Across the Bay

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Three Regime Flacks Play Washington

Check out this editorial in NOW Lebanon today about the "independent" Syrian regime hands in DC.

I will come back later to comment on it in full, especially regarding that sleazebag Moubayed, whose thuggish statements and laughable lies the editorial correctly identifies as "the pitch of a liar and a scoundrel."

Meanwhile, make sure to also read Michael Young's column today. It offers an excellent dissection of the Syrian regime's viciously sick psychology and worldview:

During his visit, Moallem was asked about the fate of Lebanese still detained in Syrian prisons, and what he had to say about the matter. The foreign minister replied: "He who has waited for 30 years during [Lebanon's] Civil War is capable of being patient for a few weeks [more]."

Moallem could have said any of a dozen other things. He could have done what bureaucrats usually do and said nothing at all. He could have found a hypocritical formulation to suggest that he felt sympathy for the families of the prisoners, scoring easy points on behalf of Syria's dictator. Instead he made a callous statement, more insulting for being wrapped in a falsehood since Lebanon's Civil War ended in 1990 and many of those sent to Syria were arrested during the postwar years of absolute Syrian rule.

Moallem's reaction invites a question more appropriate to psychology than politics. What is it about Syrian civilian officials that frequently makes them so vicious in what they say about Lebanon? Theirs is the viciousness not of the intelligence officer but of the coward, the sissy, who talks tough because he is petrified of the intelligence officer; who fears that if he doesn't talk tough, then those with real power in the system might see through that ersatz toughness all the way to the grinding fear that lies underneath, a fatal fear in so pitiless a system as the Baathist one.

Recall what another Syrian official, Faysal Mekdad, said about Gebran Tueni soon after his assassination in December 2005. At the time Mekdad, who is now deputy foreign minister, was Assad's representative at the United Nations. In a conversation with a fellow Arab diplomat Mekdad was overheard saying, "So now every time that a dog dies in Beirut there will be an international investigation?" He was referring to the fact that the Lebanese government had, the day before, requested that the UN investigation of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's murder be expanded to include the dozen or so bomb explosions and assassinations that had taken place afterward - Tueni's being the latest. In response to the comment, Gebran's father Ghassan took legal action against Mekdad.

However, is anything surprising here? When Moallem and Mekdad speak, they only ape the man that they serve. And on Lebanon Bashar Assad has been more contemptuous than most.

Young then offers the following proposal on the pressing issue of Lebanese detainees and missing in Syria -- which has now becoming a major public demand in Lebanon:

Passage of the Hariri tribunal under Chapter VII of the UN Charter did not bring on the apocalypse that Assad had promised, which tells us something else about Syria's regime: When faced with a resolute adversary, it tends to back down. That is why the Lebanese government should try to apply that lesson with regard to those Lebanese still imprisoned in Syria. They number 91 according to the former minister Fouad al-Saad, who years ago headed a committee charged with shedding light on their fate; although yesterday the daily Al-Mustaqbal published the names of 177 Lebanese prisoners still believed to be in Syria.

The first thing the Lebanese government should do is appoint an independent investigator to prepare as accurate a list as possible of the detainees. That list should then be placed on the table whenever Lebanon and Syria discuss anything - bearing in mind that both Christians and Muslims are languishing in Syrian jails, meaning a cross-sectarian consensus on resolving the problem is achievable. That list should also make its way to Paris, Washington, Berlin and Brussels, so that every time a foreign official lands in Damascus, the names should be in his or her briefcase, hopefully alongside the names of the many Syrian political prisoners whose misfortunes have been generally ignored in the West.

Maybe then we will be able to tell Moallem that if fear has provoked his scorn for those who have suffered under the leadership he represents, we at least have nothing to fear anymore.

