As Paris Boosts Assad, US Adds Sanctions (10 July 2008)

Paris Summit Offers Boost to Syria’s Image

“This is an invaluable opportunity for Assad to improve his relations with the West, particularly France,” said a European diplomat in Damascus.

He added that “Sarkozy too will benefit from the visit”, explaining that the French president is keen to play a more important role in the Middle East.

A Syrian analyst on international relations commented, “France wants to play a role in the Middle East, but this role can be played only through Syria, which is crucial to the Middle East.”

Syria: US Has Vital Role In Middle East But Needs Guidance
2008-07-09  (New York)

DAMASCUS (AFP)–Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, speaking ahead of a weekend visit to France, said a U.S. role in the Middle East was vital for peace but Washington doesn't understand the region and needs guidance. The U.S. "is a world superpower which maintains privileged relations with Israel. No European country can replace the U.S. The European role is complementary," Assad told French journalists. "The problem is that the United States does not understand what is going on in the region. Because of the positive relations which France has with this country, it may be able to help the U.S. understand the region better."….

Treasury Targets Rami Makhluf’s Companies

The U.S. Department of the Treasury today added Syriatel, Syria's largest mobile phone operator, and Ramak, a chain of Syrian duty free stores, to its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List. All property and interests in property of these entities are blocked as a result of the direct or indirect ownership interest of at least 50 percent by Rami Makhluf in each entity.

"Rami Makhluf uses his access to high-level Syrian Government insiders to enrich himself at the expense of the Syrian people," said Adam J. Szubin, Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). "We will continue to target Makhluf and his commercial empire as well as others who follow in his footsteps."

Makhluf was designated on February 21, 2008 pursuant to Executive Order 13460, which targets individuals and entities determined to have contributed to, or to have benefited from, the public corruption of senior officials of the Syrian regime.

Makhluf, a maternal cousin of Syrian president Bashar al-Asad, has exploited his relationships with Syrian regime members to amass his commercial empire. Makhluf has manipulated the Syrian judicial system and has used Syrian intelligence officials to intimidate business rivals.

Pursuant to E.O. 13460, any assets in Syriatel's or Ramak's names held in the United States or within the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked, and U.S. persons, therefore, are prohibited from engaging in business or transactions with Syriatel or Ramak.

l’Orient-le jour's Scarlett HADDAD gets a long interview with Assad.

Q : Comptez-vous envoyer Rustom Ghazalé comme ambassadeur au Liban ?
R : (Bachar Assad éclate d’un grand rire). Nous n’avons rien annoncé de tel.

Q : Les affrontements entre alaouites et sunnites au Liban-Nord constituent-ils une menace pour la sécurité de la Syrie, et sous ce prétexte, celle-ci pourrait-elle revenir militairement au Liban ?

R : Nous n’avons aucune intention de revenir militairement au Liban. Pour entreprendre une action militaire dans un pays, il faut qu’il y ait eu une agression. Or cela ne se produira pas entre le Liban et la Syrie. Il est certain qu’il y a au Liban des politiciens à la vision limitée qui croient que tout problème au Liban s’étendra à la Syrie. À long terme, tout trouble au Liban, qu’il s’agisse d’un conflit entre alaouites et sunnites, entre sunnites et chiites ou entre musulmans et chrétiens, a des répercussions en Syrie. Mais ce qui se passe actuellement au Liban-Nord ne s’inscrit pas dans ce cas de figure. Des extrémistes reçoivent un financement de certains politiciens libanais pour donner l’impression de l’existence d’un conflit confessionnel au Liban. Mais une grande partie des sunnites du Liban-Nord ne veulent pas de ces problèmes. Nous sommes, en tout cas, conscients de la situation. Mais nous n’avons pas l’intention de prendre la moindre décision à ce sujet. Ces extrémistes nuisent au Liban, non à la Syrie…..

"There Are No Negotiations Between Syria and Israel": Interview with Mohsen Bilal, Syrian Minister of Information.

M. Bilal: There are no negotiations. This is an exploratory phase, looking at the possibility of renewing talks to create a platform for eventual negotiations. There is an indirect exchange of messages through the Turkish mediator — whom we trust to sound out the Israeli government — because Israel changes its methods frequently, and we are accustomed to the non-fulfilment of its promises. …..

Analyze this: Are (pipe) dreams of peace with Syria receding with the Kinneret's shoreline?
Jul. 9, 2008
Calev Ben-David , THE JERUSALEM POST

"Without additional water resources peace will be very difficult to achieve with Syria and maintain with our other neighbors." ……..

Israel Demands France and Italy Disarm Hizbullah

The Israeli defense minister also told Mr. Kouchner that Israel expected him to help to stop the arms transfer from Syria to Hezbollah, and that UNIFIL, which is operating in Lebanon, needs to increase its opposition to Hezbollah's buildup and fortifications.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni,warned during a tour of Israel's northern border with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini that, "An opportunity has now arisen to disarm Hezbollah, and we must not miss it. If we don't do it now, it will be much more difficult later."

