A Good News Cycle for Syria

This news cycle is turning out to be very favorable to Syria. The formation of the new Lebanese government is being taughted as the salvation of the small, fragmented country from civil war. Syria is given some credit for this. Assad's trip to Paris is depicted as a major turning point and official end to the West's isolation policy (if not America's, but then Washington is in disarray). Israel is tearing its hair and claiming that Hizbullah's role in the new government is proof that the Jewish state lost the 2006 summer war.

Before Syria congratulates itself for learning how to spar in the information wars, one must consider that it has entered a honey-moon period that will, in all likelihood, be very brief. The main reason Syria is getting good press is because the normally hostile Lebanese and Saudi press, which dominates the news cycle, is on holiday. Everyone is being polite to honor the formation of the new Lebanese government. The usual Lebanese critics will raise their voices as soon as the opposition uses its new presence in the cabinet to veto a government decision; Syria will be blamed. US critics and the Bush administration are reluctant to rain on Sarkozi's parade or to criticize him for hosting Assad – after all, it would only highlight the failure of Washington's Syria-Lebanon policy.

Here are some representative headlines:

Country Saved from the Brink of a renewed Civil War 

Lebanese Form National Unity Government: Washington Post,

Divided Lebanon forges new future: BBC News, UK

Voice of America: The majority bloc agreed to support the opposition's proposal to include a pro-Syrian politician, Ali Kanso, in the newly formed cabinet. The new cabinet gives the opposition the posts of foreign minister and deputy prime minister while the ruling bloc will be in charge of the ministry of finance and other key posts. Prime Minister Siniora…. "Today, through this national unity government, we have decided to manage our disputes through democratic institutions and dialogue, and not through force and intimidation," he said.

Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman (L) meets Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri (C) and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut July 11, 2008. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

BEIRUT, July 11 (Xinhua): The 30-member cabinet consists of 16 minister of the ruling majority, 11 ministers of the opposition and three ministers named by the president in line with a Doha accord reached in May which saved the country from the brink of a renewed civil war.

France brings Syria's Assad out of the diplomatic cold
Turkish Press

Boycott lifted as France hosts Syria's president
The Guardian

San Francisco Chronicle: Hezbollah gains political clout in Lebanon's new, interim Cabinet

Ynetnews: Nobody thinks we won

Recent cabinet session on Hizbullah proves we lost Second Lebanon War
Roni Sofer

Don’t measure the results now, one of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s associates asked on August 14, 2006 – a moment after Israel agreed to sign the ceasefire agreement. Yes, it may not look good now, he said, while explaining and praising the diplomatic achievement inherent in Resolution 1701, but we will be able to measure the results over time.

“The test will be whether Hizbullah is disarmed, whether the sovereign Lebanese government will control all of southern Lebanon, and whether the Lebanese army will be deployed along the border fence. This is what you will be seeing, and you will realize that the price we paid brought results,” he said. ….

The next round, if we believe the intelligence assessments of all branches, is only a matter of time. This pro-Iranian arm is just waiting for the moment Tehran will utilize it to escalate tensions in the area, or for the moment Bush or Olmert decide on a military move against Iran’s nuclear threat.

‘Nothing happens the way Olmert plans it’

Two years have passed since the war, and we saw Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni telling her Italian counterpart that the multinational force’s mandate must be expanded. She told him that we are very concerned about the arms smuggled via Syria and about Hizbullah’s growing hold on southern Lebanon. In other words, Livni said, Resolution 1701 is not being implemented, or alternately, its implementation on the ground does not deliver the goods.

Two years have passed since the war, and if you ask our politicians – either on the Center, Right, or Left of the political spectrum – by now nobody thinks we won. Not even Olmert’s people.

“Olmert said that the evidence of our victory is the fact that Nasrallah is forced to continue hiding in the bomb shelter,” said someone who already saw four governments formed and toppled. “So what will Olmert say now that Nasrallah has veto power on Lebanese government decisions, while possessing three times as many missiles compared to what he had before the war? All the power that was invested, all the victims who died in the war, the price paid by the home front in the north – all of that happened, and Hizbullah just became stronger. This is not a draw, like former Army Chief Halutz claimed. This is a defeat.”

