November 16, 2009

Damascus Reverts to Form

Well, that didn’t last long. Last week, Syrian President Bashar Assad announced he would resume peace negotiations with Israel without preconditions, but now he suddenly says it’s impossible. “What we lack is an Israeli partner,” he said, “who is ready to go forward and ready to come to a result.”

As an absolute dictator and a state sponsor of terrorism, Assad is in no position to boohoo about how the region’s only mature liberal democracy supposedly isn’t a peace partner — but he wouldn’t do this if he didn’t think he could get away with it. If even the United States, of all countries, is behaving as though Israel were the problem, why shouldn’t he play along?

In a different historical context, it might be amusing, as Baghdad Bob’s alternate-universe pronouncements were, to listen to the tyrannical Assad talk as though he’s the Syrian equivalent of Israel’s dovish Shimon Peres, while the elected Israeli prime minister is a Jewish Yasir Arafat. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, though, is acting as though the first part were true.

Sarkozy is working hard to boost France’s influence in the Middle East by carving out a role for himself as a mediator between Israelis and Arabs. When Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced last week that they would hold talks, they did it through him. And this weekend Sarkozy offered to host Assad, Netanyahu, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a summit in Paris. He can’t host any such thing, however, if the belligerents on the Arab side are shut out. So Assad has to be brought in from the cold, whether he’s earned it or not.

He hasn’t. And now that his reputation is getting an undeserved scrubbing, brace yourself for the worst sort of passive-aggressive Orwellian grandstanding.

“What Obama said about peace was a good thing,” he said. “We agree with him on the principles, but as I said, what’s the action plan? The sponsor has to draw up an action plan.”

Notice what he’s done here? He’s portraying himself as though not only Netanyahu but also Barack Obama were less interested in peace than he is. It should be obvious, though, that Assad isn’t serious. He supports terrorist organizations that kill Americans, Israelis, Iraqis, and Lebanese — not exactly the sort of behavior one associates with leaders who agree with Barack Obama “on the principles.” Yet he’s blaming the United States for his own roguish behavior, because the U.S. does not have an “action plan.”

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at November 16, 2009 10:51 AM
Comments

We seem to be going around in circles in these contentious dealings with these irritating, and dangerous, dictators in the constantly shifting, angled approaches of the East.
The French re-introducing themselves into this tar pit are not going to clarify anything. But they're certainly welcome to spend their treasure and time and lives, as it was their machinations starting with that Sykes-Picot "Agreement" which have brought us here. Our British cousins, as co-sponsors of so much of the origin this geographic and cultural tragedy, are more than welcome to return in greater force also. Then, I'd like to see the USA concentrate on an Iraq-Iran-Afghanistan containment. We seem to be in a damned if we do damned if we don't position regarding most of Asia....most certainly not of our choosing. After an application of Phillip Caputo's admirably phrased title, "A Decent Interval", we should remove our massive establishment. We cannot stop millenia of this mutual killing and barbarism. Neither are we culturally equipped to deal with these differing tumors of convoluted terror. But we are admirably equipped with workable long-distance "applications".

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at November 16, 2009 5:41 PM

...moreover....don't take my word for this history: I've pasted a quote below from Wikipaedia:

"Sixty five years later, in 2002, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw observed "A lot of the problems we are having to deal with now, I have to deal with now, are a consequence of our colonial past. .. ..The Balfour Declaration and the contradictory assurances which were being given to Palestinians in private at the same time as they were being given to the Israelis - again, an interesting history for us but not an entirely honourable one."10

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at November 16, 2009 5:51 PM

I had some hopes for Assad when his father died but it is important to keep remembering that physicians have been many of the terrorist leaders over the years. The worst of these people are educated and simmer in resentment over the failures of Muslim societies while they blame everyone else for their predicament. KSM was educated at a small Baptist college on scholarship and has a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Doctor Hasan is only the latest in this history of misplaced zeal that Assad shares.

Posted by: Mike K Author Profile Page at November 18, 2009 2:13 PM

""Sixty five years later, in 2002, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw observed "A lot of the problems we are having to deal with now, I have to deal with now, are a consequence of our colonial past. .. ..The Balfour Declaration and the contradictory assurances which were being given to Palestinians in private at the same time as they were being given to the Israelis - again, an interesting history for us but not an entirely honourable"

Promises made to Arabs. Promises made Jews.