Ms. Livni and the Italian foreign minister agreed steps should be taken to fully implement U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701. The Italian foreign minister said he hoped that now, after a new government has been formed in Lebanon, it would be possible to speak with it.

"The implementation of Resolution 1701 is the only solution and the best option for resolving the situation in this region," Ms. Livni said.

Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu also met with the Italian foreign minister. In their conversation, Mr. Netanyahu protested that the Italian automobile company Fiat recently announced its intention to open a plant in Iran.

"Italy should act to prevent Fiat from building another plant in Iran," said Mr. Netanyahu.

Report from ICG, here (Via FLC)

"…If Jordan, Syria and Lebanon can be faulted for unfriendly treatment of refugees at border crossings and lukewarm assistance once they have entered, they should, nonetheless, be credited for having agreed to receive so many Iraqis in the first place and allowing them to stay at great cost to their own societies. By contrast, it is difficult to give the Iraqi government any credit at all. Flush with oil money, it has been conspicuously ungenerous toward its citizens stranded abroad. No doubt there are senior former regime figures among the refugees, but this does not excuse callous neglect of overwhelmingly non-political people who loyally served Iraq rather than any particular regime….

The approach of the international community, especially states that have participated in Iraq’s occupation, has been equally troubling…. the U.S., whose policies unleashed the chaos that spawned the outflow, has clearly failed in its own responsibilities: downplaying the issue, providing far less assistance to host countries than needed and admitting to its own shores merely a trickle of refugees and only after unprecedented security checks to which asylum seekers from other nations are not subjected…"

Egypt begins pumping natural gas into Syria as part of giant pipeline project (AP)

Egypt has begun pumping natural gas to Syria by a pipeline running through Jordan as part of a giant project to export Egyptian gas to the Middle East and eventually to Europe, Syria's oil minister said Thursday.

Sufian Allaw said the new pipeline would provide Syria with 88.3 million cubic feet (2.5 million cubic meters) of gas daily, increasing gradually to 212 million cubic feet (6 million cubic meters) per day over the next nine years. He said the pipeline is vital to Syria, especially its electricity sector as 40 percent of power generating stations in Syria are run by burning gas.

He said it would relieve current gas shortages in Syria.

Under the Arab Gas Pipeline Project signed in 2001, Egypt is to supply Jordan, Lebanon and Syria with natural gas for 30 years. The project costs more than US$1.2 billion, with a total pipeline length of 750 miles (1,200 kilometers), about half of it inside Syrian territories.

The first phase linking Egypt with the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba was finished in 2003, with the pipeline passing under the Gulf of Aqaba to avoid crossing Israeli territory. Two years later, the second-phase extension of the pipeline reached the Jordanian town of Rihab north of the capital Amman.

Egypt has been exporting nearly 99 billion cubic feet (2.8 billion cubic meters) of gas a year to Jordan under a 15-year deal.

The third phase brought the pipeline to Syria's Deir Ali power station south of Damascus, Allaw said, according to Syria's official news agency SANA.

An extension to Lebanon is supposed to open later this year, followed by an extension to Turkey's border, where the pipeline will be connected to the planned Nabucco Pipeline for the delivery of gas to Europe, under a deal reached in 2006 between Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Romania.

Syria's oil production has declined in recent years and Damascus is trying to compensate by relying more heavily on natural gas. The country's daily gas consumption is estimated at 477 million cubic feet (13.5 million cubic meters) per day. Its daily production of natural gas was estimated at 494 million cubic feet (14 million cubic meters) in 2007.

Egypt has potential natural gas reserves of 62 trillion cubic feet (1.7 trillion cubic meters), the 18th largest in the world, and is aiming to become one of the world's top 10 natural gas exporters in the next four years.

Egypt began providing Israel with natural gas in February under a deal by which it will sell Israel 60 billion cubit feet (1.7 billion cubic meters) a year for a period of 15 years. The deal raised controversy at home, with some in the Egyptian opposition saying the gas was being sold at below-market rates.

Elsy Melkonian gets the scoop on Syrian-Belatusian relations! for the new "What's On," magazine. That's Belarus.

The first in a series of slick green and shiny public buses rolled out into the streets last month. Niveen Wahish let them take her for a ride.  Read more…    

Camile Al-Asaaf is the General Manager of the Internal Transportation Company that manages local transport infrastructure. He spoke with What’s On about the local transport system and the integration of the Green Machines into the transport plan:

How many new buses are there?

Right now about 350. We have a contract with China to supply us with a total of 650 buses. The buses are for use in all cities of Syria. Currently they are operating in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Lattakia.

Are the new buses environmentally friendly?

Well not so much as they do run on diesel (mazote). However, they are certainly better than the old ones.  We are planning on ordering buses in the future that are more suitable for the environment but the need for new transport was really great and we had to provide the most suitable solution quickly.

Will they totally replace the old buses?

To meet the transport requirements in Damascus alone we need approximately 1200 buses. So right now we need to use the new and the old together.

