Tag Archives: syria

Toward a New, Democratic Middle East

Barnett, T.P.M. (2006). Treating Iran as a logical swing asset. Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog. January 10, 2007. Available online: http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/2007/01/treating_iran_as_logical_swing.html.

Tom Barnett gets it!:

Great piece by Luttwak exploring how sometimes (in Iraq) we need to be pro-Shiia and not be afraid of making Sunni states nervous and sometimes (in Lebanon vis-a-vis Syria) we need to be pro-Sunni and not worry about making Shiia leaders (Syria, Iran) nervous.

Now, where Luttwak doesn’t go is where I’m dying to go: play Iran more as a scary balancer. The more we dialogue (none yet) with Iran on Iraq, the more we freak the Saudis and the easier it becomes to splinter Syria because we’re basically playing prisoner’s dilemma with both Damascus and Iran–as in, who’s gonna bite first because we’ll go harder on the other next.

I agree completely, and back in August I wrote that a Shia Iraq and a Sunni Syria are exactly what we need.

A Democratic Middle East

Keep the Big Bang moving. Support Democracy in the Middle East. Support a Shia Iraq, and a Sunni Syria.

Disconnecting Lebanon from Syria, Disconnecting Syria from the Syrians

Key US legislator says will block aid to Lebanon, by Adam Entous, Reuters, 27 August 2006, http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060827/ts_nm/mideast_usa_lebanon_dc (from Democratic Underground).

Islamic Revival in Syria Is Led by Women,” by Katherine Zoepf, New York Times, 29 August 2006, A1, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/29/world/middleeast/29syria.html.

Tom Lantos, a California Democrat who not only supports a McCain-Lieberman foreign policy but also married a first-cousin of Zsa-Zsa Gabor, pushes for the continued separation of Lebanon from Syria:

A key U.S. legislator said in Israel on Sunday he would block aid President George W. Bush promised Lebanon and free the funds only when Beirut agreed to the deployment of international troops on the border with Syria

The international community must use all our available means to stiffen Lebanon’s spine and to convince the government of Lebanon to have the new UNIFIL troops on the Syrian border in adequate numbers,” said Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives’ International Relations Committee.

Syria, showing the same stupidity that got her expelled from Lebanon in the first place, promises to play into her enemies’ hands

Syria has threatened to shut its border with Lebanon if U.N. troops deploy there. Israel says it will not lift a sea and air blockade of Lebanon unless a U.N. force helps ensure that no new weapons reach Hizbollah in the south.

Meanwhile, women less glamorous than Zsa-Zsa (and not of the liberal Muslims kind) do their bit to hasten their brothers and submit Damascus to the Koran

The Fate of the Baath Arab Socialist Party

At those meetings, participants say, they are tutored further in the faith and are even taught how to influence some of their well-connected fathers and husbands to accept a greater presence of Islam in public life.

These are the two faces of an Islamic revival for women in Syria, one that could add up to a potent challenge to this determinedly secular state. Though government officials vociferously deny it, Syria is becoming increasingly religious and its national identity is weakening. If Islam replaces that identity, it may undermine the unity of a society that is ruled by a Muslim religious minority, the Alawites, and includes many religious groups.

Syrian officials, who had front-row seats as Hezbollah dragged Lebanon into war, are painfully aware of the myriad ways that state authority can be undermined by increasingly powerful, and appealing, religious groups. Though Syria’s government supports Hezbollah, it has been taking steps to ensure that the phenomenon it helped to build in Lebanon does not come to haunt it at home.

For many years any kind of religious piety was viewed here with skepticism. But while men suspected of Islamist activity are frequently interrogated and jailed, subjecting women to such treatment would cause a public outcry that the government cannot risk. Women have taken advantage of their relatively greater freedom to form Islamic groups, becoming a deeply rooted and potentially subversive force to spread stricter and more conservative Islamic practices in their families and communities.

Mr. Abdul Salam explained that such secret Islamic prayer groups recruited women differently, depending on their social position. “They teach poor women how to humble themselves in front of their husbands and how to pray, but they’re teaching upper-class women how to influence politics,” he said.

(It is not surprising that radical Muslims are exploiting women in this way. Christians did the same thing to spread their ideology and conquer Rome. Women are not somehow opposed to religion. They are the vehicles for religion.)

