Across the Bay

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Blather Dispatch

Djerejian Jr. pulls the old "ignorance" routine to bash Sen. Lieberman's recent op-ed on Damascus Airport and Jihadists.

So naturally, as is always the case with such people trying to pontificate on something they know absolutely nothing about, we're treated to the usual set of idiotic cliches, and, well, "ignorance." Witness the following third-hand, overused conventional wisdom (and the name Djerejian is synonymous with conventional wisdom):

But what is most fascinating about Lieberman's zealotry is its sheer ignorance, how devoid of any historical context it is. Does he remember Tom Friedman's "Hama Rules", born of the Hama Massacre? Hafez Assad brutally put down a domestic rebellion of the Muslim Brotherhood back in 1982, as the Alawite ruling elite feared the growth of Sunni extremism in their midst. Indeed, the Alawites in Damascus are not fans of Islamic extremists, because said extremists view the Alawites as heretics. So the notion that Bashar Assad plays "travel agent" to al-Qaeda is just laughable.

Fascinating! Now, let's break this pile of nonsense down a little.

The first key point is in the magical words "domestic enemies." Assad Sr. and now Jr. (that's Assad Jr. not Djerejian Jr.) have no problem crushing "domestic" Islamists. But, as any look at the plain facts can demonstrate, they have had no problem supporting Islamists abroad. This is why, you know, the Palestinian Sunni Islamist groups, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, both have headquarters in Damascus. I mean, we could also mention a little Islamist group called Hezbollah, but I digress.

And since I know it's a tremendous crime to call this brilliance into question, I will go ahead and quote a Syria expert, Eyal Zisser, who, pace the infinite wisdom of Djerejian Jr., knows quite a bit more about this topic (see also Barry Rubin's treatment of this very issue in his recent The Truth About Syria):

Damascus started to see the Islamists as perhaps the only possible means by which to enhance its regional standing, gain influence in neighboring countries and bring domestic tranquility to Syria itself. ... Close relations since 1980 between Damascus and Tehran, it bears noting, helped strengthen these ties.

Zisser goes on to explain the benefits reaped by Damascus and why this has developed into an understanding between Islamists and Syria:


For Damascus. The rulers in Syria practice a policy of pan-Islam to maintain domestic stability and strengthen their external influence. They appear to attach great importance to the nascent alliance with the Islamist movements, and for four main reasons. First, it has caused the Syrian Muslim Brethren to moderate its old anti-Ba‘th broadsides. In February 1997, its Shura Council published a manifesto that opened by calling the 1982 massacre in Hama the "tragedy of the century," but then refrained from any direct attacks on the Syrian regime. The manifesto went on to declare that the Muslim Brethren was prepared to take steps to "Restore Syrian national unity on behalf of the interests of the [Syrian] homeland and the [Islamic] nation, in view of threats facing it and in order to withstand the Zionist attack."17 A Jordanian Islamist in July 1998 called on his Syrian counterparts to stop their attacks on the Syrian regime, arguing that "Syria is the only Arab country that opposes Israel and supports resistance to the Zionist occupation. Therefore it is forbidden for a Muslim or an Arab to attack it or its leadership."18

Second, Damascus uses the Islamists to influence the policies of Arab governments. To prevent the normalization of relations with Israel, it made considerable use of the Islamist organizations in Jordan and among the Palestinians. For example, the Syrians encouraged the Palestinian Islamic movements to oppose the Wye Plantation agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority19 and approved Jordanian Islamic Front demonstrations against Israel and the Jordanian-Israeli peace agreement.20 Remembering that Damascus looks at Jordan and the Palestinian Authority as part of its own sphere of influence, and that it seeks to dominate them as it does Lebanon, it is quite clear that ties with these movements also allow the Asad regime to gain a foothold in the Jordanian and Palestinian political arenas.

Third, these ties enhance Syria's regional importance as well as its bargaining position vis-à-vis the United States and Israel by giving Syria tools of pressure to be applied against Israel and cards to be used in future negotiations. Syrian backing for Hizbullah in southern Lebanon is an example of this Syrian practice.

Fourth, warm relation with the Islamists have clear implications for Syria's domestic front, where they have encouraged the process of rapprochement between the regime and its Syrian Muslim opposition. Some of the leaders of this opposition who remain outside Syria are engaged in dialogue with the Asad regime. These include ‘Isam al-‘Attar (who has lived in Aachen, Germany, since the 1960s), Sadr ad-Din al-Bayanuni (the inspector general of the movement who is now in Amman), and other leaders in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Under the aegis of dialogue, other Muslim Brethren leaders are gradually returning to Syria and renewing their activities, mainly in the sphere of education, with the regime's tacit approval. ‘Abd al-Fatah Abu Ghudda returned in December 1995; he had long been, from his place of exile in Saudi Arabia, the Muslim Brethren's inspector general. In return for a commitment to refrain from engaging in politics, Abu Ghudda was permitted to resume his religious activities in Aleppo. He went back to Saudi Arabia in early 1996 because of his failing health, and in February 1997 he died there. When his death became public, President Asad sent condolences to the deceased's family in Aleppo, and even offered to put his private airplane at its disposal to bring his body back for burial in Syria. Though Abu Ghudda was buried in Medina, near the grave of the Prophet Muhammad, Asad received his family's thanks and appreciation.21

For the Islamists. Syrian backing brings real benefits to the Islamist movements throughout the region. After the Syrian rulers established ties with the (Islamist) Refah Party of Turkey, unconfirmed reports indicated that the mayor of Istanbul, a leading Refah Party activist, visited Damascus at the head of a Party delegation.22 Following the early 1998 dissolution of the Refah Party, Syria's Defense Minister Mustafa Talas attacked the Turkish authorities for this "anti-democratic" move and called on them "to treat the Islamic movement with greater sensitivity [because] it faithfully represents the Turkish public."23 Talas even warned the Turkish military authorities that the Turkish people would take revenge on them and that Turkey would become another Algeria unless they changed their attitude towards Islam.24

Speaking of Algeria, Ahmad Kaftaru, the mufti of Syria and the country's top religious official (and a regime loyalist), called on the (secular) Algerian authorities to enter into a dialogue with Islamist opposition instead of fighting them. (In contrast, it bears noting, Kaftaru—already then in his present position—supported the oppressive measures the Asad regime took against the Islamists of Syria in 1976-82.)25

Damascus also appears to support Islamist operations, including terrorism. Syrian-Saudi relations went through a tense patch in mid-1996 when it came out that the perpetrators who attacked American soldiers in Khobar in June 1996, killing 19 soldiers, had gone from Lebanon to Saudi Arabia via Syria. That one suspect had died under doubtful circumstances in a Syrian prison after the attack only increased Saudi suspicion of Syrian involvement in this attack. (It was thought that the Syrians did not want this suspect to tell the Saudis what he knew about possible Syrian involvement; the Syrians were quick to extradite another suspect26 but doubts remained. At the same time, no one accused the Syrians of direct involvement in the attack, but rather of ignoring the activity that led to it.)

Relations with Jordan also plummeted in mid-1996, when Amman accused Damascus of sending groups of Islamist terrorists to carry out attacks to undermine the kingdom's internal stability and harm its relations with the United States and Israel.27 A group of Hizbullah activists were arrested in the Jordanian capitol in February 1998; this group was responsible for several bombs that had exploded in Amman. Jordanian sources pointed to Syrian complicity.28 Despite Syrian denials, the issue remains on the Syrian-Jordanian agenda.29 The Syrians had problems with Egypt and Algeria after it transpired that "Arab Afghans" (that is, Arabs who fought in Afghanistan against the Soviet forces) had found refuge in Syria and used that country as a base from which they carried out terrorist activities. Again, the Syrians reacted vigorously and arrested the suspects fingered by the Egyptian and Algerian authorities.30 Syria has become, in effect, a breeding ground for violent Islamists.

Yes, funny thing that, how all of Syria's neighbors (Iraq, Israel, Jordan --see my recent post-- and Lebanon, as well as Saudi Arabia) have complained about Syrian sponsorship of Islamist terrorism. Apparently, they all, including Syria's Islamist friends in Lebanon, haven't had a chat with Djerejian Jr. here.

Djerejian goes on to call Sen. Lieberman an "American embarrassment." You'd think that people who know very little to nothing about the topic at hand would think twice before opening their mouths, given how their own statements are completely mortifying. But then again, some things are genetic.

Addendum: Djerejian Jr. adds this bit in a postscript to cover his previous remarks:

My aim in writing the post was to provide historical context and suggest that the Syrian regime would face real security risks of its own if it were truly acting as al-Qaeda's main travel agent in the region (the main thesis of Lieberman's embarrassingly asinine op-ed in the WSJ).

