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February 28, 2005


I'm growing more and more convinced of two things:

1) The US is behind this, at some level. Don't know if they killed Hariri--it's certainly possible. But this thing is being sold as Velvet IV to such a degree that it seems clear the US is orchestrating some of the opposition (nice that the Main Stream Media is picking up that narrative, like good little boys and girls).

2) It's not at all clear that Assad's softer rhetoric is going to do him a damn bit of good on this. Unlike the Iraq war, Europe is relatively on board from the start here (or at least Chirac, although his approval rates are falling quickly, about 9 points in the last couple of weeks). And your average American isn't going to know Assad has done a lot to make nice with BushCo. They're only going to hear the warmongering side, that this guy in Syria killed this other guy in Lebanon. So it's not at all clear rhetoric will benefit Assad in the least.

What I'm most curious to see is how much BushCo manages to demonize Hizbollah before the elections. Funny, both Sinn Fein and Hizbollah, the two success stories at moving from terrorism to parliamentarianism, are being challenged as terrorists again. Even while Moqtada al-Sadr seems to have played his cards perfectly to exercise influence in Iraq without having to run...

Syria better make nice because 75-year-old Texas Rep. Sam Johnson, an Air Force combat veteran and Vietnam Ear POW has volunteered to nuke Syria:

Now we know where Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) thinks the weapons of mass destruction are buried: in Syria, which he said he’d like to nuke to smithereens.

Speaking at a veterans’ celebration at Suncreek United Methodist Church in Allen, Texas, on Feb. 19, Johnson told the crowd that he explained his theory to President Bush and Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) on the porch of the White House one night.

Johnson said he told the president that night, “Syria is the problem. Syria is where those weapons of mass destruction are, in my view. You know, I can fly an F-15, put two nukes on ‘em and I’ll make one pass. We won’t have to worry about Syria anymore.”

Is there a single sane Republican in the state of Texas?

Is there a single sane Republican in the state of Texas?

Hmm, MB, that's a tough question. Maybe Kay Bailey Hutcheson?


Regarding your #2, I think what's significant here is what the rest of the countries in the region think more than what the "average American" thinks. Going after Saddam, who they all worried about to some degree because he was such a wildcard, is worlds apart from going after Syria. I can't imagine the U.S. going after Syria without a huge uproar among "official" circles in the Arab world, which didn't happen when we invaded Iraq (and the Arab states for the most part just stayed quiet). And as for Europe, they're not on board with trying to demonize Hezbollah, since they see Hezbollah as a much bigger player in the Lebanese gov't than Sinn Fein ever has or will be in the UK or the Irish Republic. They're probably closer to what the Sandinistas were in the 1990's, with the difference being that the Sandinistas no longer presented much of a military presence, where Hezbollah presents a fairly significant deterrent to Israel again invading Lebanon.

To me, it looks like the secularist Assad is trying to finise a relationship with Iran for protection but make nice with Israel and the U.S. to avoid pressures on his rule. He seems like he's trying to follow the lead of King Hussien in the 1970's, with some tentative moves toward raproachment with the major non-Arab rivals in the region--Israel, and now the U.S. His problem is that he's probably weaker than Hussien was in the 1970's. Sure, he's got a stronger army and is better protected than Jordan was, and unlike King Hussien, he doesn't appear to need Israeli assistance--at least right now--to keep control of his country, the way King Hussien needed the Israeli Air Force to scare off the Syrians when Hussein essentially went to war in 1970 against Arafat, Habash and the rest of the PLO. But that was primarily non-Jordanians destabilizing the country, where Assad needs to worry about the loyalty of his own people. He's not a potentially unifying figure by virtue of being a monarch, and the Baath party is probably a less reliable power base for him than it was for his father. So he's got some serious concerns, but I think that the rest of the Arab countries would rather see a secular ruler who's trying to acquiece to the US that throw the country into turmoil with the potential of Hezbollah or the Muslim Brotherhood ascending to power in part or all of Syria.

But, who knows, the Bushies are absolute idiots when it comes to the Middle East, so we could, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, call it an evil empire, and commence bombing immediately, and then see what happens afterword.

The naysayers and pessimistic prognosticators of the impact of the Bush doctrine have another disconfirmation of their misunderestimation of the unredefeated President and his vision for change in the Middle East.

MB: If there is a sane Republican in Texas, my guess is that it would be Carole Keeton Strayhorn. She managed to be elected mayor of Austin three times in a row, and when she was state comptroller a couple of years back, she pulled like a half a Bob Riley (R-AL Gov) -- she went to the press and said "You know, this state budget has got some serious problems that we can't wish or cut our way out of." She is also Scottie McClellan's mom.

