Friday, May 26, 2006

"The saga of France and Syria Relations" by Marwan Kabalan

Marwan Kabalan, a Syrian Political Scientist, has written an important article about France's break with Syria in "Gulf News." He argues it came well before the extention of Lahoud's presidency or the Hariri murder.

The saga of France and Syria relations by Marwan Kabalan

Last week, the UN Security Council passed a new resolution concerning Syrian-Lebanese relations. Resolution 1680 called upon Syria to respect "Lebanese sovereignty, cease interference in Lebanon's internal affairs and demarcate the borders between the two countries".

The resolution was jointly sponsored by the US and France. While the US position is easy to understand in the light of the many problems between Damascus and Washington, for most Syrians France's position is still hard to comprehend.

For most of the 1990s and up until the US invasion of Iraq, Syrian-French relations were at their best. On the personal level, president Chirac was the only western head of state to attend the funeral of the late Syrian president Hafez Al Assad in 2000.

He pledged to provide all sort of support to help the new Syrian leader Bashar to proceed with his reform project. Politically, Syria and France were in agreement on almost every single issue in the Middle East.

In 2002, Syria joined forces with France, Russia, Germany and China in the UN Security Council to prevent the US and Britain from passing a resolution to legalise the use of force against Iraq. A year later, however, this whole picture was turned upside down.

Syrian-French relations started to deteriorate at an incredible pace. Friendship turned into enmity and sorrow replaced trust. So, what had exactly happened?

It all started in November 2003 when president Chirac sent his political advisor, Maurice Gourdeau-Montagne, to Damascus to meet president Bashar Al Assad. At the time tension between Washington and Paris could not be cut with a knife thanks to Chirac's strong opposition to the Iraq war.

Montagne told Al Assad that the Iraq war has changed the political map of the Middle East and that Syria may subsequently need to reconsider its anti-war policy. Having realised that what has been done in Iraq could not be undone, the French wanted to mend relations with the US.

Montagne told his Syrian hosts that that was also the position of Germany and Russia. Syria disagreed.

In June 2004, Chirac took advantage of his meeting with US President George W. Bush in Paris to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Normandy landings, to persuade him to move beyond Iraq and towards agreement over Syria and Lebanon.

Chirac, through his close ties to former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, was the one who initially brought the US into Lebanon. Until Hariri's murder, the Bush administration had no independent Lebanon policy.

Normandy talks
In August 2004, Montagne paid a secret visit to Washington to follow up on the Normandy talks between Chirac and Bush. He and Condoleezza Rice, then national security advisor to President Bush, agreed to turn a new page in their relations and to co-ordinate their policies in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon.

Syria sensed a shift in policy by the great powers. The natural Syrian reaction was to consolidate its influence in Lebanon. Damascus felt that Lebanon should not be lost under any conditions. It hence supported the extension to its loyal ally, President Emile Lahoud.

The shift in French policy did not affect Lebanon only but other issues in the Middle East as well. France and Israel set aside their animosity for the sake of a rapprochement. This was accompanied by a tilt towards US and Israeli priorities for isolation and destabilisation of the Syrian regime.

France believed that its interests in the Middle East are no longer served by supporting the status quo in Syria. For France, the death of Yasser Arafat and the collapse of the Saddam regime marked the end of an era Pan-Arabism.

Chirac decided, hence, to embrace a different policy line in the Middle East, one that takes into account the occupation of Iraq, the end of the Intifada, the collapse of the Arab state system, and the failure of the reform process in Syria.

Economic drift

The official French position was that France is disappointed with the political and economic drift of Syria.

"A state seriously out of step with the military and economic realities of the Middle East and unable to reinvent itself through vigorous leadership and judicious reform, it is terribly vulnerable and a weak reed for France to lean on."

The assassination of Rafik Hariri gave Chirac a strong reason to break with the past, abandon Syria, ally himself with the US, and pursue a new Middle East policy.

Dr Marwan Al Kabalan is a lecturer in media and international relations, Faculty of Political Science and Media, Damascus University, Syria
Gulf News


At 5/26/2006 08:58:00 AM, Blogger Atassi said...

