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October 24, 2006



Very impressive Ammar!

I can't hink of anyone else who can make a better case for these arguements.

Of course I disagree with the way you base your rigid conclusions on

1) selected aspects of selected historical events and past behaviors, while ignoring other indicators and signals that seem to contradict those same conclusions.

In short, the utter uncertainty in the Middle East is enough to make me prefer the "we won't know until we try".

2) Similarly, your projections for the future (post engagement and empowerment of the Assads) are also very biased . I prefer to argue that positive changes (peace and economic reforms) will generate enough momentum that will actually empower people like you and other reformers ...

But on a day like yesterday, when they had the equally capable Joshua presenting arguments for the other side, you did a great job in arguing for your side.


Again Ammar, I wouldn't put much water in Alex's opinion (or lack of it)!



I still think that until the Assad's show progressive change over time, there is NO reason to being to trust him. He seems to talk out of both sides of his mouth and talk is cheap.

I see no harm in talking with him...but I would not give him a thing until he demonstrates behavioral change. His talk is sometimes good, his behavior has ALWAYS been bad...does not add up to me. Talk to women with abusive husbands...it is pretty much the same pattern.

Zenobia of the East and West

Dear Anony'mouse',
do you think Ammar needs your protection lest he be hurt by Alex's critique?
If you are going to make a personal insult, maybe you should put your name to it, otherwise, shut up, why don't you.......


You write "We want the states of this region, Israel included, to conform to agreed international norms and conventions, not international norms to conform to the regional and local penchant for cruelty and lawlessness."

What do you think about Israel getting away with "targeted assassinations" and with the U.S. implicity approving this policy? If, for whatever reason, America and Israel had decided that Hariri was a terrorist, would his assassination be justified for you? This is not a far-fetched supposition to me, since my fear today is that those in power in the U.S. and Israel can unilaterally label any person or group a "terrorist" and attempt to dispose of that group or person in a vigilante fashion.

In other words, is targeted assassination acceptable to you, as long as you agree that the victim deserved it, and that the perpetrators have the moral high ground?

I understand that your specialty is criticizing the Syrian regime, and that you prefer to discuss these situations in the Syrian context only. I would like more details on your accusations against the Syrian regime, besides just repeatedly calling Syrian leaders "thugs".



You are falling into the old moral equivalency arguement.

If Hariri was ordering suicide bombers to go into pizza palors and murder kids...you bet I do.

If Hariri supported the Lebanese army killing Israeli soldiers because they were invading Lebanon and some kids got killed...then no I would not.

So you can try to push that argument if you like and I hear it all the time, but it is very misleading and, I think, very dishonest. But I know that record will be played and replayed ad nuseum.


What is the difference between Khaddam and the worst person in the current regime? The Syrian people hate Khaddam.


Great points and presentation Ammar...I am very impressed by how simple and convincing it is.

Alex, I don't see how you have any hope in Syria lead by its rulers who love to crush their people. how can you justify keeping Kilo in Jail despite the judge order to set him free and how can you justify this???

Alex, Time for people like you who are so fond of Syria and willing to support the leaders to step up the pressure on the regime to change its barbaric stallinstic behaviour. Enough giving them excuses.


Zenobia (Slave of East and West, Right?)
Why don't you shut up and mind your own business? Who is talking to you?


Howie ... what do you mean "Talk to women with abusive husbands...it is pretty much the same pattern"???

Wait ... i will go get some links to back up my arguement.

I'll be back.


OK, I found one

here it is. Conveniently, this photo also happens to demonstrate the authentic Syrian Hummos!

But more seriosuly, your position on the negotiations with Syria is good enough .. as long you are not against trying ... talking and listening does not commit Israel to anything.

But as for the other issue you have raised "He seems to talk out of both sides of his mouth" .. I think our frineds in Israel are still sensitive from the late Arafat's radically different statements for western vs. Palestinian press.

Assad was blamed for having stated that Syria is preparing to defend itself against a possible Israeli attack .. what is wrong with that? where is the contradiction with saying that he wants to start perace talks? .. after Mr. Olmert hinted many times that if they decide to hit Syria it will be much more forceful thatn when they hit Lebanon ... are you suggesting that the Syrian president is not allowed to be alarmed and prepared?


Anonymous, believe me, you don't want to speak this way to Zenobia.


I will continue with the only realistic option I see despite the frustrating news.

I hope it is only a temporary difficulty and that they will release him soon as initially promised.



As I said, and you quoted me on it, I want international norms, which may or may not coincide with US policies and/or interests, to be followed nonetheless even in the case of Israel. Now, to my knowledge targeted assassinations are not condoned by international law, and when it comes to international affairs, I will not condone anything that falls outside the purview of these laws.

As for blaming the victims, or thinking that the victims deserve it, you cannot be any farther from the truth. Our current victimhood is not mechanical, that is we were not hit by a car. We were hit by ignorance, tyranny, occupation and hegemony. And that puts some responsibility on us. Because the tyrant, the occupiers and the hegemons are not going to see the light on their own, and we cannot just resist using ways that will only facilitate their job, just like Hezbollah did a few weeks ago when it afforded Israel a precious opportunity to wreak havoc all over Lebanon. What I am trying to say here is that, one there are right and wrong way for resistance, and, two, resistance really begins when I stand up the bully closest to me, to the bully in my own home.

