The HISHee Rebellion!

The assassination of Pierre Gemayel is not some haphazard ill-timed event, but a carefully calculated one meant to help push Lebanon further and further along the path of internal implosion. And the HISH (Hezbollah-Iran-Syria-Hamas) Alliance is definitely to blame here, the particular considerations related to their particular decision-making and implantation strategies notwithstanding.

The current summit on Iraq, which Tehran is currently hosting is another calculated event organized by HISH with the purpose of helping close ranks on the US presence in Iraq and their entire regional adventure. On the short run, however, HISH spin-doctors might make it appear as though the Alliance is actually taking a more proactive approach towards stabilizing the situation in Iraq thus helping establish a better negotiating position vis-à-vis the US.

But what is actually taking place is an attempt to hijack Iraq from the US, making US position there quite untenable by weakening its allies and uniting its detractors under a coalition affiliated with HISH. Pretty soon, the political scene in Iraq will be divided into two major currents, an embattled one made up of the last few pro-US statesmen and officials, and the a pro-HISH current made up of all parties opposed to US-presence in Iraq, a coalition that might actually grow to attract and accommodate many Sunnis, both Islamists and Baathists, in due course of time. (Initially though, the alliance of Islamists and Baathists might linger as a third current).

Both major currents will be multi-ethnic in essence, albeit the Shia will figure more prominently in them, by sheer force of demographics. Kurds might also figure prominently here, as many of them seem convinced of the need to plan a post-US strategy that could safeguard the gains that they have already made on the grounds. The US does indeed stand to lose its last major allies in Iraq, as it seems to have outlived its usefulness for them (which is in essence a favor returned. The Kurds do feel that were betrayed by the US and several western powers repeatedly before).

These moves will leave the US very little room to maneuver. As things stand right now, it is indeed up to HISH to grant the US a graceful way out, or not, depending on the price the US is willing to pay. And nothing less than everything is now acceptable to the HISHees. Good luck with engagement.

One option that the US has is to do some immedaite escalation of its own, both militarily and diplomatically. But this is more likely to backfire and prove equally as disastrous, unless its NATO allies are willing to back it, which they are not. None of them is willing to engage in all-out regional war, which is what the current HISHee brinkmanship is all about.

A less humiliating exit strategy might be to out-Baker the Iraq Study Group and withdraw without any talks with anyone, leaving the HISHees, among other regional and international powers, to handle the Iraqi mess. Should some prominent Iraqis indeed crossover to this HISH Alliance, the US position will receive some justifications, at least on the domestic front, seeing that such a move would be interpreted as a sign that Iraqis are willing to tackle their problems on their own by talking and reaching agreements with their trouble-making neighbors. Indeed, the Iraqis have already made an agreement to establish diplomatic relations with Syria, after more than 25 years of strained relations. Coming at this particular point in time, this is an interesting move indeed.

True, a withdrawal by the US forces at this stage will undermine, at least temporarily, the position of the March 14th coalition in Lebanon, as the Assads and Hezbollah will be encouraged to unleash their wrath even more wantonly they have done so far. And true, the move could hamper all regional efforts at reform and democratization for a certain period of time. But, seeing that the other options that the US has at this stage might still lead down this same path, the move may not be as defeatist, not to mention immoral to the eyes of some in the Bush Administration.

Indeed, if the Bush Administration should ever adopt the withdrawal option, this might be exactly how they would end up doing it. They will not talk to anyone, they will make any concessions.

This move will give the HISH Alliance another one of those pyrrhic yet divine victories they are so fond of, for they may or may not be able to help control the mess in Iraq, and this aside, they will still be vulnerable to all sort of international pressures with regard to issues such as the Hariri Investigation, Iran’s nuclear program, Hezbollah disarmament and the situation in Gaza.

Meanwhile, the US is bound to receive much blame for its policies, but it will be simultaneously courted by all and sundry in the region and Europe to return and help stabilize the situation. This will put the US back on top of things again, and will allow American officials to ask for serious cooperation from their regional and NATO allies in preparation for Round Two of the conflict. For there will of course be a Round Two. And a Round Three, and a Round Four if necessary. The HISHees will not lay quiet, and they will rather press their perceived advantage to the fullest.

For the HISH, armed with a heavy doze of hubris, will prove too unruly for most powers, and all would realize the need for breaking it, despite the legitimacy of some of its claims.

True, European interests may not coincide with those of the US in this. But Europe’s interests cannot be served by accommodating all of the HISHees, they can only accommodate Iran, a non-nuclear Iran to be specific. But Iranians leaders are too proud, and they are unlikely to concede to European demands on the nuclear issue. This is why Europe will ultimately have to turn back to the US for succor. Without a credible coalition and a credible threat, discussions with Iran will go nowhere. Yes, Iran will have to be acknowledged as a major regional power, they sacrificed a lot to get where they are today. But they have to do it without the nukes, and without this Alliance. Hezbollah will need to be disarmed, the Assads will need to go. Hamas will need to moderate its tone, so progress can be made in Gaza. To achieve this, Europe needs the US as much as it needs it.

As such the withdrawal that I am talking about here is merely tactical and will not serve as a major strategic shift in the thinking of the current administration. I don’t believe this administration is ready to review it entire strategy in the region, but they do urgently need to revise their tactics, so, I am throwing this entire idea in the fray for to generate debate on the two hot topics: what is really happening in the region at this stage? And should the US do about it on the short and long terms?