Off the topic..

Pair jailed for 'crime' of expressing secular ideas.
Lara Marlowe in Paris
26 May 2006
Irish Times
MIDDLE EAST: One is a family-run dictatorship, the other a theocratic state with a semblance of democracy. But Syria and the Islamic Republic of Iran are allies in their opposition to US and Israeli domination of the region, and both have deplorable human rights records.
Anwar al-Bouni and Rahmin Jahanbegloo left a deep impression on me when I interviewed them - Bouni last January in Damascus; Jahanbegloo 11 years ago in Tehran. Learning that someone you know is in prison is always a shock.
I met Bouni in the home of a former member of the Syrian parliament who had just been released from prison. With his fragile build, pale face, black hair and moustache, the human rights lawyer resembles Charlie Chaplin. He spoke energetically of his desire for the rule of law in Syria, and an end to the 43-year-old state of emergency.
Bouni was excited about the EU grant he had received to establish a centre for training human rights workers. It opened for a few hours in February. According to Haytham Manna, a Syrian exile and spokesman for an Arab human rights group in Paris, the Mokhabarat (intelligence service) told Bouni to shut down the centre or they would confiscate the house he had rented.
Bouni reckoned his immediate relatives, most of whom are communists, have spent an aggregate of 60 years in Syrian prisons. Wasn't his criticism of President Bashar al-Assad's regime likely to land him in jail? "I don't care," he said. "Nothing is achieved without a price."
Anwar al-Bouni was taken from his home in Damascus on May 17th. He has since been charged with working to overthrow the regime, threatening public order and incitement to sectarian hatred, Manna said.
Bouni's real offence was joining 273 other Syrian and Lebanese writers, intellectuals and artists in signing the "Beirut-Damascus Declaration" published by An-Nahar newspaper in Beirut on May 11th. Twelve Syrian opposition figures have since been arrested, all but one of whom signed the document.
The declaration called on Syria to "respect and consolidate the sovereignty and independence" of both countries by defining borders and establishing diplomatic relations. UN Security Council resolution 1680, passed on May 17th, said the same thing.
There has been no news of Bouni's condition since he started a hunger strike on May 20th.
Rahmin Jahanbegloo disappeared from Mehrabad airport on April 27th. Jahanbegloo is a world-class professor of political philosophy with a doctorate from the Sorbonne, where he wrote his thesis on Mahatma Gandhi's theory of non-violence.
"He wasn't an activist," one of Jahanbegloo's friends said over the telephone from Tehran. "He is only known among intellectuals and philosophy students. It's very frightening - you don't expect someone like that to be arrested."
When I met Jahanbegloo in Tehran in 1995, he compared his country to eastern Europe before the disintegration of the Soviet Union, or China at the time of Tiananmen Square. But he saw cause for optimism. The authorities had allowed him to launch an intellectual review, Goftegou ("Dialogue") - something which would not have happened in the 1980s.
Jahanbegloo emigrated to Canada, where he was granted dual citizenship and taught at the University of Toronto from 1997 until 2001. He also taught at Harvard before choosing to return to Tehran four years ago, to lead the department of contemporary thought at the Cultural Research Bureau. He married an Iranian, with whom he has a baby daughter.
When I inquired after Jahanbegloo during a recent visit, he was completing a six-month teaching stint in India. He was travelling to Brussels for a conference when he disappeared on April 27th. His wife contacted conference organisers and learned he had never arrived.
Several days later, intelligence agents brought Jahanbegloo home just long enough to seize his computer and documents. Jahanbegloo has been charged with no crime, but intelligence minister Mohsen Ejei said he was arrested "because of his contact with foreigners". Jomhouri Eslami newspaper, which is close to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called him "an element of the United States who was part of the plot to overthrow the regime under the guise of intellectual work by peaceful means." An Iranian official who did not wish to be quoted cautioned me against writing about Jahanbegloo "before the intelligence services complete their investigation" - in case he turned out to be a spy.
Could the kind, brilliant professor I met really be a CIA agent, I asked Reza Moini, the Iran desk officer at Reporters Without Borders.
"Whenever intellectuals, journalists or opposition figures are arrested, they're always accused of threatening state security and espionage," Moini said. Jahanbegloo's real "crime", Moini suspects, was making no secret of his secular ideas.

