Friday, September 23, 2005

Syria Warns America

O.D.M looks at a very futuristic and highly improbable news story in the future, unfortunately, he knows why it is not likely to happen anytime soon

___________________________________________
Syria Warns McCain: All Options are on the Table
By Abdulkarimov Balakhof, PRAVDA Chief International Editor
February 28, 2009

[Damascus, Syria] -- Syrian Prime Minister O.D.M warned the U.S. president McCain of taking his country to the World Security Council. The statement came in light of president McCain’s “Liberty speech” in Baghdad.

“I am tired of colonialist ideologies, “uttered Syria’s strongman O.D.M in front of world reporters in the Damascus International Press Club, “McCain needs to respect this region and remember what his predecessors in the White House and the CIA did to this area and to the whole world in the past 5 centuries.” O.D.M, who was not in his usual funny character, said that the U.S. needs to pull its 40,000 troops out of the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf, or face serious repercussions. O.D.M warned of yet another American fiasco in the region, saying “American governments seem to have learning disabilities, I don’t think they learned anything from Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran”, O.D.M then exclaimed “The Americans should put down there beers and start thinking of what will happen if they keep electing people like that”, and warning Americans that there ignorance will bring their nation down.

In his speech, which was more like a lecture, O.D.M threatened to take the U.S. to the World Security Council, and did not rule out military action against Washington.

When asked about Nuclear repercussions O.D.M said that America knows better than using its nuclear weapons. He said that the Greater Syria Coalition would take down D.C. and impose a black President in 72 hours, with a little help from more than 40 million “Deprived” African Americans “brothers”, according to him.

Syria recently repositioned 17,000 of its “Syrial Killers” brigades in Cuba, Syria’s newest ally. Syrian hostilities with the U.S. started immediately after the People’s Revolution took over Damascus’ Parliament, when O.D.M’s Civil Disobedience Movement refused the American backed Reform Party of Syria. In his infamous speech at the Black House balcony overlooking well over ten million supporters O.D.M hollered: “Syria is now officially yours, the future is ours…Syria Forever”. Encouraged by the nearby experience, Arabians disposed the Al-Saud clan, and renamed the country The Arabian Peninsula; Jordanians, Lebanese, and Iraqis all followed suite and stormed their respective parliaments, and demanded real representation.

Syria now enjoys loyalty from all of its Middle Eastern neighbors, and commands a fearful 3,000,000-man strong army; scores of which are Syrian controlled Brigades of armies of more than 7 Middle Eastern countries. O.D.M is finishing touches on the Greater Middle Eastern Initiative, where a United Middle East will share resources, economies and politics in a borderless manner.
_____________________________________________________________________


What if we are democratic? Why can’t we hold the U.S. accountable for more than 150,000 dead Iraqis, and half a million prisoners of conscience in the Arab world? Who the hell does the U.S. think it is? The strongest country in the world? Well if this country respects the rule of law, then the law should hold all of the past U.S. damn administrations accountable for all the misery they put the world under. Who the hell does Condoleezza Rice think she is appearing in public saying “We want to see more freedom in Egypt”. I want to go on TV and say, I want to see your head up your own ass..you screwed us up enough already..now we can take care of ourselves.

Why the #$%#$ does the U.S. stick its head in everything? Because it is the only super power in the world? It’s the caretaker?

It can take care of my ass…Well even that it can’t, because they don’t use water in wiping their asses in there, they do it the dry-ass toilette paper ass wiping technique.

Why Jim Donkey Kong or whoever is the president of China stand up on CNN and say: We want to see less American intervention in every country’s ass.

It is kind of like your neighbor looking over your window and telling you, “I want you to change your baby’s diapers more often”; I would beat the living organs out of him, and then have him wear a diaper full of shit on his head.

What the hell is going on in the world? If America was really the way Americans think about it, peaceful, freedom loving, and full of human rights, then I wouldn’t mind.

But it is not!

Lobbying is legal corruption. When Israel spends more than a billion dollars “informing” the American government and public about its “way of life” it is actually “buying” American “decision makers”

Until you see more Non-Protestant Presidents who are not of British decadence, or a black, or Latino president you I will never say you have democracy.