Are the new buses meeting the transport need?

Yes, it seems people are very happy, but of course there are always improvements to be made. We have been doing a study of the buses and in approximately one month we will put out a tender for 1000 new buses. In this tender we will list some modifications and features that the new buses are lacking, for example: we want them lower to the ground, we want ramps for getting on and off for older people, people with babies or disabled passengers, and we want additional ticket machines in each bus.

Traffic is a continual problem here. Is there a solution?

Yes there are a number of things we can do to reduce the overcrowding on our streets. We are planning on making bus only lanes on the streets. Once we have acquired our target of 1600 buses we will redirect the ‘service’ buses into the countryside, leaving these new buses to run the public transport in the city. This will reduce the amount of vehicles inside the city, as well as easing the flow of traffic without the stop-start-stop because of the ‘service’ traffic. We hope that the addition of the bus lanes will encourage people to take the bus to work rather than driving.

What is the future of public transport in Syria?

The Ministry and the Governor of Damascus are focusing on the Metro project, to build an underground rail line to bring people into the city from the countryside.  Once this project is finalized it will take approximately ten years to be completed…so we really need the bus system to work well!

video YOUTUBE
Assad during the reception made to the participants in " Woman For Peace " March أسماء الأسد مسيرة نساء من أجل أسماء الأسد في الاستقبال الخاص بالمشاركات في مسيرة نساء من أجل السلام
Asma Al-Assad during the reception made to the participants in " Woman For Peace " March
(more)

CNN's New Beirut correspondent, Cal Perry has gotten special access in Syria and covers a number of stories. Here  are a few. All can be found at the CNN site, here.

Exclusive look at Syrian army 2:48 updated Fri, July 4, 2008

CNN's Cal Perry accompanies the Syrian army on an exclusive trip to Syria's shared border with Iraq.

Ruins of Palmira :52 updated Fri, July 4, 2008

During an exclusive embed with the Syrian army CNN shot this video of the incredible ruins of Palmira.

Exclusive look inside Syria 3:16 updated Fri, July 4, 2008

CNN's Cal Perry is the first journalist to be taken to the border area by the secretive Syrian military.

Comments (96)


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51. Karim said:

Ugarit i think it was an article of Sami Mubayed.But sometimes Sami uses weak sources.So be careful.

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July 11th, 2008, 1:51 pm

 

52. Karim said:

Ehsani do u want links made in Syria ?

Btw ,Mrs Mardini works from inside Syria.

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July 11th, 2008, 1:52 pm

 

53. Karim said:

Ehsani,Maher and Bashar they have their own business and they are in full control so they know and are morally concerned.Without their laxity on such dangerous developement ,it would not be possible or not in these proportions.

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July 11th, 2008, 2:04 pm

 

54. EHSANI2 said:

You did not answer my question.

Are Maher and Bashar promoting and protecting prostitution?

Yes or no.

Don’t tell me that because they are not doing anything about, they are promoting and protecting it.

Just answer yes or no

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July 11th, 2008, 2:09 pm

 

55. Akbar Palace said:

Majhool –

I had to laugh when I read your post showing how everything wrong in Syria was the fault of the Saudis.

For a second, I thought the Saudis were jewish!;)

A for the discussion about your use of MEMRI and their supposed lack of objectivity, how can a translation of the government-owned Arabic media NOT be objective??

In any case, I agree with you, I’m certainly no fan of the Saudis. They and the rest of the ME have created this mess, and you’d think with all their money they could do something constructive to help solve the problem.

~sigh~

Anyway feel free to contact me at palace.akbar@gmail.com for a little chat and some Zionist propaganda;)

Oh, and one more thing, we Zionists are self-critical enough! We need to be more self-critical like the Syrians;)

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July 11th, 2008, 2:10 pm

 

56. Karim said:

Ehsani,why should they be directly involved if they have more prestigious or lucrative jobs and they are the head of the state ? ..there are 100’s of security officiers in Syria and each one of them has his quarter.And it’s logical to think that those involved in this affair are the officiers in control of some districts of Damascus.

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July 11th, 2008, 2:21 pm

 

57. Qifa Nabki said:

Big news:

Suleiman Decrees Lebanon’s New Cabinet: 30 Ministers From Seven Sects

President Michel Suleiman on Friday decreed the formation of a national unity cabinet, the first in his six-year term.
The cabinet, headed by premier Fouad Saniora, groups 30 ministers from the seven major sects in a nation made up of 18 religious communities.

Maronite Ministers: Ziad Baroud, Nassib Lahoud, Tony Karam, Gebran Bassil and Mario Aoun.

Greek Orthodox ministers: Issam Abu Jamra, Elias Murr, Ibrahim Najjar and Tareq Mitri.

Catholic ministers: Elie Skaff, and Youssef Takla and Raymond Audi.

Druze: Talal Arslan, Ghazi Aridi and Wael Abu Faour.

