Wassim | Student United Kingdom
November 2nd, 2007

Re: ‘Syria's foreign policy

In a previous essay on my blog, I had argued that, since 1989, the region had gone through three distinct phases. In the first phase, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, we had seen a period of unrivaled US dominance in the region. The invasion of Kuwait by Iraq had given the pretext for US bases throughout the Gulf (an original grievance of Bin Laden) and a free hand for America in the region. In the second phase, we saw the rise of the sham peace initiative which saw Arafat brought in as an Israeli policeman to control and limit the damage of the Intifada that had shaken Israel to its core. This “American Peace process” was a dead horse that was continuously flogged until 2001, when it became clear after the al Qaeda attacks on the United States that a different approach was needed. This first phase also saw the demise of Arabism as various Arab countries were offered incentives to join in repelling Saddam Hussein. Many of them jumped at the opportunity, including Syria which was rewarded with a free hand in Lebanon and renewed hopes of a possible settlement involving the Golan. As one scholar reflected, it was ‚??the end of Arab politics‚?Ě and indeed of Arabism – that optimistic nationalism which had been dominant since the mid twentieth century. The third phase began with the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the attempt by the United States to reshape the Middle East. This attempt has now failed, instead what we see is a dominant Iran, a confident Syria and the worlds only alleged super power unable to extricate itself from the meat grinder once called Iraq.

Syria‚??s role in each of these phases has been crucial, yet it is in the last phase that the country has found itself once again at the centre of attention. In 2007 we find that the region has been defined largely as pro and anti-US spheres of influence, a division which, in the case of Lebanon, runs right through the capitol. The Gulf countries are firmly entrenched in the American sphere of influence, as are Egypt and Jordan. On the other hand, Syria and Iran have managed, though precariously at first, to maintain a power balance with various groups such as Hezbullah and Hamas, as well as through ‚??moral and political‚?Ě support to the resistance in Iraq. While they could not hope of defeating the United States yet, they quickly realized that they could make victory impossible for the Americans.

In this reality, we quickly realize that Syria‚??s choices with regards to economic and political relations crystallize. Iran, Russia and strangely enough, Turkey are the countries where future ties should be strengthened. The United States has been defeated on every level in the region, whether it is in Iraq or in Israel‚??s attempt to crush Hezbullah (and Lebanon) last summer. From a security perspective, it is vital that Damascus maintain and strengthen its ties with Iran as well as with Hezbullah and Hamas (Khaled Meshaal continues to be shuttled between safe houses throughout the Syrian capital). Damascus has already learned that a peace negotiated from weakness will not work with an Israel that is overconfident in its strength and abilities. In addition, Syria needs energy and a proposed gas line through Turkey from Iran could help cement the already growing economic ties between the two countries. In addition, Syria plays host to a large number of Iranian religious tourists who flock to the countries shrines contributing to the economy.

A newly confident Russia is also a partner with whom relations have always been strong historically. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Syria wooed a considerable number of Russian scientists and experts though the effect of this is still unclear. Recently we hear that Russia‚??s Putin is anxious to roll back what he sees as American encroachment throughout central Asia, whilst a new ‘Great Game’ is shaping up in the Arctic as well. His recent warning against military force in the Caspian was largely a warning against the use of countries north of Iran as launchpads for future attacks against the Islamic Republic. In addition, Russia has been able to provide weapons systems which, if used properly, can help deny Israel or the United States air superiority over Syria or Iran, or at least make life difficult for any attacker. Russia can also provide vital support through its membership of the United Nations Security Council and, in a time when most of the world has already folded under the United States, such a large profile, and still powerful, ally would add considerable political and diplomatic weight to Syria.

The strange case of Turkey has recently become more prominent with the ambush of Turkish soldiers near the Iraqi border. Joshua Landis recently posted on how Ehud Olmert was snubbed by Turkey‚??s new president in favour of the Syrian President Assad as the first official state visitor. While there, Assad was quick to voice Syria‚??s support of Turkey‚??s right to quell terror and terrorists. A pragmatic move signaling Syrian support for any Turkish military action in Iraq. Syria‚??s (and Iran‚??s) interest in bringing Turkey to Iraq serves to not only humiliate the United States and add to its considerable woes, but also eliminates the fledgling Kurdish state, seen as a threat by all three states and a strong ally of the United States. The elimination of this haven of American sponsored calm in this turbulent region makes life incredibly difficult for the Occupation, though it could prove costly for Turkey in the long run. In addition, it demonstrates that the preservation of Iraq‚??s territorial integrity is in our strategic interest once America is forced to retreat.