She wants to run for governor in '06, against both incumbent R Perry AND Kay Bailey Hutchison. She does some erratic stuff and I don't generally know enough about her to know if her running is a good thing or not, but she's not likely to make it past the primary regardless. But since you asked (rhetorically, I know), I figured I'd answer.

And of course, there's Congressman Ron Paul, who says he's a libertarian but runs on the R ticket. He says some really sensible things when he's not being batshit crazy.

The resignation is obviously a direct result of Dean being elected head of DNC. Dean will set off an entire domino effect of democracy in the middle east.

Visit Lebanese blogs for opinions directly from the Lebanese themselves.

One thing that seems to be overlooked here in discussions on this topic is that Karami was the Lebanese premier once before, in 1990-1992, and that his government, then as now, was dissolved after street protests by supporters of Rafik Hariri. If the pro-Hariri movement this time morphs into something more like a pro-Lebanon movement that crosses over sectarian lines, this could really be the start of something good. However, in a country like Lebanon, how are you going to get all of the power brokers to agree? On what principle will everyone get together?

If you're interested in how the French created present-day Lebanon in a region which was part of the Syrian province of the Seleucid, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, that is, some 2,200 years, read Juan Cole today. As a cultural unit, of course, it goes much further back. In about 1920 the French decided to slice off the region from the rest of Syria to establish a Middle Eastern entity with a Christian majority. Has any one ever heard of the Crusades?. May there be no violence now. Note that the above explanation of Syria's presence in Lebanon seems to differ quite a bit from what Cole says.

,,The naysayers and pessimistic prognosticators of the impact of the Bush doctrine have another disconfirmation of their misunderestimation of the unredefeated President and his vision for change in the Middle East.
Posted by: PajamaHadin | February 28, 2005 11:54 PM''

So ... Bush killed Hariri?

Wow, you heard it here first, folks!

Quentin, the Syrian province of the Ottoman Empire was not even close to being coterminous with the French Mandate that is now Lebanon and Syria. The modern state of Syria owes its identity to European border-drawers, just as Lebanon does. The Syrians make irridentist claims because they can, not because there's any particular justification for them.


I guess what concerns me is the way Condi answered questions about Iran and Venezuela in her confirmation hearings. When pressed if ALL Iran had to do was to give up its nuclear program in order to avoid US wrath, Condi pretty much said, nope, we're still after them. Similarly, every time someone pointed out that Chavez just had his democratic support re-confirmed and therefore her rhetoric about spreading democracy OUGHT to say Venezuela avoids her wrath, she basically said, nope, we're still after him.

What she basically said was the BushCo is not going to let any kind of negotiating/concessions stall their plans for imposing their will and extending their influence.

Now, Syria has been trying to cooperate nicely with the US since before the invasion. All it has gotten them is further sanctions. So I don't see why current events will play out any differently. If cooperating on finding Al Qaeda members wasn't enough to convince us of their goodwill, I'm not sure why pulling out of Lebanon would be, either.

That said, I fully expect BushCo to use events in Lebanon to increase the pressure on Syria (whether or not it had anything to do with the events that set it off). Which means BushCO is likely to intervene in ways that might not be all good for the Lebanese people. It'd be nice if these events can result in real independence for Lebanon, but given BushCo's reverse Midas touch, I'm very skeptical.


I think the difference with Syria is that it's not in Israeli self-interest to risk something that could lead to an Islamist government taking over Syria. Therefore, they're going to want to push Syria to stop offering safe haven to Islamic Jihad and being the banker funnelling Iranian funds to Hezbollah, but even a lot of folks on the right would like to conclude a peace settlement with Syria. Remember, they met in Jordan last week, and that's after Assad made an overture last year to meet with the Israelies about concluding a peace settlement. And water figures into that, because long-term the Syrians could cause trouble for the Israelis on water, or they could help them out.

Iraq didn't matter as much to the Israelies, and Saddam was unpredictable. Syria matters to the Israelis, so their interests are going to figure into U.S. calucualations much more than they did in Iraq, and their calculations don't seem to me to include mass chaos and terrorism just across their border inside Syria.

Finally, don't forget that Jumblatt is both anti-Syria AND anti-U.S. Him ascending to a more prominent position within Lebanon isn't necessarily in the best interests of the Bush administration.

Oh, I don't mean that it is going to work out for the best for the US (as Iraq hasn't). They may well be miscalculating. But given all they've said, I think they're not even ASKING for the benefit of the doubt.

Iraq used to not matter to the Israelis. Now it does. Further, Iran matters, hugely, to the Israelis. And I strongly believe everything that's happeining in Lebanon and Syria either is part of a calculated strategy with Iran, or it will be made to serve a calculated strategy with Iran.

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