Arab National-Secularism is in collapse. Since Sharon took power in 2000, and Bush took power in 2001, Lebanon and Iraq have been freed from the National-Secularist yoke. Now we see the Syrian National-Secularists increasingly isolated from their former-client and from their own people.

Like the Qaedists, the National-Secularists are losing. The dreams of our generational enemies in the Middle East are falling apart. Good.

A New Middle East, Part I: Our Vanquished Enemies

The Big Bang spreads . . . the rough way,” by Thomas Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog, 7 October 2005, http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/archives2/002427.html (from tdaxp).

President’s Radio Address,” by George Bush, White House Radio, 19 August 2006, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/08/20060819.html.

As George Bush assumed power in January 2001, the Middle East was in a dire state. The al-Qaeda backed Taliban government ruled Afghanistan, while the noxious rule of the Arab Nationalist-Secularist governments (some in uneasy league with America, others opposed) ruled Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria. If al Qaeda was a rapist, doing damage quickly and violently, the Nationalist-Secularists were parents with Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. While al Qaeda was more mindlessly violent, the National-Secularists had been disastrous for their states, rolling back the traditional governments and traditional societies that once existed in those lands. The National-Secularists, from the Ba’ath, to Fatah, to the rest, were politically and intellectually bankrupt.

Red = National-Secularist, Green = Shia, Yellow = Tribal, Black = al Qaeda, Blue = Globalist

Since then the situation has changed for the better. In three states the National-Secularists have been driven out: by the US military in Iraq, by the people in Palestine, and by a combination of internal factions and external pressure in Lebanon. And Afghanistan, of course, was liberated in Operational Enduring Freedom.

Red = National-Secularist, Green = Shia, Yellow = Tribal, Blue-Geen = Contested between Iran and Globalist, Blue = Globalist, Purple = Muslim Brothers

That these places are unstable is not proof that Bush’s plan is failing, but that it is working. As the President recently said

It is no coincidence that two nations that are building free societies in the heart of the Middle East, Lebanon and Iraq, are also the scenes of the most violent terrorist activity.

The same is true, of course, when Palestine, where the Muslim Brother’s local branch, Hamas, is squeezed between a justly hostile Israeli and unjustly hostile National-Secularist dead-enders.

If we are to judge the Global War on Terrorism by the standards of Thomas Barnett:

In the end, what will have to change for all this violence in the Middle East to stop is not our withdrawal, but political reform in the region. Keeping this fight suppressed, or having it exported to our shores like it was on 9/11 is certainly a safer route for the local authoritarian regimes. Then again, I think 9/11 put us past caring about those regimes’ stability like we used to.

Bush basically runs a race with Osama: who can destabilize the region’s regimes first? Both sides want change, but only one wants to replace the current autocracies with a religious dictatorship. What Bush wants solves the problem. What Osama wants merely extends it.

Then we are clearly winning this Long War. We destabilized Afghanistan, throwing al Qaeda out of their only State. We destabilized National-Secularist Iraq, and now contend with Iran (not al Qaeda) in seeing which of us has the most influence in that State. We destabilize National-Secularist Lebanon, and now content with Iran (not al Qaeda) in seeing which of us has the most influence in that State.

In this New Middle East we are building, we will have to be careful. We will have to deal wisely with the new regional indigenous hegemon, Iran. But we will not have to fear al Qaeda or the National-Secularists. They will be killed. That is why we can leave Iraq now.

A New Middle East, a tdaxp series
A New Middle East 1: Our Vanquished Enemies
A New Middle East 2: Iran
A New Middle East 3: Israel
A New Middle East 4: Islam is the Answer

A Modest Proposal for the Middle East

Pull out of Iraq while having the air force bomb the Ba’athist government in Syria and the Party of God in Lebanon.

The net results (viz. the April 2003 invasion of Iraq)

  • No more minority (Sunni Ba’ath) government in Iraq
  • No more minority (Alawite Ba’ath) government in Syria
  • No more minority (Hizbollah) government in Lebanon

Our legacy is three rational states, a huge improvement over the mess with British and French made.