Iran, Russia and Turkey do make for strange bedfellows, but Syria finds itself in the middle of a cobweb spun by the regions historic enemies from across the sea and these are in fact sound alliances. Syria‚??s internal opposition and democracy advocates both formal and grass roots are incoherent, marginalized and in disarray. This means that, through a quirk of history or international relations, the survival of the ruling regime is now dependent on Syria‚??s role as the only Arab country which continues to resist the American designs on the region and vice versa. Many will disagree with me, yet I doubt any can offer a realistic alternative, apart from infantile deconstructions of language, society and power, which does not jeopardise the resistance to America and Israel upon which the future of the region depends.

Syria‚??s flexibility on key issues in the region from Lebanon to the Palestinian refugees can also be predicted based on this analysis of the current political climate. The simple answer is, none is required, though of course this is something we will need to look at closely. Lebanon is a complex and vibrant country which has historically strong connections to Syria. Syria‚??s involvement did indeed end the country‚??s long and bloody civil war, but at the cost of a heavy handed Syrian military presence there throughout the nineties. This remained the case till the assassination of Hariri and American pressure on Syria to withdraw, something meant to pave the way for a systematic removal of Hezbullah by Israel. It is unfortunate that this beautiful country should again be the battleground for foreign countries but the fact remains that it remains the Achilles heel to Syria and both Israel and the United States place a high priority on taking control there. Assad, like his father, recognizes that anything which can give those two countries a toe hold in Lebanon would lead to the strangulation of Syria and cannot be tolerated. Syria does not even need to gain full control of Lebanon, but simply maintain the status quo since time is not on America’s side. Granted, the United States is arming the Future party thugs and some paramilitary groups from the days of the civil war, but these will be no match for Hizbullah’s seasoned fighters unless Israel involves itself simultaneously. This however, does risk setting the region ablaze as neither Syria nor Iran will allow Hezbullah to be crushed now that it has proven it’s value.

In the case of Iraq, Syria again has absolutely no reason at all to change its position as this has been the key event which has allowed it to ‚??catch the tiger by the toe‚?Ě. A worrying factor is the pressure being exerted on it through the Iraqi refugee problem, something which might be used to keep the heat up on Damascus since there has been no international assistance forthcoming. It is a tricky position to be in and the Syrian economy, through corruption and mismanagement is still brittle. In the grand scheme of things though, there is an argument to say that Syria is hurting a lot less because of hosting the Iraqi refugees than the United States, which is hemorrhaging in Iraq.

On the matter of the Golan and the Palestinian refugees, the current climate is not conducive at all for any grand peace gestures and the upcoming ‚??conference‚?Ě must be seen mainly as a place for the United States and its regional allies to lick their wounds and plan their next move. Syria‚??s position (publicly) on these two matters should remain one of long term construction for a ‚??just‚?Ě solution though there may have to be compromise on the right of return if the Golan is to come back. The question is whether Syria can build enough pressure on Israel in the meantime to make the return of the Golan in exchange for abandoning the right of return profitable enough. Still, should such a situation come about, it would beg the question of why anyone should then negotiate with an increasingly weaker Israel, rather than liberate Palestine and put an end to this saga. This is where Hamas comes in, whereby Iran is now demographically at Israel‚??s northern and southern borders. Israel cannot afford to ignore Hamas for much longer and is allegedly planning a massive operation of sorts in Gaza. If this is truly the case, it will not risk doing so without also trying to deal another blow to Hezbullah, who may get involved should Hamas‚?? position be endangered. The Palestinian infighting, as tragic as it seems, is in fact a mirror of what is happening in the region as a whole and must be viewed as a struggle between who will control the ‚??street‚?Ě so to speak. The outcome made there will have ramifications further up the food chain. Syria cannot hope to defeat Israel through direct confrontation, yet we see that even America cannot hold Iraq in spite of its might. That and the war in Lebanon have provided vital precedents and templates for how such modern armies can be dealt with and broken, with a minimum investment of arms and equipment. America and Israel are strong in the West, but not in the Middle East.