The basis of this graph is the so-called "blowback" theory. Here's what the regime's official flack Landis wrote about this in a post on June 15, 2007, where he directly admitted Syria's responsibility for the attacks against UNIFIL in Lebanon as well as for the assassinations of March 14 figures:

Many Western diplomats here are of the opinion that this Syrian policy of tit for tat is short sighted because any increase of extremism in the region will eventually bleed back into Syria. The West is far away, they observe. This is probably true in the long run. Extremism is good for no one. However, Syria seems willing to play this game of chicken. It believes it can survive it. The fact that there have been no successful acts of terrorism in Syria for 20 years has produced a sense of invulnerability - perhaps a false one, as foreign diplomats like to point out. (Emphasis mine)

And here's a couple others passages I often quote from Landis' fellow official regime flack, Sami Moubayed, writing about the Syrian Islamist preacher and jihadist recruiter Abu Qa'qa' (who now is appointed by the regime to teach at a religious school in Syria, and in sermons are regularly filled with praise and support for Bashar Assad and the regime):

He insists that anger of the religious youth should never be unleashed on their fellow Syrians or their government. This explains why the Syrian government has tolerated him since 2003. Many speculated that he was an agent of the Syrian regime, being used by the government to appease the rising Islamic street that was boiling with anti-Americanism. As long as he was not preaching against the state, it was believed, Abu al-Qaqa could be free to say what he wished in Aleppo. In conversations with friends and supporters, Abu al-Qaqa stresses that he is not against the state, emphasizing: "The state and I are against what is wrong" (author interview with Syrian source, June 22). He always calls for "Unification of the security and religious apparatus in Syria." He explains this bizarre argument: "Every believer must see that security is a positive action. The objective of a believer's religion is to prevent harm to human beings. This is done by the security services" (al-Rai al-Aam, June 14).
What kind of a jihadist dabbles with a secular regime like the Baathists? What kind of a jihadist drives around in broad daylight in a Mercedes Benz?


After the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, Abu al-Qaqa helped organize the infiltration of militant jihadists from Syria into Iraq. He publicly boasted about his role, which has been confirmed by jihadists captured in Iraq, including Muayed al-Nasseri, former commander of "the Army of Muhammad."[11] Abu al-Qaqa's high public profile led many observers to assume that he was operating under the protection of the authorities. In an October 2003 interview with the Christian Science Monitor, he flatly declared, "I would like to see an Islamic state in Syria,"[12] a statement that would normally be unthinkable in Syria. (Emphasis mine)

Historical context indeed. See also my recent post above, including Gen. Petraeus' comments about Damascus Airport, which fully support Sen. Liberman's comments, as well as the part at the end about the arrest of a man working for the Syrian mukhabarat in a raid on al-Qaeda hideouts in northwestern Iraq. (See also in this video on Syria the part filmed in Al Bu Kamal on the Iraq border, specifically the statement by the fighter about how "Dr. Bashar Assad opened to us the way for Jihad.")

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Syrian Jails and Jihadis

An-Nahar ran a two-part investigative report entitled "Have Syrian jails become 'a land of support' for Jihad in Iraq and Lebanon?" It was translated by NOW Lebanon (part 1, part 2). I urge you to read it.

This is directly related to an issue I have been highlighting on this blog: the Syrian regime's collusion with Jihadis, as in the case of Abu Qa'qa', to give but one example.

I have also mentioned Fathi Yakan, along with my suspicions about his role in the Fateh al-Islam case. A propos Fateh al-Islam, we also noted Shaker al-Absi's stint in Syrian jails before being released, um, rather early, and sent to Lebanon to create Fateh al-Islam.

Yakan, an open Zawahiri supporter, is a particularly relevant case because he too was at one point kidnapped and imprisoned by the Syrians, and he's now one of their Jihadi Islamist tools and is regularly feted in Damascus, and has been received personally by Bashar Assad.

As I have described before, the Syrian regime has a serious "Sunni problem" in Lebanon, and so they have tried to puff a marginal figure like Yakan, only highlighting their bankruptcy. Yakan was also Hezbollah's Sunni fig leaf in their siege rally in downtown Beirut. The Iranians also received Yakan in March, which led the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (and Yakan was the Syrian regime's interlocutor of choice whenever it wanted to send messages to the Brotherhood) to dub him "Hojatoleslam Fathi Yakan."

And so, very clearly, Yakan was a Sunni Islamist tool for the Iranian-Syrian axis. As such, he earned at the time a two-part profile on the arm of the Qatari government (which is supporting the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah-Hamas axis in Lebanon and Gaza) al-Jazeera.

Among the telling -- albeit absolutely hilarious -- things he described was a meeting with Hafez Assad and said that he told Assad that Yakan's dream would be for Syria to be ruled by the Arab Islamic Baath party. (An interesting note given Bashar Assad's Islamification campaign and the adoption of the ideology that I and others have dubbed "Pan-Arabist Islamism." For his part, Barry Rubin described Syria as: "formulating the new 'resistance' strategy which combines radical Arab nationalism and Islamism; being Iran's main Arab ally; and even being the main Arab state sponsor of revolutionary Islamism. ... merging Arab nationalism and Islamism, is very much in line with Syria's current political doctrine.")

Yakan was formerly in the Jama'a Islamiya, but had a falling out and quit. Then in August 2006 (the timing is important and tied to Syria), he formed the Islamic Action Front, an umbrella organization that includes other Islamist tools of Syria like Bilal Sha'ban and Hashem Minqara.

Minqara shares with Yakan the experience of imprisonment in Syria before "miraculously" turning and becoming a Syrian tool, which is the subject matter of the an-Nahar investigative report linked above.

Hashem Minqara, a militant Sunni Islamist from the northern city of Tripoli, spent 14 years in Syrian prisons before returning to Lebanon in 2000 and starting a new career as a pro-Syrian tool.

He was profiled by Gary Gambill in the MEIB in 2000, upon his release.

The story of his release is of particular interest:

After his return to Lebanon, Minqara told a local newspaper that his release was negotiated by Lebanese Minister of Transportation Najib Miqati, a Sunni politician from Tripoli who has close business ties with Syrian President Bashar Assad and is said to be under consideration in Damascus as the next prime minister of Lebanon.3 Lebanese political analysts have speculated that Minqara's release was designed to bolster local support for Miqati and his allies in the August 27 parliamentary elections.
Bilal Shaaban, the current secretary-general of Al-Tawhid al-Islami, suggested that a deal had been reached to secure the release of other members of the group held by Syria. "The release of all our imprisoned brothers should come in the next few days."5 Another one of the group's military commanders, Samir al-Hassan, was released earlier this month.

As I mentioned above, Shaaban and Minqara are now Yakan's associates and fellow Syrian allies in the IAF.

Interestingly, the deal came under Bashar Assad in 2000. Bashar had worked hard to undermine the political class in Lebanon, especially Hariri (and in the end he murdered him). In 2000, he negotiated the return of another minor Sunni Nasserist pitbull, Kamal Shatila, as part of his campaign against Hariri (Shatila had been expelled from Lebanon in 1984 by Hafez Assad). Shatila today is part of the B-Team of Bashar's losers (Naser Qandil, Wi'am Wahhab, et al.) and he too has his appearances on al-Jazeera denouncing March 14 and especially (this is his role) the March 14 Sunnis and Hariri's Future Movement.

Just as Bernard Rougier documented Iran's working with Palestinian Sunni Islamists in his book, a study waits to be done on Syria's collusion with Jihadi Islamists, especially in the Bashar years.

Addendum: See this 1999 article by Eyal Zisser, "Hafiz al-Assad Discovers Islam": "Damascus started to see the Islamists as perhaps the only possible means by which to enhance its regional standing, gain influence in neighboring countries and bring domestic tranquility to Syria itself. ... Close relations since 1980 between Damascus and Tehran, it bears noting, helped strengthen these ties."

Friday, August 24, 2007

Voop! Nonsense About the Syria-Iran Alliance

NPR has a segment on the Iran-Syria alliance that totally misunderstands, mischaracterizes, and misrepresents the nature of the alliance.

I'm going to glance over Robert Malley's comments for now (I might come back to them later).

The segment quotes the Syrian regime's favorite academic, Joshua Landis, who, as usual, lies through his teeth and contradicts stuff he himself had written before.

First off, Landis misrepresents the raison d'être of the alliance, painting it as a result of Saddam Hussein's war. To put it mildly, that's an incomplete and thus inaccurate revisionist picture -- one that is designed to serve the Syrian regime's current propaganda purposes.

Landis presents the alliance as purely reactive; a result of both Syria and Iran feeling "threatened." It's not an innocent characterization. This is part of the Syrian official propaganda: to always present itself as under attack and threat and besieged by hostile forces in order to justify its own subversive policies and expansionist and regional hegemonic ambitions (just like Landis, again following the regime's memo, justifies the murder of Hariri and Syria's subversive terrorist policy in Lebanon along the exact same lines, e.g., "we cannot tolerate a 'hostile' government in Lebanon," etc.).

First of all, the Assad regime's openness to the Iranian Islamic revolution predated the Iraq-Iran war and was thus independent of it. Furthermore, Landis, as noted above, presents Syria, as per the regime's propaganda, as the perpetual victim who only reacts to aggression, in this case, Saddam's support of Syrian elements opposed to the Assad regime.

But let me quote from the most recent work on the Syrian-Iranian alliance, Jubin Goodarzi's Syria and Iran:

[W]hen the Shah was deposed in February 1979, Assad saw the change in government as a positive development and deemed it necessary to establish cordial ties with the new revolutionary government, which seemed sympathetic to the Arab cause and the plight of the Palestinians.

Syria's motive for establishing close links with the new clerical regime can be partially understood in the context of inter-Arab and internal Syrian politics.
Between October 1978 and July 1979 a rapprochement between Syria and Iraq seemed a distinct possibility. ... A Syrian-Iraqi partnership did not, however, materialize. Mutual distrust and irreconcilable differences eventually brought the bilateral negotiations to a screeching halt in the summer of 1979 when Iraq accused Syria of involvement in a coup attempt to topple the Ba'thist regime in Baghdad, despite Syrian denials. ... Assad subsequently continued to cultivate even closer relations with the new revolutionary government in Tehran and watched events unravel in Iran with great interest. (Pp. 16-17. Emphasis mine.)

