Syria’s Reforms

I took the liberty of quoting an article by Sadhna Shanker (a Delhi-based writer) originally found at Joshua Landis’ blog .

The article has a good and detailed description of the different reforms taking place in Syria. Essential for any serious and objective reader of this country’s future (and ipso facto, to any serious and objective reader of the neighbor’s future).


Sadhna Shanker: ( ALL4SYRIA) 21/11/2004

Eclipsed under the glare of the headlines about US sanctions, UN resolutions and the Arab-Israeli conflict a quiet churning is taking place in Syria. It is a nation that has embarked on the road of reforms in an effort to integrate with the rest of the world. In 2000 Dr. Bashar al Assad, son of the late Hafez al Assad, came to power. He inherited a country that had been ruled for over 30 years by his late father following a model of state-led -albeit state capitalist rather than socialist-course of import substituting industrialization. The country was beset with all the consequent problems – widespread corruption, ageing state industries, rapidly depleting oil resources, an under -performing agricultural sector, an anachronistic educational system, capital flight and lack of foreign investment.

The first hint that a new wave of reforms was in the offing came in President Bashar’s inaugural address where he stressed for reforms based on “accountability” “transparency” “administrative reforms”, “rule of law” and “democraticthinking”. Since coming to power his regime has set in motion a wave of reforms in a variety of sectors. The obstacles to reform in countries are many and varied. The chief amongst barriers to change are nearly always the powerful interest groups who stand to lose. Resistance is even stronger when the prospective losers are among the political leadership’s core constituents. Syria apart from facing this kind of resistance is also situated in a very sensitive part of the globe. Regional developments and its relations with US and Israel have a dominant effect on its domestic policies and outlook. Caught between these forces, the regime has given primacy to economic reform at the moment.

The push for these came from two sources. Pressure from outside: Syria is in the final stage of negotiating an Association Agreement with the EU that necessitates structural changes. It is also aspiring to join the WTO and this would require considerable transformation of its archaic trade and investment regulations. With the passage of the Syrian Accountability Act by the US, Syria is under increased pressure. Economic crisis: In 2000, the economic problems of Syria had their origins in the past. A large and dysfunctional public sector, virtual lack of inflow of investments, outdated banking and currency systems and the like. However, the war in Iraq changed the economic equation for Syria. It had benefited economically from the isolation of Iraq first by aid from Iran in the 1980s and then the Gulf in 1990s. In both cases the aid was largely in appreciation of its role in countering Iraq. More recently it befitted through trade with Iraq in violation of the UN sanctions. The fall of Iraq,more than ever made economic reforms a necessity.


When he came to power in 2000, Dr. Bashar al Assad started by abolishing four ministries including that of planning. The abolition of the Ministry of Planning indicated the abandoning of central planning with the market becoming the driving force. Thereafter, the Syrian Government finalized a draft Economic Reform Program (ERP). The program seeks to overhaul the economy and has set a number of objectives to be achieved within a period of five years. These include financial reforms like freeing interest rates, free transfer of funds, unification of exchange rates, full convertibility of the Syrian Pound, independence of Central Bank, revision of income tax, revision of trade laws, modification of custom tariffs, setting up of a Stock Exchange and reform of the judicial system.

Many of these have already begun. Reforms in the field of Monetary Policy and Banking: A Credit & Monetary Council (CMC) was set up in the year 2002 as the nodal body to regulate the monetary policy in the country. The CMC took its first significant decision by reducing interest rates on deposits and loans by 1% from 8 and 12% respectively in 2003. The interest rates in Syria had remained static for the last 22 years. A new Money laundering law was approved in 2003. It sets up an Agency for Combating Money Laundering, prescribes offences and punishments. By far the most significant development has been the opening of Private Banks in Syria. The state held banks provided loans to the private sector to the extent of only 21% of their credit, while the private sector contributes 87% of the GDP.

