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Syria Superthread [merged]


Army.ca Fixture
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Acorn said:
So, I have to ask: does the existence of "neo-conservatives" require the creation of "neo-liberals?"

From Duncans World Politics in the 21st Century:

Neoliberalism:   A philosophical position that argues that progress in international relations can only be achieved through international cooperation.   Cooperation is a dynamic rather than a static process.   By focusing on understanding the dynamics of the web of relationships driving the international system, states and other international actors can effectively use the international institutions spawned by the system to promote peace and cooperation

As I understand it, in the Post WWII era, the debate between the two main schools of thought in International Relations, Realism and Idealism spawned neoliberalism.   Try this link:



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In light of Devil39's posts, here is article on the "US Empire" from another
point of view.

The American Empire

19 March, 2003

Al Qaedas goal always has been to unify the Islamic world under an Islamic government
to create, in effect, an Islamic empire that is ready to both protect the interests of the
Islamic world and to expand Islamic influence. It is doubtful that al Qaeda will achieve this
goal. Indeed, it is Stratfor?s view that al Qaeda?s actions will, contrary to its intentions or
expectations, generate the exact opposite effect -- the creation of an American empire.

In a sense, the American empire already was created by the nearly simultaneous fall of
the Soviet Union and the Japanese economy. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the
United States became the only power capable of projecting military force globally.
With the crash of Japan?s economy and the extraordinary expansion of the American
economy in the 1990s, the United States also became the dominant global economic
power, the primary source of capital and innovation. These two forces combined to give
the United States overwhelming political power and with that came the ability to shape
the international order as it wished.

American power did not match the American appetite for power. The U.S. did not
perceive itself as having major global interests and its economy was less dependent
on either imports or exports than were those of other major powers. Nevertheless,
the United States had an interest in maintaining the stability of the international
economic order. In general, this meant maintaining and expanding market capitalism
in other countries and developing an international free trade regime with the inevitable
protectionist aspects that domestic American politics had come to require.

On another level, the United States, no longer riveted by any serious threats to its
national security, had the luxury to focus on the moral character of regimes. It
intervened in Somalia to end appalling hunger; in Haiti to put a stop to a brutal
and repressive regime; in Bosnia and Kosovo to limit Serbian excesses. All of these
were elective operations. The United States did not undertake these missions
because it had any overriding interests at stake, but because it had a massive
surplus in politico-military power and could afford to indulge. When Somalia proved
more complex and painful than the United States was prepared to endure, it
withdrew. When the Haitian operation failed to provide the promised blessings,
the government changed its focus.

The central reality of the 1990s was this: while the United States had the ability
to impose a global order, it clearly did not need one and the cost of imposing
one outstripped any benefit that the United States might derive from it. Although
the U.S. was clearly the world?s leader in every sense, and even thought of itself as
the leader, it did not wish to take on the disciplines of leadership or assume the
cost of forming a global order. Leadership includes developing coherent principles
for governing the international system, deploying the power to impose that system
and the willingness to create appropriate institutions with which to govern.

The lack of American appetite for power in the 1990s resulted in a subsequent lack
of any predictable, coherent behavior in the international system. Instead, Washington's
principles were vague, its political and military power was diffuse and the institutions
it chose to operate through (namely the United Nations and NATO) were both
relics of the Cold War and were fundamentally unsuited to the tasks at hand.

Nothing is more dangerous than power without appetite or fear. Appetite and fear
focus power, make it predictable and make it possible for other nations to craft
policies that accommodate, avoid or resist that power. Where there is neither
appetite nor fear, power is unfocused and therefore inherently unpredictable.
That unpredictability was the mark of U.S. policy between the fall of the Berlin Wall
and Sept. 11.

For most of the rest of the world, the 1990s was like living with a huge gorilla whose
intentions were generally good if somewhat addled. It was impossible to predict what
the gorilla might become interested in next, what it might do and the consequences
of its actions. For other nations, the United States potentially could be the solution
to their problems, but, if unfocused, also could be dangerous.

Other countries therefore had two predominant goals. One was to try to take
advantage of a relationship with the United States. The other was to try to form
coalitions large enough to focus the U.S. or at least render it predictable to some
degree. The latter was difficult. Working with the United States was more profitable
than resisting it. Thus every time a coalition started to form, the U.S. government
would shift its policy slightly, perhaps seducing one of the potential coalition members,
and the effort would collapse.

The rest of the world did not find this situation amusing. U.S. power and indifference
posed a threat to their national interest. The problem did not derive from any defect
in the American character, but from geography and power. The United States was
physically secure from the rest of the world and so powerful and prosperous that it
needed little from that world. American self-sufficiency and the power to secure what
little it needed collided with the very different experience of the rest of the world.

Nowhere was this clearer than in Somalia. The United States, under former President
George Bush, intervened for humanitarian reasons, stayed to try to build a nation,
then pulled out when the nationals resisted. From the American point of view, this
was a humanitarian mission that just didn?t work out.

From the standpoint of the Islamic world -- and particularly that of al Qaedas
founders -- this was an example of the random and unpredictable nature of U.S.
foreign policy, coupled with a lack of moral fiber. Washington?s actions may have
been well intended, but were perceived as an unwarranted, imperial intervention.
Worse, the intervention was perceived as an imperial move by a nation with no
appetite for empire.

Somalia led directly to Sept. 11. Al Qaeda was part of the international community
that found U.S. behavior erratic, unpredictable and ultimately weak. Al Qaedas
goal -- building an Islamic empire -- required that it challenge the U.S. and
demonstrate that the United States was both inherently weak due to moral
corruption and that it would be incapable of destroying al Qaeda. For al Qaeda,
challenging the United States would change the psychology of the Islamic world,
thereby undermining the perceived power of the United States.

