Monday, July 31, 2006

What Role Can Syria Play in Lebanon?

What role can Syria play in the resolution of this conflict?

Joshua Landis
Interviewed by John Dagge
Saturday, July 29, 2006

What role does Syria have to play in the resolution of this conflict?

Syria has a big role to play. Trying to shut it out of any agreement will only guarantee that future cease-fires are temporary and fragile.

The Lebanese root cause of this problem is that the Shi'ites are terribly under-represented in parliament. They have been kept at the bottom of the Lebanese political heap despite being the largest sectarian community in Lebanon. They accepted this position in the 1989 Taif Accords, largely because Syria allowed them to keep their weapons. Since Syria left Lebanon in 2005 the other Lebanese communities – Sunnis, Druze, and Christian - have been demanding that Hezbollah give up its military weapons. At the same time, they have refused to allow the Shiites their proper constitutional role in government. They can’t have it both ways. If a deal to disarm Hizbullah is to be made in Lebanon, the Shi'ites, who represent 40 per cent of the population, will have to get close to 40 percent representation in parliament. This is going to be a major headache.

America professes that it wants a democratic solution to the Middle East, but it is refusing to promote true democracy in Lebanon. This is an analogy to the Hamas problem in Palestine and it is one of the reasons why Hezbollah and Hamas find themselves on the same side and why Arabs throughout the Middle East are rooting for them. So long as there is no solution to this fundamental injustice, there will be no peace in the Middle East. American and Israeli military might is no replacement for equity, justice and democracy.

The way Hezbollah has justified maintaining its arms is by focusing on its resistance role. If you want to eliminate that role of resistance, Hezbollah is going to have to be brought into the political center of Lebanon’s government so it becomes an established power, not an outsider throwing stones at a government dominated by others.

Syria helped broker the Taif accord, along with Saudi Arabia and America. The Americans were interested in maintaining Christian power in Lebanon, which they succeeded in doing by making sure that the Christian seats in the Lebanese parliament were not reduced below 50 per cent even though they constitute roughly 40% of the Lebanese population. The Saudis were interested in maintaining Sunni power in Lebanon which they succeeded in doing by making the Sunnis the most over-represented community in Lebanon - they were allotted the same number of seats as the Shi’ites even though the Sunnis are half as numerous. So in effect, a Sunni Lebanese is worth two Shi’a Lebanese in political terms. The Syrians went along with the deal because they wanted to look like good actors and, most importantly, because they were going to disarm the Sunnis and Christians and allow the Shi’ites to maintain their military weapons to act as a resistance to Israel. This allows Syria to maintain pressure on Israel to give back the Golan Heights.

All the outside actors were happy and the Shi’ites were compensated for their under-representation in constitutional power by gaining extra-constitutional powers in the form of the right to bear arms. Now the international community, Saudi Arabia and the US most particularly, wants to disarm Hizbullah without compensating the Shi’ites. Syria is not going to stand by and watch this happen. This also means that the Taif Accord is now effectively dead.

Syria is important in Lebanon because most of the opposition political figures look to Syria for support and political backing and this holds true right across the political spectrum. It is not only Hezbollah, but also General Michael Aoun - a Maronite Christian - as well as opposition Sunni leaders in both Tripoli and Beirut who resent Hariri's dominance of their community and feal uneasy about Lebanon's radical turn away from Syria.

There are some Western analysts who claim Syria is irrelevant. This is nonsense so long as close to half of the Lebanese politicians look toward Syria for political backing. It has to be remembered also that the Lebanese trade with inland countries has to go though Syria, so Syria stands over Lebanon with a formidable economic hammer. What is more, Syria has the ability to funnel arms to Hezbollah and Palestinian groups as well as radical Sunni groups which allows it to destabilize Lebanon if its interests are ignored.

What do you think Hezbollah's reaction to the insertion of an international force into Southern Lebanon will be?

They will refuse this outright. I don’t think anyone believes that this international force is a solution in its own right. It's the lowest common denominator and it’s a way for the West to pretend that they are doing something while giving Israel time to pound the Shi’ites. No Western European government is going to allow its troops to be thrown into Lebanon without a political agreement. If the Shi’ites have demonstrated one thing of late, it is that they can kill people who are trying to hurt them.

America has tried to sideline Syria for some time now and many would argue with some success. In light of the present crisis, can this continue?

The United States has not successfully isolated Syria. They have made life miserable for the Syrians and they have succeeded in making sure Syrian diplomats can not talk to anyone in Washington, and that Bashar al-Asad finds it difficult to meet with world leaders. But the Syrian government has effectively dodged every meaningful American bullet.

The Americans have tried to strangle Syria economically and they have failed. They have tried to keep foreign countries from engaging in commerce with Syria or meeting with the Syrian president. This has been partically successful and a hinderance, but the Europeans have refused to place meaningful economic sanctions on Syria, much to Secretary Rice's dismay. Syria has turned to the East to fine trade. It has turned to rich Gulf countries to find investment. The days of American hegemony in the Middle East have gone. Bashar al-Asad has developed good relations with resurgent Russia and China. He has excellent relations with Turkey and Iran. The Saudis and Egyptians are at the very least polite to him, perhaps begrudgingly, but they don’t write him off as the Americans do.

Indeed, over the last year we have seen the Americans become more isolated in their attempt to shut out Syria. In the last several months more Europeans have been opening their doors to the Asad regime. The Spanish Prime Minister has been talking to Asad, the new Italian Prime Minister has been demanding that diplomatic lines again be opened with Syria. British papers, such as the Observer, are demanding that Britain open a dialogue with Asad even if Washington refuses such logic. The German government has also made noises about seeing what Syria wants. The US has lost the battle to isolate Syria. If the Lebanese crisis accomplishes anything for Syria, it will be to leave Washington's anti-Syria policy in tatters.