At 5/26/2006 11:38:00 AM, Blogger BP said...

Here is the Koelbl/Tlass Interview

DER SPIEGEL 8/2005 - February 21, 2005

A 101 Course in Mideast Dictatorships

By Susanne Koelbl

When his powerful father died in 2000, Bashar al-Assad promised the end of political repression in Syria. But after a brief period of democratic transparency, the curtain of dictatorship fell once again. The country's true power brokers refused to let go.

Nowhere in the Middle East is life as colorful and contradictory as Syria under the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
It is 1 a.m., and the night is still young at the "Laterna" nightclub in downtown Damascus. Fatima Haidar wears an extremely short miniskirt, only about half as long as the dark curls that fall to below her shoulders. She drinks with a straw from an ice-blue beverage they call a Tropicana: a lot of vodka, a little Curacao. Fatima is 23 and a student of fine arts. She taps her white stiletto heels to the beat. The DJ has just put on music by Amr Diab, a sex idol among Arab youth. The disco ball hanging from the ceiling reflects shafts of light into the room, and Fatima pulls her date onto the dance floor.

The nightclub is jam-packed, as it is every Thursday night before the Muslim Sabbath on Fridays. On Saturday night, the place will be filled with Christians, and the bouncers, two enormous but courteous men dressed in suits, will again turn away anyone without a reservation or who isn't glamorous enough.

The next morning, a few blocks away in an old section of the city known as Bab Tuma, Syrian Orthodox priest Mor Dionysius Bahnan Jajawi, 80, sits down on a velvet-covered baroque chair in his church and smoothes his black robe. He wears a heavy golden cross around his neck. The Metropolitan (leader of an Orthodox "diocese") has just returned from a meeting of Christian and Muslim leaders from throughout the Middle East. The topic of discussion was war and peace, and the meeting was held in Damascus, one of the region's most religiously liberal and colorful cities. "We are always very brotherly and sincere to one another," says Jajawi.

Here in Damascus, Orthodox churches stand directly adjacent to mosques. Muslims like Basil al-Alaf and Christians like Abraham Thabit are in business together. In their case, the Muslim is the better craftsman, while the Christian is the better businessman, and together they run a company in the old city that specializes in inlay work. "Our faiths are different, but our mentality is the same," says Alaf.

Looking outwards?

The Arab Republic of Syria, ruled by the Baath Party since 1963, armed to the teeth and constantly on the lookout for dissidents, is a secular state that does not tolerate any form of religious extremism. In fact, the state tolerated nothing at all during the regime of dictator Hafez Al-Assad. But now that his son Bashar Al-Assad has come to power, things are a little different. Nowhere in the Middle East -- with the exception of a revitalized Beirut -- is life as colorful and contradictory as in Damascus.

The secret services have apparently been instructed to take a less capricious and brutal approach. Satellite TV dishes, outlawed until recently, now dot the city's roofs and facades of apartment buildings. There are Internet cafes and mobile phone shops on every street corner. Supermarkets offer virtually every product consumed in the West, from Nutella chocolate spread to Nivea beauty products. The city's boutiques display the latest fashions by European high street labels like Kookaï and Stefanel. A larger-than-life image of soccer star David Beckham smiles from a billboard along a highway. Nearby, displayed on the side of a high-rise building, is a gigantic poster for the new BMW 3 Series.

This is supposed to be the "Rogue State" of Syria, which is allegedly behind the bombing attack on billionaire and former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut last Monday? The state that some American neoconservative dreamers would love to have seen occupied along with Iraq? The addressee of highly urgent warnings from Washington to finally abandon its support of anti-Israeli Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon and to issue an official assurance that it possesses no weapons of mass destruction? The state that can expect heavy sanctions if it does not finally begin monitoring its border with Iraq, a border through which fighters from all over the world are allegedly flowing into Baghdad to join the Iraqi insurgents?