Addendum: The Somalia Link

The deeply flawed report by the UN on HISH arms sales to Somalia may not be off the mark all together. In reality, it is indeed in the interest of the Alliance to expand its scope, and Syria has for long had relations with Somalia even through these troubled times, this is why you find so many Somali bananas in the Syrian (and Lebanese) markets. For bananas are indeed the main trade item for the Somalis, and not Uranium. But banana sales can still bring enough returns to fund the low-tech warfare going on in Somalia, and now the Islamic Courts Union is in control of this trade. But, since my friends in Syria and Lebanon can still purchase Somali bananas, this new state of affairs does not seem to have had any negative impact on trade relations between Syria, Lebanon and Somalia. In due course of time, the ICU could indeed be recruited to join the HISH.

Is this an exaggeration? Well, just consider the ongoing security cooperation between Syria and the Sudan, and Iran and the Sudan, especially with regard to the situation in Darfur. Visits by Sudanese security officials to the capitals of Syria and Tehran are as regular as clockwork, and have been for a couple of years now. As all sides seem to have their troubles with the international community, and with the same main actors in it (mainly: the US, Britain, France), the emergence of such cooperation is indeed all too natural. Somalia and the Sudan are well-nigh members of the HISH, a fact that will become clearer in due course of time and should help sound alarm bells.

Addendum 2:

This article in the Wall Street Journal quotes
me on the potential impact of the Iraqi Study Group report on the situation in the region, especially with regards to the Assads. Basically, I say that the Assads feel empowered by the mere possibility that the reports will recommend talks with them, and as such, they are more willing than ever to push their perceived advantage. By continuing to prove themselves as troublesome, the Assads hope they can project themselves as invincible and indispensable.

30 thoughts on “The HISHee Rebellion!

  1. What the U.S. “should” do and what the U.S. “will” do are two very different things at this point.I do not think it is an overstatement to say that the U.S. electorate is disgusted with the situation in the Middle East and will have no stomach for “round two” as you say. No, my guess is that the citizens of the U.S. will turn their backs on the repression and slaughter that surely will ensue, just as they did in Southeast Asia.The EU, Russia and China will continue to do business with anyone that can pay until the Middle East market completely blows up… Only then will Europe come begging the U.S. to stabilize the situation as their military is almost completely impotent at this point with no signs of growing any stronger. I do not believe that the U.S. will comply with the request to send more military into the region after the first withdrawal from Iraq.Iran almost certainly will get nuclear weapons unless Israel takes action as it is in no one else’s economic interest to stop them.The “moderate” countries in the region, like Kuwait, KSA, U.A.E., Egypt, etc. will do nothing as this disaster unfolds while simultaneously blaming the U.S. and declaring their impotence to do anything about the situation. NATO will not ride to the rescue because the U.S. will not engage and lead from the front.As I have pointed out on a few internet sites out of the U.A.E., you can produce oil and gas while wearing a radiation suit…

  2. The U.S. faces a choice, behead the beast of of Islamic revolutionary terrorism or leave the area. If they leave the area, they will face the beast of Islamic revolutionary terrrism again, in a larger and more bloody battle and the beast will be more highly armed. The beast will be nuclear armed, and not afraid to use those nuclear arms.The citizens of America are highly ignorant of Middle East issues, and of Islamic revolutionary terrorism. Aljazeera English was not welcomed into the nation, which means citizens will still depend of U.S. media, which runs sensational celebraty stories rather than world news. As a result, the citizens of U.S. can not make a truely informed decision about what should be done because the citizens of the U.S. are simply not informed.

