Posted by Joshua on Monday, September 24th, 2007
JUDGING ISRAEL'S ALLEGED STRIKE IN SYRIA By Gershom Gorenberg, The American Prospect, September 20, 2007
…. When it comes to U.S. intelligence experts talking about weapons of mass destruction and Syria, I become more seriously agnostic. It's certainly conceivable that Assad wants nuclear weapons, and would get help from North Korea. The news from Lebanon does not make one want to trust him. Unfortunately, it's also conceivable that someone in Washington could bend evidence, or interpret it to fit the Bush administration's expectations of Syria — or that a hawkish faction in the administration could be interested in sabotaging the negotiations with North Korea. Historically, U.S. and Israeli intelligence have shared evaluations, including badly mistaken ones. Under Bush, it's Washington that has taken the hard line on Syria, demanding that Israel follow suit. Just because Bush's people got everything wrong about Iraq does not mean that they must always be wrong. But that argument does not inspire confidence.
And as the Iraq story teaches, reporters can easily treat leaks as scoops. Creating the myth of Saddam's WMDs, the administration got much assistance from well-meaning journalists. In the realm of national security, the fourth estate is at its weakest. Governments have an almost unavoidable monopoly on most information.
Alon Liel, the former Israeli diplomat involved in the secret negotiations with Syria provides an interesting explanation for the "mysterious" Israeli strike into Syria here.: This quote thanks to Leon Hadar at Global Paradigms:
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is coming to Israel on Tuesday to "say thank you" for the alleged Israeli air force operation in Syrian territory, Dr Alon Liel, a former director-general of the Foreign Ministry, told Ynetnews.
Addressing the numerous media reports which claim Israeli jets penetrated Syrian territory, Liel said: "I think what we did, if we did it, is work for Americans. Maybe even as an intelligence operation for the Americans, and therefore I think she (Rice) came to say thank you, more so than to discuss Palestinian affairs," the former top diplomat said. Northeast Syria, where the jets were said to have flown, according to Damascus, "is not an area that bothered Israel in the past, this is an area that bothers the Americans very much," Liel added. "We did work for them, as you know they pay a lot so that we work for them. Seemingly they are satisfied. This has helped them to complicate the Syrians and push them deeper into the axis of evil," he added.
In recent months, Liel has been heavily involved in diplomatic activity to advance an Israeli-Syrian peace treaty, based on an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. Last July, he told Ynetnews that he heard a top aide to Syrian President Basher Assad say that Israel and Syria agreed on "85 percent" of the issues which needed to be resolved before a treaty could be signed between the two countries.
What is Being Concocted for Syria? (Translated by mideastwire.com)
On September 24, the Palestinian-owned Al Quds Al Arabi daily carried the following opinion piece by Chief Editor Abdel-Beri Atwan: “Nowadays, the Syrian front is witnessing unusual activities. After the mysterious Israeli air raid over the Dayr Al-Zur area northeast of Syria, a state of alert was declared twice in less than 48 hours over the last three days when Israeli military aircraft flew over the Golan. These activities coincided with intentional Israeli press leaks aiming to spread more chaos and confusion. ….“There are two scenarios which can be deduced out of the escalating blurring and instigation campaigns against Syria. The first is that Israel, with prior agreement with the US and maybe even France, is about to launch three preemptive strikes, the first targeting Syria, the second Hezbollah in the Lebanese South and the third the Islamic resistance movements in the Gaza Strip and especially Hamas. The goal would be to destroy Syria’s and Hezbollah’s missiles arsenal, test the Syrian air defenses and the equipment which it recently imported from Moscow and provoke Iran to engage in war to defend its allies in Lebanon and Syria.
“This would facilitate the issuance of a decision to attack it for President Bush, his administration and the Israeli government. As for the second scenario, it would be to wage limited instigation attacks against Syria like the Dayr Al-Zur attack, to keep its leadership busy and embarrass it at the Arab level and domestically due to its inability to respond, in preparation for the wide attack on it and on Iran simultaneously. The first scenario seems to be more likely because attacking Syria alone is the easier and less costly choice in comparison with the second option…
Leon Hadar also has two excellent articles arguing why diplomacy with Syria is in US interests. The Shorter one is, Reporter-at-Large: Time to Talk to Syria? The longer is, A Diplomatic Road to Damascus: The Benefits of U.S. Engagement with Syria.