Sept. 11 redefined the world for the United States. It turned the world from a
vaguely irrelevant, generally harmless place in which there were economic
opportunities and the chance to do good deeds into one that was deadly. It also
created a focus for U.S. power that changed the dynamic of the entire
international system. Prior to Sept. 11, the United States had only a vague interest
in the international system; after the attacks this international system -- and the
destruction of al Qaeda, to be precise -- became an obsession.

The problem for the United States, however, is that destroying al Qaeda is not a
straightforward action. The group has dispersed itself globally, which forces the
United States to follow suit. Prior to Sept. 11, the United States completely
dominated the world?s oceans and space. This allowed it to go anywhere and see
everything, but its ground forces were deployed fairly randomly. For example,
thousands of troops were still deployed in Germany, more from habit than from need.
The U.S. presence in Eurasia was essentially without a mission and not particularly deep.

Over the past 10 months, the United States has not only dispersed its forces
throughout Eurasia and the surrounding islands, but also has moved deeply into
the governments, intelligence agencies and security apparatus of many of these
countries. U.S. forces have been deployed, in small numbers, to areas ranging
from Europe and Georgia to the "stans" and the Philippines. More important, in
many of these countries small numbers of U.S. forces are "advising" (i.e. commanding)
native forces while U.S. advisors monitor and influence decisions from the these countries?

Sept. 11 created an unintended momentum in U.S. foreign policy that has led
directly to empire-building. Empires are not created by salivating monsters
seeking power. Such empires usually fail. The Romans did not intend to build an
empire, but each step they took logically led to the next and in due course
they had an empire. In turn, being an empire profoundly changed their institutions
and their self-definition. Aside from a deep belief in their own virtue, becoming an
empire was not an intention but an outcome.

The United States does not intend to become an empire. Its birth was the first
great anti-imperial exercise. It certainly has little economic need for empire because,
like the British, it can trade for what it needs. But the logic of empire does not
consist of avarice nearly as much as fear. The Romans? first impulse to empire was
defensive. So, too, the American impulse is entirely defensive. The United States
is not trying to build an empire: It simply wants to stop al Qaeda. However, to do
so is to follow the classic imperial process.

Driven by the need to defeat al Qaeda, American forces are deploying to scores
of countries around the world -- sometimes overtly, sometimes secretly;
sometimes in uniform and sometimes as secret agents. In all of these countries,
the United States is engaged in reshaping domestic policies. Al Qaeda cannot be
rooted out unless the social fabric of these countries can be managed.

Few will dare resist. The United States is enormously powerful and has been
transformed from a vaguely disinterested gorilla into a brutally focused and deadly
viper, ready to strike anywhere. Given U.S. power and the American mood, few
nations are prepared to risk U.S. displeasure by refusing to cooperate in the fight
against al Qaeda. Indeed, many see it as a chance to profit from collaboration with

In practice this means that, in the course of defeating al Qaeda the United States
is becoming an integral part of the domestic policy process and implementation in
virtually all countries around the globe. Those that resist are potential targets for
American attack. This was an inevitable -- but unintended  consequence of the
attacks of Sept. 11.

The intention is to defeat al Qaeda; the means to do so is a global war against them.
This requires the United States to be present in a majority of countries, overseeing
processes that are part of a sovereign nations purview, therefore, in effect, usurping
its sovereignty. Since the war itself requires reconstructing social orders, the
American presence will have to intrude deeply into these societies. Since the war
against al Qaeda could take a generation, the U.S. will be there for a long time.

Most American policymakers would deny that this is their intention. All would be
sincere, but the unintended consequence is the nature of politics. In this case,
the unintended consequence is empire. U.S. power, having met an obsessive
need, is moving throughout the world. Where it meets resistance, it has no
choice but to plan war. The United States can neither decline combat with al
Qaeda nor avoid the consequences of such combat.

The United States has been a democratic republic, an anti-imperial power. Now
it is an imperial power, not in the simplistic Leninist sense of seeking markets, but
in the classical sense of being unable to secure its safety without controlling
others. The paradox is that al Qaeda -- ultimately a very minor power -- is driving
the world's greatest nation toward this end.

The problem, of course, is that all of this is visible tactically to Americans. They
see the deployments into each country. They see the acceptance of advisors
into ministries. They have come to expect cooperation by police in Yemen,
bases in Kyrgyzstan, information from Egypt and accommodation from Germans
or Russians. They expect it, but have not yet constructed a coherent picture
or named what they are getting into: empire. Empires begin not with rabid
manifestoes, but with short-term solutions leading only one way.

The dispersal we see today will last at least as long as the Cold War dispersals,
and will be even harder to abandon. There will be resistance to an American
empire, from great powers as well as small. There will be burdens to be borne
in holding this empire that cannot be abandoned. The American dilemma is that
it is better at winning an empire than explaining it or even admitting what has

The United States is taking control of countries throughout the world, bringing
benefits and making threats. But the United States has no theory of empire.
How can a democratic republic and an empire coincide? Once, this was an
interesting theoretical question. Now it is the burning -- but undiscussed --
question in American politics.

The issue is not whether this should happen. It is happening. The real issue,
apart from how all this plays out, is what effect it will have on the United States
as a whole. A global empire whose center is unsure of its identity, its purposes
and its moral justification is an empire with a center that might not hold.
As the obvious becomes apparent, this will become the focus of a pressing
debate in the United States.


