Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Syria will Emerge Stronger from the Lebanon Debacle

Syria will Emerge Stronger from the Lebanon Debacle
Joshua Landis
July 26, 2006
Syria Comment

The present Israeli campaign in Lebanon will strengthen the Syrian regime. Many analysts are beginning to come to this conclusion. Why?

1. The three states in which the US has promised to create democracy and a better future – Palestine, Iraq, and Lebanon – have experienced chaos, growing radicalism and a decline in their economies. Syrians see this and will cling tighter to their regime, whether they like it or not.

2. Democracy, the American export, has been further discredited in the eyes of Middle Easterners. The US promised Lebanon’s new anti-Syrian democratic coalition that it would be protected and backed by Washington in its struggle with Damascus. This turns out to have been a false promise. Democracy led to weakness and division in the Lebanese government. Washington and Israel lost patience with the Lebanese government after little more than a year and chose to punish it for not showing the characteristics of a powerful dictatorship that can destroy opposition groups. Washington has turned against its own democratic experiment. The lesson is that Washington cannot be trusted, is not sincere about democracy, and will not back its Arab allies against Israel.

3. Authoritarianism as a model of government in the Middle East and Bashar al-Asad’s interpretation of events over the last three years will be strengthened by the fighting in Lebanon and weakening of Lebanon’s democratic government.

a. Iraq: Asad opposed the Iraq intervention, making him an enemy of the US. President Bush explained this was because Asad was evil, did not care about his people, and feared freedom and democracy. President Asad responded to this attack by proclaiming that President Bush did not know what he was doing in Iraq and would bring death, not freedom, to Iraq. Not only would the US fail to bring democracy to Iraq, Asad insisted, but it would cause the breakup of Iraq and civil strife.

b. Syria: Bashar also offered a very un-Baathist interpretation of Syrian society. He argued, in essence, that Syria was too backward to sustain Western-style democracy. He claimed that “tribalism” had haunted Syria for 2000 years and that sectarianism was too deeply rooted and too close to the surface of society to permit Western–style freedoms. If unleashed, these ancient loyalties would cause civil war and chaos. In short, he argued, in contrast to Bush, authoritarianism is necessary in the Middle East, where national consciousness remains weak. Asad’s analysis proved correct for Iraq. Many Syrians, unsure of their ability to live together civilly, believe he may be correct. The failure of America’s Iraq experiment has legitimized and strengthened Asad’s form of government rather than weaken it. The domino theory has redounded in Asad’s favor, re-legitimizing authoritarianism, rather than undermining it.

b. Palestine: The unwillingness of the West to countenance or negotiate with the freely elected Hamas government in Palestine, which has been backed and supported by Syria, strengthens Asad’s stand. It puts him on the side of popular sentiment and America on the side of stifling it. It has increased Asad’s popularity inside Syria and on the Arab street.

c. Lebanon: Asad told Syrians that following Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon, the country would return to sectarian in-fighting and civil war because it was not a nation, but four battling sects. He justified Syria’s occupation of Lebanon by arguing that Syria was the key to stability there and offered Lebanese protection from themselves. It turned out that Asad was wrong about Lebanese society, but not wrong about the war and the benefits of Syria’s defense umbrella. Although the Lebanese factions and sects were not able to agree about most policy decisions or the future direction of the country, they did agree not to return to civil war. The economy continued to grow, foreigners continued to return, and investments in Lebanon grew. The promise was that Hizbullah, although it retained its arms, would be integrated within the Lebanese system and slowly be drawn into the project of rebuilding Lebanon.

When Hizbullah went off the reservation to kidnap two Israeli soldiers, the West abandoned its faith in Lebanon and decided war was a better solution for Lebanon’s problems than nurturing democracy and economic growth. Hizbullah had to be destroyed, not coddled. “The cancer,” as Israel’s chief of staff put it, had to be “spit out” as a malignant, foreign body, not integrated as a part of the nation. In embracing this policy, Washington ironically, also embraced Asad’s interpretation of Lebanon – that it is not a nation and democracy offers no solution to sectarian communalism.

Asad’s prediction that Lebanon would regret abandoning Syria’s defense umbrella for America’s defense umbrella may be correct. Syrians already believe this and now believe that Asad’s prediction was correct. If Lebanon is pushed back into civil war by Israeli and US demands that it disarm Hizbullah, Asad’s prediction that Lebanon is not a nation and will slip back into civil war will turn out to be correct. Many Lebanese had said that Asad would “break Lebanon” in order to make his predictions come true. Ironically, Israel and Washington have broken Lebanon to make Asad’s predictions come true. So far Bashar al-Asad has proven to be a better judge of regional character and politics than President Bush.

