," Assad told more than 1,200 Baath regional commanders. "Where their implementation has fallen short, it is individuals who bear responsibility, not the idea or ideology."

The three-day congress, the first of its kind in five years, is a forum for ruling party officials throughout the country to confer on Baathist policies. It comes at a time when Syria is staggering under massive international and domestic pressure.

In the last week alone, the regime has been accused of involvement in the killings of a prominent, reform-minded Kurdish imam and a celebrated Lebanese journalist. Suspicion about Syria's role in the Feb. 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, along with several bombings that have rattled Beirut and its suburbs, also shadows Damascus.

Syrian officials have repeatedly denied involvement in the attacks, but Assad bowed to pressure and pulled Syrian soldiers out of Lebanon after Hariri's death, a move that cost his country significantly in regional clout.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has been accusing Damascus of undermining stability in Iraq by allowing insurgents to use Syria as a transit point.

At home, Assad is weathering criticism from a persistent, albeit fractious, opposition movement.

"This month is make-or-break for the regime," said Ammar Abdel Hamid, an outspoken dissident. "After the [Lebanon] pullout, the only way for the regime to retain legitimacy was to produce something internally."

Changes from the ruling party conference won't be immediate or drastic; the meeting doesn't have the authority to change laws. It will provide marching orders to the Baathists who control Syria's government institutions — and insight to a people who have seen their leaders chastised by foreign and local critics. In a bureaucracy as slow-moving as Syria's, the conference is about as dramatic as government gets.

Even before the withdrawal from Lebanon, Assad was quietly consolidating power by moving family members and close associates into key posts. Analysts predict he will use this week's conference to cut back on the Baath Party's regional command, downsizing a powerful cadre elected from the party ranks rather than appointed by Assad.

Assad, a seemingly reluctant ruler, inherited the presidency in 2000 after the death of his father, Hafez Assad. He is expected to demote some of his father's cronies, with whom his relations are reportedly strained. His mention of corruption and individual responsibility Monday seemed to hint at a political purge.

Assad's tirade against technology came as a surprise. The president is a founder of the Syrian Computer Society, and one of his most prominent public projects has been the modernization of Internet services. On Monday, he described the Internet revolution as an enemy force.

Computers and technology, he said, had "overwhelmed Arabs and threatened their existence and cultural identity, which has increased the doubts and skepticism in the mind of young Arabs."

It was unclear whether Assad was heralding an impending online crackdown, but he described the Internet as nothing less than an existential threat.

"The ultimate objective of all this is the destruction of Arab identity, for the enemies of the Arab nation are opposed to our possessing any identity or upholding any creed that could protect our existence and cohesion," Assad said. "They simply aim at transforming us into a negative reactive mass which absorbs everything that is thrown at it."

Monday's meeting was the first party congress since Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime fell in 2003, and the second since Assad took office.

The meeting has been on the lips of Syrian officials and commentators for months; virtually all discussion of reform or modernization has been deferred with the excuse that nothing would be clear until after the ruling party met.

Some analysts and officials argued that Assad had deliberately kept his speech vague and short to avoid the appearance of dictatorship. He was reluctant to make sweeping declarations until after the week's discussions, they said.

"He wants the Baathists and candidates here in this congress to say what they want to do and what they believe and what they are thinking," said Imad Shuebi, a political science professor at Damascus University. "He doesn't want to say everything. He really is a liberal man."

Still, Assad's speech was seen as a tone-setter for the coming months and years. "President Delivers Speech on Vital Issues," proclaimed Monday's state-run Syria Times.

After the speech had aired live on state television, dissidents were skeptical.

"He told us, 'We'll stay in power as the Baath Party, and we'll be even more powerful,' " said human rights lawyer Anwar Bouni. " 'Nobody dream we'll give Syrian people their human rights.' "

The ruling party meetings present Assad with a chance to boost morale among Syrians, who were demoralized in the wake of this spring's withdrawal from Lebanon. The populace has been stuck between an anachronistic, repressive regime and an international community that is viewed with resentment by many here.

Now that Syria's regional influence has been curtailed, Assad's domain is strictly domestic. Speculation has been running rampant: Will the regime loosen up to gain in popularity, or clamp down to maintain control?

Whatever optimism might have been blooming has been severely undercut in recent weeks by a rash of arrests, disappearances and clashes.

Dissidents and activists who had been pushing for democratization have been detained in the weeks leading up to the party congress.

