Tag: Syrian Revolt

AS ISLAMISTS SURGE SYRIAN REGIME TOTTERS, FATE OF KURDS, CHRISTIANS, ALAWITES IN DOUBT

 

BREAKING NEWS

 

SYRIA PM DEFECTS, JOINS OPPOSITION

 

Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab defected on Monday to Jordan and is now said to be heading to Qatar: “I announce today my defection from the killing and terrorist regime and I announce that I have joined the ranks of the freedom and dignity revolution. I announce that I am from today a soldier in this blessed revolution,” Hijab said in a statement read in his name by the spokesman, which was broadcast on Al Jazeera television. (Ynet News, Jerusalem Post, New York Times Aug. 6, 2012)

 

 

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY ABOUT THE SYRIAN CIVIL WAR

Barry Rubin

PJMedia, Aug. 5, 2012

 

Ammar Abdulhamid may know more about Syria’s civil war than anyone else in the world. That’s no exaggeration. A pro-democratic oppositionist living abroad, Abdulhamid has functioned on a virtual 24/7 basis as the source of news and analysis about events within Syria, always trying to be honest and accurate in his assessments regardless of his own preferences. Barry Rubin, PJMedia Middle East editor, interviewed Abdulhamid on the latest developments and trends.

 

It now seems that the tide in Syria’s civil war is turning toward the opposition. Why is that happening?

 

I wouldn’t say the tide is turning, I’d say that the armed opposition is getting more organized and bold, and its tenacity, growing popularity, coupled with President Bashar al-Assad’s cruelty, are inspiring more defections and despair inside the ranks of the regime.

 

Also, by continuing to play on sectarian sentiments, Assad continues to find success in ensuring the loyalty of the Alawites, the majority of whom keep seeing an existential threat in having regime change take place. However, by going down the route of ethnic cleansing in the coastal and central parts, Assad and his militias managed to create an existential threat for the Sunnis as well.

 

Of the two million Syrians who have been forcibly displaced inside Syria by Assad’s crackdown, the overwhelming majority is Sunni. These people are angry, bitter, and radicalized, and their very lot in life at this stage is inspiring anger and hate in the minds and souls of Sunnis with whom they come in contact.  Both sides now view the situation in sectarian and existential terms. So no one can back down.

 

How do you assess the balance in the opposition between Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, professional military officers, and moderate democrats?

 

By having greater access to funds, hence weapons, the Salafists have managed to curry favor with the armed groups, and they are now a dominant force. But that does not necessarily translate into political support or sympathies. The political councils that are emerging to manage the day-to-day affairs of liberated towns and villages have not endorsed an Islamist agenda, or any of the traditional political groups, be they secular or Islamist. The revolutionary scene remains pretty much an open field as far as political ideology is concerned.

 

With the Syrian National Council (SNC) being dominated by the Brotherhood, what are the key alternative leadership groups? Are you concerned that the United States and other countries might impose the SNC on the country?

 

By now, and considering the sacrifices that have been made and continue to be made by the revolutionaries, it is highly unlikely at this stage to expect that a group dominated by traditional opposition groups and expatriates can actually be considered legitimate enough to lead. Indeed, SNC’s credibility has long evaporated due to its inability to deliver, and, by association, the Brotherhood’s own credibility, shaky to begin with, was marred. It’s clear to all by now that SNC is not the answer for leading the challenges of governance during the transitional period.

 

It’s for this reason that some experts are postulating a role for the recent defector Brigadier General Manaf Tlas. But Manaf is too much of a regime insider to be popularly accepted as a legitimate leader, even for a transitional period. The best he could do is play a supporting role. The main actors have to be derived from the ranks of the revolutionary movement inside Syria. Only when such actors become in charge can the Syrian people be assured that their revolution has succeeded.…

 

What is the Kurdish attitude toward the opposition and the regime?

 

It’s clear, considering recent developments, that Syria’s Kurds have decided to reject both: the regime and the traditional opposition. Both have only offered raw deals all through the years. Their attitude could change though the moment the Arab-dominated traditional opposition groups learn that Kurdish demands for autonomy are legitimate. and that the right thing to do at this stage is agree to the best formula for that within the context of a new decentralized Syria.

 

What do you see emerging in a post-Assad Syria?

 

The activist in me wants to see a democratic decentralized entity emerge that is capable of responding to the developmental needs and aspirations of the people, irrespective of their religious, national, or political background, in each province, region, and district. The analyst in me has to grapple with the possibility of inheriting a failed state composed of warring fiefdoms, and of the need to find ways to put the pieces back together again, a process that would take years. It was from the beginning clear to me that the transformation of Syria will prove a much longer process than most of us have expected or wanted. But our dream for a democratic state will guide us through the thin and thick of it all.

 

How can the opposition deal with an Alawite fortress region in the northwest where the regime would try to hold out?

 

No one has any plans to “invade” Alawite-majority areas. What is needed right now is to stop the ethnic cleaning and to ensure the safe return of displaced population to their homes. Peacekeepers could and should be introduced to ensure a separation of forces for a certain agreed period. Meanwhile, we should all begin a serious conversation on the future administrative structure of Syria.

 

Are you pleased or concerned about Saudi, Qatari, and Turkish influence on the situation?

 

It was clear from the very beginning that all sorts of regional and international players have a stake in the outcome of the revolution in Syria, and that many will try to influence it. What concerns me is that the United States and the European Union are not doing nearly enough to exert their own moderating influence on the process, despite their repeated appeals to the Syrian people from the early days of the revolution. The absence of this influence is as telling and influential as any.

 

We haven’t heard much about the attitudes and activities of the Druze minority. Can you discuss this point?

 

The Druze of Syria constitutes 2-3% of the population in the country, and that makes them risk averse. Developments in Lebanon after the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri and the changing positions of Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt had already exerted their toll on the Druze community of Syria long before the revolution and gave both Assad and Druze elders enough time to reconsider their relations.

 

In fact, and over the last few years, and away from public scrutiny, Druze elders and other agents of influence in the Druze community seems to have negotiated a form of communal autonomy for themselves, or at least a local power-sharing arrangement of sorts between local figures and regime-appointed figures. This gives them little reason to join a revolution that could jeopardize that.

 

Clearly there is the threat of ethnic massacres and we have already seen some examples of this problem. Is there hope of minimizing or avoiding such bloodshed?

 

An active international involvement drawing on previous lessons from the Balkans, the failures and the few successes, can help us avoid these scenarios. But since prospects for such involvement remain dim, we could only put our faith in the hands of the on-the-ground activists and their ability to produce a miracle and keep ethnic massacres to a minimum.