In 2003, the government gave its final approval for three international private banks to open in Syria. As per law the minimum capital of these private banks would be US$ 30 million out of which foreign partieswould own a maximum of 49% and a minimum of 51% would be held by Syrian investors. In January 2004, two institutions-the Bank of Syria and Overseas (BSO) and the Banque Bemo Saudi Fransi (BSF) opened their Damascus branches. Fiscal Policy and Tax reforms: A new Income Tax law was passed in December 2003. Along with it a bill was enacted for combating Tax evasion. The country’s public sector contributed to the state budget an amount of Syrian Pound (SYP) 92 billion (50 SYP=1$) in taxes last year, while it contributed to 13 percent of the GDP only. Meanwhile, the private sector, which contributes to 87 percent of GDP and employs 60 percent of the workforce, remitted only SYP 10 billion in 2002. Official figures say that tax evasion in Syria was leading to annual losses of over SYP 200 billion (USD 3.846billion) or a bit less than half of the country’s budget Among the most significant measures introduced by the law is the bringing down of maximum rate of corporate taxes to 35% from a high of 63%. For individuals annual income of 60000 SYP or below is exempt. The maximum rate of personal income tax has been pegged at 20%.The lower corporate tax rates, combined with the new law combating tax evasion, are expected to bring down the loss due to tax evasion.

The new Tax Law brings in transparency and a minimization of the uncertainty and ambiguity that characterized the Syrian tax system. Trade Liberalization: A series of steps taken for loosening foreign exchange controls have been taken in the last few years by the Syrian government. In 2002, unification of the Foreign exchange rate that was applied to most Foreign exchange transactions was done at the neighboring country rate of SYP 46.5/1$. In 2003, the Central Bank stated offering direct money transfer through Western Union Money Transfer. In July 2003 a highly restrictive 17-year-old Foreign Exchange law was abolished. The law was considered as one of the major obstacles to foreign investment in the country. Soon thereafter the Export-Import foreign exchange link was ended. This makes imports cheaper and also considerably reduces the black market in foreign exchange.

The main law in Syria that governs investments is the Law no.10 of 1991. In 2003, certain amendments to the law have been proposed to make it more investor friendly.In another major step, The Syrian President issued on January 28, 2003, a new decree regulating investment in the country’s free trade zones (FTZ). arlier only industrial and trading activities are allowed in Syria’s FTZ. The new law makes it possible to invest in all types of services, including banking, tourism (hotels and restaurants), e-commerce, health (hospitals and other medical services), duty free shops, communication (media cities), economic consultancy services, transit services, etc. Secondly, the law authorizes the set-up of private FTZ and private Free Trade Points.

In February 2004, the dreaded Economic Security Courts (ESCs) were abolished. ESCs functioned under the Emergency Laws and looked into economic crimes. Preventive detention for economic crimes was also abolished. ATM services have begun in Syria. Credit cards made their appearance in the last year. An agreement was signed with Diners Club also. Till now, only the Commercial Bank of Syria could deal in foreign exchange. Now, the private banks can sell currency in the market on the same terms and conditions as the Commercial Bank of Syria.

OTHER CHANGES Apart from investor friendly reforms, the Syrian Government is trying to usher in change in a variety of other spheres: Justice system: A meeting of the Judiciary Higher council (JHC) was held in May 2003. This was a first meeting in decades. It is the highest judicial authority in the country and is headed by the President. The meeting stressed the importance of judicial authority in the “development” of the country, in particular its specific role, though application of the law, in encouraging investments.


In the year 2002 the Syrian Virtual University opened. It is the first of its kind in the Middle East. It aims at providing Arab students, worldwide, with a world-class quality education, at home, through an integrated online learning environment based on the latest technological and educational developments. It offers online degrees from selected and accredited American, European and International universities It has opened centers in Lebanon, Jordan and Dubai also. In April 2003 the Ministry of Education dropped the 30 year old mandatory military uniform for students from kindergarten to high school and the “military training” module from the national curriculum. Information technology had been introduced in public education starting with basic education level.

Teaching of a foreign language from the fourth grade was started in the year 2002. A foreign language will be taught upwards from the first grade starting 2005. New concepts have been introduced in the curriculum such as urban education, child rights, woman’s care, energy and environment. Currently, Syria has four public universities in Damascus, Aleppo, Lattakia and Homs. All of them offer a broad range of courses to around 200,000 students every year.

In October 2003, for the first time in the history of this country licenses were granted for the setting up of four private universities. The universities are all based away from Damascus, so that the underserved areas of the country, particularly the North East are covered. The universities are all owned by private groups and individuals and are profit-driven.

Growth of NGOs:

Hitherto, NGO’s have been in the form of the government backed Women’s Union and the Youth Union. However, lately the NGO movement in the real sense has got an impetus with the launching of organizations like Fund for IntegratedRural Development of Syria (FIRDOS in 2001) and Modernizing and Activating Women’s Role in Economic Development (MAWRED in 2003) These development NGOs work in the area of economic uplift. MAWRED in association with the SyrianEuropean Business Center has launched in 2004 Syria’s first business incubator dedicated to Syrian businesswomen.

