Monday, September 18, 2006

Apologies to David Schenker

My apologies to David Schenker. Several days ago I wrote: "David Schenker of WINEP and Tony Badran of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies are pushing [a] conspiracy theory.” The conspiracy theory I was referring to is the notion that the Syrian government was behind the terrorist attack on the American embassy.

In fact, Tony Badran argues that Syria was behind the attack, not David Schenker. I incorrectly lumped the two together because this is what Guy Darst of the Boston Herald did in his misleading article, cited as the source of my remarks.

I have since communicated with David Schenker. He sent me two articles about the embassy bombing, one of which Darst borrowed from. By taking Schenker's remark out of its original context and plopping it in with Badran's more serious accusations, Schenker was done an injustice and I compounded it.

The two articles that give a full account of David Schenker's argument about the Damascus bombing make clear that he stops short of arguing that the government set up the bombers. Eli Lake of the New York Sun, quotes Schenker as follows:

"A couple of things like this have happened before," Mr. Schenker said. "The embassy was stormed with the facilitation of the government, once in 1998 and once in 2000. The Syrians have been a welcoming environment for any number of terrorists for decades, so it should come as no surprise that unauthorized terrorists have taken up residence there and would be able to pull off this kind of attack."
Schenker himself writes at :
In terms of context, though, the key point is that if this attack was indeed perpetrated by Islamists, it is the direct result of the double game being played by the Asad regime. The regime supports Sunni and Shiite Islamist militants in Lebanon, Palestinian Authority, and Iraq, and in the past has not acted against terrorists entering Jordan. Syria no longer cooperates with the US on Al Qaida, either. Given the regime's friendly disposition toward terrorists, it would be no surprise if some unauthorized terrorist organizations were setting up shop in Damascus.
As these quotes make clear, Schenker did not suggest that Syrian authorities authorized the bombings. He argues that Syria was burnt by the fires it has started and keeps aflame. This is very different from Badran's argument.

As for Badran and Vox's claims that I contradict myself by not subscribing to the notion that the Syrian government was behind the bombing, this is specious. Tony quotes an article published by me on Syria Comment, but written by Abdulla Ta'i, which argued that Syrian authorities had set jihadists up to be arrested last year. In the incident that Abdullah was describing, the authorities apprehended the extremists before an attack was carried out. I cannot say whether Abdulla's informant was correct, but the likelihood of it being correct seemed higher to me than much of the speculation done by people with no contact with Syria. Vox quotes a second article written by a friend, which explained how Syrian authorities allowed and managed the demonstration which ended with the burning of the Danish embassy.

The implications of both articles are provocative, but they don't add up to Syria staging the embassy attack in which quite a few people were hurt, almost all Syrians. There is a big difference between staging the capture of jihadists or encouraging a crowd to attack the Danish embassy when no one is in it and trying to blow up the US embassy when it is full of people. In the same light, it is easy for Americans to understand why the US armed and funded jihadists in Afghanistan to fight Russia, but they don't think America is behind jihadism when it doesn't serve its interests or kills Americans. Syrians commonly use the Afghan connection to argue that the CIA was running Zarqawi as an agent in Iraq.

I gave four reasons why it doesn't make sense for Syria to stage the jihadist bombing of the embassy. I think Syria genuinely wants to engage the West if the West is willing to compromise. I don't believe Asad wants the American embassy in Damascus to be shuttered, halting the very limited means of communication that remain open between him and Washington.

One final remark about the articles written by other people that I publish. All I find interesting. Most I see the sense in. Some I don't believe, for example, I don't think it is likely that Hariri was killed by Islamic extremists. All the same, given the importance of the Hariri trial and the fact that most Syrians with whom I discussed it are not convinced that Syria did it, I publish alternative views, if they are backed up with an argument. The comment section is the best place to shoot down such speculation. Sometimes I make mistakes, as I did with David Schenker. I am happy to apologize when I know I am wrong.


At 9/19/2006 02:29:00 AM, Blogger 10452 said...

Should you not also apologize to all your readers for never taking an objective stand?

Is it not odd that whenever this Baathist totalitarian regime is in the line of fire, you are the first to run and defend them?

Is it really that difficult to believe that given the isolation Syria is facing currently, that it would secretly stage an attack on the US embassy, while showing to cameras that it is tough on terrorists, by killing or arresting them?

Your four reasons, are ridiculous at best :

"1. Why would Syria allow a police officer to be killed and seven other Syrians to be wounded, in an unsuccessful attack?"

-- As if this Baathist has any regard for life. You're actually surprised that an officer in the Syrian army was a consumable? Come on. Get real.

"2. To assume that the recrudescence of jihadist groups in Syria over the last two years is inspired by the regime doesn't make sense. The spread of jihadist groups throughout the region has been dramatic. Why would one assume that Syria was somehow magically spared this same phenomenon?"

-- Right, and the financing and weapons donation programs to jihadists in Lebanon is actually done by Zimbabwe. You're not fooling anyone.

"3. Since the end of the Lebanon War, Asad and his entire cabinet have been insisting that it is time for the peace process to be set into motion. Asad has been asking for engagement with the US and land for peace. Why would he blow up the US embassy?"