4. The Syrian opposition will be silenced by growing dislike of the United States. The Syrian opposition needs America to be an exemplar for democracy just as it needs US moral and political support. Today, US support for the opposition discredits it. As a result, Syrians are less likely to trust the proposals for democratic or pro-Western change being put forward by the opposition. A month ago there was considerable attention being paid to Asad’s crackdown on the opposition. Not today.

5. The further erosion of US popularity and legitimacy will increase regional indulgence of the Asad regime. The use of force by Washington as a first resort for solving regional problems make’s Asad’s justification for using force all the more normal and acceptable.

6. The Saudi Arabian and Egyptian governments have been seriously embarrassed by Washington in Lebanon and will be less able to pressure Syria on America’s behalf in the future.

7. European support for the Bush regime’s policies in the region has been further eroded by the Lebanon fiasco.

8. Lebanon was the major pro-American source for applying moral and political pressure on the Asad regime. It will no longer play that role.

a. The UN investigation into Hariri’s murder, which terrified the Asad regime over the last year and held out the promise that the UN would place economic or political sanctions on Syria, is effectively dead. Not only will it be impossible for the investigative team to make further headway in a country torn by war, but Lebanese politicians will have less interest in antagonizing Syria to further American goals in the region.

b. Lebanon needs Syria more than ever. It needs Syria to be kind to the many refugees who have found protection and safety in Syria. The Lebanese economy will be increasingly vulnerable to Syrian pressure, as will Syrian politicians as they try to restrain Hizbullah’s radicalism and military wing.

c. The weaker the Lebanese government, the more subject it is to Syrian pressure.

d. Morally, the Lebanese will have a harder time accusing Syria of being a failed state and presiding over a failed economy, as they did previously. After all, what is the alternative? Lebanon?

9. Hizbullah’s relative success in blunting Israel’s incursion into Lebanon also blunts America’s threat of force. Its ability to persist in its missile launchings has seriously undermined Israel’s defense posture. It proves that determined non-state actors and “Arab resistance” can alter the balance of power in the region. This will make Syria and Iran all the more confident in challenging the West and Israel, just as it will make them less likely to cower in the face of Washington’s threats.

10. Bashar al-Asad will be seen as the come back kid following this episode. Already many diplomats are calling on Washington to pick up the phone to Asad in order to see what the Syrians can do to help arrange an end to the Lebanon debacle.

But even if President Bush decides not to call Asad, Syria’s young president has proven that he is skilled at dodging American bullets. Washington has tried to bring down his economy through sanctions, twist his arm with UN investigations, and isolate him or make Syria irrelevant in regional politics. So far President Asad has been able to outfox Washington. He has refused to accept the “Qaddhafi-like deal” John Bolton demanded of him last year without paying a price. He has weathered American military threats, economic sanctions, multilateral diplomacy, and now the unleashing of Israeli military might. Washington hasn’t much else to throw at him. If Bush doesn’t pick up the phone to Asad, it is quite likely the next administration will have to.

33 Comments:

At 7/26/2006 03:51:00 PM, Blogger Fares said...

Joshua,

Your analysis is very optimistic, but I am sorry to say that you talk like the baathist regime. Syria will suffer enormously from this crisis and events will tell. I don't think the Assad regime will survive another year.

I say
Freedom for all our prisoners,
No to false solidarity with Lebanon
PEACE and enough playing with Lebanon and inflicting miseries on the people of the middle east.

 
At 7/26/2006 04:02:00 PM, Blogger Alex said...

This comment has been removed because it linked to malicious content. Learn more.

 
At 7/26/2006 04:47:00 PM, Blogger suppertime said...

Your analyses are becoming a comical. Always the same note, "Everyone just needs to talk to Assad." Over the past few months, I've enjoyed watching you fit square pegs into the large round holes of your thesis.

 
At 7/26/2006 04:48:00 PM, Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

Josh, I agree with some of your post, especially what you say about the US, but I don't agree on this "Lebanon needs Syria more than ever."

In fact, Lebanon needs to be sealed from Syria and Iran more than ever.

 
At 7/26/2006 04:55:00 PM, Blogger Philip I said...

From Philip I [viarecta.blogspot.com}

Joshua, you are right about one thing: the regime has survived to fight another battle. Let's not dwell on who engineered this dubious success and at what price to the Lebanese nation. Murderers can be brilliant at executing their plans!

As to the mix of arguments that you present in favour of autocracy in the Middle East, you overlook a key point. Democracy in the Middle East has been nipped at the bud everywhere it it has tried to establish roots.

It does not suit Israel to have a democratically elected Hamas government because Hanniya has exposed her hypocracy and so she has undermined him by arresting his ministers, blasting his ministries out of existance and destroying the Gaza infrastructure with the help of the radical elements within Hamas. How could you possibly pass a judgment of failure on the Hamas government?