The most fervent advocate for social reforms in the country is the first lady Asma Assad. Promoting an active role for women has been a prime objective for her and she has made education and development the centerpiece of her activities. In April 2002, she hosted Syria’s first ever seminar on the role of women in business administration and economic development. Participants were from a dozen Arab countries. Then in February 2003, she hosted a Woman’s’ day celebration in Damascus. Five first ladies from the Arab world joined her for the conference. She has been instrumental in forming the two NGOS working in the area of economic uplift.

In order to tap the potential of the Non-resident Syrian, in 2001, the Network of Syrian Scientists, Technologists and Innovators abroad was set up. NOSSTIA is an NGO that is financed by donations from the private sector. It provides technical and consultancy services. It also organizes conferences in various sectors and invites experts from abroad to address the stakeholders of that sector.

The Syrian Young Entrepreneurs Association was launched in January 2004. An NGO it seeks to work with the young men and women in Syria. It strongly advocates the agenda of reforms and supports and promotes the entrepreneurial spirit. According to estimates, nearly 62% of the population of Syria is under 25 of age. They need to be involved in the process of nation building and their potential needs to be fully utilized.


Since the wave of reforms started in Syria, there has been some loosening of the stranglehold of the government on the media. In 2002 “Abyad va Aswad” ‘Black and white’ the first ever private political magazine came into the market. Overtime many other private magazines have emerged. Syria Today and Rising Syria have come out in English. There has been a growth in private Arabic magazines also. The number of foreign periodicals permitted for distribution within the country has gone up from 180 to 397. In 2003 four private radio stations were licensed for the first time. These stations can broadcast only music, entertainment and advertisements. They are barred from broadcasting any news or other feature programs.

However, in 2002 dish antennae became legal in Syria on payment of certain fees. As a result a subscriber today has access to broadcasts from virtually all over the world. Today, even homes in remote areas have dish antenna, and the city skylines are dotted with them. The same goes for radio also. Mobile telephony that entered in 2000 has spread all over the country.In 2003, Syria ranked 155 out of 166 countries in a press freedom index published by Reporters without Borders, a French-based press freedom watch organization. Though profound media reform still remains in the future, the press’ margin of freedom currently is greater than at any time in the past four decades.


There is no doubt that change is taking place in Syria. Many criticize the reforms as being piece-meal, incremental and with no comprehensive strategy or vision. Yet the changes witnessed in Syria are not inconsequential. Incremental change can and often does produce fundamental change.

The whole reform process raises two important inter-linked questions 1. Can the reform process move forward without any political reform? Just after Dr. Assad came to power there occurred the ‘Damascus spring’. His inaugural speech, his youth and western education – all seemed to convey to the people an era of modernization. From within the country and through the relatively free press of Lebanon – artists, writers, academics started airing their views and aspirations for hitherto taboo subjects. Corruption, public freedom, and civil rights – all topics flowered in the Damascus spring. However soon enough in 2001, due to internal pressures the regime had to slowdown. The system of patronage and clientele that had thrived in the past proved a stumbling block.

Syria shares over 600 kms of common border with Iraq. The fall of Baghdad had a resounding impact on Syria. To many, the collapse of the might of Saddam’s regime exposed the vulnerability of the regime at home too. The intellectual opposition in the country again started to speak out. Once again calls for political reform began to be heard. The government tolerated these renewed voices and some political reforms were set in motion. The Syrian Ba’ath Party took many measures to reform itself. Technocrats have been appointed in key ministries and administrative positions. They are not related to the Ba’ath Party. In June 2003, in a significant move the regional command of the Ba’ath Party issued a decree calling on ‘the cadres and the party institutions to be entirely distinct from daily executive work”.

However, till the Ba’ath Party has its role defined in Article 8 of the Syrian Constitution as ” the leading party in the society and the state” it rules out the evolution of any real political processes. The state of emergency imposed in 1970 is yet to be withdrawn.Political reforms are resisted on the grounds of the threat of an Islamist fundamentalist takeover. In a situation where the ruling elite is from the Alawi sect (12% of the population) an understated fear of outbreak of sectarian violence is also expressed. Political reforms also threaten the status quo and the privileges of the incumbent elite.

In this backdrop, the meandering U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, the near-unconditional U.S. support for Israel’s policies and Washington’s new Syria Accountability Act, which authorizes sanctions against the Syrian government, have only strengthened hard-liners in the regime and brought many moderates to their fold. As a result, political reforms are on hold and economic reforms are touted as being a pre-requisite for future political reforms. 2. This leads to the next question.