Also Hassan Haidar in al-Hayat today goes through the obvious Syrian charade over the embassies and relations with Lebanon, showing how the Syrian regime's mindset and its views towards Lebanon have not changed one iota -- exactly as the NOW Lebanon editorial notes: "Sham offers like those only affirm to us that Syria remains focused on re-imposing its hegemony in Lebanon and remains very much in the same mindset as the one that preceded the assassination of Hariri."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Landis Gets Imad's Memo

As you know by now, Joshua Landis' job is to regurgitate the talking points memos that Imad Moustapha sends out. Witness this absolutely pathetic exercise, just to get an idea of the value of the "analysis" put forward by this regime hackademic.

Earlier yesterday, right after I put up my previous post about the non-meeting with Welch, Landis wrote the following (with the title and all. The original is still saved here):

Daoudi Cancels Trip to Washington: Syria-US Relations Remain Cold
Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Riad Daoudi has cancelled his visit to the US at the last minute. This is significant because he was the one Syrian official included on the agenda. The State Department said that it would meet with the three, but not in any official capacity only as private citizens. Sami Moubayed and Samir Taqi, the two other Syrians included in the original visit, are indeed civilians. Not so Daoudi.

What I believe has gone on is that the Syrians, who had planned the Taqi - Moubayed visit some time ago as "second track" diplomacy, tried to upgrade the visit by squeezing Daoudi into the agenda and getting State to meet him "officially" in order to upgrade relations with the US on the heals of the French upgrade.

The Syrian gambit may have seemed to be working for some time — hence the Brookings announcement that Daoudi was visiting and would speak at Brookings on Wednesday. Brookings has now amended their invitation. Moubayed and Taqi are the speakers in place of Daoudi.

Washington decided to stick to their "isolation" guns and to snub Daoudi. Syria would not have tried such a gambit unless it had gotten assurances from someone in Washington - presumably at State - that it would work. Something went wrong. I will try to find out tomorrow.

Oh he found out alright. Or rather, he "was told." By whom, you might ask. Who else? So what does this stellar "academic" do? He changes the post to fit the official Syrian cover-up story, which they're now peddling in the media, that now all of a sudden something super duper serious has emerged and Daoudi must conduct real critical indirect non-negotiations with the Israelis!

So now, or rather voop!, the story (and the title) become the following:

Daoudi Cancels Trip to Washington: Syria-US Relations Remain… Well.. Not Good
Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Riad Daoudi has cancelled his visit to the US at the last minute. This is significant because he was the one Syrian official included on the agenda. The State Department said that it would meet with the three, but not in any official capacity only as private citizens. Sami Moubayed and Samir Taqi, the two other Syrians included in the original visit, are indeed civilians. Not so Daoudi.

Daoudi says that he needs to return to Ankara to pick up negotiations with Israel.

I wrote earlier that it seemed that Syria was being snubbed, but I am told this is wrong. I have erased it.

Sorry folks! "They" told me to change the story, or else I'll screw up the propaganda that they've been carefully trying to put together!

Of course, this is not the first time that this "analyst" changes his "analysis" based on what the official regime talking points memo is at that particular time. And if the memo is trashing Michel Kilo for instance, you'll get that.

What a pathetic spectacle: "I've erased it... cause they told me to!"

Matt Nash of NOW Lebanon has the story on the delegation. I should also add that the notion that Moubayed and Taqi are "independent" is laughably ludicrous. They are regime-sanctioned mouthpieces. They are the "intellectual" façade that the regime puts out to the world, as they have done, for instance, here. Check out the list. Notice something at the bottom? Exactly... It's the same delegation that's in the US. What a coincidence! And how surprising that Ibrahim Hamidi, the regime's water carrier in al-Hayat, is there too! All they need is Imad Shoueibi and Marwan Kabalan, and we'd have ourselves a flack conference.

Meanwhile, a Syrian official contacted a major paper to deny the meeting on behalf of the "group of independent academics" visiting Washington!