Sunnis: Fouad Saniora, Bahia Hariri, Mohammed Safadi, Tammam Salam and Mohammad Shatah and Khaled Qabbani

Shiites: Mohammed Fneish, Ali Qanso, Ibrahim Shamseddine, Mohammed Jawad Khalifa, Fawzi Salloukh and Ghazi Zoayter.

Armenians: Jean Ogassapian and Alain Taborian.

Beirut, 11 Jul 08, 15:08

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July 11th, 2008, 2:21 pm

 

58. Alex said:

Excellent!

Akbar found his perfectly accurate Syrian to deserve Akbar’s most coveted award “Anyway feel free to contact me at palace.akbar@gmail.com which was reserved until now to new Israeli likundinks showing up on Syria Comment.

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July 11th, 2008, 2:22 pm

 

59. Alex said:

Qifa,

Finally! .. congratulations.

Don’t you sometimes wonder if these things are meant to wait until they can be dramatically announced in the right place and at the right time?

: )

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July 11th, 2008, 2:25 pm

 

60. norman said:

Some people on this Blog remind with the bullies at school , They start a fight and when they lose they run and complain to the teacher and when they grow old they want free speech for themselves while asking to silence the opposition to their views.

They need more than time to grow up.

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July 11th, 2008, 2:36 pm

 

61. Karim said:

Mabrouk Qifa ,Inshallah we will have in Syria our government of Wehdeh Wataniyeh as like to preach it Bashar for the great Lebanon.it would even be more easy ,we dont have Sunna/Shia struggle or followers of Iran in Syria.
i’m happy for el set Bahia al Hariri.she is the first veiled minister woman in the history of Lebanon.

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July 11th, 2008, 2:36 pm

 

62. norman said:

The new Lebanese Government should enhance Syria’s and Bashar Image in Paris , To the jealousy of Syria’s Haters.

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July 11th, 2008, 2:40 pm

 

63. why-discuss said:

QN

“President Sleiman a en outre souligné que « les droits de l’homme sont violés dans le monde arabe du fait de l’exode des Palestiniens et leur cantonnement dans des camps où sévit la pauvreté ». « C’est, a-t-il dit, le plus grand exemple mondial d’atteinte aux droits de l’homme, dont Israël s’est rendu coupable et sur lequel les puissances ferment les yeux lorsqu’elles prônent l’implantation des Palestiniens dans les pays où ils se trouvent. »”

This is reenforcing my position that solving the problem of the Palestinians refugees in Lebanon is an Israeli responsibility and that the international community should stand to their legal and human rights obligations and stop giving a blind eye by pushing for the naturalization of the palestinians in the host countries. Obviously Sleiman will be a tough cookie to digest for Israel in case of negotiations. Would Israel and their US friends start soon their campaign to disloge and weaken him before he becomes even bolder?

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July 11th, 2008, 2:43 pm

 

64. Karim said:

Norman ,bashar will die ,Syria and its people are eternal.

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July 11th, 2008, 2:44 pm

 

65. Qifa Nabki said:

Shukran ya shabab…

It’s actually a good cabinet. The Aounis are pretty happy with the LF choice for Justice (Ibrahim Najjar), so it’s not playing like a big joke. He’s apparently independent.

Here’s the list of names according to ministry and political affiliation.

null

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July 11th, 2008, 2:44 pm

 

66. Qifa Nabki said:

Why-Discuss

I couldn’t agree more; I hope that was always clear. It is Israel’s responsibility. But we have to be realistic about the solution. Even if there is financial compensation and some re-settlement in Palestine, many thousands will likely remain in Lebanon, just like many thousands will remain in Syria. Don’t you think?

Maybe some will go to Europe or the Gulf or America, but surely some will remain in Lebanon.

My hope is that Lebanon can begin transitioning towards a system of government whereby the addition of however many Sunnis to the population will not cause a political crisis.

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July 11th, 2008, 2:49 pm

 

67. Alex said:

I’m happy Bahia is there and Marwan is out.

Ali Qanso was approved?!

So who nominated Tamam Salam?

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July 11th, 2008, 2:51 pm

 

68. Qifa Nabki said:

Lebanese army moves into one of the Shebaa Farms

The Lebanese army moved today into Bastara Farm, the only one of the occupied Shebaa Farms that the Israeli army evacuated when it pulled out of South Lebanon in 2000, an AFP correspondent said.

Lebanese army vehicles and bulldozers could be seen moving for the first time into the farm, which lies some 300 meters away from other farms, which Israel has occupied for more than 40 years.

A road has been reconstructed to link this new position to other Lebanese army posts in the southeast of the country.

Israel captured the 25-square-kilometers of land on the Israel-Lebanon-Syria border as part of the Syrian Golan Heights during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it along with the rest of the strategic plateau.

Lebanon today claims sovereignty over the territory with Syrian approval.

-AFP
NOW LEBANON

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July 11th, 2008, 2:55 pm

 

69. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Norman,
It is you who is afraid of a discussion and is a bully.
Why am I limited to 4 comments per day and others aren’t?