Do the changes in Syria call for a re-think of the US-Syria equation? With a bit of positive re-enforcement, reforms will push forward in a more planned manner. Why has a regime, which is, by and large secular, less oppressive than others in the region, and is trying to reform, been chosen for economic sanctions while other more radical countries in the region have been spared? This when US and Syria have full-fledged diplomatic relations. Reforms bring many painful changes within a country that lead to domestic opposition. In order to bring stability to the region can the US help Syria in its path of reform rather than impede it?


1. 2. Syria under Bashar (II): Domestic Policy challenges,International Crisis Group, Middle Eastern Report No. 243. The state in a changing world – World Development Report, 1997, World Bank.4. Country report: Syria 2004-05. The Economist Intelligence Unit, UK.

Not a good time for farming in Iraq

Check out this interesting comment made by Michael Ewens on monopoly creation in Iraq. Farmers would be forced to use specific seeds from American companies. This is part of Iraqi law now.

I quote the essential part of Ewen’s comment:

Essentially, the US has imposed a system of patents that were unknown to Iraqi farmers prior to “liberation.” Perhaps these farmers developed the breeds on their own or used the seeds before they were ever patented. However, now they are breaking the “law” by “stealing” from the owners of plant breed patents. Absurd. Of course, (…) this is not a failure of capitalism. Rather, it is a symptom of a government with the power to forcibly regulate the actions of farmers and all citizens. “Evil corporations” that reap the benefits would never have such opportunities without a State and its monopoly on force.

The original story (found here ):

Iraqi Farmers Aren’t Celebrating World Food Day

Nov 11, 2004

As part of sweeping “economic restructuring” implemented by the Bush Administration in Iraq, Iraqi farmers will no longer be permitted to save their seeds. Instead, they will be forced to buy seeds from US corporations — including seeds the Iraqis themselves developed over hundreds of years. That is because in recent years, transnational corporations have patented and now own many seed varieties originated or developed by indigenous peoples. In a short time, Iraq will be living under the new American credo: Pay Monsanto, or starve.

(…) A new report by GRAIN and Focus on the Global South has found that new legislation in Iraq has been carefully put in place by the US that prevents farmers from saving their seeds and effectively hands over the seed market to transnational corporations. This is a disastrous turn of events for Iraqi farmers, biodiversity and the country’s food security. While political sovereignty remains an illusion, food sovereignty for the Iraqi people has been made near impossible by these new regulations.

“The US has been imposing patents on life around the world through trade deals. In this case, they invaded the country first, then imposed their patents. This is both immoral and unacceptable”, said Shalini Bhutani, one of the report’s authors.

The new law in question heralds the entry into Iraqi law of patents on life forms – this first one affecting plants and seeds. This law fits in neatly into the US vision of Iraqi agriculture in the future – that of an industrial agricultural system dependent on large corporations providing inputs and seeds.

In 2002, FAO estimated that 97 percent of Iraqi farmers used saved seed from their own stocks from last year’s harvest or purchased from local markets. When the new law – on plant variety protection (PVP) – is put into effect, seed saving will be illegal and the market will only offer proprietary “PVP-protected” planting material “invented” by transnational agribusiness corporations. The new law totally ignores all the contributions Iraqi farmers have made to development of important crops like wheat, barley, date and pulses. Its consequences are the loss of farmers’ freedoms and a grave threat to food sovereignty in Iraq. In this way, the US has declared a new war against the Iraqi farmer.

“If the FAO is celebrating ‘Biodiversity for Food Security’ this year, it needs to demonstrate some real commitment”, says Henk Hobbelink of GRAIN, pointing out that the FAO has recently been cosying up with industry and offering support for genetic engineering [3]. “Most importantly, the FAO must recognise that biodiversity-rich farming and industry-led agriculture are worlds apart, and that industrial agriculture is one of the leading causes of the catastrophic decline in agricultural biodiversity that we have witnessed in recent decades. The FAO cannot hope to embrace biodiversity while holding industry’s hand”, he added.

MEMRI (Suite)

By far the most relaxing piece read on the subject. Contains a lot of information on the colonel Carmon, his ex-Israeli intelligence work. What I love is the conclusion:

In other words, it would appear MEMRI is an Israeli intelligence operation, or if it is not directly an intelligence operation it more than likely shares information with Israeli intelligence. If this is true—and is one of the reasons the org’s books should be opened—MEMRI should be registered as working for a foreign government and should obviously have its non-profit status revoked. Of course, if we didn’t live in Bushzarro World, MEMRI would be not only disbanded, but investigated for espionage.