Until you stop meddling in other people’s lives…deciding who to attack now, and who to bless, and who to strike, you have no business in how we live.

Freedom of speech my ass.

Why does America have such presidents? Because Americans know nothing about out of their Stateline. When foreign policy minute is up on any news channel, it is what the governme wants the world to know…Syria supporting insurgents, Attackers captured from Syria, American troops bombing Iraqi boundaries with Syria..the you get a redneck who heard the Word Syria in a negative sense in a week more than he heard his own fart… “Y’all Go get them evil doers boys!” … YeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeHAAAAAAAA

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Feels Good to let it out…

Syria Forever

24 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wild Imagination!

2:52 PM  
Anonymous I am Billy the Redneck said...

One bomb and all of your asses will be ashes

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another stupid pan-arab dream? The us is not the only one with learning disabilities it seems.

4:05 PM  
Blogger O.D.M said...

Have you heard of the EU dush bag?

We don't want to unite, just cooperate. Cooperate means help each other by the way!

4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find your blog very interesting but the white on black print is really hard on the eyes. Would you consider another color print?

(o0)
/||\

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Have you heard of the EU dush bag?"
The EU took decades to happen, and it is still a work in progress, closer to the beginning then the end. In your post, you want the arab world to unite overnight, just like assad the father and his failed "arab republic" experiment and his let-us-not-talk-about-it arab war against israel.
If you want to progress in the EU model, you need first to have sovereign, stable, self-sufficient, well functionning countries, then you can think about working for a common arab cause. That is still not the case, with no democracy in syria (and egypt?) no peace in iraq, daya3 fi lebnan... once every country has fixed its problems then it can think about the next step and about the great arab dream and building it stone by stone. Revolutions simply do not work.

5:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ODM, I came across your blogger few days ago, I greatly enjoy reading your posts but I am afraid that what would happen to you if they caught you in HOMS.
Check this , it might be helpful.


"CNN: Guide aims to help bloggers beat censors"

PARIS, France (AP) -- A Paris-based media watchdog has released an ABC guide of tips for bloggers and dissidents to sneak past Internet censors in countries from China to Iran.

Reporters Without Borders' "Handbook for Blogger and Cyber-Dissidents" is partly financed by the French government and includes technical advice on how to remain anonymous online. It was launched at the Apple Expo computer show in Paris on Thursday and can also be downloaded from RSF's Web site in Chinese, Arabic, Persian, English and French.

more at:
http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/internet/09/22/blog.handbook.ap/index.html

4:48 AM  
Blogger MPH said...

What do you want Syria to look like? A religious state? sharia law throughout the arab world? Democracy? What is democracy in your mind?

If there are ten people in your country, and nine of them vote to kill the one non-arab, does the democratic vote make such a killing right?

Is it productive to portray the arab world as a victim of the west?

10:53 AM  
Blogger O.D.M said...

Thank you for the article Anon.

Mph, is it productive for the west to make the region more miserable than it is?

And to answeryour question. There is no absolute democracy, even in the U.S. If everybody decided to kill the non-arab, there is a rule of law to stop that. You also have to know that the Syrian society is not conservative in a way when it comes to manners and way of life. But in their policies, Syria is one of the most secular nations in the world.

We are definately what you think we are.

Anonymous with the E.U, grab yourself a book.

3:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Syria is going down..

11:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Syria is a country that is in danger of being led down the "wrong side of the aisle" as it pertains to history.

It appears once again that a mistake will be made to "LOVE THE RULER" (in this case Assad) - more than we hate and embrace change, no matter where it comes from.

As far as I'm concerned - Syria can stay economically stagnate, and be a minor player in the world stage....

But, do NOT blame all your problems on the outside world, when you act like a paper tiger, and continue to be on the wrong side of "history" ---

Problem is, history is NOW.

1:47 PM  
Blogger O.D.M said...

Anon @ 1:47,

Well put.