All this, I remind you, is before the Iraq-Iran war. Let's continue with Goodarzi's book:

Immediately after the collapse of the monarchy, on 12 February 1979, Assad sent Khomeini a telegram congratulating him for his triumph over the Shah. In his message, he praised the 'Iranian people's victory', and went on to say: 'we proclaim our support for the new regime created by the revolution in Iran. This regime is inspired by the great principles of Islam [Ed.'s note: this is the "very secular" regime!]. The creation of this regime is in the Iranian people's greatest interest, as well as that of the Arabs and Muslims.' In fact, Syria was the first Arab country to recognize the new regime in Iran...

Straight after the revolution, Hafez Assad's brother, Rif'at, sent envoys to Tehran to discuss ways of cooperating between the two countries, particularly against Iraq. [Ed.'s note: again, this is before the war.] Tehran followed up on these contacts by dispatching emissaries to Damascus to explore various options to lend support to the Iraqi opposition, particularly in the Shiite south. Rif'at, who served as commander of the Syrian defence brigades (Saraya al-Difa'), apparently opposed the Syrian-Iraqi unity talks, for he feared that they might benefit his leading rival for succession to his brother, former air force and intelligence chief, Na'ji [sic] Jamil, who had close ties with the Iraqi Ba'thists.

In March, the first senior Syrian official, information minister Ahmad Iskandar Ahmad, visited Iran where he met Ayatollah Khomeini in Qom and presented him with an illuminated Quran as a gift from Hafez Assad. Apart from bilateral relations between the two states starting on the right footing, the regional foreign policies of both were strikingly similar. Damascus and Tehran perceived and interpreted various regional developments in the same manner. This trend reinforced the growing cooperation between the two states.
[B]y April 1979, it had become clear that the leadership in the two rival wings of the Ba'th Party had incongruent visions about what unification would entail. As progress in the negotiations became painfully slow and finally grinded to a halt, Assad began to give careful consideration to the next viable option -- an alliance with Iran to outflank Iraq, bolster his position vis-à-vis the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms and strengthen his hand among the Lebanese Shiites.
Their rapprochement in the spring and summer of 1979 coincided with the marked deterioration in Iran's relations with Iraq and the Gulf Arab states. While Tehran encouraged the Iraqi Shiites to defy the government in Baghdad, Iraq also conducted a wide range of activities to support centrifugal forces on the periphery of Iran, including Kurdish and Arab movements that demanded autonomy or independence from the Iranian state.
One should note that Iraq's campaign was not totally offensive: it was partially a defensive attempt to neutralize and deter Iranian interference in Iraq's domestic affairs by levelling the playing field. (Pp. 17-19. Emphasis mine.)

What was Syria's response to Iran's foreign policy?

Assad welcomed the Shiite awakening in the Middle East after the Iranian revolution, while Baghdad feared that Iran would incite the restive Shiite population in southern Iraq to rebel against it. (P. 22)

Assad had used Shiite legitimation prior to that. Martin Kramer explains:

If Musa al-Sadr would throw his weight behind the argument that Alawis were Twelver Shi'ites, this would undermine at least one pillar of the Sunni indictment of the regime. Since the Alawis of Lebanon did not differ in belief from those of Syria, their formal inclusion in the Twelver Shi'ite community would constitute implicit recognition of all Alawis. For his part, Musa al-Sadr may have begun to realize that his recognition of the Alawis might bring political advantages which he had not previously imagined. The regime of Hafiz al-Asad needed quick religious legitimacy; the Shi'ites of Lebanon, Musa al-Sadr had decided, needed a powerful patron. Interests busily converged from every direction.

And so we see that Assad's calculations in making the strategic decision to ally with Iran were far more complex than the propagandistic and crudely simplistic notion that the alliance was a tactical response to Iraqi aggression. Iran (with Syrian support) was itself threatening and seeking to subvert the Iraqi regime.

In fact, Goodarzi goes on to say that had the basis of the alliance only been mutual animosity to Saddam Hussein, it would have long collapsed. In other words, Iraq, let alone the Iraq-Iran war, was not the exclusive basis of the alliance. It would be a misreading of the nature of the alliance to say so. Here's Goodarzi:

An examination of how the bilateral ties between Syria and Iran evolved during this critical period reveals the flawed conclusions of those who argued that the alliance was a marriage of convenience, a short-term tactical link between two regimes with disparate ideologies and objectives. It also exposes the limits of the realist school of thought in explaining the behaviour of these two states. If immediate security concerns and material interest had been the driving forces in their foreign policies, particularly in Syria's case, the relationship would have collapsed. However, both parties had broader, long-term strategic concerns derived from their national security priorities and based on their respective ideologies and world views. They saw a unique role for themselves in the region and utility in preserving the alliance to pursue an independent foreign policy to shape events in the Middle East in a desirable manner in the long term, and to minimize foreign influence and penetration of the region. (P. 135. Emphasis mine.)

It's evident that there were other factors having to do with Syria's disposition towards other Arab states, Assad's leadership ambitions, and, importantly, Syria's colonizing objectives in Lebanon. In other words, it's not a "defensive" alliance, nor is it a "tactical marriage of convenience." (In fact, the term "marriage of convenience" was first used to describe the alliance in an article by Shireen Hunter in 1985 -- that's 22 years ago, and 6 years after it had been struck.)

Here's where NPR and Landis mislead the audience. The segment states that "[t]he Iran-Syria alliance drifted apart in the 1990s when Saddam was weak, but Landis says that in 2003, Iraq became a threat again. ... Voop! The relationship became strong again." In other words, following the (deliberately) faulty Iraq-centric reasoning, once Iraq was not a problem, the alliance disappeared, only to reappear when Iraq came back into the picture.

That's a convenient picture as far as Landis' regime propaganda goes. But it's far from reality. Reality is that the Syrian-Iranian alliance flourished in the 90s -- particularly in Lebanon.

Let's continue with Goodarzi:

Again, analysts predicted the demise of the Syrian-Iranian alliance but, although they adopted divergent positions, the Kuwait crisis did not destroy the partnership. In fact, the two allies took a further step towards institutionalizing their bilateral relationship in November 1990 when they set up a Syrian-Iranian higher cooperation committee, which their vice-presidents and foreign ministers chaired. Its main purposes were to meet at regular intervals for consultations and to strengthen their cooperative links. (P. 289. Emphasis mine.)

In fact, September 1991 saw the finalization of a Syrian-Iranian agreement for increased military cooperation (yes, it long preceded the 2006 defense treaty), which at the time was suspected to facilitate Syria's efforts to acquire North Korean missile technology. This is particularly relevant today as we read about Israeli assessments of Syrian ballistic capabilities.

Aside from the continuing military cooperation, the Syrians and Iranians consolidated their political alliance... in Lebanon. The 90s were, in fact, the golden years of this alliance in Lebanon.

How so? The late 80s saw the brutal infighting between the Iranian creation Hezbollah and the Syrian-backed Amal. Yet the alliance not only endured, it was consolidated:

In the two-year period between the cessation of the Gulf hostilities and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (August 1988 to August 1990), many observers predicted the imminent demise of the Syrian-Iranian alliance. However, the partnership still endures at the start of the twenty-first century.
First and foremost, incessant speculation that the days of the Syrian-Iranian nexus were numbered proved unfounded: many analysts had failed to recognize that the two allies' continual consultations and ability to compromise on key issues, build mutual trust and maintain cooperative links during the troubled years of 1985-1988 had consolidated the alliance. Their mutual ability over time to assess the evolving regional situation, to recognize the limits of their power and to set feasible goals lent stability to the alliance. Both Damascus and Tehran also understood that their activities in the other's sphere of influence had to be within certain limits and subject to the other's approval, particularly if vital interests were at stake. (P. 286. Emphasis mine.)

Indeed, 1991-1992 proved rather axiomatic for the shape and future of the alliance for the entire decade of the 90s, up until the Syrian withdrawal in 2005.

The beginning of the decade saw various developments: 1- It saw the Syrian regime's takeover and trashing of the Taef Accord, and its complete colonization of Lebanon. 2- It saw the end of the Hezbollah-Amal war. 3- It saw Hezbollah's entry into parliamentary life. 4- It saw the Syrian-Iranian understanding to hand exclusive mandate for Hezbollah to take over military activity in the south against Israel. 5- It saw the reinvention -- if not the "Arab nationalization" -- of Hezbollah's image from the overtly Khomeinist "Islamic Revolution" to the more broad "Islamic Resistance," as per the Syrian-Iranian understanding, as well as the birth in 1991 of al-Manar TV, which went on to play a major role in the branding of Hezbollah. 5- In the mid to late 90s, and especially after 1996, Syria was instrumental in cultivating the Nasrallah cult, and mainstreaming the Hezbollah socio-political culture, and constructing a new political order based both ideologically and in reality around the "Resistance" and relying on the military president, the security services, and a host of second-tier puppets totally reliant on Syria and with no standing of their own.