So independent are these academics, that a Syrian official had to call on their behalf! It's like Landis. He had to go and "independently" assess what was going on. And once he independently got the memo, he independently erased his post!

These people really are priceless.

Update: OK it gets even better! This is turning out to be one hell of a comedy fest. So now the Oklahoma Tishreen comes out with the following tale (let's see how long this lasts):

http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=813

Ohhh, so that's it! You see, it's that we didn't want to meet Welch anyway! And, you know, once State said "all you're getting is Welch" (yeah right!) -- who all of a sudden becomes, er, "neoconnish" -- we didn't want to meet anymore! So it's the Syrian regime's version of "you didn't dump me, I dumped you" routine. Yeah, that's the ticket! We are "central" after all! Nobody puts baby in a corner!

Of course, this whole bizarre fantasy fairytale is so obviously rubbish. First of all, it was the Syrians themselves -- Imad Moustapha -- who told Jay Solomon that they're going to meet Welch. Far from complaining about the "neoconnish" Welch, the Syrians were drooling at the prospects of the propaganda scoop, which is why they rushed to leak it to Solomon to begin with. Now that this fell apart, the story is that it is really Burns who's pro-engagement and Welch is a hardliner pushing for the "so effective" isolation policy! Naturally, this make-believe dichotomy is totally bogus and unsubstantiated. But, whatever it takes!

These people are really something else.

Update 2: OK this is now bordering on the absurdly silly, side-splittingly hilarious! No sooner had I written the update right above, with the caveat in brackets "let's see how long this lasts," that the regime court jester gets another "talking to" from "them" (wink wink!). And so, voop!, the entire segment about Burns and Welch (which was Landis' own clownish way to try and create a cover-up story for his earlier cover-up which he was "told" to erase) vanished. Oh and this time he didn't even bother to tell us that he "was told" to take it out!

http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=813

This is too precious for words. Vintage Syrian Baathist-mukhabarat bureaucracy at work, and playing at a theater near you in Oklahoma!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

No Welch For You

Pace Jay Solomon's Syrian sources (Imad Mustapha), my own sources tell me that Assistant Secretary of State David Welch will not be meeting with the Syrian "private citizens" (or to be more accurate, the "private property" of Maher Assad and Firas Tlass) currently on a Search for Common Ground and ICG-organized visit in DC to sell snake oil, illusions and lies to people eager to be deluded... again.

One of them, better known as the King of Comedy, wrote this beauty for Common Ground News Service:

But Syrians also forced Bechara El Khoury's successor, Kamil Shamoun, to resign in the late 1950s, this time supplying the Lebanese with arms, funds, and logistics to bring down what Damascus described as an anti-Syrian and anti-Arab nationalist government in Beirut.

What the West fails to understand is that, from the Syrian perspective, it was not the least bit awkward or embarrassing to do any of this in Lebanon. From the Syrian perspective, the intruders were meddling in Syria.

Right, and roughly 50 years later they killed Rafik Hariri and a bunch of others, and sent a penetrated Islamist group to destabilize the country, just like the King of Comedy's buddy, the regime's court jester, said: "Syria has the ability to funnel arms to Hezbollah and Palestinian groups as well as radical Sunni groups which allows it to destabilize Lebanon if its interests are ignored."

No biggie. What's "the West's" problem?! This should be "praised"!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The US and the LAF

David Schenker does us all a favor by dissecting and correcting a remarkably awful and factually erroneous op-ed by Nicholas Noe about US military aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Schenker's post has elicited a couple of responses, including a comment by me.

Those interested in the subject should check out the entire thread over at MESH.

Obscenity Incarnate

The Syrian regime's favorite American flack, the hackademic in Oklahoma, has managed to outdo himself today by claiming that the Lebanese "welcomed Hizbullah's move" in May.