 

KURDISTAN: NEXT FLASHPOINT BETWEEN IRAQ,TURKEY, SYRIA

Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques NeriahJerusalem Centre for Public Affairs,August 5, 2012

 

In the wake of the steady disintegration of the Assad regime, Syrian opposition activists reported that several towns, such as Amouda and Qabani in Syria’s Kurdish northeast, had passed in mid-July 2012 without a fight into the local hands of a group called the Free Kurdish Army. Thus emerged for the first time in modern Kurdish history the nucleus of an exclusively Kurdish-controlled enclave bordering the predominantly Kurdish areas of Turkey. After largely sitting on the sidelines of the Syrian revolution, political groups from Syria’s Kurdish minority in the northeastern region appear to have moved decisively to claim control of the Kurdish-populated towns.

 

 The Free Kurdish Army was formed from the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a group with historical links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK. The PKK, it should be remembered, is regarded by both Turkey and the United States as a terrorist organization fighting the Turkish government for Kurdish autonomy. The Kurds are reportedly concentrating their efforts on wresting control of Qamishli, the largest of the Kurdish cities, from the Syrian government. Kurdish forces have already captured the city of Ayn al-Arab in the Aleppo Governorate, where they are flying the Kurdish flag.

 

The Turks, who have been at war with the PKK for decades, have been monitoring developments in Syria with increasing concern. Thus a columnist for the Turkish daily Hurriyet wrote in late July: “Only a week ago we had a 400-kilometer ‘Kurdish border.’ Now, 800 kilometers have been added to this.” The Turkish government has bluntly warned: “We will not allow a terrorist group to establish camps in northern Syria and threaten Turkey.” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made clear that Turkey would take any step that is necessary against a terrorist presence in northern Syria.

 

Turkish observers have commented that the geopolitics of the Middle East are now being reshaped as the emergence of a “Greater Kurdistan” is no longer a remote possibility, posing enormous challenges for all the states hosting large Kurdish populations: Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran.  Kurdistan is a potential land bridge for many of the conflicts erupting in this part of the region. It provides a ground route for Iraqi Kurdistan to supply the Syrian Kurds as they seek greater autonomy from Damascus.

 

But its use will depend on which power dominates the tri-border area between Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. This area could equally provide Iran with a corridor for moving supplies to its Syrian surrogates and even to Hizbullah in Lebanon. Perhaps this is why some commentators see Kurdistan as the new regional flashpoint in the Middle East.…[To continue please see Link in On Topics below. Includes regional map]

 

DEALING WITH THE DEVIL IN SYRIA
Robert Spencer

Front Page Mag, Aug 3rd, 2012

 

A video circulating this week of Syrian rebels shouting “Allahu akbar” and executing four Assad partisans has horrified many in the West, but there have been numerous indications before this that the resistance to the Assad regime is not made up of the democratic pluralists of mainstream media myth.

Not surprisingly, that hasn’t stopped Barack Obama. According to Reuters Wednesday, he “has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government.”

 

This will meet with bipartisan support. Gary Schmitt and Thomas Donnelly wondered last week in the mainstream Republican Weekly Standard: “Why hasn’t President Obama intervened militarily in Syria? After all, this is a president who issued a directive last year stating that a ‘core’ national security interest of the United States would be to prevent mass atrocities of precisely the kind Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is now unleashing on his own people. And this is a president who, to his credit, helped remove Muammar Qaddafi from power.”

 

Schmitt and Donnelly appear untroubled by the fact that the new leadership of Libya is made up of Muslim Brotherhood Sharia supremacists who, as they impose the fullness of Islamic law upon Libya, will impose all of Sharia’s legal oppression of women, non-Muslims, ex-Muslims, and others, and are certain to be no friend of the United States. And now they want Barack Obama to enable a similar regime to come to power in Syria. Their call for him to do so didn’t mention the Muslim Brotherhood or al-Qaeda, of course. Instead, they give the impression that they accept the prevailing mainstream media myth, that the anti-Assad forces in Syria are Western-style pluralist democrats, as they were advertised as being in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.

 

They aren’t any such thing in Syria, any more than they were in those other “Arab Spring” countries. John Cantlie, a British photographer, and his Dutch colleague, Jeroen Oerlemans, were recently kidnapped by Islamic supremacist rebels in Syria who threatened to murder them unless they converted to Islam. Significantly, they noted that where they were held, the rebel fighters were Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Chechens, with nary a Syrian in sight – a clear indication that jihadis from all over the world had traveled to Syria to participate in what they considered to be a jihad there: the uprising against the Assad regime. “As soon as Assad has fallen,” Oerlemans declared, “these fighters want to introduce Islamic law, Sharia, in Syria.”

 

Another sign of the jihadist character of the Syrian rebels is the rampant persecution of Christians. The Christians in Syrian generally tend to favor the Alawite Assad regime, which despite its repressive character is still a Ba’athist, generally secular regime that accords Christians more rights than they would enjoy in a Sharia state.…

 

Thousands of Christians have been displaced from their homes, and others have left Syria altogether. Melkite Greek Catholic Bishop Philip Tournyol Clos lamented: “The picture for us is utter desolation. The church of Mar Elian is half destroyed and that of Our Lady of Peace is still occupied by the rebels. Christian homes are severely damaged due to the fighting and completely emptied of their inhabitants, who fled without taking anything.”

 

They have done so in the face of increasing jihadist assertiveness. In mid-July, a group calling itself the Brigade of Islam claimed responsibility for a bombing that murdered several key Syrian officials, including the nation’s defense minister and Bashar Assad’s brother-in-law. Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations, has said that he believes that al-Qaeda was responsible for this bombing – and certainly it is active among the Syrian rebel forces.

 

The main beneficiary, however, of the toppling of Assad could be the Muslim Brotherhood. Syria Brotherhood chief Mohammad Riad Shakfa has said that after “long years of repression by the regime,” the movement has its best-ever chance to seize power there. The ANSAmed news agency explains: “The biggest force on the Syrian National Council, which is the West’s main opposition interlocutor, and very influential in the Syrian Free Army, the Muslim Brotherhood is supported by Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is also a Sunnite, and whom Assad accuses of fomenting a religious war in his country. If Syria were to follow the Egyptian model post-Assad, the country’s next leader might well be from the Muslim Brotherhood.”