Moreover, in 1993, when Iran and Syria opposed the Palestinian-Israeli Declaration of Principles (Rafsanjani had blasted the Declaration of Principles, and in a meeting between Iranian VP Habibi and Assad in December 1993, Habibi declared Tehran's support for "the revolutionary and Islamic stand of Syria in its campaign against the Zionist regime" while Assad lauded "Iran's stance vis-à-vis the issue of Palestine"), and Hamas and Islamic Jihad became part of the Damascus-based Alliance of Palestinian Forces (APF). Both established headquarters in Damascus, and were coordinating terror activities at the behest of Iran. Islamic Jihad's Fathi Shiqaqi admitted to receiving Iranian funding, and he was also received, in 1993, by Khamenei while visiting Iran. Hamas too had established ties with Iran. In fact, in 1993, Musa Abu Marzouq met with Rafsanjani. (See Hinnebusch and Ehteshami's Syria and Iran.) So what we're seeing now with Hamas is not new.

Now, this is the 90s, after the Madrid Process had started, which rather undermines Malley's premise. I'll leave that be for now, but only after I quote the one and only Imad Mustapha:

The Syrian Iranian relation is not about Syria adopting positions proposed by Iran. It’s the other way around. Iran under the Shah cooperated with Israel. We have historical policies about Israel and the resistance that have not changed. It’s not like we were lured by Iran to support policies we had not supported before. We supported resistance before Hizballah existed. If God forbid Iran will change its position Syria will not.

Voop! there it is!

And so, all this nonsense spewed by Landis making it seem as though the US is responsible for the "resurgence" of the alliance is, voop!, utter rubbish. The alliance never ceased growing.

But Landis' dishonest function comes to a peak with this statement: "So as soon as the U.S. leaves, Syria is going to want Sunnis to have more power. Iran is going to want Shiites to have more power, and they are going to fall out over this."

Now, this is pure and unadulterated, deliberately deceptive agitprop on behalf of the regime. The first time Landis said this was in March 2007, at the time of the Arab summit in Riyadh. Back then, Landis' function was to tell the media, as he did in a panel with me on NPR, that Saudi is "breaking with the US," and "mending fences with Syria," and Syria is now "in." Of course, I laughed at this crock back then, on the air, and today Landis looks even more pathetic given the public war between Syria and Saudi, whose papers have been blasting Syria daily, accusing it of all the murders in Lebanon and much more (I will come back to this issue in a separate post).

Anyway, back then this was the official talking points memo and it was Landis' job to disseminate it, and so he did. Syria wanted to break out of its isolation and its estrangement with Saudi. And so Landis wrote on March 29:

But when the US withdraws from Iraq this calculus will change. The alliance between Iran and Syria will face serious strains. It is in Syria's interest to team up with Saudi Arabia in order to tip the scales of power in Iraq toward its Sunni community. This will divide Syria from Iran, which will be pushing down on the Shiite side of the scale. So long as the US is strong in Iraq, Syria's interests are with Iran. Once the US is gone, Syria's interests will be with Saudi Arabia.

As you can see, it's the same nonsense he repeated here. Why? Because it's politically convenient in this context to say this. The implication is: Syria can actually be "pried away" from Iran -- if the US withdraws from Iraq and if Saudi gives it what it wants. It's a dishonest political agenda on behalf of the regime. It's not true, and it's not analysis.

Here's why. Here's what Landis wrote in July 31, 2006 (hat-tip, anonymous reader):

Shi’ite success looks like it is going to realign Iraq with Iran and possibly Syria against the Gulf. This will fundamentally change the balance of power in the region.

He then proceeded to describe a fantasy world of an "axis of oil" between Iran, Iraq and Syria, and categorized it as follows:

Iraqi technical committees have already been meeting with their Syrian and Iranian counterparts plan for these pipelines. This will allow them to challenge Saudi Arabian dominance in OPEC. It’s what you might call an axis of oil – or access of oil - and the Russians and Chinese are eager to connect to it. As I see it, this is the big battle. My hunch is that within five or six years, when Iraq beings to consolidate under a Shi’ite dictatorship, it will not ask American oil companies to run the show, but rather, Russian and Chinese oil companies. For political and economic reasons, Iraqis will want to move away from American domination. Economic imperatives make linking up to Iran and the East logical. Such a combination will be powerful.

In other words, in Landis' "analysis" back then, Syria was an integral part of the Iran-led "Shiite reawakening axis" against Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states!

Back then it was July 2006. The war between Hezbollah and Israel had broken out, relations between Syria and Saudi Arabia drastically deteriorated, and soon thereafter, Bashar gave his infamous "half-men" speech, attacking Saudi Arabia. Back then Landis' "analysis" followed that official talking points memo from Damascus. It continued along these lines, such as in this post from August 4, 2006:

[T]he break-out of Shiite Islam, started by the Iranian revolution but unleashed in the Arab World by the US invasion of Iraq, is changing the balance of power in the region and will force the US to engage Iran and, by extension, Syria and the Shiites of Lebanon.

Notice the syntax of that last clause. Syria is the extension of Iran, and is directly tied to the Shiites of Lebanon.

When the regime -- and "by extension," Landis -- wanted to market that it was "mending fences" with Saudi Arabia, the "analysis" shifted 180 degrees to say the exact opposite of what the same "analyst" (or, to be more accurate, regime flack) had himself written earlier!

But wait. Why go that far back? What Landis said on NPR contradicts what he wrote a mere five days ago! Here's what he wrote on August 18, after the Syrian-Saudi war broke out in the open after Farouq Sharaa's sanctioned public attack against Saudi Arabia (i.e., when the political talking points memo changed again, away from the "Saudi is mending fences with Syria" memo he peddled in March-April 2007):

Syria and Iran would probably prefer to inherit the Maliki government than any of its alternatives. I am not sure Saudi Arabia has made this calculation yet. In any event, Syria calculates that cooperating with the Maliki government even if it does collapse can no longer do it any harm.

Having a relatively weak Shiite coalition government in place in Iraq is better for Syria than chaos.

Saudi Arabia's position toward the Maliki government is unclear. Some Saudi officials have indicated that their government will support Sunni Iraqi militias against a Shiite led government that is pro-Iranian. Syria has indicated that it could pursue such a policy as well in the past. It has give asylum to Sunni opposition members and hosted Iraqi opposition group meetings. This common Saudi-Syrian policy of favoring Iraq's Sunnis led me to conjecture in the past that once the US pulled out of Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia would work toward elaborating a common pro-Sunni policy in Iraq. Saudi Arabia's refusal to send a delegate to the security conference in Damascus argues against this interpretation. Perhaps a reason for Sharaa's evident anger at SA's refusal is because Syria has been counting on a Saudi-Syrian rapprochement as the US prepares to withdraw from Iraq. Whether his outburst was motivated by differences over Lebanon, Iraq, or a combination of the two, I cannot say.

Syria has positioned itself between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Iraq.

Wait, what!? I lost count. According to the various versions of Landis, Syria will work with a "Shiite dictatorship" and "a relatively weak Shiite coalition government," and will back the Sunnis. Syria is part of the Iran/Shiite axis against Saudi Arabia, is on Saudi Arabia's side and will "fall out with Iran" as a result, and has "positioned itself between Iran and Saudi Arabia." Wow, such reliable, sturdy, carefully thought out "analysis."

This is utter nonsense and deliberate misleading as per the political talking points of the regime in Damascus. But then again, Landis' record with the truth leaves much to be desired.

As for that most fashionable of soundbites among pundits, the "prying Syria away from Iran" theory, let me conclude with another quote from Goodarzi. It's particularly relevant once compared to the current situation, as not much seems to have changed among policy pundits, who apparently have a very short memory:

Throughout the period between 1985 and 1988, Arab states and the USSR were trying hard to entice Assad to abandon his friendship with Iran. Apart from Syrian-Iranian relations having reached a nadir in 1986/7, Assad had good reason at the time to abandon his alliance with Khomeini's Iran. For a start, it would improve his overall position because he was facing several important challenges simultaneously. These included:

  • the need to secure Syria's eastern flank with Iraq because of the prospect of a conflict with Israel;
  • Syria's marginalization in Arab politics with the consolidation of the Egyptian-Jordanian-Iraqi axis;
  • the marked deterioration of relations with the West and international opprobrium over Syria's alleged involvement in the Hindawi affair;
  • Iranian activism and interference in Lebanon;
  • Hezbollah's rise at Amal's expense as a dominant force in Lebanon;
  • Iran's refusal to continue oil deliveries to Syria;
  • the dismal state of the Syrian economy; and
  • the gradual cooling of Soviet-Syrian relations in the Gorbachev era, and subsequent abandonment of the quest for 'strategic parity' with Israel.

Why Assad refused to distance himself from Iran and join mainstream Arab politics to minimize the risk of conflict with Israel and the West baffled many observers, for he would have derived considerable benefits, including oil and financial rewards, from the pro-Iraqi camp. Indeed, the USSR, Saudi Arabia and Jordan put considerable pressure on Syria to sever its links with Iran and mend fences with Iraq. Such a move could have eased its security dilemma with Israel, improved its regional and international standing and ensured a flow of economic and financial aid to remedy its dire domestic economic situation. (P. 134)

And yet Assad Sr. didn't. And Assad Jr. won't either; even when it looks so "logical" to self-styled policy gurus. It is not in the regime's interest. We should stop thinking we know the regime's "real" interests better than it does, and that if only we offer it this and that concession it'll see the light.