Army.ca Myth
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Great post Bert. :salute:

Just as an interesting numbers exercise based on this article


I came to the following conclusions.

The US will create up to 48 Regular Force Units of Action, approximately 24 heavy and 24 light/medium (18 Light and 6 Medium?) yet to be taken

It will also create 34 Guard/Reserve Units of Action.

The Regs will deploy every three years

The Guard will deploy every six years.

Divisions will comprise about 4 UAs of mixed sources.

The intent is to sustain the deployment cycle indefinitely.

Based on these numbers the US could deploy as follows:

1 Corps in Iraq with

one Heavy division of 4 UAs - Heavy (Abrams and Bradleys)  to form a backbone and respond to conventional military threats
four Mixed divisions of 4 UAs comprising 1 UA-Heavy, 1 UA-Guard, 2 UA-Light to supply regional security and work with national forces.

If we assume 2000 bodies per UA, not including external support, keep in mind that UAs are supposed to deploys with a high degree of internal support, this results in a fighting force of 20 UAs or about 40,000 people.

In Reserve the US will still hold

16 UA-Heavy or  4 Heavy Divisions
16 UA-Light/Med or 4 Light Divisions
30 UA-Guard or almost 8 Guard Divisions.

They will not be short of capability to defend themselves or react to crises.  Willpower may be another matter......

As to the 40,000 F-Echelon Forces in Iraq, if we assume that each of the Mixed Regional Security Divisions requires its 3 non-Heavy UAs to support and train 3 similarly sized Iraqi Army/Facility Protection/Border Guard Units then we add 4x3x3x2000 72,000 Iraqis to the 40,000 Americans.  And if we further assume that each Iraqi Military/Paramilitary unit supports 3 similarly sized Police Units
then we generate a total force for stabilizing Iraq of 3x72,000 Iraqi police or 216,000 plus 72,000 Iraqi military/paramilitaries plus 40,000 American soldiers.  Total force = 328,000 bodies.  Roughly the type of numbers that Shinseki called for a year or two ago.  But it is largely a domestic, not a foreign force.

And it can be sustained indefinitely.

And at the same time the US still has forces in reserve to repeat the performance.

Leaves a fair amount of support for those Bud-drinking, dollar-driven cowboys I was referring to earlier.


Army.ca Myth
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And to bring things back to Syria:

My take is that the vast majority of current commentators on Syria haven't a clue. But maybe my opinion is clouded by many years of physical experience in the region.


I would be really interested to hear your understanding of the Syrian situation. :)



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Syria's Baathists Under Siege
Party Reformists Seek Reduced Size, Influence

By Scott Wilson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, September 25, 2004; Page A13

DAMASCUS, Syria -- As editor of the Baath Party newspaper, Mehdi Dakhlallah has risen to a position of rare power within the institution that has dominated most elements of public life here for more than four decades. Now the balding, rotund intellectual is trying to tear his party apart.

In sober editorials, Dakhlallah has argued that the party is too big, too meddlesome and too removed from its founding principles of social justice, socialist economics and Arab nationalism. The young people who are joining today, he laments, are drawn only by the promise of preferential treatment in university admissions and lucrative jobs in Syria's largely state-controlled economy. He wants the party to return to its ideological roots by becoming smaller, more democratic and, most controversial to his colleagues, less influential in government.

"The Baath Party is not going to change the world," said Dakhlallah, 57, who joined amid the revolutionary fervor of the late 1960s. "Right now we're fighting to separate the party from government. This is an essential step in changing and developing this country."

A year and a half after Iraq's Baath Party vanished with the U.S. invasion, Syria's branch is under siege from within its own ranks. Dakhlallah is among a vanguard of intellectuals trying to reduce the party's influence with the blessing of President Bashar Assad, who during four years in power has grown frustrated with the opposition many of its members are putting up to his plans for economic reform.

Since the revolution that brought it to power 41 years ago, the nearly 2 million-member party has grown into a parallel government, monitoring education, political and economic policy through a network of committees from the national to the village level. Assad is slowly dismantling the system of privileges the party has accumulated, allowing him to set the pace and extent of change at a time when Syria is in the cross hairs of the Bush administration's push to bring democratic reforms to the Middle East.

Assad, the party's titular head, has selected more than a quarter of his cabinet from outside party ranks since inheriting the presidency on the death of his father, Hafez Assad, four years ago. He is purging the Baath-dominated military of senior officers by enforcing for the first time regulations on mandatory retirement age, and he may push to remove the article of the Syrian constitution that guarantees his party "the leading role in society and in the state." At the same time, fewer young people are joining the party.

But as Assad, an ophthalmologist by training, works to remove the party as an obstacle to reform, he is also trying not to upset the political base that sustained his father for three decades. He is facing strong resistance from a group of septuagenarian holdovers from his father's administration and from provincial party leaders accustomed to influencing everything from teacher promotions to the price of vegetables in the market.

Those pushing hardest for reform within the party are primarily political ideologues, such as Dakhlallah, who do not hold posts with influence over state industry or the powerful intelligence services, where most of the opposition to change is coming from. A smaller party might be more amenable to Assad's economic reforms, and a new set of leaders could emerge from among those pushing hardest for change.

"Assad encouraged introspection within the party, and it is having a big conversation with itself that is not yet resolved," said Peter Ford, the British ambassador here. "But as of now you still can't ignore the party. You must work with it."

Hani Murtada, a soft-spoken pediatrician, is fighting the party from the outside at the president's direction. A year ago, Assad appointed Murtada minister of higher education, making him one of seven members of his 25-person cabinet who is not a party member.

