May 28, 2008
JERUSALEM--At first glance, Ehud Olmert and Bashar al-Assad have nothing in common. The first is a slick, media-savvy politico, while the second is an awkward, anti-charismatic, unloved and unlovable dictator. But Israel's prime minister and Syria's ruler have both concluded that the best way to beat the rap, respectively, on corruption and murder charges is to make peace with one another. That, at least, is the impression of many Israelis, prominent commentators among them, in light of last week's revelation of indirect talks between Syrian and Israeli negotiators in Turkey.
The TNR Primary: Part Twelve
January 25, 2008
I spent last May with a group of writers touring Arab universities, meeting with students in Syria, Jordan, and Palestine. Whenever we were able to speak informally, politics--specifically, American politics--came up again and again. At times, the anxiety among the students we met was overwhelming. They wanted to know why we had gone to Iraq, why we had reelected Bush, why we had squandered our opportunity to lead. Which brings me to this year's presidential contest. I've never voted with much enthusiasm, and, certainly, this year feels different.
A Circus Or A Conclave?
September 30, 2007
An article in Monday's Ha'aretz reports that there will be 36 countries in attendance at the Annapolis Israeli/Palestinian peace conference planned for next month. If anything close to that number participates it will be more a circus than a conclave. The fact is that the only nation outside the Middle East that has real cards to play is the United States. And real cards means influence with Israel. OK, by extension, you might also have France, Britain, Turkey and a few others just for historical reasons.
June 13, 2007
"Sisterly countries," a pig's ass. Even the UN envoy for Middle Eastern matters, Terje Roed-Larsen, is disturbed by the continuing transfer of weapons and armed men across the border from Syria into Lebanon. Their destination is known: Hezbollah which is, of course, allied with Damascus which in turn is kept alive by Tehran. Not a holy trinity.
The New Hegemon
December 18, 2006
Vali Nasr on life under a nuclear Iran.
Damascus rising.; Syriana
December 11, 2006
Yes, I admit it. This is a theme I've been harping on for almost aquarter of a century: Syria sees Lebanon as an illegitimate break away from a great empire ruled from and by Damascus. Parts ofIraq and Turkey, and Cyprus in its entirety, are also duchies in this imagined imperium. And, of course, Israel. In the struggle against the Jewish restoration, many Arabs of Palestine called themselves southern Syrians. That provided a rationale for Damascusto fight in every Arab war against the Jews. Lebanon itself is a contrivance of the French, hewn from thedisintegrated Ottoman Empire.
Ally with the Sunnis
November 27, 2006
The war in Iraq is lost--at least the original one, which was to make the place and then all of Arabia safe through democracy. The "democratic peace"--the idea that only despots make war while democracies are basically pacific--is as old as the republic itself. But not even Woodrow Wilson, the most fervent believer in the idea, went to war against Wilhelmine Germany in 1917 for the sake of democracy. That was the ideological icing on a power-political cake. The Kaiser's U-boats were sinking U.S.
Talk, Talk, Talk
November 27, 2006
I am not sure that there is anything that we can do with our army in Iraq that won't make things worse than they are. That may be an un-American sentiment. (Isn't there always something to do, and aren't we always the ones who can do it?) But what are our options? Should we "stay the course"? That only means more of the same awfulness. Bring in more troops? That might have worked a few years ago; now, it would only generate more resistance and make the awfulness more awful. In any case, it is politically impossible here at home. Withdraw immediately?
October 02, 2006
Earlier this year, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in China—and quickly made himself at home. The occasion was a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional group linking China, Russia, and Central Asia. During the summit, Ahmadinejad seemed to be everywhere. He posed, arms linked, with Russian and Chinese officials, who said nothing as he called for “impartial and independent experts” to investigate whether the Holocaust happened. He delivered a major address broadcast on Chinese state television.
October 02, 2006
Shortly after I arrived in Damascus this summer, I dropped by the offices of Dr. Mohammed Al Habash, one of Syria’s leading religious scholars, to interview him about the rise of Islam in his country. But the Danes beat me to him. Habash’s Islamic Studies Center was hosting the first official Danish delegation to travel to Syria since a mob, infuriated by the publication of cartoons of the Prophet in a Danish newspaper, had attacked and burned the Danish Embassy in February.