Alex,
You are angry when you feel your views have not been represented correctly yet you attack Majhool for being a “likudnik” just because AP addressed him. Walla, how insecure are you?

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July 11th, 2008, 2:58 pm

 

70. Qifa Nabki said:

Alex

Ali Qanso was approved when Saad al-Hariri went to the Serail and dropped his objection to him. He said that he would personally be responsible for “any repercussions” that resulted from Qanso’s nomination to the cabinet. Not sure what that means and how that happened.

As for Tamam Salam, he was nominated by M14; the same for Ibrahim Shamseddine.

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July 11th, 2008, 3:03 pm

 

71. Innocent_Criminal said:

its interesting to see how many ministers aoun got compare to his allies. his party got 5 (all cabinet ministers), amal got 3 and Hizbullah just got 1. very strange when you look at it like that

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July 11th, 2008, 3:07 pm

 

72. Alex said:

THanks Qifa

“Lebanon today claims sovereignty over the territory with Syrian approval.”

This is one of the other things Sarkozy can claim as “a success”. Until recently, M14, Saudi journalists and neocons were saying that Syria is playing games by not recognizing Lebanese sovereignty over the Shebaa farms.

I will be looking forward to the exact words used by Assad and Sarkozy when they announce Lebanon’s good news.

Syria will probably be happy allowing France to take over from Washington as Lebanon’s preferred western power.

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July 11th, 2008, 3:10 pm

 

73. Qifa Nabki said:

Innocent_Criminal

Actually, both Talal Arslan and Ali Qanso were nominated by Hizbullah.

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July 11th, 2008, 3:14 pm

 

74. why-discuss said:

QN

“Maybe some will go to Europe or the Gulf or America, but surely some will remain in Lebanon.”
Of course, many palestinians are married with lebanese and would want to stay on. The most important is that Lebanon takes a very strong and repetitive stand toward the international communnity in oppposing a veto to any attempt to force on them the de-facto naturalization. Any hesitation or sign of division on the subject from any party in the arab world, as it has been, will encourage Israel and the Int community to avoid having to deal with the issue, as they have for 60 years…
Besides financial compensation, the Int community MUST offer a choice of home countries to receive the refugees. This is a complex effort in view of the protectionist attitude Europe has towards emigration. This is why Lebanon and the arab world have to stand united in rejecting any other alternatives.
Sleiman seems to have this kind of determination, I hope he will stay in that frame of mind.

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July 11th, 2008, 3:17 pm

 

75. Qifa Nabki said:

Why-Discuss

Agreed.

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July 11th, 2008, 3:18 pm

 

76. norman said:

QN,

Do you think that Hezbollah gave their seats to Aoun so the new Gov could be born , Another sacrifice from Hezbollah for the sake of the country.

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July 11th, 2008, 3:21 pm

 

77. Qifa Nabki said:

Very amusing:

In an Iranian Image, a Missle Too Many
NY Times

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July 11th, 2008, 3:24 pm

 

78. Alex said:

I agree .. the three missile version does not look as impressive : )

Who is the lazy idiot who copied the thing as is? … it takes 5 minutes to modify the copy enough to look different from the source.

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July 11th, 2008, 3:30 pm

 

79. Qifa Nabki said:

Ammo Norman,

I think that Hizbullah gave their ministers to Aoun for three reasons:

a) The Hizb is slowly dipping its toe into cabinet politics. It doesn’t want to jump in head first, because it is still benefiting from the image of being outside the dirty game of politics.

b) Given that this will be a short-lived cabinet, it wants to minimize any possibility of tarnishing its image before the important elections in 2009. If they had 5 or 6 ministers in the cabinet, there would be many opportunities for them to get embroiled in sticky little political messes, whether they are over telecommunications or the electricity plant, etc.

c) Hizbullah doesn’t really need ministers to maintain its agenda or its constituency. All the Shi`a are basically going to vote Hizbullah/Amal in the next election. The real swing vote is among the Christians (especially the Armenians). This is why they gave so many seats to Aoun (who has a sizable bloc anyway). They want to hold on to his supporters, to make sure they come out in droves to vote.

It was a smart bet on their part, I think. By giving 5 seats to Aoun they were effectively saying to the Christians: “We are equal partners, you and us.”

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July 11th, 2008, 3:33 pm

 

80. Off The Wall said:

Q.N.

Congratulations. I am happy and hopeful. I think that it was a very wise decision to have both defense and interior be “presidential” ministries. I was hoping that either justice or finance would also be a presidential appointment, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

With Marwan out, and Ghazi being asked to lead a purely internal ministry, this cabinet has much better chance of improving relationship with Syria. Furthermore, with Amal given the foreign ministry, real talks about normalized formal diplomatic relationships between the two countries can now proceede without being poisoned by rhetoric.