Murtada was given control of a system comprising four public universities and 225,000 students but with a shortage of qualified teachers, classrooms and curricula. Since then, he has licensed Syria's first private universities, created e-learning programs in a country that still blocks certain Web sites, and dismantled the privileges extended to teachers and students who belong to the party. Soon, he said, "all 17 million people in this country will be treated the same."

In the past, 25 percent of university admissions went to party members whose test scores did not meet minimum standards, usually by only a few points. Murtada said he cut that to 10 percent this year and will eliminate it altogether for the next school year. A knowledge of English, he said, is a better ticket to promotion than party membership. He allows the party's education committees to comment on appointments but not to dictate them as in the past.

"Many look at the party now as an important symbol. But as something that controls the country, that is over," Murtada said in a recent interview. "The general vision of the country has changed completely in the last three years. They once thought the state should manage everything, and we have seen this is nonsense."

Assad, according to Syrian officials and Western diplomats, is increasingly concerned by the demographic challenge facing the country. Each year 300,000 young Syrians enter the labor market, while the economy grows at only 3 percent a year, not nearly fast enough to absorb the new job seekers.

So far the most notable economic change has been the recent licensing of three private banks, a step Assad proposed three years ago. Party leaders, many of whom have substantial stakes in the state-run banks and other government-controlled entities, resisted the move until party doctrine was amended to allow Assad to proceed.

Many opposing the changes are in their seventies; the president, a generation younger, is waiting them out. He is also enforcing mandatory retirement, commonly waived for powerful military officers in the past. Western diplomats here say several hundred party members in the officer corps will be out over the next eight months, including the directors of four intelligence services.

"The end result will be to get the Baath Party out of the government and, particularly, out of making economic policy," said Waddah Abdrabbo, editor of the Economist, an independent weekly newspaper. "These people know that change is coming. They can fight it for a year or two, but in the end they will not be able to do anything about it."

Damascus University was once fertile ground for party recruiting when Soviet-style socialism and Arab nationalism captured the imaginations of many students across the Middle East. Today a broader range of political opinion is reflected in its sunny courtyards.

Dima Bawadikji, 18, said she joined the party in high school because she believed "any party member would have an easy life." A freshman studying library science, Bawadikji was the only one among five children in her family who joined the party, which in high school meant special picnics and sports days for members.

Sitting next to her on the shady steps of the journalism building, Amer Hassan, a 24-year-old student of English literature, said he joined the party a decade ago even though he "didn't know anything about it." Only a few people from his high school class in the southern province of Daraa didn't join, and he said he feared that failing to do so would hinder his ability to travel abroad, which he hopes to do some day.

"This party has been around for more than 30 years, and it's done nothing for us," Hassan said. "This president is a good one, and I respect him. But he can do nothing against these people because they run everything."

On the streets of Daraa, 70 miles southeast of Damascus, Yasseen Damara's smoky waiting room fills with men in military uniform and in the red-checked kaffiyehs of Bedouin farmers. He is the province party boss, and he is a busy man.

His calendar is filled with the weddings and funerals of provincial notables, and he is in constant contact with the provincial governor, another party member, for consultations ranging from the status of medicine in the hospital to problems with the electricity grid. Assad, father and son, look down on him from his wall as he works through committee reports on youth, economics, politics and education.

If vegetable prices in the market are too high, a party member will tell the vendor they should come down. The education committee recommends teachers for promotion, though Damara insists ability is the deciding factor. Despite his post, he said, two of his children were recently denied admission to the highly competitive local nursing school.

The changes being proposed by the intellectuals in Damascus make little sense to Damara, 51, a beneficiary of the party for decades. Land reform that followed the 1963 Baath revolution quadrupled the size of his father's tiny wheat, barley and garbanzo fields in the village of Maarea, making the farm profitable enough to sustain his family of eight. He joined the party in high school and never left.

"The party is still close to its principles, even though some individual members have made mistakes," said Damara. "It will always be the leading party. Why? Because its goals will always be supported by the people."


Army.ca Myth
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This one is really curious. Syria trying to get rid of Saddam's scientists to Iran.....

Ran today in the Telegraph


Syria brokers secret deal to send atomic weapons scientists to Iran
By Con Coughlin
(Filed: 26/09/2004)

Syria's President Bashir al-Asad is in secret negotiations with Iran to secure a safe haven for a group of Iraqi nuclear scientists who were sent to Damascus before last year's war to overthrow Saddam Hussein.


Western intelligence officials believe that President Asad is desperate to get the Iraqi scientists out of his country before their presence prompts America to target Syria as part of the war on terrorism.

The issue of moving the Iraqi scientists to Iran was raised when President Asad made a visit to Teheran in July. Intelligence officials understand that the Iranians have still to respond to the Syrian leader's request.

A group of about 12 middle-ranking Iraqi nuclear technicians and their families were transported to Syria before the collapse of Saddam's regime. The transfer was arranged under a combined operation by Saddam's now defunct Special Security Organisation and Syrian Military Security, which is headed by Arif Shawqat, the Syrian president's brother-in-law.

The Iraqis, who brought with them CDs crammed with research data on Saddam's nuclear programme, were given new identities, including Syrian citizenship papers and falsified birth, education and health certificates. Since then they have been hidden away at a secret Syrian military installation where they have been conducting research on behalf of their hosts.

Growing political concern in Washington about Syria's undeclared weapons of mass destruction programmes, however, has prompted President Asad to reconsider harbouring the Iraqis.

American intelligence officials are concerned that Syria is secretly working on a number of WMD programmes.