Or is it a state that has already learned its Iraq lesson? Could it be a state whose government has realized that it is surrounded by America's allies, Turkey, Jordan and Israel? After all, other dictators have since relented. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has eaten humble pie. Iran is at least negotiating with the Europeans over nuclear weapons. By contrast, Syria seems a little lost. And, more importantly, the Syrian people are pushing for the reforms they were promised by their president, the son of the former despot.

When Bashar Al-Assad assumed power in 2000, following the sudden death of his father, there was suddenly a sense of hope in Damascus. In a moving speech, the then 34-year-old regent, trained in London as an ophthalmologist, spoke of opening up the country and ending repression. "I invite all Syrians," he said, "to actively participate in this policy."

They were nice words, but they were also quickly forgotten. Syria has essentially remained a police state that brutally suppresses its critics. The answer to why this is so can be provided by a man who spent his career ensuring that state power in Syria remained concentrated in the hands of a small clique. His name is Mustafa Tlass and he was a close associate of the former ruler Hafez Al-Assad. And one of the few people Al-Assad trusted throughout his life.

Tlass, 72, is a stately bright-eyed man with a short, white moustache. The old general with the appearance of a friendly grandfather receives visitors in his apartment in Abu Rummana, an upper-class neighborhood in downtown Damascus. Sparkling crystal chandeliers hang from the ceilings, and the floors are sumptuously covered with oriental rugs. Family portraits hang on the walls. Two small chalk drawings of wildflowers hang behind the sofa. The artist is Adolf Hitler.

Tlass sips from a gold-rimmed tea glass and openly offers insights into the basics of dictatorship. "If you intend to remain in power," he says, "you must make others afraid."

Until nine months ago, Tlass was the Defense Minister of the Arab Republic of Syria, a position he held for 32 years. He was instrumental in suppressing all dissent by Islamists and democrats alike. The Syrian nationalist and proponent of Greater Syria was also just as responsible for the 1982 massacre of religious fanatics in Hama as for waves of arrests of left-wing opposition activists. Tlass no longer knows exactly how many death sentences he has signed personally, and he speaks quietly as he explains why these horrific acts were unavoidable, even the many who died by hanging. At times in the 1980s, he says, 150 death sentences a week were carried out by hanging in Damascus alone. "We used weapons to assume power, and we wanted to hold onto it. Anyone who wants power will have to take it from us with weapons," says the general, smiling.

A life of opposition

Riad Turk, an old man who has spent his entire life fighting against men like Tlass, lives no more than 20 kilometers away in substantially more modest circumstances.

Turk, a civil rights activist and the Secretary General of the Communist Party of Syria, is viewed as one of the intellectual leaders of the opposition movement. He is neither super-smooth nor is he entirely focused on his image. His office and apartment on the outskirts of Damascus is furnished with a few worn chains, a table and an iron bed.

Like Tlass, Turk has also devoted his entire life to politics -- but not in the Baath Party, rather on the other side of the political spectrum. He fought against the rebels before Hafez Al-Assad assumed power, and then he spent 30 years fighting against Assad's despotic regime, fighting for free elections, an independent judiciary, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. He fought steadfastly and always peacefully. Many in Damascus call him Syria's Nelson Mandela.

Turk spent more than 18 years in prison --17 of those in solitary confinement -- in a tiny 6-by-6-foot cell in the basement of a secret service prison. For 17 years, he hardly ever saw the sun, and for 17 years he remained imprisoned without charge and without having been sentenced by a court. He was imprisoned at the personal request of President Hafez Al-Assad, with the knowledge and approval of Defense Minister Tlass.

The general and the communist are about as far apart as two Syrians can be. But they are also as close as two men of their generation can be. Turk and Tlass are old classmates. Both men attended the Hashimiya School in Homs, 150 kilometers north of Damascus. Tlass remembers Turk as "stubborn and a fanatical communist, always an upright kind of guy." Turk also remembers his former classmate as if it were yesterday: "Mustafa always wanted to be the leader at demonstrations, and everything he achieved back then he only achieved through repression and strength."