Your analysis of HA position is good one. However, my own observations give me the impression that Aoun has a significant support among muslims who want a free Lebanon, without both Syrian and Saudi influence and without being a tool in the US hand. If I am wrong, please correct me

Again congratulation and good luck

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July 11th, 2008, 3:45 pm

 

81. Qifa Nabki said:

OTW

From your mouth to God’s ears.

Thanks! Inshallah khayr.

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July 11th, 2008, 3:47 pm

 

82. EHSANI2 said:

Another master tweaking by Damascus on the eve of Bashar’s visit to Paris.

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July 11th, 2008, 3:48 pm

 

83. Innocent_Criminal said:

QN i think your reasoning on Aoun’s number of seats is quite right.

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July 11th, 2008, 3:52 pm

 

84. Alex said:

QN i think your reasoning on Aoun’s number of seats is quite right.

: )

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July 11th, 2008, 3:55 pm

 

85. norman said:

QN ,
Very interesting analysis ,

you are an asset to Syria comment.

OK Alex , You too.

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July 11th, 2008, 4:20 pm

 

86. norman said:

Is Alex IC.?

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July 11th, 2008, 4:24 pm

 

87. Alex said:

Norman,

You too : )

Where are the other assets? … Ausamaa? Simo?

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July 11th, 2008, 4:32 pm

 

88. norman said:

Thank you Alex,
I know that Ausamaa is with president in Paris, at least that is what my sources told me .

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July 11th, 2008, 4:37 pm

 

89. Alex said:

AIG said:

Alex,
You are angry when you feel your views have not been represented correctly yet you attack Majhool for being a “likudnik” just because AP addressed him. Walla, how insecure are you?

AIG, You are just as good as AP and Majhool in twisting again and again my words.

Here is what I said:

“Akbar found his perfectly accurate Syrian to deserve Akbar’s most coveted award “Anyway feel free to contact me at palace.akbar@gmail.com” which was reserved until now to new Israeli likundinks showing up on Syria Comment. ”

If you were Syrian like me I would understand, but …. Do they teach you how to read English in New Jersey? … Did you read my “until now”? … which means NOW Akbar also sends his personal email to Syrians who, he believes, share his amazing views.

So .. tell me again .. did I “attack Majhool for being a Likudnik”?

And … “how insecure” am I?

Keep inventing your own reality.

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July 11th, 2008, 4:45 pm

 

90. norman said:

SYRIA: Back on the world stage, with a fury

It’s payback time for Syrian President Bashar Assad. Just as he prepared to move his country out of almost four years of isolation imposed by Americans and Europeans, Assad pointed out that Syria was an important player in the fight against terrorism.

Even the French, who shunned Damascus for years, now acknowledge that developing relations with Syria was “in favor of Lebanon and the region.”

In an interview with the Arab daily Al Hayat published today, French official Claude Gueant said permanent solutions to Middle East’s problems would not be possible without Syria’s participation.

Assad is expected in France to attend a summit of European and Mediterranean countries in the next day. Recently, the Syrian president made a flurry of dovish remarks to a group of French journalists who interviewed him in his private retreat on the hills of Damascus.

One of those who interviewed Assad, Alain Gresh, editor of the French monthly publication Le Monde Diplomatique, described him as “confident, relaxed, talkative.”

In an article that appeared Thursday on the website of the publication and that was translated into English in the Monthly Review, Gresh quoted Assad as accusing the current U.S. administration of obstructing peace:

The biggest obstacle to peace is the White House. This is the first time a U.S. administration has advised Israel not to make peace.

Syria and Israel held indirect peace talks recently through Turkish mediation. But the prospects of quick breakthroughs remain slim. The West is trying to persuade Damascus to loosen its ties with Tehran, an unlikely prospect.

Asked about Iran, Assad described his country’s strong links to the Islamic Republic as a relationship between two equal allies:

We have been isolated by the United States and Europe. The Iranians have supported us, and yet I’m supposed to tell them: I don’t want your support — I want to be isolated! We don’t need to agree on everything to have relations. We see each other regularly for discussion. The Iranians do not try to change our position — they respect us. We make our own decisions, as in the time of the Soviet Union. If you want to talk about stability, and peace in the region, we must have good relations with Iran.

Talking about threats to peace in the region, Assad also criticized the way Americans have led their war on terrorism:

Terrorism is a threat to all humanity. Al Qaeda is not an organization but a state of mind that no border can block out…. I fear for the future of the region. We must change the soil that nurtures terrorism. This requires economic development, culture, an education system, tourism — and also an international exchange of information on terrorist groups. The army alone cannot solve this problem, as the Americans are trying to do in Afghanistan.

U.S. refusal to negotiate with his country was counterproductive, he said:

They must accept that we are part of the solution not just in Lebanon but also in Iraq and Palestine. They need us to combat terrorism in order to achieve peace. They cannot isolate us, nor can they solve the region’s problems by manipulating such words as “good” and “evil,” “black” and “white.” You need to negotiate, even if you do not agree on everything.

