Monday, July 04, 2005

What the Europeans are Thinking about Bashar

I have just returned from London, where I was able to talk to some government officials and many who were not about what European policy is toward Syria and where they think the country is headed.

European officials put out the solid line that "Syria has friends in Europe if it wants to have friends." This message was followed by stern warnings: Syria must comply with a clear list of demands to preserve Western friendship. First it must get out of Lebanon, i.e. stop the killings. The Europeans believe Syria was behind the recent assassinations in one context or another. Syria must support Abu Mazen in Palestine by convincing the hardliners to support him.

Most important, perhaps, were demands about the Iraqi border. "Don't play games with the Americans in Iraq." It is quite clear that the Americans are putting great pressure on the Europeans not to play ball with Bashar if Syria continues to ignore US demands on Iraq. This means Syria must carry out a decisive crack down on the mujahidun traffic through Syria and it must allay American worries that ex-Iraqi Baathists living in Syria are assisting in the direction and financing of the Iraqi opposition.

The Americans are counting Syrian mistakes and the Europeans are counting Bashar's successes. The former are counting mistakes to prove to the Europeans that Syria is bad and to keep the Europeans from getting too soft on Syria. The latter are counting successes to prove to the Americans that Bashar is the best and only option for Syria at the present time. They are worried least Washington drag the Europeans down a dead-end street of confrontation with Bashar al-Asad. Of course there is most likely a bit of the good cop - bad cop routine to this, but the Europeans seem genuinely worried that Bashar will not get the message and screw up, leaving them with no option but to give up on Syria.

There are signs that Syria and Washington are communicating again and that Syria is acting on the Iraq issue to placate the United States. Syria will claim that it is acting to improve relations with Baghdad and that Washington is not the intended audience, but we can imagine that Washington means much more to Damascus than Baghdad.

Samir al-Taqqi, according to one journalist I recently spoke with, just returned from Washington, where he spoke to “important people.” Taqqi reported on his discussions to Bashar, he said. US-Syrian relations are improving, he insists, and messages are getting through.

It is tempting to view the recent Syrian crackdown on Muslim extremists during the last week as message being sent by Damascus to Washington, that it is willing to get tougher with militants. The first confrontation between Syrian authorities and mujahidun was three days ago near the Lebanese border.

Syrian forces killed a Tunisian Muslim militant among a group trying to cross the border into Lebanon and arrested at least 34 others who were mostly Lebanese and Algerian, the official Syrian news agency SANA said on Sunday.

Yesterday on Mount Cassioun anther altercation between Syrian police and foreign fighters took place.

'Ex-Saddam guards' in Syria clash

Mount Qassioun is a popular scenic spot overlooking Damascus A Syrian security officer has died in a shootout with an armed group that includes former bodyguards of Iraq's ex-leader Saddam Hussein, reports say.

The clash erupted early in the morning on Mount Qassioun, which overlooks Damascus, the Sana news agency reports.

Two members of the group are said to have been arrested in the fighting, in which four policemen were also hurt.

Syria has been accused by the US of backing the Iraqi rebellion and giving a safe haven to insurgency supporters.

Damascus claims it is cracking down on militancy.
Whether these two incidents add up to a new Syrian policy of cracking down on Mujahidun remains to be seen.

A week ago, Rami Makhlouf, the president's cousin and Syria's wealthiest businessman gave an interview to Ibrahim Hamidi of al-Hayat in which he said he and his family were moving to the Arab Emirates. Everyone read this story as an attempt by Bashar to signal to Western Governments and international investors that the President is distancing himself from his cousin and turning a new page on economic reform. Is it just window dressing? Makhlouf will not relinquish any of his business interests in Syria and continues to run the free zone on the border with Lebanon. All the same, one informed observer insisted that cigarettes brought in from the free zone are now being taxed on entry to Syria.

Do all these events add up to a change in Syrian policy? We will see.

Since the Baath Party congress, the US has been signaling that it willing to climb down from its threat of regime-change. Secretary of State Rice's clear statements that the US does not support regime-change but is looking for a "change in behavior" is significant. It would seem a that a reassessment by both sides has begun.

Bashar has cleaned the slate of the older generation that owed loyalty to his father. None of the top leaders in the military, Baath Party, or security forces belongs to the older generation. They are all Bashar's appointments. This means that Bashar is in firm control. Syria is once again a dictatorship with a dictator. The West now expects change. The Syrian president no longer has an excuse not to deliver.

This does not mean that the United States will not continue to squeeze Syria. It will, as it made clear by enacting measures to block the financial assets of the country's interior minister and its chief of military intelligence for Lebanon.

