The Slide!

Signs continue to bode ill for the future of regional peace and stability. Indeed, it now seems more likely that the recent terrorist attack against the US embassy in Damascus has actually been real, not staged. But note that the Syrian authorities no longer link the attack to Jund al-Sham, the bogus group indirectly set up and “cleverly” manipulated by the Syrian military security apparatus over the last few years. Rather, the attack is now attributed to a new group of Syrian expatriates who have recently returned from Saudi Arabia, with the ideas of a certain unnamed Saudi cleric filling their heads.

The more one think about it then, the more the whole development seems like the case of the proverbial chicken coming home to roost, or an all too predictable case of “what goes around comes around.”

For long the Assads have blackmailed the Saudis, among other “Gulfies,” by threatening terror and mayhem, while relying on their well-known abilities, made legendary in the aftermath of Hama 82, to deal effectively with any potential payback or backlash at home. I dread to think that, seeing that the credentials of the new Assads in this regard have not been effectively established yet, despite the chain of assassinations in Lebanon and the continued crackdown against all opposition at home, there is a real chance that the Assads might yet be called to task for their adventurist behavior in the last couple of years through a new externally sponsored internal challenge (as has often been the case of course).

Indeed, and while many are predicting that Lebanon will be the scene for a renewed regional settling of score, Syria might just emerge as the more likely theater of operations in this regard, or, at least, an additional one (additional, that is, to both Lebanon and Iraq, if not Afghanistan as well. Through in Somalia and parts of the Sahel for good measure).

Seeing that none of the major players currently involved, especially Iran, the US, France, Israel and Syria, is likely to reverse its particular policies helping pave the way to this impending showdown, with all the external and internal implications of it, the only way that I can see to spare Syria from the looming mayhem is for the Assads to be taken out through an internal move, that is, to put it more precisely, a coup. This is probably what former VP Abdul Haleem Khaddam had in mind when he called upon the Syrian military to rebel against the Assads, using the commemoration of the October 73 “victory” as an occasion to do it.

I say, while it might be very tempting to shoot the messenger in this regard, it will do people well to heed the message itself. Otherwise, we are almost assured of disaster.

Admittedly though, the likelihood of anyone being even capable of heeding any such message at this stage is next to none. The weakest players on the scene are, nonetheless, strong enough internally to survive an immediate challenge. Or so it seems. Good for them, bad for Syria.

For if we are to avert the impending disaster, someone gotta give: if not the Assads, who? And if not now, when?


On a completely unrelated note, I would like to thank Yaman Salahi for reminding me that I am actually an author, and not a political analyst.

20 thoughts on “The Slide!

  1. If not the Assads, then all of the above. “compromise”? “diplomatic solutions based on give and take?”War is quite likely of course, but peace and no-peace/no-war is also likely:The Syrians are waiting until the Bush and Chirac teams leave office.The Americans, French, Saudis, some Lebanese, and Israeli hawk are waiting for “the Assads” to be toppled somehow.The Iranians are waiting until their scientists finish their nuclear project.The Kurds are waiting until the whole area is in real chaos (so they can simply declare their Free Kurdistan)The Palestinian extremists are waiting for their numbers to overwhelm the numbers of the Jews in Palestine (Israel)And I’m waiting for the day when we are again led by stronger and wiser leaders who know how to step back when the make mistakes.

  2. Alex-I love your last sentence…and it applies to much more than the leaders. This is the essence of change and progress…realizing “it” ain’t working and having the morality and humility to say “whoops” and take a different path.This is why I like dialouge and do not like debate. The latter is about “winning”… the former is about a discovery of the truth, which of course, can be quite elusive.That being said…how many, besides maybe like a Gorbachav, have said…”ah..whoops”.