-- Yes, indeed, that is why he has suggested setting up a "Resistance" in the Golan Heights, and that is why he is not cooperating with the UN Commission, and that is why he is refusing to cooperate with anyone from the UN. But even if he was such a dove lately, staging the defense of American interests in the region can only help him a little more.

"4. The entire axis of "bad," or whatever it is being called these days, is lying low and trying to attenuate tensions with the West. Iran is talking with the Europeans and trying to be accommodating. Hizbullah has not made a peep in 3 weeks as it tries to get its feet back on the ground. It is complying with the ceasefire much better than Israel is. Hamas has just created a government of national unity with the PLO so that it can speak to the Israelis through a veil. Syria is insisting it wants negotiations with Israel and has accepted 1701 and accommodated Kofi Annan. There is a pattern of accommodation among the anti-American countries in the region. They are trying to patch up relations that were frayed during the war. It does not make sense for Syria to diverge from what is clearly a unified game plan on the part of the anti-American front. Why would it bomb the US at a time that it is pushing for engagement?"

-- It's as if you haven't seen the news for the past couple of years. You mean the Axis of evil is laying low by going to the Non Aligned movement meeting and making ridiculous declarations? Pushing for engagement? Josh, you're the only apologist for the Baathist regime that is pushing for engagement.

At 9/19/2006 03:23:00 AM, Blogger Innocent_Criminal said...

Seems like the above is the retarded version of what I had put here.

I also disagree with Idaf's notion that the UN report will be a bust. All signs still point to Damascus. And even if Syria was framed, their actions following the assassination deserves a punishment on its own.

At 9/19/2006 06:47:00 AM, Blogger majedkhaldoon said...

Syria is politically isolated,economically sanctioned,next is militarily humiliated,which will humiliate the regime,and force him to change his behavior.this was planned for Syria(not HA) in october

At 9/19/2006 08:15:00 AM, Blogger t_desco said...

I would be grateful for any "signs" pointing in any direction...
So far the only clear sign (which is indeed pointing in the direction of Damascus) is the continued arrest of the four generals.
Everything else is speculation, IMHO.

BTW, the Lebanese code word for wild speculation is "informed sources": Exhibit A; Exhibit B.

At 9/19/2006 08:20:00 AM, Blogger Anton Efendi said...

No I don't argue anything of the sort you claim with your typical dishonest straw man tactics (especially in this case, to hide laziness). Keep trying.

But hey, you gotta stick to your lie!

I thought this was rather pertinent to what I said:

"I cannot say whether Abdulla's informant was correct, but the likelihood of it being correct seemed higher to me than much of the speculation done by people with no contact with Syria."

Exactly. Now try finding out who said that Abu Qaqa might be either a "regime creation" or a "double agent." You'll find the result amusing.

At 9/19/2006 09:09:00 AM, Blogger t_desco said...

I don't think that the account given by the anonymous intelligence informant quoted in Abdulla Ta'i's article is consistent.

"Syrian Intelligence deceives members of Jund Ash Sham into believing that Syrian Intelligence will assist them in carrying out terrorist acts in Iraq."

Frankly, I don't believe that Islamists would be so stupid to trust Syrian intelligence, particularly in light of Syria's more recent history.

"Syrian Intelligence leads would be fighters into believing that the state authorities will help them to carry out martyrdom operations in Iraq. The authorities set up the unwitting Jihadists in houses far the city center in remote areas and supply them with weapons ostensibly for secret operations. Then the Syrian security forces surround the Jihadists swoop into the house and kill them."

And I also don't think that Syrian intelligence would be so stupid to supply the Islamists with weapons before they attack them. It would be much more plausible to 1. kill them, 2. stage a "fight" and 3. show journalists the weapons supposedly found at the site.

Intelligence officials often like to give the impression that they "are in charge" and "on top of the situation" while in reality they aren't; also, they often love conspiracy theories. See for example the Robert Fisk's bizarre conversation with a "security source" in Damascus (Is US Provoking Civil War In Iraq?, The Independent, 09 May, 2006).

At 9/19/2006 11:17:00 AM, Blogger Eric said...

I was underwhelmed by the marginality of the operational group. Two vehicles, four attackers, daylight operation, grenades and assault weapons, on a target with several physical perimeters and at least two defense teams, each at least as large as the attack team.

The attack team never had the capacity to take the objective, so it is unlikely that its planner had adequate assets.

Two penetration trucks, several area denial trucks, an insertion bus and follow-up tampon trucks to create a deniable perimeter, and teams for suppression, penetration, asset acquisition, command and communications, and defense until extraction or termination -- an order of magnitude more human and material resources.

So I don't think there were state, or capable non-state, actors present, other than on the defense.


At 9/19/2006 11:26:00 AM, Blogger t_desco said...

Confirmation of a direct Ain al-Hilweh - Abu Musab al-Zarqawi link (it doesn't get more direct than this):

From the Biographies of the Prominent Martyrs of the Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq, Abu Jafar al-Maqdisi

In the twenty-fourth issue of the “Biographies of the Prominent Martyrs,” published and distributed recently by the Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq, the biographer, Abu Ismail al-Muhajir tells the story of the “Teacher of the Knights,” Abu Jafar al-Maqdisi. Abu Jafar, from Ayn al-Hilwah refugee camp and base for Asbat al-Ansar in southern Lebanon, is described by the author as a moral, modest, generous and brave man, characteristics which are developed though battle stories in the second battle of al-Fallujah. The majority of the biography recounts the fighting in which Abu Jafar was engaged, highlighting his military prowess and courage against a purported American cowardice.