The twentieth century can be considered the Middle East‚??s lost century or, to paraphrase from Gabriel Marquez, its ‚??100 years of solitude‚?Ě. The overwhelming tide of secular politics and nationalism which engulfed the region following the end of the ‚??Western mandates‚?Ě marginalized and drowned out the regions own rich political, socio-economic and religious realities with those that had a context in Western Europe. Almost two generations of Arabs have thus been educated to look West instead of East – they are lost. The tragedy is that most of these ‚??lost Arabs‚?Ě now either rule us (the moderate countries) or dominate what is taken as a political opposition in most countries, including Syria. As Shariati once said, there are three strands of political thought: Humanist, Nationalist and Religious. These three factors, when applied in the correct context and reality, can in fact be productive and useful. It is when they are applied in the wrong context and reality that they can cause much damage, for example they can make people who should be enemies friends and vice versa. Rather than be partial to one or the other flavour, Syria has proven adept at manipulating each of those three images where it saw fit. This should be commended and not condemned at a time when nationalism is used to divide the Arab countries, religion is used to divide Sunni against Shia and the secular against the religious whilst in one breath humanism is being used to justify the continued occupation of Palestine and Iraq.

To conclude, I have argued that Syria should in fact strengthen its ties to Iran, Russia and Turkey. This is due to the context within which we find the region and that has gone through a number of phases since 1989. The death of Arabism and the realignment of many regional players on the side of Israel and the United States meant that a new appraisal had to be made and Syria has in fact made it. At this moment it has no need to be flexible on any issues since it (and Iran) remarkably still hold all the cards. However, rather than expect to rest on its success and hope to negotiate a better offer, Syria must intensify its efforts to roll back this influence, anything less could jeopardise all it has worked for. The populations of Jordan and Egypt reject the surrender of their rulers and this could be useful at a later stage, especially now that Mubarak is old and rumours abound of his ill health. Inadvertently perhaps, the role played by Syria in recent events could awaken some of those Arabs who have been seduced by the siren call of America. These Arabs have been taught to place a greater emphasis on bread and surrender, that to be patient and await some saviour is foolish. Yet I refer to them as sleeping Arabs, because underneath these clothes that do not belong to them, they will soon remember that it is not by bread alone that one lives, as Jesus once said. The fact that most Western analysts and politicians might think it a contradiction for a Muslim to quote Jesus demonstrates how far outside of the real debates they really are. Realism in International Relations and prudent political planning makes for strange partnerships and even stranger outcomes.

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38 Responses to the Article

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

What a delusional diatribe. As usual, the Arabs learn the wrong lessons from war. The lessons from the July 2006 war in Lebanon are simple. Using Hizballah methods gets your country killed. You better decide now what Syria plans to do when the US attacks Iran, because if Hizballah does anything to Israel, it will be the end of Syria. Let’s see how Syria copes without its oil production facilities and without infrastructure. That is the lesson. Learn it well.

And if Syria should look East and not West, it is also reasonable that all Syrians in the US and Europe should go to Iran and Russia. Preaching against the interests of the country that hosts you is treason, and you Wassim are a traitor. Don’t worry, eventually the West will wake up to the likes of you. Since you support the Asad regime that denies democratic rights to Syrians, I think you do not deserve any democratic rights in the West. Enough with the blatant hypocrisy. Preaching against democracy from within a democracy is quite low.

Wassim Says:

AIG,
Thanks for the feedback, though I’m surprised by how little you are able to discern what is happening around you. The ‘lessons’ you have been referring to are now being taught in countries as far afield as Venezulea all the way to Moscow. It’s amazing how out of touch people such as yourselves are when you still believe that your country is strong and that the United States is a superpower. Sadly it seems that you will have to start another conflict and much more bloodshed until this reality begins to sink in. Occupation, we may forgive you for, but for the price you’ve made us pay by tarnishing our souls, I doubt it.

Thanks for the migration tips but no thanks. We are here and there and everywhere. I also reject your insidious and racist stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims as a “fifth column”. We work hard, are honest, educated and productive wherever we have had the chance. “We” are not going anywhere. Deal with it…

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

Wassim,
We heard the same delusional diatribes after 73 and after 2000. Also after 67, imagine that. Look at all the UN developmental reports and see that each year Israel is getting stronger and stronger while Asad is leading Syria to an economic meltdown. When you can’t supply electricity, you are in big trouble.