Tensions rose even higher last week, when the body of a prominent Kurdish imam was found, reportedly covered with scars from torture. Sheik Mohammed Mashuq Khiznaw, a prominent Muslim leader from the restive Kurdish region along the Iraqi border, had disappeared during a trip to Damascus in early May.

His family, human rights groups and Kurdish activists accused the regime in the death of the cleric, who had criticized the government.

The state-run news agency SANA denied that the government was involved in Khiznaw's disappearance, instead blaming his death on "criminals." The government has arrested two men responsible for the imam's kidnapping and killing, it reported.

The death reignited rage among the Kurds of Syria's northeastern provinces, where deadly riots erupted last spring against Syrian forces. On Sunday, Kurdish demonstrators clashed again with police in the town of Qamishli.

Some analysts read the recent crackdown as a sign that Syria, having left Lebanon, is beginning to relax — and lapse back into old habits.

"The government had been cowering for three or four months" since Hariri's assassination, said Joshua M. Landis, a professor of Middle East history at the University of Oklahoma who lives in Damascus. "But they can breathe now. They can go back to thuggish behavior."

At 6/08/2005 10:13:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The sectarian discrimination practiced by the regime causes the destruction of the national feeling and exacerbate the communitarian confinement.
Syria after 40 years of totalitarianism lost its cosmopolitan societies that characterized the Ottoman cities like Sarajevo,Istanbul,Aleppo,Beirut,Alexandria... Secular totalitarianism slaughtered the syrian culure of pluralism.

Ideologies inspired by the german social nationalism like the ssnp and baathism are incompatible with our middle eastern culture.

At 6/08/2005 12:12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some thoughts on a mundane Baath event

By Ammar Abdulhamid

At 6/09/2005 03:40:00 AM, Anonymous EmZee said...

I like to believe that although the Bush administration’s public discourse is clearly moving in the direction of an open call for regime change in Syria, there must be voices within Washington working against that shift. The bogeyman, real or imagined, of a Sunni Islamist movement taking power in the wake of an Assad government collapse has to be enough to scare any post-Iraq War coup planner. Then again I thought the idea that we could invade Iraq for 9/11 was a trial balloon that would never fly.

The question now is how, as Americans, Syrians, Arabs, and an international community, do we work to prevent a repeat? Reporting and criticism are important, as the dearth of these in the lead up to March 2003 showed all too well. But are they enough? It seems to me that as long as Americans can think of a country as inhabited by terrorists and uneducated poor people – which sadly is the only image many Americans have of Syria if they even know where it is – as long as that is possible, talk of invasions and regime change are rendered acceptable. I applaud the articles on various reformist figures working in Syria and loved the piece on bloggers Josh. They humanize a distant blurred face. But how do we get these stories, stories of average educated politically aware Syrians who want change but don’t want it “American-style” into American consciousness?

One round of half-hearted governmental and journalistic mea culpas for creating and supporting a distastrous war in the Middle East is enough for this lifetime.

At 6/09/2005 07:05:00 AM, Anonymous Ghassan said...

Dear EmZee,
I agree that the Iraqi war was and is still is a BIG mistake! As an American, I refuse to approve sending our soldiers to invade other countries unless we were attacked by that country first! No preemptive strike, no provocations, no war!!!

But, I strongly believe that we need to promote freedom and democracy in the world. Not selectively! Which means we should not support a dictator because he is friendly to our interest and we should cooperate with any elected official even if he is not friendly to us!

Regarding Syria, it is a country controlled by a mafia with no democracy or freedom! This is the country where we need to assist its people to organize to get their freedom. But freedom is earned not given. Dictators will not give up their "chairs" easily and freedom will not be given to people on a "golden plate"! Freedom is EARNED!

To dear Syrians, don't give up and keep on demanding your freedom to get rid of the dictator and his cronies!

At 6/09/2005 10:07:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The conditions that made it possible for the current leadership to take over need to be changed. Otherwise we can end up with similar problems.

People need to examine and possibly change their beliefs and values before they are ready to remove current leaderships.

Otherwise more of the same. Dynamic instability is probably preferable than Iraq style turmoil.

I don't expect you Josh to be speaking your mind on your own blog as long as you are still in Syria. I do appreciate your efforts to generate ideas.

At 6/09/2005 10:23:00 AM, Anonymous kingcrane said...

Em Zee,

I loved your comment.