“The problem with Olmert,” one of his ministers told us following the last cabinet session, “is that nothing happens the way he plans it. It didn’t happen in the Lebanon War – Hizbullah is still there, more powerful both militarily and politically. Yes, Olmert really wants peace with Syria, but can you see Assad giving it to him when the PM barely has two months left before the Kadima primaries?”

Georges Corm:

La Syrie et Israël ont négocié directement au début des années 1990 dans le cadre du processus de Madrid sans résultat concret, même s’il a été dit par les deux parties qu’elles étaient très près d’un accord.

Israël et les Etats-Unis pensent par ce jeu pouvoir séparer la Syrie de l’Iran, ce qui n’est pas très réaliste, mais la Syrie ne peut manquer l’occasion de montrer qu’elle est ouverte à une reprise des négociations et desserrer ainsi la pression des Etats-Unis et des gouvernements européens sur elle.

Israël, de son côté, face aux timides pressions pour trouver une issue à la situation des Palestiniens, fait une fuite en avant en se déclarant prêt à négocier le retrait du Golan syrien occupé et annexé. Les gouvernements israéliens l’ont déjà fait à plusieurs reprises dans le passé.

The raging anger that lies below the surface
Syrians have long been a touchstone of Arab public opinion.
Anthony Ham, Damascus
The Age

THE REGULARS of al-Nawfara Coffee Shop, one of the grand old cafes of Damascus, were uncharacteristically quiet. The shouted conversations and the click of backgammon pieces had fallen silent. All eyes had turned to the television, where Hassan Nasrallah, the spiritual and political leader of Hezbollah and sworn enemy of Israel and the West, held court, his speech booming out into the surrounding streets. Live from Beirut, less than 100 kilometres from where we sat, the charismatic Nasrallah vowed to confront America and defend Lebanon with his blood and called on his supporters to do the same.

People nodded in agreement. Some applauded. When the speech ended, the cafe returned to normal. Tourists, including Americans, arrived to hear Abu Shady, the last remaining storyteller in the Arab world, take to his throne. From here, every night, he playfully welcomes visitors in English and tells tales of fire and brimstone and Romeo and Juliet-style epics of thwarted love from centuries past. Waiters warmly greeted the new arrivals with the standard, but heartfelt Syrian greeting: "Where are you from? You are welcome in Syria."

Here, on the streets of Damascus, the complexities and apparent contradictions of the Arab world's relationship with the West are everywhere on show. Founded on the twin pillars of anger at the outside world for its policies towards the Middle East and a genuine, gracious hospitality towards the representatives of that same world, the message from Syria is nonetheless a simple one: there will be no peace in the region until the ordinary people of the Arab street believe that justice has been done.

For decades, Syria has been a touchstone of Arab public opinion. Ruled since the 1960s by the secular Baath Party, it has stood at the vanguard of opposition to Israel, harboured all manner of exiled Palestinian opposition groups, terrorist and otherwise, and resisted all overtures from the US in the latter's search for

Comments (40)


1. Alex said:

Joshua,

I like your conclusion that “good news” for Syria is not necessarily going to last.

The Saudis never took a break from attacking and demonizing Syria … Asahrq Alawsat has been mobilized for the past few month. But it so happens that sometimes they need to write about Iran and those evil Shias in Lebanon too… that’s when you get the impression that Syria got a break.

As for the Lebanese (Hariri) anti-Syria press … I don’t think they can go back to the passionate attacks of the past few years. They will criticize, but I doubt we will see much of the “The snake Bashar … the evil regime in Damascus” type of headlines.

It seems to me that American and European journalists covering the Middle East will continue to follow, not lead. Until now, they have allowed themselves to be influenced by the combined messages coming out of the White House, Saudi press, AIPAC-friendly press, Lebanese M14 voices, and “Syrian opposition” figures.

Will they change in the future? … or will the “democracy” and “Arab moderates” and “Syrian opposition” labels continue to attract them and give them a sense of legitimacy that “the murderous Syrian regime” does not seem to have?

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July 12th, 2008, 3:49 pm

 

2. Off The Wall said:

Joshua
Last night, I read your 2006 Washington Quarterly paper (Syria Opposition) and found it to be very well thought and written. Congratulation on the outstanding academic work.