What's meant by Hezbollah's move, of course, is the attack by the Hezbollah thugs and other pitbulls loyal to the same killers that hackademic shills for, against civilian neighborhoods, when these terrorists shot and killed civilians in their homes, attacked the office of the Sunni Mufti in Beirut, then attacked the home and office of the Shiite Mufti Ali al-Amin (who is anti-Hezbollah), then tried to attack Druze villages (and failed miserably), and kidnapped and killed innocent civilians (including a certain Mrs. Tabbara and her son, whose "crime" was that they were Sunnis in Beirut), then moved into all media offices in Beirut that were not controlled and financed by Hezbollah and its patrons, ransacked them, looted them, and burned them, forcing them off the air. When the Saudi Al-Arabiya channel was showing "inconvenient" footage, such as this one (naturally "welcomed" by the Lebanese), Hezbollah cut off its transmission in areas under its control. I think talk show host Sahar Khatib perhaps best exemplified just how much the Lebanese "welcomed" Hezbollah's "move" (watch it even if you don't understand Arabic. You won't need language skills to fathom the Lebanese "welcome").

They then did the same to political offices of opposing political parties. They also made sure to tear down and burn pictures of the late Rafik Hariri, and hung the pictures of the killer who ordered his assassination, Bashar Assad. Then, these thugs continued "patrolling" the "conquered" civilian quarters in Beirut, where they had lists of names of rival party members, who were rounded and roughed up. They also entered and ransacked the houses of certain Sunni Members of Parliament and political commentators. Then Hezbollah's and Assad's Alawite proxies in Tripoli -- who have been armed and trained by Syria and Hezbollah -- moved this "welcome" behavior to the North, resulting in a number of innocent deaths and property damage. And perhaps, the most "welcome move" was when one of these terrorists attacked a funeral procession of a young man they had murdered in Beirut, and shot at the mourners, killing a number of them in cold blood.

And this regime lapdog has the nerve to say that the Lebanese "welcomed" this. His obscenity is overshadowed only by his incredible cluelessness (and that's being kind, because this propagandist is notorious for lying as easily as he breathes) about the mood in Lebanon, and how the Lebanese communities outside Hezbollah's control are just seething with fury over the unspeakable criminality inflicted upon them by these terrorists, raising the prospects of civil war, with communal coexistence fractured, perhaps irreparably.

But to this tool, thuggery, violence and terrorism against civilians are to be applauded and "praised" for the "restraint" that was displayed! Incredibly, he actually has the nerve to say that had March 14 signed a deal a year earlier (you know, when the International Tribunal was not yet ratified by the cabinet and established under Chapter VII -- which is precisely why the first thing he and his fellow regime talking points regurgitator, Sami Moubayed, said about the Doha Accord, was that the veto power would now, in their delusional mind of course, eliminate the tribunal), they could've avoided "loss of life and a terrible economic price." In other words, what he is admitting to is the Syrian regime's responsibility for the brutal campaign of assassination and violence in Lebanon. That this intellectual brute embraces and advocates this mob logic -- this terrorism -- is telling, if not surprising, as this is what he's been doing for the last three years: advocating and justifying murder, terrorism, thuggery and blackmail, not just against Lebanon but against the US and US allies as well.

In the end one must conjure up Michael Young's unforgettable line about how "even the tedious functionaries of despotisms end up sounding like the thugs they represent." But, honestly, can one expect anything more from the person who slandered an imprisoned dissident as part of a regime campaign? And this guy teaches at an American college.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Quntar: Hezbollah's Version of Wiam Wahhab

Over at MESH, Michael Young explains the Druze politics, and Hezbollah's attempts to penetrate them, that lie behind the Quntar fiasco:

Jumblatt’s and Arslan’s rally for Quntar was motivated by the need to avoid Druze ill feeling by ignoring their coreligionist; but more importantly by a desire to defend their leadership over the Druze by containing Quntar, which they did by embracing him to better defuse him. Although Quntar presents no threat to their power base, he could emerge as a small headache. For example, he could conceivably be brought into parliament in next year’s elections in the Baabda constituency, where Hezbollah and the Aounists, if they decide to bother Jumblatt, have considerable electoral sway.

