Assad: “Bush Cannot Make Peace;” Economist on Syria’s Economic Outlook

Syria sees no Israel peace before Bush quits (Reuters) 

PARIS: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has told a newspaper his country is unlikely to make peace with Israel while U.S. President George W. Bush remains in office.

However, in an interview published on the website of Le Figaro daily on Monday, Assad said he was betting that the next U.S. leader would get more involved in the peace process.

Assad said Syria and Israel were looking for common ground to start face-to-face negotiations, adding that it was vital to find the right country to mediate such talks.

"The most important thing in direct negotiations is who sponsors them," Assad told Le Figaro, saying that the United States had an essential role to play.

"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," he said.

"When we have established a common foundation (for negotiations) at indirect talks with Israel, perhaps we could give some trump cards to the new administration to make it get more involved," he added…….

ANALYSIS / Israel, Syria already have outline for direct talks Ha'aretz, Zvi Bar`el

Israel and Syria, via Turkish mediation, have already outlined an agenda for direct talks, if and when they occur. And a Turkish official involved in the negotiations told Haaretz that the time has now come for such talks.

"We expect the next discussions to be direct ones between Israeli and Syrian military officials regarding security arrangements and a buffer zone," the Turkish official said. "They can no longer be procedural discussions in which we serve as a 'mobile phone.' Now, direct talks are needed. It would be ridiculous for us to start shuttling maps from room to room. Talks might also begin, simultaneously or subsequently, on the meaning of normalization."

Asked when, and at what level, the next meeting will take place, he responded: "After the Mediterranean meeting we'll know more."

Will next week's summit of Mediterranean leaders in France give the signal for direct talks by providing an opportunity for a public handshake between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Syrian President Bashar Assad? In an interview with Le Figaro this week, Assad was evasive. He said that American involvement is necessary for direct talks, and this is inconceivable as long as George W. Bush remains president. But at the same time, he said that if French President Nicolas Sarkozy demonstrates enthusiasm for Israeli-Syrian negotiations, Assad will be happy to involve him.

The main fear now is that after Israeli and Syrian representatives have agreed on an agenda in Turkey, the long waiting period until a new American administration is sworn in may halt the momentum that has been created. Syria, which is interested in moving forward with the talks as long as Israel has a premier who is also interested in talking, might view active involvement by Sarkozy as a suitable interim solution. If that is indeed what Assad decides, it is reasonable to assume that he will not refrain from meeting Olmert at the summit, and will thereby set the next steps in motion.

Syria has recently seen its diplomatic status in the region rise due to its involvement in the Doha summit, which produced the breakthrough that is soon expected to result in a new Lebanese government. It is now seeking to use its influence to effect a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. In short, Damascus aspires to paint itself as at least as important as Egypt and Saudi Arabia in resolving regional problems. The Syrians recognize the weakness of Israel's current government, but their assessment is that by talking with Israel now, they could at least obtain an agreed outline of a peace treaty, even if its implementation would have to wait for another Israeli government. Such an agreement in principle would give the next American administration a reason to change its policy toward Syria and end sanctions against it.

For Paris to step into Washington's shoes as an Israeli-Syrian mediator, Assad must first pay his dues in Lebanon. France expects that after the new Lebanese government is established – possibly by the end of this week – Assad will announce the opening of a Syrian embassy in Lebanon, ending Syria's long-standing refusal to recognize Lebanon as an independent country. …..

FROM THE ECONOMIST INTELLIGENCE UNIT: OUTLOOK FOR 2008-09

POLICY TRENDS: An economic debate continues between the government's more fiscally prudent elements, led by the deputy prime minister for economic affairs, Abdullah al-Dardari, and those factions that are concerned about the impact of rising prices on disposable incomes. Reductions in fuel subsidies, implemented in early May 2008, have not resolved this debate, because increased world oil prices and a 25% rise in public-sector salaries have offset the fiscal benefits. Furthermore, the introduction of a value-added tax, while finally agreed, has been delayed until 2009. In 2009 the policy debate will increasingly focus on the need to diversify the economy away from oil and encourage investment.

INTERNATIONAL ASSUMPTIONS: World GDP growth is expected to average 3.8% in 2008-09 (at purchasing power parity exchange rates), down from an estimated 4.9% in 2007, largely as a result of a sharp slowdown in the US economy in 2008. We have further revised up our oil price projections, asbuoyant demand in emerging markets will offset the projected slowdown in the OECD. We now forecast that the price of the benchmark dated Brent Blend will average around US$115/barrel over the outlook period.

ECONOMIC GROWTH: Although Syria maintains that growth in 2007 was 6.5%, we estimate it at 4.3%, because investment growth and exports were not as strong as previously thought; the IMF is even more downbeat, estimating 3.9%. We expect the Syrian economy to slow further to an annual average of 3.9% over the outlook period, largely owing to falling oil output. The agricultural sector is also expected to remain depressed this year, after another poor harvest. These negative trends will be only partly offset by continued expansion in the services sector, boosted by solid growth in tourism and demand for goods and services, in part from the large Iraqi refugee population.

INFLATION: We expect inflation to continue to rise in 2008–to an average of around 16.8%–owing to significant reductions in fuel subsidies in March and May and to a 25% increase in government salaries and pensions. However, it is possible that the shock caused by these sudden changes could drive inflation even higher than our current forecast. In 2009 flat oil prices and a slight easing in non-oil commodity prices will help to bring down inflation, to around 10.2%, and any significant return of Iraqi nationals to their homeland could lower it even further by reducing demand pressures. We estimate that annual average inflation in 2007 was at least 12.2%, even though the official consumer price index data currently shows flat prices for the first three quarters of 2007 (full-year data are not yet available).

EXCHANGE RATES: A new exchange-rate regime–a peg to a basket of currencies based on the IMF's special drawing rights–has been in place since October 2007, resulting in a marked appreciation of the pound against the dollar. Despite the change, however, the authorities are expected to keep close control of the currency, placing a high priority on exchange-rate stability. The dominant position of the state-owned banks and the Central Bank's control over foreign-currency transactions (even as some laws are relaxed) mean that the regime is well placed to protect the value of the pound. As a result, we forecast that the pound will appreciate further against the weak dollar in 2008 to an average of SP46.4:US$1. Next year, however, we expect the rate to be fairly stable.

EXTERNAL SECTOR: We expect Syria's merchandise export earnings to rise in 2008, owing to the increase in oil prices, which will temporarily offset the negative impact of falling oil production and reduced wheat exports owing to a poor harvest. However, by 2009 oil prices will be working against Syria, which we estimate will be importing around US$4m worth of oil a day, net. Non-oil exports are continuing to benefit from strong regional demand and the relaxation of foreign-exchange controls, which has led to more exports being officially recorded. Import spending growth will remain strong over the outlook period, partly because of the ongoing process of tariff liberalisation, but also because of healthy demand for capital goods related to some large infrastructure and construction projects. With all these factors taken together, the trade account surplus will narrow over the outlook period from about US$1.5bn (2.7% of GDP) in 2008 to US$146m next year.

SYRIA COUNTRY BRIEFING FROM THE ECONOMIST INTELLIGENCE UNIT

Syria maintains that growth in 2007 was 6.5%, the Economist Intelligence Unit however, estimates it at 4.3%, because investment growth and exports were not as strong as previously thought; the IMF is even more downbeat, estimating 3.9%. We expect the Syrian economy to slow further to an annual average of 3.9% over 2008-09, largely owing to falling oil output.

The agricultural sector is also expected to remain depressed in 2008, after another poor harvest. These negative trends will be only partly offset by continued expansion in the services sector, boosted by solid growth in tourism and demand for goods and services, in part from the large Iraqi refugee population. 

Growth in private consumption is likely to weaken in 2008-09, not only because of lower disposable incomes (owing to cuts in fuel subsidies and higher inflation), but also because the impact of the influx of Iraqi refugees on consumption levels will start to wane as many run down their savings, some return and visa restrictions limit the number of new arrivals. We expect that investment will continue to expand steadily, provided that there is no deterioration in the regional political environment.

Syria will continue to attract investment from the Gulf Arab countries, Russia and Iran. Import growth will also remain relatively strong in 2008-09, averaging 4.5% a year, reflecting the steady expansion in domestic demand and non-oil exports (many of which use imported inputs). Despite healthy growth in non-oil exports, the ongoing decline in oil production and thus oil export volumes will prevent the export sector from making a positive contribution to growth.

Palestinian president calls for national dialogue, leaves Syria … International Herald Tribune

Watfa al-Ghanem shows her identification card, which states that she was born in 1880, in her home in the village of Al-Sheirat in the Syrian city of Homs February 29, 2008. Al-Ghanem, 128, who has been married once and has four children, said that she has farmed for more than 100 years. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri (SYRIA)

Small Wars Journal The Syria Card

A wave of Islamic insurers gears up to woo Syrians, By Julien Barnes-Dacey: As the secular government eases its firm control over society, Islamic firms are increasingly cropping up…..

Haaretz–  Gideon Levy: Israel prefers bombing Iran to peace with Arab world The dread of the implications of an attack on Iran may be exaggerated. We might succeed again. And what if we do not? But then again, what if we do?

The Observer Turkish coup plot awakens fear of violent nationalism Evidence of conspiracy to overthrow pro-Western Islamist government lays bare resentment of country's secular elite….

The following helpful overviews of this week's press debates comes from the POMED Wire, or Project on Middle East Democracy.

Or an Israeli Attack?  This week, after an anonymous Pentagon officialwarned that Israel may carry out an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, the questionlooming over Washington is if and when an attack my take place and whether the U.S. would support such action.  Although the State Department and some in Israel dismissed the claim, debate continued, outlining the likely consequences of an Iranian retaliation, for the United States, Iraq, and Iran itself.  Many see America's options as limited andadamantly argued that diplomatic talks with Iran and Syria could improve the situation.

Democracy Promotion and Radical Islam:  In examining efforts to promote democracy in the region, some argued that success may depend on cultural prerequisites and international support.  Many argued that good governance weakens public support for terrorists in the region, while oppressive authoritarian regimes lead to radicalization of the local population

Syria's Aleppo Has 11 Projects Worth $109 Million, SANA Says
2008-07-07
By Massoud A. Derhally

July 7 (Bloomberg) — Syria's northern city of Aleppo has about 11 projects underway valued at 5 billion Syrian pounds ($109 million), the government-run SANA news agency reported, citing the region's investment authority. The projects are industrial, transport and tourism related and will create 426 jobs, the news service reported.

Comments (72)


norman said:

Hizbullah Ceasefire Set to Collapse as Syria Rearms Terrorists

by Ze’ev Ben-Yechiel

(IsraelNN.com) Resolution 1701, the ceasefire passed by the United Nations’ Security Council to end the Second Lebanon War in 2006, is widely expected to collapse as Hizbullah forces gather strength at the Israel-Lebanon border. The resolution will be discussed in Wednesday’s meeting of the Israeli security cabinet, as the Israeli leadership revisits the terms of the 2006 agreement.

The cabinet, convened by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, will discuss the continued rearmament of Hizbullah by Syria in violation of the cease-fire, according to senior defense officials. Also on the table will be the options available to the Israeli government to deal with the growing threat, perhaps including the option of a renewed offensive against Hizbullah.

During the meeting, cabinet ministers will be presented with an assessment of the situation in Lebanon, including a briefing on a resurgent Hizbullah and on preparations by the terrorist group for another attack on Israel. The cabinet will also discuss ways to dam the flood of weapons coming from Syria to the group.

Defense officials estimate that Hizbullah now holds almost three times as many missiles as it did before the war.

Also to be assessed in the meeting is Hizbullah’s deployment in southern Lebanon. Security officials have suggested searching Arab press releases for leaks on the group’s activities in the area. A Kuwaiti newspaper published a report, last week, detailing Hizbullah plans to place anti-aircraft missiles on the peaks of Lebanese mountains.