Lebanese democracy exposed the deep divisions within Lebanese society but that is no reason to destroy it as a mechanism for Peaceful national dialogue. Hizbullah, Iran and Syria chose to fight their battle with Washington on Lebanese soil and with Lebanese lives. How could democracy develop against such deliberate destruction.

In Iraq, democracy is not the cause of sectarian masacres but the American invasion and its continued presence are. Had Saddam Hussein been a democrat, Iraq would have become one of most advanced nations in the Middle East.

In Egypt, Algeria and Jordan democratic elections revealed widespread support for Islamist parties. This was scary for the autocratic regimes and the West generally. However, the shift towards Islamist parties is a reaction to political corruption and economic failures. Jordan was wise enough to allow the Muslim Brotherhood to fight the elections and win. Now they have fallen out of favour with the electorate because, as it turns out, they do not have all the right social and economic answers to the country's problems.

I am surprised that you come out in favour of autocratic rule, knowing full well that it means a slow death for social and economic development. It is clear that despotism drives away the middle classes, stifle free thought and corrupts governments.

There is nothing inherently faulty within any society that prevents it from having an open system of government. There is something seriously faulty in the minds of those who think they can play God with the lives of other people.

 
At 7/26/2006 05:46:00 PM, Blogger Ameen Always said...

I agree with Dr. Landis's analysis, and as long as the Syrian people perceive the opposition groups as more dangerous than the regime, the regime will survive and thrive. Many opposition groups rallied behind the crazy sectarian and narrow minded Moslem Brotherhoods, and as a result they lost any credibility they might have had. In addition, Syrians would have wanted to see a good American example in Iraq, and were eager to see such an example. Now, they not only see Iraq as a quagmire and a field of killings and torture, giving the US a very bad image, they also see the same on the Lebanon side as Joshua said.

Joshua proved to be much more far sighted than any analyst in Syria's affairs, and as such, I recommend again for the Bush administration to have him aboard. May be he can help reverse such an image, and portray instead the true image of the US that the failure in Iraq, and the blind support of Israel have deformed and damaged.

 
At 7/26/2006 06:52:00 PM, Blogger Ivanka said...

I agree with Mr Landis on the "internal" points he has mentioned. I think right now more Syrians beleive in President Bashar than ever. The regime has also gained great credibility.

Moreover, Syria can not accept an extremist Islamic regime, like the MB. In a country with 4 million christians and sunnis and shias the MB can not rule and should not rule.

I however do not agree on the "international" points. The thing is, Syria is loosing it's arguments and bargaining cards one by one.

The reason is, the US does not want to bargain. Every time Syria will try to play a card the US will not talk, it will destroy that card. The current US administration does not care about the price, not in civilian lives and not in economical loss.

 
At 7/26/2006 08:03:00 PM, Blogger President Bush said...

Hello Bashar. This is President Bush. Do you have couple minute to talk to me, please, please, please? Ok thanks for you kindness and your time. Go ahead and name your price. OK, OK, so first you want Bramirez off your back. That’s an absolute must you say? You don't like Mr. Siniora and the 14 March. OK, no problem we will appoint a junior dictator over Lebanon. You also want US market to sell Persian carpets. No big deal. We like Persian carpets in the US. They also will sell us H-Bombs? That's interesting. How about Iraq? I see. You would like to have another dictator next door and the US out of Iraq. Hey guys over there in Iraq hold on executing Saddam we still have a job for him. How about the Golan? No? We all thought you really wanted the Golan back. I see your point. The Golan is the milking cow!! Interesting twisted logic!!! You also would like to see Hamas government in Gaza and no MB’s in Damascus? Why? Did you say because Hamas was Democratically elected?! So after you get all these you will have Hamas and Hezbollah stop firing their firecrackers?! Good deal!!!
Josh, what is your commission?

 
At 7/26/2006 08:10:00 PM, Blogger majedkhaldoon said...

I do not know how far Isreal is planning to go inside Lebanon,nor I know how long the war will last, but All wars come to an end, and the future,is very unoredictable,I think that the Arab people are begining to show their anger.

 
At 7/26/2006 08:16:00 PM, Blogger Johnny Freedom said...

Israel and USA is the creator of muslim terrorist in the world.

Israel and USA try to solve political issues by threats, force and violence and all they create are death and destruction.

Israel and USA should just leave the middle east and let the arabs handle their own affairs.

 
At 7/26/2006 08:22:00 PM, Blogger EngineeringChange said...

Excellent Analysis Dr. Landis. Indeed some commenters have scorned Assad on the basis of percieved faulty ideas, but he has turned out to be correct in several key foreign policy issues: Iraq, Hamas and now the protection Syria offered Lebanon.