Sykes-Picot, and the changes made by the Brits to the League of Nations agreement were a major problem.

Posted by: Davod Author Profile Page at November 18, 2009 3:52 PM

Re: Sykes-Picot, 1916 and subsequent....

There's nothing in the so-called mainstream media about the Franco-British colonial origins of this convoluted mess we Americans entered in the interests of our own continental defense in the wake of that September's attacks on our homeland.

A superficial glance at the map provided at that Wikipedia site indicating these drawing-board/hand-drawn borders will show how these historically contentious religious-ethnic-tribal areas were cavalierly disregarded in favor of the perceived needs of the moment in Europe.

This American thinks it's way past time to call in a few markers from our European "allies"...those markers which have their origins in Europe's woes of the 20th century when our aid was so desperately needed, and provided.

Instead of visible support we receive bickering, evasive carping and criticisms.
Hence the attractiveness of the idea of containment and withdrawal of massed American force from Asia.

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at November 18, 2009 6:30 PM

"I had some hopes for Assad when his father died"

I never had any hopes whatsoever for anyone from that family. With all respect, Mike, anyone who expected anything but the worst just wasn't paying attention. The Assads have nothing to gain by making peace with Israel, and everything to lose.

Think about it. Suppose you could somehow overcome these decades (if not millenia) of mistrust and hatred and come to some kind of reasonable compromise with the Syrians and Palestinians agreeing to live in peace, even a cold one, with Israel. What happens next? With Israel no longer available as a whipping boy people will turn their attention to her Arab neighbors and rediscover what they already knew but chose to forget - that they are all miserable human rights hellholes. What do you think would happen in Syria if its citizens could travel to Israel and personally experience a free, vibrant, open society? Assad would have to abdicate and get the hell out of there pronto if he didn't want his head on a pike. Same with most of the other countries in the region, which is why this conflict will drag on and on and on ...

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at November 18, 2009 9:57 PM

Addendum/correction to above: Iran is certainly among the "human rights hellholes" though of course it is not Arab.

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at November 18, 2009 11:53 PM

What do you think would happen in Syria if its citizens could travel to Israel and personally experience a free, vibrant, open society?

So what happened to the Arabs of Judea, Shomron, and Gaza? They surely know the differences, up close and personally, between their society and that of Israelis, and yet they elect Hamas, name their soccer stadiums after homicide bombers, and show no signs of even wanting to repel the poison of genocidal Jew-hatred.

It makes so much sense, Gary, the way you have framed it, to believe that it's really about them more than it is about Israelis. But the longer this infantile rejection of Jewish existence in Israel continues, the more I suspect that Jew-hatred among the Arabs trumps all. I keep looking for strong evidence to the contrary, but I can't seem to find any.

Posted by: Li'l Mamzer Author Profile Page at November 19, 2009 3:10 AM

Addendum/correction to above:

I wrote: strong evidence to the contrary

and I probably should have written: strong and compelling evidence to the contrary

There are individuals whose voices are heard but are not nearly loud or numerous enough to make a compelling case for a sea-change of Arab attitudes - I am thinking of the outstanding journalist and former PLO apparatchik Khaled Abu Toameh, interviewed by MJT here on these pages, Nonie Darwish, that Egyptian playwright who has been ostracized for speaking out for true normalization, that Iraqi parliament member who traveled to Israel not long after the liberation from Saddam Hussein, and many more I am not aware of.

Posted by: Li'l Mamzer Author Profile Page at November 19, 2009 3:23 AM

"I had some hopes for Assad when his father died but it is important to keep remembering that physicians have been many of the terrorist leaders over the years."

You forgot the most glaring recent example--Ayman Al-Zawahiri.

Posted by: Scott NYC Author Profile Page at November 19, 2009 9:34 AM

You forgot the most glaring recent example--Ayman Al-Zawahiri.

Yes, indeed.

And don't forget that other Mengele-wannabe, Dr. Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, one of the founders of Hamas.

He ran quite a busy practice before the IDF terminated him. Unlike most doctors, this one's specialty was murdering Jews anywhere he could find them.

