Syrian Impunity in Lebanon

by Virginia N. Sherry
published in MER203

Some of the cases are old but certainly not forgotten. The most recent inquiry that I received about a “disappearance” in Lebanon came in April 1997 from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The caller was a Palestinian whose brother, Rushdi Rashid Hamdan Shihab, “disappeared” in Sidon in October 1987. “At 10 am, he left his car with a mechanic at a gas station, saying that he would return in the evening to pick it up,” his brother said. Shihab, the father of three who was 42 at the time, did not return to the station that evening. And he was never seen again in Lebanon. Family members traveled to Jordan and Syria, seeking information about his whereabouts, but came up with nothing solid.

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Syrian Involvement in Lebanon

by Volker Perthes
published in MER203

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Myths and Money

Four Years of Hariri and Lebanon's Preparation for a New Middle East

by Volker Perthes
published in MER203

“The price of prosperity has already been paid,” read an ad that Lebanon’s Investment Development Authority ran in the summer of 1996. “Now is the time to harvest.” The ad also mentioned, euphemistically, that the price had been “a period of unrest.” The message was meant to convince international investors that Lebanon has reemerged as a stable location for big finance and capital. At the same time, it reflected the feeling of many Lebanese that the civil war (1975-1990) had been due to external, regional, rather than internal, domestic circumstances, and that Lebanon therefore ought to be compensated for all the suffering.

Theater and the Thirst for Dialogue

by Saadallah Wannous
published in MER203

Born in 1941 in a village overlooking the Mediterranean just above the port city of Tartous, Syria, Saadallah Wannous attended local schools until the age of 18 when he was awarded a scholarship to study journalism at Cairo University. He later attended the Theater of Nations in Paris.

Private Capital and the State in Contemporary Syria

by Fred H. Lawson
published in MER203

Throughout the late 1980s, Syria’s economy suffered persistent difficulties. Shortages of imported machinery and spare parts led to underproduction and quality control breakdowns in the country’s larger factories. External indebtedness rose to some $4.9 billion by 1988; payments on foreign loans fell more than $100 million into arrears by early 1989 and about $210 million behind by the winter of 1989-1990. Foreign exchange became so scarce in the spring of 1989 that the central administration started rationing its meager stockpile of hard currency, giving priority to those enterprises most likely to generate export earnings, particularly the assembly of light manufactured goods and agricultural commodities.

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Syria Between Two Transitions

by Hisham Melhem
published in MER203

In the recent years, Syria has inhabited the two processes of fundamental transition. The first is a transition from a statist economy to a greater liberalization or, to use a more accurate term, intifah (open-door policy). The second of these transitions is from a state of belligerency with Israel to one of coexistence with the possible eventuality of peace. Although not organically linked, the two reinforce one another. The interplay among the dynamics both have created profoundly shapes state and society in Syria, as it has the politics of the Eastern Mediterranean.

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History as Social Critique in Syrian Film

by Robert Blecher
published in MER204

Muhammad Malas’ al-Layl and Ryad Chaia’s al-Lajat

History is back in fashion in Syria. The last few years have seen a flurry of Syrian films and TV series treating historical epochs from Zenobia’s Palmyra to the French occupation (1920-1946). The latter has been especially well represented in this “return to history” (al-‘awda ila al-tarikh). In particular, two films stand out: Muhammad Malas’ al-Layl (The Night) and Ryad Chaia’s al-Lejat (referring to both the name of the region of Suwayda in which the film takes place and the black volcanic rock common to the region). Previously screened in Europe, both have appeared recently in US film festivals.

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Asad's Lost Chances

by Carsten Wieland | published April 13, 2011

On January 31, the Wall Street Journal printed words that Bashar al-Asad must wince to recall. In an interview with the newspaper, the Syrian president said that Arab rulers would need to move faster to accommodate the rising political and economic aspirations of Arab peoples. “If you didn’t see the need for reform before what happened in Egypt and Tunisia, it’s too late to do any reform,” he chided his fellow leaders. But Asad went on to assure the interviewer (and perhaps himself): “Syria is stable. Why? Because you have to be very closely linked to the beliefs of the people. This is the core issue. When there is divergence…you will have this vacuum that creates disturbances.”

Holding Syria Accountable, Though Selectively

by Chris Toensing | published September 1, 2003

With George W. Bush stubbornly insisting that the US is making “progress” in the “central phase of the war on terror” in Iraq, pro-Israel Democrats and Republicans in Congress figure it is time for phase three. Some think tankers want to train Washington’s gunsights on Iran, but next week Congress will reconsider a measure targeting Syria.

Yes, We Really Must Talk With Iran

by Charles Knight , Chris Toensing | published October 28, 2008

If American troops are ever to come home from Iraq and Iraqis are to have a decent chance at peace and prosperity, the United States must open up a new chapter in its Middle Eastern diplomacy. The Iraq Study Group in 2006 made this point when it called for “diplomatic dialogue, without preconditions.” The Bush administration has largely ignored this advice.

The diplomatic challenge before the United States and the international community is to secure non-intervention of neighboring states in Iraqi affairs and to nurture a substantial international commitment to long-term Iraqi recovery from its decades of war, sanctions and authoritarian rule. To meet this challenge, the United States will need a new policy in the broader region.