Iran Selling Syria

Syria, Iran and the Power Plays over Iraq,” by George Friedman, Stratfor, 25 October 2005, http://junkpolitics.blogspirit.com/archive/2005/10/26/syria-iran-and-the-power-plays-over-iraq.html.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq was in the direct interest of two countries, in addition to the United States: Iran and Israel. Other countries had a more ambiguous response. The Saudis, for example, were as terrified of Iran as of Iraq. They, more than anyone, wanted to see the balance of power maintained and viewed the American invasion as threatening to their interests.

For the Iranians, this was the golden moment. Their dream was of a pro-Iranian Iraq — or, alternatively, for Iraq’s Shiite region to be independent and pro-Iranian, or at least to have a neutral Iraq. The Sunni rising put the Iranians in a perfect position: Using their influence among the Shia, they held the cards that the Americans had dealt them. They adopted a strategy of waiting and spinning complex webs.

The Syrians saw themselves in a much less advantageous position. They were in their worst-case scenario. They could not engage the United States directly, of course. But the only satisfactory outcome to their dilemma was to divert U.S. attention from them or, barring that, so complicate the Americans’ position that they would be prevented from making any aggressive moves toward Syria. What Damascus needed was a strong guerrilla war to tie the Americans down.

The United States had two possible strategies. The key to controlling Iraq lay in ending the guerrilla war. One part of the guerrilla war — not all — was in Syria. The United States could invade Syria — not a good idea, given available forces. It could ask Israel to do it — which would be a bad move politically, nor was it clear that Israel wanted to do this. Or, it could use a strategy of indirection.

The thing that Syria wants more than anything is Lebanon. The United States has set in motion policies designed to force Syria out of Lebanon. It is not that the United States really cares who dominates Lebanon — in fact, its Israeli allies rather like the control that Syria has introduced there. Nevertheless, by threatening its core interests, the United States could, leaders thought, begin to leverage Syria.

The Syrians were obviously not going to go quietly into that good night — not with billions at stake. The assassination of Rafik al-Hariri was the answer.Even when Syria drew its overt military forces out of Lebanon, covert force remained there perpetually. The result of the assassination, however, was overwhelming pressure on Syria — coupled with a not-too-convincing threat of the use of force by the United States.

For Iran, the fate of Syria is not a major national interest. The future of Iraq is. Iran’s view of events in Iraq is divided into three parts: First, a belief that Syria is an important but not decisive source of support for the Sunni guerillas; second, the view that the United States has already maneuvered itself into a de facto alliance with a faction of Iraq’s Sunnis; and finally, the belief that Iran’s interests in Iraq were not endangered by evolving politics in Lebanon.

tdaxp‘s view?


Iran is selling Syria out. Good.

Syria Around the Blogosphere

New Yorker in DC and I are having a cross-blog conversation. See Barnett v. Cole on Iranian Involvement in Anti-Iraqi Terrorism here at tdaxp and A defeat for the Iraqi Constitution is a victory for Iraq over at Nykrindc. For a taste:

tdaxp @ tdaxp

Appeasement of the “Arab street” was chucked pretty early in the GWOT. And happily, the “Arab Street” doesn’t exist anyway, the cries of State/CIA Orientalists notwithstanding…

nykrindc @ nykrindc

I would question the morality of a government that went into a country to replace a brutal dictator only to cut and run when things got too hot. Leaving us not only less secure, but also leaving the Iraqi people worse off than they were before (the DRC, Somalia being some of the most important examples).

Elsewhere, Syria Comment looks at regime change (or not) while Dawn’s Early Light sees Syria cornered.

What is regime change, anyway? Or encirclement?

Syria-ously Pro-Iraq

Syria signals change in policy toward Iraq,” Associated Press, 1 May 2005, (from Blogs for Bush).

American-Iranian agent given high-ranking Iraqi government job? Check.

Iranian client state open relations with American-Iranian client state? Check.

American-Iranian Connectivity continues to grow…

Syria announced plans to restore diplomatic relations with Iraq more than two decades after ties were severed, boosting regional hopes for securing borders and signaling a willingness to change its policy toward the violence-torn country.

With Iraq’s neighbours concerned that violence and ethnic instability in Iraq could spread throughout the region, they pledged on Saturday to cooperate with Iraq’s newly elected government on “overall border security.”


But Syria’s decision to re-establish ties after 23 years of severance could be key to easing the insurgency in Iraq and boosting regional security, given Syria’s 310-mile (499-kilometer) shared border with Iraq and its strong ties with Iraq’s Sunni tribes, analysts said.