Is America likely to swallow its pride and re-engage Syria?

I have a hunch that it will not. It is going to try to deal with this crisis through the Lebanese government. We saw Secretary Rice in her first Middle East tour avoid Damascus. Instead she used the Shiite Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Nabih Berri, to sound out Hizbullah. In the past, going to Damascus was always one of the first stops of US diplomacy. However, in avoiding Syria, Washington will complicate life for itself and give the Europeans a greater role in the region.

For me, however, the big question, as a ceasefire comes into place, is where are Lebanese sentiments headed– who are they going to support; who are they going to blame. The Christian right is claiming that there will be a day of reckoning before the dust settles and that Hezbollah will be punished by the rest of the sects. The pro-Hezbollah people are counting on the opposite. They believe that the Hariri government and others who punished Hezbollah by aligning themselves with Israel will bear the brunt of public dismay and anger. Nicholas Blanford (Christian Science Monitor) goes through pearly polling results, which suggest that across the sectarian communities, Lebanese are beginning to side with Hezbollah. While that may be a temporary phenomenon - a result of Israeli bombs - even anti-Syrian politicians such as Walid Jumblatt are beginning to suggest that Hizbullah will be the winner. America and the neo-cons are betting on the fact that Hezbollah is going to be punished by the rest of Lebanon and isolated. My hunch is that the opposite is going to be true and the neo-cons are painting themselves into an ever-smaller circle here.

Despite this, I think you will see them push ahead in an attempt to isolate Hezbollah and build up a Lebanese coalition against them. That has been the thrust of US policy over the past two-years and I expect it remains the present policy. George Bush is yet to blink in the face of failure and I don't see why he will star blinking now in Lebanon.

Are there parallels with the latest conflict and the War of 73 – the war that brought Arabs back to the negotiating table?

I’ve read the analogies but I would see this more in terms of 1982 than ‘73.

Sadat, who found himself politically irrelevant, decided to give the Israelis a bloody nose in order to be taken seriously. He succeeded in doing that and was offered the Sinai back and now Egypt is the strongest America ally in the region and is at peace in Israel. There is no reason to believe that the Syrians will not accept a similar outcome. The major problem with this, however, is that Egypt had the greatest army in the Arab world and was the most important power. Syria has always been considered irrelevant and Israel and the US have always preferred to isolate it rather than give back the Golan Heights. But this is a Pyrrhic victory. Syria will remain a spoiler to any peace plan in the region so as long as it is not dealt into the final outcome. It can be a stabilizing force in the region as many Israeli and American ex-diplomats and intelligence chiefs have claimed. Attempts to write it off as a rogue state or irrational actor are silly.

Are we seeing a new Middle East? Is a fundamental power restructuring taking place?

I think we are seeing a restructuring. This has to do with Iraq changing from a Sunni to a Shi'ite power - from a power that was aligned against Iran and promoted itself as a defender of the Gulf to a power that is looking towards Iran. Shi’ite success looks like it is going to realign Iraq with Iran and possibly Syria against the Gulf. This will fundamentally change the balance of power in the region.

America is resisting this change that it set in motion because it means oil and gas pipeslines will be running from Iran through Iraq and Syria up to Turkey and on through to the EU. Just as importantly, they will be running in the other direction to China, India and Russia. This will reorient world power towards the East. It’s going to pull Europe away from its dependence on the US security umbrella, which is under-girded by US domination of oil markets and oil producers. Europe will become more dependent on powers like Russia and Iran. The stakes are high for American as it loses control of oil. It will not be able to retain its status as the single great superpower; rather, it will become one among equals, which is precisely what Cheney and Rumsfeld are determined to prevent.

Iraqi technical committees have already been meeting with their Syrian and Iranian counterparts plan for these pipelines. This will allow them to challenge Saudi Arabian dominance in OPEC. It’s what you might call an axis of oil – or access of oil - and the Russians and Chinese are eager to connect to it. As I see it, this is the big battle. My hunch is that within five or six years, when Iraq beings to consolidate under a Shi’ite dictatorship, it will not ask American oil companies to run the show, but rather, Russian and Chinese oil companies. For political and economic reasons, Iraqis will want to move away from American domination. Economic imperatives make linking up to Iran and the East logical. Such a combination will be powerful.

What kind of resolution does Syria want to see in Lebanon?

Syria will throw its weight on the side of constraining Hezbollah and working out a political agreement, if its interests are advanced in the process. The most likely way this may happen is if new elections are called in Lebanon.

Many of the pro-Syrian politicians in Lebanon now believe that they will do well at the polls following this conflict. Early polling figures indicate that the Lebanese population is siding with Hizbullah and may be willing to punish the Hariri-led Future Movement that governs Lebanon today. It has been discredited by its American and Israeli allies. Opposition politicians have already begun to accuse the Future Movement of getting Lebanon into this mess and being responsible for the destruction of Lebanon.