Your soul is are already tarnished because you sold it to the devil by supporting the oppressive Asad regime. And of course not all Arabs or Syrians are traitors like you. Only those that are hypocrites and use the freedoms they have in the West to support dictatorship in their home countries. Why did you go to the UK if you think Russia and Iran are better? Intellectual dishonesty at its best.

nihad Says:

great piece,i enjoyed it.agree with most of it.but can syria survive without the arab countries.no matter how thier postionis disgusting, being anti-syria!

qunfuz Says:

AnotherIsraeliGuy sounds a lot like the apologist for totalitarianism he accuses Wassim of being. It is totalitarian to associate a nation entirely with its government’s foreign policy, and to call someone a traitor to that country if he doesn’t support all its foreign policies. Wassim, who lives in Britain, is therefore a traitor to the country that hosts him. But 90% of British people must be traitors too, for they also disagree, some of the time, on their government’s foreign policy. If Wassim had disagreed with Syrian policy, would you consider him a traitor to Syria? I expect not. If a Jew in Yemen, America, or Venezuela doesn’t agree with his country’s foreign policy, would you call him a traitor?

qunfuz Says:

Wissam – This is a great piece of work, and comprehensive, fitting Syrian realities into the regional and international contexts. Your line “America and Israel are strong in the West, but not in the Middle East.” is very apt.

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

Qunfuz,
Let me be very clear. Wassim in my eyes is a traitor not because he is against US or British foreign policy. He is a traitor because he is preaching against democracy from within a democracy. To me, this means he does not really support democracy and therefore is a traitor.

The US and the West in general can only survive if there is internal agreement to solve our differences using the democratic process. But once someone preaches against this, he is undermining the very existence of the West and is a traitor.

I am surprised you don’t see this.

Majhool Says:

“the survival of the ruling regime is now dependent on Syria‚??s role as the only Arab country which continues to resist the American designs on the region and vice versa”

Wallah I did not get that. please explain further. The way I see it is that survival thus far was achieved by the President success in opening the country and changing the Mukhabarat face of the country at least superficially.

If the americans allow him to switch sides and become an ally it will only make the regime stronger.

Majhool Says:

One more note, i see the syrian people and their interests totally absent from your analysis.

As if the hopes and dreams of the arab people are summed into the casue of Anti Americansism, and palestine. I consider that to be short sighted.

The country and region as a whole need true and substantial elements of strength. forging alliance with Turkey et al may help but is not enough.

Grass root development of these society is what is needed. I am heopful that the syrian regime has figured that out.

Wassim Says:

AIG,
It’s an interesting way you see things such as democracy, my article and your own country. I hope most Israelis were like you, Palestine would be free much sooner.

Qunfuz,
Thank you and I’m glad you liked the article! I read yours too and smiled at how similar some of the conclusions were. I guess great minds think alike ūüėČ

Nihad,
Thanks for the comment! I think we can survive. Defeat starts in the mind first.

Wassim Says:

Majhool,
I think a response must go just for you as I know where you like to take the discussion from previous skirmishes we’ve had here.

“Wallah I did not get that. please explain further. The way I see it”, I’d be interested as to why that is the way you see it. I can see my comment confused you and to clarify, my comment is that the Syrian government is now firmly entrenched in it’s role leading Syria as the sole Arab country that has refused to submit. You might not like it, but nobody can ever accuse the Syrian government of being anything but run by Syrians and for their own interests (albeit some of them perhaps). You cannot say this for any other Arab country’s government anymore. All have submitted to America.

I just don’t see why you think that the Syrian governments position would be stronger should they switch sides to the Americans. I mean that if you are the kind of person who would sell themself for money, then perhaps that would make sense, but I have to say I admire Syria’s position politically. It is pragmatic, calculated and has been successful. I think perhaps you might be confused since you mistake the politics of grass roots individuals and groups which are concerned with issues regarding Western conceptions of human rights, with the higher politics of state, government and power which supercede and take priority to any other concerns some may have. If you put yourself in the ‘right’ framework for understanding the motives behind these decisions, you’ll understand their necessity. I will of course, be hung, drawn and quartered by some of you for saying these things, feel free to try. As AIG might say, I enjoy plucking democracy’s beard while sitting on his lap.

Majhool Says:

Waseem,

I wish not to quarel with you. we clearly disagree. which is fine. Instead I will recommend that you watch this movie “The lives of Others” maybe compassion will creep into your fine principles.

I will salut your well written post ..you defend your casue well.

Cheers.

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

You are the ideal enemy for Israel, a hypocrite that believes that “interests of state” which are defined by a dictator supercede human rights while enjoying those human rights in a democracy yourself. Using your perverted arguments, Israel has every right to bomb people like you into oblivion as part of its national interests. You are quite crazy in the demented sense of the word. Bravo Alex on your selection of commentator.

Wassim Says:

Majhool,
I’ll check it out though I assure you have plenty of compassion and I’m actually a really nice guy (so I’m told)

AIG,
The problem is you still think that bombs and war can solve your problems, that these things make you strong. You use them because you are weak and insecure.