Here's his money-quote: "We will kill Jews everywhere. There will be no security for any Jews, those who came from America, Russia or anywhere."

So sayeth the ex-MD from 'Palestine'.

Posted by: Li'l Mamzer Author Profile Page at November 19, 2009 1:08 PM

Unless I'm missing something, I don't see the relationship of the debate in the comments section to Mike's article per se.

But the confusion is understandable, because I read Mike's article and found it a mess of implications and half-statements.

Now, to avoid being a complete grouch, the info buried in the article is useful, relevant, etc. But to separate the wheat from the chaff, what exactly is the punchline here?

Iran is arming Hizballah with more powerful weaponry? I'm not sure why this is a) a surprise or b) anything different from the last 20 years of Iran-Hizballah. It's also (for the slow and the insane, I'm reffering only to the actions themselves I'm specifically mentioning) no different from what Israel is doing. Everyone's collecting the baddest weapons they can find to intimidate the other guys from doing any of the funny they do on the side - and Israel always has funny stuff going on the side (assassinations, black ops, etc, etc etc.)

Is it dangerous? Sure, arms races are always dangerous. But are you trying to head-fake towards the conclusion that Hezballah has a specific plan to launch all of these large nasty missiles at Israel in the near future?

If so, come out and say it straight. Otherwise, we have a bunch of rehashed psychobabble saying the same thing it always says. Nasrallah's insane? Bloodthristy, fanatical jihadists with their undetterable goal of eliminating Jews all over the world! boogaboogabooga!

Let me tell you something about fanatics. When they obtain long-range missiles, they don't sit around and store them in garages for years. When they get them, they fire them off right away.
Organizations that sit around collecting their missiles and then making speeches and political communique threats for years are political organizations. Bullies? Hostile ones? Ones that hate their enemies? Sure. But the hysteria is stupid.

If Hizballah ends up emptying their arsenal at Israel, Israel may indeed do horrible things to the Lebanese in response. If it happens, it will be the final stage of a multi-stage crisis that will play out before the world's eyes with plenty of time to find a less violent resolution than the Apocalyptic Confrontation. My only question is, if that ever comes, will Mike Totten be pumping out propaganda about how 'negotiating with crazy evil terrorists is tantamount to suicide', thus encouraging the disaster he's so worried about coming to pass?

Because it's often easy to feel that sensationalist BS constantly emphasizing the irrationality of Hizballah is, first, a self-fulfilling prophecy, and second, part of the problem and not the solution.

Hizballah, like everyone else, is somewhere on a spectrum between "completely rational" and completely "irrational". An influence guiding them towards rationality are the expectations of others- mostly among their Lebanese brethren, but also among the world - that they are rational.

A constant emphasis on the crazier aspects of people or organizations tends to make them more, not less, crazy.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at November 22, 2009 10:39 AM

Um, the above comment is on the completely wrong thread. Had to switch browsers. It makes no sense whatsoever in this thread. Sorry about that.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at November 22, 2009 10:40 AM

Hey! ...glasnost...

After reading all of your lengthy comment, every bit of it, and trying to follow its ramble, all I get is:

..."Um, the above comment is on the completely wrong thread. Had to switch browsers. It makes no sense whatsoever in this thread. Sorry about that."...

....that's enough to send some of us out to the shed to crank up the scythe sharpener, and get it realllly whirrrrrrring away......

Posted by: Morningside Author Profile Page at November 22, 2009 11:47 AM
Post a comment









Remember personal info?




Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Read my blog on Kindle



blogads-blog-button.png


Recommended Reading




Warning: include(): http:// wrapper is disabled in the server configuration by allow_url_include=0 in /home/mjt001/public_html/archives/2009/11/damascus-revert.php on line 363

Warning: include(http://michaeltotten.com/mt_essays.php): failed to open stream: no suitable wrapper could be found in /home/mjt001/public_html/archives/2009/11/damascus-revert.php on line 363

Warning: include(): Failed opening 'http://michaeltotten.com/mt_essays.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/lib/php:/usr/local/lib/php') in /home/mjt001/public_html/archives/2009/11/damascus-revert.php on line 363