The "Damascene Spring," as Syrians refer to the young Assad's first days in office, began in 2000, two years after Turk was released from prison. Many, including Turk, began giving public speeches again. In his talks, he described how Assad had acquired power, suppressed other political parties and trampled human and civil rights.

A group of politicians, lawyers and doctors established a round table which, among other things, produced documents on corruption in the economy and pamphlets on corrupt members of the government. The group revealed, for example, that Rami Machluf, a cousin of the president, was the biggest beneficiary of the issuance of wireless licenses, almost to the exclusion of the public.

But discussing and writing about such issues was apparently more than the young regent and his supporters could tolerate. The "Damascene Spring" quickly ended. Turk and nine other civil rights activists were arrested in the fall of 2001. The public prosecutor accused the 10 activists of having disseminated "false information" and of calling for armed demonstrations. The defendants were sentenced to between two and 10 years in prison.

In response to pressure exerted by French President Jacques Chirac, Turk was soon released. But six of his friends remain behind bars today. "Bashar Al-Assad deceived us," says Turk. "As long as he is in power, there will be no real freedom."

The last forum for dissidents

There are, however, still dissidents and dissent continues against a system that has essentially remained unchanged. The dissidents meet on a set date each month in the apartment of Suheir Al-Atassi, 33, the daughter of an industrialist, in the middle-class neighborhood of Dumar.

Intellectuals, human rights attorneys, journalists, students, women both with and without head scarves crowd together in the spacious apartment, listening to a presentation by Yassin Al-Hadj Salih, a 43-year-old doctor who was also imprisoned for many years. He was imprisoned for so long that he was only able to finish medical school four years ago. Thus, he is familiar with conditions at the university and denounces the arbitrary arrest of students.

The host Atassi is a delicate woman. She wears tight-fitting jeans, a black-knit turtleneck and a modest amount of make-up. She knows full well that not all of her visitors this evening are friends. She estimates that about 40 of the approximately 300 guests are from the state security agency. "But we must risk it," she says, pouring mocha into tiny cups, "otherwise nothing will ever change here."

The discussion -- on the Syrian secret service agency Al-Amn Al-Tullabi, which spies on politically active students -- is heated and it continues well into the night. It's a discussion about freedom.

During the past five years, a number of these types of political groups formed, and the government was no longer able to deny their existence. The groups became increasingly lively and forceful. Now, however, all of these forums are once again prohibited and closed down. Only the Atassi salon survives.

Is this the freedom that's been promised? Mustafa Tlass, the old cynic, shrugs his shoulders: "Never trust a politician. They all lie. They have to lie, otherwise they wouldn't remain in power," he says. I ask him what the crime was that his classmate Riad Turk committed. The general shakes his head. The resistance, he says, must be prevented from the start. "Amputation is the only answer," he says, flashing his charming grandfather smile once again. "That's how we got our start."

The next generation is taking up where the general left off, citing economic change and trying to keep the political process under wraps. "We want competition and transparency," says Abdullah Al-Dardari, 41. He is the president's new magic weapon, the head of the so-called Planning Commission, and his job is to develop and implement reforms in the economy. Dardari studied economics in Europe and has worked at the United Nations. He speaks excellent English and wears conspicuously good suits. As a sort of super-minister, he is supposed to transform the socialist planned economy and reduce the country's rampant unemployment rate (around 30 percent) in order to attract foreign investors.

To achieve these goals, Dardari, a journalist and business consultant by trade, has been given carte blanche from the very top. But even Dardari, the system's poster child in its relations with the West, shuns any debate over the democratization process. He has no intention of getting caught up in the ideological skirmishes between the old guard and the reformers inside the socialist Baath Party. He sees himself "as a technocrat, not as a politician." Dardari has essentially been ordered by the president to project open-mindedness and optimism. "In five years," he says, "Syria will have a vital economy with free trade and efficient management."