President George W. Bush gave U.S. authorities new powers on Wednesday to block assets of companies believed to be helping North Korea, Iran and Syria pursue nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

The executive order did not mention specific countries, instead saying it applied to "any person or foreign country of proliferation concern." A U.S. official said that, for now, the administration is targeting four entities from Iran, three from North Korea and one from Syria.
Meanwhile Syria is playing a tough game of denying that it has been permissive along the border. Syria has gotten backing for its stand from none other than Allawi:

CAIRO, June 27 (UPI) -- Former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said Monday Syria was not responsible for the gunmen crossing the border into Iraq to fight U.S.-led forces.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo Allawi said "there are gunmen who are infiltrating the Iraqi-Syrian border, but this does not necessarily mean they are doing so with the support of the Syrian government."

"Many are abusing Syrian hospitality to work against Iraq and we have to cooperate with Syria on the political and security levels in order to control this issue," Allawi added.

He noted discussions are under way with the Syrian government to create a security buffer zone on the Iraqi-Syrian border to curb the crossing of fighters.
Syria seems to be making a concerted effort to woo the Iraqi government and has promised to open its embassy in Baghdad as soon as possible as this report suggests:

BAGHDAD, June 30 (Reuters) - Syria plans to re-open its embassy in Baghdad for the first time since Damascus sided with Iran in its 1980-88 war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Iraq's foreign ministry said on Thursday.

Syria also pledged to stem the flow of foreign guerrillas into Iraq and said it had already stopped 70,000 of them, it said.

Deputy FM Walid al-Mua'llem said in his speech before the Organization of the Islamic Conference Foreign Ministers Meeting in the Yemeni Capital of Sana'a that "Syria is looking for the best of relations with brotherly Iraq in all fields," pointing out that Syria has expressed readiness for security cooperation with Iraq saying "Iraq's stability is part of Syria's and the region's stability as well."

"Syria took the initiative to send a diplomatic and security mission to Baghdad to figure out what our brethren's worries are," he added.

Although many in Washington are pretending that they are in favor of "creative instability," in Syria, it is becoming increasingly clear that Europe is warning them away from such a foolish policy.

Trudy Rubin writes in the Philadelphia Enquirer, that although the Syrian opposition intellectuals are noble and admirable, they are neither organized, nor prepared to lead. Speaking of Marwan al-Bunni and other opposition figures, Rubin writes:

They deserve the attention, but as Bunni is the first to tell you, they don't add up to any kind of an organized opposition. They are small in number, their open supporters are few and demonstrations are extremely rare. Organized Islamist opposition groups are banned.

''For decades we have had no political life,'' Bunni says. ''All civil society and political movements have been killed.'' He is describing a country where the Assad family has ruled for 35 years.

If the Baath-party regime of Bashar Assad collapsed suddenly, there would be nothing to replace it. No movement, no party, no likely leaders, certainly no liberal democrats in the wings. Every single opposition intellectual to whom I spoke predicted chaos.

Many feared the biggest beneficiaries would be the adherents of hard-line Islam.
Rubin continues:

There seems to be little interest in Washington in the survival of the Assad regime, even for a few years, during which the weak opposition might gain experience and traction. After Assad, the deluge; let the Syrians pick up the pieces. Sound familiar?

The new catchphrase in Washington for Mideast chaos is constructive instability -- out of which democracy will supposedly bloom. But does the administration know any more about Syria's religious and ethnic complexities than it did about Iraq's?

Syria is a country where power is held by the minority Alawites -- an offshoot of Shia Islam -- who are despised by the majority Sunnis. Officially, the country is the most secular of any Arab nation. Young women can be seen at Damascus nightclubs in midriff-baring blouses and tight Capri pants.

But strict Islamic practice is on the rise. Visit poor Damascus neighborhoods, and you will see every woman wearing a long, enveloping coat, called a manteau, and a head scarf. In the ancient city of Aleppo, women drift through its maze of covered markets and alleys in full black robes with their faces fully or partly covered by black veils.

The satellite dishes that cover every Damascus roof and the Internet cafes that have emerged in the past five years spread all kinds of new ideas -- from liberal to pornographic to Islamic. A bookstore across from the Russian Cultural Center that once sold Marxist tracts now displays a window full of digitalized Korans from palm-held size to wide computer screen.

So even though Syria is a tolerant society, and even though the Muslim Brotherhood is banned, a sudden regime collapse could produce a surge of Islamic groups trying to take power. Many worry about a Sunni burst of vengeance against the despised Alawite minority that now rules. Members of Syria's many Christian churches worry that fundamentalists will threaten them. And every Syrian Arab, even the handful of liberals, worries that the Syrian Kurds will try to emulate their Iraqi cousins and secede in all but name.

A sudden collapse of the Assad regime could tear Syria's complex social fabric apart, unless it occurs after a transition that allows Syria's tiny opposition to develop. That regime will collapse soon enough, unless it reforms. But does America want to push Syria toward reform or toward the chaotic Iraqi model?