Regardless of the prospect for a future military confrontation with Hizbullah, Israeli defense officials believe that Israel’s only recourse at the moment is to place pressure on UNIFIL and the European countries that contribute to its forces.

Israel has been making efforts to expand the role of UNIFIL as defined in Resolution 1701. The mandate for the U.N. peacekeeping force is up for renewal next month, and Israel is examining options to give the force more authority to stop the rearmament of Hizbullah.

In a conversation with the French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that “Israel cannot accept the ongoing and intensifying gnawing at Resolution 1701, which has not been fulfilled, and the continuing transfer of weaponry that is damaging the delicate balance at the northern border.”

Barak told Kouchner that Israel expects France, as a member of UNIFIL, to intervene in stemming the flow of weapons from Syria to Hizbullah, and that UNIFIL forces in southern Lebanon need to do a better job of preventing the rearmament and fortification of Hizbullah.

“Syria is rearming Hizbullah at a rapid pace and this is proof that 1701 has completely failed,” said one Israeli official.

July 9th, 2008, 2:41 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Let’s reward Syria for their fine work.

Shai, any suggestions?

July 9th, 2008, 4:24 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

AP,

If Syria were to be rewarded, it would be because of her smarts or perhaps because of her adverseries’s lack of it. Syria’s “fine work” depends on the prism from where you are watching her, no?

As for economic growth, I tend to believe the IMF’S 3.9% rather than the Government’s 6.5%.

Without privatization, Syria will face major headwinds when it comes to its economic future.

Policy makers seem to believe that once a peace treaty is signed, all will be just fine. It is best therefore to move cautiously and slowly. Sadly, the clock is ticking and time is not on our side.

July 9th, 2008, 4:41 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Ehsani2,

I know. I wish Israel was as smart as Syria. I know Shai is jealous too.;)

July 9th, 2008, 4:47 pm

 

norman said:

Syria’s experience with Israel is that Israel responds only to force it got out of Lebanon and Gaza under pressure while they stayed in the Golan which had cost them nothing in human lives , Syria understand that to balance the military power of Israel it has to seek unconventional warfare tactic .

Conclusion,

Syria will support the resistance until there is a fair peace treaty in the Mideast .

now let us see if Israel can see the light.!

July 9th, 2008, 5:00 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ehsani2,
Here is an idea for a strategy that Israel could pursue. Israel should systematically take out Syria’s electricity plants using “plausible deniability”. It should arm local bands to do it, or send its own commandos but never admit to doing it and demnad “proof” from Syria.

What do you think, should Israel try this strategy? Wouldn’t it be great for Israel if it succeeds? What do you think, is this a smart strategy?

My point is simple, you confuse “smart” with “ruthless”. Dictatorships can and are usually ruthless. And as we know, ruthless strategies often work and are effective. The mafia has been successful for centuries. But are these strategies smart?

July 9th, 2008, 5:01 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Norman,
You have convinced me that Israel should use against Syria the same tactics that Syria uses against Israel. May the better country win, and no complaining about the results.

July 9th, 2008, 5:02 pm

 

norman said:

Paris Summit Offers Boost to Syria’s Image
(09-Jul-08)

President Bashar al-Assad’s upcoming visit to Paris offers Damascus a chance to play a key role in a French project to forge an association of Mediterranean states, analysts say.

The July 13 meeting will be the highest-profile diplomatic visit Assad has made since Syria began indirect peace talks with Israel and accepted the Doha agreement which ended six months of political deadlock in Lebanon.

French president Nicholas Sarkozy is hosting the Paris meeting to push for a new Mediterranean Union which would create stronger political, economic and cultural ties among the countries around the sea rim, including enemies like Syria and Israel.

Observers say Assad’s visit will help restore economic and political ties with the international community, especially with France.

Sarkozy cut official contacts with Damascus following the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri in February 2005, for which many blame Syria. However, the French-Syrian relationship has warmed in recent months.

“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.”

In an interview published in the French newspaper Le Figaro on July 8, Assad said he would welcome any moves by Sarkozy to “support directly” the Israeli-Syrian peace process.

Observers will be watching Assad’s performance at the summit for signs of a greater willingness to moving ahead with peace talks, and also for his view of the proposed Mediterranean Union. The diplomat said France wants to muster as much support as possible for the union. While there are few concrete details about the grouping, Sarkozy has suggested that member states might cooperate on energy, security and immigration.

Mazen Darwish, head of the Syrian Centre for Information and Freedom of Expression, said Damascus will be a key player at the summit, not least because some Arab nations such as Algeria, Libya and Egypt are lukewarm about the union or oppose it.

Darwish predicted that Syria would lend its backing to the French initiative.

“At the very least, Syria will play a role by increasing the number of [countries signing] the agreement,” he said.

Damascus is now trying to cast itself as regional peacemaker, and placed itself in a stronger position to build bridges with the European Union by assenting to the Doha agreement and the subsequent election of Michel Suleiman as Lebanese president, Darwish said.

Assad’s visit will not be without controversy. Due in Paris for talks with Sarkozy on July 12, he will stay through Bastille Day on July 14. But a spokesman for the French president clarified this week that Assad would not be a guest of honour at the national celebrations. French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said last month that he was “not amused” by Assad’s visit.

The Damascus Declaration, a Syrian opposition group, has announced plans to stage a protest in the French capital opposing Assad’s visit.

In Damascus, opposition figures expressed frustration that France was welcoming Assad. Mishal al-Tammo, spokesman for the Kurdish opposition group Mustaqbal movement, accused Paris of backing Syria and ignoring human rights abuses.

“Sarkozy is flagrantly ignoring the legacy of the French Revolution and the democratic values that characterise the French state through an illusion that he is calling the Mediterranean Union,” said Tammo.

(Syria News Briefing, a weekly news analysis service, draws on information and opinion from a network of IWPR-trained Syrian journalists based in the country.)

July 9th, 2008, 5:06 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

To: Shai
From: Syrian opposition

In Damascus, opposition figures expressed frustration that France was welcoming Assad. Mishal al-Tammo, spokesman for the Kurdish opposition group Mustaqbal movement, accused Paris of backing Syria and ignoring human rights abuses.

“Sarkozy is flagrantly ignoring the legacy of the French Revolution and the democratic values that characterise the French state through an illusion that he is calling the Mediterranean Union,” said Tammo.

July 9th, 2008, 5:13 pm

 

norman said:

AIG,

And what the end result that Israel aim to achieve , continuous of war or peace and security for the Jewish people .

July 9th, 2008, 5:23 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Norman,
The aim result would be to bring Syria to its knees economically until it stops funding terrorist organizations. You want to play dirty, be willing to pay the price.

July 9th, 2008, 5:26 pm

 

Alex said:

Correction:

To: Shai
From: Israeli backed agents.

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1215330902697&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

And I am not talking about Syrian Kurds in general, only those “opposition” Kurds who are soooo good in helping AIPACists and neocons with negative propaganda against Syria whenever there is a need, like when Assad is visiting France this week.

July 9th, 2008, 5:29 pm

 

Alex said:

AIG .. you are on a 4 comment per day limitation. I suggest you try to be more selective in your comments.

July 9th, 2008, 5:30 pm

 
 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
Of course, any person in the opposition is “unpatriotic” or being paid by AIPAC. Oh right, just like Shai is being paid by Imad Moustapha.

Oh yes, Kilo is great. Unfortunately Asad won’t let us know what Kilo thinks of his visit to France. Why is that?

July 9th, 2008, 5:45 pm

 

norman said:

aig,

And how long do you think Israel will be able to tolerate a long term war with Syria , as without full occupation of Syria and that is impossible for Israel , we will see the Israelis leaving town to the US and the EU. Learn to play Chess , That will make you humble and make look into the future moves of your adversaries.

July 9th, 2008, 5:50 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Norman,
Israel has been tolerating a long term war with the Arabs for 60 years. In 1948 there were 500,000 Jews. Now there are about 6 million. In fact, it is the Syrians that are leaving Syria in droves because the war with Israel has dire economic costs for Syria. Israel should continue to exploit this and push Syria to the economic abyss if Syria continues support of terrorist organizations.

How long can Syria sustain a war with Israel before Syria collapses into a civil war? So far Israel has unwisely supported Asad staying in power. But what if Israel’s policies change?

July 9th, 2008, 6:12 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

AIG,

Syria is smart and ruthless. She is smart because it has been able to maximize political (regrettably not industrial) output with rather limited resources. You have to play the hand you are dealt. Based on that, Syria has played the game very well. You cannot take this away from her. Is she also ruthless. Hell, ya. Should Israel do the same? I leave that for you. Do you think she is as smart or ruthless?

July 9th, 2008, 7:03 pm

 

ugarit said:

“Syria invented the wheel, remember?”

If only we were able to patent the invention. 🙂

July 9th, 2008, 7:18 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

AIG,

Great. Let us hope that the ruthless part of that proposed strategy also turns out to be of the smart type. Remember, you have to hit on both.

July 9th, 2008, 7:30 pm

 

Shai said:

Alex,

I didn’t know I’ve become this popular all of a sudden… I hope my Hall-of-Fame averages don’t relate to the amount of times my name is mentioned (and especially in what light…)

AP,

Am I happy Syria is arming HA? No. Am I condoning it? No. Am I justifying it? No. Would I do the same, if I was her? Yes. Would YOU do the same if you were her? Yes. Would you ever admit that? No.

As I’ve stated before, Israelis have not become land-philanthropists in recent years. There is only one reason I can think of why Israelis have started talking about returning the Golan and making peace with Syria (back in Rabin’s days). It is, quite simply, because of the threat Syria holds over Israel, with the alternative. Part of it is with her significant medium- and long-range SCUD program. Part is with her well-developed WMD’s program. Part is with her military alliance with Iran. And part is with her support of other resistance groups, such as HA and Hamas. That’s it. Syria doesn’t have F-15i’s, it doesn’t have Merkava tanks, it doesn’t have spy satellites, and it doesn’t (yet) have nuclear weapons. Yet, it has played its cards in such way, as to cause many Israelis (myself included) to consider, and reconsider, the alternative to peace. Unlike you, I happen to believe the Golan is not ours, and as long as we think that it is, we will continue to suffer, our region will become less stable, and our children’s future will become less secure, not more.

AIG,

Thank you for the bit from a Syrian opposition Kurdish group. I don’t think you ever heard me suggest that all Syrians are pro-Bashar, have you? Of course there is opposition, and that’s a good thing. That’s the beginning of democracy. But I cannot side with one opposition or the other. I have to sign a peace treaty with whoever is in power, otherwise, I’ll wait a long time before that happens. I, as you know, happen to believe that time is not on our side. Therefore, I prefer to sign an agreement with a dictator, than to wait another 20 years, and suffer the consequences in the meantime. If Kurdish opposition groups are angry at me for doing so, I guess I’ll have to live with that as well. But my guess is, that they’ll understand why I chose peace now, over another 20 years of war. We each have our own interests, don’t we. Personally, I think making peace with Syria now, will only help push democracy along, rather than delay it. The faster the West begins to interact with Syria, the more likely reform will appear. The more isolated Syria becomes, the more it will tend towards Iran, N. Korea, etc.

Syrians and Kuwaitis and Saudis and Yemenis don’t give a damn about democracy in Israel, and we shouldn’t lose sleep over theirs. It is an internal matter, up to the Syrians to work out, not us. Just as you don’t expect Syria to place special clauses in our peace agreement, which first call for all Israelis to shed any racism towards Arab-Israelis, and to treat them as true equals, the same way they’re never going to accept a demand by us for them to first become a democracy. In fact, can you point to any Likud leader that has ever called for this, prior to making peace with Syria? Even your “new-Likud” hasn’t called for this. Why on earth are YOU the sole-voice for Syrian freedom? It sounds too good to be true… 🙂 Maybe it is…

July 9th, 2008, 7:33 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

You know, your whole theory of not making peace with Syria yet because it isn’t a democracy, so we don’t really know what 50.1% of Syrians want (peace or not), is problematic in almost every possible aspect, but especially in the logical one.