Your analysis of the current “honey moon” is also excellent.I have been wanting to ask a question regarding Sarkozy’s openness to Bashar and his, not so reluctant embrace of the efforts to break the siege around Syria and its current regime. I happen to think theat Nicholas Sarkozy is an outstanding politician, He is very intelligent and calculating, and I do not think that someone with his political acumen would risk associating himself, so openly, with a regime that at any point in time could be dragged into an international court for murder. Is it possible that he knows some exculpatory evidence about the Hariri’s murder that gives him the impression that the regime is not in as much risk as Mehlis’s report claimed it to be. This is not wishful thinking, but the openness of Sarkosy is also accompanied by slower, but clear steps, from other European capitals. For the past few years, AIPAC and the US have succeeded in painting a picture of the Syrian regime that is at par with the picture drawn in the UK of Mogabi, and I doubt that any European leader would be so bold as to risk associating himself, in any way or shape, with Mogabi. I understand that as an academic, you do not want to get involved in conspiracy theories, But after all, the successful formation of the Lebanese government, while a victory for Lebanon and all of its people, is not a ture victory for the west and its allies, in fact, it is as close to a defeat as it can be, and no one will reward those who defeated them!

I understand that France has its own calculations, particularly regarding France’s commercial ties with Iran. But I still find Srakozy’s actions too bold and risky, unless he knows something that we do not.

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July 12th, 2008, 4:41 pm

 

3. Karim said:

Nicolas Sarkozy se rendra en Syrie “avant la mi-septembre 2008”
AP | 12.07.2008 | 18:05

Le président français Nicolas Sarkozy se rendra en visite en Syrie “avant la mi-septembre 2008”, selon un communiqué commun franco-syrien publié samedi.

Lors de leur entretien à l’Elysée, Nicolas Sarkozy et Bachar el-Assad sont “convenus d’un plan de travail pour assurer la relance des relations bilatérales” franco-syriennes, selon le communiqué.

La visite du président français sera précédée d’un déplacement à Paris du vice-Premier ministre syrien Dardari les 21 et 22 juillet, et d’une visite à Damas du ministre français des Affaires étrangères Bernard Kouchner.

Les deux présidents “ont souligné l’importance du volet syro-israélien du processus de paix” et “noté les progrès accomplis dans le cadre des pourparlers indirects entre la Syrie et Israël sous l’égide de la Turquie”.

Bachar el-Assad “a souhaité que la France, avec les Etats-Unis, puisse apporter toute sa contribution à un futur accord de paix entre Israël et la Syrie, dans la phase de négociation directe comme dans la mise en oeuvre de l’accord, y compris pour les arrangements de sécurité qui pourraient être nécessaires”.

Le président français a quant à lui “marqué la disponibilité de la France à répondre à toute demande en ce sens, si les parties y trouvaient intérêt”.

Ils ont aussi réaffirmé tous deux “leur plein soutien à l’accord de Doha”. Nicolas Sarkozy s’est “félicité de la forte détermination du président syrien à établir des relations diplomatiques avec le Liban, après la formation d’un gouvernement d’union nationale libanais”.

En tant que président français de l’Union européenne, Nicolas Sarkozy “engagera les procédures appropriées en vue de la signature de l’accord d’association entre l’Union européenne et la Syrie, et du lancement du processus de ratification aussitôt que possible”. AP

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July 12th, 2008, 4:48 pm

 

4. Off The Wall said:

Karim
Thanks for the post, since I do not read French, to my great disadvantage, I took the liberty of translating your post through google language tool. I am posting the translation without any edits, it may read funny here and there. If you object to my action, I would gladly be happy if one of the moderators delete this post.

Translation: French » English
———-

AP
The french president Nicolas Sarkozy will visit to Syria “before mid-September 2008,” according to a joint Franco-Syrian published Saturday.

During their meeting at the Elysée, Nicolas Sarkozy and Bashar el-Assad are “agreed on a work plan to ensure the revival of bilateral relations” Franco-Syrian, according to the release.