On the Angry Arab site, many people have criticized As'ad Abu Khalil for his comment about being and remaining an Arab Lebanese and that American citizenship is nice to have as it gave him a travel document that does not "penalize" him when he travels. I feel, somehow, the same way; becoming American and taking the oath is one thing, accepting blindly the policies of the neocons is another.

During my many years in Lebanon and Syria (over 20 years in each of these great lands), I have learned that what unites us first is a culture that has remained, for thousands of years, based on trust, pride and honor; the masses understand how corrupt the leaders are, but when Dubya and Co propose changes that are only in favor of the ever expanding Zionist entity, we have the duty to say thanks but no thanks.

PS: And, I think the neocons should foot the bill for the extremists in the Middle East as they, with their friends, have created these bloody extremists to fight their proxy wars against the Soviet Union.

At 6/09/2005 01:14:00 PM, Anonymous MAD said...

To kingcrane

You live in lala land. Culture is not something that you can slice whichever way you want, at least understanding culture broadly. (I.e. I'll take taboule and old time poetry, but political practices are someone else's fault, outside the culture)

The culture that you fled has certainly some nice things, BUT it is also that culture that bred corrupt leadership, and is is that culture that has been unable to stop the "Zionist entity" as you call it.
It is OUR culture that has failed in those respects.

At 6/09/2005 02:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting comment from an earlier post. It sounds to me like some Syrians are very frustrated and are speaking out. Some good points here.

At 11:47 AM, Hani said...


With all due respect, your post makes no sense and you're all over the place firing a salvo of themes without correlating them.

1. Sure, the West in general, and Israel and the US in particular, have strategic interests in the Middle East. That's a given. And, I don't fault them for going after their strategic interests. It's up to us to fight for ours. To defend our interests and fight for our cause (independence, liberation, etc.), we have to understand the 'instruments of power'. Today, a war is won and lost before the first bullet is fired. We need information, we need media, we need PR, we need marketing, we need communication. And, for all of that, we need infrastructure and education.

2. Let's not blame everything on Israel and the US. It was our pathetic leadership that tampered with the school books to include "Tarbyeh Qawmiyeh" and other such crap like Hafez Assad's speeches and discussions about socialism in our school curricula. How does that help us defend against Israel or liberate our land from occupation? It was our government who nationalized growing industries and pushed the cream of our businessmen and intellectuals to Lebanon and elsewhere, taking with them their money and expertise. How does that help us guard against Western influence? It was our government which placed criminals like Rifaat Assad and his thugs in positions of power and enabled him to siphon off billions of dollars from our bastardized economy, while killing thousands of civilians. How does that contribute to our just struggle?

Stop the bullshit, for the love of God! There is NO excuse for the failures and the blunders that have gotten us here. Our government, in the final analysis, was more interested in maintaining power and tilting the social "balance" in Syria than it was in fighting Israel or maintaining the "struggle". Set aside education; we agree they destroyed what little there was. For a country so concerned with fighting to liberate its lands, what industries have they built that would generate income to fund the military? What industries does Syria have today - cotton and wheat ?? Is that a strategic industry in the information age?

I disagree fundamentally with all religion-based parties. But, Syria was a moderate, tolerant society before the "secular" (suppossedly) Baath came to power. Their policies have, inadvertently or not, allowed Islamic sentiment to grow in a society and an environment that is not historically been friendly to such ideologies.

Though I understand at a high level the Syrian intervention in Lebanon in 1976, I don't understand the conduct and the policies of Syrian army and intelligence there since. If you take a bunch of educated, capable, Macchiavellan Syrian strategists and put them in a board room, they could not possibly have designed a set of policies to squander Lebanese sympathy and affection among ordinary Lebanese, better than what was accomplished by the Syrian regime. How did that contribute to Arab Unity and the Arab cause?

You say "our people have suffered too long.....and whether it was right or wrong, we should not turn around and stop now". This exemplifies the hard-headed attitude that refuses to acknowledge problems and mistakes and fix them. We are headed toward disaster, and if your definition of disaster is remotely reasonable, we're already there now! This IS the time (arguably too late) to review and change course. Continuing on this path will only produce more ills and problems and delayed solutions will require more dramatic measures that will have far-reaching social effects.