In one example, al-Muhajir recalls when Abu Jafar al-Maqdisi, Abu Suhayb al-Lubnani, and Abu Hafs al-Maqdisi hid in a house following an attack on an American Hummer and armored vehicle. ...

Regarding Abu Jafar’s death, al-Muhajir merely states that he died without prior warning, but notes that his becoming a close companion to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the deceased Emir of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and serving as his messenger, military and media advisor, and protector, was more arduous than fighting. He writes that Abu Jafar told him: “if the sheikh ordered me to destroy an army of enemies, I would have been able to do so, with Allah's strength. Yet the responsibility of protecting him and his companions, well, this is a grave responsibility. This is a burden that mountains would find difficult to bear”. He also indicates that Abu Jafar al-Maqdisi appeared in Zarqawi’s video speech, “A Message to the People,” sitting second from the right.
SITE Institute

There were similar reports by the Daily Star in June, quoted by me here.

At 9/19/2006 11:29:00 AM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

One of the topics that have received little attention is Bashar’s decision not to attend the Non-Aligned countries conference in Cuba. My personal expectation is that his decision was on security grounds. He perhaps felt that this was not an ideal time for a head of state to be leaving Syria during its current state of affairs.

Assuming I am correct, the events, which have just unfolded in Thailand, vindicate his decision. Ten tanks blocked traffic outside government house in the capital. Thai forces seized the government house while the country’s prime minister was attending a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.

I think that Bashar is unlikely to make any overseas trips in the near future.

At 9/19/2006 11:42:00 AM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

Bush’s quotes on Syria during his U.N. speech:

Syria is a “crossroads for terrorism” and “tool of Iran”
Syria is urged to “end support for terror”.

On the Middles East:

“Some have argued that the democratic changes we are seeing in the Middle East are destabilizing the region. The reality is that the stability we thought we saw in the Middle East was a mirage.”

At 9/19/2006 12:04:00 PM, Blogger EngineeringChange said...

Syria is the crossroads for terrorism??

There would not be all this terrorism without Bush's foreign policy disaster creating and fanning the flames. And the killing, rape, and fear that Bush has brought to Iraq--are those mirages too? No those are very real to the Iraqi people, but Bush has decided he's willing to pay that price. Well as for me, I prefer a stable mirage over the destructive interference that a buffoon like Bush brings to the table.

And Ehsani, you claim Bashar is staying in Damascus to hinder any coup attempt. Is this a gut feeling you have or is there any credible sources that back your view? In particular who do you think would be the leader of the possible coup?

Let me say I think Bashar will easily outlast President Bush. But I will also say this is more of a gut feeling and a general reading of the situation rather than any specific piece of information that leads to this conclusion.

At 9/19/2006 12:04:00 PM, Blogger Alex said...


The UN Speech signalled one clear direction:

THe US decided that it needs to help its allies Egypt/Saudi Arabia/Jordan regain their credibility in the Middle East ... for that they will help them deliver to the Palestinians somethign tangible...

Syria got the "we can not talk to you until you drop all your cards" again.

Until now, Syia succeeded in crippling US efforts in the Middle East because those efforts were not popular with the Arab people, they were nothing more than empty promises. Now the US seems to be willing to deliver something potentially more popular ... "a solution" to the Palestinian issue. The US allies in the Middle East will be credited for making it happen ... those who oppose the US (Syria+allies) will be the useless rejectionists who did not deliver anything.

We'll see.

I still say that without the non-US allies, they can not go too far.

At 9/19/2006 12:27:00 PM, Blogger Ausamaa said...

Dear Josh,

It is nice of you to have gone through the trouble of correcting the "miss quote" of Mr. Schenker. More professional still was what you termed as an apology, although I do not believe one is due, because the basic thesis behind both Badran and Schenker articles are at the core one and the same. While one is full of Arab shallow thinking and strive for vengeance, the other stinks of the usual Western duplicity. I would actually assign more grades to Badran for coming out and saying whatever he wanted to say (regardless of the short sightedness and stupidity of his "theory" that Syria was behind the bombings) rather than beat around the bush to reach the same aim as Schenker did.

In line with your apology, I think it's now Mr. Schenker's turn to apologies for his innocent "playing" with words. In particular his mischievous and tasteless use of the term "unauthorized terrorist groups". The implication of course is that Syria has two types of terrorist groups; one authorised and the second unauthorised. Apart from Shenker's distasteful classification of Hezbollah, Hamas, Jihad and others are terrorist groups, the other implications is that Syria is incapable of controlling what happens on its soil, followed by the Syrian regime's "disposition towards terrorist groups" for decades.

It may come as a surprise to Mr. Schenker although I doubt it, that the vast majority of the people in the Arab World ( 300 millions and multiplying fast, and take note, it's called the Arab World not your preferred term, the Middle East) consider such support to the "authorised terrorists groups" as a badge of honour on Syria's chest to support those groups who are fighting for their freedom. Those three hundred million Arabs, and billions of Muslims and other people consider it also a badge of honour on Syria's chest, and a glimpse of hope too, that Syria has done this for decades, and that it continues doing so now, whether the West likes it or not, and whatever the think tanks' numerical cost-benefit analysis indicates, or whatever the Western experts on the affairs of the Arab World think.