Our leaders, with the help of the west, mainly the U.S. have lead us down the drain. We are not heading to the "wrong side of the aisle", we have been there for a generations. We do need to capitalize on what is happening now to force major change.

It has been very well known that the U.S supported and nurtured regimes such as ours to gain their and Israel's benefit. Condoleezza said that the U.S will no longer use the policy of allowing stability at the cost of freedom. I say this sudden policy change-starting with Afghanistan- happened because the idiots did not see 20 and 30 years ahead to realize the shit they'll get themselves into.

Add to that the energy policy.

3:39 PM  
Anonymous adm said...

ODM
I am disappointed with the tone
of your recent posts. Now you are full of solutions, ideas, etc.
You were much funnier when all you did was bitch.Smile and put the panties back on your head.
adm

10:31 PM  
Anonymous Randa said...

I think I like political thoughts and bashing at the same time...

Where is the Disobedience Movement standing now?

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Syria after Lebanon: Hooked on Lebanon
by Gary C. Gambill

Although Syrian troops have withdrawn from Lebanon, their departure is little more than a symbolic acknowledgment of Lebanese sovereignty, extracted under enormous pressure from the international community. They had not been directly involved in policing the country for nearly a decade, and their number had already dwindled in recent years from a peak of over 40,000 down to 14,000. The backbone of Syria's power in Lebanon—its intelligence apparatus—has merely gone underground. The assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in February and the murders of prominent dissidents Samir Kassir and George Hawi in June suggest that Syria remains as capable as ever of murdering dissidents and fomenting violence if developments in Lebanon do not go its way.

As Western observers debate how tenaciously Syrian president Bashar al-Assad will resist the independence of Lebanon and what the implications are for his grip on power at home,[1] many ignore the most critical factor affecting these questions. Put simply, the Assad regime is hooked on Lebanon. Jibran Tueni, editor of Beirut's leading daily newspaper, An-Nahar, recently estimated that the Assad regime siphons at least ten billion dollars (US) a year from Lebanon,[2] equivalent to 47 percent of Syria's gross domestic product (by comparison, Saudi Arabia's oil exports represent 36 percent of its gross domestic product).[3] While Tueni's estimate is probably exaggerated, Syrian revenue from Lebanon amounts to several billion dollars a year. Assad's political survival may well hinge on how successfully he fights to preserve this financial lifeline.

When Syrian influence in Lebanon waned in the aftermath of Israel's 1982 invasion and the subsequent entry of U.S. and European peacekeeping forces, the late Hafez al-Assad struck back with terrorist and militia proxies, plunging the country back into civil war. Ironically, his son's deeper financial dependence on Lebanon today lessens the appeal of a full-scale destabilization campaign. Bashar faces a much more difficult challenge: how to keep his golden goose without strangling it.

The Conquest of the Underworld
Drug production, counterfeiting, and other illicit trades account for the Assad regime's oldest—and once the most lucrative—source of occupation revenue. Such criminal enterprises have flourished wherever Lebanese territory has come under the control of Syria or its proxies. Throughout the Lebanese underworld, whether Syrian officials are involved directly or merely offer protection to local criminal networks, Damascus gets its cut.

Drug production. While Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley was already known for producing high quality hashish when Syrian troops first entered the country in 1976, it only became a major global narcotics producer under Syrian occupation. Between 1976 and 1991, drug cultivation in this region expanded from 10 to 90 percent of arable land.[4] By the early 1980s, the Bekaa was the source of more than half of all marijuana and hashish seized in Western Europe.[5] Under Syrian supervision, it also became a center for opium poppy cultivation and heroin processing. By 1990, according to Western narcotics agencies, Lebanon's annual heroin trade was worth around US$1.4 billion.[6]

A 1992 report by the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Crime and Criminal Justice, itself based on classified briefings by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Drug Enforcement Agency, estimated that the Syrian military earned between $300 million and $1 billion from narcotics production and trafficking in Lebanon. "Whether by extorting protection payments, collecting bribes, or even becoming active partners with the Lebanese traffickers," the report found, "most individual Syrian officers and troops directly profit from the drug trade… Without Syrian military participation, the present system of growing, producing and transporting drugs in Lebanon today would simply collapse."[7]