A question that needs to be asked is would Israel attack and destroy Lebanon like it is now if the Syrian troops remained in Lebanon? I think the answer is an emphatic no. So while Syria did plunder Lebanon and take advantage of her in a sense, it must be argued that it also did provide safety to Lebanon through the Syrian presence.

And George Bush and his neo-con team leaves office in two years. I say Assad will stay the course until then. While I do not like our strategic relationship with Iran one bit, nothing that America has to offer is any better. The neo-cons in this admin, on Israeli advice, regard Assad as evil and henceforth would not ever give Syria under Assad a chance to be a Jordan or Egypt even if Assad wanted this. This incident has proven that until Syrian grievences are met in full (ie returning the stolen Golan Heights) Israel will never live in peace.

Alas our civil liberties and freedoms will suffer in Syria under the emergency law which I believe will stay in place until peace is made with Israel.

Fares, no chance the regime falls within the year--how do you think that will happen? MB? Khaddam?

Bush policies in the middle east are a failure. I think the next US admin hopefully will recognize this and try to change them. I only hope Iraq doesn't spiral out of control...

 
At 7/26/2006 08:44:00 PM, Blogger Fares said...

"George Bush" your comment is hilarious and so funny in these tragic days.

Regarding questions about regime change: here is what I just posted on Ammar's blog::::

Great post Ammar, I was thinking the same way about France. The Syrian regime has expired and I think France will ensure that a transition happens pretty soon.

The regime has commited grave mistakes regarding Lebanon and also how to deal with the Americans as well as choosing a looser Ally like Iran. There is no cold war anymore but it seems like people in the ruling circles as well as blind supporters of the regime still think that there is still the soviet union to clean up all kind of messes.

I think if Israel continue to suffer more losses, they will score a political victory by bombing Assad's palaces and Assad won't be able to retaliate and that could be a good reason for a military coup by someone in the army which will be given cover by France.

Assad senior survived with France's approval, junior came to power with the help of France. Junior turned out to be an idiot and he will pay a heavy price for his stupidity and for burning up LEBANON.

end.

Not to mention that all the arab regimes won't cry about Sharaa idiotic policies...Syria in 3 years has managed to lose every single sincere friend or ally. They will end up with nothing. Regional support does not come by black mailing people and instigating troubles.

BTW check this from my cousin

 
At 7/26/2006 09:00:00 PM, Blogger Ameen Always said...

Fares:

You want Israel to achieve a change of the Syrian Regime for you?

That is reason enough for the regime to get even stronger among Syria's people. We don't want crazy people calling for Israeli planes to bomb any target in Syria. People like you blacken the faces of all the opposition, so go on, and keep talking and dreaming!

 
At 7/26/2006 09:12:00 PM, Blogger Fares said...

Did I say, I want Israel to achieve regime change? you seem to be twisting what I said.

I said: Israel will turn the heat on Syria once it starts loosing in Lebanon gerilla war. Which will open up the way for some army general to size power.

Opposition is out of this man...chill

Also Assad survived last year thanks to Israel's blessing so blind people of Syria open up your eyes and see the obvious.

You are talking about the people of Syria bonding with their rulers like they have any power or any say. The people of Syria are in big jail and they can't open up their mounth fearing to go into little dark jails. Solidarity my ass...

 
At 7/26/2006 09:57:00 PM, Blogger norman said...

This confirms Joshua,s analysis Richard Armitage: U.S. Must Talk to Syria
by Renée Montagne



Tarik Tinazay
Richard Armitage, in a January 2005 photo, is a former deputy secretary of state. He is currently president of Armitage International, a consulting firm in Arlington, Va. AFP/Getty Images




From the Interview
Hear highlights of Renee Montagne's interview with Richard Armitage.

Armitage Has Doubts About a Peacekeeping Force for Lebanon
Armitage Says United States Should Talk to Syria About the Crisis

Morning Edition, July 26, 2006 · Creating a peacekeeping force for southern Lebanon is a centerpiece of the U.S. plan to end fighting between Israel and Hezbollah. But it will be difficult, if not impossible, according to Richard Armitage, a former deputy secretary of state in the Bush administration. Armitage says a potential solution to the crisis lies in a step the United States has avoided: talking to Syria.

"I find a lot of chatter about this peacekeeping force, but I find very few people putting their hands in the air saying they've got troops who are willing to do it," Armitage says in an NPR interview. "There are very few nations who have sufficient troops to take on a mission, whether it's a robust mission of disarming Hezbollah, which would mean fighting, or whether it's a mission of being interspersed between the two warring camps."