The french president’s visit will be preceded by a trip to Paris, Deputy Prime Minister Syrian Dardari on 21 and 22 July and a visit to Damascus from french Minister of Foreign Affairs Bernard Kouchner.

The two presidents “have stressed the importance of Syrian-Israeli peace process” and “noted the progress made in the framework of indirect talks between Syria and Israel under the auspices of Turkey.”

Bashar el-Assad “expressed the wish that France, together with the USA, can make its full contribution to a future peace agreement between Israel and Syria in the phase of direct negotiation as in the implementation of the agreement , Including for security arrangements that might be necessary. ”

The french president has also “marked the availability of France to respond to any request to that effect, if the parties were interest.”

They also both reiterated their “full support for the Doha agreement.” Nicolas Sarkozy had “praised the strong determination of the president of Syria to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon, after the formation of a government of national unity of Lebanon”.

As a french president of the European Union, Nicolas Sarkozy “will initiate the appropriate procedures for signing the association agreement between the EU and Syria, and the launch of the ratification process as soon as possible” . AP

——————-

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July 12th, 2008, 4:53 pm

 

5. Majhool said:

The Saudi hate syndrom…….

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July 12th, 2008, 5:26 pm

 

6. Alex said:

Majhool

This is the last time I will accept your “Saudi hate syndrome” accusation… I’m trying hard to ignore your accusations, I did ignore the last few times you said it the past week … but but you don’t seem to know how to stop.

You know what will come next. It’s your choice to learn what it means to accuse people of hate.

If you want to suggest that I am not telling the truth when I mention Saudi media attacks on Syria, by all means link to a proof, or write a meaningful analysis to explain.

Otherwise, you will join AIG in the moderation list,and his provocations and accusations when he has nothing left to defend his favorite country.

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July 12th, 2008, 6:07 pm

 

7. Alex said:

This is very significant:

Sarkozy wants Syrian mediation with Iran!

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July 12th, 2008, 6:09 pm

 

8. Majhool said:

That was so funny and twisted…Grow up

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July 12th, 2008, 6:20 pm

 

9. Qifa Nabki said:

Good reading:

Sarkozy Sells a Mirage

Also, Joshua, I think the good news cycle has already ended:

Bush, French president criticize Iran, Syria

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July 12th, 2008, 6:30 pm

 

10. Nour said:

QN,

The article you linked to about Bush and Sarkozy criticizing Syria was written on June 14, about a month ago.

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July 12th, 2008, 6:42 pm

 

11. Qifa Nabki said:

Nour,

Thanks, I didn’t notice that. It was front and center on Google News.

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July 12th, 2008, 6:47 pm

 

12. offended said:

Alex,
Pushing aside Majhool childish remark about the hate syndrome and what’s not. I have a serious question: what can the Saudis do? really… they have their masters in Washington let alone the different current within the royal family. they can do nothing. They’ve got the money alright. But in terms of vital leverage they’ve got so little. Most of their tools and paid agents have gotten bust. I wouldn’t worry about them, not after Nov. 2008 if you know what i mean!

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July 12th, 2008, 6:49 pm

 

13. EHSANI2 said:

QN

Your second link is from June 18th. Three weeks is long enough for things to look upside down in the Middle East.

I do not share the skeptical view of the recent proceedings in Paris.

The Americans have long insisted that Syria needs to establish formal diplomatic relations with Lebanon.

Syria has just hinted that it will deliver just that through establishing the respective Embassies in Beirut and Damascus.

This ought to satisfy the Americans and allow them to claim “victory”. The White House can point to the Majority in Lebanon that it has delivered to them something that they have long sought.

Bashar will use this Embassy-opening gesture to the full extent. As usual, he will extract the maximum price he can for this measure of goodwill.

Bashar also assured the world that Iran “has no nuclear military project” and that “no other” than a “political” solution is possible with that nation.

Unless I am missing something, the so-called good news cycle for Syria seems rather solid and long. Bashar is riding high and seems to be on his way to pull off one of the most remarkable comebacks in geopolitics.

Jumblatt seems to see the writing on the wall rather clearly. This is what he had to say after the Lebanese cabinet was formed yesterday:

“The opposition got what it wanted. We can’t disarm Hezbollah by force. It will happen only if they want to do it”

Hearing the above from one of the closest allies of the U.S., Bashar could not but chuckle as he boarded his plane to Paris hours after Jumblatt’s simple admission.