Addendum: With regards to Iran and Syria's policy in Iraq, it's very instructive to listen to Farouq al-Sharaa's recent comments on this very issue:

On relations between Damascus and Tehran, Sharaa said, 'there is agreement and understanding and a unified vision, and Syrian-Iranian relations are strategic, it's not a blind relationship, but rather one that sees all the details. The Iranians want the independence and security of Iraq, and Syria wants Iraq's unity and Arabness. This Syrian-Iranian-Iraqi cooperation helps Iraq to come out of its crisis and end the occupation of its land. The Syrian and Iranian positions complement each other, and there is a strategic vision. We complement each other with our long-term goals for a unified, independent, Arab Iraq that has no occupation forces of any kind on its soil.'

I'll conclude with Goodarzi's own conclusion:

In conclusion, it is worth mentioning once more that to varying degrees the experiences and geography of the two states shaped the Syrian-Iranian alliance. However, one should not underestimate the role and impact of their political elite's ideologies and world views. Their leaders share some perceptions and their secular and fundamentalist ideologies overlap in certain respects. ... Hafez Assad, Ruhollah Komeini and their successors have viewed the region as a strategic whole and regarded their alliance as a vital tool with which to further Arab-Islamic interests and increase regional autonomy by diminishing foreign penetration of the Middle East. As a result, to advance their common agenda over the years, both countries have put long-term interests before short-term gains. (P. 294. Emphasis mine.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Maliki's Visit a Bust, as Expected

As expected, Maliki's visit to Syria, like Talabani's before him, was a failure.

The goals of the visit, and the forecasts of its failure, were laid out in the media by both sides ahead of it.

On the Iraqi side, it was clear that the main concern was for Syria to cooperate on security, by halting its "open door" policy with terrorists who, using Syria as a transit point and "rear base," arrive at Damascus Airport and flow into Iraq to kill innocent civilians and coalition troops, and to hand over wanted former Saddamists harbored by Damascus.

Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani told the AP, "We will discuss the files of the wanted from Saddam's regime."

Talabani had tried to raise these same issues before and came back empty handed. Maliki didn't fare any better.

AKI reports, quoting a Syrian source, "Syria will not hand over to Iraq any political refugees that reside there or any of the wanted from the Baath Party or the officials of the Saddam regime."

At least now the Syrians admit they are harboring these people. When Talabani visited, in classic Assadist humor, they denied even harboring them! Furthermore, the Syrians pointedly refused to sign security treaties, preferring vague "understandings" instead.

But the failure of the visit was more extensive. Basically, the Iraqis repeated the same offer Talabani made during his visit: cooperate on security and we'll give you economic incentives, like working to reopen the oil pipeline, especially now that Syria is dealing with a massive deficit in the oil sector, as its oil is running out and it's well on its way to becoming a net importer. No security, no oil.

One should add here that there are massive hurdles to the reopening of the pipeline. 1- It needs extensive rehabilitation (which cannot be done without proper security). 2- Export capacity is limited (and southern oil gets out much more easily through Basra). 3- Syria's refineries are not equipped to deal with it (they've been talking about fixing the refineries for 20 years, meanwhile, the bill for fixing the Banias refinery has gone up to $1 billion. As for the talk about Iran helping build new refineries, it is rather comical, given Iran's woes in this area).

Meanwhile, the regime's water carrier at Al-Hayat regurgitated the Syrian official talking points, as he always does, and reported that the Syrians told Maliki that there would be no security cooperation without "a political umbrella" and "economic bloodlines." No decoder is needed for that. The bottom line is clear: Maliki got nothing, as expected.

The regime's water carrier also reported that the regime "demanded" that Maliki ask for the withdrawal of US troops, and "demanded" revising the constitution to remove federalism.

Now, of course, the Syrians had already said this before Maliki even came to Syria.

Here's the regime's flack Sami Moubayed, for instance:

[...] stressing that talks must deal with ... amending the de-Ba'athification laws and articles in the Iraqi constitution that deal with federalism - a concept that the Syrians curtly refuse.

These were not conditions, the Syrians stated, but points of discussion.
Maliki, who was a guest of the Syrian government for many years, is expected to pay back the Syrians. He is expected to show the same degree of friendliness, warmth and gratitude shown by Talabani, who since coming to power has refused to criticize Syria or let his country be used for anti-Syrian propaganda.

This (what Hamidi and Moubayed regurgitated) is the "political umbrella." And you will pay us also, and shut up about us sending and harboring your killers, thanks. After all, it's all "propaganda." We will kill you, and you will like it, and shut up, and even pay us on top of it. This is the Syrian MO on full display: the mafia racket at its finest.

There were grumblings ahead of the visit that the Syrians were already imposing conditions to ensure the failure of the visit, or even dissuade Maliki from coming. This is what the regime's mouthpiece Moubayed was referring to when he wrote, hilariously, "[t]hese are not 'conditions'."

The regime also put out its official communique in Arabic through the mouthpiece who runs the, er, "independent" Cham Press, Ali Jamalo. Jamalo penned an "open letter" (more like, official talking points) to Maliki ahead of his visit.

The main two points of the letter echoed Moubayed's communiqué (after all, the source for both these official propagandists is the same): 1- stop accusing Syria of exporting terrorists to Iraq (and we distinguish between terrorists and resistance anyway [when Assad condemned attacks against civilians after his meeting with Maliki, he pointedly made that distinction]) and 2- demand the withdrawal of US troops.

Yeah, all that will happen! And so, as you can see, it was a very useful meeting indeed. Just like Talabani's, or rather, just like any diplomat who meets and deals with the mafia racket in Damascus.

Once again: it's in Syria's interest to continue its policy of support for terrorism. In fact, that's its entire policy. No amount of economic incentives (or even so-called political incentives short of complete and total capitulation) will make a difference.

Update: A report from AKI today:

The joint declaration issued Wednesday night at the conclusion of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's visit to Syria is general and recurrent. It is the same final declaration that was issued after the visit of former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi to Syria in 2004, with the addition of a single article dealing with the one and a half million Iraqi refugees in Syria.

And despite Allawi at the time reaching agreements with the Syrians on security and combating terrorism, putting these agreements into effect is still modest and unsatisfactory from the perspective of the Iraqis, who are demanding (and the Americans behind them) more Syrian effort on security, and are interested only in this side of cooperation to begin with. Whereas the Syrian authorities have declared more than once that they have fulfilled everything they have committed to in these agreements.
A member of the Iraqi delegation accompanying al-Maliki told AKI, "The Syrians were understanding of Maliki's points of view, and understanding does not mean accepting at any rate." As such, the success of Syrian-Iraqi negotiations "is judged by intentions and not public declarations," according to him.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Toilet Paper Revisited

I recently posted an item showing how Aoun's idiotic "memorandum of understanding" was worth little more than toilet paper and how his stupid claim about "Lebanonizing" Hezbollah is worth even less.

This item from The Independent yesterday should put to rest any notion that Hezbollah is a "local resistance movement" and not an arm of -- or rather, organic extension of -- the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps reaching far beyond Lebanon:

Lebanon's Hizbollah has trained Shia fighters from Iraq in advanced guerrilla warfare tactics, according to Mehdi army militants who have been fighting British forces in the south of the country. Members of Muqtada al-Sadr's powerful militia said they had received instruction from fellow Shias from Hizbollah.

But just like Aoun "Lebanonized" the whole of Iran, he apparently has "Lebanonized" Sadr and his militia as well.

So... toilet paper, anyone?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Assad: Al-Qaeda's Travel Agent

I have long discussed on this blog the Assad regime's collusion with jihadi movements in Iraq and Lebanon and elsewhere, regardless of the useless, and easily disproved, conventional "wisdom" that somehow Assad's "secular" regime simply "cannot" work with jihadists, just like somehow Iran's Shiite theocracy absolutely "cannot" work with Sunni jihadis, even when we know that they do and have done so in the past.

Sen. Joe Lieberman picks up the topic of Syria's collusion with al-Qaeda in Iraq in his piece in the Wall Street Journal today, pointing out how the Damascus International Airport is a hub for terrorists:

Before al Qaeda's foreign fighters can make their way across the Syrian border into Iraq, however, they must first reach Syria--and the overwhelming majority does so, according to U.S. intelligence estimates, by flying into Damascus International Airport, making the airport the central hub of al Qaeda travel in the Middle East, and the most vulnerable chokepoint in al Qaeda's war against Iraq and the U.S. in Iraq.

Sen. Lieberman is certainly not the first to point this out. Last month, the French Le Figaro ran a report which discussed how "Syria serves as a rear base" for jihadists.

It gave a pertinent example regarding Damascus Airport, and how Syria is in collusion with jihadists:

Last year, an attempt on the Amman Airport was barely thwarted after the arrest of Mohammad al-Darsi upon his entry on Jordanian soil. He had left Libya a few days earlier to go to Damascus, where a jihadist recruiter dissuaded him from going to Iraq, directing him towards Jordan instead, where he was to self-detonate among the travelers at Amman Airport.

For the Jordanians, who had flagged -- in vain -- Darsi's arrival in Damascus, their neighbors [the Syrians] are buying their security by tolerating jihadists on their soil.

In the ongoing discussion about non-state actors in the Middle East, it's crucial not to ignore the role of states. In this case, to quote Barry Rubin again, Syria along with Iran are essentially functioning as, or are basically the closest thing to, state sponsors of al-Qaeda jihadism.