  3. I’m and immigrant and dedicated reader for your blog since you started. I was glad to know about your novel and I’m eager read your novel. I would like to suggest to you something I thought of after visiting the Syrian ambassador site. I would like to see a biographical site about Syrian artists, writer, actors and all sensitive people who lived since the independence of Syrian, to record in this site their suffering and the pressure and prosecution they suffered from the regimes. The promotion of the artists by the ambassador to the Syrian artists is nice but weird, it would be nicer if he help them to express themselves instead of repress them as a representative to tyrannical regime with a dictator having his pictures all over the walls, the shops and the view of the people preventing them from breathing freedom and from expressing themselves.

  4. Howie,I have to tell you that the Syrians and Arabs should be reading Haaretz closely. I can not but respect and admire the total impartiality of Haaretz.I will post another article which you might not agree with, but the fact it appears in Haaretz gives me hope that Israel still has in it somewhere the democracy and freedom we all seek for the rest of the Arab world.Now if only the Israeli governmetn can be as just and moderate as Haaretz.The Mystery of AmericaBy Gideon LevyIt happens once every few months. Like a periodic visit by an especially annoying relative from overseas, Condoleezza Rice was here again. The same declarations, the same texts devoid of content, the same sycophancy, the same official aircraft heading back to where it came from. The results were also the same: Israel promised in December, after a stormy night of discussions, to open the “safe passage” between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. This time, in what was considered the “achievement” of the current visit, Israel also promised to open the Karni crossing. Karni will be open, one can assume, only slightly more than the “safe passage,” which never opened following the previous futile visit. Rice has been here six times in the course of a year and a half, and what has come of it? Has anyone asked her about this? Does she ask herself? It is hard to understand how the secretary of state allows herself to be so humiliated. It is even harder to understand how the superpower she represents allows itself to act in such a hollow and useless way. The mystery of America remains unsolved: How is it that the United States is doing nothing to advance a solution to the most dangerous and lengthiest conflict in our world? How is it that the world’s only superpower, which has the power to quickly facilitate a solution, does not lift a finger to promote it? What happened since 1956, when the U.S. made Israel withdraw from Sinai overnight with a single telephone call, immediately after the “Third Kingdom of Israel” speech by the strongest Israeli leader of all times, David Ben-Gurion? Now, as the occupation continues for years, with a government no less dependent on the good graces of the U.S. than in the past, why is America a bystander? Countless trips by presidents and secretaries of state, peace initiatives and peace plans aplenty, from the Roger’s Plan to the Road Map, via “reassessment,” fruitless talks and flowery declarations, pressure and promises, discussions and decisions – and nothing has happened. And in the background, a fundamental question echoes, without a response: Is America at all interested in bringing about a solution in the Middle East? Is it possible that it does not understand how crucial it is to end the conflict? As things appear, America can and does not want to. No government in Israel, and surely not the most recent ones, which are terrified of the American administration, would stand up to a firm American demand to bring the occupation to an end. But there has never been an American president who wanted to put an end to the occupation. Does America not understand that without ending the occupation there will be no peace? Peace in the region would deliver a greater blow to world terrorism than any war America has pursued, in Iraq or Afghanistan. Does America not understand this? Can all this be attributed to the omnipotent Jewish lobby, which causes Israel more harm than good? The declared aim of U.S. policy in the Middle East is to bring democracy to the region. For this reason, ostensibly, the U.S. also went to war in Iraq. Even if one ignores the hypocrisy, self-righteousness and double-standard of the Bush administration, which supports quite a few despotic regimes, one should ask the great seeker of democracy: Have your eyes failed to see that the most undemocratic and brutal regime in the region is the Israeli occupation in the territories? And how does the White House reconcile the contradiction between the aspiration to instill democracy in the peoples of the region and the boycott of the Hamas government, which was chosen in democratic elections as America wanted and preached? The U.S. also speaks loftily about peace. At the same time, its president warns Israel against any attempt to forge peace with Syria. Here America is taking a stance that not only fails to advance an accord but even undermines it. Ever since it began to give Israel a free hand to impose the brutal occupation in the territories, it has become a party that bequeaths undemocratic values to the entire world. Where are the days when there was still concern in Jerusalem about the U.S. reaction before each military operation? Israel then thought twice before every liquidation and each arrest. Every demolition of a Palestinian home and each nocturnal groundbreaking of a settlement raised fears about how Uncle Sam would react. And now – carte blanche. There is a blank check for every belligerent action by Israel. Should this also be called an effort for peace, for democracy? The recent years have not been good for America. From “the leader of the free world,” it has become detested by the world. Not only do South Africa, Asia and Africa feel strong animosity toward it, most of the public opinion in Europe has also turned away from it. Is anyone in the administration asking why the world loves so much to hate America? And what implications will this growing global feeling have on the strength of the U.S. in the years ahead? Can the dollar, the Tomahawk and the F-16 provide an answer for everything? In the Middle East, the U.S. has an opportunity to fundamentally change its image, from a warmonger to a peacemaker. And how does the U.S. respond to the challenge? It sends Rice to tell the excited Ehud Olmert how she falls asleep easily on her unnecessary and ridiculous flights to and from the Middle East.

