An Indian Civilizational Perspective

A Murder in Syria that may end up being significant!

Jesus and Muhammad: Profound Differences and Surprising Similarities

Things are changing rapidly in the Middle East and far beyond into Asia… the question is what will it be that will light the fire. Who will be the Archduke Ferdinand? Contrary to the overt calm, I somehow feel that the world is full of ready-to-be-lit “stuff” – the question is when? Why do I feel that way… its been quite a while in the recent history that the religious fundamentalism from all sides has risen to such a height. It is not about a religion.. but the extremism of ideologies that creates an atmosphere which is super charged and can create the light that can trigger a big fire. Nothing makes people baser and barbarians than the conceit of having a “Higher Purpose” to fight for. What better could that “Higher Purpose” be than one for the “Ultimate Savior” – Mohammad or Jesus?

Self Righteousness is a powerful anecdote against all remorse caused out of civility!

As the moderate civility thins off in every region.. the wheel of war will meet the road….

JUST what will follow the murder of Pierre Gemayel, the 34-year-old, anti-Syrian, minister of industry from a leading Christian family who was gunned down by unknown assailants in Beirut on Tuesday November 21st? The situation in Lebanon, which was already tense, looks increasingly febrile. Angry crowds took to the streets in Beirut immediately after his death and again on Wednesday. Some of the demonstrators burned tyres and many accused Syrian agents of the killing. As three days of official mourning began and preparations were made for Mr Gemayel’s funeral there were fears of more violence. Walid Jumblatt, an anti-Syrian Druze leader, predicted that more ministers and parliamentarians could be assassinated as part of a concerted effort to bring down the Lebanese government. Mr Gemayel is the fifth anti-Syrian figure to be killed in the past two years.

Within Lebanon attention is now focused on Hizbullah, the opposition movement supported by Syria which has been set on toppling the fragile, Western-leaning government of Fouad Siniora. Mr Siniora has been pushing ahead with plans to approve a special international court to try suspects for the murder, last year, of a former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri. On Tuesday the United Nations Security Council gave its backing to the court, as long as Lebanon’s government agrees. It is widely assumed that Syria, whose armed forces dominated Lebanon for three decades until last year, was involved in the killing of Mr Hariri and is trying to block the trial. Six ministers, mostly Hizbullah members, resigned last week, leaving Mr Siniora more vulnerable than ever. The death or resignation of two more ministers would see the cabinet shrink below its quorum, and thus the government would collapse.

Beyond Lebanon’s borders the situation is no less complicated. The killing of Mr Gemayel brought swift and noisy condemnation from around the world. Like the demonstrators in Beirut, many assume that Syria itself or at least pro-Syrian forces are responsible, although Syria itself officially denounced the killing. But the killing comes at a delicate moment in regional and international politics, given efforts by other neighbours and Western countries who are keen to establish a closer diplomatic relationship with Damascus.

The past few days have seen a flurry of diplomatic activity between Syria, Iraq and Iran. Iraq has re-established diplomatic ties with Syria. Syria’s foreign minister, during a visit to Iraq, has talked of helping to end the violence there. Iran has invited the leaders of Iraq and Syria to a regional summit this weekend. In America, where efforts to find a strategy for eventual withdrawal from Iraq are intensifying, analysts, diplomats and politicians have increasingly suggested that a greater role for Syria is becoming inevitable.

As even the likes of Henry Kissinger call the war in Iraq unwinnable by military means, diplomatic efforts to get co-operation from Syria (and perhaps from Iran) have been seen as the next option. A commission of panjandrums under James Baker, a secretary of state for the George Bush senior, that is supposed to offer new strategies for Iraq early next month, has also been talking to Syrian officials. Similarily, a senior British foreign-policy adviser recently visited Damascus. The West’s goal, presumably, is to persuade Syria to close its border to fighters and weapons heading for Iraq.

The price of Syrian co-operation over Iraq, however, may be considered too high if Syria is determined to reassert itself in Lebanon. Hizbullah was already emboldened after withstanding Israel’s onslaught in a month-long war earlier this year.


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