Sanctions on Syria

by Jon Mandle on May 12, 2004

Not that there’s much hope left, but have they simply given up on trying to win “hearts and minds” in the region? Is now really the best time for this?

Mr. Bush issued an executive order banning virtually all American exports, except for food and medicine, and barring flights between Syria and the United States, except during emergencies.

And it seems that it is mostly hearts and minds that will be affected:

In the near term, the action is largely symbolic, since trade with Syria, at about $300 million a year, is insubstantial and Syrian airlines do not fly to the United States. Moreover, the trade ban does not preclude investment, though American firms like ConocoPhillips and Chevron, which currently do business in Syria, will be required to turn to foreign suppliers to service their operations there, a State Department spokesman said.

I guess here’s the real target:

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican who was an original sponsor of the Syria Accountability Act, expressed satisfaction with the president’s announcement.


“He went beyond what was asked of him,” she said.

{ 34 comments }

1

Barry 05.12.04 at 5:04 pm

No flights? How will the US send torture victims there? Will they have to be sent on a transfer flight, through a third country? Wouldn’t that raise legal issues, with countries who ban torture and obey international law? We could send people through Israel, I guess, but they probably don’t have direct flights to Syria, either.

2

pepi 05.12.04 at 5:15 pm

Oh you have to have a bit more faith now, come on.

As we know from experience with Saddam, sanctions are such an effective way of fighting terrorists and wannabe terrorists and corrupted regimes that may directly or indirectly support terrorism.

Didn’t it work? with Saddam? I mean, the sanctions after the first Gulf war were so effective, there was no need to invade Iraq again! Everything was solved right after a year of sanction. And Iraq today is a prosperous terror-free country.

So give it a chance with Syria now. When something’s proven to work that well, why, it’d be stupid to dismiss it so hastily..

3

Nat Whilk 05.12.04 at 5:18 pm

“I guess here’s the real target: Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican who was an original sponsor of the Syria Accountability Act, expressed satisfaction with the president’s announcement.”

The U.S. Congress website lists Representative Eliot Engel, a New York Liberal/Democrat, as the sponsor, with 297 co-sponsors. It also lists Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, as the sponsor of the original Senate Bill, with 81 co-sponsors.

“‘He went beyond what was asked of him,’ she said.”

The text of the bill says:

“the President shall impose two or more of the following sanctions:

(A) Prohibit the export of products of the United States (other than food and medicine) to Syria.
(B) Prohibit United States businesses from investing or operating in Syria.
(C) Restrict Syrian diplomats in Washington, D.C., and at the United Nations in New York City, to travel only within a 25-mile radius of Washington, D.C., or the United Nations headquarters building, respectively.
(D) Prohibit aircraft of any air carrier owned or controlled by Syria to take off from, land in, or overfly the United States.
(E) Reduce United States diplomatic contacts with Syria (other than those contacts required to protect United States interests or carry out the purposes of this Act).
(F) Block transactions in any property in which the Government of Syria has any interest, by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.”

In what ways did today’s executive order go beyond selecting two or more items from this menu?

4

Bp 05.12.04 at 5:28 pm

I say we invade Syria, pepi. Nooooowwwww!!!! Appeaser! Chamberlain! No peace in our time, mon ami. Syrians eat boiled babies for breakfast.

5

Dan Simon 05.12.04 at 5:49 pm

Okay, I’m stumped. Whose “‘hearts and minds’ in the region” will be tipped against the US as a result of this action? The Syrian regime’s? The Syrian peoples’–mostly Sunni Muslims suffering under a brutal Alawi-dominated dictatorship? Iraqis’, suddenly feeling nostalgic for (Syrian) Ba’athism, now that their own Ba’athists have been defeated? Jordanians’ and Egyptians’–whose nations have traditionally viewed Syria as a threat and a rival, respectively? Who?

Let’s be blunt–this measure will enrage absolutely nobody in the region–or anywhere else, for that matter, including the EU Foreign Office and the Crooked Timber Collective–who is not already enraged at the US. And if it results in the tiniest bit of leverage (or, failing that, a weakening effect) on a regime that is currently actively supporting anti-US insurgents in Iraq, it will have been well worth its insignificant cost.

6

Sebastian Holsclaw 05.12.04 at 6:06 pm

I really don’t understand the left’s position. Sanctions are pretty much the only punitive weapon you will allow. Now I know they don’t work, but if sanctions are bad too what do you have left? French carping?

7

Bp 05.12.04 at 6:24 pm

French carping is about all there’s left now that the US has shot its puny wad with respect to Syria … over what, exactly?