Assad’s official visit to France to take part in Bastille Day celebrations comes as a sign of international recognition after the signing of a peace agreement among Lebanese rivals in Doha in May. For the last few years, Syria had been accused by the international community of creating instability in Lebanon. But relations between the two countries are back on track with the presidents of both countries scheduled to meet in France.

In an earlier interview published Monday in the French daily Le Figaro, Assad expressed his hopes for the next U.S. administration:

Frankly, we do not think that the current American administration is capable of making peace. It doesn’t have either the will or the vision and it only has a few months left…. We are betting on the next president and his administration. We hope that it will be rather an advantage to have a change of president in the United States.

— Raed Rafei in Beirut

Photo: Syrian President Bashar Assad. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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July 11th, 2008, 5:48 pm

 

91. norman said:

Assad makes remarkable comeback
By Roula Khalaf in Beirut

Published: July 11 2008 18:40 | Last updated: July 11 2008 18:40

After years of isolation Bashar al-Assad stages a diplomatic comeback on Saturday, courtesy of French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Still boycotted by some of his Arab neighbours and shunned by the US, the controversial Syrian president will be in the company of European leaders at the union for the Mediterranean summit in Paris. Most prestigious will be his appearance at Monday’s national day festivities, a privilege usually reserved for France’s warmest friends.

“This visit is, for me, a historic visit, an opening towards France and Europe,” Mr Assad told Le Figaro, the French daily.

The trip to Paris marks a remarkable turnround for a young leader whose behaviour at home and in the region had relegated Syria to the ranks of a pariah state. It was only three years ago that France, then under the leadership of Jacques Chirac, was leading the isolation of Damascus, much to the delight of the Bush administration which accused Syria of backing Iraqi insurgents.

Apparently convinced that the Syrian regime was responsible for the killing of Rafiq Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister and close friend of Mr Chirac, Paris was instrumental in forcing Syrian troops out of Lebanon in 2005. It also led the push for the creation of a UN investigation and a UN-backed tribunal for the Hariri case.

The Syrian president’s visit to Paris has provoked much criticism from France’s military and political establishment. Syrian-backed forces are still widely blamed for an explosion in Beirut in 1983 that killed 58 French peacekeeping troops.

But Mr Sarkozy came into office looking for a new direction. But it was the perception of a sudden, more co-operative attitude in Damascus in recent weeks that he seized on as an opportunity to re-engage with Mr Assad.

French officials point to two events in particular that suggested Syria was willing to moderate its policies and – crucially for Paris – eventually distance itself from Iran, its closest ally in the Middle East.

The first was Syria’s support for the Doha accord, the power-sharing deal struck by Lebanese leaders in the Qatari capital in May, paving the way for an election of a president, a move which Damascus’ allies in Beirut had been blocking. The second was Syria’s indirect peace talks with Israel, via Turkish mediators, a process that has gathered pace in recent months in spite of last year’s Israeli bombing of a suspected Syrian nuclear facility.

“Those were positive signals that we should encourage,” says a French official.

France’s embrace of Mr Assad, though supported by several European partners, has puzzled leading Arab governments, which had joined in putting pressure on Damascus and often received promises of co-operation that were rarely met.

In March, the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Egypt stayed away from the Arab League summit in Damascus, in protest at alleged Syrian meddling in Lebanon.

At the time, Arab diplomats said they were given the distinct impression that Syria would not help resolve the Lebanese crisis unless plans for a UN tribunal to try Hariri’s killers were scrapped. The Syrian government denies involvement in the killing.

“What’s incredible is that the Arab summit was only in March and all this has changed in a few months – and the change has been dictated by Europe,” says one western diplomat who keeps a close watch on Syria.

Arab officials (and the US of course) argue that rushing to reward Mr Assad could prove counter-productive.

The Doha accord, they note, was not a big concession on Damascus’ part, given that its Lebanese allies won the veto power in a new cabinet in return for allowing the presidential election to go ahead.

“Sarkozy is giving Syria a way out because he wants to take a different approach than Chirac. But you can’t be sure that there is a change of direction in Syria, despite the signals we’ve seen,” says a senior Arab official.

“The deal in Lebanon has to be consolidated. But will Syria continue to behave in a positive way?”

Analysts say that Syria’s recent moves may not amount to any significant shift as much as they are part of a repositioning before the arrival of a new US administration.

Mr Assad, who took over from his father in 2000, has also been attempting to capitalise on his alliances – with Iran and with Lebanese and Palestinian groups – and highlight to the world that he can positively influence these forces if he receives something in return. Syrian observers say that having survived the intense pressure of recent years, the regime has regained its confidence as it waits out the remaining months of the Bush administration.

Damascus now sees itself as a bridge between pro-western states in the region on one side and Iran and its non-state allies on the other, and argues that it can tilt the balance of power in the direction that it wants.

With his ambitions expanding, Mr Assad’s hope is that the next US president will abandon the policy of pressure and threats, opting instead for engagement.