What you’re saying is, that Syria may in fact consist at the moment of at least two camps, A and B (if not more). A is the opposition we know about. B is the rest. You are afraid that A, the opposition, who doesn’t want peace with Israel now, is far greater in numbers than B, who does want peace now. So you’re willing to wait until we know.

But what if you’re wrong? What if B>A? What if despite the fact that most Syrians don’t have freedom of speech like we do in the West, still most of them want peace with Israel now and, in fact, can’t even state that publicly, because it’ll place them at risk with the current rulers in Syria? Aren’t you afraid that by NOT making peace now, and waiting to see if indeed A>B, that all those belonging to B will one day hate you for waiting?

You don’t have clear answers, so you’d rather wait with peace. That makes sense to you. But to no one else here (except for Bashman), and to none of your Likud leaders. But you’re ok with that.

What about China? I guess you’re against peaceful relations with her as well, right? And other nations around the globe that aren’t “exactly” democracies? Against them as well? Do you honestly expect people to believe that? Are you that naive to believe that nations make peace only with democracies? In fact, show me ONE nation on earth, that has peaceful relations ONLY with democracies. I challenge you to find one. Just one!

But you won’t find one. And you know what? I think you know it. Yet you want to seem “holier-than-the-pope”, to delay any kind of concessions Israel might have to make in return for peace. You can’t come up with better reasons for keeping the Golan or the West Bank, so you find this democracy excuse, and one guy like Bashman buys it. One guy… out of all the Baathists here… All anti-democracy expatriate Bashar-supporters. Shame, no?

July 9th, 2008, 8:08 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

And if Samir Kuntar could speak freely, what would he say? Make peace with Israel? Probably not. By the way, if Michel Kilo could speak freely, do you think he’d say not to make peace with Israel?

Your sincere concerns for the indefinite delay in democracy in Syria is almost touching. I can’t imagine why the 30-35 commentators on SC that have ever engaged you on this issue aren’t teary-eyed each time they read your words. And you know why they aren’t? Because they don’t buy it. And neither do I. No, you’re too smart for that. You don’t really believe it either. You couldn’t give a damn about Syrian freedom, about Michel Kilo, or about the prison riot that just took place. You’re trying to use every delay tactic you can come up with, NOT to make peace. It’s that simple. You can’t fathom the notion of giving up something we’ve held onto for so long. And to give it to Arabs, of all people? No way. The more you bring up democracy, the more see-through you become.

July 9th, 2008, 8:28 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Michel Kilo is not God. He is a brave man who decided to sacrifice his well being for a cause he believes in. He is not necessarily a smart man though. I still believe that his article on Alawi vs Sunni differnces when it comes to death announcements was an idiotic note that hurt his cause. When I had read it at the time, my imeediate thought was – what is his thinking? Sure enought, weeks, if not days later, he was to kiss his freedom goodbye.

July 9th, 2008, 8:28 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

Let’s take your own words, and replace “Syria” or “Assad” with “China”, or any other non-democracy in the world:

“I am against the peace with (Hu Jintao) because it will give him legitimacy (money and western recognition) and it will make the work of the (Chinese) opposition much much harder than it is now. And it is extremely difficult now. And that means that democracy in (China) will be delayed indefinitely and that is very much against Israeli interests.”

You agree with that? Or is Syria just a special case? Do you know of any other nation on earth, that believes in making peace only with democracies? Any? Do you know of any LIKUD leader that would agree with that statement? Any?

July 9th, 2008, 8:37 pm

 

Shai said:

See my comment above yours.

July 9th, 2008, 8:42 pm

 

Seeking the Truth said:

AIG,

Don’t worry too much about sacrificing democracy for peace. I think the odds are stacked up highly against reaching a peace treaty, and the probability of any semblance of democracy in Syria in the near future with or without peace, is even less.

July 9th, 2008, 8:43 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

SA is an easy case. Let’s make it even tougher. Let’s take Iran. If Ahmedinejad suddenly had a “call from God” to make peace with Israel, and he decided (with the blessing of Khamenei) to turn to Israel, and offer full recognition, and full peace, in return for Israel giving back the Shebaa Farms to Lebanon. Do you think there would be ONE ISRAELI LEADER, left, right, center, or in deep-space, who would turn Iran down, because it is not yet a “real” democracy? What do YOU think would happen?

Never in Israel’s history, not in 60 years, has ANY leader EVER put as precondition a state of democracy first in any of our neighboring countries, before we can make peace with them. That is, until you showed up…

July 9th, 2008, 8:51 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

What do you think? Of course I’d be for making peace with South Africa, if I knew the alternative meant a continuation of war (direct, or indirect). This is why Begin made peace with Sadat. And, for half of Israel’s 60 year-history, it has not been “really critical” for Israel to have Egypt be a democracy. I don’t hear a single Egyptian voice hating Israel because it made peace with a non-democratic Egypt. I hear plenty of Egyptian voices hating Israel because of how it treats the Palestinians. Yet even with this hatred, it STILL hasn’t been “critical” for us to have Egypt be a democracy.

July 9th, 2008, 9:09 pm

 

Shai said:

Oh Alex, I completely forgot about AIG’s 4-comments/day rule… Sorry. But I was about to head to bed in any case… it’s past midnight here and, as you may recall, I go to sleep early… 🙂

July 9th, 2008, 9:12 pm

 

Alex said:

Good night Shai.

You did not need to remember HIS 4-comments per day limit.

July 9th, 2008, 9:17 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

I was just perusing this thread after a long day of driving and I found myself thinking:

“What is wrong with everybody? They are all piling up on AIG and he hasn’t even said anything. Are we all so obssessed with AIG that we invoke him and get into arguments with him even when he isn’t around?”

Then I remembered that Alex was deleting his comments. 🙂

July 9th, 2008, 10:51 pm

 

why-discuss said:

Interview of Bashar al Assad to l’Orient-le jour

Le chef de l’État syrien déclare que le nouveau président US ne pourra pas suivre la même politique que Bush
Assad à « L’Orient-Le Jour » : Nous n’avons pas l’intention de revenir militairement au Liban
Propos recueillis par Scarlett HADDAD

C’est la première interview accordée par le président syrien à un média libanais depuis plusieurs années. Il est vrai que cela s’est passé dans le cadre de ses rencontres avec les médias français à la veille de sa visite à Paris, mais Bachar el-Assad a consacré une partie de son entrevue à L’Orient-Le Jour. L’entretien s’est déroulé dans un pavillon élégant, très vite surnommé « Le petit Trianon » par un confrère français, dissimulé derrière les arbres, dont l’entrée discrète ne laisse pas supposer l’existence. Ni fouilles ni chichis protocolaires, le président syrien nous reçoit lui-même à l’entrée et nous emmène dans un petit salon confortable où des dessins d’enfants ornent le dessus des meubles. « Est-ce l’œuvre de vos enfants ? » lui demandons-nous. « C’est mon épouse qui les a placés là. Mes enfants sont petits, mais ils sont inscrits dans une école de dessin et c’est un travail collectif. »

Le ton est ainsi donné. L’entretien qui durera deux heures se fera avec simplicité et sans formalisme. Le président syrien insiste pour que nous posions toutes nos questions. Il ne s’enflamme pas, répond de façon structurée et a même un grand éclat de rire lorsque nous lui demandons s’il compte envoyer Rustom Ghazalé comme ambassadeur à Beyrouth…

Q : Avez-vous été surpris par le coup de fil du président Sarkozy après la conférence de Doha et est-ce vraiment ce qui a débloqué les relations franco-syriennes ?
R : C’est certainement un des facteurs qui ont contribué au déblocage. D’autant qu’il y avait un malentendu sur la position réelle de la Syrie sur deux dossiers : le Liban et le processus de paix. L’accord de Doha a montré que la Syrie ne bloquait pas la situation au Liban, et les négociations indirectes avec Israël ont montré que nous voulons réellement la paix. La tenue du sommet de l’Union pour la Méditerranée est aussi un autre facteur du déblocage puisque la Syrie est un pays important dans cette région. Tous ces facteurs ont permis de donner un nouvel élan aux relations franco-syriennes.

Q : Mais pourquoi y a-t-il eu ce gel dans les relations, selon vous ? Et quel a été votre véritable rôle à Doha ?
R : Le gel était sans doute dû au fait que le président français précédent Jacques Chirac a lié les relations entre la France et la Syrie au dossier libanais et au point de vue d’une partie des Libanais. Le changement au niveau de la présidence en France a été un facteur important dans le déblocage, car le président Sarkozy a adopté une politique différente, plus réaliste. Avant l’accord de Doha, nous n’étions pas d’accord avec la France sur de nombreux points, et le président Sarkozy avait donné des déclarations négatives à l’égard de la Syrie à partir du Caire. Mais il avait malgré tout maintenu ouverts des canaux entre les deux pays. Il y avait des contacts entre nous et l’Élysée. Alors que le président Chirac avait coupé toutes les relations avec la Syrie.

Q : Qu’avez-vous demandé à la France et qu’est-ce que celle-ci vous a demandé ?
R : Nous avons eu des discussions sur ces sujets pendant la visite de notre ministre des AE en France, bien plus que lors de la visite de M. Guéant à Damas. Les points de vue étaient clairs et je peux vous dire ce que nous attendons nous de la France. Sur le plan de la politique étrangère, nous voulons que la France ait un rôle actif dans les négociations avec Israël, surtout si nous arrivons à l’étape des négociations directes avec ce pays. Il y a aussi le dossier du partenariat syro-français ainsi que celui de l’UPM. C’est une bonne idée, mais elle doit être concrétisée. Et nous devons coopérer pour la rendre plus effective. L’Union pour la Méditerranée est une évolution du processus de Barcelone. Celui-ci avait échoué parce qu’il s’était éloigné de la réalité politique. C’est pourquoi nous avons insisté sur la nécessité de mettre le dialogue politique à l’ordre du jour de l’UPM. Pour nous, cela englobe l’avancement du processus de paix. Concernant les relations bilatérales, nous souhaitons que le dialogue politique soit plus fréquent, sans oublier les relations économiques. Ce que veut la France, je ne peux pas le dire, mais je suis convaincu qu’elle souhaite la stabilité dans la région. Ce qui implique le processus de paix, l’achèvement du processus politique au Liban, l’avenir du processus politique en Irak et la réconciliation interpalestinienne pour aboutir à l’accomplissement de la paix, qui ne s’achève pas avec le volet syrien.

Q : Pour revenir au président Chirac, il a déclaré qu’il ne souhaitait pas assister au défilé du 14 Juillet parce que vous y seriez. Qu’en pensez-vous ?
R : Êtes-vous sûre qu’il a bien dit cela ?

Q : La presse l’a en tout cas rapporté…
R : Il faudrait s’en assurer, car ces propos sont en contradiction avec ceux tenus par la même personne il y a quelques années. De toute façon, je crois que tout citoyen d’un pays est heureux de voir une personnalité étrangère assister aux cérémonies de sa fête nationale. Il en est fier. De toute façon, je rends visite à la France et non à une personne, et le président Sarkozy représente pour nous la souveraineté française.

Q : Pensez-vous qu’en ouvrant sur la Syrie, la France agit en coordination avec les Etats-Unis, et que ces derniers auraient ainsi sous-traité le dossier ?
R : Je ne le crois pas. L’administration américaine a échoué avec tout le monde, la Corée, la Syrie, l’Iran, l’Irak et dans le processus de paix en général, comme elle a échoué à instaurer la stabilité dans le monde. Même si les relations entre la France et les États-Unis sont étroites, il n’est pas sage de s’allier avec une administration qui a accumulé les échecs, non pas parce qu’elle s’en va, mais parce que ses membres sont en train de la quitter. Elle a perdu toute crédibilité sur la scène internationale. Ces propos ne sont pas seulement tenus par moi ; vous pouvez les entendre de la bouche de nombreux alliés des États-Unis.