In addition to Lebanon, Bashar has also now catapulted himself to be a chief negotiator between the west and Iran as he works on “helping” the west judge the purpose of Iran’s nuclear program (personal request by Sarkozy).

This honey-moon period is getting sweeter by the minute from Damascus’s standpoint.

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July 12th, 2008, 7:04 pm

 

14. Alex said:

Majhool said:

That was so funny and twisted…Grow up

Considering that I just asked you to stick to issues… I can only assume that you are asking for it.

You are now in moderation for two weeks.

Don’t worry, any comment you leave that is not targeting other commentators here will still be released, I have no problem with your opinions on issues.

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July 12th, 2008, 7:26 pm

 

15. Alex said:

Offended,

I agree … most likely the Saudis will continue to fail in anything they try to accomplish at the expense of Damascus.

They’ve been trying on and off since the late 70’s.

I will write more about it this week.

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July 12th, 2008, 7:30 pm

 

16. Naji said:

I think Ehsani meant “catapulted”… and I agree with his reading of the situation.

The remarkable coincidence of today’s meeting and conference in Paris with the two-year anniversary, almost to the hour, of the Israeli/American assault on Lebanon also adds irony to the events and sweetness to the victory…!! Amazing how much things can change in two years…!!

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July 12th, 2008, 7:31 pm

 

17. EHSANI2 said:

Naji,

That is what I meant, thank you. Perhaps Alex can fix!

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July 12th, 2008, 7:34 pm

 

18. Off The Wall said:

Q.N.

Thank you for posting both links. I read both articles, and here I will comment on the second one. The first one requires much more time and thoughts, and perhaps some research to grasp it before making reasonable comment. For now, I agree with some of it but not all. But I fully concur with your description of it as a Good Reading.

With respect to “Bush, French president criticize Iran, Syria” . I would not put too much stock into the French criticism and to the joint release US-France release. I think it is mainly a curtsy release to assuage the fears that France is deviating from Washington line. The language from the joint Franco-Syrian releases is a bit stronger and includes more solid points than the standard “syria can play a constructive role” cracked record we have been hearing from Bush and Rice. Just consider the “normalization of relationship between Syria and Lebanon” issue, Assad has not only agreed to that, he, as indicated in Karim’s AP post is strongly committed to it

“Nicolas Sarkozy had “praised the strong determination of the president of Syria to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon, after the formation of a government of national unity of Lebanon”

Off course, we have wait and see now that the unity government has been formed with a HA holding the foriegn affairs ministry. Personally I would like to see ambassadors exchange happening today before tomorrow.

As an indication of Bush’s respectability

GOP Anger: Bush Is Being “Reduced To Child’s Play”
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/07/04/gop-anger-bush-is-being-r_n_110868.html

Some may argue that the bush administration has recently scored a major victory in its the domestic spying agenda. I believe it has more to do with the spineless democrats, eager to establish national security credentials as opposed to the political strength of the little George and his gang.

Funny though, while writing, i did not notice that the release was done earlier. I guess Ehsani and Nour beat me to it. 🙂

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July 12th, 2008, 7:36 pm

 

19. Qifa Nabki said:

Ehsani,

Nour pointed out the early date on the report already.

As for the honeymoon period… I think Joshua’s reading is correct.

Things are looking up for Bashar right now because France has decided to switch tack, given that the Bush/Chirac strategy had achieved everything it was going to achieve, and was now starting to fail for lack of creativity and realism.

The thing is, Bashar will only remain in the West’s good graces as long as he can actually deliver on the various fronts where he has offered his services. If he can, then he will be the beauty; if he cannot or will not, then he will be the beast.

In other words, what I’m saying is that honeymoons lead just as often to bitter divorces as they do to happy marriages.

For the sake of the region, I hope Bashar’s “dowry” is everything he says it is.