BUSH SHOULD ENGAGE WITH SYRIA, By Mitchell Reiss, The Financial Times (UK), September 23, 2007
Ahead of Tuesday's contentious presidential poll in the Lebanese Parliament, the idea of a consensus president to succeed Emile Lahoud seems to be gaining support, according to Michael Young. He writes:
According to unconfirmed reports, the Saudis recently asked Syria to endorse Nassib Lahoud as president. The Syrian refusal allegedly led to the last-minute Saudi cancellation of a visit to the kingdom by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem.
However, will the Saudis stand tough? Ultimately, they may conclude that a consensus candidate is better than a political vacuum, which would only escalate Sunni-Shiite tensions. The kingdom's ambassador in Beirut, Abdul Aziz Khoja, has been especially sympathetic to Berri's endeavors. The Saudis, sensing the wind turning, may conceivably favor compromise.
What of the US? The Bush administration is still taking a tough line on the presidency: The new tenant of Baabda should not be someone who turns the clock back to where it was before 2005, when Syria ruled in Beirut. For the Americans, a Syrian return would also bolster Iran and Hizbullah. What it really would do, however, and one doesn't need the Americans to deduce this, is undermine United Nations Security Council resolutions on Lebanon, which have created a de facto international trusteeship over the country. What future would there be for Resolution 1701 in a country where the majority is paralyzed and Syria regains the upper hand? Or for Resolution 1559, which aims to prevent this? …
Indeed, what would happen to the Hariri tribunal? The notion that the tribunal is a fait accompli must be seriously qualified. If March 14 falls into the opposition's headlock, the work of the tribunal can be impeded. …
The wild cards in this presidential ballet are the Europeans. Their fear of a void in Beirut is understandable, given the UNIFIL commitments. The Europeans seem to be heading toward backing a consensus candidate, regardless of whether Syria respects Lebanese sovereignty. Both the Saudis and the Americans, whatever their better instincts, might find themselves forced to follow the European lead if the alternative (one encouraged by the Syrian regime) is a dangerous split in Lebanon.
If a weak president is elected and the opposition gains veto power in the Cabinet, the Lebanese should start worrying. It would only be a matter of time before Lebanon finds itself where it was before Rafik Hariri's assassination. An axe would have been taken to the Cedar Revolution, much as it was yesterday to Antoine Ghanem.
Syrian Information Minister Mohsen Bilal denied on Monday a report in Britain's Sunday Times that IDF special forces had collected material from a suspected Syrian nuclear site shortly before an alleged IAF strike there on September 6.
"These are sick delusions, intended to raise the morale of the IDF, which was defeated in Lebanon last year. They're intended only to cause fear among the Arabs," Bilal told Asharq alawsat.
In Association with the EU, Oxford Business Group, 24.09.2007
The EU is keen on seeing the completion of a long-stalled EU association agreement with Syria, with no new conditions to be attached to the accord initially signed in late 2004, European parliament officials announced in mid-September.
"Syria is witnessing important economic reforms and developments towards a social market economy," said Beatrice Patrie, chairperson of the European Parliament's delegation for relations with Arab countries, at a September 12 press conference. "We support Syrian efforts in the field of economic reforms [...] previous circumstances prevented us from doing so, and now we wish Syria to be an economic partner to Europe.".According to the EU, the elimination of tariffs on Syrian imports could result in a major boost for Damascus' export trade. Sales of Syrian animal fats and oils could rise by 40%, clothing and accessories by 17% and 25% for meat products, according to the EU.."The association agreement is in the works," she said. "There is no additional condition. We are aware we must go forward and that Syria has a constructive role to play in the region."
Having said that, Patrie then slipped in a codicil, saying that for the agreement to be signed, "the political conditions must be favourable".However, the political climate may have just suffered another drop in temperature. On September 19, Antoine Ghanem, a Christian anti-Syrian member of the Lebanese parliament, was killed by a bomb in Beirut.Though Syria was among the first to condemn the latest in the series of assassinations of Lebanese political leaders opposed to Damascus, describing the attack as a criminal act aimed at undermining efforts to bring peace to the region, Ghanem's killing has again whipped up anti-Syrian sentiment.
President George Bush joined many Lebanese politicians in pointing the finger at Syrian involvement in the bombing, saying the attack was part of efforts by Damascus to destabilise Lebanon.
Syria is keen on embracing the EU and having its export trade enjoy the same advantages as Europe's other Mediterranean partners. However, while the government of President Bashar Al Assad has embarked on a programme of social and economic reforms, it may not meet the standards required by the EU in time for the 2010 free trade zone. Being accused, rightly or wrongly, of being associated with political assassinations in Lebanon, will not help Syria's EU association process either.
It seems that N. Korea has asked for the Six Party meeting to be postponed, apparently as a protest against the media reports that she’s cooperating with Syria on nuclear programs…