No, my formula is not just to utter that fashionable, magic word: democracy. Like I said in my previous post, we need to move very slowly toward more democracy. We need to move in a cautious, measured way, but sure-footed way and according to a long-term plan, not ad-hoc. This has to go hand-in-hand with a radical, deep overhaul of the education system, so that a new generation of students are trained, taught and initiated into "democratic" ways in classrooms and universities. This means emphasis on analysis not regurgitation. It means emphasis on the process and methodology, not the final answer. It means respect for individual choices and encouraging creativity. It means overhauling the curricula to make it inclusive. For example, stop favoritism in religious teaching. Either teach a general course about all religions or preferably don't teach any. Stop party (Baath) indoctrination in schools. Stop Arab indoctrination and propoganda in media, schools and elsewhere in society. In general, we must accept that Syria is not only Arab and it's not only Muslim. This is not even touching on the technical overhaul of curricula to make it modern and relevant.

From a priority perspective, education reform must take absolute paramount priority, which means that most of the country's resources should be devoted to that effort. An educated, enlightened population can quickly embrace democracy and learn its tools. An uneducated population (though literate, as you say) can be further fragmented and hurt by premature democracy. This is why I am saying that what we need is a quick, radical education reform, a steady economic/legal reform and a slow march toward democracy.

As for Israel, the best way to defend ourselves is by: 1. strengthening and safeguarding national unity (which is not there today). 2. Provide education and opportunity to the people and giving them something worth defending. 3. Understanding the effective levers of power today. This means learning about and using effectively media, PR, information technology, real diplomacy, research centers, think tanks and lobbying, etc. etc. 4. Institutionalizing policy as opposed to this whimsical, ad-hoc chaos that we currently have that makes no sense. Until we get there, the issue with Israel can be placed on the back-burner. Today, we have a de-facto non-belligerence agreement with Israel. In fact, the Golan is the least active 'Jabha" (front) among all since 1974. So, let's continue with that, with an implicit understanding of non-belligerence and focus on internal Syrian reforms. After all, it was Hafez Assad himself who said that if we can't reach a fair deal, we can wait for future generations to resolve the problem. My point is that today, our main and top priority is not the Golan. It's education, it's the economy, it's standard of living, it's reconciliation, it's basic rights and social justice. Once we make good headway on these and others, we would automatically be better equiped to take on the external Israel issue.

As for relations with the United States, Syrians are too simplistic in their understanding of the US, its politics and its system. Sure, the Israeli lobby is strong there, but we (Syrians) bear most of the burden for the lopsided US policy toward Syria. We have a small, but professional, educated and wealthy community in the US. They are mostly cynical and opposed to Syrian policies. If Syria knew how to make use of these US citizens and provide them with the support, they can be turned into an effective lobby for an enlightened Syria. Americans are not inherently anti-Syrian. The American people, for the most part, are a decent, simple people with good values who have their own concerns like everyone else - about their families, schools, healthcare, retirement, etc. They don't know anything about the Middle East and can be influenced either way. Moreover, they are predisposed to sympathize with the underdog, and are, for the most part, fair-minded. Today, the battlefield for the hearts, minds, opinions adn votes of Americans has only one player: Israel. Syria is totally absent. We have no marketing and public relations strategy or even understanding. We have no lobbying, nor do we understand the value of it or how to go about it. We make it impossible to establish or develop people-to-people contacts, to allow research. And, we provide little usable data to anyone crazy enough to try to conduct research on their own.

This puppy represents continuity and the status quo with some cosmetic changes. What Syria needs is a leader with strategic vision and strength to carry it out with determination and integrity. When the outside world sees this, they will respect it. And if it's marketed effectively, we can guard against the traps along the way.

At 6/09/2005 03:17:00 PM, Anonymous kingcrane said...

To: Anonymous at 2:10.

Thank you, your point of view is excellent.

My BIGGEST problem with the Ba'ath Party (though Lebanese, I have many cousins all over Syria) is the arabization in 1967 (possibly to facilitate endoctrination) of the teaching of all scientific subjects.

My assessment is that the biggest two failures were in education and economy. On social issues and freedoms, Syrian society is not as significantly affected by the authorities.

Also, the union with Egypt killed Syria; I was in my early thirties when it came into effect, and until then Syria was not significantly lagging behind Lebanon in many areas, including in areas like finance and economy.

But, the US does create and maintain many regimes in the ME. Syria avoided the worse when CIA protege Husni al-Zaim got evicted.

At 6/09/2005 05:34:00 PM, Anonymous Em Zee said...

