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Robin Yassin-Kassab

Posts Tagged ‘Bashar al-Asad

Syria’s Diversified Options

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French bullet holes in the ceiling

This was written six months ago and recently published in Political Insight.

A sigh of relief blew across Syria when the Bush administration was retired. Bush had backed Israel’s reoccupation of West Bank cities, described Ariel ‘the Bulldozer’ Sharon as “a man of peace”, given Syria two million Iraqi refugees and an inflation crisis, and blamed Syria for the assassination of Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. Veiled American threats of “regime change” scared the Syrian people – who observed the blood rushing from neighbouring Iraq – almost as much as they scared the regime itself.

Obama’s re-engagement signalled an end to the days of considering Syria – in the predatorial neo-con phrase – “low-hanging fruit”, but American overtures have remained cautious, the new administration’s policy severely limited by its commitments to Israel and the domestic Israel lobby. Obama nominated Robert Ford as the first American ambassador to Damascus in five years, but the appointment has since been blocked by the Senate. In May, Obama renewed Bush-era sanctions, citing Syria’s “continuing support for terrorist organizations and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and missile programs,” which, “continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”

So not much has changed. The neoconservative language is still in place, the same elision of distance between American and Israeli interests, and between anti-occupation militias and al-Qa’ida-style terrorists, plus a flat refusal to understand that the countries really under unusual and extraordinary threat of attack are Syria, Lebanon, and – Netanyahu’s “new Amalek” – Iran.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

October 19, 2010 at 11:55 am

Posted in Syria

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A Process of Change – Nasrallah to Petraeus

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It’s important to remember that Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s speeches consist of more than mere rhetoric. One of the reasons for Nasrallah’s enormous popularity in the Arab and Muslim worlds is that, unlike other Arab leaders, he says what he means and means what he says. Hizbullah is the only force to have defeated Israel – once in 2000, when the brutal occupation of south Lebanon was brought to an end, and once in 2006, when Israeli troops attempted to reinvade in order to dismantle the resistance, but bled on the border for five weeks instead. During the 2006 war Israel bombed every TV mast it could find, but failed to put Hizbullah’s al-Manar off the air. Nasrallah spoke on al-Manar of “the Israeli warship that attacked our infrastructure, people’s homes and civilians. Look at it burn!” As Nasrallah uttered these words, a Hizbullah missile did indeed disable an Israeli warship, forcing Israel to move its fleet away from the Lebanese coast.

In mid-February 2010, Shaikh Nasrallah made a speech which may well mark a fundamental change in the Middle Eastern balance of power. The speech, quoted below, should not be read as a string of empty threats, but a signal of new weaponry and fighting capabilities.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

March 23, 2010 at 7:16 pm