Of course, an old fox like Tlass knows that, in an age of globalization, Syria has no alternative but to open itself to the world, that reforms are necessary to prevent the country's moribund economy from collapsing altogether. But if there are reforms, he says, they have to "take place carefully and in a controlled manner," and should probably come from those who already rule the country today.

The reign of the dinosaurs

There is one principle that still applies today, even though a few dinosaurs of the old guard like Tlass are retired: Those who test the limits of the new freedoms under Bashar Al-Assad, whether they are journalists, politicians or business people, must still contend with the old power elite. Successful private entrepreneurs are infiltrated by the government or simply forced out of business. All major business deals must involve all the old players with just a few families sharing the bounty, as has always been the case. According to rumors heard on the streets of Damascus, the president's cousin holds large shares of the stock in two Syrian mobile phone companies and the licenses for duty-free shops, as well as holdings in hotels and restaurants. The sons of Vice President Abd al-Halim Chaddam and former Defense Minister Tlass dominate the media sector and large portions of trade.

Many high-ranking military officers have become immeasurably wealthy over the years, because the Syrian military controls the main road to Lebanon. Expensive cars and high-tech equipment, on which the supposedly socialist state charges import duties of up to 250 percent, are easily smuggled into the country without payment of duties, and are then sold on the black market. "It's a gang," says General Practitioner Dr. Kamal Al-Labwani, 46, who drives a stuttering 1963 British Vauxhall himself. Four years ago, during the "Damascene Spring," Labwani was part of a discussion group that advocated democracy, and was sentenced to three years in prison by a military court.

Does all this mean that the young ophthalmologist who so suddenly became president has already failed in his attempt to modernize Syria? Perhaps Bashar Al-Assad was serious when he spoke about a new beginning more than four years ago. But he most certainly underestimated the inertia of the forces his father created in three decades of dictatorship: the influential military and four monstrous secret service agencies that bring together political and military interests.

At the same time, the opposition is too weak today to mobilize the majority of Syrians. There are individuals who are willing to raise their voices, like Kamal Al-Labwani, the doctor, Yassin Al-Hadj Salih in the Atassi forum, and Riad Turk. An entire generation of political activists, today's 30 to 40-year-olds, has been decimated: intimidated into silence, worn down by imprisonment, or killed.

Does this mean that the only way out is through external pressure? The Americans are currently interested mainly in controlling Syria's border with Iraq as well as in Syrian intelligence information about militant groups such as Hezbollah. As long as the Syrians continue providing such information, they are unlikely to run the risk of becoming a military target for US President George W. Bush.

Mustafa Tlass, the powerful man with the pleasant smile, sits in his living room under the two Hitler sketches, which he acquired cheaply at an auction in England many years ago. He points out that he too had to pay a price for peace in the country: "I suffer from serious nightmares. It was terrible. I saw all my earlier friends get locked up. But we had to do it. There was no other alternative. We have achieved stability, 34 years without a coup."

But what about the victims? His classmate Turk, for example? Tlass raises his hands. "All he had to do was write a single letter, an apology to the president, and he would have been released immediately." Turk never wrote the letter. When he was suddenly released after so many years of imprisonment, his old classmate Tlass sent him a basket of sweets and his "best wishes." Turk rejected both.

"Tell him that I really like him," say Tlass.

"And I despise him," says Turk.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

At 5/26/2006 12:29:00 PM, Blogger Ausamaa said...