Every Syrian intellectual I met asked me that question. I had no good answer.
My sense is that Washington understands the bleak choices it faces in Syria and would never risk chaos. The US is losing in Iraq and may be losing in Afghanistan as well. The US public is fed up with the war; the US military has a decreasing supply of troops to rotate into either theater and the skill level of fresh military recruits is falling rapidly. If Washington sought to broaden the theater of war by bombing Syria, Americans would never forgive the Bush administration. The American public has no stomach for such adventurism right now. Within a year the new election season will begin to rev up in the States and the Republican party will demand a time-table for withdrawal from the President. He cannot afford to open new fronts. Already the Bush legacy is beginning to look disastrous.

On my flight back from London, I was seated next to a young Iraqi engineer named Marwan Qubaysi. He works for a telecom company in Britain, but his family is from Falouja. Most now live in Baghdad, but Marwan was on his way to visit cousins temporarily living in Damascus. He was very up-beat about the mujahidun fighting in Iraq and believed they were winning.

All this means that Syria is in quite a strong position. Bashar is strong internally. America may talk tough about smashing Syria if it doesn't behave, but it cannot. Ultimately it must come around to the notion of paying the Syrian army to policy the border with Iraq and crack down on mujahidun traveling through the country. This runs contrary to Washington’s "Transformation of the Greater Middle East" policy, but it is hard to see a way around coming to terms with Syria.

Already the word is going around that Washington has agreed to supply night-vision goggles to the Syrian army free of charge. This carrot and signs that Syria is cracking down on the mujahidun suggest that both powers are backing down from the tough posturing of the last several months. Let's hope so.


At 7/04/2005 06:25:00 PM, Blogger sasa said...

Good to have you back Josh.

I want to know your thoughts. You say: "Secretary of State Rice's clear statements that the US does not support regime-change but is looking for a "change in behavior" is significant. It would seem a that a reassessment by both sides has begun."

But Scott Ritter says here that Bush gave the 'execute' orders to start a war with Iraq as early as August 2002, while two months later he said that "I have not ordered the use of force. I hope that the use of force will not become necessary."

If that was the case in Iraq, how can we take comfort from Condi Rice's assurances that regime-change in Syria is not on the cards?

The Syrian News Wire.

At 7/04/2005 10:08:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strangely enough, none is concerned about Syrian Human Rights Violations committed savagely by this regime.

No wonder it is hard to trust the Western World !

At 7/04/2005 10:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes I feel like the regime is stuck in his making and can’t get out of his bottle. It is like you hear their begging for something unnaturally to happen so they can get out of the bottle. As has been written before about inherited stiffness of the regime. I would like to say first that on the public side there are no choices. It is up to someone else to decide if they want to interfere and topple the regime in Syria. And since we never got involved and got punished we tried to involve, so I can’t say that it is better or worse if a regime change took place or not. And from this point, in my opinion public care less about what could happen in the future. It might be going to be worse and it might not, but who is saying there is still worse. “Worse” here is relative. On the other hand, as Joshua said, the Dictator is putting his house in order and ready to practice his dictatorship as his father did. He made the necessary changes and we should not be worried. Another 42 years of the “stagnation and starvation” is on the way?!. Very tough thought, even for the people who claim the necessity of change but they don’t want things to change for worse. And consider another thing, we heard that improvement in Syrian economy cannot happen without Democratic change, and things are going bad with the “ stagnation and starvation” by the day. So there is no future here right.
Lets consider this scenario, which is not worse than current, stagnating and starvation:
The American decide to go into Syria and topple the regime by force. Some baathiest in Syria decide to cooperate with the American and start running the country without even a fight. The reason for that is because most of the Baathiest are opportunist and they do not care about who is there master and its a matter of survival. And that is because the American played this one smarter than the first one in Iraq.

At 7/04/2005 10:56:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is my first post here. I too am a political science prof with a ME specialty. I have lived in the ME for 21 of my 39 years. I currently reside in the US.

I disagree that the US will change its tune on Syria. Ideologues do not change to accomodate reality, they seek to change reality to fit their own flawed vision. The Bush administration is filled with ideologues and they will continue to pursue regime change in Syria and Iran come hell or high water.

Bashar and those around him should be made aware of that, if they are not aware already. It would be extremely short sighted if Syria cracks down on the figthers crossing its borders to fight in Iraq. To the contrary, Syria should ENCOURAGE them, but do that very discreetly. If stability comes Iraq's way, rest assured that Syria is the next target.

The best advice to give Bashar is to start organizing the Syrian army to fight a guerrilla style warfare. This is Syria's only hope against the superior power of both Israel and the US. The success of Hizballah in forcing Israel to leave Southern Lebanon unconditionally should be a lesson to all Arab leaders about the effectiveness of guerrilla warfare in defeating a superior foe. The guerrillas in Iraq are again proving that the lesson learned in Lebanon is the correct one: Only guerrilla warfare is capable of defeating the US and Israel.