😉

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July 12th, 2008, 7:42 pm

 

20. Off The Wall said:

Q.N.
dowry, very funny and smart. Good one 🙂

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July 12th, 2008, 7:49 pm

 

21. Alex said:

Qifa Nabki,

I think Bashar already delivered enough to take him to where he is now. If he delivers more (he will) he will enjoy an even longer and more meaningful friendship and alliance with the west.

And it will not be at the expense of Syria’s relations with Iran. The same way Turkey used its freindship to both Syria and Israel to mediate between the two (and remain a friend to both) Syria can and should play the same role between the west and Iran.

And … you have to study, no? : )

Ehsani,

I fixed your comment.

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July 12th, 2008, 7:50 pm

 

22. trustquest said:

In my humble opinion, the same Bush policy of Carrot and Stake is in force by the French president. However, Mr. Sarkozy realized that Stake first and then carrot used by Bush, is not well advised. So, he waited for the right moment after teaching Bashar good lesson for a year of break away from the west and offered help using Carrot before Stake. We have to admit that when third world country boycott a rich western country the harm is going to be on the third’s country side. Bashar has shown good signs so far, the killing of Magnia, the cooperation on Lebanese Cabinet, the peace negotiation, the hint for possible Syrian independent track from Iran and not to mention his last two years failure in realizing good economic gains and additionally the change in the Iraqi politics, made him realize that he need to come close to the west and start showing cooperation. It is going to depend on him this time around to move in any direction and he has not much leverage to keep the old policy. He recently openly tries to sell the notion that he is important player (which is the regime old song fro the last forty years) to benefit the American in their pursued to defeat terror as he advertised it early in 2004-2005. I think he started the road for correction, but I will keep wondering if he can go all the way due the limit of movement from his own rigid system. We have to remember that he is not his father and this time is not his father’s time. Even his father was using the Bath party façade to implement his policy; this time around he is doing it family type business. This makes him single player when he really need some type of consensus from the party, the elite and educated in Syria. My advice is to start to release prisoners, allow opposition to work openly and start the critical thinking process to make thing happen smoothly with less surprises.

So, as far as Bashar goes to the middle, he will become closer to moderate Arabs and this way will be able to make peace with the Saudis.
American policy seems to me is stiff and not going to change in the future that dramatically. The power centers are too strong to move from position with any president elected Obama or McCane.
Majhool, I think you made a booboo, and I have to side with Alex, just for the record.
I would love to hear from Joshua and from the observer on the way I see thing.

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July 12th, 2008, 7:57 pm

 

23. Off The Wall said:

All,
Being a cat-like in my curiosity, and a little naive. I have a question. Can the fact that the Foreign Affair Minister is a HA candidate affect the ability of the new Lebanese government to deal with the US, KSA, and other European governments through normal diplomatic channels. If the new Unity government is to be effective, these countries’ ambassadors will have first to deal with Mr. Salloukh before approaching other lebanese leaderships, at least to show their respect of the unity government. Can the US use this as an excuse to by-pass him, if so, what should be the Prime minister’s response to such actions. I have mixed feelings about this issue, and I would appreciate someone shedding a little light on it.

Thanks in advance to whoever answers this question.

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July 12th, 2008, 7:58 pm

 

24. Qifa Nabki said:

OTW

The Foreign Affairs minister is technically Amal, not Hizbullah, whatever that means. (He has strong relations with both parties).

But you are right about other governments dealing with Hizbullah MP’s and ministers. The U.S. has already said they won’t have any contacts with them.

Alex, 7il 3anni. 😉

I agree with you that Syria should maintain good relations with both Iran and the West. Still, the West will want to get something out of this new “marriage”… if you know what I mean.

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July 12th, 2008, 8:16 pm

 

25. Alex said:

OFF the wayy,

I think it depends …

1) The use of boycotting individuals of countries as a pressure tactic is not gaining many new fans. Those who used it the past few years got nothing useful out of it.

2) Even when boycotting certain officials was popular (2004 to 2006)… when there was a need, the rules were bent … they met with Nabih Berri … with Syria’s foreign minister …

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July 12th, 2008, 8:19 pm

 

26. EHSANI2 said:

QN,

Bashar’s dowry is likely to be fluid, flexible and opportunistic.

Thus far, the consensus opinion is that Sarkozy is operating unilaterally and outside the sphere of influence of the White House.