They have also uncovered evidence that Damascus has acquired a number of gas centrifuges - probably from North Korea - that can be used to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb.

Relations between Washington and Damascus have been strained since last year's war in Iraq, with American commanders accusing the Syrians of allowing foreign fighters to cross the border into Iraq, where they carry out terrorist attacks against coalition forces.

"The Syrians are playing a very dangerous game," a senior Western intelligence official told The Sunday Telegraph.

"The Americans already have them in their sights because they are doing next to nothing to stop foreign fighters entering Iraq. If Washington finds concrete evidence that Syria is engaged in an illegal WMD programme then it will quickly find itself targeted as part of the war on terror."

Under the terms of the deal President Asad offered the Iranians, the Iraqi scientists and their families would be transferred to Teheran together with a small amount of essential materials. The Iraqi team would then assist Iranian scientists to develop a nuclear weapon.

Apart from paying the relocation expenses, President Asad also wants the Iranians to agree to share the results of their atomic weapons research with Damascus.

The Syrian offer comes at a time when Iran is under close scrutiny from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which is investigating claims that Iran is maintaining a secret nuclear bomb programme.

The Iranians, who possess one of the world's largest oil reserves, insist that their nuclear programme is aimed solely at developing nuclear energy. Last week relations between Teheran and the IAEA deteriorated further after the Iranians reneged on a commitment to suspend their nuclear programme.

In a move that will raise suspicions in Washington that Iran is trying to build an atomic bomb, Teheran announced that it was to press ahead with plans to enrich 37 tons of uranium into the gas needed to turn the radioactive element into nuclear fuel. Nuclear experts estimate that when the process is complete the Iranians will have enough enriched uranium for five nuclear bombs.

The IAEA responded by passing a resolution setting a November 25 deadline for Iran to clear up suspicions over its nuclear activities or risk having the issue referred to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions. The resolution also demanded that Iran halt all activities related to uranium enrichment, a part of the nuclear fuel cycle that can be used for both energy and weapons purposes.

In a further gesture of defiance, Ali Shamkhani, the Iranian defence minister, announced that the Iranian army has taken delivery of a new "strategic missile".

The missile, unnamed for security reasons, was successfully tested last week, Shamkhani was quoted as saying by state television. It was unclear if the weapon in question was the Shahab-3 medium-range missile, acquired by the Revolutionary Guards in July last year. An improved version was successfully tested in August.

The Shahab-3 is based on a North Korean design and is thought to be capable of carrying a one-ton warhead at least 800 miles, which puts Israel well within its range.

The Iranians yesterday also accused America of "lawless militarism" in Iraq and called Israel the biggest threat to peace in the Middle East. "The attack against Iraq was illegal," Kamal Kharrazi, Iran's foreign minister told the UN General Assembly. He thanked Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, for stating the same in a television interview last week.


Army.ca Myth
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Kind of curious juxtaposing these to articles.



On the one hand Assad is surprising diplomats by being conciliatory to the US, according to one newspaper with a right wing slant.  While another right wing newspaper claims that the Mossad is assassinating Hamas leaders in Syria. (Unofficially confirmed in Ha'aretz).


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I could spend quite a bit of time replying, but I simply can't afford too much, so the "cole's notes" below will have to do for now. Anyway, looking at the articles Kirkhill posted:

First, Ba'ath Party reform has been in the works for a few years now. What it usually boils down to is re-distribution of wealth in the guise of reform. The intent is to mollify internal forces (more below.)

Regarding contacts with Iraq and Iran on a CBW front, most of what get's published is of very questionable providence. There are the Syrian equivalents of Ahmad Chalabi and his party, firing off "reports" of buried Iraqi chemical weapons in Eastern Syria, Iraqi scientists and senior regime figures hiding in Syria (as an example one early report was that Saddam himself was ensconced the the "luxurious Cham Palace Cote d'Azure hotel" in Lattakia. Said hotel is "luxurious" by no standard I've ever encountered.) Look at such stuff with a jaundiced eye.

The bottom line on many reports from "sources in Syria" is that they are highly suspect. Given recent history I'd also be suspicious of "US intelligence sources" (which obviously sounds better than "Bob, the messenger boy for the Middle East desk at some lower-level CIA office").

Bashar al Assad, Syria's young president, has a tight rope to walk. On the one hand he tries to be as conciliatory as possible to the West (particularly the US) but on the other hand he has a restive population with high unemployment - mostly in the critical 18-30 year old male group. He must be seen to be taking a "principled stance" (to use the Ba'ath Party terminology) against Israel and the occupation of the Golan Heights. He must be seen to support the Palestinians, an issue which has become the central cause for most Arabs - even non-Muslims.

He is also faced with an entrenched establishment which has clear "rice bowl" interests. He doesn't have the power base of his father, so he is forced to allow some forces (sometimes called "old guard" though this is a misnomer) a freer hand than the old man would have put up with. This allows some other powerful individuals to expand their own power bases; men like Bashar's brother-in-law, Asef Shawkat, deputy head of military intelligence (some say he is the de-facto head, with MGen Hassan Khalil serving as the "front man") or MGen Ghazi Kanaan, head of political security and former number one in Lebanon.

Is young Assad a reformer? Of a sort, I would think. Certainly he would like to reform the obviously broken economy. I'm not sure he'd be so keen to political reform.

As a final observation: the impression I get from many commentators with a certain political bent is that Syria is an oppressive police state, much like the former Soviet Union. In fact this is not so. Yes, it is something of a police state, but most of her citizens accept that as the price for personal safety. There is also a fairly free economy - taxation is generally ignored - though there is some indication that one wouldn't want to be too successful, lest a "partner" appear.