Their logic goes along the following lines: by trying to marginalize the Shiites and disarm Hizbullah on orders from America, the Future Movement deserves the blame for dividing the Lebanese and paralyzing the government. Had the Future Bloc eschewed revenge against the Syrians and stuck to the middle road a government of national unity would have been possible. As it was, Hariri insisted on siding with the Americans and elevating Jeremy Feltman, the US ambassador to Lebanon, to the status of proconsul of Beirut. His dictates, whether they were to refuse a Hizbullah appointee the Foreign Ministry, to beat back attempts by the Lebanese government to officially complain to the UN about an Israeli spy ring accused of five political assassinations in Lebanon, or to drive forward the Future Movement’s anti-Syrian policy by repeating ad-nausea that Damascus was the culprit behind Hariri’s murder when the evidence was thin and scuttling Saudi and Egyptian attempts to mediate between Beirut and Damascus, Rafiq’s son traduced his father’s legacy of neutrality and genius for keeping Lebanon out of the region’s wars. Instead to of protecting Lebanon, Hariri made it an instrument of Washington’s war. And to what end? Having refused Hizbullah a real share in government and having failed to defeat them, he offered the country no way forward. The result was paralysis. In essence, he challenged Hizbullah to go off the reservation and provoke a confrontation.

Some Lebanese politicians have already begun to accuse Washington of unleashing Israeli military might on Lebanon because of the Future Bloc’s incompetence. Because the FB was too weak to carry out America’s plan to disarm Hizbullah, Washington turned to Israel to get the job done. The Hariri Bloc recklessly and foolishly put its trust in Washington only to have Lebanon dragged into a conflict he could not control and Lebanon could not win. The subtext to such accusations is that the Future Bloc conspired with Israel, if not explicitly, then tacitly. The silence of the Future Bloc during the first week of Israel’s bombing campaign gives ammunition to such broadsides. Saad Hariri kept insisting that Syria was to blame for the death and destruction rained down on Lebanon by American bombs and airplanes driven by Israeli pilots, even as the Prime Minister of Lebanon, his appointee, tacked in the opposite direction, blaming the US and accusing Israel of war crimes.

Prime Minister Siniora has spoken out strongly of late to condemn Israel and the US. His about-face reflects the mood in Lebanon. He is struggling to distance himself from the US and his political bloc’s destructive policies. No Lebanese politician can cling to Washington and hope for a national role. The US has isolated itself. The Future Bloc has dumped it.

For this reason, Damascus will join the demand for new elections in Lebanon as soon as the dust settles. It will claim to be on the side of democracy, knowing that pro-Syrian politicians, who were pushed from power last year, may well be swept back into office. The key will be the Maronite presidential candidate General Aoun. This will be his moment. He is strong, nationalistic, has a well organized party, and has good relations with Damascus, Hizbullah and the Shiites. He will woo the may Sunnis who are now having misgivings about the leadership of the young Hariri. He has long demanded that Lebanon follow a middle way in its foreign policy – depending excessively on neither the East nor West and maintaining constructive relations with both.

It will be interesting to see how the Aoun-Hizbullah alliance holds up should the Siniora government lose the confidence of parliament. Syria championed Aoun as a replacement for President Lahoud, when the Future Bloc insisted that the president resign. This led Hariri’s bloc to vote for retaining Lahoud, preferring a weak pro-Syrian president, rather than one that could challenge them.

Syria will be happy with a Lebanon that eschews its alliance with the West and enmity for Syria. It would like a Lebanon that is responsive to its security concerns and will refuse to be used as a launching pad for US and Israeli attempts to weaken the Asad government.

This is precisely the reason the US does not want to engage Syria.

Is it likely that from the rubble of Lebanon a wider peace process will emerge?

Nothing points to a happy solution on the immediate horizon, despite the present cease-fire. Neither Republicans nor Democrats in the US have a real understanding of the root problems that have animated the conflict. Washington continues to be enamored by the use of force. In Israel it is the same. Iran and Syria believe that time is on their hands, as do the radical Muslim forces, more generally. So long at the US is unwilling to engage them and seeks to undermine them, they will arm the West’s opponents.

Hizbullah is convinced that the future of Lebanon is in its hands. The Shiites of Lebanon, more generally, will not return to being dirt farmers, as they were in the past. They will insist on their fair share of Lebanon’s destiny – if not through parliament, then at the point of a gun. The big question will be whether the other Lebanese sects are willing to concede real political power to the Shiite community and continue their policy of drawing the Shiites into the center of Lebanese politics in order to domesticate them or whether they will arm themselves in an effort to continue the process Israel has started, which is to weaken them by military means.

The fact that the Europeans and pro-Western Arab regimes, such as Saudi, Egypt and Jordan, have forced the US to call a cease-fire, constrains Washington’s and Israeli’s ability to broaden the war. But as long as President Bush is convinced that Israeli methods are correct, there will be no real solution.

Some European powers have announced that they will contribute troops to a UN force. But they insist that a political solution precede any outside intervention into the south of Lebanon. This means that fighting will continue.

There are few signs that we are closer to a real understanding between the various protagonists. Grandiose military objectives on both sides have been somewhat reduced, but this has not been matched by a willingness of the US and Israel to make serious concessions.


At 7/31/2006 06:58:00 PM, Blogger Fares said...

Kazem my hero
PEACE To Lebanon

At 7/31/2006 07:48:00 PM, Blogger norman said...

Very interesting and informative,thank you.

At 7/31/2006 07:54:00 PM, Blogger Rafik Hariri said...

Nothing left in Josh's pocket except the sectarian card. Let us clear that out. The largest sect in Lebanon according to latest government census is the Sunni sect constituting close to 30% of the population. The Shia are either at par or somewhat less than the Sunnis at about 30%. The Christians are 25%. The Druze are about 10%. The remaining 5% include other minorities such as Armenians, Assyrians and others.

On the other hand Syria is 85% Sunni and less than 8% Alawite. There are some 5% Christians and the remaining 2% account for other minorities.

Therefore the rule in Syria should be for a Sunni and not a member of such a minor irrelevant Alawi sect – that is following your logic Mr. Oaklahoma ‘expert’. You may not like it for the sake of your wife, Josh but this is the way it is.