 

Of course, Barack Obama enabled the new Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt to take power, and has warmly supported it despite increasing signs that it intends to impose Sharia, continue the repression of Christians that has been rampant in Egypt since the beginning of the “Arab Spring,”  and even go to war with Israel. So why should Syria be any different? And indeed, it is not: in both cases, the United States is applauding and abetting the installation of regimes that will not show any gratitude toward its patrons in Washington, but which will instead pursue a jihadist course that is almost certainly to mean decades of strife and bloodshed to come.…

 

AS SYRIA WAR ROILS, UNREST AMONG SECTS HITS TURKEY
Jeffrey Gettleman

The New York Times, August 4, 2012

 

At 1 a.m. last Sunday, in the farming town of Surgu [Turkey]…a mob formed at the Evli family’s door.

The ill will had been brewing for days, ever since the Evli family chased away a drummer who had been trying to rouse people to a predawn Ramadan feast. The Evlis are Alawite, a historically persecuted minority sect of Islam, and also the sect of Syria’s embattled leaders, and many Alawites do not follow Islamic traditions like fasting for Ramadan.

 

The mob began to hurl insults. Then rocks. “Death to Alawites!” they shouted. “We’re going to burn you all down!” Then someone fired a gun. “They were there to kill us,” said Servet Evli, who was hiding in his bedroom with his pregnant wife and terrified daughter, both so afraid that they urinated through their clothes.

 

As Syria’s civil war degenerates into a bloody sectarian showdown between the government’s Alawite-dominated troops and the Sunni Muslim majority, tensions are increasing across the border between Turkey’s Alawite minority and the Sunni Muslim majority here. Many Turkish Alawites, estimated at 15 million to 20 million strong and one of the biggest minorities in this country, seem to be solidly behind Syria’s embattled strongman, Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey’s government, and many Sunnis, supports the Syrian rebels.

 

The Alawites fear the sectarian violence spilling across the border. Already, the sweltering, teeming refugee camps along the frontier are fast becoming caldrons of anti-Alawite feelings. “If any come here, we’re going to kill them,” said Mehmed Aziz, 28, a Syrian refugee at a camp in Ceylanpinar, who drew a finger across his throat.  He and his friends are Sunnis, and they all howled in delight at the thought of exacting revenge against Alawites.

 

Many Alawites in Turkey, especially in eastern Turkey where Alawites tend to speak Arabic and are closely connected to Alawites in Syria, are suspicious of the bigger geopolitics, and foreign policy analysts say they may have a point. The Turkish government is led by an Islamist-rooted party that is slowly but clearly trying to bring more religion, particularly Sunni Islam, into the public sphere, eschewing decades of purposefully secular rule.…

 

The Alawites point to the surge of foreign jihadists streaming into Turkey, en route to fight a holy war on Syria’s battlefields. Many jihadists are fixated on turning Syria, which under the Assad family’s rule has been one of the most secular countries in the Middle East, into a pure Islamist state.

 

“Do you really believe these guys are going to build a democracy?” asked Refik Eryilmaz, an Alawite member of the Turkish Parliament. “The Americans are making a huge mistake. They’re helping Turkey fight Assad, but they’re creating another Taliban.”…

« RÉFUGIÉS » EN PALESTINE, LE SOUTIEN D’OBAMA POUR LES FRÈRES MUSULMANS ET LA NAÎVETÉ OCCIDENTALE QUI AIDE L’IRAN

Compter les réfugiés de Palestine?

Daniel Pipes

National Review Online, 29 mai 2012

Adaptation française: Anne-Marie Delcambre de Champvert

Le cœur fétide et sombre de la guerre des Arabes contre Israël, ai-je longuement argumenté, ne réside pas dans les litiges sur Jérusalem, les points de contrôle, ou les "colonies". Il concerne plutôt les soi-disant réfugiés de Palestine.

Ainsi appelés [«soi-disant»] parce que de presque 5 millions de réfugiés officiels dont s'occupe l'UNRWA (l'abréviation pour «Office de secours et de travaux des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés de Palestine dans le Proche-Orient »), seulement environ 1% sont de vrais réfugiés qui correspondent à la définition de l'office « les personnes dont le lieu de résidence habituel était la Palestine entre juin 1946 et mai 1948, qui ont perdu à la fois leur maison et leur gagne-pain à la suite du conflit israélo-arabe de 1948 ». Les autres 99 % sont des descendants de ces réfugiés, ou ce que j'appelle les faux réfugiés

Pire: ceux qui étaient en vie en 1948 sont en train de mourir et dans une cinquantaine d'années pas un seul vrai réfugié sera encore en vie, alors que (extrapolant à partir d'une estimation faisant autorité dans Refugee Survey Quarterly par Mike Dumper) les faux descendants de réfugiés seront au nombre de 20 millions. Sans contrôle, la population va grandir très rapidement sans jamais s'arrêter jusqu'à la fin des temps. [L’origine de l'expression employée par Daniel Pipes « grandir comme Topsy » c'est la petite esclave Topsy dans la case de l'oncle Tom (NDLT)]

Cela est important parce que le statut de réfugié a des effets néfastes: Il gâche la vie de ces millions de non réfugiés en les privant de leurs droits tout en leur imposant un vilain, irrédentiste et irréaliste rêve. Pire, le statut de réfugié les garde comme un poignard permanent visant le cœur d’Israël, menaçant l'État juif et perturbant le Moyen-Orient. Résoudre le conflit israélo-arabe – si on le dit en peu de mots – exige de mettre fin à la mascarade absurde et nuisible de la prolifération des faux réfugiés de Palestine et de leur installation à vie [dans ce statut]. 1948 c'est passé ; il est temps de devenir réaliste.

Je suis fier d'annoncer que, se fondant en partie sur les travaux effectués par Steven J. Rosen et moi-même au forum du Moyen Orient, au cours de l'année passée, la commission du crédit budgétaire du Sénat américain, le 24 mai a voté à l'unanimité un amendement limité mais potentiellement important aux 52,1 milliards du projet de loi de l'exercice fiscal 2013 pour les crédits budgétaires du ministère des affaires étrangères. L'amendement, proposé par Mark Kirk (républicain de l'Illinois) exige que le ministère des Affaires étrangères informe le Congrès à propos de l'utilisation annuelle de 240 millions de dollars provenant de fonds directs des contribuables américains donnés aux réfugiés de Palestine via l'UNRWA. Combien de bénéficiaires, demande Kirk, répondent à la définition de l'UNRWA citée ci-dessus, pour être considérés comme de vrais réfugiés? Et combien ne le sont pas, mais sont les descendants de ces réfugiés?

L'amendement Kirk n'appelle pas à éliminer ou même à réduire les prestations aux faux réfugiés. Malgré son caractère limité, Kirk appelle l'obligation d'information légale "un tournant" En effet, cela a inspiré ce qu' un haut conseiller du sénat appartenant à ce vieux grand parti républicain [GOP « Grand Old Party » désigne le parti républicain(NDLT)] a appelé «une opposition énorme» du gouvernement jordanien et de l'UNRWA elle-même, causant ce que Josh Rogin du magazine Foreign Policy appelle une bataille qui fait rage.