8

Extradite the Neocons 05.12.04 at 6:46 pm

Iran, Iraq, what’s the difference? Relax, guy!

These sanctions are supposed to please … whom? It has to be someone who can actually find the country on a map, so that narrows it down a bit.

Or maybe that doesn’t matter.

I submit that recent events may have opened the floodgates of hyperconflational American racism. They’re all the same, and so therefore Syria is Iraq. Zarqawi is a Saudi, previously pinned against the mountains among the Kurds by Saddam himself.

In his previous incarnation as a talking-point, he was too innocuous to actually kill:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4431601/

BUT, now that his group has killed an American, we can cancel our sympathy (if we ever had it) for the mostly Sunni Arabs in abu-Ghraib. To Bubba, you see, they’re all the same, they’re all guilty, and we just wrote a blank check to our brainstem.

I.e., my sister was raped by a Canadian, so I kill the next Mexican I see.

Consider Alterman’s monkey-mail. They can’t tell the difference between one Muslim and another, and have no patience with those of us who can:
Name: Chris
Hometown: Russellville
You want to know what just leaves me flabergasted. These people beat and torture our civillians and military prisoners and then unmercifully behead them, but you will never see a fuss raised or a congretional investigation of this. Instead all I’m seeing is a big rise out of the prisoners having their picture taken in the nude, oh the humanity. Give me a break please!

Name: JOE HALL
Hometown: LA QUINTA, CA
NOW THAT THE TERRORIST HAVE BEHEADED AN AMERICAN CIVILIAN ON TV, I’M SURE A FOOL LIKE YOU WILL FINALLY REALIZE THAT THESE TERRIORIST WANT TO KILL ALL AMERICANS, INCLUDING YOU MR. ALTERMAN.  THEY DIDN’T NEED A REASON FOR 9-11 AND THEY DON’T NEED A REASON FOR THEIR NEXT ATTACK.  THEY HATE THE USA AND ALL WE STAND FOR, AND YOU AND ALL THE LIBERALS KEEP ENCOURAGING THEM TO DO MORE HARM TO US.  YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED.

Name: TJ Bandrowsky
Hometown: Bear
Here’s my “supporter of the war lesson’s learned”.

It will be a cold day in hell before I feel sorry for the victims of any dictatorship ever again.  Four times in ten years the USA has tried to military intervene on behalf of the people of a region and four times has failed.  In Somalia we tried to feed them and they cheered our dead soldiers. In Haiti they turned on themselves.  In Kosovo they wait for us to leave, so they can turn on themselves, and now, in Iraq, all they had to do was adopt a fricking interim gov’t (which they couldn’t agree on), and stop blowing up their own country, and we would leave.  But, now, thousands of our soldiers are getting wounded or killed for reasons that make zero sense to me.

Cries of dictatorship? Oppression and hunger in the world?  AIDS in Africa?

Let the third world rot, for all I care.  Four times out of four they’ve proved themselves animals, and I don’t need anymore evidence than that!

Name: Ron Lancaster
Hometown: Tampa
In the “GWB Business Model,” isn’t this the phase of development where a rich benefactor bails out young George with some serious money, helps him quietly slither out of harm’s way, and sets him for the next deal to capitalize on the Bush name, power and influence?  Too bad that doesn’t work when an entire country is at stake (vs. a fly-weight oil investment company, et al).

Name: Phil
Hometown: Oakton, VA
You’re an idiot.  It was only a matter of time before Saddam’s tireless efforts to acquire nukes paid off.  What then, dumbass?

Name: Scott Blomenkamp
Hometown: Seattle
I am intrigued by your outrage about what many have termed accurately as “humiliation” rather than “torture” of Iraqi prisoners while you keep quiet about things  like beheadings of civilians, the murder and mutilation of other civilians and the display of body parts of Israeli soldiers by these “poor” oppressed people.  Not only do you choose to be bias in you condemnation of truly despicable acts but you also choose to not report on important subjects to our own country.  Where is your reporting of the billions in bribe money siphoned from the U.N. oil for food program (which is why we were “containing” Saddam for 12 years and we would never get the U.N. to join the coalition) or your reporting of the 200 swift boat vets that oppose John Kerry?  I am embarrassed as every American should be the Iraqi prison scandal. I am embarrassed not by the actions (you see worse in may parts of life) but by the “indignation” of our politicians and the sensationalism of the media.  If these were such terrible acts is the media not contributing to the pain being suffered by the victims?  Oh, sorry that gets in the way of the self-riotous hypocrisy of the media that let’s the Jason Blair’s and such thrive.  With all the “outrage” going on where are the Sunni and Shi’ite clerics, Arab Kings and heads of state apologizing for the systematic killings, mutilations, bombings, beheadings, and conspiracies to fly airliners into sky scrappers.