Dear Ghassan and Hani,

It seems to me there are at least two issues here: preventing the Bush administration from steamrolling the American public into support for an invasion of Syria in the name of “promoting democracy and freedom”, and empowering people to create change toward democracy and freedom from within Syria.

So often discussions of U.S. policy in the Middle East slide into the dichotomous language of the neo-cons. But is the only choice between war and sitting idly by, between “supporting a dictator” or violently overthrowing him? If we refuse to support invasion as a tactic for regime change, does that mean we don’t want to work for democracy and freedom for all people? The logic of military solutions thrives on a lack of information with which a people can generate other options. For this reason Hani, I whole-heartedly agree with your comments on the need for new media, marketing, and PR strategies, both within the U.S. context and from Syria/the Middle East into the U.S. When will we see an English-language al-Jazeera or al-Arabiyya?

This of course begs the question of whether Americans would pay attention. I think Hani is right that given a chance and information, Americans can side with the underdog, but we’ve got our own education issues and prejudices to overcome before we reach that perfect world on a grand scale, especially as it relates to the Arab world.

As a non-Syrian American who has spent many wonderful years in Syria, the thought of the country becoming another Iraq is gut-wrenching. All the more so if it happens through the actions of my government. There are other paths to change and I think Hani has touched on many of the large issues at hand. I can’t change the educational system or strengthen national unity there, but I can work to make Americans understand Syria better. Those elusive “people-to-people” contacts must happen, now while we can still talk about it.

At 6/09/2005 05:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do u know a regime who massacred,robbed and humiliated its people more than the Syrian regime?

At 6/09/2005 07:56:00 PM, Anonymous said...

I have been reading Josh's blog & these comments for a number of months, since the Hariri murder. I think this is a fascinating site & I want to commend Josh & the many participants for their astute observations. Since I don't read Arabic, I am not privy to much of the discussion and narrative in the middle east, other than in official news outlets. A couple of observations & questions: 1) There are all kinds of single party regimes. In China a ruling Communist party has generated an enormous boom & properity. In N. Korea another Communist ruling party has produced famine and economic collapse. How does Syria compare to these 2 models? 2) I have read that in Eastern Europe, befall the Soviet empire collapsed, no one believed in the official ideology but to further one's career, people joined the party. A good job depended on party membership. Is the same thing going on in Syria? 3) I read that the last negotiations between Syria & Israel collapsed over 100 feet of ground, that Israel offered to give back the entire Golan plateau, but Syria demanded to be on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Is there any discussion in Syria that maybe the late President Assad erred in turning down a deal from Barak, the same Israeli who also withdrew from Lebanon? Egypt got back the Sinai over 20 years ago. Hasn't Syria just plain blown it? 4)Technology as the enemy of Arab identity, so says Pres. Assad. Wow! Incredible. And he even had some sort of medical training. If Deng Tsao Ping had said the same thing, most Chinese would still be starving instead of buying cars and building condos. Chinese nationalism and identity doesn't seem hurt by prosperity. Is Pres. Assad the wrong leader for Syria in these times? Has he any vision and is he capable of rising to the occasion?

At 6/09/2005 10:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lived in syria i went to school in syria i am more succesfull than many american educated amd most syrian educated profisionals are also more succesfull than many americans that deos not mean that the syrian education system is better than the american one but that syrians have alot of potential to advance about religion at school learning christianity at school made me more knowledgable than my children who are educated in the US teaching religion at school instead of churches amd mosqes and temples take away the fanatism from religin ,and yes syria is an arab counry part of the arab nation and it is an arab nation because the semetic people christians jews(hebrews)and muslems ceme from arabia,the aramiac the babelonian the fenecin the egyptians the asserians yes islam spread in the seventh centiury to the semetic people of middleast ,senator DEMATO of NY was called Senator pot-hall because he knew that what people want is better life while the politian want their own self interst,people in syria want better roads better mail delivery free market where people can open buisneses hire syrian which will decrease unemplyments the poor could suplimented by the GOV from taxes all syrians should pay to participate in building their country,syrians get free education encluding recognised globely high education free health care or price cnntrolled one safty not available in NY FL ,in syria i do not remember hearing about sex offenders living in any nabourhood ,sometimes i think we and our children would be safer if we put the sex offenders in guantanamo instead of the terrorists,i want to tell the syrian syria needs you and when you help syria you are not helping the gov you helping because gov and indiveduales com and go but if syria is fragmented like iraq it would be very dificult to put back together syria is under attack even from the UN koffy said that syrian inteligence are still in lebanon apparently they promised him freedom from prosecution for the oil for food scandle if he keeps the presure on syria,should shoud response by calling all syrian workers and otherwise to leave lebanon withe their money and close the border and ban all travel to lebanon and isue visa system for lebanese.then let the UN take care of lebanon and it,s thirty billion dollars debt,syria has no forign debt now that they settled with rosia