Please Bashar stop kissing America's ass, thinking that this will spare Syria the destruction done to Iraq. It will not. If Bashar thinks that he can buy time by pretending that he is working with the US until Bush is out of office, then he is a fool. Let me remind Bashar that it was the Democrats and Republicans in Congress that passed the Syria Accountability Act.

It does not matter who becomes president in 2008, Syria will still be a target. Israel wants it so and whatever Israel wants from Congress/President, then Israel gets.

If I was in a leadership position in Syria I will pursue two policies to counter US moves

1. Support the Iraqi resistance with everything I have, but do so discreetly. It is possible to do that. I know for certain that a lot of money is pouring into Iraq from the Gulf. Syria should use the smuggling routes that exist to smuggle good to and from Iraq to support the resistance in Iraq.

2. Start a process of re-organizing the Syrian military into a guerrilla force. Guerrilla need nothing more than AK-47s, mines, and RPGs. Forget about procurement of heavy wepons such as tanks and artillery and focus on light armaments.

At 7/05/2005 05:51:00 AM, Anonymous Tarek said...

To the last Anonymous posting,

You make a very good point and I agree that the neo-cons in Washington are in a steadfast heading toward Damascus. And there is no juggling act or bending backwards by the Syrian government to change that. But there is no way in hell that you are a political science prof. And if you are i pity your poor students who have listen to unstructured arguments such as these. Don’t get me wrong i really think you are mostly right in your assumptions but your analysis resembles an undergraduate student not a PhD.

But most importantly i am sick of the crap we have to read by naggers that can never discuss the topic at hand objectively. Most of you just want to curse the regime and the president. Why cant you give your opinions and advise and what can they do to better the situation instead of this constant whining. Face reality and stop dreaming of democratic miraculous winds of change, yes they make mistakes but that’s who will lead for the mid-future (at least) and we cant do anything about it, so lets help them and lets hear some realistic tangible arguments.

At 7/05/2005 06:14:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you are reading too much into the Al Hayat piece on Rami Makhlouf. It wasn't an interview, and it basically boiled down to speculation about why RM was holidaying in Dubai -- subsequent reports indicate that he is thinking of listing Syriatel on the Dubai stockmarket after last year's IPO in Syria; Dubai's Majed AL Futtaim group is also looking at a big mall project that is sure to interest RM. Another clue about RM's intentions is provided in the shareholder list of Bank Byblos Syria ahead of its IPO: RM and brother Ehab each have 5% founding stakes.

At 7/05/2005 06:46:00 AM, Anonymous MAD said...

Anon 10:56.

Why don't you follow your own advice and go blow yourself up in Iraq?

You'll do yourself and your students a great service.

At 7/05/2005 08:10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, well, supporters of the regime are present here, it seems!

At 7/05/2005 08:53:00 AM, Blogger Nur-al-Cubicle said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 7/05/2005 08:55:00 AM, Blogger Nur-al-Cubicle said...

removed previous comment due to an omission...

From what I understand, again, Chirac holds many of the cards concerning Lebanon and Syria.

I read three items of interest:

1)France is providing financing to Syria for the purchase of 6 to 8 Airbus passenger plances.

2)France and the EU did not follow Washington's lead in freezing Syrian bank accounts.

3)France and the EU do not observe Washington's boycott imposed through the Syria Accountability Act.

I appreaciate that Josh has spoken with British experts, but it would be good to know what is happening in Paris. I cannot foresee a scenario in which France would give up on Syria.

At 7/05/2005 10:31:00 AM, Anonymous MAD said...

Anon 8:10,

Do those supporters include the joker who thinks that 50-years-plus of screwing Syria (and Lebanon) falls under "mistakes were made"?

At 7/05/2005 01:13:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Posting on the Internet is not the same as lecturing or writing a dissertation. I am not going to take my time to post a long winded verbose thesis on two basic ideas that I have mentioned.

I really do not care if you believe that I am a prof or not. I am not looking for your approval.

The issue at hand is what Syria has to do to stave off an attack by the US. The answer, IMO, is NOTHING.

IMHO, Syria has two options: support the Iraqi resistance and keep the US tied in Iraq and prepare your forces for the coming American onslaught.

The only thing that I want to add is that any successful guerrilla war requires some measure of legitimacy for the guerrillas among the people. This is what is lacking for the Syrian regime. Therefore, Bashar and Co. need to find a way to enhance the legitimacy of the Baath regime in Syria. Perhaps, econmic reforms that will improve the life of the ordinary Syrians will give the regime the needed legitimacy to wage a successful future guerrilla war. But that is a very tall order when Syria is "under siege" from the US, Israel and increasingly Europe.