Update: Michael Goldfarb provides the following relevant quote from Sen. John McCain on this issue:

With regards to Syria (the WWS asked whether he agreed with Senator Lieberman's Op-Ed in today's Wall Street Journal), McCain said that

"There's a United Nations Security Council resolution that calls for the disarmament of of my great and enduring heroes is George Schultz, who said 'Never point a gun at anybody unless you intend to shoot it.' We've got to stop pointing our guns but be prepared to shoot. I'm not sure I would bomb the [Damascus] airport but I would certainly make it clear to the Syrians...I would probably go back to the Security Council...but we have to make clear that there are consequences...I don't have a real good answer in the short term, except starting to enforce the existing sanctions, the existing investigations...including concluding the investigation into the assassination of the Prime Minister of Lebanon."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hersh and Information Warfare

To follow up on my recent comment about Hersh and Info Ops, Gabriel Schoenfeld echoed these remarks in a post in Commentary Magazine's blog yesterday (hat tip: American Thinker Blog):

Are we are dealing, in the case of Seymour Hersh, with an instance of asymmetrical information warfare?

Hersh’s charges raise another question seldom asked by his fellow national-security journalists in Washington: what are his sources? Or to put a follow-up question in a leading fashion, is Hersh a journalist or a propagandist or, as is becoming increasingly common in the American media, a hybrid of the two?

As I noted, Hersh's handlers and sources were all Syrian agents (one of them, Rola Talj, an associate of the former head of general security -- currently in custody for his role in the Hariri assassination -- was also the handler of another journalist who peddled the Syrian propaganda that it was the Saudis who were somehow behind Hariri's assassination). And indeed, Hersh was part of the information warfare of the terrorist Syrian regime.

This is a very serious issue that deserves closer attention.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Lies of a Hackademic

Remember this old fiasco when Michael Young exposed this lying hackademic for claiming, without a shred of evidence, that Syrian dissident Michel Kilo traveled secretly to Morocco in to meet with the head of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood?

Well, here's what happened since then. The author whose article the regime's court jester deliberately misrepresented, wrote a letter of complaint to the editors of the journal where the article appeared. In it, the author, Andrew Tabler, disclosed the following information. I'm highlighting the crucial points, which you should keep in mind as we proceed further:

In the Winter 2006-07 edition of The Washington Quarterly, Joshua Landis and Joe Pace wrote in the article “The Syrian Opposition” that in February 2005 the then-arrested and now-imprisoned Syrian civil society activist Michel Kilo met with Syrian Muslim Brotherhood Chief Ali Sadreddin al-Bayanouni in Morocco and Europe. The authors attributed the meeting to my March 2006 report on the Syrian opposition entitled “Democracy to the Rescue” for the Institute of Current World Affairs.

However, my article only cited that “two unnamed members of the Syrian Committee for the Revival of Civil Society” flew to Morocco to meet Bayanouni. In a subsequent email exchange with Landis following Kilo’s arrest by the Syrian authorities in May 2006 for his work with the opposition, I did not confirm Kilo’s alleged meeting with Bayanouni.

This is a sensitive subject in Syria. Membership in the Muslim Brotherhood is punishable by death under Syrian law, and association of Syrians with the organization is strictly prohibited. To my knowledge, no other journalist or researcher has confirmed the alleged meeting.

During subsequent email correspondences on the matter, Landis said he made the allegation based on an interview with an anonymous source. Landis claims a line reading “interview with anonymous” in the footnote citing my article was removed by TWQ editors prior to publication.

I do not claim Landis’ accusation directly led to Kilo’s conviction, but given the fact that he was in state custody at the time, the sensitivity of the matter is obvious. Following his arrest, Kilo was charged with “provoking religious and racial dissent, insulting official institutions, weakening national sentiment, damaging the image of the state and exposing Syria to the danger of aggression.”

On May 13, 2007, Kilo was sentenced to three years imprisonment on charges of “weakening national sentiment.”

I request a clarification on this matter in the pages of your respected journal.

Let's recap quickly:

* Tabler never mentioned Kilo in his article which was referenced by Landis -- the only reference provided by Landis for his claim.

* Tabler was unable to confirm in any credible fashion, from anyone in Syria, that Kilo met with Bayanouni in Morocco.

* When asked by Landis in an email correspondence, Tabler never confirmed the claim.

* When exposed by Young, Landis after lying the first couple of times, trying to pin the blame on Tabler, proceeded to blame the editor of The Washington Quarterly for allegedly removing an additional item in his footnote that claimed Landis got the information not from Tabler, but from another "anonymous" source.

* Despite all this, and this is important, neither Tabler nor Young claimed that Landis' article was directly responsible for, or in anyway led to Kilo's arrest. You can revisit what Young actually said here and here. All Young said was that publishing that kind of claim while Kilo was in detention, and without any documentary corroboration, was risky for Kilo, as Tabler noted. Landis knew that, which is why he invented an "anonymous source" to justify himself.

Now, Landis' shoddy article was translated into Arabic, but the controversial claim about Kilo was reproduced in full, in Arabic, despite all the clear evidence that this claim rests on a dishonest and false basis.

When confronted by a reader on his blog, Landis pulled an OJ and stuck to his lie: "Michael Young," he told the reader, "didn't expose me. He is just wrong."

Michael Young once again interfered to correct the lying professor/flack, I again highlight an important point:


I am surprised to hear you say that I am wrong about Kilo. That’s because, as you very well know, Andrew Tabler will be publishing a letter in the Autumn issue of The Washington Quarterly in which he highlights the fact that you mis-cited him in your footnote as the source for Michel Kilo’s alleged trip to Morocco to meet Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni; he also stresses that “given the fact that [Kilo] was in state custody at the time, the sensitivity of the matter [namely your stating that Kilo was the person who met Bayanouni, when you provided no evidence for this allegation] is obvious.”

I am also surprised, because in an email you sent to me you said that The Washington Quarterly had removed from your footnote reference to an “anonymous” source as your source of information for Kilo’s visit with Bayanouni. In other words, your excuse was that TWQ was to blame because the magazine had deleted any reference to this “anonymous” source, making it seem as if Tabler was the source. I don’t believe you. In fact, as you also know, the editor of The Washington Quarterly will be writing in the Autumn issue of TWQ that “neither the original submitted draft nor the revised draft contained a reference to an anonymous interview in the specific endnote.”

Finally, I am surprised because in the Elaph Arabic translation of your article you failed to correct the error in your original English-language piece about Kilo. There is no effort to clarify there from where you got the information about Kilo’s alleged trip to Morocco. After our initial disagreement, the least you could have done is clarify the issue for readers, instead of making the situation worse for Kilo by restating your questionable argument in Arabic.

As for your analysis of Lebanese politics and the motives behind Suleiman’s statements, my only real comment there is that your reading of Lebanese politics is as superficial and tendentious as your reading of Syrian politics.

Let's recap again:

* When exposed repeatedly -- after lying repeatedly -- Landis came up with another lie: it was the editors of TWQ who were to blame for removing an item from the footnote that would've clarified everything.

* The editor of TWQ denied there ever being such an item in the footnote, in any version of the article. Landis, therefore, lied repeatedly and compulsively.

Faced with this what does this tool of the regime do? He lies yet again, this time pinning the blame back on Tabler, rehashing the earlier pathetically obvious lies he had made when Young initially exposed him. This is what he wrote back to TWQ, the journal he had blamed for messing with his article -- another lie, as the editor of the Quarterly revealed:

Dear Dr. Lennon,

The publication of Joe Pace’s and my article on the Syrian opposition in the Winter 2006-07 issue of The Washington Quarterly has stirred up a controversy, focusing on whether Michel Kilo, one of the central architects of the secular Syrian opposition, traveled to Morocco in February 2005 to meet with leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in an effort to unify Syria’s splintered opposition and agree on the principles of what became the October 2005 Damascus Declaration, as we wrote.

When I was preparing to write this article, I emailed Andrew Tabler for confirmation of Kilo’s role as a key architect of the Damascus Declaration. Andrew had already written a fine article on the opposition, describing the Morocco trip without saying who had gone on it. Andrew replied that “According to several people I interviewed, Kilo was the guy who went to Morocco and met with Bayanouni in [February] 2005.” Ali Sadreddin Bayanouni is the head of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

I was grateful to get what I believed to be this confirmation of Kilo’s central role from Andrew and to find out that “several” activists he had interviewed had told him “Kilo was the guy who went to Morocco.” I replied to Andrew to ask how I might credit him for his help and if he would co-author. He wrote back: “just give me some kind of special credit in the footnotes. That would be enough for me.” I understood this as confirmation that Kilo went to Morocco and that I could use it in my article if I credited Andrew. I cited his published article, but did not mention our email exchange. I should have.

I am aware of no one who denies that Kilo went to Morocco; but beyond the controversy about whether he did or about footnotes, in my mind, is a separate question: whether I should have written what I did as the Syrian government was cracking down on the opposition. The following is my rationale:

First, the Syrian authorities already knew who had traveled to Morocco long before our article was published. They had Kilo and other leading activists under investigation, had their passports, and would simply have had to look to see who had Morocco stamps in them. Second, Michel Kilo did not try to hide his role as one of the central architects of the Damascus Declaration or subsequent declarations. Like most other brave reformers, he tried to get as much coverage for the opposition as he could to build public consciousness and pressure on the government.

I believe that it is better to raise public awareness of his central role in trying to knit together a viable Syrian opposition at great risk to his freedom. Not only do I believe it corresponds more closely to Kilo’s own efforts, but I also believe that only public pressure is likely to gain his release from jail.

Joshua Landis
Damascus, Syria
July 21,2007

Let's break down this pathetic pile of lies, dishonesty, red herrings, and slimy nonsense.