Pourquoi cette rage? Parce que, si le ministère des affaires étrangères est contraint de faire la différence entre véritables réfugiés de Palestine et les faux réfugiés, le gouvernement des États-Unis et d'autres gouvernements occidentaux (qui, ensemble, recouvrent plus de 80 pour cent du budget de l'UNRWA) pourraient finalement décider de supprimer les faux [réfugiés]et par ce moyen porter atteinte à leur revendication d'un "droit au retour" en Israël.

Malheureusement, l'administration Obama a bâclé cette question. Une lettre du ministre adjoint des Affaires étrangères, Thomas R.Nides s'oppose à la version antérieure de l'amendement Kirk démontrant une incohérence complète. D'une part, Nides déclare que Kirk voudrait, en forçant le gouvernement américain à « rendre un jugement public sur le nombre et le statut des réfugiés palestiniens … préjuger et déterminer l'issue de cette question sensible. » D'autre part, Nides lui-même se réfère à « environ cinq millions de réfugiés [de Palestine], » ce qui amalgame les réfugiés vrais et faux – et juge d'avance précisément la question qu'il désire fortement laisser ouverte. Cette déclaration de 5 millions de réfugiés n'était pas un coup de chance ; quand interrogé à ce sujet, le porte-parole du ministre des Affaires étrangères Patrick Ventrell a confirmé que « le gouvernement américain soutient » le principe directeur consistant à «reconnaître les descendants des réfugiés comme réfugiés. »

En outre, en prédisant une « très forte réaction négative [à l'amendement] de la part des Palestiniens et de nos alliés dans la région, en particulier la Jordanie, » Nides a invité les Arabes à faire pression sur le Sénat des États-Unis, une sale manœuvre indigne du ministère des Affaires étrangères.

À travers l'ensemble des 64 ans d'existence d'Israël, tous les présidents américains, l'un après l'autre, ont décidé de résoudre le conflit israélo-arabe, mais chacun d'eux a ignoré le plus laid des aspects de ce conflit – l'exploitation délibérée de la question des réfugiés pour contester l'existence même de l'État juif. Bravo au sénateur Kirk et à son équipe pour avoir eu la sagesse et le courage de commencer l'effort pour aborder les réalités désagréables, initiant un changement qui va finalement parvenir au cœur du conflit.

Massacres en Syrie : la doctrine Obama en action

Guy Millière

dreuz.info, 30 mai 2012

Il n’est pas de bon ton de critiquer Barack Obama en France où il a toujours le statut d’un demi dieu, ou peu s’en faut. Il serait carrément sacrilège de le traiter de criminel de guerre. Cette expression pouvant paraître excessive, j’en choisirai une autre, et je dirai que c’est un irresponsable dont l’irresponsabilité fait des morts par centaines, si ce n’est par milliers. A son tableau de chasse, il y a l’arrivée des islamistes au pouvoir au Maroc et en Tunisie, le chaos qui règne en Egypte et en Libye, le pillage des arsenaux du régime Kadhafi et la dissémination de leur contenu vers l’Afrique subsaharienne, où vient de naître la République islamique de l’Azawad dans le Nord du Mali. On peut ajouter l’abandon de l’Irak à l’Iran et le retour, programmé, des talibans en Afghanistan, la mainmise accentuée du Hezbollah sur le Liban et le glissement progressif de la Turquie vers l’islam radical sans que celle-ci quitte l’Otan.

On pourrait ajouter aussi l’avancée de l’Iran vers l’arme nucléaire sans que des sanctions efficaces aient été prises (Obama a toujours refusé des sanctions efficaces, celles touchant la Banque centrale d’Iran par exemple), et l’abandon des modérés en Syrie au profit d’une cohorte menée par les Frères musulmans, eux-mêmes soutenus par le Qatar et l’Arabie Saoudite. Face à l’Iran, la plus grande crainte d’Obama était qu’Israël décide d’agir. Et il s’est employé à ce qu’Israël n’agisse pas, en contribuant à faire divulguer les projets d’action israéliens. Il est parvenu à obtenir du gouvernement israélien une promesse de non intervention pour une durée de six mois, qui conduira après les élections présidentielles de novembre, ce aux fins, a-t-il dit, d’obtenir un « accord » de Khamenei par l’entremise de la Russie.

Face à la Syrie, ce qu’Obama ne voulait pas était trancher. Et il s’est employé à ne pas avoir à trancher et à laisser le bain de sang se poursuivre. Il a, sur ce plan, l’intention de parvenir à un accord avec la Russie, qui soutient le régime Assad et entend garder sa base militaire à Tartous et avec l’Iran, sans offusquer le Qatar, l’Arabie Saoudite et la Turquie, ce qui ne sera pas simple (se courber devant tout ce monde à la fois n’est effectivement pas simple). Obama espère parvenir à l’accord dans la période de six mois susdite.

Les effets concrets de cette politique sont que l’Iran sait disposer de six mois de tranquillité pour vaquer à ses occupations et, fort du soutien de la Russie, peut envoyer des combattants en Syrie soutenir Assad. Ils sont qu’Assad sait ne pas risquer une intervention directe et pouvoir garder les mains libres. Les Casques bleus en Syrie font ce qu’ils font partout ailleurs, ils regardent passer les balles et ils comptent les cadavres. Les envoyés de l’ONU font ce qu’ils savent faire : ils parlent pour ne rien dire. Les tueurs font eux aussi ce qu’ils savent faire : ils tuent. Que va-t-il se passer ?

L’Iran va sans aucun doute accélérer ses travaux nucléaires, et il n’y aura pour les retarder que des virus informatiques, fort heureusement très performants. Obama et ses amis russes ne parviendront à aucun accord avec Khamenei avant l’élection présidentielle américaine : des réunions comme celle qui vient de se tenir à Bagdad se tiendront encore, avec Catherine Ashton et un Chinois pour jouer les figurants. Les communiqués finaux diront : « dialogue constructif, pas d’avancé significative ». Si Obama est réélu, il proposera sans doute un échange de l’abandon de son programme nucléaire par l’Iran contre une dénucléarisation générale du Proche-Orient qui visera au premier chef Israël. Israël devra, alors, agir, ou se soumettre, en sachant que les promesses de l’Iran ne vaudront que pour ceux qui croient aux promesses de l’Iran. Si Obama est battu, il sera urgent de changer d’orientation, vraiment urgent.