Bashar cannot go on assassinating political figures to keep himself in power. Syria is much better off going back to its true people, namely the Sunnis!!!

At 7/31/2006 08:29:00 PM, Blogger norman said...

Lebanon should have one man one vote rule if they want denocracy ,and if what Harreri said about the numbers in Lebanon then he should not worry about anything, in Syria we do not want the democracy of Lebanon we are happy with Asad ,he kept us safe while everybody is dieing around us.and for that he proved that he is the smartest of them all.i just hope the Syrians will see that and i think they do if we look at his popularity.

At 7/31/2006 08:56:00 PM, Blogger Ford Prefect said...

Raffia Hiba,
Chill dude, since the 14 March started drinking the Jumble cocktail and the neocons cool-aid, they have made a pact with the devil. So why are you interjecting talk about the sunnis and Alewives in Syria and how is that related to the subject? If you are really crying for democracy and true liberal representations, ask your master, Sheik Salad to renounce his despicable Saudi citizenship in disgust and in support of human and women rights. After all the Saudi regime is the most oppressive, backward, and abusive regime in the world. The Alawite rule in Syria, as repulsive and despicable as it is (shame on Syria), fades in comparison to your Saudi masters. Lebanese should take a step back and forget about blaming the Syrians, the Palestinians, the Iranians, and the Martians for a moment and start thinking about their own miseries.

At 7/31/2006 10:36:00 PM, Blogger Ameen Always said...

Rafik harriri:

Your son ran out of Lebanon with the first bullet in this war, and he took refuge in his palace in Saudi Arabia.

I think you should be ashamed of your son, and his friends!

At 7/31/2006 11:30:00 PM, Blogger Zenobia of the East and West said...


this is a great analysis and account of the issues at hand. Particularly i think there has been hardly enough commentary on the social position of the Shi'a in Lebanon and what is being played out internally by way of their support for Hezbollah. I think nobody give this dynamic enough attention in terms of the social justice and political rights factors at play nor comment on how unrealistic and hypocritical the demands and expectations are for disarmament.

I could say more to praise all the other insightful thoughts you put forward here, but i will leave it at that.

thanx, Zenobia

At 8/01/2006 12:00:00 AM, Blogger Javadi said...

What a load of nonsense in this blog entry. I think Joshua is trying to out-Cole Juan Cole, who has a rather limited political expertise on the Shiites of Iraq. It is not that I find what Joshua writes disagreable. Frankly I expect an academic to come up with better insights and more serious- less speculative analysis.

However, his point that the Taif accord legitimizes Shia arms, is well taken.

At 8/01/2006 12:09:00 AM, Blogger EngineeringChange said...

Excellent Analysis Josh.

I do wish you would have mentioned Palestine though. I think we both agree it is at the absolute root and center of any chance of peace in the middle east. That is why I feel it must always be stated, always be mentioned, in the hope one day whoever is in the Oval Office will actually get it and force Israel to make concessions that allow for a just and lasting peace.

It will take a truly couragous President to realize this would be in all of our best interests, especially Israel.

At 8/01/2006 12:10:00 AM, Blogger majedkhaldoon said...

I do not think isreal military objective has been reduced,the hard liners in Isreal is winning,if Isreal do not expand the war and get Syria involved, then Isreal is defeated,also US is pushing Isreal to get the syrian involved, and Bashar recent comment, increasing readiness of his military, is welcomed in the USA, who wants to push for syrian involvment, I do not expect Syria to make provocation,but they will be pushed to do just that,embarassing Bashar is Isreal next goal,once Syria is involved Egypt will have to get involved, either that or Mubarak will go,next week will be worse than all three previous weeks.

At 8/01/2006 09:36:00 AM, Blogger Egyptian said...

Egyptians will not sacrifice even a chicken for the sake of Bashar. The man is a buffoon and he has been written off by all the Arab governments including Egypt. He wants war then let him fight it on his own.

At 8/01/2006 10:27:00 AM, Blogger Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

Turning a man into a pliant “social” animal takes several years of “upbringing”: you have to remove all traces of humanity from him to produce a full-fledged Israeli sicari swordsman, a passionate Persian pasdaran or a fanatical fascist freak.

Then, and only then, can he join the great horde

For machine-men prefer to hunt in packs

Just like urban gangsters and wild beasts

And they always submit to the pack leader

Be he High Priest, Imam, POTUS or Fuhrer

At 8/01/2006 11:09:00 AM, Blogger majedkhaldoon said...

I believe this is Isreali holocaust against Lebanese

At 8/01/2006 11:22:00 AM, Blogger why-discuss said...

joshua, good analysis of the forces in presence and the various path the region and lebanon will take in the aftermath of the war.
If the hezbollah are able to stand 10 more days and inflict serious casualties( like bombing tel aviv) and Nasrallah is able to rally all lebanese around a 'victory', then there would be a major shift in the lebanese public opinion as long as the inept and dangerous Saad Hariri gets out of the way. Otherwise there could be a backlash against Hezbollah and a radicalisation of the christian lebanese.

At 8/01/2006 11:32:00 AM, Blogger Akbar Palace said...

Dear Professor Landis,

Check out the recent UNSC resolutions regarding Lebanon and I think you'll be able to answer your own question (Syria's "Role").

At 8/01/2006 12:24:00 PM, Blogger Philip I said...