By God, this is a very amusing ; the world, the one we live in. The "Super Power" Syria who some try to blame for all of the Middle Easts troubles, its Regime, its Political Prisoners, its Economy, and of course, its "liberalisation' and "Democratization". All this is now a PRIORITY for a lot of peace, freedom, and democracy seekers in this world. Those of course include a wide array of Friends and Foes starting from the US Administration and ending with the newly born Freedom-seeking brethern in Lebanon.
True, sometimes we enjoy reading your thoughts and tracking your analysis of the situation in our area. And sometimes we indulge ourselves, humering you and ourselves into analysing and over analysing the Arab or Syrian states, societies, regimes, trends, and we even go as low as analysing the statements, opinions and positions of even the Lebanese warlords. As if the stands of a thug such as Waleed Junblat, or that of an acknowledged serial killer by the name of Jaja's, or lately that of a group of hijackers and bandits who robbed Lebanon for decades and who are now giving even the Lebanese people who thought they have seen it all, a new show by presenting to them a materpiece in shortsightededness, foolishness and treachery. Can you imagin?? My God, we even go extream lengthes to analyse our innermost thoughts and feelings about our identity and our future. But you know what... it is all an illusion. Your analysis, our analysis, and our reaction to it.I d not know why we indulge you and ourselves in that. For after all is said and discussed. We sit exhusted, and we think why we are going through this?? And in the end we reach the same conclusionthat is ingrained in our minds, which we miss for a while, and then it hits us in the face. Stark and clear. And you thoughts for us evaporate once we arrive at the fundamental fact that you -intentionally or not- try to skip over in your macro analysis of us and our situation in Syria, Lebanon, or anywhere in the middle East.

Well, thank you all, really, all the Syrian people appreciate all your efforts. They only wish that while you are really busy trying to "emancipate" the Syrian people, to do us Syrians a big favour:help us end the occupation of Golan, help us fend the threat which your fellow-traveller "peaceful" Israel poses to our security and to our existance as a unified nation and country, try to ask the current US Administration to stay away from medling in our affairs and from arming and supporting our enemey Israel on whose account we have to maintain an army of 500,000 the budget of which is capable of breaking the back of any government in the area, and on whose account we have to maintain a strict security grip on our country. Do not fool yourself. Syria is at war and have been for the last half century.And not by choice, remember? You liberals, democracy loving westerners sent us the zionist gangs to redeem yourself from crimes committed by you against the Jews. And, mind you, it was not an act of mercy. It was an act of "wicked" and "sly" political opportunisim and a long-term self serving act planned with the intention of preventing the Arabs from being able to direct thier attention to the natural process of the Social, Economic and Political development of their newly de-colonised states, to focus instead on standing up to "Israel"; the new danger you created,legetimaized and supported.
For God's sake, we appreciate your "care", "attention" and your "good wishes", but please understand that we have "other" prioreties. More important than political Liberalisation, more important than Democratization, more important than "Economic" growth: they are security and preservation of our entities. Of course, we Syrians would love to have an ideal democratic system, we would love to have economic Growth, we love to have all the freedoms that you have enjoyed in your western societies for decades, and, yest we admit, we are uncabable to reconcil -and push forward- the development of those processes with the necessity of a higher priority, being that of fighting the attacks of Israel and the designs of the US Administration at the same time.
Don't you think that Bashar al Assad wants democracy, dont you think he would love to have a florishing Syrian economy, even when it comes to Israel, have Syria not agreed to join the peace process. Dont you think that what you call the "Regime" in Syria wants a stable, growing, democratic Syria ? Yes, there are few bad apples who seek to enrich themselves at the expense of the rest, they exist in Syria, same as they exist in Washington DC, Paris, Amman, Beirut,and everywhere else. But the majority of people are good intentioned.Both in the Rgime, the Party and the Armed Forces.They are not evil as they can be labled by those who truly have no love lost for the Arab people.They are not "evil". They are hard headed, proud, self assertive, nationalists, pan-arabists,yes they are. And we are proud to be that way. And,,,,,, we shall never be proud of Syria or of them if they do not stay that way until we get what want with our heads high.The Regime is not perfect, the leadership has committed mistakes, and will commit mistakes. But those of you without sin can throw stones at her.Those without ulterior motives can offer advice. And those without blood and theft and deciet and traeson on their hands can judge. Unfortunately, not many of those are around for the moment.
Finally, let us not kid ourselves. France is not really intersted in Syria's advancement. Nor is the US Administration, nor is anyone else. And, we do understand. Why should they BE?? Unless you really beleive that Iraq was invaded to further democracy in the area!
Come on guys. We are Arabs; a little backward and a little slow to catch on to your smart, elegant and sweet talk. But we are not stupid.Not as stupid as you take us to be.
Thank you for your care and attention, but we have other prioreties that include protecting our country from the world's most leathal and atrocious war machine call 'Israel", and we are also very busy protecting ourselves from the reckless group maniacs, or neocons, who have us in thier the cross-hairs of thier rifle only because they see us as impediment to thier total control of Arab lands and Arab soul.
Sorry to be so simplistic and crude, but sometimes all your "attention" and care give us the creeps. Guantanamo, Falluja, Gaza, and the rest of those crimes notwithstanding..