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

Wassim,
Read what Bishara writes. What makes Israel strong is the fact that it is a democracy. All the rest follows from that. It is a pity that this lesson is not something you can comprehend.

Wassim Says:

AIG,
So the billions which the United States pours into it have nothing to do with that does it? Nor does the state of the art military equipment it is provided with…

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

Wassim,
You are right. Israel’s strength is only because it is a democracy.
Until 67 the US provided Israel with very little support.
Compare the money Israel received to the trillions the Arabs got from oil and you will understand that the only difference is democracy.

Wassim Says:

Ok you win, democracy is the magic formula AIG. It’s a shame us Arabs are so congenitally defective that we can’t seem to understand this.

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

Wassim,
Liberal democracy is the formula. How can anyone deny this looking at the last 100 years of history?
And yes, I would like to understand why some Arabs resist it. If you see a winning strategy, why won’t you adopt it? If you don’t like the American model, use the Indian or French one or whatever, but isn’t it clear that the best way forward for societies is some form of liberal democracy?

Majhool Says:

AIG

Do you have a job? you seem to be on the internet 24/7.

Majhool Says:

AIG

Do you have a job? you seem to be on the internet 24/7

Global Voices Online » Syria: Foreign Policy Says:

[…] start with Wassim, who argues that Syria ought to stay the course in its current foreign policy, especially when it comes to strengthening its ties with Russia, […]

iyad Says:

im sorry but im gonna take a wild guess here…are you wassim * * * * * by any chance???

wassim Says:

Hi Iyad,
yes, do I know you?

iyad Says:

no you dont but Talal’s a friend of mine and he talks quite a bit about you…but I never thought the world would be this small!!
I think the article was really nice but I have one objection to the part when you said:
“the survival of the ruling regime is now dependent on Syria‚??s role as the only Arab country which continues to resist the American designs on the region and vice versa”
I don’t think that this is true because the internal security and intellegience forces have a strong grip on society and it would crack down on any threat to the regime. In other words I think that the regime isn’t even considering the Syrian public during these difficult times because it knows that no true threat could come from the masses and even if it did it would be dealt with swiftly and brutally like previously.
In the beginning of this article you said that you have a blog, can you tell me what it is? thanks

wassim Says:

Hi Iyad,
Ahlan wa sahlan! I think you misunderstood that part as what I am referring to is the role of the government viz. the international scene. Basically the regimes interests in survival and also as “guardian” of the Arab cause have “converged” in my opinion, unlike other Arab governments that have sided with the United States and it’s allies. That was what I meant rather than any internal issues.

If you just click on my name or on Maysaloon on one of the links to the side you will get to it. Unfortunately I think blogspot.com is blocked at your end so you might need to use some anonymizer or proxy. I’m working on adding a domain name to it so that it would be accessible on “the inside”.

Majed Says:

Wassim,

Well done!

I think Syria has been playing its cards right thus far in breaking out of the isolation that was imposed on it by America, Israel and the so called “moderate Arab state”. Going east is the only viable option at this time, however, Syria must diversify its relations by continuing to reach out to the west and America, providing that its strategic interests, including Lebanon and the Golan, are not compromised. I think the coming weeks are likely to further strengthen Syria’s position as a key player in the region, as Bush is running out of time and amunitions. He is getting desperate to accomplish something in order to salvage his legacy and recover some credibility for the U.S. in the region.

Mr. Israeli Says:

Wassim,

I’ve returned to this blog, after being away a number of months, and the first article I read was yours. I’m assuming you’re the same Wassim I had multiple “arguments” with on the first topic discussions, and if I recall correctly, we actually managed to open up to each other a bit, and even agree on some things.

I read your article thoroughly, and I have a few comments to make:

First, I tend to agree that Syria needs to strengthen its stance in the region by allying itself with “the East” and by maintaining close relations with Hezbollah and Iran (can you imagine an Israeli would say this?) But unlike many Israelis, I think I’m able to put myself in “your shoes” from time to time, or more. In general, forming a growing opposition, or alternative, to the United States in the region is a positive thing. I look at it as having a two-party system, rather than one. Having an opposition is always a good way to ensure more than one opinion is heard, and a form of checking actions and decisions on the ground. The U.S. is more likely to think twice when it has an opposition, than when it doesn’t. By the way, so is the “other side”, namely you.