I am not so sure that this is the case.

The U.S. could not possibly be seen as having lost by dealing directly with Bashar. In my comment above, I tried to explain how Sarkozy’s efforts to push for the opening of the Embassies can be used by the U.S. as “victory”. March 14th can do the same to their supporters.

Bashar will be more than happy to oblige and extract his price for the “concessions” and “victories” that his adversaries would like to claims.

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July 12th, 2008, 8:20 pm

 

27. Qifa Nabki said:

Ehsani

I agree with you. By the way, Jumblatt is not as meek these days as I previously thought (and as you suggested).

In a recent interview, he had some pretty harsh words for Bashar, including the following:

What is for sure is that I do not want the Syrian president visiting Lebanon. If it can’t be avoided, then I want it to take place on the Syrian border with Lebanon, just like in 1958, between President Gamal Abdel-Nasser and President Fouad Chihab. Of course, comparing President Assad with President Nasser doesn’t stand up. A meeting at the border could be a first step towards recognising Lebanon as a nation. However, in the current divided political climate, I personally would not be in favour of President Assad coming to Lebanon.

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July 12th, 2008, 8:30 pm

 

28. Nour said:

QN,

Yes, Jumblatt made the above comment regarding Assad, but that was mostly due to the fact that he has already crossed all lines of return. Assad recently declared Jumblatt an “enemy of the state,” and Jumblatt knows there is really nothing he can do now that will gain him Syria’s grace. However, with respect to the Resistance, his tone has most definitely changed. You remember that before the events of May, Jumblatt had called the weapons of the resistance the “weapons of treachery,” and continually deemed the Resistance to be advancing Iranian interests. There is no doubt in my mind that Jumblatt has done a lot of recalculating.

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July 12th, 2008, 8:45 pm

 

29. Off The Wall said:

Letting Others Frame the Language of Discord

Thanks Q.N and Ehsani2,

Letting Others Frame the Language of Discord

Dear all, over the past few weeks i have been following SC very enthusiastically. One might say, I have become addicted to SC. I have made few contributions, was a little upset at some needless personal attacks by some commentators, relentless repetition of the same arguments, differently dressed, by others, and somehow disappointed by few drastic measures taken by our able moderators to ensure the flow of original ideas and to maintain the civility of our discourse. These are normal things in any blog, and I take them for what they are.

Now this may be really off-the-wall

However, i would like to challenge all of us on one issue. Given that western education is probably a common factor most of us share, and given our enthusiasm for the free flow of ideas, is it possible that we, occasionally use terms and language of discourse that were framed by racist leftover from the colonial era. For example, take the phrase “Carrot and Stick”. It may seem innocuous, and all of us may use it rather innocently. I am sorry, language is very powerful tool, and I. like many others, am visually oriented, and occasionally this phrase brings the image of a Donkey. When talking about human beings, nations, and societies, shouldn’t we use terms suitable to describe human beings. I believe that we should, consciously resist this and similar terms and their denigrating images. I hope that any political leader or intellectual, when hearing a question where the interviewer uses this term respond by indicating displeasure with the term and by insisting on using “human” terms such as incentives, deterrents, and the like. This is not political correctness. Rather, it is a simple thing we can do to re-affirm our long denied humanity. Again, i believe that language is very powerful.

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July 12th, 2008, 8:50 pm

 

30. Naji said:

That’s why I like OTW…!
I am one who would almost always put form before substance (how else would you explain my unfaltering infatuation with QN’s writing 🙂 ) and would usually try to come up with more original and apt terms in describing concepts that are often twisted and malformed by the clichés that had become attached to them (by whomever). However, when I find it expedient to use one of these stereotype terms, I would usually at least enclose it in quotation marks. Just a suggestion…!

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July 12th, 2008, 9:12 pm

 

31. EHSANI2 said:

The first official response from Washington:

“We continue to support the establishment of good relations between Lebanon and Syria on the basis of mutual respect, and we join France in reiterating the commitment to a sovereign and independent Lebanon”, Rob McInturff, a sate Department spokesman, told AFP.

But he added that Washington will “continue to limit our diplomatic engagement unless Syria takes concrete actions to end its destabilizing tactics in the region.”