If such a force were deployed, Armitage says, it would have to be in place for years: "No matter the mission, it would be a long-term involvement because I don't think you can expect the government of Lebanon or the Lebanese armed forces to be able to do any of the heavy lifting for a long time to come."

Armitage says U.S. officials haven't used "all the levers" in finding a solution to the crisis, including having Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talk directly to the Syrian government. Syria and Iran are considered to have influence on Hezbollah.

"I think [the Syrians] want to get involved," Armitage says. "I think they want to become more central to the solution and you might as well give them the opportunity."

"We get a little lazy, I think, when we spend all our time as diplomats talking to our friends and not to our enemies," he adds.


Related NPR Stories
July 25, 2006
Rice Leaves Israel Without a Peace Deal
July 23, 2006

 
At 7/26/2006 10:53:00 PM, Blogger President Bush said...

Fares,

Thanks for guiding me to this Ammar blog. That is a very interesting article indeed:

http://amarji.blogspot.com/

Just keep quite on bombing secrets. We want the man inside not an empty palace!!!

 
At 7/27/2006 01:02:00 AM, Blogger Paxillusion said...

Sorry Mr Landis but your analysis is a bit 'off course' (dans le champ):

1-These 3 states you mentionned are in chaos thanks to who? Assad's regime of course, who let the terrorist pass to Irak and gave them a save haven inside syria. Who made 16 or more explosions in lebanon murdering politicians, journalists and anybody who daring opposing this fascist regime, who helped zib'allah and pushed them to do what they have done, who helped hamas for years and gave them trainings and arms.

2- Syrian people has been opressed for so many years that they becamed used to this type of oppression, (shut your mouth and walk, leave politics for the baathist) So change and freedom can also be freightening for somebody who don't even know what this means even in their wildest dream. How can you expect a revolution from this kind of people.

3- Only cowards or zombies can live for so long under such a regime.

a- Asad opposed the war in irak because he knew he was next and not for his love for irakies. And he poured all kind of terrorist and criminals to go and make havoc in irak killing and beheading innocents.

b-Keeping the masses under educated make them memorize the sayings of assad's father in order to get a diploma, force them to stay in closed societies ruled by tribal systems and you will still have in 2006 people still living with the mentality of the 10th century.

c- Forcing hammas to not declare the existance their acceptance of israel as a state (which they were ready to do) and you get the actual conflict.

d- Lebanon will never regret the syrians they are the ones who are regretting (all the money and goods they used to steal and suck from lebanon) If it was not from the syrians interference the lebanese dialogue could have had good results. The UN investigation will get the results needed and Syria's regime will get convicted sooner or later. Basshar regime is doomed and is strugleling for its survivor so making trouble in lebanon is his only chance to loosen pressure on itself. zib'allah are holding the israelis on the ground and giving them a good lesson so the israelis need to hit somwhere that hurts so they can say that their war had results and those results will come from bombarding Asad's palaces on his head.

4- This is the main problem for the syrians as there is no political alternative in that country beside the radical muslims this is the only reason that this regime is still in place. The only other alternative for syria is a militiray coup d'etat.

-You need to put this the other way round the syrians needs lebanese money from all those refugees that are charged more than the regular prices and quadrupling the prices for the gulf tourists fleeing lebanon.

Asad's regime is doomed it is still standing on the shadow of its terror and this shadow will soon fade away.

There will be no peace in the ME as long as there is regimes like syria's asad and iran's ahmednajad.

You are so deeply plunged that you only see the ME through syria's vision which is so myopic for this era.
Only time will tell what history will be.
Peace to all.

 
At 7/27/2006 02:29:00 AM, Blogger Alex said...

Rosner from HAARETZ today

But the most decisive argument in favor of talking with Damascus could be a public-relations argument: The U.S. administration is finding it increasingly harder to explain its refusal to talk to Syria. According to one U.S. official, the government has few tools left for dealing with Syrian President Bashar Assad, and in the absence of an attractive plan for waging war against it, the only thing left is jaw-jaw rather than war-war.

 
At 7/27/2006 04:47:00 AM, Blogger sandroloewe said...

Dear Joshua,

I really do not understand how can you be day after day more and more optimistic about Syria. When I am in Syria I feel more and more pesimistic about the future, and I see expressions in the faces of the people were impossible to see 2 or 3 years ago. There is nothing left, just destroy Israel or be destroyed.

Even dimplomats are beginning to feel insecurity about the regime and its politics which have no stability nor clear apparent direction (except war and confrontation ?)

 
At 7/27/2006 05:05:00 AM, Blogger t_desco said...

&fSidney Blumenthal on the "new domino theory":

The neocon resurgence

Once again the Bush administration is floating on a wave of euphoria. Israel's offensive against Hizbullah in Lebanon has liberated the utopian strain of neoconservatism that had been traduced by Iraq's sectarian civil war. And the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, has propelled herself forward as chief cheerleader. "What we're seeing here," she said, "are the birth pangs of a new Middle East." At every press conference she repeats the phrase "a new Middle East" as though its incantation is magical.