Q : Tout en procédant à un réchauffement de ses relations avec la Syrie, la France reprend un rôle important au sein de l’OTAN. Cela ne vous dérange-t-il pas ?
R : Ce qui me concerne dans la politique française au sein de l’OTAN, ce sont ses retombées sur la Syrie. Si nous avions le sentiment que la politique de la France se décide aux États-Unis, nous serions inquiets. Mais nous n’avons pas cette impression. Par contre, si ces relations étroites entre la France et les États-Unis vont dans le sens de renforcer le rôle de Paris et de pousser les États-Unis à être plus proches des causes arabes, c’est tant mieux. Prenons par exemple le processus de paix au M-O. Le rôle des États-Unis y est essentiel. Les États-Unis sont une grande puissance et ils ont une relation particulière avec Israël. Aucun pays européen ne peut remplacer les États-Unis dans ce domaine. Les Européens ont un rôle complémentaire. Le problème, c’est que les États-Unis ne comprennent pas ce qui se passe dans la région. La France peut donc aider les Américains à mieux comprendre la situation dans la région. Concernant l’OTAN, cette organisation sert les intérêts des États-Unis. Mais tout repose sur une seule question : jusqu’à quel point la France est-elle décidée à jouer un rôle indépendant tout en renouant avec sa tradition historique et en étant le pilote de l’Europe dans la région ? Même chose pour l’Europe qui est pratiquement absente de la région depuis 2005, en raison notamment de l’échec de l’adoption de la Constitution et de la division causée par l’invasion américaine de l’Irak.

Q : L’ouverture de la France en direction de la Syrie ne fait-elle pas plutôt partie d’une stratégie visant à rompre les relations entre Damas et Téhéran ?
R : Si la Syrie souhaite avoir un rôle important dans la région, elle doit avoir des relations avec les pays-clés dans cette région, qui sont, pour nous, l’Iran et la Turquie. Ce sont deux pays importants stratégiques et actifs. Il n’y a donc pas de stabilité dans la région sans eux. Les États-Unis ont suivi jusqu’à présent, avec l’Iran en tout cas, une politique d’isolement. Mais qu’a-t-elle donné ? L’Iran s’est attachée encore plus à ses constantes, l’instabilité s’est accentuée dans la région, ainsi que l’extrémisme, qui peut aboutir au terrorisme. Nous avons, ainsi que l’Europe, pâti de cette politique. Contrairement aux États-Unis, nous adoptons la politique de l’intégration. Nous sommes pour le dialogue et contre le fait de dicter des instructions. De toute façon, le projet d’isolement de l’Iran n’a pas abouti et n’aboutira pas à l’arrêt de son programme nucléaire.

Q : Vous dites être pour le dialogue avec tous les pays, mais pourquoi ne parlez-vous pas avec l’Arabie saoudite ?
R : En mai dernier, dans un entretien avec un quotidien du Golfe, j’avais exprimé mon désir de me rendre dans tous les pays arabes y compris l’Arabie. Ce n’était pas la première fois que j’exprimais un tel souhait. Mais à chaque fois, la réponse était négative. De ma part, il n’y a aucun problème, mais ce sont eux qui ne veulent pas. Ma ligne de conduite, c’est le dialogue.

Q : À propos de dialogue, où en sont les négociations avec Israël et quand passeront-elles aux négociations directes ?
R : Les négociations indirectes ne signifient pas que nous ne voulons pas nous asseoir avec les Israéliens, et le contraire est vrai. En 1991, le secrétaire d’État américain James Baker a effectué des navettes entre la Syrie et Israël pour jeter les bases des négociations directes qui ont eu lieu par la suite. C’est ce que nous faisons aujourd’hui. Après un gel de huit ans et plusieurs agressions contre le Liban et la Syrie et d’autres pays de la région, la confiance entre les deux parties est totalement inexistante. Nous travaillons aujourd’hui sur deux tableaux : d’abord essayer de construire la confiance, autrement dit savoir si Israël est sérieux dans sa volonté d’aboutir à un accord, et ensuite s’entendre sur une base commune qui nous permettra de passer aux négociations directes. Dans les négociations indirectes, le rôle de la Turquie est celui de l’intermédiaire. Mais dans les négociations directes, il faudra un parrain. Il devra faire des propositions, exercer des pressions et être un recours vers lequel se tourneront les deux parties. À Madrid, en 1991, la Syrie voulait que les Arabes négocient en bloc uni. Cela ne s’est pas fait ainsi et il y a eu des négociations bilatérales. Ce que nous faisons aujourd’hui n’est donc pas nouveau.
Enfin, nous parlons de paix juste et globale. Quand nous disons globale, nous entendons qu’elle englobera les Syriens, les Palestiniens et les Libanais. Or cela ne se passe pas non plus comme cela. Il existe une division interpalestinienne et un manque de sérieux israélien sur ce volet. C’est pourquoi nous devons faire une distinction entre la signature d’un accord avec Israël et la réalisation de la paix. La paix reste tributaire de questions importantes comme celle des 500 000 réfugiés palestiniens en Syrie et des 500 000 autres au Liban. Nous avons évoqué ces questions avec le président palestinien Mahmoud Abbas au cours de sa dernière visite, et je dois reconnaître que nous n’avons pas encore de réponses à toutes les questions. Nous ne connaissons pas encore les positions d’Israël, des États-Unis et de l’Europe.

Q : Vous êtes en train de dire que la Syrie pourrait signer un accord avec Israël sans attendre le volet palestinien ?
R : Si Israël répond à nos revendications et restitue aux Syriens tous leurs droits, nous ne pouvons pas refuser de signer un accord. C’est pourquoi je fais la distinction entre la signature d’un accord et la paix. Je peux dire que nous ne serons pas heureux de signer un accord sur le seul volet syrien. C’est pourquoi la France devrait pousser vers un accord sur tous les volets.

Q : Vous laissez en quelque sorte tomber l’initiative de paix arabe adoptée au sommet de Beyrouth en 2002 ?
R : Au sommet de Beyrouth, les Arabes réunis avaient voulu faire une proposition plus attractive aux Israéliens, pour pousser ce pays vers la paix. Mais ce qui nous importe au fond, c’est l’essence du processus de paix, notamment la résolution 242, le retrait total des territoires occupés, le partage de l’eau et les arrangements de sécurité. La paix juste et globale reste notre objectif principal.

Q : Pensez-vous qu’Israël est aujourd’hui plus sérieux dans sa volonté d’aboutir à un accord ?
R : Je dirais jusqu’à un certain point, oui. Je le dis avec beaucoup de réserves, car les expériences passées ne sont pas encourageantes. Le mot sérieux ne suffit pas. Il faut se demander s’ils sont en mesure de prendre des engagements, plus particulièrement le Premier ministre. Un accord nécessite un dirigeant fort. Est-il ce dirigeant ? Nous ne le savons pas. La marche vers la paix est plus difficile que la marche vers la guerre. Nous allons essayer et nous verrons.

Q : Comptez-vous reprendre la coopération sécuritaire avec les États-Unis pour la lutte contre le terrorisme ?
R : C’est moi qui ai initié des relations sécuritaires avec les Etats-Unis, et de la reconnaissance de George Tenet (ancien chef de la CIA), cette coopération a permis de sauver de nombreuses vies humaines, notamment des soldats américains dans les pays du Golfe. Nous avions alors envoyé des informations à un État du Golfe qui a, lui, effectué le travail nécessaire. Le problème de la coopération sécuritaire avec les Etats-Unis, et je l’ai dit à de nombreuses personnalités américaines qui m’ont rendu visite, c’est qu’ils ont beaucoup d’informations, mais manquent de savoir-faire. C’est comme si vous avez un ordinateur perfectionné sans « hard disk » (disque dur). J’ai dit aux Américains qu’ils ne seront pas capables de conduire la lutte contre le terrorisme seuls. Il faut une coopération générale et nous, nous pouvons aider. De plus, à chaque fois que nous fournissions des informations, les Américains avaient une attitude négative. Nous avons alors décidé de rompre cette coopération au début de 2004. Ils ont essayé à plusieurs reprises de la renouer. Mais notre position est claire : pas de coopération sécuritaire sans relation politique. Nous en sommes là aujourd’hui.

Q : Pensez-vous qu’il existe un risque réel de guerre entre sunnites et chiites dans la région ?
R : Cela s’est produit en Irak. L’extrémisme, le terrorisme et le confessionnalisme se propagent dans la région. Il n’y a pas de freins pour les contrôler. C’est pourquoi nous sommes inquiets de l’instabilité au Liban car elle a une influence directe sur la Syrie. Même chose pour l’Irak, et cela se propage sur la scène islamique en général. Si cette situation reste ainsi sans solution, cela deviendra très inquiétant. Mais je ne crois pas que nous en soyons déjà là. D’autant qu’il y a une action politique qui va dans le sens contraire. En Syrie, nous luttons quotidiennement contre ce phénomène, surtout en Irak. C’est pourquoi je crois que la vision sur ce sujet est assez floue. Elle peut prendre des directions différentes selon l’évolution de la situation.

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.

Q : La Syrie est accusée de faire passer des armes au Hezbollah, et elle est montrée du doigt par des résolutions internationales. Comment comptez-vous gérer ce dossier ?
R : Depuis déjà trois décennies, nous sommes accusés de tout au Liban. Parlons avec réalisme de cette question des armes. D’abord, les armes illégales sont présentes partout dans la région, en Syrie, en Irak et ailleurs, entre les mains des citoyens et dans les maisons, surtout après les événements d’Irak. Tout le monde peut se procurer des armes sur les marchés arabes et en tant qu’États, nous ne sommes pas en mesure de contrôler ce trafic, pour plusieurs raisons. Mais lorsque nous parlons du trafic d’armes avec le Liban, il s’agit d’armes lourdes et de missiles longs de plusieurs mètres. Comment peut-on transporter ces missiles sur des routes montagneuses, par des voies connues, d’autant qu’au Liban, il n’y a pas de soldats syriens mais un gouvernement et des services de sécurité hostiles à la Syrie, ainsi que des services du monde entier venus pour surveiller les frontières avec notre pays, sans oublier les avions israéliens qui photographient en permanence le secteur. Comment pourrions-nous faire passer ces missiles au nez et à la barbe de tout ce monde ? Tout au long des trois dernières années, nul n’a réussi à fournir le moindre indice concret sur l’existence de ce trafic, alors qu’ils parlent de milliers de missiles, non d’un ou deux. Ce n’est donc pas logique. Et si ces accusations étaient vraies, c’est qu’ils ont un véritable problème puisqu’ils sont incapables de les prouver. Le Liban a quand même une petite superficie. Si nous voulons discuter de ce problème, nous dirons : donnez-nous une seule preuve…

Q : La Syrie a été mise en cause dans l’assassinat de Rafic Hariri. Une enquête internationale est en cours depuis trois ans. Qu’attendez-vous du tribunal international et quand, selon vous, la lumière sera faite sur cet assassinat ?
R : Depuis le premier jour, nous avons appuyé toutes les commissions d’enquête internationales. Nous étions aussi prêts à appuyer toute enquête libanaise ou arabe. Le gouvernement libanais a choisi une commission internationale et nous avons appuyé. Bien sûr, notre soutien est d’ordre moral. Et les derniers rapports de la commission d’enquête ont salué la coopération de la Syrie. C’est pourquoi nous ne sommes pas inquiets et nous sommes convaincus de notre innocence. Nous n’avons aucun indice sur l’implication d’un Syrien dans cet assassinat. Aujourd’hui, on parle du tribunal international. Aucune personne, en Syrie ou au Liban, n’est contre ce tribunal. On a toutefois essayé de prétendre que la Syrie cherche à entraver ce tribunal et on a prétendu qu’elle est impliquée dans des assassinats au Liban, tout comme on lui attribue la responsabilité de toute paralysie interne au Liban sous prétexte qu’elle veut empêcher la création du tribunal. Si ce tribunal est professionnel, il n’y a aucun problème pour la Syrie. La relation de la Syrie avec ce tribunal doit être basée sur un accord. Nous avons coopéré avec les commissions d’enquête, tout en insistant pour préserver notre souveraineté. Ce sera la même chose avec le tribunal. Si on veut plus que le même niveau de coopération qui s’est établi avec les commissions, il faudra signer un accord entre la Syrie et l’instance internationale. Cela ne s’est pas encore fait. Une telle convention a été signée entre le Liban et l’ONU, mais pas avec la Syrie.