Following the report's release, Washington began pressuring the Syrian government to curtail Lebanon's drug trade. In 1993, Syrian and Lebanese troops launched a much-publicized crackdown on drug cultivation in the Bekaa Valley. Moreover, Syrian and Lebanese security forces moved only against the easily observable cultivation side of Lebanese drug production. Laboratories in Hermel, Baalbek, Zahle, and other Bekaa Valley towns reportedly continued to produce heroin from opium imported from Turkey, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, as well as cocaine from raw coca paste imported from South America under Syrian protection.[8] Nevertheless, in 1997 the U.S. State Department removed Lebanon and Syria from its annual list of countries that produce or traffic in illicit drugs.[9]

Not long after its removal from the list, Syria began relaxing restrictions on drug cultivation and, by the end of the decade, marijuana harvests were on the rise.[10] When CNN Beirut bureau chief Brent Sadler and a team of cameramen tried to film cannabis fields near Hermel in June 2001, armed gunmen forced them out of their car and confiscated their film equipment.[11]

Counterfeiting. Beginning in the late 1980s, Syrian officers in Lebanon became heavily involved in counterfeiting U.S. and, to a lesser extent, European currencies. They initially focused on distributing Iranian-produced bills through the same networks that laundered their drug proceeds[12] but soon began to produce higher quality forgeries at their own Bekaa printing presses. In 1993, NBC quoted U.S. intelligence sources as saying that Syrian counterfeiting of $100 bills in Lebanon had "skyrocketed." It reported both that U.S. authorities had already seized $200 million of the fake currency and officials' fears that billions more were in circulation.[13] The bogus bills were so sophisticated that the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank's scanning machines failed to identify the money as counterfeit.[14] After pocketing perhaps over $1 billion, the Syrian government came under intense U.S. pressure to cease their racket.

Money laundering. After gaining full control over Lebanon in 1990, the Syrian regime exploited Lebanon's bank secrecy laws to launder billions of dollars from the drug trade, the sale of weapons to Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, and other illicit activities. For example, the Beirut-based Bank al-Madina bought billions of dollars in real estate at inflated prices. It required sellers to deposit their proceeds in the bank and accept "no questions asked" interest payments drawn from secret Iraqi accounts not recorded in the bank's books. This pyramid scheme collapsed only when the influx of Iraqi money stopped in the weeks prior to the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Depositors panicked and tried to withdraw their money, only to find that more than one billion dollars were gone. The bank quickly collapsed.[15] The Lebanese government's investigation failed to uncover the whereabouts of these funds, but there is evidence that the bank paid substantial kickbacks to senior Syrian officials.[16] After the owner of the Beirut-based television station New TV, Tahsin Khayat, declared in December 2003 that he had evidence linking a top Syrian intelligence officer to the scandal, Lebanese security forces detained him.[17]

The Syrian government's return from money laundering is not readily quantifiable. The main financial benefit is that it allows the Assad regime to obfuscate its sources of income. More important though are the strategic returns—Syrian-backed terrorist groups can use Lebanese banks to launder and distribute funding received from donors who value anonymity.[18] Iraqi insurgent leaders have been allowed similar access. For example, Saddam's half-brother and former intelligence chief Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan laundered millions of dollars in Lebanese banks before his capture earlier this year.[19]

Lebanese black-marketeers dealing in everything from stolen cars to audiovisual bootlegging can operate only by providing cuts to Syrian officials who may receive up to a billion dollars annually from underworld criminal activity in Lebanon. However, this figure is minor compared to what Syrian officials have skimmed in other ways from Lebanon's open economy.