Her jaunt to the region is intended to lend the appearance of diplomacy in order to forestall it. As explained to me by several senior state department officials, Rice is entranced by a new "domino theory"new "domino theory": Israel's attacks will demolish Hizbullah; the Lebanese will blame Hizbullah and destroy its influence; and the backlash will extend to Hamas, which will collapse. From the administration's point of view, this is a proxy war with Iran (and Syria) that will inexplicably help turn around Iraq. "We will prevail," Rice says.
The Guardian

And yet there were some reports suggesting that for the World War III crowd (Gingrich, Perle..., Cheney?) Condoleezza Rice is not "hawkish" enough.

You can still listen to the NPR interview with Richard Armitage here:

Richard Armitage: U.S. Must Talk to Syria
NPR

One of the reasons why Colin Powell and Richard Armitage had to go: they were far too reasonable and too competent for this administration.

Armitage reminds us that diplomacy is about talking to people: " "We get a little lazy, I think, when we spend all our time as diplomats talking to our friends and not to our enemies," he adds."

Compare this to the "ill-informed" comments by Tony Snow:

Memo to Bush-43: Not all talks with Syria pointless
Houston Chronicle

3b. "He argued, in essence, that Syria was too backward to sustain Western-style democracy. He claimed that “tribalism” had haunted Syria for 2000 years and that sectarianism was too deeply rooted and too close to the surface of society to permit Western–style freedoms. If unleashed, these ancient loyalties would cause civil war and chaos. In short, he argued, in contrast to Bush, authoritarianism is necessary in the Middle East ...".

I agree with the analysis, but not with the conclusion. India and (more recently and perhaps rather surprisingly) Indonesia are good counter-examples of functioning democracies in even less homogeneous countries. Because of the danger of sectarianism any change towards greater freedom and more democracy would have to be gradual and cautious (and at best be accompanied by economic prosperity and stability) in order to be successful (note that Dardari's economic reform plan also includes concepts like “stakeholder participation”, “good governance” and “civil society”).
I would argue that the (very real) threat of foreign intervention is the main obstacle to any positive development in the direction of more freedom and democratic participation.

 
At 7/27/2006 10:24:00 AM, Blogger Atassi said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 7/27/2006 10:34:00 AM, Blogger Atassi said...

Alex,
in this difficult time, all we need to do is pray for the lost lives, be united and supportive of the Lebanon's and Syrian peoples. We all feel the pain and suffering imposed on them. May God be with them all and help them in this difficult time,
Josh,
it’s too early in the game to declare the winners and losers out of this conflict. I could tell you one thing. Syria and Iran finally cashed the Hezbollah card, and looking to for the payback. I am not sure at what currency the payment will be!!

 
At 7/27/2006 12:40:00 PM, Blogger Ameen Always said...

'Lebanon pride':

You are a true reflection of your political group in Lebanon ( every body knows which one it is). You need to train your brain for a higher IQ.

 
At 7/27/2006 01:17:00 PM, Blogger Philip I said...

From Philip I [viarecta.blogspot.com]

Joshua said that Assad:
"argued, in essence, that Syria was too backward to sustain Western-style democracy. He claimed that “tribalism” had haunted Syria for 2000 years and that sectarianism was too deeply rooted and too close to the surface of society to permit Western–style freedoms. If unleashed, these ancient loyalties would cause civil war and chaos. In short, he argued, in contrast to Bush, authoritarianism is necessary in the Middle East, where national consciousness remains weak."

Whether these are Assad's exact words or not, they sound like a school teacher who comes into the classroom and declares all the children to be ignorant and naive and descendent from monkies.

Let's assume for a minute that he is right. As a teacher in a position of authority and trust, is it not his duty to teach the children the basic principles of free thinking and democratic behaviour?

It looks as if the teacher is happy to take the children's money, drill them daily into singing his praises and admiring his pictures, smack them in the face when they ask an intelligent question and beat them up when they do not march to his orders.

 
At 7/27/2006 01:50:00 PM, Blogger Fares said...

well said Philipp.

Atassi, I love how you say "Syria cashed Hezbolla"...very smart evaluation.

 
At 7/27/2006 07:54:00 PM, Blogger Ford Prefect said...

t_desco,
You have provided excellent analysis. I would add, however, that gravitation to true liberal democracy must be led by true liberal economic policies coupled with a very strong independent judiciary. Implementing democracy where true liberal institutions have not reached maturity is a recipe for disaster. I see that Syria is genuinely moving in that direction.