At 7/05/2005 01:25:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I do not understand your comment. Why should I go to Iraq and blow myself up? I am an American citizen after all. If I was Iraqi and a committed Muslim, rest assured that I will be fighting in Iraq. But I am neither. I am an agnostic/athiest who does not want to see the US WASTE its people and its resources on a "fool's errand" such as regime change. My arguments against a US attack on Syria stems from my belief in a non-interventionist American foreign policy.

We have seen what regime change in Iraq has brought us. 1700+ dead soldiers, 15,000+ wounded/maimed, 200 billion wasted, 100,000 dead Iraqis and absolute chaos in Iraq.

At 7/05/2005 03:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bashar to Washington, "You know all those things I said for years I wasn't doing? Well, I am going to stop doing them. And all those things I have been saying I am doing? I am now going to start doing them. Really."

Who knows, maybe he is telling the truth. But I wouldn't count on it.

At 7/05/2005 05:47:00 PM, Anonymous Syrian Republican Party said...

To Anno @ 10.08 PM
Strangely enough, none is concerned about Syrian Human Rights Viol...

SRP is very concerned, and Stargate 2007 is on time.

Suggested reading for you: The Book of Revelation, The Christian Bible.

At 7/05/2005 05:49:00 PM, Anonymous MAD said...

Anon 1:25 Prof.

If you are a non-interventionist, why are you giving advice to Syrians?

100K Iraqis killed??
1) Where do you get that number?
2) Most Iraqis killed by your insurgent criminal friends.

Cost of the intervention? Very high in my book too. How about the cost of non-intervention?? Care to tally 30 years of Saddam and prospective years of Saddam and/or Qusay/Uday? Mr. Professor??

If you are an atheist, how the hell do you know what a moslem should do or not do?

With your horrible grammar (for a native speaker?), how did you become a Prof.? Let me guess: a combination of PC-ness, kow-towing to the exotic "other" and to the suspect wackos in charge of ME depts in Lefty academia?

At 7/05/2005 06:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am giving advice to Syria because the American people have failed to put a hold on the out of control Bush Admin. US politicos are out of control and the only way to put an end to the US empire is through extrenal action, ie, guerrillas forcing defeat on the US military. another way to put an end to US madness is for the US to spend itself inot bankruptcy. East Asia's willingness to finance the triple US deficits is short lived.

It is out of a recongnition of the failure of American democracy that I would seek external events to stop the out-of-control US foreign policy.

According to the Lancet study 100,000 Iraqis have been killed. You have read about the Lancet study, have you not? Do a google search on it and you will find it.

If you add the number of Iraqis that have been killed due to the UN sanctions, the US war against Iraq in 1991 and the current war, then you will find that the number is higher than the Iraqi people that Saddam killed. According to the UN 1.2 million Iraqis died due to the sanctions. Sanctions that were not needed since now we know that Iraq destroyed almost all of their WMDs by 1991. Estimates of the Iraqis killed in the first Gulf war are around 300,000 and this war is around 100,000. Add them all together and you get roughly 1.6 million Iraqis killed due to US policy making.

I grew up in a Muslim country, have Muslim friends and read about Islam extensively.

English is my second language, Arabic is my first and French is my third.

I am not politically correct by any streach of the imagination. If anything I am the epitome of the anti-PCness. Nor am I a lefty; I am a Libertarian, hence my belief in non-intervention.

At 7/05/2005 07:22:00 PM, Anonymous MAD said...

To Anon 6:20,

The Bush Admin is out of control? Whose job is it to control it, you? or the criminal insurgents? or the Syrian regime or..??

The UN sanctions were bad but supported by the UN.

When the Syrian gvmt. is out of control in Lebanon and Syria and Iraq and Palestine and Jordan where the locals mostly want them out, who should stop them???

You support your non-interventionism with (Syrian) intervention. I thought libertarians were sticklers on logic.

I'll check Lancet, but in your logic, if deaths/destruction are too much to get rid of Saddam, why are they OK to pressure Bush politically. Surely a libertarian could think of cheaper ways to have the US change course.

At 7/05/2005 10:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome back josh,i want to stop the shouting match and get back to the topic of improving SYRIA,i grew up in syria ,i never joint the baath party because inever needed to and my father told me without a party affiliation everybody wants your approval,there is nothing wrong with the baath party princibles,unity freedom,socialism (that i can argue against after recognising that what makes America great and good to live in is the economic system which affects everybody while less that fifty percent of the american care to vote,the problem with the baath party is that the members did not have to deliver on promises so improvment did not hapend in a timly manner syria should not try to reinvent the wheel but try to improve on the wheel which was invented somwhere els Syria,s future iies in ti,s well intensioned people they just need the exprties and the know how to improve when people are well of then they will have somthing to protect their country for.naim/USA one more thing if the us wants syria to put the syrian army on the border with Iraq the us has to do two things 1- declare the golan as recognised syrian land and should return to syria in any final peace treaty between syria and israel.2-gauratee syrias safty from any attack from israel which is 30 miles from Damascus and for protecting america,s back and decrease america,s casulties i do not think that is too much to ask.

