“President Bashar al Assad of Syria has lately seemed to be doing everything possible to make himself an ex-dictator — and this week he took yet another step in that direction.
“Assad delivered the keynote address to the 10th meeting of Syria’s Ba’ath Party Congress. Expectations have frequently run high that Bashar was a closet reformer, the man who would drag Syria from its closed, proto-Stalinist past into an era of Arab glasnost and perestroika. Assad, however, has always failed to deliver, and Syria’s politics and economy have remained stagnant.
“But more puzzling than Assad’s missed opportunities to reform have been his strategic mistakes. Whereas his father, Hafez, mesmerized American presidents with his cunning, guile and tenacity, Bashar’s equivocation on Iraq, support for Hezbollah and Palestinian terror groups, and barely visible aid in the battle against Al Qaeda have earned only contempt from the White House’s current inhabitant.
“Recently, Assad’s blunders have seemed to intensify. In a truly stunning display of diplomatic ineptitude, Assad strong-armed Lebanon to accept a second term for a quisling president and, by all accounts, arranged the daylight assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq al Hariri. This had the result of reviving U.S.-French relations from their Iraq-war nadir by giving the two counties a common purpose: evicting Syria from Lebanon. In the months that followed, Assad brought ignominy to his army, which was compelled — without a single bullet being fired — to beat a hasty retreat from a country it had dominated for a generation. He also triggered the expulsion of probably a quarter-million or more Syrian workers from Lebanon — nobody knows for sure how many — which swelled the ranks of Syria’s unemployed overnight.
“To paraphrase the courageous Syrian reformer Ammar Abdulhamid, if the Assads were the modern-day Corleones, Hafez dreamed of having Michael succeed him, but was stuck with Fredo.
“Given how brittle Assad’s government has become, Syria is one country in which a battle of ideas may itself be enough to trigger fundamental change. If so, Fredo Corleone’s days in power are numbered.”
The Management May Have Changed, but the Violent Policies Continue
Author Rachel Ehrenfeld writes on www.FrontPageMagazine.com  May 26 that the Palestinians’ new leader hasn’t made much of a difference:
“Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] talks about how important it is to stop terrorism; however, he considers all terrorists that have committed atrocities against Israel, as heroes,’ said Brig-Gen. Yossi Kupperwasser, Chief Intelligence Analyst for the Israel Defense Force.
“He continued: ‘[Abu Mazen] says that terrorism is not good; however, he takes no actions whatsoever to stop terrorism.’ In fact, the Palestinian Authority under Abu Mazen ‘is not interested in implementing arrests, disarming terrorist groups from their weapons, punishing terrorists, or stopping the smuggling of weaponry.’ Indeed, according to Prime Minister Sharon … ‘terrorist activities have not yet ceased. The smuggling of weapons and arms production continues, and there is no real prevention of terrorist actions.’
“Moreover, Abbas is continuing in [Yasser] Arafat’s footsteps, and has done nothing to change the culture of hatred towards Israel that prevails in the Palestinian territories and encourages continuing terror attacks against Israel. According to Amnesty International’s recent report, ‘Palestinian armed groups have repeatedly shown total disregard for the most fundamental human rights, notably the right to life, by deliberately targeting Israeli civilians and by using Palestinian children in armed attacks.’
“Even the reforms of the P.A.’s 13 Security Services/terrorist organizations did not result in the dismantling of these terror organizations. Instead, Abbas continues to protect terrorists by legitimizing them and funding their activities from the P.A.’s budget.
“The reform of the financial mismanagement of the P.A. is not fairing much better, despite years of demands for reform by the United States and the European Union. But if the past is any indication, do not expect that the donors will stop financing the P.A. Only last month, former E.U. commissioner Christopher Patten’s assistant Emma Unwin disclosed that ‘when we started giving direct budgetary assistance at the end of 2002, we were dealing with a Palestinian Authority that had a very untransparent system of financial management.’
“This, however, did not prevent them from giving the P.A.’s ‘untransparent system’ more than $2.5 billion of European taxpayers’ money, which in turn enabled the Palestinians to continue with their intifada.”
Comforting Words? ‘We Are Slayers of Prophets; We Live Off Their Blood’
Columnist Cal Thomas writes in the The Washington Times (www.washingtontimes.com ) on June 5 about the double standard by which Muslim abuse of non-believers is judged:
“Islamic countries apply a double standard on treatment of ‘holy books’ and people who differ in faith and practice from Islamic dogma. While Islamic groups in the United States are engaged in ‘sensitivity training’ sessions for non-Muslims that have included federal workers, the Ohio National Guard and U.S. Air Force Academy, there are no such sessions for Muslims to teach them tolerance for non-Islamic faiths. Quite the contrary.
“The least verbal or physical slight of any Muslim in America is immediately condemned by activist groups and sometimes the U.S. government. But the denigration of Jews and Christians throughout much of the Islamic world is theological and political business as usual. Jews are regularly referred to as ‘apes and pigs,’ mostly because that is what the Koran calls them.
“According to the MEMRI-TV Monitor Project (www. memri.org), which observes the way Jews, especially, are portrayed throughout the Middle East, a Jordanian produced program titled ‘Stories From Before the Verses Came Down’ was aired in February on Saudi Iqra TV.
“The soap opera included familiar anti-Semitic stuff, such as blaming ancient Jews for distorting their own Torah to make it seem Mohammed could not be the ‘true prophet’ and having a Jewish character say, ‘We are the slayers of prophets, and we live off their blood. We live for destroying them.’
“Despite the Western diplomatic talk about Arabs and Palestinians living in peace with even a geographically reduced Israel, the Arab world demonstrates no intention of coming to terms with Israel or the Jewish (or Christian) people, unless it involves their complete subjugation to Islam or death.”