From Philip I []


You have covered a lot of ground. Some of the thoughts you express are quite interesting. However, one argument you make simply does not hold water:

You say: "The Lebanese root cause of this problem is that the Shi'ites are terribly under-represented in parliament... If a deal to disarm Hizbullah is to be made in Lebanon, the Shi'ites, who represent 40 per cent of the population, will have to get close to 40 percent representation in parliament....America professes that it wants a democratic solution to the Middle East, but it is refusing to promote true democracy in Lebanon."

I say: True democracy should never be based on sectarian divides and the root cause of the problem is not Shia under represenation. The root cause is Syria's hegemony over Lebanon.

For 63 years, Muslim Syria has feared the strong cultural and political ties between the Lebanese Christians and Western powers. Socialist Syria has feared the reactionary and capitalist Lebanese. Greedy and corrupt Syria has wanted to use its neighbours as human shields and exploit their economic talents . No wonder most Lebanese, and in particular the Christians, have wanted to preserve the absurd sectarian system of government. This system is all about self-preservation and communal identity and dignity rather than democracy.

True democracy (based on secularism and social justice) can only flourish when the Lebanese no longer fear Syrian hegemony and Iranian fundamentalism. In that sense, Syria can make a big contribution to the resolution of the crisis simply by staying out of Lebanon. That is why it is being sidelined by the West. The only inducement the decent Germans have hinted at is support with economic reforms. This is to encourage Syria to build its own strength rather than persist in leeching and blackmailing others.

At 8/01/2006 12:43:00 PM, Blogger Zenobia of the East and West said...


the sectarianism is older than "Socialist Syria". And, your comment about self -preservation, communal identity, and dignity....has everything to do with any true sense of democracy. Nor is this really different than Joshua's point about the Shi'a. Isn't it true for all parties involved in Lebanon? But the power has been with the Christians and/or pro-westerns pro-colonials. So, I think this ends up a chicken-egg problem, as one could argue that there would have been no room for Syrian exploitation in the first place if the different groups in Lebanon had an equitable sharing of power in their system.
Hell there would really have been no room - if the colonials hadn't separated Lebanon off in the first place or propped up one segment of the society as elites.

I really don't think you can hold Syria responsible for the original sin.

At 8/01/2006 12:45:00 PM, Blogger Fares said...

Could not have said it better days of arguing with people here is over. It is not worth it.

Let Norman live in his safe Syria and everyone else cheer for Syrian control over Lebanon.

Pretty disgusting

At 8/01/2006 01:52:00 PM, Blogger Philip I said...

You are of course right that sectarianism preceded socialism and that it is indeed the original sin in the whole Levant.

The point is that Lebanon came into being as a separate entity in 1943. Syria has never accepted this, the same way most Arabs have never really accepted the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. We can all complain about colonialism (which by the way was inflicted on most developing nations of the world) but continual and blind rejection of the facts on the ground is not a clever strategy. It feeds your emotions, impairs your judjment, leads you to exploiting others and detracts you from developing your own resources and talents.

At 8/01/2006 02:12:00 PM, Blogger Philip I said...


..and one more thing. You retort: "self -preservation, communal identity, and dignity....has everything to do with any true sense of democracy".

I suggest it is the other way round. Democracy allows you to preserve your identity and dignity while requiring you not to undermine other people's identity and dignity. Without democracy and the legal and social welfare codes that underpin it, people will be inclined towards tribalism, which is what we witnessing today.

At 8/01/2006 02:20:00 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Philip you make good points as usual, but I wish you can think of the two sides of the situation.

"Greedy" Syria did not enjoy a one-way beneficial relationship with Lebanon .. why is it that ONLY Syria is expected to not benefit from its relationship with it close neighbor? ... why is it that you do not think of the benefits Lebanon got in return? ... How much would you think it could have cost Lebanon to have its own effective army and security forces for the past 30 years Syria were there? ... considering the high salaries in Lebanon, and the large army needed to over power the many militias, and the Lebanese corruption ...2 Billions per year?

That would have been 60 Billions that Lebanon saved ... much more if you take into account the time value of money.

I'm sure Aussama can give you a longer list of benefits for Lebanon...

Of course there were Syrian corrupt officials who benefited from the relationship between the two countries, but ... who is not corrupt in the Middle East?

Try to distribute the blame .. not everything in the Middle East can be blamed on "Syria".

At 8/01/2006 03:01:00 PM, Blogger Philip I said...


I am fair minded enough and humble enough to acknowledge that not everything is Syria's fault. Lebanon did indeed benefit from Syria's presence and even handedness for a few years during and after the sectarian wars. That was Hafez Assad in his prime, and at his best.

there are enough people singing Syria's praises and clapping the regime already. I do not wage wars on Syria "the nation", to which I belong and of which I am intensely proud, but on Syria's policy excesses and autocracy.

I do not pretend to be any cleverer or wiser than Bashar Assad or Baath party dinasours but I know that Syria will almost always find cleverer and wiser answers through a more open system of government.

At 8/01/2006 04:15:00 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Philip, I have no doubt you are generally fair and reasonable.

You said: "there are enough people singing Syria's praises and clapping the regime already."

I understand and agree ... I do the exact opposite. As long as CNN, FOX, Annahar, Assyasa, my friends Ammar, and Atassi continue to make the Syrian regime look like it is the one and only evil side in the Middle East, I will continue to remind them of Israel's vastly superior violence, Lebanon's superior corruption, Saudi Arabia's superior hypocricy...Khaddam's more frequent mistakes ...

At 8/01/2006 04:30:00 PM, Blogger Fares said...

Alex you don't need to keep justifying your love for the Syrian regime...We got the picture, same position but different excuses every single time.

Syria will never develop as long as we keep treating the monster regime as a little baby that is so weak and need to be defended from its own shadow.

