SimoHurtta | Information Technology Finland
November 5th, 2007

Re: ‘Syria's foreign policy

From a North European‚??s viewpoint the overall relations between Arab and Muslim countries with each other are ‚?? how can one say it politely ‚?? confusing. In speeches, and undoubtedly in the minds of normal people, an Arab unity exists but in practical moves the co-operation is rather low. Arab world is like Europe 100 ‚?? 200 years ago; regional powers fighting for influence, forming short lived coalitions and tripping each others whenever possible.

For outside powers, especially for USA and her regional bull terrier, Israel, keeping the Arab world fragmented and even trying to fragment it more, as described in the map prepared by Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters, is geopolitically and economically understandable from US government‚??s viewpoint. With this strategy the United States could control the oil drilling, trade routes and prices to some extent and keep the petrodollar rotation going on. And more importantly the United States could stop a potentially strong competitor to emerge, which an Arab ‚??EU‚?Ě would be. This American divide and rule strategy is not also unknown with her policy towards Europe and EU. The United States does not want the European Union to develop further towards a more state-like entity with common foreign policy and defense. The United States wants the EU to stay as a loose union of nation states, understandable for USA‚??s geopolitical interests but not so ‚??understandable‚?Ě for European countries. Though solely blaming the ‚??West‚?Ě and Israel for the Middle East‚??s problems is not justified. The different local power centers struggling for influence and power must carry also their responsibility of the ‚??missed opportunities‚?Ě. The Iraq war could not have happened if Arab countries had said no.

A Middle East ‚??EU‚?Ě in the coming decades would change the present geopolitical power structure considerably, especially now when oil becomes a critical supply. Middle East‚??s best (only) hope is in close economical and political co-operation followed with rapid economical growth. In time that would undoubtedly lead to a better democratic ruling style and push back the growing religious extremism.

For Syria good and functioning relations with the Arab and Muslim countries are in the end much more important than the level of relations with USA and EU. Naturally, good relations with EU and USA can open possibilities in trade, technology and investments. But especially with the United States, the past decades’ history has shown that good relations can exist only if Syria obeys and follows the will of America. And that has been proven difficult because the countries interests do not match with so many issues.

European countries have in the past decades had much more pragmatic relations with Arab countries. Financing the oil trade with Arab countries with maximum export has been more important for most European countries than giving democracy lectures. Despite of US pressure European countries and EU seem not with full heart back US moves, which often seem to cost in the end Europe more than USA. Serious instability in Middle East reflects on Europe much more severely and quickly than it reflects on the United States. A peaceful and prosperous neighbouring block would benefit Europe much more than a region torn apart with civil wars and religious extremism.

Relations with Israel are important for Syria only with the Golan question and Palestine problem and of course in military aspects. In economical terms co-operation with Israel is also in future rather insignificant, if Israel continues on the chosen path. Israel is like an island, mostly isolating herself from the region. Israel could provide technology, capital and a relatively small market for many products, but nothing unique that others can not provide. Peace with Israel is important for Syria but only if the two main challenges can be solved in a way that might not be in Israel‚??s interests, meaning creating Palestine and giving back Golan. The decades long dispute has enabled Israel to play a much bigger role in world politics (and hugely benefited it economically) than it could keep up with peace with neighbours. Is Israel ready to become the Denmark of the Middle East – a prosperous small country, but politically rather insignificant? If the coming Annapolis conference doesn‚??t provide real results, very few still believe in Israel‚??s desire to solve the problems in the way most of the world wants.

With Lebanon Syria should forget the big brother mentality. Let Lebanon calm down and choose her own path. Like many other European countries have had to do the same with their breakaway areas and countries. In the end Lebanon needs Syria much more than Syria needs Lebanon, even if the country is lead by an anti-Syrian president.

The non Arab regional powers Turkey and Iran are extremely important for Syria, not only in many common political interests, but most of all for economical and industrial reasons. Turkey has already a good industrial basis and she has considerable amount of influence in international politics. Iran despite her rather ‚??bad‚?Ě reputation is a large country, with industrial potential and huge natural resources.