  3. Indeed an interesting point of view, but reading between the lines I see that you are making a number of assumptions which I differ with you on;Strategic assumption on Europe, US and local democrats: You assume that the US, Europe and democratic forces in the Middle East share the same tactical and strategic interests and objectives, I beg to differ. The US and the local democrats share strategic interests and philosophical convictions, the US wants to secure its interest in terms of the world only superpower, to secure the safety of America by combating extremism at its home regions, by spreading democracy and liberty, by securing the oil sources for the future, to make sure Israel can continue to exist in a hostile region. As strategic objectives local democrats (you call them pro American forces) have no objections on these issues. Europeans however, have lots of issues, no European country –aside from the UK- would like to see a continued American hegemony on the world, American control of the sources of energy is also a nightmare for the Europeans, the war on terror is problematic for the Europeans too, they are geographically close to this region and believe this war will have a negative impact on them. Philosophically the Europeans don’t share the American view of the universality of democracy. At tactical levels the interests of local democrats many times collide with interest of the US, a trade-of between Lebanon and Iraq will be welcomed by Iraqis but will be a disaster for the Levant and vice versa, it will also be a disaster for Iranian democrats and so on.Practical assumptions on Europe, Iran and Iraq: you assume that the US and Europe (the rest of the free world) share the same interests and the same goals in Iraq and the wider middle east, thus any serious prospect of US withdrawal will prompt these countries to get their act together and help bring stability in Iraq, part of which has to be solved via fighting an active war against both Sunni and Shiite insurgencies. I don’t think your assumption is correct. A radical pro Iranian Iraq does not pose any threats to Europe or European interests, weirdly enough a pro Iranian Iraq might actually serve European interests more than a pro American Iraq. The main powers of Europe today –aside from the UK- have major interests with Iran, economy, oil, etc… Such Iraq will also be very week in terms of regional politics, so it will have no real impact, the real value for an Iranian take over in this regard is to side line iraq rather than to use Iraq as an active partner. So I don’t think the prospects of an Iranian take over in iraq, especially if it is played as part of a political exchange with Europe (france) as a trade off Lebanon for Iraq, including decreased Iranian support for Hamas will prompt the desired reaction that you argue for. In fact I think this would be a dream outcome for the Europeans.Assumptions on HISH: You might assume that the HISH is an alliance of the equals, and such an alliance will be able to bring together iraqi anti american forces from all sects and ethnicities and that these forces will join this coalition which aims to ruin the American plans for iraq and the region. I see this differently; HISH is not a coalition nor an alliance, Syria, Hizballah, Hamas and others are only players in grand Iranian strategy which is fairly simple (Iran as the hegemonic regional superpower) so it is not merely about ruining the American project. It is rather about making Iran a superpower, looking at this issue from this angle means that Iran is not fighting the US in Iraq and Lebanon for the sake of ideological anti Americanism. The other HISH members are joining Iran for different reasons but the main reason is survival. This Iranian project will not be able to pool anti American Iraqis and bring them together it will instead lead to a controlled short term civil war, where HISH supports the Shiites, Jordan and Saudi supporting Sunnis while Turkey will cut deals with Kurds and keeping them under constant threat of invasion, the Shiites will probably win such a war which is more of a mass slaughter than war when thinking of numbers and resources that would be at the disposal of the warring parties which will eventually lead to a de-facto separate Iraqi regions under a loose control of a loose central Iraqi state that is run by Iran.If the US withdraws from Iraq, everyone will win aside from the US and the local democrats. It will be the beginning of the end of the US as a superpower, the end of the democratic dream fro the middle east as the societies will be more radicalised and the local dictatorships will get strengthened, the Europeans will have great and expanded business and energy related opportunities with the new setup that gives them more say in the world energy politics and they will start challenging the US as a world leader.You might argue that if my scenario happens then the winners will not be the Europeans but the Russians, the Chinese and the Indians, which will push the Europeans to rally behind the US. I say that the existing value of economic and political interests between Iran and Europe at the moment will prompt Iranians to protect these interests as Iran knows it needs Europe to balance the future weight of the rising china and India. Also the foreign policy of these two countries in the Middle East are still not at level that would enable them to partner with Iran on these issues.For arguments sake let me take this further, it is true that Europe will have a hard time dealing with the Iranian nuke, but I have a feeling that Europe will either make concessions to the HISH that Iran will not be able to say no and give up its nuclear ambitions (the bomb but not the project) or Europe will learn to live with an Iranian bomb. I think both outcomes are possible.Even if Europe will react against the Iranian nuke, by the time they exhaust all political and diplomatic means to convince Iran, it will be too late to confront Iran militarily, that is if the US has completed its withdrawal from Iraq and left it to be fully controlled by the Iranians.Frankly, I think a US withdrawal or any signs of American weakness in the region will empower HISH to such a degree that it will reverse any progress made, especially in the Levant and the Gulf.I agree with you that the implication of a quick American withdrawal from Iraq must be discussed in the open; this is something that has not had enough in-depth analytical attention in the media.

  4. The “realists” have one card up their sleeve that the “neocons” don’t: their willingness to arm and train rebel militias to challenge a central government’s authority.What do you think, Ammar? Would you like to see a U.S-supported rebel militia operating in Syria tomorrow?

  5. If the US withdraws from Iraq, everyone will win aside from the US and the local democrats. It will be the beginning of the end of the US as a superpower, the end of the democratic dream fro the middle east as the societies will be more radicalized and the local dictatorships will get strengthened, the Europeans will have great and expanded business and energy related opportunities with the new setup that gives them more say in the world energy politics and they will start challenging the US as a world leader.Indeed Superammar, I have made similar arguments repeatedly here. In fact, from the very beginning I said from the moment the US entered into Iraq the fortune of its venture there will be intimately tied with those of the democracy movement in the region. Also, a perception that the US failed in Iraq will only empower the terrorists and encourage them to spread further their terror, it also jeopardize US interests elsewhere in the world, especially in Central and Southeast Asia. But the possibility that I am raising here is that of a tactical withdrawal, one that allows that US to leave by the door and slip back by the window. But, of course, I can see the difficulties involved in organizing this. The US has to coordinate with it allies at one point or another. The US cannot appeal to its enemies (Iran and Syria) for succor, as the Iraqi Study Group is said to recommend. It has to appeal to its allies. If its allies continue to prevaricate on this, albeit there is some legitimate point to their critique of the administration seeing that it behaved unilaterally, still, the US has historically earned the right to be forgiven for this, it’s clearly in trouble now, it needs its allies, and should they continue to prevaricate, the US might then benefit from taking some time off to rethink its relations to the rest of the world. Actually, and regardless of the potential stance that the US allies will assume at this stage, the US does indeed to engage in a serious debate about its role in the world today. To me, the US is the anchor of the global stability, and this is too great a burden, no matter how powerful the US is, it cannot afford to think solely along messianic lines with regard to this issue. It needs to allow itself some leeway, some room to maneuver in order not to find itself so entangled in the conflicts throughout the world. What do you think, Ammar? Would you like to see a U.S-supported rebel militia operating in Syria tomorrow?Solomon regardless of what I’d think about this, things could be moving in this direction, regardless of who actually gets in charge of drafting US policy at this stage or in the near future. Once clandestine operations are allowed to take place along these lines, the decision to stop them may not be made in a prompt fashion. Now, I ma not suggesting that I have any insider knowledge here, I am merely speculating on the basis of historical precedence and the current attitudes vis-à-vis the Assads regime. Now, a little off-topic perhaps, and regarding all this gibberish about a Syrian-Israeli dialogue, I say, even should talks be held today, they will not lead anywhere. There are many reasons for that, but the underlying psychological cause here is the fact that Israelis are not used to negotiating from a position of weakness, and are not used to being patronized. But noting the tone in which the talks are being urged, even by Israelis, and knowing the kind of mentality the Assads are likely to bring with them to the negotiating table at this stage, the Israelis are bound to find themselves in such an untenable position during talks with Syria. And should talks fail, prepare for war. Right now, war is a possibility, should talks fail it will be a certainty.