Of course, in the twisted labyrinth of Bushzarro World, non-profit Zionist organizations, staffed by former Israeli intelligence operatives—and some would say there is no such thing as a “former intelligence operative”—are not only perfectly normal, they are given preferential treatment.

Responding to some guy

Following a discussion on Juan Cole, MEMRI and others , this is what I answered:

Dear anonymous,

You raised so many problems and unfortunately i don’t have all the time i want to answer everything. i noted down some key points for any future discussion on this type of subject:

– When judgement statement are made on Israel, people don’t usually condemn specific moves such as the assassination of Hamas. Cole for example is not just pissed because Israel killed Hamas leader. no, there are other stuff Israel has been doing since it was founded as a nation which is far worse than just this killing. Well to start with, the guy who got killed should not have existed were it not for Israeli policies. It’s better to have a broad vision of events when analyzing a particular move.

– Help is not easy to get. the whole debate of nations asking for help and then stealing everything, repressing their population, etc. is a whole field of inquiry on why is this happening this way. Developmental economics has interesting answers for you. Don’t think neocons discovered something by attacking and erasing the institutions of a country from the map just because they were thought to be deficient. This is not the way to go about things. Historically in any case this type of behavior never helped. notwithstanding the fact, that these people never thought of helping anyone and even less so build democratic institutions (whether in Iraq and Palestine, neocons are increasingly calling for …less democracy).

– Israeli-US Relations: Ariel Sharon does not litterally have Bush on a string but if you face the facts everything the US is doing in the region is in the interest of one single power which is Israel. Not only that, but the US can sometimes be harmed by doing so (surely the case in the long-term). Add to this the Neocons holy alliance with Israel (US national security breachs to the profit of Israel, Wolfowitz, Perle, Wurmser, Hadley, etc. all have done it, just check FBI files). At this point of your inquiry you can basically use the “string” metaphor. Now if you want to be picky you can say that the current Israeli government is strongly in line with the current US administration and these people think of Israeli interests as being identical to US’s, thus sometimes missing the clear difference between both. Today in the US voices from left and right are speaking these things because they are scared of where their country is going because of Israeli (and of course specific interest groups in the US) military fantasies.

– Institutions or Culture ? now a small remark on the definition of “institution”. A clan is an institution, pre-capitalistic in a sense. Today the Arab world, knows old and new institutions struggling to living side by side. That’s why you have conflict erupting sometimes. The Lebanese civil war, the current crisis in Sudan, the past Algerian ‘Islamic’ uprising, Saudi austering rules, etc. It does not mean that daily Arab rulers wake up and because they are bloodthirsty they decide to do some killing. Also, these conflicts have nothing to do with “cultures” or “values”, it has to do with societal dynamics that are not functioning properly anymore. By lump-summing these into a sentence like: “these Arabs are killers so let’s go and do some killing” , nothing can be resolved. Remarks by Fouad Ajami (picked up by Tony in his next post) making fun of Shia practices is falling into the “cultural trap” or what I call the “Bernard Lewis Trap”. Ajami himself a shia, frustrated by his environment went to live the American dream (and here i am not using a cultural argument mind you) becoming a professor so gaining what i would call “knowledge legitimacy” is now throwing back at his origins all the hatred he has packed inside. This guy has done nothing to improve deficiencies in the Arab except whining and uttering the usual you-see-i-told-you-(americans)-Arab-cannot-evolve mantra. Why should they evolve, well because people like Bernard Lewis said that they were “culturally” backward…

I’ll leave you with some stuff to work with (even though much more should be said). I hope things i presented were clear!

The MEMRI case

I have already posted stuff on MEMRI. But lately Juan Cole has been threatened by the Colonel (of MEMRI) because of some sort of number he apparently got wrong. Anyway, check out Cole’s second input on his own site where some other guy is quite sceptic about MEMRI’s objectivity in selecting Arab media articles (as I sure am too).

The most important point point of reply made by Cole would be:

I continue to maintain that MEMRI is selective and biased against the Arab press, and that it highlights pieces that cast Arabs, especially committed Muslims, in a negative light. That it also rewards secular Arabs for being secularists is entirely beside the point (and this is the function of the “reform” site). On more than one occasion I have seen, say, a bigoted Arabic article translated by MEMRI and when I went to the source on the Web, found that it was on the same op-ed page with other, moderate articles arguing for tolerance. These latter were not translated.

