Dar Al-Hayat, Saudi Arabia
May 26 2004
The Weeping Speech
Mohamad Rumaihi Al-Hayat
>>From the 15th to the 17th of May 2004, an important intellectual
seminar was held in Kuwait, prepared and called for by the committee
of the foreign affairs in the Kuwaiti Parliament. The seminar was
entitled: The Region and the Future. “Region” means here the Middle
East, and one is free to imagine whether it is the greater one or the
smaller one! A huge number of politicians, academics and concerned
people attended the seminar; among them were current or former
officials and Arab, Iranian and Western journalists. The media
published a lot of material about this important seminar.
There is a lot one can comment in this important seminar: the
speeches of the Arab League former Secretary General, Ismat Abdul
Majid, the current Iraqi minister of foreign affairs, Hoshyar Zibari,
Mr. Richard Jones, the Vice-Governor in Iraq, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas’
opinions about the Palestinian issue and the viewpoints of Iranian
and Iraqi academics.
However, I want to comment on the statements of the Syrian Dr. Sami
Khaimi, who was said to be a member in the Syrian delegation to the
European partnership negotiations.
If Mr. Sami delivered his comments in his name or that of the
negotiating delegation; no one would have been so surprised or
annoyed. But the truth is that he entitled it: How Do Syrians Read
the Americans’ Position! Hence, he talked in the name of all Syrians.
The speech belonged more to the past than to the present, not to
mention the future that was the required subject of discussion.
In his speech, Mr. Sami asked questions and answered them. He said,
for instance, “They say the (Arab) region is full of money and it
finances terror.” His answer was that Syria suffered from terror
first and that it doesn’t have money. He added: “they say changing
the region into a democracy is necessary to limit terror,” and
answered: “the U.S. doesn’t apply this principle to the other
Then, he continued and said: “shifting quickly to democracy in a
country that suffers economically (he probably meant a country that
is economically retarded) would lead to loosing social security!”
What a justification! Mr. Sami forgot that the majority of the
audience knows about India, Bangladesh, Turkey and other countries,
whose economies are still weak but yet they are democratic!
He added; “they say that there is an urgent need to change the Arab
mind” and Mr. Sami admits that the Arab mind (is overwhelmed by the
glory of the past). He pointed out that Syria “welcomed the
Armenians, Turkish and Bosnians” and said, “There are seven Syrian
popes who ruled Rome.” He forgot that he is once again talking about
the past without realizing at the contradictions.
Mr. Sami said: “Syria is accused of supporting terror through
Hezbollah, Hamas and Jihad.” He answered that these organizations do
not constitute a threat to American national security and that their
bureaus in Damascus are mere formalities!
Mr. Sami wondered then why is the image of the Arab people and
Syrians bad in the West? He answered that some people say that it is
due to the nature of the regime in Syria! Then he asked: “did the
Communists suffer from the ugliness of Pinochet’s image, did the
Spanish image change under Franco or did the Serbian one under
Milosevic?” What a comparison!
Mr. Sami stated that they said that Syria doesn’t deploy efforts to
prohibit sneaking through its borders with Iraq. He answered that “it
is very difficult to close long borders and we wish the U.S. good
luck to succeed in doing so!”
He added: “we are accused that our school curricula teach children
religious and national fanaticism.” He answered: “Not in Syria,
although efforts should be deployed gradually in order to reduce the
praising of the Arabs.” He added: “be sure that a child learning
something wrong in the U.S. is even more dangerous on the world
security than a thousand of Arab children!”
He then finished the speech by saying: “I am saddened because I think
that the U.S. with all its greatness, values and military force,
deserves better than those men” (in the current administration). Note
that he is talking about “the U.S. positive values!”
It is not required for anyone to praise the U.S. and it is not
required to go beyond what he thinks is wrong. Mr. Sami’s speech was
not a good one. It was contradictory and constituted a negative image
about Syria’s position.
The speaker could have been more convincing only if he quoted some
ideas from the U.S. General Clark’s book, Victory In Modern Wars and
listened to his advice about the extent to which media has an impact
on convincing people.
Any observer can now interpret Syria’s position that is standing at a
turning point in its history.
Many people want to see Syria in a better place under the prevailing
circumstances in the region for several reasons, one of them being
that the allowed choices might not be better than those available
right now. Many people are still betting on the young Syrian
leadership, however, the official awareness is still far away of
understanding the rules of the game that had changed.
Hence, the objective of this article is to wish for Syria’s discourse
and performance to change because it is no longer convincing.