Why do you really hide behind your fingures??? If you are really as concerened about us as you portray yourselves to be, please help us. The list of priority is clear and every Arab child, Syrian or not can draw it for you. If you are sicere and you can not be for you have never been sincere or true to any Arab country or people starting from the most oppressive and repressive regime and ending with the democratic and free people in Palestine whome you are now starving because they believed that you really wanted democracy. And see how the Practice of Democracy by the Palestinans was rewarded by Friend and Foe. Again, if you trully want to help us, then we have -and had for the last hundred years- on top priority: Security from the real Danger that threatens us: the danger is ISRAEL and the NEOCONS who are using Isreal or whome Isreal are using to destroy us. Would you care help us poor Syrians get over those two "small" impediments, so that we can move on in peace and focus on the other important issues which I assure you that we value as much as you do?????

I am sorry I took up such a valuable space on this blog this time. However, I believe one day we will find the answer to where the furure of the people of this begins. And amazingly enough, a person, a General, a man who has been through this area for years, has found such a truth and said it. His advice to his audience in a lecture at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. The man wisely advised his audience saying "resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, and only then all the pieces will fall in place". My apologies as I am not qouting verbatum and as I do not recall wether the lecture was given this year or back in 2004. Hoever, the genetleman was Anthony Zaini, U.S. Marine General and he was the CIC of the US CENTCOM in the 1990's.

Or is someone going to accuse HIM now of blaming all of Syria's faults and shortcomings on the "imagined threats" of a selfcreated threat called "Israel".

Talking about Democratization, Lebralization and Economic Growth in Syria -and the greater middle east- in the presence of such an immenint, ever present and uncontained threat, sounds like Mary Antoinnet woundering why the Frensh people do not eat biscuits....if bread was not availlable.

This is not an over dramatization, it is the current state of affairs here that we should not be so self-decieving as to ignore it as we often tend to do. Intentioally or not.

At 5/26/2006 05:04:00 PM, Blogger Fares said...

To Aussama,

I feel like I am reading Tishreen here or some other bullshit official Syrian newspaper. I'll try to be short.

1) Syria does not need an army of 500,000 soldiers because it is not capable of winning any conventional war.
2) I agree with you that Isreal is a problem in the region, but that is because we love to emphasize that fact and blame every single failure on Israel. Israel is not innocent but after 60 years we should know how to deal with the situation. Tell your rulers to get us a deal there after failing miserably to do it since 1967.
3) Bashar Assad and his family are bunch of thieves who are brainwashing people like you to keep power. Instead of defending them you can tell them what to do "Actions speak louder than words"
4) If Bulls**t Assad wanted democracy he can start by freeing the people he just arrested 2 weeks ago. I don't see how keeping Michel Kilo in Jail liberates the Golan or even your garden
5) you controlled Lebanon for 30 years (15 years of complete control) and that has achieved nothing in terms of balance with Israel, I don't see how harrassing Lebanese or brainwashing them or robbing them and making them a Syrian province helps arab goals in anyway.

We heard enough slogans and garbage, smarten up and stop inflating yourself with poisonous ideas. I am more patriotic than your are so don't try to fight the zionist while our liberals are in jail and all the Syrian abroad are waiting for the regime to fall down.

At 5/26/2006 05:32:00 PM, Blogger Fares said...

oh, I forgot here is my address if you wanted to reach me

P.S. All liberal and freedom loving Syrians and friends of free Syria, come to my site and show what Syrians and Arabs stand for, instead of having a paid jerk rotten Syria's image


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