  6. But noting the tone in which the talks are being urged, even by Israelis, and knowing the kind of mentality the Assads are likely to bring with them to the negotiating table at this stage, the Israelis are bound to find themselves in such an untenable position during talks with SyriaThis time I think you will be surprised Ammar. The Syrians are aware of this exact issue, and many similar ones. I think you can detect it already in the public positions they have been taking. Have you counted how many times the president declared how much he wants to talk peace to Israel? Rime Allaf is upset he is sounding like he is begging, and you are warning the Israelis that they should not talk to the Assads because they are expected to act arrogantly.Of course there will be the typical bargaining. But parallel to that, the Israelis will be surprised at how realistic and pragmatic the Syrians will be.Besides, as we discussed a million times already, all the reliable books which discussed the previous Assad’s negotiations with Barak say that he was the more honest and rasonable and willing partner.For those who did not read it, here is Dr. Rabonovich’ position on negotiating with Syria.courting SyriaAnd here is my friend Zvi Bar’el in Haaretz saying The accusations against Syria are all too routine … good reading for those who still want to accuse Syria automatically of everything bad in the Middle East.And here is another Israeli who knows absolutely nothing about anything, and therefore he needs to listen to Mr. Walid Jumblat’s wise opinions, and change his mind, because for now he thinks that Syria is the key, Avi Primor (former Israeli Ambassador to the European Union)And finally, here is our friend Rime Allaf who unlike my friend Ammar, is capable of being both a harsh critic of the Syrian Baathist system but when the other side are acting like clowns, she is capable of seeing it, and willing to write about it as well.Assassinations and demonstrations

  7. And another good article by Rime AllafThe pariah who came in from the coldThe last couple of months have been good, or at least better than before, for the Syrian regime. After getting a cold shoulder from the US over its opposition to the invasion of Iraq and even more so after the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the Syrian regime was finally being acknowledged as a force to be reckoned with, and a regional partner to be considered, even valued. This is mostly because of the quagmire in Iraq, but also because of the Israeli aggression against Lebanon this past summer that, as far as the Syrian regime is concerned served to demonstrate to doubters that there exists a bigger and much more violent meddler in Lebanon. Israel’s spectacular belligerence enabled Syria to say “I told you so” to scores of Lebanese, many of whom agreed. In addition, Hizballah’s unexpected defeat of Israel, in all possible senses of the word, boosted the standing of the group even among Lebanese previously skeptical of the group’s intentions but wary of rumors that other Lebanese parties had actually encouraged Israel’s aggression. With Hizballah’s sudden increased popularity, Syria influence in Lebanon was once again out in the open. Since then, Hizballah has made no secret of its agenda: having enjoyed renewed power enhanced by its initial restraint after the Israeli aggression, it recently demanded more significant participation in the country’s government, commensurate with its estimated size, and sought to oblige Fouad Siniora to install a more inclusive government. To this end, following rather blunt references to Siniora’s government as that of Jeffrey Feltman (the American ambassador to Lebanon), Hizballah was to have called its followers to take to the streets on November 23, a day after Lebanon’s National Day, to demand a national unity government. This was certainly an event to which the Syrians were looking forward, and the irony of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud’s complaint about the illegality of the present government (having himself been imposed by the Syrians in violation of the Lebanese constitution) seemed to pass unnoticed in the midst of so much tension. All of this could only benefit Syria, especially as interesting developments were taking place on other fronts. British PM Tony Blair officiated over the first step in the rehabilitation of Syria by sending Nigel Scheinwald, his special envoy to the region, to test the waters in Damascus. While the Bush administration pretended not to be agreeable to this initiative, it is likely that Blair’s overture had in fact been made at Washington’s behest. Indeed, help on Iraq is desperately needed by the Anglo-American coalition and the time seems ripe for reconciliation with Syria and a reevaluation of the stakes. The need to include Syria (and Iran) was also underlined by the Iraq Study Group, which is set to recommend engaging the two countries in order to help stabilize Iraq. Simultaneously, the European Union took the Association Agreement out of the closet, paving the way for more cooperation with Syria. Once again, Damascus airport was welcoming a string of foreign dignitaries. Within this context, it would seem idiotic for the Syrians to provoke a new outburst of anti-Syrian sentiments in Lebanon — which seems to be the default initial reaction to the sadly frequent assassinations of political figures there. Indeed, whether as a deliberate aim or as an unintended consequence, depending on who actually committed this crime, the assassination of Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel will initially hurt Syria’s position in Lebanon. For one, instead of Hizballah’s demonstration aiming at bringing down the government, a mass funeral with a strong anti-Syrian tenor filled the streets of Beirut. Instead of the March 8 forces thanking Syria for its support, the March 14 forces are back to accusing it of deadly meddling. To all intents and purposes, Syria was coming in from the cold, until a sudden mafia-style assassination in broad daylight stole its thunder. If only because of its timing, Gemayel’s assassination will at the very least postpone Syria’s plans for a friendlier — or at least more comprehensive — Lebanese government. Furthermore, it will empower the UN-led international tribunal investigating the assassination of Hariri to also include the assassination of Gemayel. Nevertheless, while these developments have forced Syria to retreat to its usual defensive mode, even publicly refusing to cooperate with the international tribunal, there is every reason to believe that this is only a momentary lapse in its standing and that the only way is up with regards to regional influence. The US is looking for a way out of Iraq and it needs all the help in can get; any talk about the “independence” and “sovereignty” of Lebanon, already forgotten during America’s support of Israel’s aggression, will again be put on the back burner while Syria is coaxed back to the axis of inevitable partners. The restoration of diplomatic ties between Syria and Iraq, mere hours before Gemayel’s assassination, was a pivotal element both in Syria’s rehabilitation and for America’s hopes in Iraq, the latter having become even more of an issue after the Democrats took control of Congress in the US. And even within Lebanon, as long as politicians’ positions are stated purely in relation to Syria (as “pro-Syrian” or “anti-Syrian”), the Lebanese themselves are inflating Syria’s influence instead of shaking it off, especially as the impact of Israel’s war will continue to be felt and as Hizballah continues to consolidate its gains. Because of these factors on both sides of Syria’s borders, and because of the low likelihood of solving the mystery of Gemayel’s killing, like that of Hariri, there seems little doubt that Syria’s role in Lebanon is bound to regain some of its previous luster. Syria’s plans may have been delayed, but they remain on track as it comes in from the cold. – Published 23/11/03 © bitterlemons- international.org