Maybe more another time.



Army.ca Myth
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A couple of interesting articles here on Syria and Syrians. 

The first one describes the Conveyor belt for moving Mujahedeen from Syria to Iraq (border doesn't look to tight) and speculates on Iraqi activities in Syria.  Suggests as Acorn noted that the authorities may not have a particularly tight grip on the place.


The second one concerns a Syrian that stowed away on a truck in France that was carrying missiles into one of the Royal Navy's dockyards.  When captured he declared he was an asylum seeker.

Anyone want to buy some swampland?


Asylum scandal at
Navy war HQ 

Security scare ... carrier Invincible



AN ASYLUM seeker sneaked into a top Navy base in a lorry carrying secret MISSILE PARTS.

The stowaway sparked a massive alert by riding undetected beside a crate holding the new weapons system.

The man, a Syrian believed to have crept into the truck in France, managed to pass two armed checkpoints at HMS Nelson in Portsmouth and get within yards of warships including the aircraft carrier Invincible.

As red-faced top brass ordered a probe into the fiasco, a source said: â Å“If he did it so easily, imagine what an al-Qaeda terrorist could do.â ?


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April 26, 2005 
Syrian troops end 29-year military presence in Lebanon in farewell ceremony
MASNAA, Lebanon (AP) - The last Syrian soldiers crossed into Syria on Tuesday, waving and flashing victory signs, surrendering to international and Lebanese popular demands and ending its 29-year military presence in its smaller neighbour. Syrians across the border danced and waved flags welcoming them home.
At a farewell ceremony near their shared border, a Syrian commander told Lebanese troops: "Brothers in arms, so long." The soldiers responded, "So long."
A commander of Lebanese soldiers then addressed his words to the Syrians, saying: "Brothers in arms, thank you for your sacrifices." His soldiers repeated, "Thank you for your sacrifices."

After the hour-long ceremony, the Syrian intelligence chief in Lebanon, Maj. Gen. Rustom Ghazali and 10 carloads of intelligence agents crossed into Syria at the border point of Masnaa. The last 250 Syrian troops in Lebanon, who'd participated in the ceremony at the nearby army air base at Rayak, weren't far behind.
At the crossing, about 25 Lebanese civilians saluted Ghazali, who got out of his car and accepted a poster from a Lebanese man that said: "Thank you Syria." On the Syrian side, hundreds of Syrians waved flags and danced in the streets of Jedeidit Yabous, waiting for the soldiers to emerge.

The Syrians entered Lebanon in 1976, ostensibly as peacekeepers in the year-old civil war. After the war ended in 1990, about 40,000 Syrian troops remained, giving Damascus the decisive say in Lebanese politics.
Anger over the Feb. 14 assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri helped turn the tide against Syria's longtime presence in Lebanon. Unconvinced by Syrian and Lebanese government denials of involvement, pressure to leave snowballed. Huge "Syria Out" demonstrations in Beirut brought down the pro-Syrian government, and UN and U.S. pressure intensified on Damascus until it withdrew its army.

Shaaban al-Ajami, the mayor of nearby Lebanese border village of Majdal Anjar, said he was happy to see the Syrians leave: "I feel like someone who was suffocated and jailed and has finally emerged from jail."
In the capital, Beirut, meanwhile, relatives of Lebanese prisoners held in Syrian jails scuffled with the army and beat legislators' cars with the Lebanese flag during a demonstration Tuesday outside parliament demanding the release of their loved ones. Two protesters were seen being loaded into a Civil Defence ambulance while two others received first aid at the scene of the demonstration in downtown Beirut.

With the Syrians leaving, its Lebanese allies in the security services also were collapsing. Maj. Gen. Jamil Sayyed - often described as the enforcer of Damascus' policy - announced his resignation Monday, and another top security commander left the country with his family. Lebanon's new Cabinet, led by Prime Minister Najib Mikati, went to Parliament on Tuesday to seek a vote of confidence that will allow preparations for May elections.
Gen. Ali Habib, Syria's chief of staff, said in a speech during the departure ceremony, that President Bashar Assad had decided to pull out his troops after the Lebanese army was "rebuilt on sound national foundations and became capable of protecting the state."
Habib said Syria had no "ambitions in Lebanon, except to protect it."

By withdrawing, Habib, said that Syria will have "fulfilled all its obligations toward" UN Resolution 1559, which called on it to pull out.
UN secretary general Kofi Annan has dispatched a team led by Senegalese Brig. Gen. Mouhamadou Kandji to verify the withdrawal.
Habib stressed that the withdrawal does mean an end to Syrian-Lebanese ties.
"The relations do not emanate from (Syria's) military presence. The relations will continue and become stronger at present and in the future," he said, then took a swipe at the United States, saying, "anyone who thinks that the history of people can be eliminated by statements made by this or that state is mistaken."

Lebanese army commander Michel Suleiman lauded the role of Syria's army in Lebanon, crediting it with rebuilding the army, maintaining peace among the country's 17 sects and ending the 1975-90 civil war.
He pledged continued co-operation between the two countries in several fields, including the fight on terror.
"Together we shall always remain brothers in arms in the face of the Israeli enemy," said Suleiman.