I just pity such hypocrisy and shallow thinking by such "experts" whose advice and analysis has gotten this area to where it is now. Instead of them and the Western World they "advise" experience feelings of shame for practically throwing the poor Diaspora Jewish population out of their original ghettos in Europe into this area to get rid of them and then to use them through the "illusion" called Israel to serve as their sacrificial tool to further the West's interests in the area, no, they lay blame on others and give themselves the right to decide who is a terrorist and who is a beacon of Peace and Democracy. And who cares, its Jews against Arabs. Sheep blood after all. Reread Shakespeare, and discover what love the West had for Jews, and re-consider the fact that the largest wave of Jewish migration to Palestine (the gift given by well-intentioned innocent Great Britain to the Zionist movement at a price also) took place when the US immigration authorities closed the door on Jewish Immigration to the US in the thirties. So, to Palestine they went.

And if such a fifty year long tragedy is not enough, examine the effect of their further "advice" motivated by their Greed and Ignorance which pushed the world into one bloody venture after the other. The New World Order as the phrase was coined after the fall of the Soviet Union (i.e., the new Enemy is the Muslim World), and as if the thrust was not enough, do it by destroying Iraq and Iran and pin them in a bloody war, not enough? Goals not totally achieved? Go for the War on Terror theme. And here we are. Al Qaida! And never mind who created al Qaida, but we should "mind" and "hold accountable" the same ones who turned Al Qaida into the nightmare they portray it to be, and we should hold them accountable for alienating the whole Arab and Muslim world and pushing them into the position of Islamofashisem.

Of course, the problem now is that the West –based on such considered advice and analysis- has created an Enemy it can not defeat, and has antagonised billions of human beings it can not control or live with.

Sorry, Josh, but the real "apology" is due from the likes of the one you apologised to. Chutzpah, is the Jewish phrase that describes the apathy of their intentions, advice and deeds, and might is the language they understand and listen to as is happening now despite their denials. Apologies to such ignorants or deceivers are not an attitude they understand and appreciate. The best they can do now, is to sit back and reap what they sawed. The problem is that they are usually made of Teflon and that they are not accountable for the "advice", "opinions", and "wisdom" they disperse. Or think they do.

At 9/19/2006 12:38:00 PM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

Eng. Change,

Mine is a gut feel indeed. This was an opportunity for him to mingle with his newfound buddies. It was an opportunity to demonstrate that his so-called isolation is not serious. It was a perfect opportunity to show the Kings and Presidents of Arabia that he can still travel the world and make other new friends. He could have also sent the same message to his people.

Instead of all that, he decided to stay in Damascus. My “gut feel” is that he had to.

At 9/19/2006 01:16:00 PM, Blogger norman said...

I think Asad did not go to Cuba so he will not antaganize the Bush adminstration as he seem to feel that there is a chance to improve relations ,at least that what i can see.

At 9/19/2006 02:02:00 PM, Blogger EngineeringChange said...

Syria hoping for warmer U.S. relations

Nothing new in this article, just a general overview of events for the general public (front page of yahoo in this case)

At 9/19/2006 02:45:00 PM, Blogger Atassi said...

I think, This is the MOST direct call to the Syrian peoples by an Americans president ever.. This Bush remarks will make lots of waves, possibly a tsunami ..Watch out Dr. Bashar !!

No .. No ..and NO.. Did you get the message?

At 9/19/2006 02:57:00 PM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

I realize that the majority on this forum are Bush haters who may have a problem swallowing his words on the region. The direct address to the Syrian people at the end of my summary is most telling:

“Some have argues that the democratic changes we’re seeing in the Middle East are destabilizing the region.

This argument rests on a false assumption: that the Middle East was stable to begin with. The reality is that the stability we thought we saw in the Middle East was a mirage.

For decades, millions of men and women in the region had been trapped in oppression and hopelessness. And these conditions left a generation disillusioned and made this region a breeding ground for extremism.

Imagine what it is like to be a young person living in a country that is not moving toward reform. You’re 21 years old, and while your peers in other parts of the world are casting their ballots for the first time, you are powerless to change the course of your government

While your peers in other parts of the world have received educations that prepare them for the opportunities of a global economy, you have been fed propaganda and conspiracy theories that blame others for your country’s shortcomings.

And everywhere you turn, you hear extremists who tell you that you can escape your misery and regain your dignity through violence and terror and martyrdom.

For many across the broader Middle East this is the dismal choice presented every day.

Every civilized nation, including those in the Muslim world, must support those in the region who are offering more hopeful alternatives.

We know that when people have a voice in their future, they are less likely to blow themselves up in suicide attacks. We know that when leaders are accountable to their people, they are more likely to seek national greatness in the achievements of their citizens, rather than in terror and conquest.

Today I’d like to speak directly to the people across the broader Middle East.

My country desires peace. Extremists in your midst spread propaganda claiming that the west is engaged in a war against Islam.

The propaganda is false and its purpose is to confuse you and justify acts of terror.

We respect Islam, but we will protect our people from those who pervert Islam to sow death and destruction.

Our goal is to help you build a more tolerant and hopeful society that honors people of all faiths and promotes the peace.

To the people of Lebanon, last year you inspired the world when you came out into the streets to demand your independence from Syrian dominance.