In conclusion, Syria‚??s chances, with all those geopolitical tensions and problems in the Middle East, to create and keep up good relations with all involved parties is challenging, if not impossible. Syria should concentrate on finding the elements which unite the areas/nations and actively work for a tighter Middle East‚??s political and economical union. Only co-operation can save the area from decades long civil wars and the faith of Afghanistan and Iraq. In the end it is not the question about Shias against Sunnis, as little as it had been in Europe Protestants against Catholics. As Iraq and Afghanistan have clearly showed, the outsiders can not provide solutions, better living standards or stability. They only create more problems if they are allowed to lead the future Middle East.

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25 Responses to the Article

Alex Says:

SimoHurrta you made one point that I find interesting: Why should Israelis stop their IDF from engaging in battles and probably winning “hopefully”? … signing a peace agreement with Syria will make life so boring for them.

The IDF Israel’s favorite sports team… Israel won’t be the same without the frequently active IDF.

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

Alex,
Signing a peace treaty with a tyrant is dishonorable and I am very much against it. When there is democracy in Syria there will be peace if the Syrians want it.

Alex Says:

AIG,

I understand your opinion by now, and there are many Israelis who think the same way you do. But that is only one issues. There are many significant factors to look at. Your country’s addiction to the IDF is another issue for me…. a significant portion of comments on any Syria article online at Haaretz shows a clear mentality… Israelis love to see their IDF in action… peace will be the end of the IDF’s glamorous operations … all they can do after there are no hostilities with Syria and Lebanon would be to go kill Palestinian civilians in the West Bank through very primitive means (using rifles and tanks) … which most Israelis do not enjoy … it is not like the “Israeli secret operation” on Syria … Olmert got a 10% surge in popularity out of that one before anyone knew what happened ad before the nature of the alleged target was discussed in public.

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

Alex,
You really think Israelis “enjoy” wasting 3 to 4 years between the age of 18 to 21,22 in order to go to the IDF? Is there a country that you know in which the compulsory draft is popular? You really need to think straight. Israel has the IDF because it is a necessity. When there will be peace and trust in our region, the IDF will become much less important to Israel.

Let me tell you a HUGE secret. Come closer. Most Israelis are interested in making money and having a good life. They would rather start a high tech company than waste 40 days a year in reserve duty. Imagine that.

Olmert got a 10% surge because he was able to arrange international support in such a way that he could take care of a serious Syrian threat without international recrimination and without starting a war and without any Israeli casualties. Now, that is good politics. That is what we elect our prime ministers for. Olmert deserves the 10% boost but he is still not getting my vote.

Alex Says:

AIG,
You are talking about one type of the many Israelis that I like and hope that Syrians would get to know them and respect them and interact with them and learn from them and do business with them …

But again … you are good in seeing the good Israel. I will not get into linking a million articles about the messed up Israelis who kill and who like to watch their IDF kill and destroy.

You have a very unbalanced Israel that can encourage scientific research, independent thinkers .. as well as too many selfish, violent, and messed up people.

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

Alex,
Don’t slide into antisemitism. Israel is an average society just like any other with its share of loonies. But they are not a larger percentage of the population as anywhere else.
And I am not a “good” Israeli. I am an average Israeli. My opinons are held by a vast majority of Jews.

You are good at focusing on the loonies. Always check their political affiliation and see how many people they really represent.

Alex Says:

You have not elected a Rabin like or an Abba Eban like leader in ages … instead, you gave us a Sharon after a Netanyahu …

Loonies, and hardliners are the majority in Israel unfortunately. The labor party is gone.

I know that many others are “good” or wonderful people … I read the very reasonable Haarertz opinion writers more than you do and many of them are by now my email and phone friends … But I also read all the comments by the loonies who hate Haaretz every time there is a moderate opinion piece.

And please don’t worry about me sliding into antisemitism … this has nothing to do with your religion .. it is the sad way humans are built … if we do not watch it, we would all be corrupted by power … and Israelis feel that they have absolute military power .. that is why they are corrupted in the way they want to deal with their neighbors … you have military control and you have Media control … media control makes you believe your own version of any story simly becasue fox and CNN and the Washington post said the same thing … forgetting that your friends have 80% control over what is written there … and you say I don’t think so … siting the other 20% which is critical to Israel to some extent.