Anonymous of 7:05 PM: “What is the difference between Khaddam and the worst person in the current regime? The Syrian people hate Khaddam.”

Are you joking? Of course they do, and for all the right reasons. He was the VP in a corrupt and tyrannical regime and that is his cross to bear for the rest of his life, no matter what he does. Still, there is a slight possibility that he might be trying to redeem himself. Alternatively, he might just be still yearning for power. Whatever the case may be, it is really good that he is not liked, because that puts a lot of burden on him to make himself liked, unlike Bashar, and his father before him, who are/were liked because they needed had no choice and they really needed to believe. We do not have to deal with these illusions in the NSF, we all know who Khaddam is, we know who Bayanouni is, and they know who we are, we know that w do not want them as our eternal leaders, they know that they can never be eternal leaders… Yet we all chose to come together, because we realized that, regardless of our personal motivations, the only way we can influence things in the opposition scene and mount a serious challenge to the regime, one day, is for all of us to work together, regardless of your different backgrounds. We are practicing coalitions politics and the art of compromise from now, no decision is made within the NSF without a lot of people having their say in it, and the more we grow the more institutional this matter is going to be.

And that’s the end of my pitch for the NSF. If you are not convinced, no problem. But, please, don’t support the Assads just because they might occasionally appear as the lesser of all evils, thinking along these lines is exactly what perpetuates our status as victims.

Anonymous, Zenobia my dear, let’s keep this civil, please. We’ve done pretty good job of it so far, albeit the issues discussed have always been hard and sensitive, and we have always been emotionally involved.


"resistance really begins when I stand up the bully closest to me, to the bully in my own home"

Ammar, really interesting points, but this one that I pasted above I believe is especially arguable. A bully is a bully, your strategy is to stand up to the one closest to you, but that doesn't necessarily make sense to everyone. Whereas you believe tyranny and a lack of democracy to be the biggest obstacles to the advancement of certain societies, others come to different conclusions. For instance, Syria is not a bully to everyone. Take the example of Lebanon. Today, Hizbollah believes that Israel is its biggest bully. Others in Lebanon say Syria is. Hizbollah claims to want to free Lebanese political prisoners from Israel, but the reality is that there are far more Lebanese political prisoners in Syria.

Sometimes you have to ally with the bully closest to you to overthrow the one further away and then focus on the one closest to you.

I am not trying to say that people shouldn't stand up to Syria, but just to point out that this strategy you advocate is arguable and feels really unattainable in any collective sense, especially at this point in time where the Bush administration has managed to create a negative association with the word democracy on much of the Arab street.


It is indeed interesting to see how you understood my statement. Still I believe our way of looking at things is related.

I actually meant is as a reference to the regime, and the necessity of standing up to the dictatorial regimes and not allow them to distract us from the necessary fight for our rights in the country in the name of national emergencies that they keep on churning for us. We do have occupied lands yes, but we also have oppressive and corrupt regimes, and we cannot side with one against the other, and we cannot keep on postponing our fight for our basic rights by insisting on fighting the occupiers first. We have tried that approach, which in theory does sounds more logical, for more than four decades. But look where it got us. By ignoring or even siding with the tyrants, we are empowering them. I think our primary fight at this stage is internal, is against tyranny and corruption.


"but look where it got us"
It got us to Rabin being assassinated just before he finalized the agreement to returnt he Golan to Syria, and it got us again to Barak changing his mind at the last second just before Hafez went to Geneva to meet clinton and finalize the peace talks with an agreemetn to return the whole Golan ..again.

But of course everything that goes wrong on planet earth is the fault of the Assads. So we should try our best to "not empower them" .. we should disrupt any attempt from the Israeli intellectuals to talk to start peace talks with Syria because "that might empower our dictators"


Is this about Syria or the Assads? Some people are so stuck up with their perception, they can’t see the light! Come on man. There are more than 20 million Syrians! Can't you find few who could do a better job than these cursed corrupt Assads?


Ammar & Alex,

You both make good arguments for a view that is closer than many might think. It’s your priorities that differ tremendously. I think all of us here agree with Ammar that Damascus has failed in “good governance” for many many years. Independent judiciary, media outlets and many individual basic rights have been lacking or outright non-existent. Syria is not a beacon of democracy and its government needs to be pushed to address them. But!!! and I hate to repeat myself here, we fail to find a CLEAR example in our region that is better. So if all Arab countries have a shameful national policy we are forced to analyze the international one. And here I find myself in agreement with Alex since Syria’s most important foreign policy issue (Israel/ Golan) couldn’t have been resolved by another government for the mere reality of the situation. Which is that Israel does not want to give it back.