Q : Comptez-vous évoquer le cas du témoin syrien Mohammad Zouhair as-Siddiq avec le président Sarkozy ?
R : Non, je n’aborderai pas cette question avec le président Sarkozy. Mais les services syriens ont évoqué ce cas avec leurs homologues français, car as-Siddiq était emprisonné en France et il s’est « évadé » vers d’autres pays. Il y a des informations contradictoires sur sa destination. La France doit assumer ses responsabilités sur ce sujet et le témoin doit se présenter devant la commission internationale.

Q : La Syrie est accusée de s’ingérer en permanence dans la politique interne libanaise. Qu’en pensez-vous ?
R : Comment définit-on les ingérences ? Nous avons des relations étroites avec des Libanais. Chaque jour, des personnalités libanaises viennent en Syrie et nous discutons avec elles. Il nous arrive même de leur donner des conseils, qu’elles suivent ou non, cela les regarde. C’est une relation quotidienne. Si cela est considéré comme une ingérence, il faut alors couper toute relation avec les Libanais. Avec les Français et les autres, nous discutons aussi de tous les problèmes. Même si nous précisons qu’il s’agit de questions internes, nous en parlons quand même. C’est cela le dialogue. De plus, pourquoi parler avec quelqu’un si vous êtes sûrs que vous ne pourrez pas l’influencer ou être influencé par lui ? Ils appellent cela de l’ingérence, nous l’appelons une relation.

Q : Pensez-vous que l’Iran aura bientôt une arme nucléaire ? Et grâce à vos relations avec ce pays, pourrez-vous faire en sorte d’éviter le scénario d’une guerre régionale ?
R : Nous discutons avec l’Iran de ce sujet et il est clair que ce pays ne veut pas se doter de l’arme nucléaire. Mais l’Iran a le droit d’avoir un programme nucléaire civil, selon les conventions internationales. Le problème, c’est qu’on veut priver l’Iran de son droit à un programme nucléaire civil. Les négociations portent sur ce point précis. Les Iraniens nous disent « c’est illogique ; ils ne nous donnent aucune raison valable pour nous priver d’un tel droit. S’ils craignent que nous arrivions à fabriquer la bombe nucléaire, nous pourrons en parler, mais qu’ils commencent par reconnaître notre droit ».

Q : Si l’Iran n’avait rien à cacher, pourquoi l’AIEA rencontrerait-elle des difficultés dans ses inspections ?
R : Ils ne sont pas d’accord sur le principe. Il faut commencer par le début : l’Iran a le droit de produire un programme civil. Ensuite, il y aura une inspection, des négociations, etc.

Q : Quid du programme nucléaire syrien ?
R : Nous avons un réacteur expérimental mis en place avec l’aide de l’AIEA. Il y a des visites et une coopération réciproques. Mais ce réacteur ne produit pas de l’énergie nucléaire.

Q : Pensez-vous que le changement de président aux États-Unis aura un impact sur la situation dans la région ?
R : Certainement. Le tout est de savoir à quel point. Je crois qu’aucun président, même s’il appartient aux néo-conservateurs, ne pourra poursuivre la politique du président Bush. Car cela signifiera qu’il va échouer. Il y aura donc un changement, mais nous n’en connaissons pas l’importance. En Syrie, nous ne misons d’ailleurs pas beaucoup sur les personnes. Surtout que ce qui se dit dans les campagnes électorales est totalement différent de ce qui se passe après les élections.

Q : À propos de l’assassinat de Imad Moghniyé, la Syrie avait annoncé les résultats de l’enquête quelque temps après l’assassinat, et rien n’a été divulgué. Certains disent que la Syrie a laissé faire cet assassinat pour entamer sa réhabilitation au sein de la communauté internationale…
R : Premièrement, nous ne connaissions pas l’apparence de Imad Moghniyé. Nous avions entendu parler de lui dans les médias. Même les gens qui l’ont connu ont découvert sa véritable identité après son assassinat.
Deuxièmement, et plus important, aucune partie au monde n’avait demandé à la Syrie d’arrêter Imad Moghniyé, pour que nous cherchions à le capturer pour lui faire plaisir.
Troisièmement, notre expérience avec ce qu’on appelle la communauté internationale nous a montré que quoi que vous fassiez, elle ne sera jamais satisfaite. Je suis réaliste.
Quatrièmement, et c’est là le plus important, un assassinat ou un incident sécuritaire en territoire syrien nuit à la Syrie.
Cinquièmement, c’est contre nos principes.

Q : Pourquoi avez-vous encore des prisonniers politiques dans vos geôles et pourquoi, par exemple, Michel Kilo est-il encore en prison ?
R : À ceux qui parlent de prisonniers politiques, je voudrais demander la signification de cette expression. Les terroristes sont-ils des prisonniers politiques ? Ceux qui mettent en cause la sécurité de leur pays sont-ils des prisonniers politiques ? Nous avons dans nos prisons des terroristes et des gens qui ont menacé la sécurité nationale. Mais nous n’avons pas des gens emprisonnés parce qu’ils se sont opposés à nous. C’est contre la loi et cela n’existe pas dans la réalité. La loi syrienne évoque des cas particuliers. Par exemple, il est interdit de provoquer des conflits confessionnels ou religieux. Il est aussi interdit de collaborer avec une partie étrangère hostile à la Syrie. Certains des prisonniers que vous avez cités ont collaboré avec une partie libanaise qui a ouvertement appelé les États-Unis à envahir la Syrie. Or, cette partie est classée comme hostile à la Syrie, et coopérer avec elle est puni par la loi. Mais nous n’avons pas en Syrie des cas comme celui de l’écrivain Roger Garaudy qui est entré en prison parce qu’il avait contesté l’Holocauste… Il faut cesser de regarder notre situation avec les seuls critères occidentaux. Il faut nous voir à travers notre réalité sociale et nos problèmes. En tout cas, nul n’a relevé le fait que nous avons libéré des milliers de Frères musulmans qui avaient accompli des actes contre la sécurité nationale dans les années 80. On parle de dix prisonniers et on omet les milliers libérés. Cela ne signifie pas que nous sommes parfaits et que nous avons atteint un degré élevé de démocratie. Nous accomplissons des pas étudiés dans le sens de la démocratie. Ils sont lents et tributaires de la conjoncture politique générale et de la situation de l’extrémisme. C’est un long chemin et nous sommes encore au début. Mais il est faux d’affirmer que nous faisons du surplace ou que nous reculons.

Q : Vous aviez évoqué, dans votre discours d’investiture en 2007, une loi moderne sur les partis. Quand cette loi sera-t-elle promulguée ?
R : C’est vrai, j’avais évoqué une telle loi dans mon discours d’investiture. Et j’avais dit que nous sommes en retard car nous avions annoncé cela en 2005. Mais dans cette même année, les grands problèmes de la Syrie ont commencé. Ensuite, la montée de l’extrémisme et la pauvreté, ainsi que les pressions internationales nous ont poussés à modifier nos priorités. Notre principal souci a donc été la sécurité et la situation économique. Nous avons dû faire face à de nombreux problèmes, dont le bombardement du site syrien par Israël. Aujourd’hui, nous avons quatre projets : une loi sur les partis, une loi électorale, une loi sur l’administration locale et l’élargissement de la participation parlementaire par le biais de la création d’une sorte de Sénat. Je crois que 2009 sera une année productive en ce domaine, surtout avec les ouvertures qui s’annoncent. Elles peuvent nous aider.

Q : On avait parlé d’une visite que vous feriez au Liban après l’élection du président Sleiman. Quand comptez-vous la faire et ouvrir une ambassade syrienne à Beyrouth ?
R : J’ai entendu parler de cette visite par la presse comme vous. Je suis déjà allé au Liban en 2002, et rien ne m’empêche de le faire de nouveau.
Concernant l’ouverture d’une ambassade, c’est un autre sujet. C’est moi qui ai fait cette proposition en 2005 et non un Libanais, ni un « ami ni un ennemi de la Syrie ». Mais juste après cette proposition, les relations entre les deux pays se sont dégradées. En général, lorsque les relations se détériorent entre deux pays, ils ferment les ambassades et ne les ouvrent pas. Je crois qu’avec les nouveaux développements, nous pourrons discuter cette question avec le nouveau gouvernement. Nous n’avons pas de problèmes de principe sur la question et je l’ai déclaré à plusieurs reprises. Mais ce qui est drôle dans ce sujet, c’est que l’on considère que l’ouverture d’une ambassade équivaut à la reconnaissance de la souveraineté d’un pays. Or la Syrie a 50 ambassades dans le monde. Cela signifie-t-il qu’elle ne reconnaît pas les autres pays de la planète ?

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 : Quand le dossier des détenus libanais en Syrie sera-t-il fermé ? Ne pensez-vous pas qu’il est temps de le faire, ne serait-ce que pour des raisons humanitaires ?
R : C’est ce que j’ai moi-même dit à M. Mikati lorsqu’il m’a parlé de ce sujet au cours d’une visite en tant que Premier ministre en 2004. Nous avons proposé la formation d’une commission conjointe. Les Libanais parlent de quelques dizaines de détenus, nous avons 800 disparus syriens au Liban. Nous avons suggéré qu’une commission fasse une enquête sur le sujet. J’ai libéré les détenus libanais dans nos prisons lorsque j’ai été élu président. Soyons logiques. Que ferions-nous des prisonniers libanais ? Nous les maintiendrions pour effectuer un échange ? Si les détenus sont morts, nous le dirons, et s’ils sont morts au Liban alors que nos soldats y étaient et que nous avons des informations, nous le dirons aussi. Nous n’avons pas de problème. La question est que les Libanais n’évoquaient pas avant ce sujet. Nous pourrons en parler avec le nouveau gouvernement libanais.

Propos recueillis par Scarlett HADDAD

July 10th, 2008, 1:13 am

 

Alex said:

Hey! .. they borrowed our old joke!

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.

July 10th, 2008, 1:26 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Would YOU do the same if you were her? Yes.

Shai,

I would employ the Turkish model:

1.) Separation of church and state.

2.) Get back the Golan tomorrow.

3.) Jump into the Western hemisphere.

4.) Hold a free election, quit political office, and decree a multi-party political system.

5.) Perhaps be voted back a few years later.

6.) Bring my country into the 21st century.

Is it more complicated than that Shai? Or do you still think terrorism is the best answer to Syria’s problems?

July 10th, 2008, 2:36 am

 

norman said:

U.S. President George W. Bush. (AP)

Last update – 05:36 10/07/2008

Olmert wants U.S. to sponsor Israel-Syria talks

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent

Tags: Syria, Ehud Olmert

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wants to get the United States involved in the negotiations between Israel and Syria, to persuade President Bashar Assad to advance to direct talks. The U.S. has not been willing until now to become involved, but Olmert said during a Tuesday morning meeting with Italian Foreign minister Franco Frattini that he can persuade President George W. Bush to sponsor the talks.

Frattini recounted conversations with his Syrian counterpart, Walid Moallem, and shared his impression that the Syrians are pleased with the negotiations with Israel. However, Frattini told Olmert he is skeptical that progress is possible in view of Assad’s statements in an interview this week with a French newspaper.