Que va-t-il se passer, disais-je. Le régime Assad va sans doute faire son possible pour massacrer le plus grand nombre d’opposants dans le minimum de temps. Puis, il pourra y avoir une continuation du régime Assad sans Assad, avec quelques compensations pour les Frères musulmans. Il n’est pas certain que les Frères musulmans acceptent le marché, d’autant plus que du côté sunnite, interviennent des gens d’al Qaida en nombre croissant. Si Obama est réélu, un régime Assad sans Assad allié à l’Iran sera en place dans un contexte où la guerre civile pourrait fort bien continuer. Si Obama est battu, il faudra là aussi changer d’orientation. Et ce sera très difficile. 

Bilan global pour l’heure? Les Frères musulmans sont les grands gagnants de l’hiver islamique qui a déferlé sur le monde arabe. Il n’est pas certain qu’ils seront gagnants aussi en Syrie. Le soutien qu’Obama leur a apporté jusque là se heurte, là, à la complaisance d’Obama vis-à-vis de l’Iran et de la Russie. Israël est isolé régionalement et se trouve contraint de tolérer la politique d’apaisement d’Obama vis-à-vis de l’Iran et de la Russie, jusqu’à novembre.

Les Etats-Unis sous Obama en sont réduits à être les alliés des Frères musulmans et à se soumettre, pour l’essentiel, aux exigences russes et iraniennes. Les Etats-Unis n’ont jamais été dans un tel abaissement depuis les années Carter. Et même Carter ne s’est pas aussi mal conduit qu’Obama vis-à-vis d’Israël, c’est dire. Il faudra un jour compter les morts provoqués par la politique Obama sur la planète. Mais il restera sacrilège de le traiter de criminel de guerre, bien sûr.

 La naïveté de l’Occident face au nucléaire iranien

Centre des Affaires Publiques et de l'État, Jérusalem, 31 mai 2012

Ces jours-ci nous entendons dans les capitales occidentales un son de cloche qui laisse à penser que les Iraniens sont cette fois-ci assez sérieux dans la volonté de discuter de leur programme nucléaire. Des diplomates soulignent que l’Iran s’est présenté aux pourparlers devant les représentants du Forum 5 + 1 (les cinq pays permanents du Conseil de Sécurité + l’Allemagne) sans conditions préalables. Yukiya Amano, directeur de l’Agence Internationale pour l’Energie Atomique (AIEA) a même déclaré qu’un accord entre les deux parties pourrait être signé prochainement. Catherine Ashton, la représentante de la Communauté européenne, a estimé que ces discussions « s’achemineront vers le début de la fin du programme nucléaire de l’Iran ».

Ces estimations optimistes, en particulier celles d’Ashton, sont incompatibles avec les amères expériences que l’Occident avait subies lors des précédents pourparlers. Déjà en 2002, suite à la première divulgation de l’infrastructure iranienne pour l’enrichissement d’uranium, une commission composée de la Grande-Bretagne, de la France, et de l’Allemagne (UE-3) avait négocié avec l’Iran pour qu’il cesse ses travaux. Le 21 octobre 2003, à Téhéran, le Forum UE-3 avait conclu avec les Iraniens « de suspendre toute activité d’enrichissement de l’uranium » ainsi que de cesser les efforts de production du plutonium. La suite est bien connue et illustre parfaitement les intentions de l’Iran. Ce pays n’est pas capable de respecter ses engagements et ses promesses.

Après la signature de cet accord, les diplomates iraniens ont trouvé toutes sortes de prétexte et ont affirmé que cet accord n’était valable que sur l’introduction du gaz uranium dans les centrifugeuses de l’usine de Nataz et qu’il ne se référait pas à toutes les autres étapes préliminaires nécessaires au processus. Les Iraniens ont réitéré leur droit de poursuive la construction de centrifugeuses. L’étape de pré-enrichissement est surnommée « conversion » et elle comprend l’utilisation de l’uranium intitulé « gâteau jaune ». C’est par ce processus que le gaz produit est introduit dans les centrifugeuses. En 2003, l’Iran n’avait pas encore de site de conversion. En 2005, juste après les négociations avec les Occidentaux, les Iraniens avaient déjà réussi à compléter l’installation à Ispahan et l’avaient mis en marche, et ce en proclamant la fin de la suspension du programme d’enrichissement.

Dans un discours tenu secret, Hassan Rouhani, chef de la délégation iranienne aux négociations, s’était vanté d’affirmer que les Iraniens ont profité de ces négociations pour pouvoir installer leur site à Ispahan. La manière dont l’Iran a utilisé les négociations est l’une des pierres angulaires de sa diplomatie essentiellement basée sur la diversion et l’abus de confiance. Dans son ouvrage, « régime islamique », publié avant la révolution de 1979, Ayatollah Khomeiny, explique à ses fidèles que « dans chaque discussion nous devons garder le principe de la « Takya », nous devons présenter un certain souhait tout en cachant nos véritables intentions. » Ainsi fonctionne la diplomatie iranienne au sujet du programme nucléaire. L’ancien ambassadeur britannique à Téhéran, Sir Denis Wright, expliqua le phénomène en disant un jour: « les Iraniens disent le contraire de ce qu’ils pensent et font le contraire de ce qu’ils disent ».

Ces remarques ne sont pas des propos racistes mais reflètent bien la manière dont est appliquée la tradition religieuse -chiite dans les débats diplomatiques disputés aujourd’hui entre l’Iran et l’occident. Dans toute négociation avec l’Iran le principe de transparence demeure essentiel. Le contrôle des installations secrètes a été à plusieurs reprises retardé en violation flagrante des engagements. Les Iraniens avaient profité du laps de temps pour enterrer les preuves incriminantes.

Pour exemple, les Iraniens ont retiré le carrelage des murs dans le site électrique de Kalia, pour empêcher les inspecteurs de l’AIEA à vérifier les restes des produits radioactifs issus des essais effectués dans les nouvelles centrifugeuses.  Dans l’institut de recherche de Levisane, destiné au recyclage à des fins militaires, les Iraniens ont simplement détruit six bâtiments et ont même retiré de profondes couches de terre afin qu’on ne puisse prélever des échantillons radioactifs. En janvier 2005, au cours d’une inspection à Parchine, les Iraniens ont également limité le mouvement des inspecteurs à certains bâtiments précis. Nous devrions comprendre que chez les ayatollahs, la différence existe bien entre un accord de principe et entre ce que l’on pourra faire sur le terrain.