And Ammar, you have always been driven by your loath for the Assad’s (at least in your writing). I think that has justified what people like Alex and myself feel is your shortcoming. And that’s forgetting whom are we dealing with on the side of the pond. You call the Assad’s many things, but Sharon, Olmert, Bush, Blair and all these “democracy icons” are no angels either. They take care of their own people because they have to, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are ruthless killers in the opinion of many of us mere mortals.

Finally, the argument has been made by many (including yourself) that the Assad’s have hijacked the Golan issue to push their own rule. So why don’t you demand for Israel to call their bluff by returning the Golan. This will make the Syrian public judge their leadership’s national policies for a change.



The question is: Who and how and at what cost?

When you have a common sense to allt he above questions, then we can go back to cursing the Assads, but otherwise, let's pick a more realistic strategy to move forward. We can not jsut sit and curse the Assads and resist any solution fro the area for fear it will empower the Assads.


Thanks Tarek (IC)

You are right that Ammar and I (and you too) have very similar hopes for Syria.

But Ammar would hate to accept that his opinions can be influenced by his anger (at the Assads in this case).

Many readers wrote to me to tell me how disappointed they were in the fact I do not express any anger at the ruling group in Syria. Fares keeps asking me: "Alex did you see how they jailed 3 intellectuals this week"??!!

My answer is: True I do not, but I also do not have any anger at president Bush or at Mr. olmert both of them did slightly worse than the Syrians the past few month if you calculate the thousands of Lebanese and Iraqi civilians killed ... What use shoudl I find in gettign angry or in seeking revenge from any of the above?

There are things we can not change in life ... we have to find a way out despite those obstacles. The only thing Ammar, Tarek, or I can add is our ideas since we do have our unique perspectives on the country, and since none of us is motivated by his own personal ambitions... hopefully we can be more neutral and less limited in our thinking.


Innocent Criminal-

How is your "ouchie"? Feeling better?

Two points this time...

To Alex...I have no problem talking with the Assad government though I do wish it would go away and some better would come. I think they are unrepenent...though maybe pragmatic. But beating a dead horse here...if Israel and Syria were to make a deal, and then Syria betrayed it...Israel loses the Golan...what is Syria willing to risk..nothing that I can see. But I strong believe regular diplomatic relations could help prevent escalation, armed conflicts and ultimately even lead to something better.

I like what Mohamed Ali once said, "I ain't got nothin against no Vietnamese". I ain't got nothin against no Syria...just can't trust that dentist...wasn't he a dentist?

And Criminal...when you say Syria's biggest issue is Golan/Israel...I just do not get it..why? Syria has enormous internal problems, ethnic, minorities, religious differences, terrible behavior with terrorism, brutalizes Lebanon, consistently has buddy up with the likes of Amin, Iran, Soviet Union. They have warred against their own people (Hama for example) and have a despotic, brutal, murderous government. What does that have to do with Israel and the Golan? Israel would have no beef with Syria if they could just behave a bit more decently. But if you gave Syria the Golan tomorrow...and Israel moved to Uganda, Syria would reamin pretty much the utter mess it is right now



As I proposed before, Israel should not be asked to return the Golan one shot ... they Americans should try to "corner" the SYrian rulers by proposing in public to the SYrian people a solution in whcih the United States is commited to endorse returning the Golan to Syria in steps based on democratic and economic reforms ... a step and a counter step. The regime does nto deliver, Israel does not withdraw from the rest of the Golan and the Syrian people know who to blame.

This leads to your next paragraphs (to IC):

Honestly, the Syrian peopel do not see "te dentist" as being this monster that the west (and the Lebanese oponents) made him to be. Ak all the western journalists who interviewed him .. he is nothing like that. The rest of the regime, however, WAS almost as unpopular as you might imagine. But after the Iraq mess and after the Lebanese Hariri group showed the Syrians that teveryone is a hypocrite, not only thier regime, there was no desire anymore to seek regime change in Syria ... when we see an alternative we love, then we will risk our stability and internal peace for it. But No thanks, we don't like the Lebanes example, we do not like the Iraqui example, we do not like the Israeli system and we do not even like how America behave in teh rest of the world ... there are no angels out there.

Read, for example this Washington post article from today.



The idea of conditional stages over a significant period of time sounds like a good idea to me.

In terms of the dentist...I doubt he is some diabolical Darth Vader,( he might even be really nice to small pets and children) but he also has not seemed to have stood up to the rot around him either. I just do not see Assad as having made any real approach towards referm or concilliation...just pragmatic back-and-forth moves to stay in power.

And I cannot believe in him until he public admits that the Jews invented electricity.


first of all Bashar Al-Assad was an optometrist(eye doctor) so lets stop calling him a dentist. Second of all Howie, i said the Golan/Israel was "Syria’s most important FOREIGN policy issue" third, i missed what you meant by that "ouchie" comment??????


Innocent Criminal-

I saw your post on Ranting Monkey...or is that a different person? Thus...an "ouchie" = Cyst

Biggest foregin policy issue..OK..I stand corrected though I think Lebanon is a bigger issue.

Optomitrist? Oh...must not have had my glasses on when I read a story about him.

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