At 7/05/2005 10:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To anonymous ME prof: Despite your atheism, you should pray the US prevails. If the Islamo-fascists prevail and the US homeland is attacked again, the US may itself become tribalistic and xenophobic. O great enlighted protected pontificator, be careful what you wish for,

At 7/05/2005 11:17:00 PM, Blogger maynerd said...

I shake my head in disgust at the Iraqi engineer, Marwan Qubaysi, working in the UK telecom industry , who is "upbeat" about the chances of those lovely Iraqi head chopping freedom fighters prevailing. Good grief. Yo Marwan why don't you pick up a gun and join the party against western secularism, capitalism, and democracy. I guess he's having too much fun yucking it up in the UK pubs with his chums.

At 7/06/2005 01:38:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Prof,
I am not sure if you know what you are talking about; I have a feeling that you don't even have a high school diploma. You need to change your barbarian ideas and start thinking in a modern and peaceful way.

At 7/06/2005 02:30:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>The Bush Admin is out of control? Whose job is it to control it, you? or the criminal insurgents? or the Syrian regime or..??<<

Yes the Bush Admin is out of control. US FP is out of control. It was not Syria, nor Iraq, nor Iran that attacked the US on 9/11. It was Al-Qaeda, a transnational organization that operates in over 60 countries. Yet the US decided to invade Iraq. Let me repeat to you the FACTS:

1. Iraq had no WMDs. So says the US head wepons inspector in his last report.

2. Iraq had no involvement in 9/11 and no working relationship with Al-Qaeda. so says the 9/11 commisiion that was appointed by Bush.

Yet the US invaded Iraq!!! I would call that out of control and an act of Aggression.

The resistance in Iraq is the result of the US invasion. People do not like to be occuppied. The Vietnamese did not like it, nor did the Algerians, nor did the Lebanese under Syria and Israel. Sooner or later they will revolt. For some reason you see this in the case of Syria's occupation of Lebanon, but you do not see it of the US's and Israel's occupation of Iraq/Palestine.

>>The UN sanctions were bad but supported by the UN.<<

The UN snactions were supported by the US and Britain. France, Russia, and China wanted them removed. but every timne they tired they met the threat of a US/British Veto.

>>When the Syrian gvmt. is out of control in Lebanon and Syria and Iraq and Palestine and Jordan where the locals mostly want them out, who should stop them???<<

People resist. SEE above. The Lebanese resisted Israeli and Syrian occupation. Hizballah forced Israel out and a Druze/sunni alliance forced Syria out.

>>You support your non-interventionism with (Syrian) intervention. I thought libertarians were sticklers on logic.<<

I am not asking for Syria to invade the US. I am saying that it is in Syria's survival interest to keep the US busy in Iraq. Syrai is NOT a threat to the US mainland, but the US is a threat to Syria. US troops will NOT be attacked if they are not in Iraq. It is the OCCUPATION that causes resistance. As long as US troops stay in Iraq, then there will be resistance. It is inevitable.

>>I'll check Lancet, but in your logic, if deaths/destruction are too much to get rid of Saddam, why are they OK to pressure Bush politically. Surely a libertarian could think of cheaper ways to have the US change course.<<

US foreign policy has created its own anti-thesis. US intervention begets more interevention. Keep in mind that it was the US that:

1. Created Osama and empowered him to fight the Soviets in Afstan. It was a Carter/Reagan foreign policy initiative. 22 years later we get 9/11 by the same Osma Bin Ladin that the US FP has created and empowered.

2. Enabled Saddam to become the thug/butcher that he was. The US hired him to assasinate then President Kassem in 1961 and the the US enabled the Baath to come to power through a Coup in 1963 and the US gave him all the material needed to build the WMDs that he had up until 1991.

The cheaper way is to STOP INTERVENING in other people's business. It is not our business how Iraq was governed, nor how Syria is governed, nor how the ME is run.

At 7/06/2005 03:23:00 AM, Anonymous Tarek said...

To Mad and other circus animals,

I am not a morning person so I will not attempt to write a coherent essay. I am also not in the mood to be PC because I have no doubt that you believe your right and therefore my chances of changing your mind is zip.

But I would like to advise you to practice reading every once and while, maybe you can pick a few things from it. Over a 100k civilians WERE killed by AMERICAN forces in Iraq and that is a rough estimate out of a census done by international NPO's last year (the figure is higher now). This is war buddy, and in war innocent people die right and left (by occupying forces).