Assad told Le Figaro that he does not think Syria will enter direct talks with Israel before the end of Bush’s term in the White House. “The most important thing in direct negotiations is who sponsors them,” Assad said. “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 only has a few months left.”
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Assad added that the next U.S. president will play an important role in peace talks with Israel.

Olmert told Frattini that he thinks Assad is underestimating Bush, and that he can get the current administration on board as a partner and sponsor for the talks. The prime minister emphasized that his own intensions are serious. “The Syrians need to know that now is the time to move forward. There is no reason to wait for anything,” he said.

Next Sunday, Olmert and Assad will sit at the same table at the Mediterranean Union summit in Paris, an initiative of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. However, at this stage they are not expected to meet, or even to shake hands.

Related articles:

Key ministers discuss Syrian front, regenerated Hezbollah

Olmert, Assad to sit together at Med summit, handshake or not

Assad: Direct talks with Israel only after Bush leaves office

Bookmark to del.icio.us

July 10th, 2008, 3:07 am

 

Shai said:

AP,

I try to treat you with a bit of respect, I know it’s hard, but try to do the same for me please. You might find it easy to label me a “liberal” (if you knew me, you’d know I’m not), you might have issues with my “understanding” of Syria’s support of HA and Hamas, but to suggest I support terrorism and think it’s a good thing is really going too far. I spelled it out for you in my previous comment. I am NOT happy with it. I do NOT condone it. And I do NOT justify it. You’re an American, you’re supposed to understand the English language. Which part of those short sentences did you NOT get AP?

What I can’t stand about people who are somehow threatened by “other” ideas, that may be completely opposite to theirs, is this need to depict people almost as traitors. You’re willing to suggest that I, an Israeli, would support terrorism against my own people. Do you realize how far you have to go to suggest that?

I’m glad you would employ a 6-step Turkish model. That’s good, for AP. Maybe it would also be good for Syria. But neither you nor I can or should control that. It is theirs to decide. They can remain with the same leadership, the same society, and exist in the mid-20th century forever, or they can move forward. Only they will decide that, not you, not I, and not one banned AIG. In the meantime, we have to decide what WE want – peace or war. While we sit on our asses waiting for Syria to become “free” according to some Turkish model, Syria will continue developing any and all of its means of deterrence. In fact, it will continue to build its capabilities, and do so in a way that Israel will understand that Syria is getting stronger and more influential in the region. If Israelis do not understand that Syria can not only bring about security for them, but also insecurity, they will never consider giving back a single gram of the Golan. It’s sad, but it’s the truth. We unfortunately only seem to respond to force, or to perceived threats.

So we can continue this back-and-forth dance, blaming Syria when it arms HA, and she’ll blame us when we’re mistreating Druze on the Golan, and we’ll do this for another 10-20 years, while our boys are serving in the army, and every now and then will have to fight in Gaza, or Lebanon, and some will die. And every now and then, thousands of rockets will land atop cities and towns in Israel, complimentary of Iran via HA and Hamas, and a million Israelis will again live in underground shelters. And some tens or hundreds will die, and we’ll kill a few thousand in response. And this cycle will go on, until some slightly “more extreme” group pops up, like Al Qaida (which is already in Sinai and Gaza), and maybe they’ll choose a more potent method of resistance than simple rockets. Maybe they’ll enter the new and exciting field of WMD’s, and will take advantage of their ability (unlike Iran and Syria’s) to use plausible-deniability. And they might hurt many more Israelis than HA and Hamas could, combined.

You see, AP, you’re willing to wait for this terrible scenario to occur. You think time’s on our side because we’re stronger. Well, we are stronger, but time is not on our side. And when in 2 years time some shaving cream canister delivered into downtown Tel-Aviv releases a few grams of biological agents that kill a few thousand, you’ll be angry, but not at yourself. You’ll never consider asking yourself “Did I do everything I could?” No, you’ve already secured the answer to that, haven’t you? You know what Syria should do, if it were you, so you’ll wait for that to happen. If reality doesn’t follow your path, best advice is, wait, it’ll come around, sooner or later. Well, maybe you’re right.

July 10th, 2008, 5:01 am

 

Frank al Irlandi said:

An interesting cut from Stratfor on the misiles.

The exact ranges of the various Shahab-3 variants are unclear. They are rarely tested at full range, instead being launched in a lofted trajectory that significantly shortens the distance covered. Though this is not uncommon in some phases of missile testing due to missile range restrictions, it effectively leaves a large gap between the claimed and demonstrated range of Iran’s missile arsenal.

Details on the test are scarce, and no new meaningful data has yet emerged. Iran continues to insist on the 1,240-mile range figure — which, unsurprisingly, is just about exactly the range Tehran would need to threaten Israel from Iran’s western border with Iraq. It remains unclear whether Iran yet has the capability to reach Israel with its missiles, much less conduct a meaningful military strike. (Current estimates of Shahab-3 accuracy range from more than half a mile to more than 1.5 miles circular error probable.)

Nevertheless, the testing comes in the wake of a June Israeli Air Force exercise that simulated an attack on Iran and a new spike in rhetoric — both inside the region and beyond — about war with Iran. But to a certain extent, military posturing is to be expected at this stage in the negotiations. Indeed, the choice of Al Alam, an Arabic broadcaster, might suggest that Tehran wants its neighbors to notice the test most. But ultimately, with a far more important deal with Washington over the fate of Iraq potentially close at hand, these latest missile tests and the Iranian military exercises as a whole are unlikely to herald any sort of military confrontation. Despite the bellicose posturing by both the United States and Iran, the two sides are rapidly moving toward a negotiated settlement on Iraq and the nuclear issue. Such high-stakes negotiations do not take place without the involved players maintaining a defiant public attitude.

July 10th, 2008, 6:18 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

You’re willing to suggest that I, an Israeli, would support terrorism against my own people.

Shai here is what you said:

Am I happy Syria is arming HA? No. Am I condoning it? No. Am I justifying it? No. Would I do the same, if I was her? Yes. Would YOU do the same if you were her? Yes. Would you ever admit that? No.

Here is what I said in response:

Or do you still think terrorism is the best answer to Syria’s problems?

I thought you would understand my reply as the EXPORT of terrorism. Isn’t that what we were talking about? Sorry for the confusion. I listed quite clearly what I WOULD do if I were the leader of Syria, but it seems you agree with how the Syrian leadership has led Syria: you would “do the same”.

That’s where we part company, I WOULDN’T do the same.

BTW – Here’s a nice little article showing Iranian adeptness in photoshop techniques:

http://www.suitablyflip.com/suitably_flip/2008/07/mahmoud-the-fau.html

Yoo Hoo, Alex,

As much as I respect Shai and enjoy discussing his concepts of the Middle East, I’m wondering why Shai doesn’t have the 4 posts/day limit? Is it because of some “personal preference”?

July 10th, 2008, 11:03 am

 

norman said:

——————————————————————————–

Syria’s Intentions Slowly Coming Clear?

PARIS, July 10, 2008
——————————————————————————–
(CBS) This story was written by CBS News’ George Baghdadi, reporting from Paris.
——————————————————————————–
The world will be watching closely this weekend as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrives for a rare visit to Paris. The question lingering: will he finally and publicly decide which camp to join – the West or Iran?

The United States and its European allies have serious concerns over the Syrian government’s behavior.

The main issues troubling Western leaders include Damascus’ strong alliance with Tehran; its clandestine nuclear program; its alleged support of terrorism – particularly allowing foreign fighters into Iraq; interference in neighboring Lebanon and a lack of internal reforms. The list goes on.

Relations between France and Syria have been strained since the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in a February 2005 bombing in Beirut, blamed widely on Damascus.

Paris decided to shun Syrian officials after the murder, particularly in light of then-French-President Jacques Chirac’s strong personal ties to Hariri. Syria has consistently denied any involvement in the killing.

Since his election, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has taken the lead, inviting Assad to join some 40 other foreign leaders for the Sunday launch of the new Union for the Mediterranean, aimed at boosting cooperation between the European Union and Mediterranean rim states.

The Syrian leader, accompanied by several of his ministers and his wife Asma, will stay in Paris after the summit for France’s Bastille Day celebrations. He will watch the massive military parade pass from the iconic Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde; his very presence truly unthinkable only a few weeks ago.

Syrian opposition groups have called for a rally in Paris on July 13, the day before the parade, to demand an end to the “arbitrary arrest of intellectuals and political opponents,” and for human rights reforms in Syria.

France, which assumed the presidency of the European Union this month, has indicated Assad’s invitation was a just reward for Assad’s help in brokering a power-sharing deal between rival politicians in Lebanon – ending a political stalemate that threatened the stability of the entire region.

“The Syrian president is not a perfect example in terms of respect for human rights, but he is making efforts,” said one French presidential aide.

Assad, who was only 34 when he took power from his father Hafez in 2000, has turned out to be an incisive strategist who knows how to play his cards quite well.

After months of strained relations, Assad is expected to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Paris on Saturday. Mubarak refused to attend a March Arab summit held in the Syrian capital.

Analysts say Damascus has made several diplomatic moves lately which have helped it break a long period of global isolation.

Assad recently allowed a team of U.N. inspectors to visit a remote building site that was bombed by Israel in September. U.S. officials and, off the record, Israel, claim it was a plutonium-producing reactor in the works.

Syria also used its influence with the Damascus-based Hamas group to help forge a ceasefire between the Islamic militant movement – which governs the Gaza Strip – and Israel. And, most significantly, Damascus agreed to hold indirect, Turkish-mediated talks with Israel to determine the fate of the disputed Golan Heights. The talks are expected to be upgraded soon to face-to-face negotiations after an eight year freeze.

Some analysts suggest that the new Union of the Mediterranean, which has generated resistance from some of France’s vital allies, including Germany and Spain, may be more theater than substance.

But the meeting, and Sarkozy’s new attitude toward Damascus, will have at least one very visible outcome: Syrian and Israeli leaders together in the same place – though seated opposite each other, according to the alphabetical table arrangements.

Assad has rejected the notion of a direct meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on the sidelines of the Paris summit, saying such a meeting would be “premature.”

But, the Syrian leader did welcome the French “break,” and in an interview with French daily Le Figaro on Tuesday he invited Paris to play a direct role in eventual talks between Damascus and Tel Aviv. Officials from within the Syrian government tell CBS News that Damascus will soon send an ambassador to Paris for the first time in two years.

“My impression is that (Sarkozy) is enthusiastic about these negotiations and wants France to play a direct role,” Assad declared. “If he confirms it to me, I will immediately invite him to support directly this peace process.”

Assad and his foreign minister have repeatedly asked for U.S. involvement in these negotiations. The Americans, however, have been reluctant to open up to Damascus until it makes a firm commitment to disengage from Tehran, as well as from anti-Israel Palestinian and Lebanese groups declared “terrorists organizations” by Washington.

Many analysts say the moment Syria decided to publicize the negotiations, it began the process of distancing itself from Tehran – although Syrian and Iranian officials readily deny their relationship is jeopardized by the prospect of a Syria-Israel deal.

“Ideologically, the secular Baathist Arab regime in Syria has little in common with Iran’s Persian and Shiite Islamic revolutionary leaders,” long-time Middle East expert Amir Teheri told CBS News.

“There is no doubt Damascus would change its course if there were other options on the table for it to choose,” added Teheri, an Iranian analyst based in London. “There is no doubt Damascus is anxious not to put all its eggs in the Iranian basket.”

© MMVIII, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

——————————————————————————–
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July 10th, 2008, 11:26 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

AP,

If you perform an action, you perform it because you have justified it to yourself. Otherwise, why would you do it? What Shai is saying, is that if he were in Syria’s position, he would use terrorism because given the situation it is justified. Because if it were not, and Shai is a rational person, then he would not use it. Otherwise, what he is saying makes no sense at all.