You drove Syrian forces from your country and you reestablished democracy.

Since then, you have been tested by the fighting that began with Hezbollah’s unprovoked attacks on Israel. Many of you have seen your homes and your communities caught in the crossfire.

We see your suffering and the world is helping you rebuild your country and helping you deal with the armed extremists who are undermining your democracy by acting as a state within a state.”

“To the people of Syria, your land is home to a great people with a proud tradition of learning and commerce, today, your rulers have allowed your country to become a crossroad for terrorism.

In your midst, Hamas and Hezbollah are working to destabilize the region, and your government is turning your country into a tool of Iran. This is increasing your country’s isolation from the world.

Your government must choose a better way forward by ending its support for terror and living at peace with your neighbors, and opening the way to a better life for you and your families.”

At 9/19/2006 03:20:00 PM, Blogger majedkhaldoon said...

Bush lies,he wants us to make peace with Isreal while Isreal continue to occupy our land,he supports democracy but prevents democracy from governing as in Hamas he is mad about cooperation between any two nations in the M.E. we do not trust Bush, We want Isreal as a state to go,but we welcome the jews between us,free with equal rights,I want the Levant to unite.

At 9/19/2006 03:23:00 PM, Blogger Ausamaa said...

Ehsani 2,

So now we all know. Thank you. We are all in your dept forever for repeating to us those insightful, encouraging, and assuring words, uttered by non other than Presiden George W. Bush. You have managed to convince us of the sincirety of the intentions of POTUS which has been in doubt for a while.

Got anything along the same lines by Rumsfield, Chieny or Rice? Olmert? Paul Wolfwitze, Faith or Zakhim even. Just to give us -mislead and misguided soles- more assurence, hope, and explanations to such confusing matters such as why most deaths in this part of the world are caused by Cluster Bombs, GPUs, Smart Bombs, Uranium tipped tank shells, and other democracy and freedom building materials manufactured in the USA and delivered either directly by the sender or by his partners-in-peace, the Israelies.
See.., some of us folks here get confused easily. And explanations such like yours are most useful.

Damn, I thought George W. Bush did not know the year in which the United States achieved its independence, now I am impressed by how much he knows about Syrian history and culture. And you thought the guy was a gonner!!!!

Wish him luck...whatever good that will do his policies.

And thank you again Ehsani 2

At 9/19/2006 03:33:00 PM, Blogger Alex said...

"This argument rests on a false assumption: that the Middle East was stable to begin with."

Iraq was more stable under Saddam, no?
Lebanon was more stable under Ghazi Kanaan, no?
Syria is still more stable today, before they try their ideas in that country too.

I know my friend Ehsani seems to think the speech will revolutionize things in the Middle East. I think it is significant, especially given the other things I heard from other sources this week. But it will not turn everything upside down. Not yet. The only thing we will see next is the Americans (and their friends in the area0 trying to win the Arab street with progress on the Palestinian issue ... which is great in that respect. But don't expect the Syrians to be too nervous yet.

At 9/19/2006 04:01:00 PM, Blogger Atassi said...

The WORDS are insightful, encouraging, and assuring words. We like it or not. The words are more appealing to me then DR. Bashar WORDS for sure. Now, nether the Bush administration nor the Assad regime have the solution for the Syrian illness. The remedy lies in the hand of the Syrian peoples, it's useful to hear the white noise to feel your are alive
Iraq was more stable under Saddam, no?NO NO Never. War after War.. Millions died..
Lebanon was more stable under Ghazi Kanaan, no? Again Russia was stable under the USSR too !!
Syria is still more stable today, before they try their ideas in that country too.>> NOT Sure Syria will be able to stay in a stand alone status for a long time.

At 9/19/2006 04:15:00 PM, Blogger t_desco said...

Sam Gardiner has updated his study on US military planning for a possible attack on Iran, The End of the ‘Summer of Diplomacy’: Assessing U.S. Military Options on Iran.
Press release by the Century Foundation.

"Unfortunately, the military option does not make sense. When I discuss the possibility of an American military strike on Iran with my European friends, they invariably point out that an armed confrontation does not make sense — that it would be unlikely to yield any of the results that American policymakers do want, and that it would be highly likely to yield results that they do not. I tell them they cannot understand U.S. policy if they insist on passing options through that filter. The "making sense" filter was not applied over the past four years for Iraq, and it is unlikely to be applied in evaluating whether to attack Iran."
(PDF, p.4/5)

"If this uncertainty does not appear to worry the proponents of air strikes in Iran it is in no small part because the real U.S. policy objective is not merely to eliminate the nuclear program, but to overthrow the regime. It is hard to believe, after the misguided talk prior to Iraq of how American troops would be greeted with flowers and welcomed as liberators, but those inside and close to the administration who are arguing for an air strike against Iran actually sound as if they believe the regime in Tehran can be eliminated by air attacks.

In this case, the concept is not a ground force Thunder Run into Tehran of the sort used in Baghdad. It is a decapitation-based concept. Kill the leadership and enable the people of Iran to take over their government. More reasonable leadership will emerge.