What is interesting in this context is that the Syrian intelligence services have set up a similar such figure in the Druze community. His name is Wiam Wahhab, and while his Druze support is negligible, he has retained public attention because he is one of Damascus’ megaphones in Lebanon. Wahhab’s rise had threatened Arslan much more than it did Jumblatt, though Arslan and Wahhab are both close to Syria. In a new reversal, Quntar’s release threatens Wahhab, while Arslan, thanks to his collaboration with Jumblatt, has re-entered the Druze political scene in relative force after a period of relative quiet. This was made possible because last May the Jumblattis and the Arslanists united in fighting Hezbollah.

A sign of Quntar’s limitations among the Druze was not recorded in this video. When the Hezbollah representative, Muhammad Fnaysh, made a speech, he was booed on several occasions; and when Quntar praised Syria in his statements, he was booed as well. The Abay gathering had little to do with Samir Quntar. It was about the traditional Druze leadership affirming itself against Hezbollah, against an interloper, by neutralizing what Jumblatt and Arslan fear may be a Hezbollah creation in their midst.

Read it all here.

Update: Apparently Hezbollah is reading Jumblat along similar lines. Here's an item from today's Al-Balad newspaper quoting a source close to Hezbollah:

http://www.albaladonline.com/viewer.php?edition=1597&page=2&otl=1&xposition=401&yposition=486&endx=618&endy=656

A source close to Hezbollah saw that Jumblat's speech 'was not transparent talk and carries several faces and could be interpreted in different ways, and so Hezbollah is not at ease with it and does not trust it.' ُThe source attributed 'the reasons of Jumblat's courteousness to the resistance' to ensuring that 'no sharp contradictions appear within the single Druze house.'

Sunday, July 13, 2008

French Veterans Oppose Assad's Bastille Day Presence

Lest we forget who this regime is, and that it (along with its Iranian-Hezbollah allies) also has French blood on its blood-drenched hands:

A group of French veterans criticized today Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's presence at Bastille Day festivities, accusing Damascus of being behind an attack in Lebanon that claimed the lives of French soldiers.

The former combatants who served in a UN peace force in Lebanon said inviting Assad to watch the annual military parade on Monday dishonored the memory of 58 French soldiers who died in the 1983 bomb attack in Beirut.

“French soldiers should not file past the Syrian leader during the march down the Champs Elysees, said Jean-Luc Hemar,” head of the Association of veterans from Camp Idron in central France.

Commenting on the barracks attack, former Navy secretary John F. Lehman is on the record with the following:

President Ronald Reagan was demanding retaliation, and asked the U.S. Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to draw up target lists, Lehman tells Insight. According to several participants, the Syrian government also had played a role in the plot and several named Syrian officers were suggested as potential targets, as was the Syrian defense ministry.

"It is my recollection that I had been briefed on who had done it and what the evidence was," Lehman says. "I was told the actual names of the Syrians and where they were. I was told about the evidence that the Iranian government was directly behind it. I was told that the people who had done it were trained in Baalbek and that many of them were back in Baalbek. I recall very clearly that there was no controversy who did it. I never heard any briefer or person in the corridor who said, 'Oh maybe we don't know who did it.'"

The French too had no doubts, pace the "senior French official" who's pathetically trying to wipe the egg off of Sarkozy's face:

Insight has learned that, within three weeks of the attack, enough intelligence had been gathered to determine exactly where and how to hit back, and a counterstrike package was briefed directly to the president. Planners say it included eight Tomahawk missiles launched from the battleship New Jersey against the Syrian defense ministry and other command targets in Syria. Carrier-based A6-A Intruders were assigned to bomb the Sheikh Abdallah barracks in Baalbek in a joint strike with the French, who had lost 58 marines when their own barracks, known as the "Drakkar," was bombed just minutes after the U.S. Marines. It also included selected "snatches" of Syrian officers based in Lebanon who had helped carry out the operation.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Assad Slanders Kilo, Flips Off France


In the ongoing French media puke fest with the Syrian murderer in chief, I spotted yesterday this revealing bit in a precis by Alain Gresh from a "rencontre" with the dictator.