At 8/01/2006 06:14:00 PM, Blogger Alex said...

That's right Fares, I'm a fool.

But you, on the other hand, have the clarity, morality and determination that I do not have. I will envy you forever.

At 8/01/2006 06:25:00 PM, Blogger Fares said...

Why are you taking it as an insult Alex. Did I say you are a fool? I said you love the regime! is that a crime or does it mean you are a fool...

I did not say I am prefect or I am better than anyone don't need to envy me, I am the one who needs to envy you since you seem to be satisfied with almost everything including disasters turned into fake victories.

I prefer people who are natural in communicating their positions and not "mzabzabin" if you know what I mean...

At 8/02/2006 10:39:00 AM, Blogger Alex said...


Did you notice that for the past year I had one consistnet message: the US should talk to the Syrians and make a "deal" with them.

Did you notice that the first day the war started I posted here a question: "What kind of deal can you see between the US and Syria"?

While you were busy instantly rediculing that idea, the recent events eventually convinced Thomas Friedman and a thousand other commenttators to say the same thing.

You'll be NOT happy to know that many people in Washington are now supportive of the idea.

It does not guarantee that this administration will change its ways, but the thinktanks are surely pushing hard for a deal with Syria.

And it has nothing to do with loving the Syrian authorities ...PEACE (your wonderful signature these days) is best reached through talking with the Syrians.

At 8/02/2006 11:22:00 AM, Blogger Fares said...

Alex, Is that Peace that you are talking about (dealing with the Syrians) after Lebanon gets completely destroyed or a little before? How much blood is needed here?

I still haven't seen you waste one tear on Lebanon. Why Do you hate it so much? Have you ever been there? do you have a personal vendetta against some Lebanese who have opened their mouth in the past and said the right thing about Syrian destructive role? are you jelaous that it is Lebanon which is shinning and it should be Syria instead! there was room for both to shine and help each other but Assad does not want and does not care about that...he is still getting his pastries flown to him directly from France.

Do you think Lebanon's destruction is good? what is the point of educating People (like you have always pretended to call for, provided the regime wants that) if one main source of prosperity and open mindness gets genocided?

Then you keep talking about the Saudis and how bad they are but you call for their money to be used building what Assad destroys...what do they owe you? nothing! you seem to forget that Saudi Arabia is a colony of the US and nothing will change that...not Assad and no other figure.

The irony is that Assad is still in power thanks to his Israelis friends who want him to stay...

and about "Mzabzabin" I am not talking about your position regarding Lebanon burning with Syrians watching and may be cheering it on, I am talking about how you called for Freedom of the prisoners but in reality you accepted whatever the regime deemed necessary to do. No protest. You are just a tool used by the regime...not much different from the other brainwashed baathists. Enjoy shaking hands with Buthaina and the other losers that you want to educate the country.

At 8/02/2006 11:49:00 AM, Blogger Nur-al-Cubicle said...

If Ford Prefect comes to honor Landis, so does Nur.

Excellent, clear-eyed analysis that has been hinted at by other academics but never stated so matter-of-factly.

At 8/02/2006 01:38:00 PM, Blogger Fares said...

and Alex since you are fluent in French why don't you check this great lebanese kid blog who is 17, he expresses the war in his amazing drawings.

May it can help you vizualize what is getting destroyed to satisfy Assad's ego.

Don't worry there is nothing against Syria in it.

At 8/02/2006 01:52:00 PM, Blogger Alex said...

That's right Fares,

Thomas Friedman and Jimmy Carter both hate Lebanon when they call for dialogue with Syria... just like me. I was the first Lebanon hater and they just discovered and subscibed to the wisdom of my hate.

At 8/02/2006 02:27:00 PM, Blogger Fares said...

Bil Rou7 Bil Damm Nafdic YA Bashar
Bil Rou7 Bil Damm Nafdic YA Bashar
Bil Rou7 Bil Damm Nafdic YA Bashar
Bil Rou7 Bil Damm Nafdic YA Bashar
Bil Rou7 Bil Damm Nafdic YA Bashar
Bil Rou7 Bil Damm Nafdic YA Bashar


Alex you are lucky you have not lived in Syria for so long. Creative Syria is in your dreams, go talk to the people and see how bad the situation is there...the people there have no choice but to be soddomized...

Then keep looking for people to give you little hope that Syria would be mentioned in the news. Israel made a mistake, they should have went to the source of the problem.

They are all criminals...

At 8/02/2006 02:52:00 PM, Blogger Alex said...

"israel made a mistake, they shoudl have went for the source of the problem"

By answering you today, I did not expect much logic from you, really. I expected to push you until you realize who you are and what drives you.

You are as damaging to PEACE as the other extremists on the other side that you hate.

At 8/02/2006 03:29:00 PM, Blogger Fares said...

I know who I am, and you know what drives me. Seeing an entire country burn to satisfy some idiots egos is horrendus.

As for Assad i wish he is gone yesterday before today. He is the problem not the solution.

36 years in Power from bad to worse. they had their chances, time to step aside and let news ideas flow. There is nothing to save from this rotten regime.

At 8/02/2006 09:11:00 PM, Blogger Zenobia of the East and West said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 8/02/2006 11:31:00 PM, Blogger Zenobia of the East and West said...

Fares..... who you are is a wolf howling at the moon..."it's not fair! it's not fair! it's not fair....and I am fares!.....", but you will be howling a long time.
And it is YOU who is lucky you are not in Syria...because it is not going to become to your liking for a VERY long time now.