Now that blaming TWQ didn't work, Landis fell back on his original plan: blame Tabler. So what Landis wants to show now, through the typical use of irrelevant red herrings, is that Tabler did confirm to him that Kilo met with Bayanouni. Be careful not to slip, as the levels of slime are quite elevated:

* "I emailed Andrew Tabler for confirmation of Kilo’s role as a key architect of the Damascus Declaration."

Of course, as I noted from the beginning, the issue is not whether Kilo was a key architect of the DD. That's an irrelevant red herring, Landis' typical dishonest modus operandi. But the key word is "confirmation" from Tabler -- which Tabler in his letter (see above) says he never gave.

Tabler said in the email that he heard from "several people" (in fact, when I picked this up, it turned out that it was basically a couple of persons, both of whom questionable, as Tabler himself told me) that it was Kilo who went to Morocco to meet Bayanouni.

But here's where the dishonesty lies. Tabler got this information but never included it in his article because he didn't find it credible.

* Landis interpreted Tabler's email as he pleased, didn't substantiate the claim or verify it in any way that could remotely be called "scholarly" (only highlighting Young's charge that Landis is a slap-dash academic), and didn't even ask Tabler if this is what he actually meant, or why he didn't include this in his article. This may be another reason why he invented the "anonymous source" story later on (a complete lie) as he knew that Tabler's email alone wasn't enough. In other words, it was dishonest to say the least (and I think it's more).

* Landis (careful, slime alert) then makes it seem in his letter that Tabler asked him to credit him on a claim that Tabler never made, which was completely and exclusively in Landis' head in a footnote by only citing his article! The slime and dishonesty involved here are the stuff of legend. Landis is now saying 1- Tabler did confirm it (Tabler did not), and 2- Tabler asked him to only cite his article, which did not make the claim (because Tabler found it not credible)! I.e., in terms of a lying 8-year old trying to cover his behind: "Andrew made me do it! Andrew told me to do it!"

Of course, this only means that Landis has just admitted that he had lied about there being an additional item in the footnote that TWQ allegedly removed. He made it all up, got rebuffed by the editor, so he fell back on Tabler, and the new spin now is that it was Tabler who asked him to only cite his article! I guess the "anonymous" source that allegedly confirmed it to Landis, as he initially claimed in his first lie (or was it second? I lost count), simply "died" (you know, like Hariri). The level, and the pathological nature, of the lies is astounding.

* What is Landis' lame excuse? He should've mentioned the email! But that too is a dishonest, slimy red herring, like everything Landis says. His initial excuse was that he had independent confirmation from an additional "anonymous" source -- not Tabler -- and that TWQ removed it from the footnote! Secondly, Tabler's email did not confirm anything, and Tabler himself did not include any of that material in his own article precisely because it was hardly a confirmation.

* Confirmation, as I said earlier, is the key word. Landis knows this, and since he's deliberately constructing an elaborate (albeit pathetically obvious) lie, he is consciously using Orwellian language (as he always does) to evade the issue. So he turns the matter around: "I am aware of no one who denies that Kilo went to Morocco." (Emphasis mine.)

The slime is overpowering. What began as a matter of "confirmation" becomes a matter of lack of "denial"! In order to cover his shoddy, lazy, dishonest, and frankly sinister behavior, he now tells us that what's important is not getting confirmation from anyone, but not getting a denial to a question that was never posed to anyone of relevance, because if it were, then all Landis had to do was quote that, as opposed to lying about Tabler and inventing a fictitious "anonymous" source and then blame TWQ for deleting it!

The modality of the sentence is remarkable. A researcher's job is to get confirmation for specific claims! The question is not whether Landis is or is not aware of anyone who denies the claim. It's whether he is aware of anyone, and I mean anyone, who confirms it. The answer, as obvious from the elaborate construct of lies, is no.

The dishonesty in Landis' behavior, from how he dealt with Tabler's email to his twisting of the rationale of confirmation, is unmatched. The guy is a congenital liar.

Andrew Tabler himself commented on this:

My article and emails on this matter hardly contain enough evidence on which to base such an accusation. To my knowledge, no journalist or researcher in any language confirms the rumor. I could not confirm it either – and therefore have never stated such a claim as fact.

Tabler also spots the screaming lie in Landis' lame letter:

What happened to the “interview with anonymous” Landis cited in his response to Michael Young on this issue last spring (which Landis cc’ed to me at the time) is anyone’s guess. But the interview certainly wasn’t with me. Perhaps it was the genie in the lamp?

Finally, Landis revisits two of his dishonest red herrings which he had thrown out in his first lie, which I had deconstructed here.

This court jester of the Syrian regime has a pathological problem: he cannot stop lying.

He did a hatchet job against a Syrian dissident now languishing in jail. He got caught, shown that his scholarship is shoddy, dishonest and sinister. So what does he do? He lies. He gets caught again lying, and what does he do then? Stick to the lie and just keep lying.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The NYT and Khamenei's Kayhan

Michael Rubin informs us that Hassan Fattah's propaganda pieces have been incorporated by the Iranian regime's propaganda outlet Kayhan. I had pointed out that they have also been hailed by the Syrian regime's court jester and English-language mouthpiece.

This is how Western journalists become third party validators for the information warfare of terrorist regimes and their media flacks. The most serious example is Sy Hersh who had an integral role in a terrorist campaign against Lebanon, and was fed disinformation by the Syrian regime's handlers (Michel Samaha, Imad Moustapha, Farid Abboud, Raja Sidawi, Rola Talj, and Fadi Agha, inter al.). The Syrian regime's officials (Buthaina Shaaban et al.), propaganda outlets (Cham Press, Syria News, et al.), and media flacks (Landis, Moubayed, Hamidi, et al.) all pushed his "report" extensively, and Cham Press ran items that quoted it, and were based around it, for the entirety of the first week of fighting in Nahr al-Bared in northern Lebanon.

In other words, Hersh was involved in Info Ops.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hassan Chopped!

David Kenner skewers the second horrid piece in a week by Hassan Fattah in the NYT.

Aside from the blatant political bias and the idiotic ideological line, the piece, as Kenner shows, is flat-out factually wrong from top to bottom. That this piss-poor piece, and its equally terrible predecessor earlier in the week, passed the NYT standards speaks volumes.

It's little wonder also that the Syrian regime's court jester hailed its "wisdom" about US policy and Lebanon, because it was the usual asinine "it's America's fault" rant that passes for "analysis." And, as it so happens, purely coincidentally of course, it's the talking points memo of the Syrian regime. Let's just call it Regime Comment.

The problem is that the jester starts by quoting Fattah but ends by linking this piece in the Daily Star about a survey done by the pro-Hezbollah (not March 14) Abdo Saad (father of the Hezbollah flack Amal Saad-Ghorayeb). The survey shows that Gemayel won the majority of Maronite votes, and the majority of overall Christian votes outside of Burj Hammoud (the Armenian district dominated by the Tashnag). Furthermore, Gemayel attracted independent Christian voters in the Metn.

In other words, this flatly contradicts everything Fattah said in both his pathetic pieces. Gemayel's support went up, not down, as admitted even by Hezbollah's flacks. The entire premise of the Fattah piece, therefore, collapses. Yet, this information was readily available. Fattah was simply too lazy or too dishonest to consult it. As for the NYT, since the piece fit its foreign policy editorial line (i.e., bash Bush), they ran it (twice, in one week) regardless of its factual errors, its bias, or whether or not a by-election in a district in Lebanon had in actuality anything to do with the US.

Update: The editorial of NOW Lebanon has more on this. This is the "newspaper of record" and it got the historical record factually wrong.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

It's the Butters Show!

Andrew Lee Butters gives Hassan Fattah and Nada Bakri a run for their money in this spectacularly, yet somehow typically, asinine piece in Time magazine.

There have been some remarkably stupid comments made about the election, some of which I have chronicled here, and others, like "Gemayel was defeated by an unknown" line -- as though voters were voting for that unknown and his qualities vs. Gemayel's and not voting for Aoun who ran the campaign on behalf of the guy (who with maybe one exception never once made a media appearance)! Aoun was practically the candidate! He was doing the media appearances, the campaigning, everything. Voters who voted for him were voting for Aoun, not him, period. Just another example of how people writing this stuff understand absolutely nothing.

But Butters has another gem: "What could Lebanese Christians possibly have in common with Hizballah, the Islamist resistance movement? Perhaps it is the fact that Aoun's Christian supporters and Hizballah's rank and file are motivated by a shared animus towards Lebanon's political elite, a handful of families such as the Gemayel, whose progeny resurface in government after government."

Mmmm, yeeesss. So much does Aoun despise these "handful of families" that he ran in alliance with the Murr family, and relied on them to deliver him votes to barely edge out a win by 400 votes. Yes, so much does Aoun despise these political dynasties that he's in alliance with the grandson of the Frangieh family, and Arslan Jr., and Karami the 3rd. Mmmm, yeeesss.

In fact, that's why Aoun's own entourage is... his own family: his in-law (Gebran Basil), his nephew (Alain Aoun), and so on. Mmmm, yeeesss, Aoun and Hezbollah, the new Bolsheviks.

And yes, "Lebanese Christians" have so much in common with Hezbollah that the majority of Maronites in the Metn voted against Aoun, because of his understanding with Hezbollah, as Aoun practically admitted in his press conference yesterday when he said that apparently people don't understand the nature of the "understandings" the FPM is doing. Of course, the generalissimo knows best. Too bad a majority of the Metn Maronites didn't "get it" and don't possess generalissimo's infinite wisdom and magical capabilities to "Lebanonize" Hezbollah. They somehow, as per the general's intimation, believe it's a disastrous deal, and apparently, as per the numbers, voted accordingly.