I would like to formalize the Michel Kilo challenge. If Michel Kilo could speak freely, would he support Shai’s position or would he support your and my position? Would he be in favor of peace with Syria that would grant Asad international legitimacy and economic benefits or would he rather have Israel wait until there are serious democratic reforms in Syria before making peace? I am sure Kilo would support my position. Anyone else thinks differently?

Why Michel Kilo? Because even Alex thinks he is an ok opposition leader and shouldn’t be in jail.

This is the acid test and what really matters, not what some regime sympathizers who admire Asad’s cunning and ruthlessness post.

July 10th, 2008, 1:45 pm

 

Jad said:

Q&A: “There Are No Negotiations Between Syria and Israel”
Interview with Mohsen Bilal, Syrian Minister of Information.

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=43132

July 10th, 2008, 1:50 pm

 

why-discuss said:

Bashar makes a clear distinction in signing a peace accord with Israel and the “Global peace” that would deal with Lebanon and the Palestinian issue.
He obviously telling the Lebanese and the Palestinians: I can’t help you now in reaching a solution to your problems. You absolutely need the international community as it is a much more complex issue than getting the Golan back. I will make a peace accord with Israel if they give back the Golan (and other benefits) and it is up to you to manage your peace with Israel.
I guess that Siniora, by rejecting the recent offer of Italy to start negotiations with Israel is missing a golden opportunity. Who could have blamed Lebanon to start negotiating (indirectly) with Israel when Syria is negotiating. Now that Hezbollah , except for Shebaa, has no more demands on Israel, it would have been the best timing. A very bad calculation from Siniora not to jump on the Syrian wagon…

Bashar:
“C’est pourquoi nous devons faire une distinction entre la signature d’un accord avec Israël et la réalisation de la paix. La paix reste tributaire de questions importantes comme celle des 500 000 réfugiés palestiniens en Syrie et des 500 000 autres au Liban.”

July 10th, 2008, 1:58 pm

 

Alex said:

Akbar,

Why is it that you do not have a 4-comment per day limit?

Why is it that I managed to discuss and to moderate with an average of 3.2 comments per day?

AIG consistently breaks the rules (#3, and to some extent #1) of this blog.

Yesterday I repeated for the third time to him my reminder that he is under a 4-comments limit. What does he do? … leaves about ten comments by the afternoon … including his typical comments where he is distorting my, and Shai’s opinions to make us supporters of ruthlessness and of terror…

He is not banned, I am simply moderating his comments. I just released one (see above). For the next month I will have to babysit him .. to make sure he knows how to count to four.

As for your discussion with Shai about “support for terror” …. I would like you to spend half an hour watching this Charlie Rose interview with Bashar late 2006 … I think he explained Syria’s position on this issue as well as one can.

July 10th, 2008, 3:31 pm

 

Alex said:

Michel Kilo would have absolutely supported peace had he been free to talk today. He is not like some of the crooks who call themselves “Syrian Opposition”.

It is a shame that a genuine patriot like him is in jail.

I understand back then when Syria was under tremendous pressure that Michel made a couple of mistakes … he should have distanced himself from Syria’s enemies M14 and from the French when he was “advised” by the authorities in Syria to do so.

But this should be behind us now … President Assad himself is visiting France, and M14’s lunatics are already marginalized.

July 10th, 2008, 3:53 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Alex –

Why do you consider M14 to be “enemies” of Syria? Are they planning to attack Syria or undermine the Syrian government in some way?

It seems to me, they’re a moderate group who doesn’t want war and doesn’t want Islamic, Zionist, or Syrian interference in Lebanon. But I don’t think they threaten anyone.

For whatever it’s worth, I don’t think limits should be placed on how many posts someone makes. I’d post more if I had the time.

What Shai is saying, is that if he were in Syria’s position, he would use terrorism because given the situation it is justified.

AIG –

That’s the impression I got as well. And frankly, I am sorry to hear this from Shai. He’s such a nice guy!;) (Actually Ehud said the same thing during Oslo’s heyday).

Shai went on to explain that terrorism is being used because Syria doesn’t have F-15s, blah, blah, blah.

IMHO, terrorism can never be an excuse. It isn’t used as an excuse for al-Queda, and shouldn’t be used as an excuse for Syria or Guyana or Algeria. Targeting civilians is war crime and just plain wrong – period. No excuses.

Would he be in favor of peace with Syria that would grant Asad international legitimacy and economic benefits or would he rather have Israel wait until there are serious democratic reforms in Syria before making peace?

AIG –

I wouldn’t wait. If a “good” agreement is possible between Israel and Assad’s Syria, I would take the peace. The devil, of course, is in the detail. If no good agreement is forthcoming, yes, we should wait until such time (preferrably, between democracies).

July 10th, 2008, 4:30 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
Kilo would never support peace that did not include a true and serious committment to democratic reforms from Asad, and you know it.

July 10th, 2008, 4:50 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Alex

I have to agree with Akbar, in the following respect: when you talk about March 14 as “lunatics” and “Syria’s enemies”… this is a provocative and misleading statement.

What is March 14? A political party? A group of politicians? What exactly?

At its heart, I would say that March 14 was a genuine social movement that was the natural consequence of a great deal of resentment towards Syria. True, several corrupt politicians yoked their fortunes to this bandwagon and many of them could certainly be called “enemies of [the current regime of] Syria” (we know who them are).

But I guarantee you that the majority of ordinary Lebanese who are sympathetic to the general movement of March 14 have no interest in seeing regime change in Syria. They simply want stability in the region, and they want Lebanon to be able to pursue its own affairs.

July 10th, 2008, 5:14 pm

 

Alex said:

Akbar,

M14 included some decent people, but in general they were enemies of Syria. When Junblatt lobbies for US invasion of Syria, then he is … an enemy of Syria.

http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2006/01/i-will-share-this-with-you.html

Qifa,

No … they were enemies of Syria, not only the regime

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/rosnerBlog.jhtml?itemNo=915203&contrassID=25&subContrassID=0&sbSubContrassID=1&listSrc=Y&art=1

And at the end, it did not matter who the supporters on the street were … M14 decisions were taken by the neocons, the Saudis, and other enemies of Syria.

But of course I fully understand the popular sentiments against Syrian military presence in Lebanon that sent a million Lebanese to the streets demonstrating in support of M14.

July 10th, 2008, 5:17 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

I guess that Siniora, by rejecting the recent offer of Italy to start negotiations with Israel is missing a golden opportunity. Who could have blamed Lebanon to start negotiating (indirectly) with Israel when Syria is negotiating.

Why-Discuss,

I can absolutely guarantee you that Saniora’s hands are tied on this issue.

Lebanon has not been given permission from Hizbullah (and Syria behind it) to begin pursuing peace negotiations yet.

If the Israelis can negotiate directly with the Lebanese, they eliminate Syria’s biggest card, Hizbullah. Why would they give back the Golan, one of the most valuable territories of Israel, if they can neutralize the Hizbullah card by returning Shebaa and compensating the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon?

Hizbullah is Syria’s card. Not Lebanon’s.

July 10th, 2008, 5:25 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Alex

Hold on… Jumblatt’s statement “send car bombs to Damascus” makes March 14 an enemy of Syria, not just the regime?

Does that mean that Syria has frequently been an enemy of Lebanon (and not just the odd militia leader) when it sent car bombs to Beirut?

Come on, Alex. Let’s not equate government with country. Even the most anti-American Arabs will often say that their problem is with the American government not the American people. Why can’t we make a distinction as well, with respect to Syria?

Sure there are politicians in Lebanon who can’t stand Syria’s government; but let’s not turn them into “enemies of Syria”.

July 10th, 2008, 5:30 pm

 

Alex said:

Qifa Nabki,

There is something about foolish “leaders” that make them “enemies” of a whole country.

If the Syrian regime was encouraging Iran to invade Lebanon, then I will agree with you that they are the enemies of Lebanon.

Junblatt was merely the outspoken leader … you think Seniora is really as sweet as he appears? .. you think he would not welcome an American attack (if not a full invasion) on Syria? … you think his God is not interested in a civil war in Syria and/or Lebanon? … or what he would think of as “a popular uprising”?

http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=715

Vengeful fools are dangerous… that makes them enemies.

July 10th, 2008, 5:54 pm

 

Karim said:

Alex ,
There will be no civil war in Syria .who against who ?
Would Bashar bomb Damascus and kills 10 000’s of Syrian civilians for his own survival as dictator ?.Bashar,Maher and the makhloufs,if they are like their fathers and uncles,and this is more likely,so they are more dangerous for Syria and its people than Sharon and Barak.And history has proven this fact.
But Hama rule is not a civil war ,you know Alex ….Syria is occupied by a small minority.When Syria will return to its own people ,Syria can be the best in the region,better than Turkey.As for the 14 March in Lebanon of course ,there are nice and less nice pople among them ,so this is politic but also among them are our natural allies.And the relations between Michel Kilo and the intellectuals who initiated 14 March are old.We should not forget that 14March is also Samir Kasir ,Gibran Tueni,Mosbah Ahdab…do u fell yourself closer to the followers of the iranian regime Alex ?
As or the syrian opposition ,why should they obliged to be hypocrit “patriots” like this mulkhabarati regime ?Michel Kilo is a true patriot.
It’s normal in a democracy ,to have liberals ,leftists ,seculars ,nationalists ,islamists….pro americans and anti americans.

July 10th, 2008, 7:05 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

PARIS: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has told a newspaper his country is unlikely to make peace with Israel while U.S. President George W. Bush remains in office.

Deja Vu again! It must be my old age, but every 4/8 years I see the same statement – only the name gets changed;)

July 10th, 2008, 8:18 pm

 

Alex said:

Akbar, are you serious?

Do you really make any effort to understand? or do you just get delighted if you read something that can remotely be interpreted the way you want it to be?

I’ll help you understand the above:

1) No peace can be achieved without American mediation (do you disagree?) … Israel can not upset the United States… etc.

2) This American administration is still totally into boycotting Syria, not sitting and talking with Syria … as required if the Americans were to sponsor peace talks.

Seriously … I worry when I read the way you understand things. You are one of “Israel’s friends” who work very hard in Washington to lobby for America to do things in the Middle East.

July 10th, 2008, 9:05 pm

 

why-discuss said:

QN
If the Israelis can negotiate directly with the Lebanese, they eliminate Syria’s biggest card, Hizbullah. Why would they give back the Golan, one of the most valuable territories of Israel, if they can neutralize the Hizbullah card by returning Shebaa and compensating the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon?

You are simplifying: Peace with Lebanon is much more complicated to get than with Syria. Realistic Israelis, i.e Shai are not against returning the Golan but ALL Israelis don’t want to hear about the Palestinians in Lebanon return to their lands.
While Syria can accommodate its palestinians refugees in exchange for financial compensation, Lebanon will not as it will create a internal havock. This is the key problem with peace with Lebanon.

Hezbollah is now playing a defensive role. Their only recent aggression was to kidnap the israeli soldiers in order to exchange them for lebanese prisonners, and they finally succeeded. They are a deterrent, not a threat to Israel. Their claim is to defend the country (Even Sleiman officially said it) and there is no evidence they want to get back Shebaa by force. Syria can’t use them any more to harrass Israel the way Hamas is used. In addition, in case Syria withdraws its support, Hezbollah has still Iran, a much stronger and co-religious supporter. Therefore I think Hezbollah is not a strong card anymore in Syria-Israel negotiations.
It is a basic principle that to negotiate you try to be strong and threatening. Syria was able to bring Israel to negotiate reasonable demands because it is in a strong position, principally by having Iran on its side and by having some influence on Hamas and Hezbollah.
In this logic Israel wants to neutralize Hezbollah to have a stronger position in threatening Lebanon before eventual negotiations. Until Lebanon has a strong army, the weapons of Hezbollah are a guarantee that Israel will no be able to use force to dictate their will during negotiations.
Therefore my belief is that Hezbollah is the major and only card Lebanon has in eventual negotiations with Israel, while it has become a minor card for Syria.
Where did you get that Hezbollah prevented Siniora to jump in the negotiations proposed by Italy?. I think it is partly the US friends who influenced Siniora not to. The US has been bypassed in the Syria-Israeli peace negotiations, I guess they want to have a say in the Lebanon-Israel negotiations.