I really feel for the Iraqis, they are being screwed by two evils; Terrorist attacks on the civilian population and the occupation of a superpower that only cares about its strategic interests in the region. There are NO good guys in the Iraqi war and if you truly believe that the US are in it to "Liberate" Iraq then you’re just one disillusioned sucker. Our Prof. friend is absolutely right, there is no other way but to fight a guerilla war against the US in the case of an invasion. But my beef with him is that he is stating the obvious and more importantly because he is an American citizen while this type of “support” should be coming from Syrians. But most of the latter in this blog are anti-Syrian government and therefore feel obliged not to help their country and favor seeing it attacked. I guess I am picking on him unfairly cause I feel frustration to my countrymen.

But back to the subject, PLEASE pretty PLEASE, stop watching fox news or any politically backed news medium for that matter (whether left or right). Instead try to really understand the people who are being f#*ked here (aahh I mean liberated), read a bit about their history, culture and maybe then you will realize that very little differs you to them.

At 7/06/2005 11:29:00 AM, Anonymous Expat said...

Prof. Landis,your argument about a sudden regime change in Syria leading to total chaos is the ultimate tautology.Nothing would please the Syrian kleptocracy more
than the promotion of the "us or the deluge " thesis.If you sincerely believe that the regime will seek reform when it knows full well that such reform will only land it on the ashheap of history,then I have a bridge in downtown Manhattan that I'd like to sell you.As for the announcement by R. Makhlouf about moving his base of operations to Dubai,no one in Syria(at least no one one who does not feed at the trough)is fooled by this.Also ,what about the first brother ,the plunderer of Medina bank to the tune of $1.5 billion?As for the thesis that the liberal opposition in Syria is weak and disorganized ,
I'd like to ask you and those who subscribe to this point of view what kind of oppositon existed in most of Eastern Europe on the eve of fall of the Berlin wall.

P.S. "manteau" is simply the French word for coat.

At 7/06/2005 01:08:00 PM, Blogger Lieutenant Fishman said...

great to see a site that defends terrorist murderers and the dictatorship of Assad. What a waste of bandwidth. And you call yourself "experts"? You sound like Zarqawi. Unfortunately for you, we are winning in Iraq- and the days of the Alawite regime are rapidly drawing to a close.

At 7/06/2005 01:41:00 PM, Anonymous MAD said...

Tarek, ME Prof.

Tired and bored of arguing. You guys did a good job of getting pretty much everything wrong, you dont even know why the US is in this war (no it aint Halliburton, nor existing WMDs either).

But I guess when you run out of argument, accuse your opponent of watching Fox news. Where do you get your news: al-thawra or Dan Rather or Fonda's CNN?

Lieutenant Jarred,

Am with you, though if the insurgents win, it would be fun to bet who will top the head chopping- list, atheists, secular Baathists and/or Marxists. I wonder.

At 7/10/2005 09:14:00 AM, Anonymous V. S. Ajello said...

Is there room for an American to post?? A common working man who doesn’t write very well and is naively patriotic.?

There are glimmers of truth in the arguments opposing my country and encouraging resistance to us in Iraq. But those are glimmers distorted like the mirrors in a carnival.
1. There were no WMD’s, 2. We created Bin Laden, 3. we encouraged Sadaam at one point, 4. we were and are disproportionately influenced by Israel 5. We may have made a mistake in Iraq.

RE: Saadam and Bin Laden. yes, we created these monsters and in retrospect we made mistakes. But don't these policies have to viewed in context and isn't it appropriate to modify policies as circumstances change.?

The US was in an undeclared war with Russia. We viewed - correctly I'd maintain - Russia as the greater global threat. In that context we supported Sadam and Bin Laden. Was that wrong? Probably..or maybe…or not.

We also propped up regimes that were opposed to our democratic principals. And that seems less defensible. But I still suggest that these actions be viewed in the context that we were at war, and that the world is better off because of those policies as the macro is to the micro.

I agree that Israel and the US's support of her is the basis for much of the resistance and discord across the middle East. I think the 1948 UN resolution was a mistake and represented an Imperialist view of the Middle EAst that was shared by Alexander, Rome, The Crusades, The Ottoman Empire and Colonial Europe. The holocaust was a European (WEstern?) atrocity and compensation by supporting the creation of Israel against a community that didn't want another pseudo Western incursion was bound to produce resistance. Moreover, the incursion was, in my judgement, also based on a belief in the Old Testament It’s Interesting to live in America and come to understand that it's not only our Jewish citizenry that supports Israel, it's also our fundamentalists on the Christian Right who believe in the literal sense of the Bible. So Israel's birthed (in part) out of guilt for the holocaust and the Judeo/Christian heritage.

Our atonement for our atrocities and our holy war. And perhaps another American Mistake.