  5. Alex, I do not want to put words in your mouth but it appears clear to me that the leader you aspire to is neither democratic nor accountable. In my book government is for the people and of the people i.e government officials are nothing else but agents for the will of the electorate. (Remember that agents can be recalled at any time and are not even entitled to serve a specific term).

  6. alex , Do you think that President Asad will give an interveu to Haartz ,and do you think that it will help the Israeli public toward pushing their gov to make peace with Syria ,may be you can call Dr Mustafa ,he might relate the note and arrange for the interviu.

  7. Israel is moving against Syria,Israel and Syria – Is War Coming?Assad and Ahmadinejad – A Hitler and Mussolini with nothing to smile about.By Joel LeydenIsrael News AgencyJerusalem—-October 8……Syria President Bashar Assad stated yesterday that the Syria military is now preparing for war with Israel. This statement leaves many wondering what the Syrians have been doing before today?The eye doctor turned dictator of Syria badly needs glasses. During the second Lebanon war this past summer, Assad and Syria allowed Iranian military personnel, weapons and Katusha rockets to flow from Iran to Hezbollah fighters on Israel’s border with Lebanon. Before the war, Syria allowed arms, Iranian military and rockets to flow into Lebanon to be used against Israel.Damascus, Syria has been serving as the headquarters for Hezbollah, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and a host of other Islamic terror organizations fighting US forces in Iraq and taking daily aim at Israel. Hezbollah is the same group which gave us the murder of 241 American servicemen – peace keepers, who died in a terror suicide bombing at Beirut airport in 1983. Syria has and continues to “harbor and support” terrorists which are bent at destroying anything which is not Islamic.And Assad now states that Syria is preparing for war? Syria has been in a state of war with Israel since the tiny and democratic Jewish nation was created in 1948. Syria continues to expand its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. The Syrians can now manufacture several hundred tons of chemical warfare agents per year at four separate production facilities. In late 2005, Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that Iran was providing technical assistance to help Syria develop the means to produce VX and Sarin nerve agents and mustard blister agent. Even more worrisome is a U.S. intelligence report issued in May 2006 that says Pakistani investigators have confirmed reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that the covert Pakistani supplier group headed by A.Q. Khan “offered nuclear technology and hardware to Syria.” Syria conducts nuclear research at three facilities located at Dayr, Al Hajar and Dubaya.Any action that Israel would now take would be a defensive one. And it would be greatly overdue.The best time to strike Syria would be now. The weather has cooled off from the searing Middle-East summer. And we have another two months before the rains begin. Ground forces do well when the earth is dry. Tanks and personnel carriers don’t get stuck in cakes of mud.At Israel’s army headquarters in Tel Aviv, there must be dozens of contingent plans for a war with Syria. Will it be what we expect, an October war or will we surprise everyone and find ourselves outside of Damascus as the clouds and rain move in.If anyone dares to think about the use of non-conventional weapons being deployed by Syria and Iran, then a winter war with rains deluding the chemicals would fit the script.Assad told the Quwait newspaper Al-Anba yesterday that Israel could attack Syria “at any moment.” That “We (Syria) must remain ready at all times. We have begun preparations within the framework of our options.” Assad also said he believes Israel has abandoned the peace process.The last thing that Israel wants is a war. A war with Syria, Iran or any nation is just bad business. It keeps the tourists and venture capital investment