These people crack me up. I will not even bother to inflict pain on you with the other laughable nonsense spewed in this ridiculous piece. Suffice it to say Butters got his very own episode!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Victory on the Path to Oblivion

For those wishing to follow up on my analysis of the Metn by-elections, please read Michael Young's excellent op-ed.

It's by far the best analysis out there, a refreshing read amidst a trash heap of poor journalism channeling Aounist populism or, worse still, Syrian regime commentary that show the Syrian regime's new-old plan: use the destructive useful idiot Aoun (and pathetic, ruinous fantasy of an "alliance of Alawites, Maronites and Shiites" against the Sunnis, which is said to be supported by Frangieh -- which in and of itself is telling), with his anti-Hariri and anti-Jumblat resentments to destroy the Christian-Druze-Sunni alliance opposed to Syrian hegemony over Lebanon and empower the fanatical totalitarian Syrian allies Hezbollah on top of a security structure dominated by Bashar's B-team counter-elite (which I have discussed extensively on this blog as Bashar's legacy) of Syrian agents (Wahhab, Qandil, Frangieh, Karami, et al.) and destroy all the international resolutions on Lebanon, starting with the tribunal, 1701 and 1559.

The Syrian terrorist policy hasn't and won't change. Its actions and its flacks make sure to confirm this on a daily basis.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Dum-da-dum-dum-dum Dumb

The dumbest, most useless report on the elections, by far, and I mean miles and miles ahead, is Hassan Fattah's and Nada Bakri's in (surprise!) the New York Times.

This is a perfect example of total and absolute ignorance and lack of any understanding and knowledge about political history and reality in Lebanon. They haven't got a clue. Just a trendy shallow reading that follows the NYT's foreign policy editorial line, and a terribly unbalanced and biased reading, reporting only the FPM's ridiculous spin and propaganda.

The best line of them all, the geniuszz of the year award, has to be this gem from some "professor" in Lebanon. Listen to this idiocy: "If Gemayel loses it would mean an end to his political career and ambitions, and maybe an end to the political family itself," said Talal Atrissi, professor of political sociology at Lebanese University.

Yeah, just look at poor Gemayel! He's packing his bags and selling his ancestral house to write his memoirs! What hilarious nonsense. This is a man who has been forced into exile for 12 years, his followers harassed by the Syrians, his party split and stripped away from him, again by the Syrians. And all that didn't end his political career. He has recaptured and consolidated leadership of his party, and as evident in the numbers, increased the number of supporting votes from when his son ran in 2005.

But wait, was it this profoundly stupid line by Fattah and Bakri instead? "If Mr. Khoury is declared the winner, General Aoun’s own political prospects would be greatly enhanced and it would strengthen his drive to bring down the government."

Hold on, could it be this spectacularly moronic statement that goes against the plain reality of numbers on the ground? "The results were also a referendum on the March 14 Movement, which has increasingly alienated many Christians, some voters said Sunday. It furthermore underscored the gains General Aoun had made ever since he arrived from exile in France in 2005 with a populist message eschewing what he called Lebanon’s sectarian feudalism."

I mean, can you get any more ridiculous or wrong? If it was a referendum, it showed that March 14 got more not less Maronite support, as evident from any perusal of the numbers. Anyone versed in basic arithmetic could do the math and compare Aoun's support in 2005 in the Metn and his support now to see, quite clearly, that far from making "gains," he has lost support and has ruined any chance he may have had (and that would've been one cold day in hell) to become president!

As for that uncritical fawning comment on Aoun's "anti sectarian feudalism" drive, very obviously Bakri and Fattah either didn't bother to actually hear Aoun's rabid sectarian demagogy both in 2005 and in 2007, or are simply clueless as to what an alliance with the Murr family (not to mention Frangieh, Arslan, and Karami) does to the claim of being "anti-feudalist" and seeking to end "political dynasties."

So difficult to choose which is the dumbest.

Come on, sing along: dumb-da-dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb.

Update: I may have spoken too soon. There may yet be a dumber -- with a bonus of being more sinister, as always -- analysis, that manages to unoriginally clone the nonsense of the NYT's report with the usual added shot of Syrian regime talking points and sinister propaganda (i.e., a rather typical posting). Where else but over at Regime Comment?

The Decline of Michel Aoun

The Metn by-elections are over and Aoun barely won the seat but most definitely confirmed what I had said long ago, that he will never be president. In that sense, Aoun lost the real war.

Lebanon has a way of crashing the fantasies of megalomaniacs and of grandiose hubris. Aoun can just give a call to his "understanding" partner Hasan Nasrallah or a holler to Syria's murdering dictator to better understand.

Unfortunately, as is the hallmark of megalomaniacs, in jumping over the cliff, Aoun is doing his best to drag the entire country along with him. Vintage Aoun.

In that sense, he proved right much of what Michael Young said in his pre-election op-ed.

In terms of analysis, my friend Mustapha over at The Beirut Spring points to two pieces that pretty much capture the main relevant points.

One analysis is by fellow Lebanese blogger Faysal of The Thinking Lebanese. Faysal identified how all of Aoun's demagogic slogans have been thoroughly trashed in this by-election.

His Christian popularity has significantly dwindled, especially in the Maronite community, which has given two-thirds of its vote -- a number that Aoun claimed for himself in 2005 -- to Gemayel, effectively ending any fantasy (illusory to begin with) of reaching the presidential palace. This has also dented Aoun's myth of representing 70% of the Christians.

In fact, it wasn't only Maronites who voted against Aoun. Orthodox and Catholics did too. As Young predicted, the votes of Michel Murr and Elias Murr weren't secured for Aoun. Murr, a shrewd survivor, knew better than the idiotic Tashnag, who have burned bridges and gained nothing.

Another of Aoun's destructive demagogic sectarian canards has also fallen, in fact turning against him. He had spewed sectarian demagogic venom against decent Christian politicians like Gebran Tueni and others as lackeys elected by Qoreitem (Hariri's headquarter) and Mukhtara (Jumblat's headquarter). Now, having won by a meager 418 votes (down from something like 26,000 in 2005, with roughly the same voter turnout), it's clear that he won only because of a small number of Shiites (in Burj Hammoud-Nab'a) who did it because that was Hezbollah's wish, pro-Syrians (SSNP), naturalized Syrians coming to vote for Narsallah (who wasn't even a candidate), and Armenians (ironically wanting to send Hariri a message regarding seats in Beirut) in one district (Burj Hammoud) that has no Aounist or Maronite presence of any significance. Gemayel won the Christian vote outside that district.

An article by Elie Fayad in L'Orient-Le Jour made these points as well: "Cela signifie d’une part que les électeurs non arméniens du Metn ont nettement marqué leur préférence à Amine Gemayel. Cela signifie aussi que les partisans du clan Murr – Michel et Élias – ont pour le moins manqué de « discipline » à l’égard des directives officielles du premier."

In fact, Ziad Makhoul, in the second article highlighted by Mustapha, went as far as to declare Michel Murr's political heir, Elias Murr, the current Minister of Defense, to be a new pillar in March 14.

And while an Elaph report had claimed that Aoun met with a Syrian intelligence officer in Germany, and that the officer had assured him that they would secure the Tashnag vote for him, the Tashnag simply committed a monumental political blunder, never committed before, and for no gains whatsoever. In fact, theirs is a net loss, having now burned bridges with both Saad Hariri, parts of the Murr family, and now the powerful Gemayel family which can safely claim a majority Maronite support in the Metn. That's what happens when you actually tie your fate to an irresponsible demagogue like Aoun. You get burned.

Unlike Faysal, I think March 14 is well aware of these defeats and will exploit them, as Jumblat already did on LBC yesterday and in his weekly editorial today. Gemayel also recognized his advantage and declared today that he accepts the results, and so he won't be contesting the Armenian ballot. However, last he ominously reminded the Tashnag of the extent of their blunder, telling them that "there will be a day of reckoning" over their idiotic political choice.

However, echoing Michael Young's concern, that this was all a trap by the Syrians to further divide the Christians in order to impose their own candidate at the right time, the PSP's Akram Shehayeb declared the loss of Gemayel's seat a win for the Syrian regime and its new-old ploy of benefiting from dividing the Christians. Shehayeb noted Aoun's central role as a useful destructive idiot in both instances in 1990 and now in 2007. He said, "the presidential election is now that much more difficult to hold," adding that Aoun gave cover to Hezbollah's war in 2006 with his "memorandum of understanding" and now has given Hezbollah cover and pretext to sabotage the presidential election and protect Lahoud as he lingers in Baabda even after his term is finished (there are fears and speculation that Lahoud will refuse to leave Baabda after his term ends, and might form a government of his own. Lahoud, after all, does not want to be caught by interpol and hauled to The Hague for his complicity in Hariri's murder. It's best to just linger in Baabda, like an old reeking trash bag someone forgot to throw out).

All in all, a typical day's work in the disastrous political career of Michel Aoun.

Update: Aoun knows he got burned. He knows the Metn's Maronites dumped him in this election. So what does he do? Typical Aoun, he attacks them, and, again vintage Aoun, resorts to more destructive sectarian demagogy against Hariri and Jumblat! But hey, he's "secular" and a "uniter"!

That's what petty, bitter, resentful lil' megalomaniacs do.