So what? Israel is there. There have always been Jews there. I wouldn’t have supported the decision in 1948, but I maintain that Israel has a right to exist Now! Moreover, and even as I understand the seed of some legitimate discontents, there's more going on than legitimate opposition. I see a fanaticism that's waiting to find a target and Israel is a convenient scapegoat. A great civilization that spawned algebra and made startling achievements in every phase of human endeavours has done a poor job. How have you managed to take the gift of oil that you didn't find, didn't pull out of the ground and yet profit from and still live in abject poverty and more? Economic bankruptcy on the bottom and intellectual and moral poverty throughout your autocratic, freedom less societies. That's on your heads and there's no blaming Western incursions - lamentable as they might be . And Israel stands as testimony that it can be done on those sandy shores and, of course, she's hated. For both the manner of her birth and the success of her life.

Does anyone think that Egypt is worse off for reaching an accommodation with a reality she probably doesn't really want.?? There is no alternative to accepting Israel at this point. Like it or not that's a simple reality check. Accept her and Demand a return to the 1948 boundaries and The Middle East can get on with itself.

I was against the war in Iraq. I thought, and still think , that we're bankrupting ourselves. 200 Billion pumped in and an economy that's losing jobs and depends on China buying our debt (and our country). Can you imagine any other world power, interjecting, putting up the bucks to rebuild the place (of course that’wrong too, you can’t rebuild what wasn’t there) and then pulling out.?? Is that why we’re opposed because you can’t understand us.?? Because Super Powers don’t do this? Hell, didn’t The Ottoman's take the marble off the pyramids and camel them back to Istanbul? Well America fought Japan and Germany and instituted the Marshall Plan to rebuild them economically and then imposed democracies; and those countries, and the world for that matter, are better for it..

But I believe that the Adminstration, and most of the world honestly believed that there were WMD's. I'm still not categorically sure that that's wrong. Why else would Sadam have thwarted the inspection teams..who , by the way, also thought that they existed?.

Regardless, of my earlier misgivings, I've come to see Iraq not as a war but as a battlefield in a war that 911 thrust on us as convincingly as Pearl Harbor did. You might have argued against the strategy that saw us fight on Guam or Manila in the same way. And if Al Qaeda wasn't involved before, they are now and we're sucking their energies. They can't lose or they're done and fanatics willing to blow themselves up are not an unlimited resource – no matter the views to the contrary. . A healthy vibrant Iraq living in concert with Israel and bringing prosperity to her long suffering people spells the end of Al Qaeda and wild extremism. And Democracies don’t fight democracies. There’s seems little doubt that by taking the war to our enemies (picking the battlefield, as it were) has significantly undermined their ability to launch another 9/11. And this week's attack in London, I maintain, supports that conclusion – both in location and diminished impact.

So is it fair or right to use Iraq that way?. Well I don't Bush is that smart. I dont' think he knew he'd vacuum up Al Qaeda’s limited resources. I think he believed in WMD's and, more importantly, I think he needed to oppose American Policy that his father was a party to and had stated to Dictators.....”.be on my side against the USSR and I'll ignore your transgressions against your people”. Amazing how Bush and our worst opponents are on the same side on this one and no one gets it. Bush is apologizing for America’s past policies. Maybe this little man is the only one with a great vision. The way it was going The Middle East could only get worse.....until Armageddon was on Channel four and a reality. Bush said…"we’ll Go through hell and help install a democracy". There will be ultimate benefits to the Iraqi people, to the US, to the Middle East, to the world and yes damnit to Israel too. The alternative is Sadaam’s butchery of human flesh and the human spirit along with economic impoverishment and a bad war brewing. Against that imagine and American success. Imagine a stable democracy in Iraq. Why would anyone oppose that?. Is there a racism operating here that says Arabs are too primitive to govern themselves and because we have Arabs had never experienced democracy the seeds of liberty won’t sprout on your alkaline sand. .?? We imposed democracy in a Japan that had a history of such blind obedience to the Shogun that a peevish look from a high place meant the serf was obligated to dig his own grave (to spare society the work) and then commit suicide so that the corpse obligingly fell into the hole that the same corpse had dug. We imposed democracy on a Germany that embraced Hitler and absolute Authoritatism. And then we spent billions through the Marshall plan to rebuild those devastated shores so they could build the Auto Bus to compete with Boeing. Sure it’s in our interest. Sure it’s in our interest to see a strong prosperous Middle East. Don't you get it's in all our interests. All but the mad fanactics that is, they lose their purpose for being and their power to govern against success and democracy implemented.

My god, if you want the occupation to end ... work with us. Speed the day that we can withdraw. Hate us afterwards and let your contempt for us spew out in the same way that the French do. But before you do dream with us for just a moment. Dream of a free Iraq, that’s at peace with her neighbors, that’s prosperous from her oil and that’s over the perceived injustice of an Israel imposed. Because if you can do that , if you can shatter the veil imposed by the years of hate and dictatorships, then the world will be a better place and we can get about working on other things that should bind us in common cause and are the real threats to our very existance…….things like pollution , global warming, diminishing energy sources, overpopulation and starvation. Sooo, Help us get out of Iraq. Please.


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