The farewell ceremony opened with Lebanese and Syrian military commanders placing a wreath of flowers at a cornerstone they laid for a monument to commemorate the Syrian military presence in Lebanon. As military honours were read out, troops punctuated the ceremony with chants supportive of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The 250 Syrian soldiers in red berets and camouflage, the last Syrian troops remaining in Lebanon, shouted "we sacrifice our blood and our souls for you, oh Bashar!" during the ceremony at Rayak, a few kilometres from the Syrian border.
Recipients of medals exchanged as a sign of appreciation included Ghazali, the Syrian intelligence chief in Lebanon, and Brig. Gen. Asef Shawkat, Assad's brother-in-law whom he had recently appointed as Syria's chief of military intelligence.

On the Lebanese side, Suleiman received a medal from the Syrian government.

Shortly before the ceremony began, Brig. Gen. Elias Farhat, director of the Lebanese Army Orientation Department said, "Those are the ones left," referring to Syrian soldiers who marched in Rayak, holding their AK-47 rifles to their chests.
He said the Syrian withdrawal does not mean an end to Lebanese-Syrian relationship. "The military deployment of the Syrian army is part of this relationship which links the two countries," he said.

Farhat pointed to the 1991 Lebanese-Syrian Brotherhood, Co-operation and Co-ordination Treaty, which calls, among other things, for the two countries to closely co-ordinate on security and defence matters and jointly work to fight sabotage, espionage and prevent any hostile activity against any country.


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The Lebanese I encountered in Cyprus and even here always struck me as being energetic and commercial people. IF the American "Commercial Cowboys" reffered to in an erlier post move in fast, I think the Syrians will find themselves outmanoeuvred, since they have little capacity to respond to that kind of challenge


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From the August 5 2006 edition of the Los Angeles Times:

    5:19 PM PDT, August 5, 2006   

Syria Wants to Talk, But Bush Won't Answer the Phone
Damascus has effectively cooperated with Washington on terrorism, says Syria's ambassador.
By Imad Moustapha, IMAD MOUSTAPHA is the Syrian ambassador to the United States.
August 4, 2006

LATE LAST MONTH, a number of congressmen called me and asked for an urgent, unscheduled meeting. There, at the Rayburn House Office Building, we spent a couple of hours discussing in-depth the crisis in the Middle East. The paramount concern of these legislators was not the typical Capitol Hill rhetoric (offering unconditional support for Israel, or delivering the routine condemnation and demonization of Syria). Instead, they simply wanted to know what they could do to stop the ongoing massacre in Lebanon.

Their frustration and exasperation about the total nonchalance of the U.S. administration was overwhelming. The very first question they had for me was to clarify the confusion about whether the White House is talking to Syria or not. Although the media have reported that no contacts have been made between the two countries over the last three weeks, administration officials have sent vague signals that this might be happening through back channels.

But no communication whatsoever has taken place. U.S. policy remains to ignore the Syrian government. And it remains fundamentally wrong.

It hasn't always been this way. When President George H.W. Bush faced Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, he realized the strategic need for Syria and knew how to lure us into the American-led alliance: by inviting Syria to the Madrid peace conference.

As a result, and within a short period of time, the Clinton administration engaged Syria and Israel in serious peace talks that, had they succeeded, would have created a very different paradigm in this troubled area.

In Syria, we consider the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as the fatal blow that felled the peace efforts, and since that tragic event, Israel has had no leader with the courage or vision required to accept the inevitable "land for peace" compromise enshrined in U.N. Security Council resolutions 224 and 338.

In sharp contrast, the current U.S. administration has publicly dissuaded Israel from responding to the repeated Syrian invitations to revive the peace process. Syria still hopes that this position might change, as there exists a growing alienation against the U.S. and its policies in the Arab and Islamic world, which is undoubtedly creating fertile breeding conditions for terrorism.

Syria thought that the atrocious events of Sept. 11, 2001, would be a much-needed wake-up call for the Bush administration.

After Sept. 11, we cooperated with the U.S. in fighting terrorism. Syria had been fighting extreme fundamentalist movements in the region for the previous three decades, so we promptly initiated intelligence and security cooperation with the U.S., providing a wealth of information about Al Qaeda, some of which was described in a letter to Congress by former Secretary of State Colin Powell as "actionable information" that led to "saving American lives." Consequently, bilateral relations improved dramatically at the time, much to the chagrin of the neoconservative cabal that doggedly opposed any engagement with Syria, no matter how productive.

This effective cooperation ended when Syria and the U.S. found themselves at odds over how to address the Iraqi problem. Syria fiercely opposed the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq and continues to do so. The fact that Hussein was Syria's archenemy did not blind our eyes to the grave consequences such an occupation would bear on our region: bloodshed, destruction, instability, extremism and the ugly face of sectarianism.

The Bush administration never forgave Syria for its opposition to the war. Despite the fact that Syrian-U.S. intelligence and security cooperation continued, even after the fallout on Iraq, well up to January 2005, heavyweights in the White House continued to engage in a rhetorical campaign against Syria. Members of Congress, influenced by the powerful pro-Israel lobby, overwhelmingly passed the Syria Accountability Act in November 2003, enacting trade sanctions on Damascus without serious debate or reference to the crucial intelligence support provided by Syria.

Concurrently, administration officials devised a new "policy" toward my country: Don't talk to Syria at all, and maybe its regime will collapse.

That is why the U.S. decided to change its 20-year position toward Syrian involvement in Lebanon. Suddenly, Syria's "stabilizing and necessary presence" in Lebanon became, overnight and without any change in Syria's behavior, "an evil occupation that should immediately be ended."

The underlying idea behind demanding Syrian withdrawal was simple: It would precipitate the fall of the Syrian regime, and the U.S. would end up with a new government in Damascus that is both Israel-friendly and an ally of the U.S. Does that have any resemblance to the neoconservative justification for the war on Iraq?