At 6/10/2005 10:00:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow...that was a nice read

At 6/10/2005 12:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regime Change for what, What is their crime? Who is MR.Bush to dictate to the world. We havent elected him? The eliminativist ideology of the west has to be confronted. Do you want to create another genocide like IRAQ there. Thanks for propogating hate! watch

At 6/10/2005 05:00:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hisham Bakhtiar a notorious criminal and torturer was appointed in the new Baath leadership team.

At 6/10/2005 06:10:00 PM, Blogger Nur-al-Cubicle said...

But doesn't France hold most of the cards concerning any regime change, even though the US is talking agression? AFAIK, the EU doesn't not recognize US sanctions against Syria and I haven't seen any anti-Syrian opinion in the French press.

At 6/10/2005 06:15:00 PM, Blogger Nur-al-Cubicle said...

wow. an amazing run-on sentence with malaprops and typos yet an entertaining read, anonymous 10:09pm.

At 6/10/2005 06:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed, lots of changes are needed. But syrian nationalism, among other issues, are internal issues and do not justify American intervention!

At 6/11/2005 02:31:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A regime change is a patriotic duty for any proud syrian but the change must come from inside Syria and only the international pressures which target the regime and protect the Syrian people from regime's savageness should be welcomed.

At 6/14/2005 06:12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a second generation American of Syrian origin, every day in the U.S. becomes more difficult.

Trying to educate Americans about my grandparents homeland, while watching this government(US)spreading false information, threatening harm and doing everything in its power to ruin the lives of those in Syria and elsewhere is a constant torment.

Certainly, democracy and economic freedom is desired by all of my 'cousins'. But, do not be seduced by Bush's claims that these are his objectives. These are only the narcoitcs he wants to push upon you, so that he can achieve his true goals of dividing and weakening the you, while you are distracted by these 'promises'.

Many of the Lebanese have succumbed to this seduction, becoming swept up in the false euphoria. Believe me, Bush knows nothing about Lebanon, cares nothing about Lebanon and will discard it when his objectives have been achieved.

A truly democratic Syria with full economic freedom will be Bush's and Sharon's worst nightmare. That is exactly why Bush and his cronies will never be permit it to happen.

Look at Iraq.
Democracy? With 150,000 American troops, intelligence agents, bureaucrats and private contractors controlling every aspect of Iraqi life do you think they are any freer? Look at the deprivations, despair and divisions in the country.

Any decision which does not meet U.S. approval is vetoed. Look at Karzai's folly in Afghanistan. His nation was 'liberated' and elections were held. Now he insists on control over the conduct of U.S. forces in his country and Bush tells him 'no way.'

Even in the U.S., Bush is taking away our rights and economic freedoms faster than we can believe.

Certainly, the Syrians are entitled to better, but be careful my cousins not to sell your souls to the devil in order to gain these rights. The cure may be worse than the disease.


At 6/14/2005 08:52:00 AM, Anonymous kingcrane said...

Butrous and Em Zee,
I like your ideas, but I would like to take the opportunity of the 'Awn / Skaff / Murr / Tachnag win in Zahle / Jbeil / Kesrwan / North Metn, and the close race in Baabda / Aley to say that the Lebanese Christians are also not interested in US-Saudi imposed rules. The most important lesson of the elections is that Lebanese Christians are willing partners with Syrians of all confessions if the Syrian State treats the Lebanese State as an equal partner. As to the "ta'ayosh moushtarak" that some tepid Christian politicians were professing in concert with the malefic duo of Joumblatt and Hariri, it is clear now that it meant nothing else than an agreement of some of the political elites. Conclusion: Syrians can also achieve a lot without any "help" from the US-Saudi axis of evil.

At 5/14/2008 10:26:00 AM, Blogger grid said...

A truly democratic Syria with full economic freedom will be Bush's and Sharon's worst nightmare.ankara nakliyat That is exactly why Bush and his cronies will never be permit it to happen.


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