 
At 7/27/2006 08:02:00 PM, Blogger Ford Prefect said...

"Lebanon Pride",
I have read that now there is a medicine on the market that can help sorry cases like yours. I would recommed a visit to your nearest veterinarian as soon as possible.

 
At 7/27/2006 08:58:00 PM, Blogger Ford Prefect said...

Here is a balanced view from Israel worth reading:

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/742257.html

Make sure you read the feedback to get a glimpse of the Israeli public opinion.

 
At 7/27/2006 09:02:00 PM, Blogger Fares said...

Nasralla is getting screwed by Iran
PEACE To Lebanon

This is specially dedicated to you Alex, Norman and Joshua
even Khaldoun who is being blinded by the false Islam of Iran and Nasralla

 
At 7/27/2006 10:09:00 PM, Blogger norman said...

This is propably helpfull to see how smart Asad is even in the eyes of Syria,s enemies,dispatches: Notes from different corners of the world.
Syria Stays Above the Fray
Assad to Ahmadinejad: "You're a great guy, Mahmoud, but I'm just not that into you."
By Rebecca Sinderbrand
Posted Thursday, July 27, 2006, at 3:16 PM ET
Syrian President Bashar AssadDAMASCUS, Syria—The historic Abu Nour Mosque has been, by reputation, one of the Syrian capital's shining examples of moderate Islam. For many years, it was the spiritual home of Sheik Ahmad Kuftaro, the grand mufti of Syria, who spent much of his career proclaiming Christians and Muslims "brothers under the banner of Abraham" and participating in interfaith dialogue with figures like Robert Schuller of California's famed Crystal Cathedral. Kuftaro's sermons may not have always been models of Western-style multicultural sensitivity, but by regional standards, he was a model of religious tolerance.

Last weekend, as the Israel-Lebanon conflict dominated discourse here, Sheik Salah Kuftaro—the former grand mufti's son, who has said in the past that political Islam has no place in the mosque—sounded a different note in his weekly address at Abu Nour. Hamas and Hezbollah, he said, represent the middle ground. Their members are not terrorists; in fact, they present a path young Muslims should aim to follow. The younger Sheik Kuftaro laid out a litany of recent Muslim grievances, a thread of outrage that ran from the alleged desecration of the Quran at Guantanamo to the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed to the violence that continues to rage in Lebanon. Jihad, he concluded, was the calling of all Muslims.

Clearly, Sheik Kuftaro has his finger on the pulse of this town. At this moment, Hezbollah is the toast of Damascus. Giant banners hanging over the Souk al-Hamidiyeh laud the group's leader, Hassan Nasrallah; stalls in the open-air market offer T-shirts, posters, and banners featuring his likeness, along with the ubiquitous Hezbollah logo—a clenched fist grasping an AK-47. Last night, a grinning merchant in the souk proudly displayed his selections: multiple T-shirt styles, in assorted colors and sizes, each bearing a portrait of the Hezbollah leader proffering subtle variations on the same tight-lipped smile. (Beside me, a woman in a black hijab seemed more interested in a stack of T-shirts that bore an English-language motto: "Parental Warning: Explicit/Original Thug.")


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For Syrian President Bashar Assad, the outpouring of public support for the militant group, in Syria and throughout the Arab world, offers both promise and peril. Hezbollah's current popularity is one reason the regime he heads feels that the breaks are finally coming its way at the expense of U.S.-backed governments like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. "The U.S. blocks the cease-fire, which is like saying, 'Right now, Hezbollah is defending Arabs, and the Americans are providing the bombs that kill them,' " one official told me yesterday. "Nothing about this is hard for people to understand."

Syria hasn't yet joined in the fight to its south—but that isn't because Hezbollah hasn't tried. The group has attempted to draw Syria into the conflict through means both indirect (via rumors that Israeli jets had bombed areas within Syria) and far more pointed (Haifa, Israel, has been bombarded with Syrian-made missiles). Still, Syria has so far refused to take the bait.

Why the pragmatism? Some observers here believe that it's nothing more than a transparent play to enhance Syria's influence in post-conflict Lebanon. Others point to a larger external concern: Syria is just, well ... lonely. The country's economic fortunes have suffered since the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri last February; the resulting international isolation has forced it further into the Iranian axis. A restrained Syrian response could warm up the international cold shoulder. Besides, the government is not eager to be drawn into an unwinnable fight it didn't ask for. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinajad and the mullahs have been aching for Assad to make a more tangible show of support for both Iran and its proxy militia. Assad's reluctance to enter the fray on those terms seems to be an unmistakable signal to his eager ally: You're a great guy, Mahmoud, but I'm just not that into you.