Name: Jack McIntyre
Hometown: Nashville, TN
You’ll be happy to know after reading your links to O’Reilly and Limbaugh, I’ve applied for an NEA grant to stack the two of them naked (Limbaugh on top) and let the dogs at them.  I’m pretty hopeful . . . I can’t think of a better way to blow off some steam

Name: N. League
Hometown: Orange Park, FL
SHAME ON YOU:
I do believe the folks being held in Abu Ghraib were members of Saddam’s Regime.  The folks who raped, murdered, mutilated, and otherwise tortured so many innocent Iraqi’s.  I do not feel sorry for them, they have been shooting real live ammunition at our young people who are over there to liberate that country.

They did not have their genitalia torn off by dogs, they were tormented with the fear of it being done because they knew that under Saddam that is what would have happened.  They have not had their eyes gouged out, like the children of people who did not tow Saddam’s Party Line. They were not shot in the head and thrown into mass graves. 
They were humiliated and scared.  WAAAH!

The only thing I regret is that the dummies took these pictures so they can be used and abused by people like you who willingly take everything the wrong way and use it for a “Story” to fill up time on 24 hour news programs.

And the mutilation and deaths of hostages and POW’s that will now occur because of the distribution of those stupid pictures. 

Hey Mr. Eric Alterman, pat yourself on the back, you are in a fine line of work.

Name: Jim
Hometown: Iowa
After seeing the beheading of the american contractor, I really don’t care to read or see anything about the “abuse” of Iraqi prisoners. It’s war, and war is hell. Too bad – grow up! Let’s just get it done. Eliminate all the terrorists and their supporting countries.

Name: Shaun
Hometown: Harrisburg, Pa.
No link to al-queda? Your a moron and a hack if you think that is true. Last time I read one of pieces of propoganda. How about some facts. Like most crap reporters from MSNBC, you probably did no looking into any of your facts.

Name: Cary Kelly
Hometown: Harmony, ME
I have no words to comment on your opinion, it is so unbelievably full of nonsense.  I don’t know how an ‘intelligent ‘ person can be so ignorant.  I’d be happy to pay a one-way ticket for you to leave this great country of ours for good…and go live wherever you think it is so much better.  You discust me.  I don’t consider you an American.

Name: CW2 Carney
Hometown: Fayetteville, NC
Whose side are you on?  Your an idiot and so are the people the read your crap!  Happy to see our forces lose people?  bet you are,  I only wish you had the balls to come over here and spout your BS with your friends, maybe you could pick up an Ak47 with our enemies (or mine) and I could enjoy putting a round right between your pathetic eyes.  Your a piece of s**t!

Name: Michael Waldron
Hometown: Milwaukee, Wi.
Hi, You are a piece of s**t without equal. You may thank the heavens you live in a country where you can spew such s**t.Hate America If you will. You make me even stronger. I do not hear you carping about mutilated U.S. combatants or civilians you need a serious realingment.

[sic]

I am old enough (just) to remember similar broad strokes of bigotry from the mid to early 70s: ‘gooks’ and ‘sand niggers.’ Those we were protecting from Communism and those who had rejected our puppet Shah, respectively, weren’t appreciative enough, our patience snapped, and then they became vermin to be killed off.

This is a long way around to say that threatening yet another brown-skinned country isn’t necessarily a step that can be deciphered rationally, since it might be a bone thrown to the pointedly (and proudly) irrational.

9

Extradite the Neocons 05.12.04 at 6:53 pm

I really don’t understand the left’s position.
Evidently.

Sanctions are pretty much the only punitive weapon you will allow.
Against nations that pose no threat? Um, yes.
Surely you didn’t mean that the left paints all wars with the same brush, did you? That kind of black-or-whitism is the kind of naked ignorance that usually has to wear the fig-leaf labled “Moral Clarity.”

10

nick 05.12.04 at 6:58 pm

The Syrian peoples’—mostly Sunni Muslims suffering under a brutal Alawi-dominated dictatorship?

You really don’t have any idea of what Syria is like, do you, Dan?

11

dsquared 05.12.04 at 7:09 pm

Nick: Apparently these days, “Brutal” is to “Dictatorship” as “Ford” is to “Mondeo”.