The background to this is a report that French FM Bernard Kouchner handed Walid Moallem a list of jailed dissidents France wants to see set free. Assad's response was first to tell Le Figaro that France and Europe's job was not "to give us lessons in morals." He was much more specific with Gresh (and, predictably, not giving anything -- the regime never actually changes its behavior, only credulous and lazy diplomats and think tankers think it does), repeating, but also elaborating on, a standard line he'd been giving on Kilo and the signatories of the Beirut-Damascus Declaration (e.g., to El Pais a while back), which called for a reassessment of Syrian policy towards Lebanon, demarcation of borders (including officially settling the Shebaa Farms issue), diplomatic exchange and respect for the sovereignty, freedom and independence of Lebanon:

Et les prisonniers politiques ? « Des centaines d’entre eux ont été libérés avant et après mon arrivée au pouvoir, poursuit le président. Nous avons plus de mille personnes arrêtées pour terrorisme, vous voulez qu’on les libère ? »

S’engage alors un dialogue autour de Michel Kilo, intellectuel arrêté en mai 2006 et condamné à trois ans de prison pour avoir contribué à « affaiblir le sentiment national ». Il n’a jamais prôné ni utilisé la violence. « Mais, dit le président, il a signé une déclaration commune avec Walid Joumblatt [le leader libanais druze], alors que Joumblatt a appelé ouvertement les Etats-Unis, il y a deux ans, à envahir la Syrie et à se débarrasser du régime. Selon nos lois, il est devenu un ennemi et si on le rencontre, on va en prison. Pour que Michel Kilo soit libéré, il faut une grâce présidentielle que je suis prêt à lui accorder à condition qu’il reconnaisse son erreur. » Ni l’argument que maintenir Kilo en prison nuit à l’image de la Syrie, ni le fait que l’homme est ferme dans ses convictions nationalistes et hostile à la politique américaine, ne réussissent à fléchir le président.

Translation (with my emphasis):

And the political prisoners? "Hundreds of them were set free before and after my arrival to power," the president continued. "We have more than a thousand people arrested for terrorism; do you want us to set them free?"

A dialogue then ensues around Michel Kilo, the intellectual arrested in May 2006 and sentenced to three years in prison for having contributed to "weakening the national spirit." He never advocated or used violence. "However," says the president, "he signed a joint declaration with Walid Jumblat, while Jumblat called openly on the United States, two years ago, to invade Syria and to topple the regime. According to our laws, he [Jumblat] has become an enemy and if we meet with him, we go to jail. For Michel Kilo to be set free, he needs a presidential pardon, which I'm willing to grant him on the condition that he admits his error." Neither the argument that keeping Kilo in jail hurts Syria's image, nor the fact that the man is firm in his nationalist convictions and hostile to American policy succeeded in changing the president's mind.

Then again today in an interview with L'Orient-Le Jour, Assad repeated the same line with even more gusto and his usual contemptuous arrogance:

Q : Pourquoi avez-vous encore des prisonniers politiques dans vos geôles et pourquoi, par exemple, Michel Kilo est-il encore en prison?