It makes me laugh to hear you asks so innocently why Alex takes offense to your initial comment directed at him....
why don't you listen to yourself.... "Alex you don't need to keep justifying your love for the Syrian regime..We got the picture, same position but different excuses every single time”.

"justifying"? "excuses"? "love for the syrian regime" ?

And.......I am the one who needs to envy you since you seem to be satisfied with almost everything including disasters turned into fake victories.

REALLY, Fares...... these hyperbolic and distorted descriptions of his viewpoint - such language- as: - ...Alex is so "satisfied" with "disasters" are not insulting?........ and, you think your twisting language in this manner is not an insult??????? grow up!

English language 101 "LOGICAL FALACIES"......"STRAW MAN" .......defined by creating a distorted and false description of another's viewpoint and then proceeding to rip it down.

Why dont' you go back to picking on Norman, poor Norman....whose viewpoint gets put in your comment on what is "pretty disgusting"........Norman who won't be able to defend himself. Because if you keep up your supposed non-insults....and then linking them on to the other if you are proud!......i will start thrashing you too.

You are dripping with as much righteousness as Nasrallah, my friend.

At 8/02/2006 11:39:00 PM, Blogger Fares said...


Did I ever attack you? I respect you a lot despite not seeing eye to eye on a lot of issues.

Second Alex is a woman but she refuses to mention that...why I don't know.

3rd She is not responding to me wondering on how she feels about Lebanon burning...she does not care!!!!or she does and she blames Israel and Syria is so innocent arming (or allowing to arm) HA with all these missiles that lightened up the conflict. After all I had to cheer for Nasralla a month ago so Kilo can get out of prison, and Nasralla is a great strategist. Don't be fooled by nice languages...I know things would not be fixed soon but hypocrycie I don't like

4 th I was not attacking Norman persay, I was attacking the Syrian position which I have seen before a lot in 89-90 in Canada which blames the Lebanese for everything and use them for Syrian interests, then they got offended when Lebanese fight back, and to top it off after destroying their country, they go Oh Syria we have a Lion that keeps us safe

At 8/02/2006 11:40:00 PM, Blogger Fares said...

anyway enjoy reading this post to understand Syria better

Assad is the natural choice
PEACE To Lebanon

At 8/03/2006 12:17:00 AM, Blogger Alex said...

Fares, you are getting closer and closer to understanding me.

"Alex is a woman but she refuses to mention that .. I don't know why"!

Again you are so sure of your opinions. Just like last time when you where almost sure that Alex and Aussama are the same person.

This might help? ...

French spelling of the name, sorry.

At 8/03/2006 12:40:00 AM, Blogger Fares said...

Who are you trying to fool, I first knew you from Ammar and Josh who said that you added a feminin presence...are you the creator of Creative Syria?

At 8/03/2006 12:48:00 AM, Blogger Fares said...

are there 2 people or just you! I am very confused! and you look young, how come you said you lived in Egypt suring Sadat!!!!how old were you then?

At 8/03/2006 01:03:00 AM, Blogger Fares said...

Ok Alexandre, I owe you a big big apology, I always thought you are a woman for 2-3 months which made me more angry that you tolerate wars and destruction. I guess now your position is a little more understandable, not that I like it.

Here is what confused me
first Camille (It is a unisex name in French I guess)

and second this paragraph
Well, here is to the beginning of a new endeavor. Camille-Alexandre Otrakji, who regularly features as Alex in the Comments Section, adding a bit of spice and much humanity to the discussion, has just launched a new initiative, an electronic think tank to be specific, for discussing Syria-related issues.

also the fact that Alex could be a short for a girl name.

Anyway sorry for the confusion, and I guess I was confused by your style of arguments...

Also don't take my attack on you personal, I know you represent a big mentality in Syria and I am trying to argue against that.
PEACE with you

At 8/03/2006 01:53:00 AM, Blogger Alex said...

PEACE with you too.


At 8/03/2006 02:17:00 PM, Blogger Zenobia....herself said...

oh my god... this dialogue above is priceless!

At 8/03/2006 03:21:00 PM, Blogger Zenobia....herself said...

I didn’t realize how much I could unhinge you Fares, to the point where in your reply to me, your English disintegrated momentarily!….and then you developed an obsession with Camille’s gender!

True comedy for sure! Thanx you for letting me observe your painful and desperate attempt to pull you foot out of your mouth…. IT WAS IN SO DEEP! ouch!

But in the in the process….you really let loose with some other new choice statements…so revealing and uncensored….I cannot help but draw the spotlight onto them!

This was really a beut:
I always thought you are a woman for 2-3 months which made me more angry that you tolerate wars and destruction. I guess now your position is a little more understandable..

Hmm…. So let me get this straight.... in your eyes – women are supposed to be the fountains of all anti-aggressive sentiments and peaceful in nature, and it makes you mad at them if they are not?
Shame on the female Alex for tolerating resistance… after all she is supposed to stand for?????

Ironically, perhaps it is because Camille IS in fact a person whose nature is anti-violence and aggression that led to Ammar saying that he adds a feminine sensibility to our dialogues….
But now that you know he is a MAN… is all so much more “understandable” to you….that he is supposedly a war mongering, fan of disaster, who loves to see Lebanon burning!…..

Great logic Fares…..really….such a laugh you are giving me.

Really….. the finale is the best though…. After apologizing for your confusion over his gender you let slip:
I guess I was confused by your style of arguments...

WOW, again. Really….hmm….so which “style” is this??? The style of a girl?….that recognizably female style of arguments????

I might add here….Fares….that I think I am proof positive that your notions of feminine…. non-aggressiveness…..are a bunch of crap.

But let me be diplomatic for a moment…….shall I ?….. Honestly, I too, am very fond of you at times….no kidding.