Extradite: Please don’t post large chunks of copied text like that.

12

pepi 05.12.04 at 7:13 pm

I say we invade Syria, pepi. Nooooowwwww!!!!

yes! bp, you read my mind!

It’s been a while since invasion of Iraq, I think the public needs a bit more action to keep the focus on the war on terror. Action that doesn’t include torture, I mean. War is a good alternative.

And I just can’t wait for the WMD argument on Syria.

Plus, it could be lots more fun, cos Syria is supposed to be stocking Saddam’s weapons. So we could get Syria’s, and Iraq’s, WMD’s in one go!

Or at least get Iraq’s, in Syria. If Syria’s WMD are then not found and it’s later suspected they may be stacked in Iran, off we go again invading Iran, and if Iran’s weapons are not found, we seek them in Arkansas, and so on, one by one, from Far West to Middle East to Far East and back, all along the Orient Express route and the Syberian railways, until North Korea’s WMD are found in Russia and we need to invade Russia and then Russia’s WMD’s end up in a flea market in Brooklyn.

Where they will be safely neutralised by a SWAT team on live tv, so that order is restored to the heavens below, and Bush is re-elected.

I believe that was originally what was meant with “domino effect”.

13

Jack 05.12.04 at 7:58 pm

Sebastian, I think the ease ofthe latest invasion is a good illustration that, even if they don’t exactly work, sanctions are at least effective.

Bearing in mind that it is not so long ago that the government was sending Canadians there for interrogation this seems a little surprising. Trade to be limited to captive Canadians?

14

pepi 05.12.04 at 8:32 pm

Jack, maybe what eased up, relatively speaking, the actual one-month invasion of Iraq had less to do with the embargo that only fattened up the regime, and more to do with the ten-year-long planning and intelligence and the mysterious circumstances behind that “disappearance” of thousands of fedayeens?

Just an hypothesis, of course.

15

Matt Weiner 05.12.04 at 9:00 pm

I suppose this action will go some way to losing the heart and mind of my (Christian) barber in Pittsburgh, who used to go visit his family in Syria regularly. And that it will also irritate his family, and end any spread of American ideas and values that might have occurred by his going there. But this sort of approach has been a smashing success at inducing regime change in Cuba, so we might as well try it in Syria.

16

Nat Whilk 05.12.04 at 9:14 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:

“I suppose this action will go some way to losing the heart and mind of my (Christian) barber in Pittsburgh, who used to go visit his family in Syria regularly.”

How do your Lebanese-American friends feel about it?

17

Extradite the Neocons 05.12.04 at 10:41 pm

dsquared: apologies if you or anyone else were inconvenienced, but I was taken with the text at the time.
I could have edited it, but then I’d fall prey to the criticism that I was selecting only the stupid, which has happened to Alterman.

18

IXLNXS 05.12.04 at 11:19 pm

Having previously read post dealing with this subject, I would conjecture the argument will be, Why weren’t sanctions in Iraq enough? Wasn’t it Bush, and the Republican party that suggested that sanctions never work? It was quoted in several major newspapers.

Someone at the RNC headquaters is sleeping at the wheel. Either that or they’ve just given up.

19

Dan Simon 05.13.04 at 12:17 am

Nick and Daniel–I thought I might encounter some disagreement with my comment, but it really never even occurred to me that the one point of dispute would be whether Syria was, in fact, a brutal dictatorship. After all, it wasn’t all that long ago that this very blog was up in arms over some poor fellow’s having suffered the awful fate of being handed over to the tender mercies of that government. And quite recently, there have been some disturbing reports of less-than-delicate treatment of the local Kurdish population.

I can’t help asking: if agents of the American government had been found to be behaving this way, would either of you have considered the word “brutal” even sufficient?

20

toughgametheory 05.13.04 at 2:14 am

There is one problem that the lefties have to deal with, which is this: Suppose someone on the “racist” right manages to prove that America being racist/intolerant/bigots (if you f$$$ with us we will f$$$ you up) is in the best interests of the country. -there is some historical and political research on this issue. What are you going to do then? Choose a path which makes the country weaker? Is that not a tad unpatriotic? So by being soft towards Syria you undermine your own position.

21

Matt Weiner 05.13.04 at 3:15 am

Nat,
I’m sure all my Lebanese-American friends are delighted at anything that makes it harder for my Syrian-American barber to visit his family.