R : À ceux qui parlent de prisonniers politiques, je voudrais demander la signification de cette expression. Les terroristes sont-ils des prisonniers politiques? Ceux qui mettent en cause la sécurité de leur pays sont-ils des prisonniers politiques? Nous avons dans nos prisons des terroristes et des gens qui ont menacé la sécurité nationale. Mais nous n’avons pas des gens emprisonnés parce qu’ils se sont opposés à nous. C’est contre la loi et cela n’existe pas dans la réalité. La loi syrienne évoque des cas particuliers. Par exemple, il est interdit de provoquer des conflits confessionnels ou religieux. Il est aussi interdit de collaborer avec une partie étrangère hostile à la Syrie. Certains des prisonniers que vous avez cités ont collaboré avec une partie libanaise qui a ouvertement appelé les États-Unis à envahir la Syrie. Or, cette partie est classée comme hostile à la Syrie, et coopérer avec elle est puni par la loi. Mais nous n’avons pas en Syrie des cas comme celui de l’écrivain Roger Garaudy qui est entré en prison parce qu’il avait contesté l’Holocauste... Il faut cesser de regarder notre situation avec les seuls critères occidentaux. Il faut nous voir à travers notre réalité sociale et nos problèmes. En tout cas, nul n’a relevé le fait que nous avons libéré des milliers de Frères musulmans qui avaient accompli des actes contre la sécurité nationale dans les années 80. On parle de dix prisonniers et on omet les milliers libérés.

Translation (with my emphasis):

To those who talk about political prisoners, I would like to ask the meaning of this term. Are terrorists political prisoners? Are those who threaten the security of their country political prisoners? We have in our prisons terrorists and people who have threatened national security. But, we don't have people who are imprisoned because they are opposed to us. This is against the law and does not exist in reality. The Syrian law evokes special cases. For instance, it is forbidden to provoke confessional or religious conflicts. It is also forbidden to collaborate with a foreign side hostile to Syria. Some of the prisoners that you have cited have collaborated with a Lebanese party who has openly called on the US to invade Syria. However, this party is classified as hostile to Syria and cooperating with it is punishable by law. But we don't have in Syria cases like that of the writer Roger Garaudy who entered prison because he had contested the Holocaust... You should stop looking at our situation with only Western standards. You must look at us through our social reality and our problems. Anyway, nobody has pointed out the fact that we have set free thousands of Muslim Brothers who had committed acts against national security in the 80s. They talk about ten prisoners and omit the thousands set free.

Now, why do I bring this up? On the one hand, this is Assad directly flipping off the French over their demands on human and civic rights in Syria (engage that!). On the other hand, what Assad is saying, when he demands Kilo "admit error," is that he (and everyone else for that matter) must denounce the basic declaration in that document regarding a reassessment of Syria's outlook towards Lebanon. In other words, Assad is saying -- to the French specifically, hence the grotesque, Ahmadinejad-style Garaudy reference (Bashar's anti-Semitism is known and quite pronounced. Oh and note to the thug: Garaudy was never actually sent to jail, it was a suspended sentence; quite unlike all those whom this thug and his father buried in their archipelago of dungeons) -- any notion of a serious Syrian reassessment of its Lebanon policy is just delusional.

Supporting the argument that this is indeed the official talking points memo, is a nauseatingly hysterical article in al-Hayat (English here) the other day by the regime's little poodle, the "historian" Sami Moubayed (aka King of Comedy), which laid forward the basic Syrian outlook towards Lebanon: Anschluss and unapologetic military and security subversion at will.

But there's something else here, something which now confirms what I had written last year, when that other lowly agent of influence, Joshua Landis, slandered Michel Kilo.

At the time, that hackademic threw a sinister mendacious claim that Kilo had met with the Muslim Brotherhood's Ali Bayanouni in Morocco. The regime flack's sleazy attack was the second in a one-two punch by another of the regime's hired pens, and alleged Maher Assad mistress, Maria Maalouf. Like Landis, Maalouf had claimed, in the official Al-Thawra newspaper no less (you catch the drift), that Kilo had met with another enemy of the regime, minister Marwan Hamade (Jumblat's associate), in Cyprus this time, and received money from him to sow mischief and black ops in Syria. When Kilo tried to sue the paper, from his jail, for defamation and libel, his lawsuit was tossed upon direct intervention from Maher Assad's office.