  8. “If its allies continue to prevaricate on this, albeit there is some legitimate point to their critique of the administration seeing that it behaved unilaterally, “40 countries came into Iraq with the U.S…. They might not have been the countries you wanted to see but, 40 is the number. These countries included the U.K., Italy, Spain and Poland not to mention Romania, Bulgaria, Japan and South Korea. How many countries did the U.S. need to bring into Iraq before they didn’t act “unilaterally”? Or, is it only two countries that cause you to continue to repeat this cannard; France and Germany??? Both France and Germany (especially France) had every reason not to change the status quo under Saddam as they were making out like bandits through the Oil for Food rip off and could not care less about democracy or human suffering under dictatorships that line their pockets. Ditto Russia, Jordan, Turkey and the “moderate” Arab states.As far as your coming in a window scenario, I think you can forget it. Once the U.S. pulls out of Iraq I don’t think the American people will allow any further military intervention no matter how clandestine. It will leak to the press and there will be an uproar.

  9. Alex, I believe the Assads reign is still far from being safe. But, struggles against dictatorial regimes have always been a seesaw battle. I still believe that the Assads are not the rational thinkers you think them to be, and they are bound to overplay their hands once again in due course of time. All it takes is a little more frustration of their plans, and they will err, again. You are right of course about me and Rime, I am not just a critic of the Assads, I am a member of the opposition, and a staunch believer in regime change through a combination of mechanism, albeit, I tend to adopt a longer term view of this than others, even within the coalition to which I belong, namely the National Salvation Front. I simply cannot reconcile myself to the reign of this bunch of thieves and murderers, not for all the pragmatism in the world. The only pragmatism I can accept at this stage is one that is meant to challenge and break the status quo, not one that preserves it. Hence my affiliation with the NSF which I believe is only useful as a tool for challenging and breaking the regime. Once that is achieved it will take much more than the NSF to keep the country together and steer it the right course. And I am under no delusions that there will much troubles and setback along this road. Meanwhile, “there may be troubles ahead, but there is moonlight and music and romance, let’s face the music and dance.”PS. I think I railed enough against US recently, don’t you think? I actually do criticize the US when it counts, and, because I do it sparingly, at specific points in time, and from point of a view of an advisor as well, and not a mere critic, I usually tend to get an audience within the decision-making circles here. But, I have to admit, I am not sure if that does make more effective, after all, and as I have pointed earlier, our advice is often ignored. But not always. Unlike the situation with the Assads who will only accept advice from those who will play by their rules and stick to their restrictive redlines.

  10. Will President Bush finally bomb Bashar while he hides in his palace? It is very tempting just to send in couple dozen cruise missiles to bring down the palace on Bashar’s head and the heads of his band of thugs. It is thousand times multiplied by thousand times a better solution than talking to a bunch of terrorist criminal thugs. After all if these thugs do not abide by international norms and rely on political assassinations and terrorism to advance their heinous agenda why should others respect their safety? They do not seem to respect the value of human life. Why should their life be spared? Even better, would it not be to every one’s interests and well being to send in say 50 to 60 cruise missiles to Qirdaha and level it down to earth on the heads of the corrupt Assads and their cronies. After all this is the Middle East Mr. Bush and this is how an American century can come into being. Excuse me is it only a century America is after? Well, how short sighted the Americans are after all? These thugs have a much far sighted vision. They are seeking a whole millennium and even more of their age in a world ruled by their ‘divinely’ inspired fuqaha’a despots. The great Satan (America) will then be smitten away from the land back to the outremer and down to Hades. Guess what will happen next? Imagine a US stripped of its super power status and with no pride in being American any more. Will the melting pot continue to boil at full steam? Could you imagine what may happen when North Americans suddenly wake up to realities that they are made up of such diverse and often antagonistic entities as Hispanic, Anglo-Saxon, Dutch, German, French, Afrikaans etc…. Wouldn’t that look like the current Middle East transposed some 10000 miles from its current location? What may happen next? Wouldn’t the self appointed divine rulers of the fuqaha’a of Persia be tempted to play Hispanic against black against Anglo’s against Dutch etc….? After all it wasn’t the British who invented the game of divide and rule. They only may have elevated the art into higher levels. That doesn’t rule out the possibility that other nations may not yet improvise and further elevate the art into yet newer higher levels.