To the dismay of U.S. policymakers, this belligerent attitude only rallied Syrians behind their own government.

Ultimately, the Bush administration has to realize that by trying to isolate Syria politically and diplomatically, the U.S. continues to lose ability to influence a major player in the Middle East. In the wake of the ongoing instability in Iraq and violence in Palestine and Lebanon, it begs the larger question: Has isolating Syria made the region more secure?

Currently, the White House doesn't talk to the democratically elected government of Palestine. It does not talk to Hezbollah, which has democratically elected members in the Lebanese parliament and is a member of the Lebanese coalition government. It does not talk to Iran, and it certainly does not talk to Syria.

Gone are the days when U.S. special envoys to the Middle East would spend hours, if not days, with Syrian officials brainstorming, discussing, negotiating and looking for creative solutions leading to a compromise or settlement. Instead, this administration follows the Bolton Doctrine: There is no need to talk to Syria, because Syria knows what it needs to do. End of the matter.

When the United States realizes that it is high time to reconsider its policies toward Syria, Syria will be more than willing to engage. However, the rules of the game should be clear. As President Bashar Assad has said, Syria is not a charity. If the U.S. wants something from Syria, then Syria requires something in return from the U.S.: Let us address the root cause of instability in the Middle East.

The current crisis in Lebanon needs an urgent solution because of the disastrous human toll. Moreover, the whole Middle East deserves a comprehensive deal that would put an end to occupation and allow all countries to equally prosper and live in dignity and peace.
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Interesting POV....


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Well written article. Syria has been on and off with Washington for decades, yet, the relations between Syria and the US never reached this level of isolation before. I believe the current US administration has put itself at a great disadvantage by distancing Syria in a time where the US is bogged down in Iraq, and possibly facing Iran, been dismissed by Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinians and most of the Arab world as a player that can effectively bring solutions to the table. This is one of the many reasons why groups like Hezbollah and Hamas are now going about their way to achieve what they need, instead of relying on US mediation.

Syria is and remain the other major player in the ME (aside from Israel), so shunning out the Syrians demonstrates the US administration is planning to go pro-Israel instead of attempting to mediate between all the parties in bringing about a peace.

Also, interesting thing about this article the mention of US attempt to encourage the Syrians to rise against their government. Instead, (and mostly due to what happened in Iraq), the general population (thought oppressed by the current regime) choose to stand by its government, something the US administration didn't expect.

Great article and thx for sharing...


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Syria could do a lot by condeming Hezbollah and their attacks on Israel as well might make the current administration take a second look.


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Ex-Dragoon said:
Syria could do a lot by condeming Hezbollah and their attacks on Israel as well might make the current administration take a second look.

It will be baseless since Syria had already made more important things like fighting terrorism, sharing intelligence. Still the current US administration is unable to envision Syria as a major player in the ME. They thought they could by pass Syria, work with Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, yet we've seen the results so far!!

You'll also need to look at the pressure from within Syria itself. The Golan heights were lost during the 1967 war (When Hafaz Al-Assad was Minister of Defense), the Syrian people until today dream of freeing the Golan. The government is under pressure to reach a solution to that problem. So when a small group like Hezbollah fights the Israelis, many Syrians will view the current position the government is taken as "weak", so imagine if Syria goes against Hezbollah and in support of Israel. There will be no reason for the people of Syria nor the Syrian army to stand behind its government, hence, there will likely follow either : a) revolution  b)  military coup.


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Unfortunately, this does seem to be a recurring theme within the Bush government.  If you do anything to upset them they cut you out with little regard for the downstream consequences.

Syria could be a dominate player in the region and a foil to any Iranian expansionism if the US would involve them.  Their military is fairly strong but they do have to walk a very fine line given the prevailing feelings towards Israel in the region.  Excluding them will only ensure that any peace plan will fail as politically Syria will have no choice but to oppose it.  The current US administration seems to have a very myopic view that ignores realities to their own peril.


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Syria sponsors the worst terrorists out there, sponsors a raging insurgency in a foreign nation, sponsors a puppet tyranny in another foreign nation, is run by a dictatorship, shields war criminals, and launches missiles by proxy into yet another nation whenver they want to make a point, and WE'RE supposed to feel sympathy for THEM?

Yeah.  ::)


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tamouh said:
............. the Syrian people until today dream of freeing the Golan.

They also until today dream of "freeing" "Palestine", just like they did in 1948, 1967 and 1973.

But as many children, and those who knowingly choose to wage war sometimes realize, dreams don't always come true.

I  think Israel just got a little sick of being awoken in the middle of the night by Syria's bad dreams.



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paracowboy said:
Syria sponsors the worst terrorists out there, sponsors a raging insurgency in a foreign nation, sponsors a puppet tyranny in another foreign nation, is run by a dictatorship, shields war criminals, and launches missiles by proxy into yet another nation whenver they want to make a point, and WE'RE supposed to feel sympathy for THEM?

Yeah.  ::)

There's the public Syria, and then, there's the real Syria. The US has been seen to be dealing with the Public Syria, and have now, probably for good reason, decided not to. You are right, there is nothing that Syria offers, that it does not take away by it's support for Terrorist Organizations. They are not a friend of the US, but up until now it served the purpose of the US to deal with them.


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Regime change in Syria that involves the replacement of the Baath Party would really transform that region and yank out the props under Hizbollah. It would also strengthen Lebanon. Right now Hizbollah is very close to usurping the leadership of Lebanon from the elected government. This would be a very dangerous pattern for future countries that host powerful terror groups.