Second, with the assumption that none of us have completely given up on the hope (at least) of peace in the world one day, we must still be careful in how we traverse these regional developments. If we misunderstand each other’s motives, and grow even further suspicious, we may seek to “release pressure” by forcing a clash, and perhaps far greater than last summer’s “war”. It is precisely because a formal and vocal alliance now exists between Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas, that the risk for an all-out style war is that much greater. Here’s a scenario for you, please forgive my imagination…

The U.S. administration, recognizing it can no longer attack Iran’s so-called military-nuclear program (and yesterday’s Intel-report made public only reinforced this), decides it still wants to teach the Mullah-regime a lesson, and carries out a limited attack on Revolutionary Guard bases. Its excuse is their being training grounds for anti-American Shia-attacks in Iraq. Put aside for a moment whether Congress or the American people buy this argument or not. So American planes and smart-missiles pound a few tens of installations, and perhaps a few strategic ones as well, causing a fair bit of damage to Iran. In return, suppose for a minute Iran makes the mistake of retaliating not only against American forces on the ground in Iraq by massive shelling, but also hits Israel with a few tens of Shihabs (conventional). Israel, ecstatic for the opportunity this provides, sends off its planes to attack and destroy most of Iran’s “visible” or “known” nuclear installations. Much more damage is now caused. Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas, now get into the game. Syria shells Israel with tens or hundreds of short and medium-range Scuds, causing great damage to quite a few population centers. Hezbollah does their thing, and so does Hamas from Gaza. Israel, feeling it has no alternative left, launches all-out “conventional” attacks on all 4 fronts, including specifically attacks on regime strongholds in Syria and Iran. Feeling seriously threatened, somebody (Iran, Syria) introduces non-conventional weapons into the game. One or two chemical warhead missiles lands in the center of Tel-Aviv, killing a few hundred, injuring many more. Israel, translating this act as a Doomsday scenario, feels it has no option remaining, and introduces (according to foreign sources) its ultimate weapon. If indeed Israel does have nuclear capabilities, it is doubtful it has only one or two or three bombs, but probably tens if not hundreds. If it should choose to use such a weapon, I imagine it will do so under considerable pressure (fearing an existential threat), and may choose to punish severely in order to deter for a long time to come. We see where this could lead… The region quickly turns into an on-earth Hades.

Is this pure imagination? Perhaps. But if God-forbid it did happen, and if you and I did survive it, we couldn’t say to each other 5 years from now, “we couldn’t even imagine…” Unfortunately, times are so tense right now, that almost anything is possible. It is so easy to misunderstand one another, EVEN more than it has been before. Let us not forget that only 45 years ago, the world was truly on the brink of nuclear war, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It really almost happened, it is not a myth. At the end, it was JFK that listened not to his entire EXCOM advisors, but rather to an ex-ambassador to Moscow, who happened to stay a few times at the Khruschev’s and had gotten to know them quite well, who suggested to find a way to help Nikita out of this mess he’d created. Had JFK listened to his advisors, and attacked Cuba, from everything we know today about Castro’s requests and advice to the Soviet commanders on the ground, there’s a good chance you and I would not be blogging right now… And here, in our case, there aren’t two cool-headed super-powers, that have been avid subscribers to d√©tente during the Cold War, but rather multiple, unequal partners and powers, that are probably the farthest from being called “cool-headed”… That’s not good recipe for success.

Having said all that, brings me to my third and last comments, which is that Syria, while strengthening herself and acquiring better “cards”, must also do its utmost to achieve peace with Israel, soon! I’ve written a few articles in the past saying things like “what more can we ask of Assad?” and “hasn’t Syria done enough?” And I’ve also suggested many times that Bashar could and should find the winning formula to not be seen as weak (but rather out of strength) and show up in Jerusalem, and speak to the Israeli people directly. We have a case in history where that approach achieved something, and quickly. Putting aside the so-called state of peace with Egypt, fact remains, Egypt got the Sinai back, and that’s what it wanted. If Bashar speaks to every man, woman, and child on Israeli TV, standing at the podium in the Knesset in Jerusalem, the next day you’d see hundreds of thousand of free Israelis marching for peace, and for giving up the Golan. Our innate distrust and suspicion of one another doesn’t allow Israelis to even imagine that Syria truly wishes to put aside its century-old conflict with us. As I’ve said on multiple occasions, this is not about logic, or international relations, or historical facts, or anything else. It is purely about emotion. And that is what has to be dealt with.