Toutefois, afin de répondre à la question si l’Iran respecterait les accords conclus avec l’Occident, il est important de ne pas s’attarder uniquement sur les détails techniques. Déjà en juillet 1991, le guide suprême iranien, ayatollah Ali Khamenei expliquait que la stratégie de la sécurité nationale de l’Iran est surtout expansionniste. Le général Kassem Suleiman, commandant des forces d’al Qouds au sein des Gardiens de la révolution, a affirmé récemment : « l’Irak et le sud Liban sont sous contrôle de Téhéran. » Autrement dit, l’Occident ne négocie pas avec un des pays possédant une infrastructure nucléaire, tel que le Japon ou la Suède mais avec un Etat aux ambitions hégémoniques qui ignore éperdument l’optimisme qui s’est emparé actuellement chez les diplomates occidentaux!

ISRAEL’S OTHER “PARTNER FOR PEACE”: BASHAR “THE REFORMER” ASSAD

 

 

 

THE SYRIAN CRISIS
Lee Smith
Weekly Standard, May 9, 2011

 

Now more than a month and a half after peaceful demonstrations kicked off in the small city of Deraa, the Syrian uprising gives the Obama administration another shot at getting history right. The first time was June 2009, when the people of Iran took to the streets to protest the fixed presidential elections that returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to office. But in time the protests expanded to critique every aspect of Iran’s closed society: from the lack of freedom of speech to Iran’s abysmal women’s rights to support of foreign terrorist organizations like Hezbollah. The Green Movement was a rebuke to the essential nature of Tehran’s obscurantist government. The Iranian people sought nothing less than freedom.

And the Obama administration blinked.…

What we know today is that the political aspirations of the Iranian people frustrated the administration’s plans to reach out to their rulers. According to an administration official quoted last week in the same New Yorker article that described the president’s strategy as “leading from behind,” “We were still trying to engage the Iranian government and we did not want to do anything that made us side with the protesters.”

President Obama came to office with high hopes for engaging Syria, too. He’d promised as much on the campaign trail. If George W. Bush had isolated the Assad regime after its suspected involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, an Obama White House would bring the Syrians in from the cold and show them that it was in their own best interest to change their behavior.

The problem is that, after several decades of U.S. envoys and policymakers making the pilgrimage to Damascus with the same evangelical purpose, the Assads (first the father Hafez and now the son Bashar) know how the game is played. The Americans want concrete results—like abandoning support for Hezbollah and Hamas, splitting from Iran, closing down the jihadist pipeline into Iraq—that would cost the Syrians too much. So instead the Assads promise much, give nothing, and profit handsomely from the prestige that comes to them merely from sitting at the same table as the Americans.

It is perhaps strange that a country whose most notable export is terrorism should figure so prominently in the calculations of Washington policymakers. But for the Obama White House, Syria was central. The president intended to show his bona fides to the Arab and Muslim masses by advancing the Arab-Israeli peace process, thereby dampening anti-American sentiment. As the Palestinian track faltered, Obama needed the Syrian track even more—not least because the Syrians could crash the entire peace process at any time with one spectacular act of violence against Israelis or Arabs or both. Moreover, the administration believed, progress on the peace process was a way to sideline the Iranians.

In other words, the Obama administration’s counterterrorism strategy and regional security strategy both depended on flipping Assad. The White House is essentially protecting a man who sent tanks to fire on his own people because Syria is the cornerstone of its Middle East policy.

Events have overrun the administration’s understanding of the Middle East. As it turns out, Arabs are more concerned with the governance of their own polities than with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That is why they have risen around the region to reject their autocratic leaders. It is why Syrians have braved the regime’s sniper fire and tanks to protest, “silmiyyeh, silmiyyeh,” as one of the uprising’s mottoes has it: Peaceful, peaceful.

This is Obama’s second chance to get the Middle East right, by speaking out loudly and clearly against Iran’s chief ally. Unfortunately, according to administration officials, the White House doesn’t believe it has much leverage with the Syrians. Such resignation is the natural consequence of not recognizing how the United States is truly perceived in the world: as a leader, albeit an imperfect one, and a symbol of moral clarity. If the president wants to win the respect and admiration of Arab and Muslim peoples, the opportunity has presented itself, again.…

As one Lebanese friend says, “Syria never had anything more to offer Washington than blood—the blood of Lebanese, Palestinians, Israelis, Iraqis, and Americans. Now that the regime is letting its own blood, the blood of Syrians, will the leader of the free world finally stop negotiating in blood?” A nation that has reckoned honestly with its own failings throughout its history has not only the prerogative but the duty to lead with the truth. The danger of leading from behind is that history will pass you by.

 

DAMASCUS NEEDS REGIME CHANGE
Bret Stephens

Wall Street Journal, April 19, 2011

 

It’s coming on close to four decades since the U.S. foreign policy establishment got into the business of making excuses for the Assad regime in Syria. Maybe it’s time to stop.

The excuses come in many forms. Hillary Clinton, citing the testimony of congressional leaders who have met with Bashar Assad, calls the Syrian president a “reformer.” In the National Interest, former CIA official Paul Pillar writes that “there is underestimation of how much worthwhile business could be conducted with the incumbent [Assad] regime, however distasteful it may be.” On PBS’s NewsHour, Flynt Leverett of the New America Foundation says that Mr. Assad “can probably marshal at least 50% of the society…[who are] looking to him primarily to demonstrate that he can hold this together and keep [Syria] from turning into post-Saddam Iraq or civil war in Lebanon.”

Those are just some of the recent commentaries, offered even as the regime slaughters scores of peaceful protesters in its streets. They arrive on top of years worth of true belief that Damascus wants a peace deal with Jerusalem (if only the stiff-necks would take one); or that it is a stabilizing force in the region (or could be if its “legitimate needs” are met); or that it has been a valuable ally in the war on terror (ill-used by the Bush administration); or that, bad as the regime is, whatever comes after it would probably be worse.

Today this fellow-traveling seems a bit distasteful. But the important point is that it has always been absurd. Hafez Assad turned down multiple offers from several Israeli prime ministers to return the Golan Heights. Bashar Assad once told a Lebanese newspaper that “It is inconceivable that Israel will become a legitimate state, even if the peace process is implemented.” Syria brutalized Lebanon throughout a 29-year military occupation, climaxing—but not yet concluding—with the assassination in 2005 of Rafik Hariri and 21 others. The regime nearly provoked a war with Turkey in the late 1990s by harboring the leader of the PKK, the Kurdish terrorist group. It continues to harbor the leadership of Hamas and other Palestinian “resistance” groups. It serves as the principal arms conduit to Hezbollah. It funneled al Qaeda terrorists to Iraq. It pursued an illicit nuclear program courtesy of North Korea. It is Iran’s closest ally in the region and probably in the world.