Kickbacks for the Kingmaker
Lebanon has one of the most corrupt governments in the world. In 2001, a United Nations-commissioned corruption assessment report estimated that Lebanon loses more than $1.5 billion annually as a result of graft—nearly 10 percent of the country's gross domestic product.[20] The mechanism for this graft is apparent. Of $6 billion in project expenditures examined in the report, only 2.4 percent ($143 million) was awarded by the state Administration of Tenders. The remainder went not to the most qualified applicants but to those willing to pay the highest bribes. Over 43 percent of companies surveyed in the report acknowledged that they "always or very frequently" pay bribes. Some 40 percent said that they "sometimes" do.[21]

Corruption was rife in Lebanon long before the Syrian army entered the country. More than one Syrian commentator has lamented that it was Lebanon that corrupted Syria. Once the Assad regime became kingmaker in Lebanon, a world of riches opened before it. A Lebanese cabinet minister who might pocket $200 million in bribes a year gladly remits half in return for the Syrian support necessary to remain in his position. In this respect, Syrian officials did not come into the country and change the rules—they simply used their control over Lebanon to siphon money out of the system in the same way, albeit on a greater scale, that Lebanese political elites had been doing for generations.

Having won Lebanon at a time when their own country's economy was reeling from a cutoff of Soviet aid, Syrian officials learned to master the Lebanese economic game. Their mentor, ironically, was the late Rafik Hariri, a multi-billionaire construction tycoon close to the Saudi royal family. After two years of lobbying Damascus for the job, Hariri assumed the premiership in 1992, and the Lebanese economy went into overdrive.

Hariri poured billions of dollars into rebuilding the country's war-ravaged infrastructure and resurrecting Beirut's business and hotel districts, a construction boom financed by runaway deficit spending and massive injections of international aid. The results exemplified Lebanon's version of trickle down economics—after everyone gets their cut, only a trickle of government spending actually reaches its destination.

He spent over $2 billion, for example, in the early 1990s on a plan to boost the country's power capacity from 800-1,000 megawatts to over 2,000 megawatts by rehabilitating or constructing ten power plants and their accompanying grids. Not only was much of the money—over $500 million according to one former minister—siphoned off in the process,[22] but rampant profiteering directed the remainder to redundant or ill-conceived projects. A decade later, the Lebanese government is struggling to produce 1,400 megawatts of electricity, and rolling blackouts continue to plague the capital.[23]

Government expenditures are not the only source of graft. Lack of transparency and unreliable contract enforcement in Syrian-occupied Lebanon make it impossible for private sector investors, whether Lebanese or foreign, to enter any economic sector without cutting deals with Damascus. Whether their business is banking or BMWs, the most important ingredient of success for entrepreneurs in Lebanon is not cost efficiency or marketing savvy but political protection obtained through secret partnerships with Syrian officials. In this way, members of Lebanon's oligarchy gain preferential access to government contracts, operating licenses, and law enforcement needed to beat out competitors.

A large portion of their profits is diverted into Syrian pockets. Lebanese investors often function as little more than front men for Syrian patrons who reap most of the profits. Until recently, for example, Lebanon's cell phone market was dominated by two companies: LibanCell and Cellis. On paper, Ali and Nizar Dalloul, two sons of a former Lebanese defense minister, owned 86 percent of LibanCell, but both were widely rumored to be fronting for Syrian vice-president Abdul Halim Khaddam and former Syrian chief of staff Hikmat Shihabi.[24] Many Lebanese say that Najib Miqati, a close friend of Assad's who served as Lebanon's prime minister between April and June 2005, owned 30 percent of Cellis. In the latter half of the 1990s, the two companies saw their profits skyrocket as the Syrian-dominated Lebanese government blocked competitors from entering the market while allowing them to charge exorbitant subscription fees. Whereas mobile telephone calls cost around 3-8 cents per minute in other Arab countries, in Lebanon the rate was 13 cents per minute. As companies elsewhere in the world were giving away mobile phones to attract customers, LibanCell and Cellis charged new subscribers a $500 deposit for their new telephones.[25]

While many Lebanese elites resented Syrian profiteering, the Assad regime's control over the Lebanese judiciary ensured that few dared to openly contest it. In a country where just about everyone in government is corrupt, selective prosecution is an enormously effective instrument of control. In 1994, Lebanese parliamentarian Yahya Shamas was arrested and imprisoned on drug trafficking charges which, according to Shamas, were filed after he refused to sell a piece of lucrative property to Ghazi Kanaan, the head of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon, for less than its market value.[26]

Hariri, however, was no Syrian puppet. In making senior Syrian officials such as Khaddam and Shihabi rich, Hariri bought himself a bloc of support within the Syrian regime whose interests were not fully in line with those of the Assad family. Lebanon may have been in Syria's pocket, but factions of the Syrian regime were effectively in Hariri's pocket.