I am optimistic, and will always remain so, even if God-forbid any or all of the Doomsday scenario I depicted above come true. Look at Japan and the U.S. – they are today stronger allies that most any other two nations could be. One could never imagine that after Pearl Harbor in 1941, and yet… ‘Course, Syria and Israel don’t share an ocean, we share a very real border, and are for all practical purposes only two hours driving-time apart. Isn’t it crazy that we can write so easily to each other, express humaneness, and empathy, and yet we’re “sworn-enemies”? Isn’t it such a waste of precious nano-seconds of life? Can’t we once and for all throw away the anger, the injustice, the pain, the suffering (past and ongoing), and reach out to each other and look purely at our children’s future with a smile? Can’t we do all this in our lifetime? Must it be left to our great-grandchildren, or theirs, after more tens or hundreds of thousands of our children have to still die? And of course I’m not just talking about Syria and Israel, I’m also talking about the Palestinians (and you know how I view Israel’s part in their suffering).

Wassim, I wish you, and the rest of the people of our region, peace. May we live to see the day that we go to bed unafraid. That our children don’t have to serve in the army, don’t have to fight and die in wars, don’t have to humiliate a people and rob them of their most basic rights. That we put our hard-earned money into our children’s future, and not into tanks and airplanes. That we truly want to meet the challenges the future brings us together, and not apart.

In’shalla.

Gil Says:

I really think that Mr. Israeli, whilst displaying a wonderfully childlike and naive hope for our mutual futures, fails to grasp that Assad’s Syria is a snake poised to strike, and is only strengthened by bleeding heart peaceniks like himself!!

Mr. Israeli Says:

I’m glad there are still some anti-peaceniks around like Gil… my weak self-conscience wouldn’t be able to conjure any bit of wisdom without such powerful checks.

So to my dear Gil, who is privy enough to not only thoroughly “grasp” Syria’s true intentions, but also my personal contribution to its strengthening, I hope you sleep well at night. I hope you have enough to tell yourself each morning, when the mirror keeps asking “now why do I exist again?” I hope you’re happy, because if you’re NOT, you’re a complete waste of human cells. You, and your kind, have arrogance and racism tattooed across your body and soul to such extent that you couldn’t hide them if you tried. You are a disgrace to the Jewish people, to Zionism, and to mankind. I am ashamed to know that perhaps only kilometers away from me, a pitiful citizen like yourself resides.

Your contribution to Israel’s present and future, to the lives of anyone around you, and to yourself, can be summed up in one word – NILL! But I’m sure this is not the first time you hear someone’s disappointment in your extremist views, just as I’m sure nothing on earth can ever cause you to shed this innate hatred. I’m quite sure you find yourself hating not only Arabs, and “peaceniks” like myself, but probably a long list of other people and other things in your daily life. If that keeps you going, then all the best my fellow Israeli, be’hatzlacha (“good luck”, in Hebrew).

Alex Says:

Mr. Israeli,

Good to see you here again!

Gil,

You are telling Mr. Israeli that he is an idiot … basically you think that if Israel spoke with one unified, powerful, voice (like yours) then the Syrians will … be scared and run away? … will respect you more?

It is not very impressive to watch you and other right-wing Israelis consistently and predictably show up on our Forums to ridicule the more moderate voices in an attempt to shut them up.

Here is another weak Israeli who seems to have more-or-less the same opinion as “Mr. Israeli”.

You think you understand what is good for Israel better than Mr. Dichter? Do you know how to read Syria’s intentions better than he can? You know things that he does not know? Do you think you are tougher than Avi Dichter?

Mr. Israeli Says:

Hi Alex,

Yes, it is nice to be back. I’m actually glad we got the opportunity to show the two faces of Israel today. Although most of the “other half” of Israelis aren’t as extreme as Gil is, certainly not in what seems to be an innate hatred towards Arabs, it is the case that they are too tired to even contemplate the potential for a different era in the region. They are so fed up with the political stagnation, with ongoing terrorism (as they define it), with endless ups-and-downs and hopes created and destroyed, etc. They are, for all practical purposes, numb to any initiative whatsoever, regardless of its source. Most Israelis are obviously not born-haters, not of Arabs, not of Islam, not of anyone. But most ARE too exhausted, too distrustful, too cynical, to believe either any of our politicians, or any of “yours”.