The list goes on. And as the regime behaves toward its neighbors, so too does it against its own people. A “Damascus Spring” early in Bashar Assad’s tenure quickly turned into a Mao-style Let 100 Flowers Bloom exercise of unmasking the regime’s domestic opponents. Mr. Assad was “re-elected” in 2007 with 97.6% of the vote. Freedom House notes that “Syrians access the internet only through state-run servers, which block more than 160 sites associated with the opposition.” Again, the list goes on.

All this raises the question of why the Obama administration won’t call for Mr. Assad to step aside. After all, it did so with long-standing U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak when Egyptians took to the streets, on the theory that America should stand with the people in their demand for change—even when we are not yet sure what change will bring. And it did so again with long-standing enemy Moammar Gadhafi on the theory that the international community has a “responsibility to protect” when civilians are being shot in the streets. Both conditions are now operative in Syria.

Last month I asked Robert Gates whether the U.S. would support regime change in Damascus. “I’m not going to go that far,” he answered, adding that “maybe the Syrians can take a lesson out of what happened in Egypt, where the army stood aside and let the people demonstrate.” The problem is that the Syrian army hasn’t stepped aside, and won’t, because its key units—the intelligence ministry, the Republican Guards—are in the hands of Mr. Assad’s immediate relatives.…

What, then, should the administration do? As Middle East analyst Firas Maksad notes, it would not be asking much of President Obama to recall his recently installed ambassador to Damascus as a signal of U.S. displeasure. Nor would it hurt to refer Syria’s case to the Human Rights Council, or to designate regime money-man Rami Makhlouf, another Assad relative and easily the most detested man in Syria, for Treasury Department sanctions. At a minimum, such moves would put the U.S. symbolically on the side of the protesters and improve our leverage with them should they come to power.

Yesterday I asked Henry Kissinger where the U.S. interest in Syria lies. “We don’t owe [Mr. Assad] an exit with dignity, to say the least,” he told me. “We are for a Syria that is a responsible member of the international community and that will be treated with respect and cooperation if it works for peace and if it does not support terrorist organizations in neighboring countries.”

The Assad regime has proved over 41 years that it cannot meet that standard. It’s time to help replace it with one that can.

 

SYRIA NOT A PARTNER FOR PEACE? SO WHAT’S NEW?
Barry Rubin
Rubin Reports, April 30, 2011

 

The Obama administration no longer considers Syria a potential peace partner for Israel because of its repression against its own people. This is according to media background interviews with government officials.

But wait a minute! What do we know about that regime now that we didn’t know—I should say, should have known—a month or six months or six years ago? Syria has been a repressive, radical dictatorship at least since 1963 and arguably a few years earlier.

We know the same thing about Hizballah and the other rulers of Lebanon; Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip; and—to a much lesser extent but it’s still basically true—the Palestinian Authority.

So what has been the Western idea up until now? Namely for Israel to make a peace with these “partners” involving major risks and concessions. For example, Israel is supposed to give the Golan Heights to this regime in Syria in exchange for its promise of peace.

If you’ve never seen the Golan Heights in person you can’t imagine its unique strategic significance. Israel’s territory is perfectly flat and stretches to the nearby Mediterranean. The Golan Heights rise almost vertically above it and looks over this land like a balcony. Those up on the Heights can bombard downward to their heart’s content with artillery, rockets, missiles, and mortars. Once Israel gives up the Heights there are no natural defenses between there and the sea. And by the same token it would be very hard—and costly in casualties—for Israel to recapture the Golan.

It is almost impossible for any piece of territory to have a greater military advantage.

Giving this territory to the Assad regime is the kind of silly idea that passes as somewhere between brilliance and conventional wisdom in every Western government and mass media outlet. Of course, if the Syrian government were the kind of regime that would agree to eternal peace and keep that agreement then such a deal would make sense. But it isn’t.

If one could have a real knowledge in advance that its successor would also keep a peace treaty—as long as the sky is blue and the rivers flow—it could be justified. But that’s not true either, as the situation in Egypt is showing, as the situation in the Gaza Strip has shown. How many examples do you need?

And if one could know that the Western countries would keep their promised guarantees and then come riding like the cavalry to smite the evildoer who broke agreements with Israel than those guarantees would be credible. But, once again, that’s not true, as the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip with Hamas, and the truce ending the 2006 war with Hizballah, and the 1993 agreement with what became the Palestinian Authority show. How many examples do you need?

According to the current way of thinking then, only after the concessions have been made, the risks undertaken, and the piece of paper signed do we find out that these weren’t partners for peace. But then it would be too late.

Isn’t it better to learn such things beforehand? In fact, isn’t it better to learn that reality right now this minute?

(Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center,
and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.
Mr. Rubin will be a guest speaker at the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research’s
upcoming Gala, scheduled for June 15, 2011.)

 

WHY SHOULD ISRAEL MAKE PEACE WITH FAILED STATES?
Martin Peretz
New Republic, May 11, 2011

 

…The present upheavals [in the Arab world] in their cumulative impact are deadening. Not only to the victims of the regimes but to their observers, commentators, rapporteurs.

Actually, many of these observers, perhaps most, are infatuated with the Arabs. But infatuation is really a variant on infantilization. The torment now spreading in the Arab world, however, is an evidential repudiation of this view, a cardinal attribute of which is that whatever difficulties obtained in the vast space from the Maghreb to the outskirts of Baghdad are attributable to Israel, in particular, and maybe even to the Jews, in general. This was very convenient in that it matched with the traditional bigotries of Western diplomatic elites. Yet it had a contemporary ring to it—from Barack Obama’s pastor to the increasingly monolithic editorial view of the liberal press.

