The Year of the Elephant
May 20, 2009
“YES, SOMETIMES I GO into the room with my advisers and I start shouting. And then they say, ‘And then what?’” The question hangs in the perfectly cooled air in Sa’ad Hariri’s marble-floored sitting room, where Beirut appears as a sunlit abstraction visible at a distance through thick windows. Hariri’s father, the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, martyr of the Cedar Revolution, arches his black eyebrows from a giant poster near the sofa, looking out at his son with a sidelong, mischievous glance. “It hasn’t been a joyful trip,” Sa’ad Hariri is saying.
March 04, 2009
Baghdad, Iraq In December 2007, the Alpha Company of the 4-64 Armor Battalion of the Fourth Brigade, Third Infantry Division, arrived in the neighborhood of Saidiyah in southwest Baghdad. More than half of the onceupscale, religiously mixed neighborhood's 60,000 residents had fled to Jordan, Syria, or other parts of Iraq. Those who stayed rarely ventured out of their homes. Up until a few months earlier, human corpses had littered the street, where stray dogs feasted on them.
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?