  11. Dear Anonymous 1:22 am: spare us that psychotic rant.”Terrorism” is in the eye of the beholder.I don’t think you would appreciate it – if all the disgruntled (if not appalled) members of the american electorate or others in the world who despise the US administration.. would call for those 60 cruise missiles to be launched at the the US Defence Department. Frankly, I find that very “tempting”.I always find it amusing when people make that oh so attractive judgment that their enemy doesn’t “value human life”…right before they advocate killing.Go back to your cave please.

  12. Dear Slave of East and West,It wasn’t our intention to tempt you. Save your own ranting to your own predicament.

  13. Don’t kid yourself courting Syria… No one is “automatically” blaming Syria for everything bad in the Middle East… People are blaming the Syrian regime for everything bad in Syria, and in Lebanon. And there is nothing automatic about it… Everyone knew about the Syrian mafia regime for years… They are so arrogant that they don’t change or hide there tactics… It’s only now that the world decided to stop them… Not because the world loves Lebanon, but because it happens to be that that is in the interest of all the superpowers. So, we should take advantage of this, and help them bring the murdering dynasty of Asaad down.

  14. Leafless,Not automatically blaming Syria?I need to use links perhaps:Remember how every one was sure Syrian intelligence murdered Lebanese civilians and dumped their bodies in mass graves that they discovered in Anjar?Like the way it was reported in this BBC story (and countless other stories)Then an investigation found out they were dead since the Ottoman times.Here is the Washington Post story.You want 100 more examples?remember the bomb that Killed prime minister Hariri? all of you Syria haters immediately concluded “the bomb was placed under the road” which implies Syrian intelligence obviously knew about it (too difficult otherwise) … now Brammertz concluded that the bomb was not under the road.Not automatically accusing Syria?Remember the Hariri Pen that supposedly Chirac gave him and he used it to record Bashar’s clear threats to him?Where is that recording? where is that proof? did they lose the Pen perhaps?Not automatically accusing Syria? One more thing, a large majority of Syrians support their regime today .. definitely on their foreign policy (including Lebanon policy).. you hate the regime, you can hate the Syrian people too.Your hate is going to take your country down the road to another civil war, .. but that’s ok with you since you can always blame it on Syria.You want to blame Syria for the fact Lebanon is a split country? Jumblat wants to ignore his differences with the Shia and blame all of Lebanon’s problems on “the Syrian regime”. How childish… if you dont’ grow up, you wil always need a papa to take care of you, Ghazi Kanaan, Ambassador Feltman …

  15. Thanks Leafless for making the distinction between Syria and the murderous Syrian regime. I mean this should an obvious for any one with minimum intelligence. You cannot help but to make it, however, to the drum beaters who cannot make such an obvious distinction on their own. Their hyper sense of duty to beat the drum blinds their senses and exposes their complete lack of reasoning!

  16. Alex, in the absence of transparency and freedom in our country, it is very difficult for any of us to really know what the Syrian people think, we can develop impressions on the basis of individual conversations, but that’s about it. Seeing that the Syrian people have no internal alternative at this stage but regime, it is very difficult to detect obvious signs of rebellion and dismay. In times of fear, it is only natural for people to stick to the status quo for all its evils, big and small.We don’t need to hate the Syrian people because they won’t listen to us at this stage, whether we are members of the external opposition, where the ranks do include people with dubious records, or members of the internal opposition whose track records regarding the struggle for justice and democracy in our country is indeed spotless, and who have been speaking for reform long before the US made its drive into our midst. What I am trying to say is that even if the Syrian people solidly stood by the regime at this stage, this does not reveal much about what they of the regime other than its ability, no matter how imagined, that it can preserve the stability of the country. In due course of time, the illusion of stability under the Assads is bound to give way to the reality of heightened sectarian and ethnic tension sin the country, and continually deteriorating socioeconomic circumstances. What effect this will have on the state as whole will be seen in due course of time. But I doubt it will play any stabilizing role. With such leaders in charge, we are going down the path of Somalia. As for automatically blaming the Assads, well, their history of dabbling and murdering more than justifies it. And if the people were wrong in certain incidents, they are more than right in so many others. In fact, even should the Assads turned out to be not directly involved in this particular crime, they are still guilty in creating the overall context in which this whole thing is taking place. In fact, that was their strategy to begin with. This is how you destabilize a country (Destabilization Studies 101, if you will): knowing the context in which you are operating, you create enough target mayhem of your own, in the hope that others will begin behaving in the same way, eventually. On a related note, my insistence on the Assads in this blog is meant to help put the blame where it belongs – on the shoulders of the ruling thugs and not the entire country and its people.