Power, not religion, is what is corrupting Israelis … and this is how most Empires failed eventually … when they are at their peak (like you believe Israel is now) they get over confident and they get selfish … All those who say “let’s nuke Damascus” …

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

Alex,
You are becoming delirious and verging on racism. Why don’t you press your reset button and stop with your generalizations and the Elders of Zion conspiracies? You forgot to mention we control 80% of the banks also. And Israel a country of 7 million on a small piece of land an Empire? What are you drinking/smoking/popping?

Israelis are not more or less corrupt than any other nation. It is a reflective society with a free press and an intense internal debate. The decisions the Israeli public makes are well informed and well reasoned and there is a good reason Israelis (me among them) are moving to the right. It took us time but we undertand that peace without democracy is a sham.

SimoHurtta Says:

Alex
Israel is so badly militarized and glided towards nationalistic (and religious) extremism that I seriously doubt that the society is able to make peace. Even if USA is honest with their efforts. The Israel politician speak about peace but do not do a thing towards it, only empty speak and astonishing demands changing daily. Some Israelis no doubt are supporting genuinely peace, but they are a rather small minority. The rest are drunk with their power euphoria like Germans in 1939. Lucky that some people like Avraham Burg have realized that the present road is road to disaster. Sadly they are effectively silenced.

Israel has only one foreign and internal policy doctrine. “Use extreme violence, negotiating is for weak-minded.” As the bible and the history tell us that forming good functioning relations with neighbours has not been the Jewish Nation’s greatest talents.

AIG
Your opinions are indeed held by the vast majority of Israeli Jews. No doubt about that. My opinion about Israel as a violent theocracy are held by many Europeans (even majority, depends how the question of Israel Palestine is asked) and a daily growing number of Americans. Alex’s opinions are held by tiny majority of Arabs. The majority have much less compromise seeking and polite opinions about Israel than Alex has.

There are only a handful of Farid (Frank) Ghadry’s, Arabs who agree with you AIG.

PS AIG
That your dictatorship democracy campaign you have started here and in SC makes only you and you nation look stupid. Everybody knows that Syria is ruled by one party. USA has de facto two parties, one more than Syria. Israel has numerous parties, which mostly support kicking Arab ass and want to make Palestinians thinner as your ministers say “jokingly”. Some Israeli parties are even “far more right-wing”” (= religiously conservative and extreme) as the famous Talebans.

Alex Says:

Excuse me … are you going to stop your “slide into antisemitism” and “verging on racism”?

I am telling you that I respect Jews, and I have many Jewish friends and you have the nerve to repeat these stupidities?

The same way you have concerns about violence in some Islamic societies (Pakistan and Alqaeda) Arabs are allowed to have concerns about violence from your lunatics and your zionists who worled with the neocons to give us hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis .. your violence is not theoretical and it is not insignificant … The Likudist opinion writers have been working hard to push for more wars … against Iran and against Syria and against Lebanon (HIzbollah) …

Your blindness or hypocrisy do not work here. So stop, for the last time, to accuse anyone of antisemitism or racism .. you are not used to criticism from non Jews .. you are used to silence any non Jew criticizing Israel.

Watch this, or this

The Israeli consulates in the United states actually send memos to media outlets to explain to them how they are supposed to report anything related to Israel … you certainly have nerves to accuse me of being delirious.

I will start erasing any comment in which you are accusing anyone here of anything. You are not the admin. You are not reasonable and you are rude and negative.

Our previous conversations with many Israelis were very friendly … you are RUDE. You understand?

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

Alex,
I think it is you who is not used to a critical debate. All I ask is that you stop with generalizations about Israel. I would like you to understand that Israelis are average people living in an average democracy. There are no more or no less loonies in Israel as in any other place.

You really believe that Israel controls the US media? Are you serious?