July 10th, 2008, 10:41 pm

 

offended said:

AIG, I hope you’d get this once and for all; Kilo or any patriotic figure would not ask favors of the barbaric country that has been occupying part of his homelands and persecuting his Palestinian brothers for decades.

July 10th, 2008, 10:53 pm

 

offended said:

Qifa Nabki,
The open invitation of Walid Junblat for the Americans to invade Syria, and his later insinuations that he’d send assassins to Damascus had antagonized good portion of the Syrian people. So it’s not only the regime that deem 14M as adversaries, but most of the people as well.

July 10th, 2008, 10:57 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Karim,

Let us assume that the Assads and the Makhloufs were Sunnis, would you still criticize their conduct?

I am assuming that your answer is yes (let me know if otherwise).

If i am right about the way you would answer my question, the obvious next follow up is to ask you why you would need to say the following:

“Syria is occupied by a small minority.When Syria will return to its own people.”

Do you realize that it is precisely statements like this that scares the heck out of the none Sunnis of Syria?

Is it the conduct or the sect of the leadership that bothers you?

If it is the former, I cannot see what the sect has to do with it.

If it is the latter,…………………………(you fill in the blanks)

July 11th, 2008, 12:56 am

 

Alex said:

Israeli-Syrian Negotiations: The Need For A Bold Move
Alon Ben Meir

July 9, 2008

By all accounts, the Israeli-Syrian indirect negotiations through Turkish mediation are going well, and the fact that a fourth round of talks is scheduled for the end of July suggests that both sides expect to make further progress. The reports from Damascus and Ankara, however, indicating that Syria will not enter into direct negotiations with Israel before the advent of new American administration show an obstructive apprehension on the part of the Syrian government. Indeed, Damascus should not only agree to direct negotiations with Israel–as Turkish officials strongly recommend–but time has come for it to make a bold move toward the Israelis. A high level meeting, for example, between Israel and Syria can change overnight the dynamic of their negotiations and dramatically increase the Bush administration’s stakes in its successful outcome.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s effort to write off the Bush administration, however antagonistic it may be toward Damascus, is ultimately a mistake because it fails to take into account what Bush’s attitude would be toward the prospect of an Israeli-Syrian peace under his watch. Assad knows that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would not have entered any negotiations, directly or indirectly without, at a minimum, the acquiescence of the Bush administration. Having failed to demonstrate a clear-cut foreign policy achievement in Iraq, Iran or with the Palestinians, Mr. Bush is more than eager to capitalize on any potential breakthrough that may come his way during his waning days in the White House. Having just returned from an extended visit to Turkey and Israel where I met with officials from both sides, the sentiment is clear: while the negotiations are going well, something dramatic and bold is needed to secure the durability of the negotiations and ensure a successful outcome. We know that Israel and Syria have a clear understanding of each others requirements to make peace. Otherwise, Syria in particular, would have not entered into any peace talks, let alone made them public.

Despite the White House statements indicating that the US will not participate in talks with Syria, reaching an agreement between Israel and Syria will have a dramatically positive ripple effect throughout the Middle East. It will improve the conditions in Iraq, help to undermine Iran, weaken Hamas and give Lebanon breathing room to achieve political stability. This is what the Bush administration wants and needs more than ever at this time. Now that Israel has the potential to open Washington’s door for Damascus, Assad has a golden opportunity to capitalize on Bush’s desire to claim one important foreign policy achievement, all while enhancing his own international standing. Moreover, regardless of who is the next President of the United States, Barack Obama or John McCain, they will feel politically and morally inclined to engage Syria directly which is precisely what Damascus wants. If Bush can help broker an agreement even in principle between the two countries, it will drastically influence the decisions the next US administration will have to make in the Middle East. The upcoming Mediterranean Union Partnership conference held in Paris under the auspices of the French government offers President Assad a momentous opportunity to achieve an historic breakthrough. He must seize it.

A bold move by Syria will also have an incredibly wide appeal throughout Israel. For one thing, most Israelis remain skeptical about Syria’s ultimate intentions. They are looking for a credible gesture that only a bold move such as an official meeting between Olmert and Assad could validate. Many Israelis still feel nostalgic about the visit of the late President of Egypt Anwar Al-Sadat to Israel in 1977 and the profound impact it has had on the Israelis’ public opinion regarding the exchange of territory for peace. Moreover, Olmert is politically beleaguered and he may not survive but a few more months in office. What such a gesture can accomplish will transcend Olmert’s tenure in office as it will shift the Israeli public opinion which currently favors keeping the Golan Heights as a measure of safety. Regardless of who may succeed Olmert–including the Likud’s party leader Netanyahu who opposes the return of land–the public will be on the side of peace-making, even in exchange for the Golan Heights, and will demand the continuation of the peace process.

Surely President Assad has his own people he must consider first. There are no indications that the Syrian public will frown over such a gesture, knowing full well that their president is committed to regaining the Golan without the use of force but with tough diplomacy and negotiations. For the past two years President Assad has repeatedly called for peace negotiations with Israel and prepared the public for such eventuality. Many Syrians received with satisfaction the news about the Israeli-Syrian peace talks and understand the critical value of normalizing relations with the United States. Assad stated clearly in an interview on Monday that “The most important thing in direct negotiations is who sponsors them…Perhaps we could give some trump cards to the new [US] administration to get it more involved.” Even if in the end a peace agreement with Israel is not fully materialized during the Bush administration, President Assad’s gestures now will position Syria in the best possible light for continued negotiations with the next US president, which he has made a top priority.

Turkey’s facilitation of any gestures leading to an agreement would certainly consolidate its leadership position in the Middle East as an international peace maker. At a time when Turkey is vying heavily for EU membership, every contribution to stability and peaceful developments between its neighbors will enhance its prospects favorably.

Both President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert are politically weak, and although they are not likely to make reckless moves to cover for their weaknesses, they are certainly more inclined to be accommodating if the prospect of real peace avails itself. What Damascus needs to understand is that for President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert, time is of the essence. Assad must therefore act with deliberation and do every thing in his power to seize a unique opportunity consistent with his bold move to make the Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations public.

July 11th, 2008, 1:02 am

 

why-discuss said:

This is so obvious to all of us, but the Bush administration, after having ostracized so consistently Syria, probably feels it will loose its face if it now recognized Syria’s importance in the region. For them Bush’s face saving is more important than peace. This is how stubborn and obnoxious this administration is. It is time they go out from the kitchen door and get lost.

July 11th, 2008, 2:11 am

 

Nour said:

I think most people, and Syrians especially, should calm their eagerness and euphoric excitement for the peace process. I hope everyone still remembers who and what “Israel” is. “Israel” is not, nor has it ever been interested in “peace.” Rather, it is interested in forcing others to submit to its demands. The kind of “peace” it is looking for is kind it got from Jordan, basically a servant-master relationship. Assad, and the Syrian government understand this, but they are temporarily going along for the ride in order to stave off international isolation and build better relations with other countries of the world. “Israel” continues to occupy land, build settlements, and oppress and persecute people. This behavior is not about to change anytime soon. However, if Syria can show that it attempted to make peace but that its overtures were turned down by “Israel” then it can roll back any criticism of its supposed lack of “peacemaking”. In other words, if it can show that Israel is the actual party opposed to a just peace, then it can remove pressure from itself and redirect it toward Israel.

July 11th, 2008, 2:59 am

 

Karim said:

Ehsani:Let us assume that the Assads and the Makhloufs were Sunnis, would you still criticize their conduct?

Akeed Ehsani.
Ehsani,i repeated it several times ,the shoes(soles) of Aref Dalila who is alawite ashraf men malyon 3mameh of hypocrit sheikhs.
But those whose have mistreated Syria and its people are not ready for accountability …so we should not be asked every time if we love or hate the alawites …this is not my problem ,this paranoiac sectarian regime inculcated this hatred between syrians not me or you.

July 11th, 2008, 3:06 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

You did not answer “my” question. Please read it again. You will help your own cause if you focused on the deeds and actions of the person/s than their sect. The two ought to be mutually exclusive. However, it is clear that you are not getting my point. I think that you would be more effective if you were more focussed on the deeds that you disagree with. Brining up the sect issue takes away from such effectiveness. Anyway, I guess we can both agree to disagree.

July 11th, 2008, 3:09 am

 

Karim said:

Akeed=big yes

Ehsani ,dont play this game with me ,i was clear.

July 11th, 2008, 3:12 am

 

norman said:

Karim,

What do you think of khaddam?.

July 11th, 2008, 3:15 am

 

Karim said:

Norman ,Khadam was for 35 years a lord in the asadist regime .
So you should have liked him,i hated him of course …

July 11th, 2008, 3:22 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Why-Discuss

I disagree with your analysis. You said: “It is a basic principle that to negotiate you try to be strong and threatening. Syria was able to bring Israel to negotiate reasonable demands because it is in a strong position, principally by having Iran on its side and by having some influence on Hamas and Hezbollah.”

In my opinion, Hizbullah is really Syria’s trump card, in the short term. Hamas is a long-term asset, for the next stage of the peace process, and Iran is a strategic, more intangible asset looming overhead. Syria poses no real military threat to Israel besides Hizbullah. You say that Hizbullah is “a deterrent”, not “a threat” to Israel, but these things are not so easily separated. Hizbullah has built up a huge arsenal of missiles that can reach any point in Israel. While they would not use them needlessly, they could certainly be used in any combination of regional conflicts that spirals out of control.

My basic point is that it is simply not in Syria’s interests to sign a peace deal with Israel that does not pave the way for a deal with Lebanon. You are right that Lebanon poses its own mix of complications, foremost among them the Palestinian refugees. But tell me how this issue would ever have been solved more easily had Lebanon still been under Syrian control.

The last thing that Syria needs — after peace — is an unstable Lebanon on its border, a Lebanon with refugee camps teeming with takfiri al=Qaeda types who want to declare war on the Shi`a and on Israel simultaneously, and drag the region into conflict again.

I think that the Lebanese are putting the brakes on the peace process because Syria needs to maintain the Hizbullah card as a legitimate weapon at the bargaining table, and then deal with the Lebanese issues there as well, as they will also deal with Hamas. Bashar will be far more successful if he can “flip” the entire region, because then no one will be able to accuse him of flipping on his own, and he will be able to deliver peace to the Israelis while delivering an honorable and workable solution to the Arabs, at the same time.

In other words, Bashar’s strategy is to bet the house and solve the entire problem with one comprehensive solution… executed in slow motion, as I said on CS last month.

July 11th, 2008, 3:30 am

 

Karim said:

Ehsani and Norman ,I invite you to read my discussion with Ugarit yesterday and i think that we have had a constructive discussion on this matter.

July 11th, 2008, 3:38 am

 

norman said:

Karim ,

I am proud of you for saying that , I do not know about you but I grew up in the late seventies at Damascus university and saw what the MB did at that time , and how they killed people for their religious belief not their coruption , the Islamist and the religious right have to show care for the Syrian minorities to gain respect and trust and so far they showed non .

July 11th, 2008, 3:57 am

 

Alex said:

Qifa,

I think part of the region is “flippable” by the Syrians … the challenge is to flip Iran and America … to make them friends.

Something tells me that if next administration does not show interest in befriending Iran, there might be no deal… or at least, it would be more difficult to reach that deal.

July 11th, 2008, 4:35 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Walla ya Alex, I think you underestimate Bashar.

I think he can flip Iran as well.

I’m disappointed in you.

July 11th, 2008, 11:02 am

 

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