Sunday, August 27, 2006

You cannot teach a donkey to play the piano!

Click on image to enlarge

The incompetence of the Baath Party and Assad clan is legendary. Here it is, in the above chart, for all to see.

Average income in Syria has barely moved in the last 24 years, despite the oil wealth. By contrast, our Jordanian and Lebanese neighbours, who hardly have any natural resources, use only their brains to scratch a living. Jordan's average income has been growing for 14 years. Lebanon's has more than doubled over the same period despite Syrian meddling in its affairs.

What is Syria's excuse? Security? Wars? Eathquakes? Famine?

Is it not obvious that the economy and people of Syria have been left to rot for decades while their rulers have been enjoying power and fortune?

What will they do when the oil runs out in a few years time? Will they give up and leave us alone or will they try to pinch our last remaing pennies? Will they learn to do better or are they really like the proverbial donkey whose brains are too small and hooves too big to play the piano?

You get no prizes for guessing the right answers.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Syrian Jingoism hits the stratosphere

President Assad kept a low profile and refrained from making public speeches during the month-long battle in Lebanon. As soon as the cease fire came into effect, he declared a “glorious victory for the resistance” and attacked Lebanese parties that wanted to disarm Hizbullah and Arab rulers who had accused it of adventurism. He then went on to replay an old record for the Israelis and Americans: “give-me-back-the-Golan-or-I’ll-sacrifice-any-number-of-Lebanese-and-Palestinian-lives-in fighting-you”. The German Foreign Minister, who wanted to bring Syria in from the cold, in spite of US and EU opposition, cancelled his trip to Damascus upon hearing Assad’s speech.

During the fighting in Lebanon, Assad clearly did not know which way to jump. The price that he could exact from the West for his silence and acquiescence was also not high enough.

No one seems to have forgotten the Hariri investigation and no offers on the Golan have been forthcoming. German promises of technical assistance and grants from the EU to help reform his administration are not, what you might literally call, up his street.

Does he feel frozen out and cheated by the West? Of course he does. What else could explain his jingoistic outburst and hollow defiance? Syria’s foreign policy is now so bankrupt, blatantly mercenary and regime-centric that it has nowhere left to go except Iran, Belarus and North Korea.

Syria is holding herself out as the only “noble Arab country” to resist US and Israeli hegemony over the region, expose their weaknesses and humiliate them on the battlefield through Hizbullah. At the same time, Syria wants Israel to hand back every inch of the Golan Heights (which she won in battle) with the blessing of the United States. Syria wants a land-for-peace deal but Assad complains that neither Israel nor the current US administration is interested in peace. He also attacks the Europeans and Arab rulers for acting as US stooges. Syria has no real answer to its severe isolation except to serve Iran’s nuclear ambitions and political doctrine in the region.

It has not occurred to the regime that they can earn the respect and friendship of the world, as well as a place at the negotiating table, by winning an honest election. They cannot comprehend that their illegitimacy makes them an untrustworthy partner in peace and a false representative of the people of Syria and their values, aspirations and wishes. It has not crossed their minds that the Syrian people can no longer feed on empty slogans. It does not bother them that antagonising so many nations and powers at the same time leaves our country vulnerable to an attack and a crushing defeat. Should such an attack be mounted against Syria, the Assads and their cronies would be the first to slip away. They would not be short of funds, foreign property or foreign passports to ensure a comfortable life for themselves and their offspring away from all the “human garbage” in Syria.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Ronald Reagan was right after all

"History teaches that war begins when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap".
You can mock an actor-turned-President, but his words still ring true.

Israel, Iran and Syria seem to believe, each in her own way, that provocation and aggression are cheap compared to the gains. The price is lives lost and the benefit is more security and glory for the living.

They all seem to have got their arithmetic horribly wrong.

Israel has lost not only more lives than expected, but also her invincibility and the moral high ground. Thus far, she has neither secured her future peace nor achieved eternal glory.

Iranian and Syrian rulers do not care much for lives lost, because they belonged to poor Lebanese villagers and the dead are martyrs on their way to heaven. The rulers have won public opinion and the propaganda war. They are losing the Hizbullah card but gaining another by radicalising the Iraqi Shia. Syria does not want be sidelined by the superpowers, but she will be. Iran wants to become a regional and nuclear power but she will not be allowed to.

So, are we back to square one, where it all starts all over again?

Tony Blair thinks it all hinges on an equitable resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. How original and how profound! Still, it is a welcome restatement of the blindingly obvious and better late than never. So, why don't we all sit back and let the Hamas and Israeli governments hammer out an agreement all by themselves? It seems that secret negotiations had already been underway between senior Hamas government and Israeli parliamentary figures when the current crisis broke out (or more accurately was provoked). Extremist elements on both the Israeli side and exiled Hamas-Syria-Iran axis side wanted to scupper the negotiations.

The Lebanese and their children are still paying with blood for the arrogance, miscalculations and brinkmanship of Iranian, Israeli and Syrian rulers. The US neocons were never going to be anthing but amoral sponsors of Israeli military deterrence-cum-aggression. Rumsfeld, Cheyney & Co will not be troubled by the loss of Arab or Israeli lives so long as oil remains on tap, new weapon systems can be tested and sold in the region and reconstruction work is paid for by the American tax payer.

It is high time that the Israelis and Palestinians settled their differences and shared the land equitably. The conflict has ruined the lives of two generations already and ordinary people on both sides are exhausted. Failure to turn this ugly war into a lasting peace between the Palestinians and Israelis will ensure that other powers will continue to exploit the conflict to their own advantage.

Will Mr Olmert and Mr Hanniya have the courage and vision to make their peoples' dreams come true? I hope and wonder.