Sim,
If the French, British and Germans are as you say, why did they elect Blair, Sarkozy and Merkel who are all very pro Israel? Because your theory is plain wrong. Europeans see Israel for what it is, a democracy muddling along in a very complex evironment.

Alex Says:

AIG,

Ehsani knows that I gave his piece, which is very different from my opinion, as you know, I gave him 5-stars … ask him, he knows .. my vote was the first.

I did it because he did a good job presenting his opinion in an attractive, non confrontational form.

The same with the many Israelis I know from Haaretz who are super nice people whose opinion I respect. But you come here bullying everyone you don’t trust and you start the “anti … “labels. Then you get shocked easily at everything calling it naive, baathist, brainwashed … basically nothing we say is impressive to you .. it is either racist, or baathist, or brainwahsed …

If you want to compare your approach to
Israeliguy” who does not shy away from telling me “I disagree with almost everything you said” … here is what impression he had after reading my many comments and going through this site … before YOU showed up:

I must tell you that when I first arrived to this site, I was pretty shocked.
It looked like an official Syrian site, but I couldn‚??t believe it.
It was too open, too straightforward, ‚??too friendly‚?Ě for Israelis.
Something was fishy.

Then, I did some digging and found out that it‚??s not an official Syrian site.
After doing some more digging, I see that writers like Camille and George actually live in places like Canada and the US.

I have no doubt that you‚??re both proud Syrian patriots that love Syria deeply, just as any other Syrian, however ‚?? it‚??s not the same.

Whether you‚??d like to admit it or not, you two went through a process of ‚??westernization‚?Ě.
You both live in the west, in open democratic societies, in cozy cities with great standard of living, with free speech and the whole shebang.

You are very different from ‚??regular‚?Ě Syrians and TOTALLY different from Syrian officials.
It‚??s so evident that you sucked in everything that the west could offer you ‚?? and you took it without hesitating (and for a good reason).

If I had to find a title for this website (for Israeli audience), it would be ‚??The Sexy Syrians That You Always Wanted To Meet ‚?? And Never Did‚?Ě.

You speak great, you know how to create a dialogue, you seem to handle tough questions with bravery and you present the most beautiful face of Syria.
BUT ‚?? it‚??s not Syria, just like local Jews or former Israelis who live in the US or Canada are not ‚??real Israelis‚?Ě.

Alex Says:

And if you can watch the second video I linked .. you will see that among other things, the Israeli consulates in America regularly send memos to media organizations telling them things like:

You can not call the Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem “settlements” we suggest you use the term “Jewish neighborhood”

And surprisingly … after the memo .. CNN changes to “Jewish Neighborhoods”

It is not control, no … it is bullying. Not everyone gets bullied .. some are still independent, like Robert Fisk. But most are not willing to risk angering the Israelis and AIPAC

Watch the video .. it is all Jewish journalists and thinkers who are speaking in it.

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

[repetitive insults deleted by admin]

SimoHurtta Says:

Sim,
If the French, British and Germans are as you say, why did they elect Blair, Sarkozy and Merkel who are all very pro Israel? Because your theory is plain wrong. Europeans see Israel for what it is, a democracy muddling along in a very complex evironment.

Well AIG do you seriously think that Israel is an issue in European elections. You are completely misinformed. If Israel would be the main issue in European elections Blair’s and Merkel’s parties would not have been elected to power and Sarkozy would never have been elected as a president. Are Merkel or Blair / Brown pro-Israelis? They support some Israeli actions but not all.

This polls shows clearly that Europeans see Israel as a danger

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – Over half of Europeans think that Israel now presents the biggest threat to world peace according to a controversial poll requested by the European Commission.

You AIG seem to live in a dream world. The poll was made in 2003. Now undoubtedly even more than those almost 60 percent of Europeans see Israel as the worlds most dangerous nation.

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

Sim,
Your claim was that most Europeans view Israel as a violent theocracy. Then you posted a ridiculous poll that didn’t even ask this question to back your position.

In the end you agree that Europeans do not really care about this issue, so what is your point?