He has already said that he wanted the US to mediate in the talks with Israel, in which Damascus is seeking the full return of the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war. As Flynt Leverett, a Syria expert at the Washington-based New America Foundation, says, Mr Assad is now “auditioning for the next US administration”.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

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Syria heads east to boost foreign investment – Jul-06Confusion over fate of prisoners in jail riot – Jul-06Syria upbeat on nuclear probe – Jun-23Syria sees benefits of liberalisation – Jun-18Sarkozy invites Syria to French festivities – Jun-13Israelis reluctant to leave the Golan – May-28del.icio.us reddit Digg Facebook stumbleupon Yahoo!
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July 11th, 2008, 6:20 pm

 

92. Qifa Nabki said:

Innocent Criminal, Ammo Norman, Alex:

Shukran jazilan ya ikhwan. 😉

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July 11th, 2008, 7:32 pm

 

93. why-discuss said:

The Iranian missile Photoshop cut and paste reminds us that it is not only the CIA who can manipulate images like the famous biological trucks in Iraq presented in pompous ceremony to the UN. The trouble is that the CIA ones were so well done that they brought hell on Iraq.
The awkwardly done ones of the Iran missiles are maybe hinting that Iran is not such a threat after all, or maybe it is.

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July 11th, 2008, 8:23 pm

 

94. SimoHurtta said:

Where are the other assets? … Ausamaa? Simo?

Well I have a new laptop and I have spend days in transfering emails, updating 1478 windows security, service packets etc. The last problem (I hope) is how to get a bluetooth headphone sets microphone working.

I must say that I am also boored with arguing with AIG or even in “wanting” to read that lunatic “secular atheists” opinions and arrogant comments.

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July 11th, 2008, 9:38 pm

 

95. trustquest said:

The following is not for discussion, it is just review and a reminder of the flip flop of the regime, which some will call it the art of possible. I would say it is the art of impossible.
Because, the art of possible, requires an important principal, which is dialogue, to disseminate your ideas between your group and consequently between the populace. That will require freeing those intellectuals who are with you on most of your policies and you need them to criticize you and to show them that you are right.

The interview on Memri, is conducted in April 2008 and reflects long standing policy for the regime in Syria. The funny thing that it did not take five years to answer the question of the “ 5 years”, in the interview, and the funny thing at that time the Syrians and Israeli were involve in secret talk for peace.

She asked Minster of education in Syria, Mr. Agha: what is your reaction when you know the regime itself contacted the Israeli government to make peace. His answer was: I will be thrown in jail.
She said: in five years, the government might call Israel and say, let’s put an end to this.
He said: I will be the first they will have to take to jail.
She said: Will we be saying that the president maintained “ dubious relations” with Israel?
He said: those who will want to do this, God forbid, will have to get rid of me and many others like me beforehand, and a lot like me.
They continue and then she suggests that people will get affected and get tired from sanction and pressure. He said: we don’t care about the tiredness of the people we have (bigger fry fish to fry).
He continues to say: By Allah, if this regime deviated from my principals, I would not remain in it, and nor would President Bashar Al-Assad. We are people with principles and values.

Conclusion it is too much for the Syrians to take in a short period of time, it is a reciepe for disaster. From here, AIG is right ( for different reason of what on his mind) on his continuous bombardment on the required openness from the regime, that is a must to the success of peace process and for the economical openness.

Majhool, first let me disagree with you regarding prostitution. Syrian regime has noting to do with creating this problem and the bad changing in the Syrian society and in the regime structure is not helping in countering it either.
Majhool, please do not defend the Saudi for a completely different reason. Do not forget that no one had said a bad word about the Saudi when the regime was in good term with them. I think when the regime will get back in bed with the Saudi soon, then you will see a lot of guys on this blog praising the Saudi, and this is coming sooner than anyone think.

Alex, you violated your own rules when you insinuate and used “Idiot” , “Silly” words, using “if” does not excuse it, towards Majhool, then you did not ban yourself. This is not fair )
A lot of people on this blog, do not show any respect to oppositions and their views which expressed sometimes on this blog by some. Atassi used to bring some balance and I wish he would devote more time on this blog, hi Atassi, The oppositions counts in large numbers, have structure, have presence and have elites speaking in their names. Those people who do not show respect to oppositions they themselves criticize exactly playing the rule of opposition. The regime need oppositions for its survival, one sided views is not going to live for long. The respond to each and any comment hurt the regime is just awful, it is like this regime is flawless. There is a need for respect to our intelligence, thanks god Joshua the owner of this blog is not on this league.

I believe that most of the oppositions are in support for the general direction of the regime foreign policy especially the peace negotiations, but no one will accept to be done individually without the collection effort of the ones with and without.

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July 12th, 2008, 12:25 am

 

96. Majhool said:

God bless you, I agree with you wholeheartedly even on the topic of prostitution. My comment was intended to add balance to the Norman’s disproportionate blame on Saudi customers she made it sound as if there were no Syrian customers at these nightclubs. The root cause of the phenomena remains the bloody violence in Iraq.

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July 12th, 2008, 5:09 am

 

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