That is why I keep reiterating the only thing I can possibly think of at this point in time, aside from outright war, which may shake this numbness and exhaustion just enough, to reawaken those millions of Israelis who 25 years ago marched up Rabin Square (back then called something else obviously) to demand the immediate halt to the first Lebanon War. And it worked – sort of… But they were sensible, and they were optimistic, and they believed in peace, then. And what might do the job now, is a shocking, unexpected drop-in by Bashar Assad. There MUST be a way for him to come address all of us, coming out a winner regardless of the result. He MUST find the right advisors, who will draw it out for him, and make this happen. I’ve written here before how I still remember adults and children alike, all around me at the time (in 1977), with tears in their eyes as they watched on black-and-white TV their archenemy Anwar Sadat walk down the staircase, only to be greeted by Israel’s top echelon, all in disbelief, and all with the kind of hope and optimism that comes along only once in a lifetime, in this war-torn region of the world. It CAN, and it WILL happen again, if only Assad found the way. Unfortunately, our own leaders are too busy worrying about the endless investigations into their personal involvement in corruption charges, and the last thing they seem to be genuinely concerned about nowadays, is the future of their country or their countrymen…

What do you think?

Naim Nazha MD Says:

MR Israeli,
wishful thinking and something might work if Israel has future looking leaders not thinking of their own survival,
I want to ask you , What will happen to Bashar if he went there and got nothing from these weak Israeli leaders , how much credibility will he have with his people , the Palestinians and the Lebanese , will Israel give back the Golan or will send him home with nothing , I expect the later ,
The only way i see for peace is for Israel and Syria to negotiate peace between Israel and the Palestinian and the Lebanese and convince the the Palestinians and the Lebanese of the deal include Iran in securing the deal so Israel will have peace and prosperity’s.
I think Peace is not an emotional Issue but an issue that needs planing and preparation.

Mr. Israeli Says:

Naim Nazha,

I agree with you that peace needs careful planning and preparation. It is not only an emotional thing. But much of it, at least for Israelis, is emotional. At the moment, the emotions are very negative, full of suspicion, distrust, etc. A visit to Jerusalem by Assad would not be about trying to get the maximum out of (what I described earlier to be) our weak leaders. It would actually be about showing that he was willing to do absolutely everything humanly possible to show the Israeli people (not only their leaders) that he is ready to make real peace. That he is not just talking words, he’s also ready to take the risks involved. It would have a tremendous emotional effect on my people, that I have absolutely no doubt about. Inside, we all long for peace as badly as any of our neighbors do.

Like with Sadat in 1977, where the actual peace treaty was not signed until 1979, here too negotiations would take place. In the end, the Golan will be returned to Syria, whether immediately, over 5 years, or over 10 years, I don’t know. But it doesn’t matter, because it WILL be returned, that I have no doubt about, and neither do most Israelis. What we must feel back in return, is that Syria (and Assad as its leader) is absolutely sincere in its intentions, that it is willing to go far to achieve true peace with us (perhaps providing behind-the-scene promises to do away with its support of Hezbollah and Hamas, and possibly tone-down its military alliance with Iran).

I personally don’t believe now is the right time to be negotiating with the Palestinians. I believe the Palestinians are split down the middle about a lot of issues, not only Israel, and I’m almost certain that there is a good chance they’ll end up having a sort-of civil war in the near future. Israel should not attempt to ally itself with one half of the Palestinians, while fighting the other. Instead, it should declaratively disassociate itself from all parties (at least formally), and begin preparing Israelis for a permanent detachment from the Palestinian territories. We must also start a gradual decrease in the supply of energy and other humanitarian goods, so as to get the Palestinians and the rest of the world to accept the new reality. This reality will be the first step, I believe, towards a two-state solution.

By the way, I’m absolutely certain that the easiest challenge at the moment is the Syria-Israel one. The price is known almost to the last meter, and there’s really not that much to still work out. If Syria and Israel do find the winning formula, and do make peace in the next year or two, I have no doubt that this will have a very stabilizing effect on the region, will press the Palestinians to at last reach a consensus about their demands vis-a-vis Israel, and could also contribute in defusing the “Iran-bomb”, which is ticking faster and faster these past few months… If we don’t hurry, and do what’s right, we may find ourselves in a disastrous regional conflict, involving Israel, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, etc. Such conflict will, unfortunately, be far more costly than others we’ve seen in the past 60 years.

I’m still optimistic… how about you?

Alex Says:

Mr. Israeli,

I am optimistic peace negotiations will start… if not in 2008, then in early 2009.

Mr. Israeli Says:

Alex,

Besides a general feeling of optimism in the air (like I seem to feel as well), what are you basing your dates on? Hopefully this optimism isn’t its close-cousin, wishful thinking…

USHUD Says:

USHUD…

Creative Forum – Golan Heights home ¬Ľ Blog Archive…

Metropolitan Fine Arts and Antiques Says:

Metropolitan Fine Arts and Antiques…

Creative Forum – Golan Heights home ¬Ľ Blog Archive…

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