One of the reasons that this is so is that this is a field where knowledge is certainly arcane, if not deliberately suppressed. Given the phantasmagoric nature of Arab governmental documents, would you trust material from official archives? In addition to all of this is the haste and fashion of news itself. The “experts” simply do not know much about the topics on which they have to anddo pretend expertise. Many who report and interpret for us know exactly zero about their quickly changing subjects. For most, a one-page memo or a quick update will do. Syria is a case in point. I would bet that some of the authoritative press people don’t know the difference between Hama, a town the population of which Bashir Assad’s father, Hafez, bombed to smithereens and killed some 10,000 to 40,000 (a difference that maybe should make a difference) Sunnis in the process, and Hamas, the governing terrorist organization in Gaza that is itself Sunni but is willing to make alliances with anybody—that is, Turks, the Shia of Iran, and the secularized Alawites in Damascus—as long as they are antagonists, loathing antagonists, of Israel. In this sentence alone lay a thousand facts and factoids. And don’t forget that between Turkey and Syria lies a land dispute with a long past and passions aplenty to match it.…

Actually, it is Syria where outside ignorance and inattention have reaped for the regime enormous latitude over the years. And enormous latitude now when it has over just about a month murdered a thousand people, maybe more. Not exactly its own people, by the way, but that is how things are in the body counts of tyrannies. How many wounded have been picked off by snipers (here acting as random rather than precise killers) nobody really knows. But the scandal of this all is the fact that the presidency of Barack Obama has been more or less allied with the dictatorship since it came to power, a part of the liberal idealist’s opening to the Arabs whoever they were. Or, to be precise, the ignominy of it all was that it was a courtship by the paradigmatic democracy of the paradigmatic oppressor which would respond to every overture with insult and scorn.…

Of course, the Obama-Clinton diplomacy—oops, I almost typed “Carter” for “Clinton”—with Syria was initially an aspect of the president’s patently foolish diplomacy with Iran about which people nodded sagely but knew deep inside it was twaddle. But long after Obama understood—reluctantly, I am certain—that there weren’t deals to be had with Tehran (neither with Ahmadinejad nor with Khamenei) the president pursued his Damascus gamesmanship with a stubbornness that was born of his sense that he was always right. At least in foreign policy, about which he knows even less than about technical economic issues, his tenacity has been the cause of an almost seamless set of international failures. Alas, very few in the United States notice because we are fixated on our domestic exertions. Now, it may not be that Obama actually desires American authority and grip in the world to slip away, although I suspect that he might see this as a triumph for what old enthusiasts of this disposition call international morality and international law. Still, the decline of America is the sure consequence of his actions.

I have just read two articles about Syria. One, “Hundreds Reported Arrested as Syria’s Crackdown Widens,” is in The New York Times, datelined Beirut. One knows that it is based on sources in Damascus and other Syrian cities. But names can’t be used and, even in Lebanon, informants are better off nameless lest Assad’s long-armed secret police reach over the feeble frontier to silence him, like he silenced Rafik Hariri, the zillionaire Sunni prime minister of the neighboring cedar republic in 2005. “The scale and ferocity of the crackdown” is actually hair-raising, what with young children being arrested with their elders. There were dead…but no one can make a true estimate.…

“Living Dead: Why is Syria Going Up in Flames?” is the second article, really an interpretative essay on Syria where a new writer for TNR, Theo Padnos, lived for several years. We think we know a dictatorship by how it behaves in exigent threat. But Padnos actually conveys the essence of how “normal” life prepares people slowly, almost casually, for dread. You can even sing along with the fashionable young of Damascus in the jolly days. But you’ll end up being cannily knowing about the erratic and also almost completely static rhythm of the police state. How well the tyranny plays off these two impulses determine its destiny. Maybe Assad will win this call. But maybe he won’t.

Still, the Obama administration has been wishing him well for at least two years. Or, rather, it should be said that Obama administration initiatives involving Syria—had they been successful which, of course, they were not—would have propped up the dictatorship by exaggerating its intrinsic sway, its own freedom of movement and the justice of its grievance against Israel. It is as if we have suddenly decided that a regime that tries to capture another country and loses territory in the process has the right to have it repatriated as if nothing had ever happened. Try, try, and try again, so to speak.

This is especially the case in the Levant where the diplomacy of boundaries going back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire—whose power had been wielded at a time from Vienna to Central Asia—was so scrawly and shifting that no one could know from one day to the next where this scepter held sway and that one did not. A propos these vagaries, in the diplomatic talks between France and England following the signing of the Sykes-Picot agreement in 1916 up to 1923 the biblical phrase “from Dan to Beer-Sheva” was the template of any map. But, of course, the words were more evocative than determinate, metaphoric than concrete. And so the cartographic war, from then and now, continues. What are Syria’s real claims to the Golan Heights? There were Syrian Arabs in the Golan prior to 1967. But no one actually thought of himself as ethnically or nationally Syrian. Instead, they replicated the diversity of hate, the permanent schismatics of difference. Moreover, the resident Alawite contingent—surprise! surprise!—is quite loyal to Israel. And there are Druze whose affinities are hard to judge since they are neither Arab nor Jew. In any case, what is Syria? It is certainly not a coherent or cohesive nation, what with its constant incitement of sectarian strife. And then there is the hydrostrategics of its geography, a permanent temptation for anyone governing from Damascus.

Spotted around Israel are failed states. I doubt that the states to the north, Lebanon and Syria, can be mended. Their essence was always difference. But certainly not as democracies where the rights of diverse groups are honored.… In Syria, 10 percent of the population governs. The majoritarian rest, the Sunnis and their Muslim Brotherhood vanguard, have been cowering since 1982.… Pity the Alawites when the Sunnis will strike for revenge. On the other hand, how much can you pity the Alawites who have been plundering and imprisoning and also murdering for four decades?

What had Obama in his head when he tried to jumpstart Israeli negotiations with Syria? Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, what else? The answer is simple and transparent: Israel’s retreat from territories it had captured while they were being used by enemies trying to vitiate Israel itself. But this is the president’s steady trope. Israel should withdraw from the West Bank and ancient Jerusalem and East Jerusalem and, yes, the Golan Heights, too, without a shred of evidence that it would be protected, could be protected from attack by armed soldiers, armed aircraft and armed terrorists, by a deadly admixture of regular troops with guerrillas somehow coddled by human rights organizations which define the latter virtually as civilians. Do you believe that the Arabs truly want peace? Does President Obama? Well, I don’t.…

Why am I not a believer? Because the only unifying strand in the disparate state systems of the Arabs is their struggle against the Jews, the Zionists, the Israelis. Nothing else motivates them so doggedly. The Christians also are targets of the various Muslim governments under which they live, and their numbers are falling in every country of the region—except Israel.…

The future plight of the Christians in the region has been foreshadowed in Egypt where yet another slaughter of innocents took place on May 8 after a string of fiery incidents. “We are in a jungle,” cried a Coptic bishop. Eleven men and women, both Christian and Muslim, were left for dead, with about 250 wounded, of which some 50 were shot. Two churches were incinerated. It was an assault by Salafists who make the Muslim Brothers appear moderate.

We are now being sermonized, mostly by journalistic oracles, to believe that these last months are a Prague Spring for Muslims. They have an agenda and it is to convince Israel not to be a killjoy but to join the party and ease the path to peace. I happen to believe that Arabs need to learn to live with each other before Israel opens itself to its neighbors’ villainy now being practiced on their own.

(Martin Peretz is editor-in-chief emeritus of The New Republic.)