Under this concept, the air operation would take longer than the five nighs. The targets would be expanded. The Revolutionary Guard units would be attacked since according to the argument they are the primary force that keeps the current regime in power. There are other regime protection units in Tehran. Most important, the U.S. operation would move into targeted killing, seeking to eliminate the leadership of Iran."
(Ibid., p.13)

"Syria and Iran signed a defense agreement on June 15. Under this agreement Syrian forces would be brought into a fight if Iran were attacked. Syrian President Bashar Assad might be a reluctant participant, but as the conflict expands, he might not have a choice."
(Ibid., p.15)

"When could the United States pull the trigger on the military option? The most important point in understanding the window for an attack is that the military preparations will not be the determining factor. ... The preparations will be much less visible than the movements to the region in early 2003. ...

Instead, preparations will involve the quiet deployment of Air Force tankers to staging bases. We will see additional Navy assets moved to the region. ..."
(Ibid., p.15)

Cf. What Would War Look Like?, by Michael Duffy and Mind Games by Fred Kaplan.


sorry, but there are arguments in your comment.

You do not think that the continued detention of the four generals is a "clear sign" "pointing in the direction of Damascus"?

Or you find it reasonable that, according to Abdulla's informant, Syrian intelligence supplied Islamists with weapons before killing them?

Or you doubt that al-Qa'ida has established a presence in Lebanon, particularly in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp?

The Spanish UN commander certainly seems to think so:

Spanish Commander: Possible Qaida Threat to U.N. Troops

At 9/19/2006 04:23:00 PM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

My very good friend Alex,

Given your definition of “stability”, I think we need more Middle East men of the type you described to branch out on planet earth and help spread “stability” along in the process.

On second thought, may be the global community can outsource the “stability” of their societies to our Baath party who have proven to do the job most effectively.

With local Baath offices in the world’s “unstable” spots, I am sure success and stability will follow suit. Bangkok could have certainly avoided its own problems today.

At 9/19/2006 05:49:00 PM, Blogger majedkhaldoon said...

some Alawite generals,of his family and friends, after the news of Bashar getting nervous breakdown,are saying that he is too weak to stay as president.

At 9/19/2006 08:29:00 PM, Blogger qunfuz said...

If the choice is between Bashaar and people who take Bush's speech seriously and think Hamas and Hizbullah are terrorist groups, then I'm sure that 95% of Syrians would choose Bashaar. Of course, this is not based on independent opinion polls, but neither is it based on mere gut feeling. I'm outside, but I speak to Syrians every day. However much they hate the regime, they are nationalists who approve of Syria's refusal to surrender and of resistance. This is the tragedy of the Western-based opposition - they are totally out of touch with the nationalist sentiments of the street.

At 9/19/2006 08:49:00 PM, Blogger norman said...

Deos anybody thinks that the Palestinians will get their long promiced indipendent state befor the end of the Bush presidency?.As long as he does not keep that promise nobody will hear what he says.

At 9/19/2006 09:24:00 PM, Blogger Fares said...

Pope and Aftermath

At 9/19/2006 11:29:00 PM, Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

I did not accuse the Syrian government of staging the attacks, I said that it was a possibility. It is not the same thing. There are no proofs of official Syrian involvement, but the timing of these attacks and history do not speak in the regime's favour.

Let us remember that: 1) the US consulate was 'spontaneously' sacked a few years ago, and 2) you published a testimony during the Danish cartoon events saying that the mob that attacked the Danish embassy was directed by people with walkie-talkies.

I used to have a friend in Beirut who was living in the diplomatic neighbourhood. Whenever I visited her, I was subjected to a search. I have never visited the diplomatic compound in Damascus, but I've read that the security is very tight there, though some Syrian commenters on this blog have denied that. As a US citizen who lived in Syria, you could certainly provide us with information on this matter.

I am not the only one having doubts about the sincerity of the Syrian regime. Secretary Rice did thank the Syrian authorities (her options were rather limited), but when asked about the identity of ther perpetrators, she declined to comment.

As Ehsani mentioned, the fourth gunman died in the hospital. Nothing proves that he did not die from his wounds, but when considering all these elements, the least an objective observer could do is to have some suspicions. Tony may have accused the Syrian government too quickly, but you have cleared it to quickly as well.

At 9/19/2006 11:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is also possible that Lee Harvey Oswald did not assassinate JFK or was not the only assassin. Plenty of books were written on the subject and plenty of people believe in some version of a conspiracy. Luckily, the existance of a possibility and people believing the possibility does not amount to a whole lot. The facts that everyone knows so far are:

a. Some people attempted to attack the embassy
b. Syrian forces stopped them

The US is sending a team to examine the scene and they might be able to add to that. Until then, (a) and (b) are all that anyone knows.

At 9/20/2006 12:07:00 AM, Blogger Ausamaa said...

And what makes you believe that the rourth attacker died in hospital??? Maybe he is spilling the beans to the security forces right now???

In the eagerness to "jump" to damning, or supportive conclusions, we are very particular about what statements to accept and what statements to reject.

And do you not see Rice's "word of thanks" to Syria as a clear "come on" can we talk sign? She could have just said that "the State Department is still invistigating the matter"!!

Are they seriously considering turning the page over, or is it just another big hurry to patch things up and a try to appease Syria in order to "use it" to soften its stands on a couple of important issues in which "intimidating Syria" did not work.

Is the baloon begining to deflate after failing to fly??

At 9/20/2006 01:45:00 AM, Blogger EngineeringChange said...

Josh, the google search feature that Ammar has on his website would be a very nice addition to your site.

