Sunday, March 13, 2005

Zisser on Asad

A number of people have asked me what they might read on Bashar's Syria in English. Here is an article by

Eyal Zisser, "Bashar al-Asad and his Regime - Between Continuity and Change," Orient, Vol. 45, No. 2 (June 2004), pp. 239-256.
which I have put on the web. It is good and touches on a number of things, like Baath Party elections, not discussed elsewhere.


At 3/14/2005 11:09:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there any significance in Bashar al-Assad choosing to meet Terje Roed-Larsen in Aleppo rather than Damascus?

At 3/14/2005 11:55:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Landis fails to impress again

The title of his latest piece is “1559 is finished”; while in fact the main stipulation of the resolution is being fulfilled while all others are still on the table. It seems like Josh is in a parallel universe if he does not fully appreciate what is going on around him these days.

The EU has labeled Hezbollah a terrorist organization and is prepared to take the necessary actions to “curtail” them.

Syrian troops are set to fully withdraw from Lebanon in accordance with Security Council resolution 1559. A timetable was even set.

Josh then asserts rhetorically: “Perhaps Syria won?” and I’m thinking are you serious? There is nothing but losses these days for the Syrian regime, what have they gained within the last few months? But the best part is how Josh justifies this assertion of victory by stating that most likely Syria can still control Lebanon through its proxies and cronies. So Dr. Landis awarded victory to the side whose potential for losses was just heightened. He even admits to it. That’s great logic.

And the following is by far my favorite quote, and it is sooooo indicative of where Josh is living these days and what he is hearing. Unfortunately you have to have lived in the ME to appreciate this gem.

“In many ways the struggle over Lebanon has been a classic battle between Syria and the US over who gets to own Lebanon. For 30 years it has been in Syria's sphere of influence and viewed as Syria's front door in the region. Israel and the US tried to take it back in 1982 but failed. Now they have tried to take it back again.”

You’re so right Josh, late at night members of the US administration are scheming to “take Lebanon back”. They need it: the resources, the potential, the relevance (these days); shit who can say no to that. And those protestors well if you keep on ignoring them eventually they won’t exist, if you keep on turning towards the East what happens in Beirut will be nullified. After all it’s not about them! It is about the modalities, the stale theories, the old status quo of the so-called American ME academia.

“Only if the Lebanese can agree on how to build an effective central state will that job of referee become redundant.”

Why didn’t you say “strong” central state? You know you wanted to. What
Josh tragically fails to appreciate are the intricacies of the Lebanese system (as usual). The Lebanese spirit cannot be bound by autocratic systems of governance; the 15 year exercise they just went through proves that. It might take a while but their incompatibility with authoritarian systems will always manifest itself. Much like what Iraqis recently have done, the Lebanese have and will always attempt to live in a liberal open and free society that treats all of its children fairly at the risk of jeopardizing “security” and “stability”.

In light of the loyalist demo. my friend sent me this Georges Naccache quote and I think it fits like a glove:

«Qu’est ce que le Liban? Une contradiction chaque jour résolue depuis 1,000 ans… c’est la définition même de notre durée nationale…Notre unité n’est pas une chose toute simple et lisse: elle est un déchirement de tous les jours, elle doit se faire dans le choc incessant des deux grandes force contraires qui se disputent en nous.»

Josh your contempt for Lebanon is sickening man. Michael Young’s piece about Assad’s contempt would apply here too. Don’t fret it man, in a few thousand years the Syrians might become like the Lebanese.


At 3/14/2005 02:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe the events in Lebanon now have turned the Syrian people to back up their leadership more than ever. Consequently, this will go against Bush’s inspiration for a democratic ME! As much the Syrians acknowledge the atrocities had been committed in Lebanon in their name through their kids, they know very well that the anti-Syrian Lebanese now have gone personal against the Syrian people themselves not the Syrian imposed government! Both People know the fact very well though they both tend to ignore it. Syrian’s instinct adheres always to traditional codes such as “Me and My Brother (Sunnie, Alawi, Christians…etc) Against My Cousin. Me and My cousin against the Outsider (Even a Sunnie Lebanese, Khaligy, Egyptians…etc)”. In fact, Syrians always accuse Lebanese as pragmatic libertarians they would rather shoot a bullet in the back of their government instead of taking a bullet for it. Hence, they fought with Israelis against Palestinians. They fought with Syria against each and every one of their own countrymen!!! .So, the feud of the events next door has made the Syrian people to mobilize form demanding more freedom from their leadership to defend the very government that abuses their rights. I hope the grudge won’t get nastier between the Sky –high Syrian Pride and the Lebanese self-proclaimed high culture. Smirking, smearing, filthy lexis both people are very good at them.

At 3/14/2005 03:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I agree with you about Georges Naccache's thoughts about Lebanon. But, here is a question: how can we compare Lebanon in 2005 to that of 1975, of 1946, of 1900, of 1860, of 1832, etc?

When Ernest Renan, the great French orientalist visited the area in the 19th century, the number of Shia families in Lebanon was less than 1,000. This made them, by far, the smallest of the current six main religious communities in Lebanon. Today, if we end up having a census, we would have some significant surprises, as there has been no census since 1932 under the French Mandate.

Reinventing the Lebanese equation today will have to take many considerations in account, other than the Hezbollah and the Shia.

In a piece on SyriaComment, I saw Sami Moubayed's excellent biography of the great Fares El-Khoury: born in Hasbaya, Lebanon, he was Syrian Prime Minister under Hashem (not Noureddine) Atassi; this man is the most famous Syro-Lebanese (or Lebano-Syrian) person of the 20th century. Note that many US (and other) citizens of ME descent whose families claim Syrian origins are in fact Lebanese and vice versa.