  17. We are well down the road toward this dark vision, a wave of threatening instability that stands as the precise opposite of the Bush administration’s “democratic tsunami,” the wave of liberalizing revolution that American power, through the invasion of Iraq, was to set loose throughout the Middle East. The chances of accomplishing such change within Iraq itself, let alone across the complicated landscape of the entire region, were always very small. Saddam Hussein and the autocracy he ruled were the product of a dysfunctional politics, not the cause of it. Reform of such a politics was always going to be a task of incalculable complexity. Faced with such complexity, and determined to have their war and their democratic revolution, the President and his counselors looked away. Confronted with great difficulties, their answer was to blind themselves to them and put their faith in ideology and hope—in the dream of a welcoming landscape, magically transformed. The evangelical vision may have made the sense of threat after September 11 easier to bear but it did not change the risks and the reality on the ground. The result is that the wave of change the President and his officials were so determined to set in course by unleashing American military power may well turn out to be precisely the wave of Islamic radicalism that they had hoped to prevent.Iraq, The War of the Imagination, Marc DannerI am very sorry to say that I find this statement to be completely accurate.

  18. Anonymous: They lifted the veil off our contradictions and now we all have to deal with them. We are all going to be soaked in blood, again.

  19. I encourage every blogger who is opposed to Syrian regime to participate in the discussions presented at this site: Charles Coutinho, PhDIt seems that Dr. Coutinho is an objective and extremely intelligent historian with some political background. He is definitely a person you can learn a lot from. Ammar please link his site in your pages. You two seem to be on the same wavelength.

  20. Hey Ammar,I am the person that has posted a few comments on your recent essay. The reason I have posted as anonymous is because somehow, I have forgotten my password! Be that as it may, I have to tell you that after being a “pro-Iraqi liberationist” just recently I have concluded that the whole grand scheme is lost…I think that the western press (never mind what one of your commenter’s claimed that I am completely ignorant because I don’t watch Al-Jazeera…) has so infected the political debate, that there is no way for the United States to continue on and try to free the country of Iraq. (You can forget about Syria and Lebanon, especially Lebanon after 200+ American Marines lost their lives there on a U.N. sanctioned peace keeping mission).I recently read an article that said that at the time of the Iraqi invasion, the American press was reporting >50% negative articles about American involvement in Iraq. By the time the November 2006 elections took place the American press was reporting >89% negative articles about American involvement in Iraq. No one in the United States can counter act these statistics. I don’t care how many schools or water treatment facilities the U.S. soldiers secure for the Iraqi nation, it just isn’t going to make an impact at this point. Add to this the barbarity of Muslim on Muslim murder and, the American people want to turn away. In addition, we hear no condemnation from the Muslim world about this Muslim on Muslim killing… Anyone have a link, I would be more than happy to read it…Being the terribly “ignorant” people that one of your commentators claims, is it any wonder that the majority of American people say to themselves “Well, we are dealing with a bunch of uncivilized religious lunatics… We made a good effort to bring freedom to them and have lost 3,000 of our sons and daughters in the process, not to mention over 20,000 wounded, let them kill each other off… they are beyond our reach, the barbarians that they are… “In the name of humanity, over 220 people were murdered on Thanksgiving Day in Baghdad… This does not go unnoticed by the American electorate especially when you consider the bias of the western media. While my family was praying for peace at a table of bounty, people were blowing their fellow citizens up with car bombs…I think you really have to realize that the tide is turning and the American people are moving from sympathy to absolute disgust for the “tribal ways” that we are being pounded with… I can’t tell you how terribly sorry I am about this situation. I truly am… But, based on the current economic conditions and media collaboration, I really don’t think there is anything the United States can do to turn this very negative tide. Much has been said on your blog about the fall of the United States from the sole super power and it’s need to call upon Europe to help stabilize the world. This is a pipe dream. France is now over 10% Muslim. Oh, I shant even go into this with you. I know you are aware of a “good day” in Paris involves something less that 300 cars being torched my Muslim youths… Other than the corrupt business practices of the nation of France, when you consider their internal troubles and the fact that their military is practically toothless, what do you think they should say about the upheaval of the Middle East? In short, anyone that is playing their hand for France to liberate them from the murder and repression that currently reigns in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq or the Iranian nuke problem is a fool… An ally of freedom, I think not…I direct you to the following web sites:http://no-pasaran.blogspot.com/http://www.brusselsjournal.com/http://gandalf-reconquista.blogspot.com/The latter web site has put up two very interesting posts about the increase in violence in European countries with the growing percentage of immigrants of the Muslim faith.The posts gained the attention of a blogger in Egypt and were roundly vilified. My educational background allows me to look at these findings and at least say that a persuasive case could be made to the western electorate that the findings are correct… That is all that we need in today’s political climate, yes? Spin it up big enough and we just might start limiting immigration to western countries on the basis of religion… Think about it.So, in conclusion, I think our step for freedom in the Middle East is screwed. Where do I stand? At this point I would like all the men and women of the United States of America to return home as quickly as possible. At the very least, I would like the killing of my sons and daughters to stop. I recognize that the killing of Muslim sons and daughters will escalate but, I believe the Muslim tribal and political culture is beyond hope. At least by the standards of the United States.BTW, I have a son in the U.S. Navy. He is currently in flight training at NAS Pensacola. I have every reason to believe that he will be dropping great big bombs on the Middle East in a few years time… This thought just make me sick.I have asked you many times what the U. S. should do. You have never answered that. Instead, you make statements like “the U.S. acted unilaterally” or, the U.S. will withdraw and “come in the side window”. In my opinion, your hope of the United States playing a part in redeeming your home country is a fantasy. But, this is a fantasy that many, many that do not want to do the heavy lifting use to perpetuate their myths. By heaving lifting I mean blood on the streets… After all, any 16 year old would much rather blame their parents for their faults than live up to their own shortcomings. It is simply too terrifying to take responsibility for one’s own actions when you are a juvenile.I have lost faith in the redemption of the Middle East. No blood for oil… Tell it to the French and the Chinese in the Sudan.