Oh yes Colonel Carmon said something of a “reform” section of MEMRI’s site that gives candies to good ‘liberal’ Arab boys.

Also, for those who say that Cole is a conspiracy theorist, here is an interesting point:

I did not allege that MEMRI or Col. Carmon are “affiliated” with the Likud Party. What I said was that MEMRI functions as a PR campaign for Likud Party goals. Col. Carmon and Meyrav Wurmser , who run MEMRI, were both die-hard opponents of the Oslo peace process, and so ipso facto were identified with the Likud rejectionists on that central issue.

And this end the whole “likudnik” controversy.

Now check out what Abu Aardvark has to say about this (our MEMRI specialist). Even Brad Delong condemned the move. Finally, check yet another interesting discussion on MEMRI here .


Give a finger he’ll take the whole hand

The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs has a page on US aid to Israel since 1948 until 1997. Plus, they have interesting articles by Stephen Zunes and others on the same page commenting on the US-Israeli special relation and how much this costs for oblivious Americans.

On the other hand, JINSA has just congratulated Rice’s appointment , but has advised the latter to personally monitor the fate of the 20 million $ the US administration is about to give to the Palestinian authorities. Notwithstanding the fact that figures of US aid to Israel are in the billions of billions, JINSA basically states the following:

Twenty million dollars is both a lot of money and a drop in the bucket. It is pennies toward the “creation of institutions that serve the needs of the Palestinian people,” which President Bush called for in his seminal speech of June 24, 2002. To really help the people (and we’re being VERY generous here, because the demonstration of wanton violence and naked hatred during Arafat’s burial gives us serious pause about wanting to do anything for those people) would take all the billions Arafat stole and Suha spent. It would also take a redirection of money away from 12 security services, preachers as paid fomenters of violence and a wholesale purge of the Palestinian media, school system and UNRWA. THEN, we could talk about helping the Palestinian people (such as they are).

Who’s being VERY generous exactly? American taxpayers have payed billions to built a military monster. Now trying to restore a modicum of political stability for Palestinians would need material means. It is basically common sense to have these 20 million (if not more) as a top priority allocated to the PA needs. Hell, even Tony Blair thinks that the Middel East Peace process is THE priority nowadays. What JINSA implies is let them stay weak so that anarchy continues to reign and thus there will be reason (democratically marketable who knows) to crush or/and deport/transfer them.

Back in business

Bush has been re-elected and I was kind of paralyzed everytime I thought I had to write or highlight something. Now what do I have for today. Before that let’s do a recap. First, Iran is going to be attacked, it is just a matter of time and excuses to be found. Second, Neocons have never been as strong as they are today (although some experts would argue the contrary ). Third, Arafat is gone and even God or the idea of god cannot help Palestinians get out of their mess unless Abbas, Qurei and others transcend their human capabilities. Finally, Lebanese are still proud that the US is looking towards them not knowing that the latter is actually looking at a dreamed of horizon besides them, and ‘them’ being in the middle (this can be tricky, but a tank could just walk over). So actually nothing much have changed.

Now for today:

Wolfowitz is interviewed by and here is his response to a possibility of using carrots instead of sticks with Iran.

Would the US also use carrots, for example, by recognising the mullahs? If the policy is regime change, then you can hardly blame them for trying to insulate themselves by acquiring nuclear weapons.

Paul Wolfowitz – The policy is that Iran should stop promoting terrorism, should stop pursuing WMD and should stop trying to destroy the middle east peace process.

Did he really answer to the question? for me, the question involved explaining the ‘insulate themselves’ phenomenon that nobody understands in the US administration. For me it felt like he was fixated on uttering the endless terrorism-WMD-is-present-so-let’s-get-in Mantra. And since when is Iran obstructing the Middle East peace process??

On another level, well, you had Campus Watch to track down the ‘intellectual terrorists’ in the US (terrorists means critical of Israeli policies), and today Israelis discovered that even in their own country, a couple of scholarly dudes are critical of Israeli policies. Not able to digest this presence of diversity, these people created Israeli Academia Monitor .

Now Meyrav Wurmser, ex-MEMRI mastermind and today’s director of the Center for Middle East policy at the Hudson Institute has written a rather insightful piece in the National Review that basically states a paradox: in order for Palestinian to get a democracy they have to be free. hmm, so how can you have a democracy and not be free? Maybe Meyrav meant since Palestinian are inferior beings (as all Arabs by the way), you can’t just give them democracy, they just aren’t inherently free like other human beings are.