After assuming control of the "Lebanon file" as part of his political apprenticeship, however, Bashar al-Assad ousted Hariri in 1998 and shifted power to Lebanon's military-intelligence elite, led by President Emile Lahoud. Bashar quickly found that Hariri was more dangerous out of office. Although Hariri returned to power after a two-year hiatus, his increasingly confrontational relationship with the Syrians was largely a reaction to this demotion.

The Conquest of Labor
A third critical economic return of Syria's occupation is the flow of remittances from roughly one million Syrian workers in Lebanon estimated to range from $2-$4 billion annually.[27] During the heyday of Lebanon's reconstruction, the number was much higher. According to statistics from Lebanon's General Security Directorate, cited by Lebanese economist Michel Murkos, the number of Syrians entering the country between 1993-95 exceeded the number who departed by almost 1.5 million.[28] Since Syria's per capita gross domestic product is less than a third of Lebanon's, its workers are willing to labor for much lower wages than their Lebanese counterparts. As a result, Lebanon's two largest unskilled labor markets—construction and seasonal agriculture—are dominated by Syrians while 20 percent of the Lebanese labor force is unemployed.[29] Those who manage to get unskilled jobs in the face of stiff Syrian competition are usually forced to accept low wages, dismal working conditions, and no health insurance or other benefits. The plight of Lebanon's urban poor is directly linked to Syrian labor colonialism.

Very little money earned by Syrian workers remains in Lebanon. They typically live in squalid conditions, often sharing a single room with several compatriots so as to remit the bulk of their earnings back to their families. The Assad regime has further discouraged them from spending their wages in Lebanon by preventing them, for example, from bringing Lebanese-made durables back into Syria.

Damascus has protected this vital asset by entrusting only diehard loyalists with Lebanon's labor ministry portfolio. The outgoing labor minister, Assem Kanso, and former labor minister, Abdullah al-Amin (1992-95), are senior officials in the Lebanese branch of Syria's ruling Baath party. Former labor ministers Assad Hardan (1995-98, 2003-04) and Ali Kanso (2000-03) are leaders of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, which advocates Lebanon's dissolution as a state and incorporation by Syria. The Lebanese government is not allowed to regulate the influx of Syrian workers, who do not pay taxes or permit fees normally required of foreign workers, depriving the Lebanese treasury of several hundred million dollars per year according to Lebanese economist Bassam Hashem.[30] In order to limit the amount of competition faced by Syrian workers, Damascus has forced the Lebanese government to restrict the entry of non-Syrian laborers into Lebanon.

The Conquest of Agriculture
A fourth dimension of Syrian economic domination also hurts Lebanon's poor. Much like nineteenth century European colonial powers, the Syrian government treats its protectorate as a captive market for its own exports, particularly agricultural produce. The Assad regime not only forces its Lebanese counterpart to accept disadvantageous terms of trade, but it also violates these terms whenever expedient by smuggling produce past Lebanese customs.

In desperation, some Lebanese farmers invested their savings, switching to cultivation of fruits unsuitable for Syrian climate, only to find the Syrians smuggling the same fruit into Lebanon from other countries. For example, in recent years, Lebanon has been deluged by bananas smuggled into the country from Syria. According to Waddah Fakhri, the head of the Southern Farmers' Association, Syrian smugglers import the bananas through the Syrian port of Latakia where they avoid customs duties by claiming that the goods are in transit to Lebanon. The shipments are then smuggled past Lebanese customs and enter local markets duty-free.[31] In June 2003, the local media reported that "watermelon farmers in Lebanon are suffering from excessively low prices for their crops due to the smuggling of Jordanian watermelons across the Syrian border."[32]