  21. I understand your frustration and I share it. I didn’t try to make any recommendation at this stage, simply because I believe that none of them is politically viable, especially considering the current political ambience in the US. The scenario here was meant to encourage people to vent their frustration more than anything else: for leaving the region will result in turmoil, staying requires collaboration with allies. Since this is not forthcoming at this stage, the only option left will pull you deeper and deeper into the regional swamp. The way out is the way in, and the way in is still all too rocky. Even if the US really wants out, and even if there are those in the region who are keen to have it leave, the US will not be let out, not without exacting a price that is far heavier than 3,000 dead soldiers. And the peoples of the region will pay for it as well. The flames of our pyres will burn high and bright and will consume much of our flesh and soul for many years to come. And they will reach us all wherever and whoever we happen to be.

  22. Even if the US really wants out, and even if there are those in the region who are keen to have it leave, the US will not be let out, not without exacting a price that is far heavier than 3,000 dead soldiers. To what price to you allude? If the Middle East blows up and eventually returns to the status quo; dictatorial rule only greater repression based on religious idiocy, what greater price do you see the U.S. as paying?BTW, consider myself vented…

  23. The terrorists will be emboldened by their perceived victory, and will once again venture onto US soil. Moreover, US interests elsewhere in the world, especially in other parts of the Muslim World (South Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia) will be hit hard, as many regimes will be emboldened to assume a more confrontational attitudes with the US from now.

  24. Ammar,Congratulations. You have made it to the influential WSJ’s editorial piece this time. The New Middle EastNovember 27, 2006; Page A12Last week’s murder in Beirut of Lebanese cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel was followed by demonstrations by Sunnis and Christians denouncing the likeliest culprits: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Syrian President Bashar Assad. This week, Hezbollah is expected to hold mass rallies of its own against the anti-Syrian government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora. The stage is now set for a showdown between the two sides, and perhaps civil war. It’s worth recalling how we got to this point, and the role that Bush Administration policies have played since the Cedar Revolution evicted Mr. Assad’s army from Lebanon in the spring of 2005. President Bush withdrew his ambassador to Damascus following the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri and later gave diplomatic support to the anti-Syrian coalition that came to power three months later. The Administration has also backed the U.N. investigation into the Hariri murder that implicates Syria and which, if Mr. Siniora’s government can survive, will lead to a trial sometime next year.Those were the successes. The mistakes include a decision not to respond to Hariri’s murder by seeking regime change in Syria, as none other than the French were urging at the time. Mr. Assad has repaid this restraint by maneuvering for nearly two years to overturn the results of the Cedar Revolution, and somehow his opponents in Lebanon keep being murdered.Nor were matters helped by the U.N. ceasefire resolution arranged by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that ended the war Hezbollah started against Israel last summer. The war was incompetently prosecuted by the Israelis, but a few more weeks of fighting might have destroyed the Shiite group as a military organization and thus spared Lebanon its current predicament. Instead, Ms. Rice intervened with a resolution that allowed Hezbollah to emerge claiming victory while offering no real guarantees that it will ever be disarmed.Worse, the Administration acquiesced in a deal arranged between Mr. Assad and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan whereby Syria — hitherto the principal conduit of arms to Hezbollah — is supposed to prevent the flow of weapons to the group. The Jerusalem Post recently reported that arms are moving across the Syria-Lebanon border “by the truckload.”But the greatest failure is that the Administration has never really settled on a policy toward Syria. Mr. Bush signed the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act in 2003 but opted to impose only the two weakest sanctions on the list provided by Congress. The U.S. has repeatedly accused Damascus of providing material support for the insurgency in Iraq, but it has never acted in a way that would show Mr. Assad it is serious about stopping him. Predator strikes against terrorist bases in Syria were ruled out.The Administration has also failed to lend any meaningful support to the National Salvation Front, the leading Syrian opposition group, apparently because it includes members of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as former regime elements. But as Ammar Abdulhamid, a leading member of the NSF who is also a secular democrat, points out, “controversial figures will always be involved in opposition work. You can’t look at [the NSF] as a change to the most wonderful democratic system in the world. But you do need to break the stalemate and introduce a new dynamic.”Now the U.S. foreign-policy establishment is talking about the need to “engage” Damascus, and a weakened Bush Administration might be tempted to appease the Assad clan. The result is likely to be more of “the new Middle East” now on display in Lebanon.

  25. Ammar,As you embark/continue your political career, remember the words of John Adams (American President):”In politics, the middle way is none at all”

  26. Indeed, Ehsani, that’s why I come off as more alarmist and uncompromising in my stands sometimes than I actually am.

  27. Well, we will cut and run and yes, the result will be disastrous. Saddam is gone but the hellhole that we leave will be worse. I still think we did the right thing but I overestimated the will of the American people to carry out what we started and the will of Iraqis to put country ahead of sect, tribe or ethnicity. We will get oil, this was never about oil, or control of the oil, if the oil is sold to anyone on the world market we could care less who has control. America will still be the only superpower, our economy is strong and our weapons and soldiers will still be around, only with far more battle experience than before. We will however tell whoever begs us to go back and fix things to (comments deleted before being posted), you will find a new isolationist United States is not willing to go it alone again. Sure we will be hit again, but European and Asian countries will be hit harder. So for everyone who was praying that America falls on its face, enjoy, the pain for you will be greater than for us.

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