But you must cease and desist……from this reckless quest to pin Camille or myself (next in line) to the wall…. insinuating constantly that others who don’t share your utter furor at the Syrian regime…or because we condemn Israel - to be in favor or "excusing" of violence and destruction, to be heartless, stupid, or lacking in moral clarity (as Alex put it).

Frankly, Camille does NOT “represent a big mentality” in Syria…. You seem to miss all distinctions or nuances in his discussions….or of anyone who isn’t simply black and white on the issue of the Syrians.
I, myself….am not of Syria… there is not a religious bone in my body; dare I say, I am a feminist; I am completely and utterly against WAR and killing.
And YET, I cannot help but feel sympathy for the people of Lebanon who support and rely on Hezbollah. I will not insult Hezbollah by speaking as if their only instinct is for selfish power. And I will not insult the Shi’a of Lebanon by speaking as if they are ignorant sheep with no thought in their heads.

I still remain committed to speaking against… the incarceration of political persons in Syria or anywhere else…..BUT this does not mean that I can tolerate nothing of the Syrian system or gov’t.
It would be not only useless, but both hypocritical and full of hubris wouldn’t it?
The United States incarcerates thousands and thousands of its citizens for drug use!… for thievery…. And hundreds in Guantanam without any due process at all, and I object. And the US has wide-scale legitimized legal forms of corporate corruption that steals far more wealth from the population than anybody in Syria ever stole.
But do I advocate throwing out the american government system wholesale?
Of course not.
You might say….but the Americans voted for this system….so it is chosen!!!! The assessment of our free choice here…and exactly how much we agreed to our gov’t or system of wealth distribution is highly debateable.
Alas, this is the dilemma of the ignorance and the tyranny of the majority.

Finally, I have no apologies for standing with Hezbollah on this one whether Syrian power is there too or not. And I hate to break your heart…but the Lebanese as a whole are coming down on that side of it tooo..

Far better than I can speak…. Are the words of the great one….

I am with terrorism
if it is able to free a people
from tyrants and tyranny
if it is able to save man from the cruelty of man
to return lemon, olive tree, and bird to the South of Lebanon
and the smile back to Golan

I am with terrorism
if it will save me
from the Ceasar of Yehuda
and the Ceasar of Rome

I am with terrorism
as long as this new world order
is shared
between Amrika and Israel

I am with terrorism
with all my poetry
with all my words
and all my teeth
as long as this new world
is in the hands of a butcher.

I am with terrorism
if the U.S. Senate
enacts judgment
decrees reward and punishment

I am with Irhab [terrorism]
as long this new world order
hates the smell of A`rab.

I am with terrorism
as long as the new world order
wants to slaughter my off-spring.
and send them to dogs.

For all this
I raise my voice high:

I am with terrorism
I am with terrorism
I am with terrorism ...

Nizar Qabbani
London, 15 Nisan (April) 1997.

At 8/04/2006 02:54:00 PM, Blogger Fares said...


I won't bother to answer your commnet. I did not want to offend your feminism or dislike of Israel or the US. The us is not perfect by any means.

Regarding Camille-Alex and the fact that he is a male or female does not change anything. It is just that I had build the image in my head of that person, a woman in her 50s working for the Syrian consulate which supported Michel Kilo's freedom for one month and then changed her public position after she was told nothing can be done. Also her cold comments about the lebanese war (and the fact that she supported Nasralla 2-3 weeks before, telling me to campaign for him and that if he wins with Aoun then Kilo would be freed), you can research this blog around end of june, beg of july.

I know I build conclusions and what I mentioned in my earlier comments was related to shock about that personality changing. Suddenly to me Camille is a man at a younger age.

We cleared things between us now privately and no need for you to inject your extra zealous activism. I apologized to him and I don't owe you any apology. As for the style of arguments, it was all in my head because of what my imagination was about that person. Don't worry I have no imagination for anyone else (including you) because I don't like to debate many people on blogs, prefer face to face.

As for your Sympathy with HA and hate for Israel, I can understand that completely and I am not an extermist so I share some of that view. But my attitude is that I am very mad at Syria and HA (and Iran) for helping to start this War knowing very well what Israel's reaction would be and the disastrous consequences on Lebanon (including the Shia that I love like my brothers, I and my family have many Shia friends) and the hypocricy of the Syrian government in trying or pretending to help Lebanon now. It is like being an accomplice of killing someone then spending crocodile tears to help. I am not talking about the Syrian people and their sympathy for HA, I am talking about the decision makers in the Syrian circle. I am equally very mad at Israel and the US for all what is happening. I hope that clears my position. If you read my posts on the blog that is the essence of my postings.

Also we went through this path of violence many times in the past and nothing will be achieved from it regardless of a hollow triumph of Hizballa or the perception that Israel is losing. You can vent frustrations in writing or media debates but not with violence and I am blaming both sides here because they know each other very well but the whole end game is political, and the final dance would be on Lebanon's grave.

At 8/04/2006 03:45:00 PM, Blogger Fares said...

Also, I respect woman a lot and I don't consider them weak at all or peace loving in some cases. Condi rice or Hillary Clinton are perfect example of hawkish attitudes.

Also adding a little to the comment above. This war is not only a disaster on Lebanon but it is killing moderation and eroding moderate positions on all sides and fueling extremism and fundamentalism. It is giving more power to clashy regimes. Ordinary People need to understand that life is not just a struggle, it is life with all its good and bad sides and moments, people can make individual choices regarding their life or purpose of it. Wars and conflicts don't let that happen and sometimes don't let people think straight or rational including any of us.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home