22

Grand Moff Texan 05.13.04 at 3:19 am

The objection, Dan, was to the notion that the entire nation was suffering under a brutal dictatorship. I suspect that you know this and are hoping others are less subtle.

We’ve also shipped folks to be tortured in Saudi. For that matter, we might even use Turkey. Shall we target them as well? I thought not.

But please, remind us all of the Brown Threat again. Please.

23

Grand Moff Texan 05.13.04 at 3:22 am

“Tough”: find a way to do away with your “if.”

Then we can talk.

24

roger 05.13.04 at 4:08 am

Dan,
Actually, it is hard to believe sanctions have to do with dictatorship — otherwise, we would be forced to conclude that Bush actually thinks Gadaffi was democratically elected recently.

The sanctions have to do, instead, with the supposed refusal of the Syrians to close seal their borders with Iraq to the point of impenetrability. Hmm, this is not a condition that seems to weigh on our relations with Saudi Arabia –but then again, there aren’t a lot of Syrian businessmen in partnership with various members of the Bush family.

The great crime of the current family that rules in Syria was in suppressing, with maximum force (to the tune, I’ve read, of 40,000 casualties) the Moslem Brotherhood. But here is a nice dilemma for you — the Moslem Brotherhood was an especially eager jihadist group. We have rewarded the Egyptian government for repressing the group on a more minor scale.

So what are the sanctions supposed to do?

25

Steve 05.13.04 at 5:29 am

Didn’t the Muslim Brotherhood begin its existance as a pan-Arabist, anti-Israeli (or anti-Zionist; I’m not sure of the time frame), largely secular terrorist movement before it was driven underground by Egypt? Or am I conflating it with another group?

26

nick 05.13.04 at 7:05 am

Nick and Daniel—I thought I might encounter some disagreement with my comment, but it really never even occurred to me that the one point of dispute would be whether Syria was, in fact, a brutal dictatorship.

No, Dan, you appear to be incapable of making a proper assessment of the situation, as ‘grand moff texan’ and Roger make clear: my point of dispute was your facile contention that Syria’s political climate can be resolved down to ‘mostly Sunni Muslims suffering under a brutal Alawi-dominated dictatorship’. The reality is more subtle, given that the coalition of Alawite, Shia, Druze and Christian minorities that make up the Syrian political elite are an admittedly ruthless bulwark against a vocal Wahhabi minority that would like to mobilise Sunnis into… well, joining in a mass slaughter of the heretics. Rwanda-stylee.

That’s to say, I dispute the notion of a ‘mostly suffering Sunni’ majority in Syria. The truth is again more nuanced: there’s more ethnic and religious tolerance in that country than in all of its neighbours — including Israel. That’s what you get when it’s the formerly-oppressed minorities running the show.

Now, political tolerance is another thing entirely, and only a fool would say that ‘Scott Evil’ Assad’s regime is tolerant of Sunni opposition groups. But since the US has spent the last three years or so trying to obliterate radical Sunni political movements… well, it’s just an interesting position for you to hold, Dan.

But, like I said, you obviously know nothng about Syria.

27

Dan Simon 05.13.04 at 7:25 am

Grand Moff Texan: Good point–I should have thought of all the Syrians who haven’t been brutally murdered or tortured by their government, and who’ve merely been terrorized into quiescent silence by those who were. Then surely I wouldn’t have been so quick to call the Syrian government “brutal”. Thanks for setting me straight.

Roger: You answered your own question. The sanctions aren’t intended to make a moral statement about Syria’s dictatorship–I brought up the Syrian regime’s brutality only to cast doubt on the idea that ordinary Syrians would be outraged by American actions against the Syrian government. From the Americans’ point of view, though, the purpose of the sanctions is clear: to put pressure on the Syrian government to stop supporting anti-US insurgents in Iraq. That’s a perfectly sensible foreign policy objective, and sanctions are a perfectly sensible means by which to attempt to achieve it.

28

Jack 05.13.04 at 8:04 am

Pepi,

just a hypothesis but one that seems to be falsified by the enormous size of Iraq’s public debt and by the way Rumsfeld completely ignored most of the plans (General Zinni’s plan for example) it did come up with in the 12 years or so since the previous invasion. I mean come on, the airforce didn’t even have to fly to Iran this time. I think paying off the generals did help but I’m not sure that helps the hypothesis much.

Are you really claiming that the invasion went so well because of the hihg quality of our intelligence and some programme, news to me, of thousands of assasinations? Things just get better all the time.

29

Jack 05.13.04 at 8:42 am

Are the insurgents allegedly crossing the border from Syria at all supported by the Syrian regime or in fact more likely to be related to the political organisations the regime gets such a bad rap for supressing?