At 9/20/2006 02:19:00 AM, Blogger t_desco said...

James Baker to the rescue? Well, at least they are talking to the Syrians:

"The independent panel, led by former Representative Lee H. Hamilton of Indiana and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, said it would make detailed recommendations to President Bush and Congress after the midterm elections.

The group, formed at the request of Congress and with the approval of the Bush administration, visited Iraq for four days this month. Members said they had met with more than three dozen Iraqi officials, including Mr. Maliki. The group has also met with Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Panel members expect to meet soon with an Iranian official, whom they did not identify, with the Saudi ambassador to the United States and with the foreign minister of Syria."

At 9/20/2006 07:01:00 AM, Blogger norman said...

People who doubt the attack at the American embasey propably think that the Us gov with Jewish help orchestrated the attack at the wourld trade center to start wars in the Iraq and Afganistan.

At 9/20/2006 09:27:00 AM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

I personally had enough with this Pope subject but I thought that this article was worth sharing. Note in particular this quote:

"Islam can adapt to democracy only if the Koran is radically reinterpreted"

For the record, it has been reported that this Pope is an avid student of the religion of Islam.

>By Daniel Williams
> Sept. 20 -- Nine years before Pope Benedict XVI
>delivered implied criticism of Islam in a speech last week and
>ignited angry Muslim protests worldwide, he expressed skepticism
>of the religion's commitment to tolerance.
> Benedict, the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, told an
>interviewer in 1997 that Islam is organized in a way ``that is
>opposed to our modern ideas about society.''
> The German-born pope provoked an inter-faith crisis Sept.
>14 when he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor who said, in
>part, ``Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and
>there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his
>command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'' The
>result was a round of condemnations and protests in Muslim
> ``One has to have a clear understanding that it is not
>simply a denomination that can be included in the free realm of
>a pluralistic society,'' Ratzinger said in an interview
>contained in ``Salt of the Earth,'' a book published by Ignatius
>Press in 1997.
> The 79-year-old pontiff's words last week attracted
>criticism not only from groups hostile to the West but from
>secular Muslim officials who are normally friendly with Western
>governments and the Vatican. They demanded an apology.
> Terrorism
> Many Muslims believe their religion is unfairly tarnished
>by association with terrorism. Violent groups seized on the
>opportunity to justify promotion of a do-or-die clash of
>civilizations. The controversy may make dwindling Christian
>communities more ill at ease in their Islamic surroundings.
> In the West Bank Palestinian town of Nablus, vandals threw
>firebombs at two Catholic and one Anglican churches. In Somalia,
>gunmen shot and killed a Catholic nun who helped operate a
>hospital. Self-described adherents of al-Qaeda, the underground
>network that has launched bomb attacks on civilians across the
>globe in the name of holy war, threatened to assault Rome.
> Benedict's outspokenness was a departure from the style of
>his predecessor as head of the Roman Catholic Church, John Paul
>II. The Polish pope, in the view of some Catholic observers, was
>willing to skirt deep philosophical issues in the name of
>getting along. Benedict, on the other hand ``is not a PC pope,''
>wrote John Allen, a correspondent for National Catholic
>Reporter. ``He simply does not allow his thinking to be
>channeled by the taboos and fashions of ordinary public
> `Misunderstood'
> During his customary weekly public outdoor audience today
>at St. Peter's Basilica, Benedict said he was ``misunderstood.''
>``I wanted to explain that religion is not violence,'' he said,
>and added that he respected all religions, ``particularly
> The pope first expressed regret for anger at his statement
>on Sept. 17. He said quoting from a ``medieval text'' did ``not
>in any way express my personal thought.'' Vatican spokesmen
>blamed the media for the uproar and said the pope's statement
>was taken out of context.
> Some Muslim leaders and politicians have accepted the
>apology, others haven't. The diverse responses seemed to affirm
>Ratzinger's 1997 contention that discourse with Islam is
>difficult because there is no unanimously accepted mediator.
> ``I think the first thing we must recognize, that Islam is
>not a uniform thing,'' he said in ``Salt of the Earth.'' ``In
>fact, there is no single authority for all Muslims, and so for
>this reason, dialogue with Islam is always dialogue with certain
> In recent years, the pope reiterated doubts about Islam's
>compatibility with Western-style modernity. According to an
>account of a seminar he held in September 2005, Benedict told
>theology students that Islam can adapt to democracy only if the
>Koran is radically reinterpreted.
> Western Culture
> ``The absolute nature of the Koran makes dialogue all the
>more difficult, because there is very little room for
>interpretation, if at all,'' said Samir Khalil Samir, an
>Egyptian-born Jesuit priest and a participant at the meeting.
> The pope has voiced complaints that church calls for
>tolerance and the latitude for freedom of worship in the West
>haven't been reciprocated by governments and religious leaders
>in Muslim states.
> In February 2006, the pope addressed Morocco's ambassador
>to the Vatican, asking for ``respect for the convictions and
>religious practices of others so that, in a reciprocal manner,
>the exercise of freely chosen religion is truly assured in all
> Benedict's suggestion that Western culture, based on
>Christian values, differs markedly from Islam underlay his
>controversial opposition to Turkey's possible admission to the
>European Union. In August 2004, he told the France's Le Figaro
>magazine that Turkey should be excluded because ``Europe is a
>cultural continent, not a geographical one.''
> ``Turkey, which is considered a secular country but is
>founded on Islam, could instead attempt to bring a cultural
>continent together with some neighboring Arab countries,'' he
> At the same time, Benedict continues to call for dialogue
>with Islam. Shortly after his election as pope, he addressed
>Muslim leaders at an inter-religious gathering and said, ``I
>express my appreciation for the growth of dialogue between
>Muslims and Christians. I assure you that the church wants to
>continue building bridges of friendship with the followers of
>all religions.''