Stiff Syrian competition might have had a silver lining if it had spurred the Lebanese government to develop and modernize its agriculture sector. However, the Syrians disallowed this. While agriculture accounts for about 12 percent of Lebanon's gross domestic product, well under 1 percent of the yearly budget is allocated to this sector. Of $7.5 billion in development funds allocated under the 1999 five-year plan of the Council for Development and Reconstruction, agriculture and irrigation projects itemized separately received only .5 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively. "Civic education, youth, and sports" projects, by contrast, received 2.6 percent.[33]

Consequently, despite its abundance of arable land, premium soil conditions, plentiful water resources, and rich diversity in topography and climate allowing for the cultivation of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, Lebanon is one of the least agriculturally self-sufficient countries in the world, with agricultural and agro-industrial imports exceeding exports by a nearly 20-to-1 margin.[34]

Implications
The Assad regime is not yet in trouble. Syrian troops may no longer be in Lebanon, but none of its most important Lebanese revenue streams have been cut. Drug producers in the Bekaa Valley and corrupt bankers in Beirut will continue paying off the Syrians as long as Damascus can guarantee that the authorities in Beirut leave them alone. Syrian farmers will continue to export tariff-free produce into Lebanon until the authorities block their smuggling routes. Most Syrian workers will remain in the country until the Lebanese government starts limiting and regulating their presence.

Lebanon's new government will face tremendous domestic pressure to act against Syrian interests in all of these areas. However, the threat of assassination will continue to loom over Lebanese elites who defy Damascus, and the Assad regime will remain capable of fomenting instability in the country.

That said, Assad has to contend with the fact that, justly or not, the international community will blame Syria for any assassination, especially if Lebanese politicians are killed after taking actions that hurt Syrian interests. More importantly, fomenting instability in Lebanon could damage an economy in which the Syrian officials are heavily invested and undercut demand for and security of Syrian workers. Assad will have to use violence more selectively than did his father if he is to preserve Syrian interests in Lebanon.

Syria's financial dependence on Lebanon also poses a problem for the United States. While the White House has signaled its desire for fundamental change in Damascus, a sudden erosion of Assad's grip on power might encourage him to embark on diversionary adventures, spark a Sunni Islamist uprising against his minority ‘Alawite regime, or precipitate a coup by the so-called "Old Guard." Assessing the impact of reduced revenue from Lebanon on Assad's regime is complicated by the fact that it is hooked on income from its Lebanese interests in different ways. Worker remittances flow to a large segment of the Syrian population, for example, while kickbacks go directly to the regime or constituent factions. Produce smuggling benefits both farmers and smugglers, but the exact dispersal of proceeds between the two is not entirely clear. If the Bush administration seeks to change Syrian behavior, it would do well to order a thorough assessment of Syria's financial balance sheet in Lebanon to clarify the motivation of various Syrian factions as well as subtle pressure points that could help to ensure that Damascus does not interfere in Lebanon's fragile independence.

Gary C. Gambill is a political analyst for Freedom House and former editor of Middle East Intelligence Bulletin.

4:34 AM  
Anonymous Seth said...

It's amazing the way people from terrorist producing, mostly backwards dictatorships can bash the U.S. for taking action where action is called for, then come arse creeping to us when they need credit they'll never even be forced to pay the interest on. And get it.

I have a couple of friends from Syria who live here in the U.S. and do very well for themselves. Both are firmly behind Bush's Middle East policies.

10:00 PM  
Anonymous Claude Salhani said...

Dear ODM,

Interesting perspective. I like the concept of looking into the future, having done it myself in a piece on Iran. In fact, you have posted it further down. However, I would appreciate you not using my name on articles I did NOT write, such as this one, “Syria Warns America,”
Thank you
Claude Salhani

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Claude Salhani said...

thank you for your most interesting response. I am delighted, but still, request that you remove my name and that of UPI from stories not writen by me.
i appreciate your cooperation.
best.
claude salhani

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