Obviously, Syria can't, and doesn't particularly want to, completely turn its back on Hezbollah; the usual rent-a-crowd demonstrations on the streets of Damascus, and the vitriolic statements from the Assad regime have happened as expected. But the country is clearly keeping its options open. Syria may offer more support for Hezbollah than the United States and Israel are happy with—but U.S.-backed regime-change here, despite the tough talk out of Washington during the last few days, now seems more unlikely than ever. In fact, in light of the failure of the Rome cease-fire talks, which excluded both Syria and Iran, it seems inevitable that Damascus will ultimately play a role in negotiating a lasting cease-fire agreement.

Some Israelis are even calling for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to enter into negotiations with Assad that could include Lebanese issues—a development that has not been lost on leadership here in Damascus. In a deteriorating situation—where options range from the merely unappetizing to the mind-blowingly awful—some observers say the return of Syrian influence might be the best Lebanon can hope for.

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At 7/28/2006 02:00:00 AM, Blogger souria el hora said...

Joshua I respect your sympathy for the syrian regime, but don't you think this is gone a bit too far... I am not saying you shouldn't support bashar but do it in a reasonable manner. It's just too much, this site is getting more and more like an english version of cham press .

 
At 7/28/2006 11:38:00 AM, Blogger Syrian Nationalist Party said...

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4.: 30 AM

Zawahiri said:

وقال "ان القذائف والصواريخ التي تمزق اجساد المسلمين في غزة ولبنان ليست اسرائيلية خالصة ولكنها تاتي وتمول من كل دول التحالف الصليبي". واضاف "ولذا يجب على كل من يشارك في الجريمة ان يدفع الثمن". واكد ان "كل الدنيا ميدان مفتوح لنا، فكما يهاجموننا في كل مكان نهاجمهم في كل مكان".

So why Attack Americans, why attack innocent civilians in Europe, How is the general public in America is responsible for the acts of Criminal and Evil Jews that have hijacked and controlled their country policy and institutions, bankrupted their nation and stomped on all their Liberties that once was the true shrine of Freedom and Democracy in the world until the evil Jews took over after WWII, downhill from there on to this abyss. Yes they are responsible for being ignorant and brain dead for allowing Popov’s to brain wash them into believing in this ZION shit and Israel is America Friend, all the other crap that is churning out of AIPAC factory. But they are in fact responsible for the murder of Moslem anymore than Abdullah is, that keeps the oil flowing to them, their economy and deposits all the Moslem People cash into the Evil Jews bank accounts, rather than invest it all over the Islamic world and founding a Moslem Army that is strong enough to stand to those Crusaders and Gypsies. Instead he stand making deals to humiliate us in Lebanon and in Syria.

Why don’t you have your boss Bin Ladin first shut down all those Saudis and other Arab traitors and Crusaders puppets oil installations and pipelines. After all, this is really, in fact, what is financing all these missiles that are killing Moslems in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq. Moslems are being killed daily by keeping the Judeo-Crusaders economies running and by the Billions of Dollars deposited into the Crusaders Bank accounts by these Demonic Moslem traitors thugs oil revenue. Leave the innocent people alone please and go after the real solution. Otherwise, you are just another traitor Moslems that are serving the crusaders, by advancing their cause and giving them the cover to attack and kill more innocent Moslems.

Better yet, why not go and free your country of Egypt from this Mubarak clans and arm few thousands Moslem Brotherhood, you don’t know, one day the Ranch hands in New York will get the wake up call, the sad news that she never beloved will come. Mubarak, his kids and entourage drowned in a blood bath. Shit happened, all the time you know.
Don’t be proud of 9 /11, you achieved nothing except brought disasters on the Moslem Nation and killed a lot of innocent people, made Americans that were neutral in the past to become anti Moslems, played right into the hand of the Evil plotters, the Jews and Crusaders. Became a tool, a primary instrument and the only vehicle they used to carry out the carefully plotted design for the region.

Don’t repeat the same bad mistake again. Look at Iraq, see how the Pentagon set up and finance all those various militias on both sides to carry out the genocides, while they sit watch and laugh that they are managing Iraq so well, using ignorant people of Iraq to do the Job they wants, exterminating all Iraqi, take the Oil and never get charged with War Crimes.

Use your fucking head. Free your nation and People, don’t be an instrument of terror in the hand of the Crusaders, Zionists, Jewish Bankers and Oil conglomerates..

 
At 8/05/2006 10:52:00 AM, Blogger Iraq & Israel, one for peace said...

Yes, Islamists, as Hizbollah, are not loyal to their country, always they follow others, we have crazy group called Sadr and they should be trashed on Iran.
I think Iraq and new Arab countries should be with Israel, to end suffering of civilians forever in this region.
read more: http://www.iraq-israel.blogspot.com

 

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