I think Fares El-Khoury illustrates this: in any part of Lebanon, in any community in Lebanon, you will find cousins, relatives by marriage (etc) of people who are Syrians (the famous actor, Doreid Lahham, a Syrian Shiite, has a Lebanese mother).

So, when I hear that some of the Lebanese elite are raving with contempt about the Syrians, I feel that some of it is against Lebanon, besides being against our ties with Syria.

The current tensions between Syria and Lebanon are political and that only; some are due to factors that are outside Syria and Lebanon. People that are happy when they read neo-con intox about the Syrian regime are being misled: they are trying to make Lebanese people like us take the bait; our negative experiences with some Syrians should not give them any kind of ammunition to feed us with regime change ideas. We have to remain cautious; I am older and I have been there; we should dialogue with each other, including (for me, a Christian), learning to understand and like my Shia compatriots.

And, when I hear the same neo-cons saying "winds of change" every day, I can only foresee confrontations and a return to the civil war. The next time they say "winds of change" we should tell them to go fart in the face of somebody more gullible.

As to Syria, I hope that their young President is able to carry his reforms without interference: with the Syrian military out of Lebanon, he can now look at the much needed economic reforms in Syria. If the West dictates what to do, they will doom him and possibly (but I think the Syrian people are wiser) bring a civil conflict to Syria, with possible spillover in Lebanon.

PS: I was not convinced by the Head of the Hezbollah when he said that we should remain at war with Israel even if the Shebaa area is given back to Lebanon: his rationale was not logical. But, Albert Mansour made a unique statement about this issue: he said that Lebanon is formed of a unique mosaic that precludes any peace agreement with a state based on a single sect at its' borders. In essence, Israel is the exact opposite of what most of the Lebanese want their country to be, today. If we fail to dialogue with each other, the next imported "solution" will be partition in Lebanon, in Syria, and in Iraq.

PPS: Should Bashar Assad get out of the presidency in Syria? Why not? In due time, a fair election will have to take place in Syria. He can run, and he may lose. But, if he brings in succesful economic reforms, he may win. My Syrian friends here in the US insist that the economy is the most important area to "fix" in Syria.

At 3/14/2005 04:59:00 PM, Anonymous jtpacta said...

To Anon 3:11
O.K., you can't compare today's Lebanon with Georges Naccache's Lebanon. But then, neither can you compare today's Syria with Syria as it was when someone like Fares Al Khoury could be named Prime Minister. As another comment on this site pointed out a few days back, the recent engineers syndicate elections in Syria did not come up with a single Syrian Christian. And why the insistence on calling every Lebanese that did anything in Syria a Syro-Lebanese. After all, for years, the Saudi representative to the United Nations was a Christian Maronite Lebanese, and no one called him Saudi-Lebanese

At 3/14/2005 05:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope Dr. Landis isn't watching TV right now.

At 3/15/2005 01:41:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Landis,

Any comment about what Robert Fisk wrote lately concerning the assassination of Mr. Hariri?
It seems that Syrian and Lebanese authorities are deeply involved in the plot.

At 3/15/2005 11:11:00 AM, Anonymous Friend in America said...

To 11:55AM Anon,
Very good comments, but let's get rid of the paranoia. The only interest the US, the EU, UK and others desire for Lebanon is for the Lebanese people to elect its own govenmental leaders free of influence and manipulation by outsiders, and then to establish the democratic institutiuons that these people deserve. Why is this the interest of the US? Because it sets an example for others in the middle east who feel oppressed. For the Lebanonese people their resources will no longer be siphoned off by a foreign power.
The implication that all of this is the result of American coniving is can be spoken only by ignoring the truth. There would have been no western activism here if Hairi and other opposition leaders had not lobbied the UN for Res 1559, which wa sponsored by 2 of the security council members at their request. And they went to the UN because of Syria's manipulation of Lebanese constitution last August. Any other interpetation is pure paranoia.

At 3/16/2005 05:29:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Objectivity when it comes to the ME; no way! Who needs that?

Friend in America,

Pretty slick homes!

Here is the most rational scenario

The US needed cover and justification for its war in Iraq; it found that in the movements in Egypt, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia out of which Lebanon is the most visible. It so happens that such interest in Lebanon coincided with the interests of a liberal, spontaneous, and democratic movement aimed at ending an occupation. Tell you what, screw all that mumbo jumbo about those millions who are asking peacefully and democratically for their basic human rights and let us concentrate on America and its motives.

At 3/16/2005 04:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Motives for the US in Syria:

-Democracy: BU ll SH it.

-Israeli agenda: Bingo.

PS: Aleppo was a very interesting choice for the Assad-Larsen meeting. The city was the center of the Shiite Hamdani state a millenium ago, and is purported to be the city of origin of ibn-Nusayr, the man who created the Alawi sect. When the French completed their census in the early thirties, there were many Christians (indigenous; many from the sandjak; and quite a few "expatriates" from Turkey), a large Sunni population, a few Jews, and Turkomans in the suburbs. Aleppo is as cosmopolitan as Damascus, but Damascus has an edge: it is closer to the Western influence of Beirut, and the gateway to tourism in Lebanon for Saudis and others. Aleppo has produced one President (Amine-el-Hafez, the Syrian, not the previous Lebanese Prime Minister) and many Prime Ministers. It also has a far better cuisine than Damascus (by tradition, the Ottoman Sultan selected many of his cooks from Aleppo). If you want to impress a Scandinavian envoy with good cuisine, it is best to offer sweet-and-salty Aleppo fare than today's globalized pseudo-Syrian fare from Damascus.
Oh! And Aleppo happens to be a city where the Syrian authorities have decided to bring a "higher profile" to.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home