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

Alex,
You are confusing insults with debate.
When you say that Israel is bullying the NY Times or CNN or the Washington Post you are supporting the conspiracy theory that Jews control the media. This is not a insult but a true observation. The above media are independent and are not afraid of Israel and will report the truth as they see it.

SimoHurtta Says:

Your claim was that most Europeans view Israel as a violent theocracy. Then you posted a ridiculous poll that didn‚??t even ask this question to back your position.

AIG actually I said
“My opinion about Israel as a violent theocracy are held by many Europeans (even majority, depends how the question of Israel Palestine is asked)”

I suppose you can read because you can write. I said many Europeans and majority depending how the question about Israeli Palestinian conflict is asked. If you read it slowly I think you will catch what I did mean.

AIG do you know what institution is European Commission? Naturally that poll backs my position that Europeans do not see in a very positive way, because Europeans think Israel as the greatest danger to world peace. Sorry AIG, that we Europeans do not admire your country’s strange view of democracy and agressive behaviour.

Some news in today’s (Cheshvan 26, 5768) Haaretz
Lieberman demands major Arab leadership group be outlawed
Peace Now says West Bank settlements are still growing

Yeah developing democracy and making peace. Maybe AIG you can explain how increasing settlements adds possibilities to peace. And when you are ready you can explain why Lieberman (the Israeli peace dove) is wanting to outlaw The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee.
The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee is the senior leadership body of Israel’s Arab citizens, although its official recognition is limited. Lieberman’s reason is that the Israeli Arab Committee constitutes a real threat to the very existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and Zionist state. Hmmmm democracy indeed and no Apartheid .

Alex Says:

AIG,

No I am not confusing anything. I think I know a thing or two about debate.

And conspiracy theory is when I come up with something like “Jews did 9/11” .. when I create a story in my head to my liking. Not when I state facts… like the facts you would have learned about if you watched that video link I gave you … where Israeli and Jewish journalists and University professors did their research and demonstrated how Israel systematically monitors and controls the media, to the best of their ability.

And they used the Bullying word, I did not make it up.

CNN’s coverage of the casualties of the Lebanon war should give you a hint of how unbiased they are:

Today, two hurt in Israel and 20 Lebanese dead.

Do me a favor. If you think you will continue to do the Netanyahu P.R. tricks on this forum, I had enough of that. Wrapping yourself with the “democracy” flag while trying to destroy the credibility of those you are “debating” … terror supporters, regime supporters, old Baathist hacks .. ridiculous, anti Semitic, conspiracy theorists …

I will not allow anymore superficial responses from you where you ignore the main issues but instead you attack the credibility, intelligence, or the character of those you do not agree with.

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

Alex,
Saying that Israel bullies CNN, NY Times and Washington Post is sheer fantasy and in my mind a conspiracy theory. These guys are nor afraid of the US president, you think they are afraid of Israel? But let’s disagree. Let readers of this blog decide.

Alex Says:

Great. We will disagree. And for those who, unlike you, are not avoiding to watch the video link I am referring to, here it is:

Peace Propaganda, and the promised land … jump to 8:30 roughly to watch one of the media pressure tactics of the Israelis.

Creative Syria hosts online discussion on Syria’s foreign policy Says:

[…] thinks that Syria’s relations with its regional neighbors is much more important than its relations with the EU and the US. Syria should concentrate on […]

Antoun Says:

Simo,

An impressive post.

It makes sense for Syria, and every Arab state, to pursue relations with those it shares a ‘natural’ link. Strengthening ties with its immediate neighbourhood is, obviously, in the Syrian national interest.

However, the core problem that lies at the heart of Syrian policy making, and all Arab policy making, is that it is notreliant on national interest, but rather selfish authoritarian interests.

Indeed, in the Syrian national interest, pushing for a common market within the Arab world is ideal. Opening the Syrian market, for starters, is in the national interest of the country, but yet its culture of corruption and its horrid bureaucracy is stifling progress even on a domestic level.