Now, review Bashar's statements. You'll note a dual line of attack that corresponds directly with the Landis-Maalouf slander attack against Kilo, and confirms that they were lowly willful tools in a sinister regime campaign against Kilo. The dual line rests on grouping Kilo with Islamist terrorists and Jumblat.

The line that Kilo was "floating the Islamists" (i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood) came from one source and one source only: the regime. That was what the regime agent Landis was trying to market in a respectable publication in the US, when Andrew Tabler and Michael Young exposed him for the tool that he is.

Bashar's lie that Kilo had signed a "joint document with Walid Jumblat" (Jumblat had nothing to do with the document, it was signed by Lebanese and Syrian intellectuals) only shows what we already knew, that Maalouf's article in the official rag was part of an official regime attack against Kilo.

This is a good example of how the Syrian official propaganda works, both in Syria and in the West, be it directly by Bashar, or through his lowly tools, like Landis and others.

This also reveals the bubble world reality and worldview of this repugnant "Western-educated" thug, who openly spits at the West in utter contempt at everything it stands for. You can't apply "Western" criteria and categories, like, you know, anti-Semitism or universal human rights or rule of law or proper inter-state relations. Syria, as Jana Hybaskova so well described this psychotic outlook, is "unique":

Syria is different. Syria is unique. As such it quite clearly cannot be a normal, equal member of the international community, and of the community of states in the Middle East. Syria is so different that it can pursue its relations with its neighborhood differently than normal states. It reserves for itself the right to interfere, to collaborate openly with terrorists. With its fragile perception of uniqueness it painted itself into the corner: 'there is no peace without Syria.' The message given was clear: 'you, Europe, you can do anything in the Middle East. You can talk to Lebanon, work on Israeli-Palestinian issue. You can try to stop extremism, support the Arab Initiative. If you do it without accepting unique Syrian conditions, we will destroy any of your efforts. We will not allow you to bring any peace to the region. There is no peace without Syria. Modernity, modern identity can come only in a Syrian way.'

In Bashar's psychotic world, the West can, nay should, give him money, aid, recognition and legitimacy, but just make sure you don't give him "lessons in morals." After all, who the hell do you think you are?

Addendum: To give you another example of how regime talking points emanate from the top and then are distributed to the mouthpieces and flacks, compare Bashar's statement about "Western standards" with this quote in Alan George's Neither Bread nor Freedom:

When it was suggested that Syria's parliamentary democracy is a sham, officials are quick to wrap themselves in the national flag, claiming that their 'democracy' is an authentic product of the country's socio-political conditions and that foreign systems cannot possibly apply. Indeed, they go so far as to suggest that criticism from abroad is tantamount to imperialism. 'It's a different style. You cannot use the same measures,' Ayman 'Abd an-Nur, one of Bashar al-Asad's inner circle of advisers told me. 'This is very important, and this is one of the most important [difficulties] I encountered with Europeans and Americans. They want to measure everything by their standards. We cannot enforce democracy from outside.' (p. 84)

See also the remarks by the Syrian Minister of Culture, who was also recently received in France.

Think about that the next time you read a regime "analyst" this, "expert" that, or "historian" the other.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Lebanon's Militia Wars

Here's my research essay on militias in the Lebanese civil war, with a brief note on Hezbollah's armed assault in May and some quick lessons we can draw from that.

As I noted in a previous post, it dovetails with the NOW Lebanon editorial I linked there, which also offers similar conclusions and lessons.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Hezbollah and Lebanon: Alien Concepts

Arabic readers are well advised to read the following excellent essay on Hezbollah and Lebanon by Hussain Abdul-Hussain in An-Nahar.

Non-Arabic readers can check out Abdul-Hussain's commentary on Hezbollah's distortion of Lebanese Shiite history, here, and on Hezbollah's velayet e faqih doctrine, here.