It would have been nice to spell out again exactly what those “concrete actions” to end the “destabilizing tactics” are.

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July 12th, 2008, 9:12 pm

 

32. Qifa Nabki said:

Naji,

Are you saying that my writing has no substance?! 🙂

Baseeta… you’re probably right.

OTW,

Good idea, but the problem is that people are offended by different things. I, for one, have no problem with carrots and sticks. They remind me of my childhood, alas…

😉

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July 12th, 2008, 9:20 pm

 

33. offended said:

From: Offended.
To: Walid Junblatt.

Subject: location for the proposed meeting between his Excellency President Bashar Al Assad of the Syrian Arab Republic and his Excellency President Michelle Sulieman of the Lebanese Republic.

Walid;
It was brought to my attention that you ‘feel’ uneasy about the aforesaid meeting taking place in the Lebanese capital. And that you further suggest that the meeting takes place at one of the borders’ crossings. Allow me to remind you that only drug dealers and nefarious element of contraband businesses (of whom you are not unfamiliar) are used to borders’ meetings. Indeed, the climate between Syria and SOME Lebanese political elite is quite disturbed by the events of the past thirty six month; events of which Syria has not been proven guilty of, you might concur. It is astonishing to realize that now, after twenty five years of compliance, your language should condescend to such low level. May I remind you, Walid, that your abhorrent suggestion contradicts with the enthusiasm by which you used to hurry to meet any Syrian head of state or indeed, any of his subordinates. It’s been noticed that shoes has ceased to shine as brightly as they used to do when you used to visit Damascus. Your recycled excuse to explain such behavioral dichotomies has been to the effect that you had to indulge the Syrian influence at the time lest you lose your own influence over the mountainside; such a lame, opportunistic and pathetic excuse.

As a conclusion, you are kindly advised to keep silent and stick your suggestions where it hurts.

With the greatest of disrespect.

Offended. (an average Syrian citizen)

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July 12th, 2008, 9:26 pm

 

34. EHSANI2 said:

But an above average Aleppo citizen.

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July 12th, 2008, 9:29 pm

 

35. offended said:

Thank you Sir. But doesn’t that makes average Aleppines less than the national average!? : )

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July 12th, 2008, 9:53 pm

 

36. Naji said:

A commonly accepted fact, Offended. 🙂

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July 12th, 2008, 9:57 pm

 

37. Off The Wall said:

Naji
Thanks.

Form provides the psychological, mental, and visual context for the substance and the use of metaphors is one such tool.

Q.N.
I do not want to dwell on the specific “carrot and stick” phrase. In fact, to me donkeys are rather pleasant animals no less cute than lamas. However, carrot and tick is a language of power. It conjures the image of one side being in absolute power over the other where the second part has to behave either by instinct, which compells them to eat the carrot, or by fear, which compels them to follow in line. I beg to differ and argue than humans and nations are more complex than that.

Another example, my own use of the phrase (little George) as an attempt to reinforce the stereotype of George Bush as a spoiled brat of fortune. I confess, this was not automatic, it was deliberate and calculated, for I truly feel this way about him, and the word “little” captures that caricature very well.

Finally, I sure hope that non of us here, will in reality tolerate the actual use of a stick against the wonderful beast of burden.

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July 12th, 2008, 9:58 pm

 

38. Naji said:

OTW,
Thanks for putting some substance to my “off-the-wall” remark…! 🙂

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July 12th, 2008, 10:14 pm

 

39. Akbar Palace said:

Ehsani2 responds to an article:

But he added that Washington will “continue to limit our diplomatic engagement unless Syria takes concrete actions to end its destabilizing tactics in the region.”

It would have been nice to spell out again exactly what those “concrete actions” to end the “destabilizing tactics” are.

Ehsani,

I would render a guess that those “concrete actions” and “destabilizing tactics” probably have something to do with aiding, abetting, and arming Hezbollah.

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/05/09/america/NA-GEN-US-Lebanon.php

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July 12th, 2008, 10:23 pm

 

40. offended said:

Naji,
That’s a commonly accepted fact amongst Jablawis!

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July 13th, 2008, 9:21 am

 

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