away. On the other hand, Syria is begging for a war. Having supplied Katusha rockets to Hezbollah, rockets which poured down on Israel civilian cities and towns was not really an act of peace or a good will gesture being made from Syria. Israel would rather be trading bread and butter with Syria than bullets and bombs. But Assad wants a war.Assad thinks that Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert needs a war to regain popularity in Israel. What Assad does not see, is that Israel, unlike Syria is not a totalitarian regime. The people of Israel will not go to war to solve Olmert’s political problems. But they will go to war, an all out war to protect their families from acts of terrorism. Assad wants a war. He smells blood like a shark who believes that Israel was defeated by Hizbullah in Lebanon. That Israel was not prepared, sending IDF soldiers without water and food into Lebanon. Not being able to stop a rain of Katusha rockets from falling on Kiryat Shomona, Nahariya and Haifa. That Israel is weak, her people are divided, its leadership under attack from all directions.Perhaps that is the image that Israel wanted to provide Syria and Iran?Perhaps Assad has not learned from past wars with Israel. Perhaps Assad is banking on getting additional support from Iran, a country for which Israel intelligence knows the color of the underwear that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is now wearing. An Islamic blemish which supplied Syria with hundreds of extended-range North Korean Scud-C missiles, and is reportedly building its own ballistic missiles from imported technology. In 2003, Syria was said to have a new Scud-D missile, developed with North Korean assistance, which has a range of 300 miles (sufficient to cover all of Israel). The missile is also capable of carrying chemical weapons.Assad may very well think that Israel is unprepared. But as you read this editorial, Israeli forces are now on high alert on the Golan Heights. “In the past we prepared for a possible military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities,” said one Israel security source, “but Iran’s growing confidence after the war in Lebanon means we have to prepare for a full-scale war, in which Syria will be an important player.” A new infantry brigade has been formed named Kfir (lion cub), which will be the largest in the Israel army. “It is a partial solution for the challenge of the Syria commando brigades, which are considered better than Hezbollah’s,” an IDF military source said. From the Bekaa valley in Lebanon to Tartus, Syria – Israel forces may already be waiting for the signal.And our good friends in Turkey may also be very ready and able.And US troops coming from the East is yet another possibility.What can Assad do? For starters he can shut down the offices of the Palestinian terror organizations in Damascus and ban their members’ activity. Assad can announce that he agrees to meet with the prime minister of Israel in one of the two capitals or in a neutral place, as a first step toward peace negotiations. To compromise on the Golan Heights, for Israel depends on the Golan for much of its water.If Assad is a man of peace he can speak with Israel Meretz-Yahad opposition peace party leader Dr. Yossi Beilin. He can also speak with industrialist and visionary Stef Wertheimer regarding the creation of Israel and Syria free trade zones on the Golan Heights.The greatest victory in war is peace. We could still attain peace, save the bullets and thousands of lives. It’s up to Assad.If Assad chooses to remain blind, then the next Israel combat fighter jet “flyover” to take place over Syria President Bashar al-Assad’s palace in the city of Latakia will not be a warning. It will not be an exercise. The exercises are over. And so is the saber rattling. Expect IDF forces to have water, food and additional supplies that Syrian forces will not see, but will deeply feel. The days of Syria exporting regional, international Islamic terrorism and verbal diarrhea from Damascus are rapidly coming to an end. ISRAEL NEWS AGENCY Sponsored by