Is it at all a practical proposition for Syria to seal its border? Are we not able to achieve the same thing on the other side?

Are similar things happening from Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iran? If not, really? If so, why the sanctions on Syria?

Given that we were recently cooperating closely enough with Syria to send them canadians to interrogate, what has gone wrong in the mean time?

Supposing that the regime is indeed uncooperative and that it is ruled by an undemocratic regime only interested in self preservation, what has happened to make being uncooperative arational choice? If it is democratic, how have we alienated the people?

Finally, as raised above how do we suggest the Syrians handle the Muslim Brotherhood and other Sunni revolutionaries?

I suppose that there is an outside chance that there are good answers to these questions but I have yet to see them. I have no doubt that Saddam and the Assads should have done much better but we are now fighting the people they have been supressing ourselves. There is an element of hypocrisy in all this. When we have the problem, the recalcitrance of Sadr & co is a justification for our abandoning standards that have taken us centuries to achieve. When Saddam uses brutal methods to solve the problem it is proof that he is evil. I don’t think we do anyone any favours if we do not give the devil his due. Failure to do so is no doubt why we are fighting the very people we wee supposed to be liberating. Even Cheney or Rumsfeld could not argue that Sadr was an ally of Saddam’s. The worst is it is not like we didn’t know all this, it is why we chickened out of getting rid of Saddam on two previous occasions, both more auspicious than last year.

30

MFB 05.13.04 at 10:59 am

Sanctions are a step towards the long-term goal of invasion and occupation of Syria. Thus leaving Israel and Turkey happier.

At least it will cost fewer lives than the next goal (invasion and occupation of Iran).

31

raj 05.13.04 at 12:30 pm

>Are the insurgents allegedly crossing the border from Syria at all supported by the Syrian regime….

It doesn’t matter, actually. If the Americans don’t want insurgents to cross the border from Syria into Iraq, the Americans presumably are in as good a position to seal the border as the Syrians. There are two sides to the border, after all.

It was reported that the sanctions do not include cell phone technology and aircraft parts. Of course, both are important industries for the Republican party.

32

Jonathan Edelstein 05.13.04 at 2:56 pm

The truth is again more nuanced: there’s more ethnic and religious tolerance in that country than in all of its neighbours — including Israel. That’s what you get when it’s the formerly-oppressed minorities running the show.

Hmmm, not sure I’d go that far. There’s one minority, the Kurds, that is pointedly excluded from the Syrian grand coalition for much the same reason as Muslim Arabs are kept out of the Israeli political mainstream – i.e., connections (or perceived connections) to a rival nationalism transcending Syrian borders. Also, the politics of exclusion in Syria tends to be much more thorough than in Israel – you won’t see any Kurdish judges in Syrian courts, for instance, or affirmative action for Kurds in the civil service the way there is for Israeli Arabs.

Religious tolerance: The Syrian record in that regard has been somewhat spotty with respect to Jews, but I’ll concede for argument’s sake that this is more of a political issue than a religious one. More to the point, Syria and Israel take essentially the same approach to religious affairs – both countries (and also Jordan) use a leftover Ottoman millet system in which minority religions have their own personal law and religious authorities. With the exception noted above, the Syrians have a pretty good track record of respecting freedom of worship, but so do the Israelis; the State Department gives them good marks while noting certain problem areas resulting from the interplay of religion and nationalism.

The bottom line is that it’s a stretch to characterize Syria as having greater religious and ethnic tolerance than Israel. Maybe it’s roughly equivalent to Israel, but I wouldn’t even say that.

33

Nat Whilk 05.13.04 at 2:59 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:

“I’m sure all my Lebanese-American friends are delighted at anything that makes it harder for my Syrian-American barber to visit his family.”

Ha, Ha. That’s a good one. Might your Lebanese-American friends, instead, support the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 because they think, in some small way, it might contribute to Lebanese Sovereignty?

BTW, here are the names of the 12 brave souls in the House and the Senate who stood athwart history and yelled “Stop!” when this pernicious legislation came up for a vote:

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV)
Sen. John Chafee (R-RI)
Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY)
Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-VT)
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI)
Rep. John Dingell (D-MI)
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA)
Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX)
Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV)
Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA)

34

Maya 05.18.04 at 12:15 am

On behalf of all of my aunts & uncles, all my freinds’& their new borns babies, Thanks.
All true peace loving people are a true gift to any family.

A christian, Syrian Born Canadian.

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