At 9/20/2006 10:48:00 AM, Blogger Ausamaa said...

Ehsani 2

Again, thank you for reminding us of the Pope's words. Now those words are something that one can believe in and think about.

As to mr. attasi remarks promoting Bush's remarks over Bashar Al Assad, I just have a tiny comment which might help him get things in prespective: The US is the lone super power in the world and it has managed to get its self -thanks to Dubbya and Co.- in such a mess, while Syria's "inexperienced" Bashar has managed to navigate his "tiny" and "powerlesss and " country through the stormy seas of the New Middle East, lacking oil money, lacking brotherly support, while occupying center stage in the Eye of The Storm. So, can you tell me whose words and actions are more honest, sincere, realistic and credible. Never mind the IQ ratio score of both.

At 9/20/2006 11:20:00 AM, Blogger Atassi said...

You mean Syria's "inexperienced" Bashar managed to navigate our beloved Syria to become the one of the WORLD most isolated county in the world.
Failed us economically socially. I think Syria is capable of producing a better leader " Not a dictator" !!
can you tell me whose words and actions are more honest, sincere, realistic and credible> Not the
Assad's for sure..

At 9/20/2006 11:29:00 AM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

Since when is the degree of survival by leaders of tiny and powerless lands an indication of honesty, sincerity, realism and credibility?

I would argue that if there were a correlation between the two at all, it is perhaps of the wrong sign (negative and not necessarily positive correlation).

If you study the history and current list of world dictators, one can make a case that most of them are leaders of so-called “tiny and powerless” countries in the “eye of the storm”. To say that this makes them honest, sincere, realistic and credible is surely a stretch of the imagination.

At 9/20/2006 01:53:00 PM, Blogger Alex said...

My dear friend Ehsani,

As president Reagan used to say: "Here you go again" ... you still tend to see life as a digital process... ON/OFF ... Black/White ... YES/NO.

So Bashar is consistently either good or bad ... he is either successful or a failure... we can't say "it depends"?

And my other dear friend Atassi,

I have no doubt that there are many talented Syrians out there, but nevertheless, please propose to me names of three Syrians (real people, not imaginary) that you would suggest for a replacement to Bashar.

If other readers here have good ideas, please propose them. I honestly do not have anyone I can think of for now, regardless of how good/bad Bashar is... leave him out of it for now.

And I also know that part of the reason we do not have good alternatives is that the regime in Syria did not encourage political activism. So let us not debate that obvious part either.

So ... who has names to propose?

At 9/20/2006 03:51:00 PM, Blogger Atassi said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 9/20/2006 09:12:00 PM, Blogger Atassi said...

Presidency emerging process will be Syria's challenges during the next period of the "Middle east cold War" were high-risk, threatening dangers and other factors will be playing a good part in the emerging of a possible leaders in Syria. I don't have particular name for you, but as I have been advocating for a long time to reduce the dominant role of the Baath party, then allow the real oppositions groups to participate in a program of transition to a democratic and free society, to facilitate a free and fair election. At that stage you will HEAR the names of the possible leaders

At 9/21/2006 09:51:00 AM, Blogger Ausamaa said...

To Attasi,

Get your six-pack, sit in front of your Tv, tune in to Fox or LBC TV and keep waiting to HEAR the names of possible "Leaders". Possible leaders need grass root movements, unless they come al-Chalabi which is not a concievable possibility in Syria. Apart from the Baath and The Progressive Front parties, no one enjoys such an advantage.
Again, keep the fires burning...

At 9/21/2006 01:35:00 PM, Blogger Atassi said...

Yep, the Baath and The Progressive Front parties are the only game in town for now.
I know for fact, the Progressive Front parties can barely fill a bus with its members count. Shameful system you seem to like!!
Soon they will be gone.
Ps. I don't do SIX-PACK; I like LBC, and despise FOX

At 9/22/2006 03:01:00 AM, Blogger Ausamaa said...

ohhh? Is the Problem now the "Person" of Bashar Al Assad and whi is capable of replacing him?

What a fool I am!!!!

I thought the discussion was about the need to promote Civil Society, a Democratic Process, expansion of civil liberties, the political structure and makeup of Syrian society and other "society and people related issues".

Through most of what I read in the above, it seems that we just want another "President" who is more to our liking, not a "President" who represents a majority of the People. Some are even welcoming and prophecing the possibility of a replacement through a military coupe, forign intervention, or even a semi-indictment by the Al Haqiqa international court.

What exactly do we want??? Change for the sake of change. Similar to Chilli, Iraq or Afghanistan???

Are our good wishes for our country being blured with something else? Are we being used -even without realising it- to promote other agendas?

my apologies, but still, watching LBC of the "progressive" Lebanese Forces of Jaja'a is more damaging than the effects of a carton of six-packs.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home