  8. “Assad told the Quwait newspaper Al-Anba yesterday that Israel could attack Syria “at any moment.” That “We (Syria) must remain ready at all times. We have begun preparations within the framework of our options.” Assad also said he believes Israel has abandoned the peace process.” “What can Assad do? For starters he can shut down the offices of the Palestinian terror organizations in Damascus and ban their members’ activity. Assad can announce that he agrees to meet with the prime minister of Israel in one of the two capitals or in a neutral place, as a first step toward peace negotiations. To compromise on the Golan Heights, for Israel depends on the Golan for much of its water. If Assad is a man of peace he can speak with Israel Meretz-Yahad opposition peace party leader Dr. Yossi Beilin. He can also speak with industrialist and visionary Stef Wertheimer regarding the creation of Israel and Syria free trade zones on the Golan Heights.”Norman, examine closely these two paragraphs. This is what negotiations sometimes look like. This could the saber-rattling and bluster that proceeds actual negotiations, with each trying to show the other side that they are not afraid, that they mean business, and that they are ready for all possibility. Of course, there is a risk involved here, sometimes, the war of words can get out of hand and play into the hands of the extremists on all sides and pave the way for actual confrontation. Be that as it may, the cause of reform, of any sort, has been set back for decades now. Whether they deliver havoc of their version of peace (which will deliver a slow and more methodical havoc), we, the people, are so deeply screwed, we are practically being impaled as we speak.

  9. Ghassan, I would love to own and drive a Bentley. The is something very special about that car for me. But I don’t talk much about it… I never asked how much it costs and what’s the horse power of its engine. I CAN NOT AFFORD IT TODAY. I talk about what I can realistically afford for now … Hopefully in few years I look forward to that Bentley. Norman, I agree with you. But it seems this is not the time for that step yet… too bad. The Syrians need to be a bit more dynamic.

  10. ” I would like to see a biographical site about Syrian artists, writer, actors and all sensitive people who lived since the independence of Syrian, to record in this site their suffering and the pressure and prosecution they suffered from the regimes.”Thank you for your kind remarks and suggestions, Trustquest, we are indeed doing something along these lines in Whereto, Syria?, which will become more active in due course of time.

  11. Alex, the Bently comes in two and four doors ,both are all wheel drive and they cost about 172000.00 US dollars.

  12. :)Thanks Dr. norman, I’m happy you are already researching that Bentley for yourself apparently.I am only an Engineer. This is what Engineers drive.

  13. ghassan said… Alex,Those who aspire for a Bently would never be caught dead in a Pinto:-) Ghassan, you see my point now? just because I do not have a Bentley, you assume that I have the exact opposite …a Pinto!Because the Canadian environment I live in is not very pleasant sometimes, I have chosen an appropriately safe option. And it is very different from all the others, I know. But that’s good … the others have no character.And it does well in popularity contests too!🙂

  14. I don’t think so Norman. Not until our wonderful Montreal winters look dramatically different.A Bentley could not have escaped out of this mess easilyWith this one, I was out without shovelling.By the way, before anyone wonders why are we discussing cars, supposedly I was comparing my choice of cars to my choice for Syria (president Bashar)… which was to show how I practice what I preach. For example when I mentioned how the Land Rover wins popularity awards, I was refering to how popular Bashar is … and of course I am trying here to mention that the BBC’s John Simpson who interviewed him this week concluded that Bashar is genuinely very popular not only in SYria but in the Arab world.Ok, I don’t think anyone is reading this old thread by now.

  15. Alex , I guess NJ is paradise in comparison to Canada ,I agree about Bashar ,I met recently a doctor from Ariteria ,He was impressed with Bashar,s vision , assesment of the mideast and his deeds in Lebanon and Iraq.

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