Allow me to use Lebanon as an example. For 15 years, Syria had the opportunity to develop Lebanon, rebuild its institutions, remove the French sectarian political system, and establish a stable climate that would be genuinely friendly and loyal to Damascus. I’m sure we’d both agree that a prosperous, stable Lebanon that willingly enjoyed its special relationship with Damascus would’ve been in Syria’s national interest.

Instead, it exploited its younger neighbour to serve the selfish interests of a totalitarian Baath leadership. As a consequence, the same warlords Syria empowered, are now fighting against it; a large proportion of the Lebanese people resent Syria, when only 70 years ago a similar size wanted to join Syria; and the country is so unstable it could descend into chaos any day now, posing a serious security threat to Syria.

This was Syria’s opportunity to, as you envisioned, start a system in the Arab world that would’ve emboldened and amalgamated economies, as well as key decision-making processes. Yes, an alliance did exist between Lebanon-Syria in those 15 years, one that was forced and imposed upon the Lebanese people, and gave them little benefits.

If the Syrian leadership couldn’t even embark on an “EU-like” policy towards Lebanon – the closest and most ‘special’ Arab state to Syria – how can we expect a similar policy to its distant Arab friends in the Gulf and North Africa?

Simple, Syrian foreign policy, in fact all of its policies, are driven by a thirst for power, not by national interest.

Syria’s relationships with Iran, Turkey and Russia are more reactionary policies to thwart off American and Israeli pressure, than about securing economic and security benefits for its people. In other words, these relationships are about survival of the regime, not about the progression of the state.

Do not assume that I am an anti-Syrian Lebanese, quite the contrary actually. However, there is always cause and consequence.

I have an analogy that I refer to when I think of Syria, it’s the Middle Eastern octopus. Its tentacles reach into the heart of its neighbours, primarily Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq. These influences vary in weight, but they are constant nonetheless. They are natural influences that no foreign power can exterminate. Regardless of the events that occur in the ME, Syria will always retain a certain degree of influence in Lebanon, Palestine, and to a lesser extent, Iraq. Syria has always maintained, and still maintains the opportunity to establish a network of co-operative states with its existing tentacles. Unfortunately, we have often seen Syria radiate a negative influence (hence why I refer to it as an octopus), which doesn’t serve its national interest, but ironically to the contrary, serves the survival of the Baath regime.

It’s not a matter of all of us sitting here discussing possibilities for Syria, if these possibilities have no hope for fruition.

Yes, in the Syrian national interest, Damascus should opt for such a policy, but unfortunately policy in Damascus is not driven by national interest, nor for any Arab state.

And that remains the core problem of the Arab world.

SimoHurtta Says:

An interesting symptom of the “new world order” is how the stock exchanges in Arab countries have lately performed. The market turmoil and downward trend seems not to have so much effects in them as it has had in other regions stock exchanges.

No doubt Antoun that the path to more “united” Arab / Middle Eastern entity will not be easy. However I think that, that development will be inevitable despite the the present rulers and the difficulties. The way major projects are pouncing out all the time in the region indicate fast future progress. Many of these projects are multinational efforts and focused also in local markets not only for markets in the West or Asia.

A car factory in Syria may seem “irrelevant” or small, but car factories rather fast increase the local industries possibilities in part manufacturing and create new opportunities.

On the other hand now when wast fortunes are created in the Middle East by selling the oil and gas, the best defensive policy for those who “own” those fortunes is to increase slowly democracy and invest in the own region. A situation where an extremely wealthy small upper class sits on “a gold mountain”enjoying from a “lunatic” lifestyle and the majority has nothing is too vulnerable for the rulers. Wealth and rights must be distributed, otherwise “the ruling class” looses the core income source of their wealth. Naturally on individual basis they can live comfortably with their foreign investments. Though in modern times it is not for former dictators any more so easy to keep their “savings” in Swiss banks after a regime change.

The problem in Arab countries is that some have enormous amounts of capital but limited targets to invest in their own countries (besides buying obsolete US weapons). Others have markets, trained labour and investment targets, but no capital. So it is the oil producers interests to put their capital to generate more in their own region. Also the relative reluctance of western world to let “oil money” to buy their core industries force oil producers to invest in their own region.

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