It’s almost as if America and Iran is trading something for something Almost as if America wants stable Shia regimes around the Persian Gulf.

If only some blogger had predicted this…


Muslim Brothers Want to Run

Syrian Muslim Brotherhood slams Baathists,” AFP, 5 April 2005, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=2&article_id=13996 (from Liberals Against Terrorism).

Those famous democrats, the Muslim Brothers, want elections now

The Muslim Brotherhood, banned in Syria on pain of death since 1980, called on Monday for an end to the ruling Baath party’s 42-year grip on power and for the organization of free and fair elections. The movement, which was behind an armed uprising in the 1980s that marked the biggest challenge to the Damascus regime to date, called for a national congress of all political parties to ward off what it said was a “threat of invasion,” an allusion to growing U.S. pressure on the government.

The Muslim Brotherhood urges the organization of an inclusive national congress that would represent all political tendencies and religious and ethnic groups, whether based inside Syria or in exile, to form a national force capable of facing the challenges,” the group said in a statement

Bush has invented Baghdad Rules — government change through free and fair elections in the Arab countries.

Baby Assad’s father invented another type of rules — Hama Rules. After Daddy Assad was almost assassinated by the Muslim Brothers, he destroyed the fourth largest city of his own country to root them out.

Of course, if Baghdad Rules don’t work — the Muslim Brothers can play that game, too

The Baath party, which has led the country for 42 years, bears the sole responsibility for the destruction it will cause if it insists on continuing its policies and ignoring honest appeals.” The group said it was acting “not out of fear that the regime might fall but out of concern for the losses to the country if it slides into anarchy.” Washington has stepped up its pressure for democracy in Syria in recent weeks, receiving a small U.S.-based opposition group at the State Department and calling for democratic reforms.

Praktike says this is a threat disguised as a warning. Praktike’s right.

French Hawks

France Threatens Military Action Against Syria over Lebanon!,” Naharnet, 26 March 2005, http://www.naharnet.com/domino/tn/Newsdesk.nsf/Story/CCA1B20FF465EB02C2256FD0003A070F?OpenDocument&PRINT (from Democratic Underground).

Syria’s stupid assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister just earned them threats from an unlikely source

France has reportedly warned the Assad regime against playing procrastination games to sabotage the process of change in Lebanon, saying “otherwise, all doors will be flung open for all eventualities against Syria,” including military action.

The London-based Asharq Al Awsat on Saturday quoted a French official as saying the report of the U.N. fact-finding mission on ex-Premier Hariri’s assassination “is the message we wanted to address to Syria to refrain from preventing the change in Lebanon.”

The newspaper quoted the French official as saying in a harsh language that reflects a French ultimatum: “France has long resisted calls for directly attacking Syria. So do not push us into a situation where we have to change our stance.”

“If the Syrians fail to understand this or if they try to manipulate and procrastinate, they will lose their last chance” the French official said, according to the Saudi-owned newspaper.

France has long supported Wolfowitz Style Occupations — little planning, lots of killing. The French Republic’s opposition to the Iraq was built on interest, not principal — France is willing and able to destroy small countries.

Chirac may prefer having France invade Syria, and so make France and feared as America, than have France look weak and America look strong.

This will be interesting.

Syria Even Stupider than Thought

Leb Land bis: It Appears Syria is stupider than I thought.,” by Collounsbury, Lounsbury on MENA, 25 March 2005, http://www.livejournal.com/users/collounsbury/302946.html.

Col quotes from news that the United Nations uncovered Baby Assad physically threatening ex-PM Harari directly before Harari’s assassination

Bashar Assad, the Syrian president, had threatened Rafik Hariri, the assassinated former Lebanese prime minister, “with physical harm” if he opposed the extension of the Lebanese presidency of Emil Lahoud, a UN inquiry said on Thursday.

The inquiry also said the Syrian government bore “primary responsibility” for the political tension that preceded the February 14 killing, although it did not say who was actually responsible for the attack.

Collounbury was a doubter of the Syrian angle before, and said “there is no key state interest for the US to destabilize Syria,” so his change of heart is all the better to read

While one would be well served in maintaining a degree of skepticism, I have to say this information causes me to favor the “idiot self inflicted wounds” path to Syria.