Posted by Joshua on Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
Assad: ‘Golan Heights “is our issue”‘
By Meris Lutz, Los Angeles Times
December 2, 2010, Reporting from Beirut
Syria’s Assad seems to suggest backing for Hamas negotiable, leaked cables say
But even as President Bashar Assad appeared willing to reduce ties with the Palestinian militant group ruling the Gaza Strip, he brushed off pressure to alter the dynamics of his friendship with Iran.
Syrian President Bashar Assad described Hamas as an “uninvited guest” in his country in confidential conversations with American lawmakers, and appeared to suggest he would be willing to give up the alliance in exchange for incentives, according to several documents contained in the trove of leaked diplomatic cables posted online by the website WikiLeaks.
But even as Assad appeared willing to downgrade ties with the Palestinian militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, he brushed off pressure to change the dynamics of his friendship with Iran. He argued against his government putting pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program in exchange for a peace deal between Syria and Israel.
“Too many cooks spoil the meal,” he is quoted saying in a January 2010 cable.
The leaked cables shed new light on international efforts to forge a Syrian-Israeli peace accord and on private meetings involving the leader of Syria’s secretive government.
Assad shows himself in the leaked correspondence to be a shrewd negotiator. He told the American delegation visiting Damascus that he could help secure the Iraqi border against the flow of foreign fighters into Syria’s neighbor. But he said he wouldn’t do it “for free,” asking the U.S. to lift sanctions that banned the sale of commercial airplanes and their parts to Syria.
“In the U.S., you like to shoot [terrorists],” he said. “Suffocating their networks is far more effective.”
Diplomats and analysts view Syrian cooperation as crucial to ensuring the security of Iraq, Lebanon and Israel as well as isolating Iran.
Although Syria has forged strategic alliances with ideologically driven, Iranian-backed movements such as Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and Hamas, Damascus continues to view the rise of political Islam as one of its primary internal threats. Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal has resided in Damascus since 2001, but such a blunt assessment of the group by Assad hasn’t been made public before.
“Hamas is Muslim Brotherhood, but we have to deal with the reality of their presence,” Assad told another group of American lawmakers in March 2009, according to an additional leaked cable, calling the Islamic movement an “uninvited guest” and likening it to the same Muslim Brotherhood his father, Hafez Assad, brutally uprooted from Syria in the 1980s.
In none of the dispatches does the younger Assad explicitly say that he would cut ties with Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran in exchange for the return of the Golan Heights, which was seized by Israel during the 1967 Middle East War. But he emphasized in the more recent meeting with U.S. lawmakers that the Golan Heights “is our issue,” according to the January 2010 confidential dispatch.
The documents also reveal an unsuccessful push by U.S. and regional leaders to persuade Israel to return the mountainous occupied region.
According to the documents, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reportedly told the ruler of Qatar in February 2010 that Israel should “work the return of the Golan Heights into a formula for peace” with Israel.
Other regional leaders recognized Syria’s willingness to negotiate. Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf urged the U.S. to seek Syrian cooperation on Iraq and Lebanon. “If you want [Assad] to play ball, he needs comfort on other fronts — namely, the Golan Heights,” Musharraf told a high-ranking congressional delegation in April 2007, according to the WikiLeaks disclosures.
Israel has in recent years refused to negotiate a full withdrawal from the Golan. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. lawmakers that giving up the heights would only result in assurances that Syria would later “tear up,” according to a February 2009 cable.
“With respect to Syria, Russian experts believe that Bashar’s regime is better than the perceived alternative of instability or an Islamist government, and argue against a U.S. policy of isolation. Russia has concluded that its arms sales are too insignificant to threaten Israel, or to disturb growing Israeli-Russian diplomatic engagement, but sufficient to maintain “special” relations with Damascus”
Guardian (GB): US embassy cables: Russia’s growing clout in the global arms trade
2010-12-01 21:33:28.650 GMT
From Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha’s talk at the Contemporary Arab Studies at the University of Georgetown, on Monday November 29, 2010.
Two important developments took place in November that will leave an indelible impact on the peace process (or lack thereof) in the Middle East.
First, the US offered Israel an unprecedented bribe for simply agreeing not to undermine the prospects of resuming talks with the Palestinians for a mere 90 days. In return for extending the moratorium on building settlements in the West Bank–that excludes Jerusalem–the US administration has committed itself to providing Israel with both the wherewithal to further consolidate its occupation of Arab territories, and a guarantee to oppose any attempt to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state. In the long annals of US acquiescence to Israeli blackmail, this is a remarkably unique instance of amply rewarding the culprit for agreeing to partially abstain from breaking international law for a brief period of time.
Second, the Israeli Knesset passed a resolution that will prevent any Israeli government from evacuating the occupied East Jerusalem and Syrian Golan without a general referendum. Given the stark shift to the right in the Israeli body politic, one immediately realizes that the real purpose of this resolution is to render the possibility of freeing East Jerusalem or the Golan a practical impossibility.
The implications of both actions are grave and nefarious. They only reaffirm that the Israeli government lacks both the will and the capacity to make peace with any of its neighbors…..
Friday, 26 October 2007
In an August 18, 2008 meeting with US Ambassador (Beirut) Michelle Sison, STL prosecuter Daniel Bellemare voiced his ‘concern’ for the lack of ‘assistance’ he was getting from the americans, something he relayed to the State Department … and he reiterated 3 specific queries:
(1) He wanted a clear ‘yes or no’ whether certain (US) Intelligence was to be submitted for his review …
(2) He asked to get US ‘investigators on loan’…
(3) He asked the US to ‘pressure the British to be more forthright…”
Moreover, Bellemare asked the Americans to financially support the STL …
He asked to have access to former Hezbollah members who ‘reside in the US’ …
He finally told Sison that he ‘will not travel to Syria, unless the Americans (or others) gave him a list of ‘Syrian officials’ to investigate … And then, if the Syrians become uncooperative, it would be easier for him to publically mention their ‘lack of cooperation’… Bellmare added that this should prode ‘other Syrians’ to come forth … Bellemare pointed to the importance of getting to the Syrians before year’s end (date at which ‘Chapter 7’ expires) …and the possibilty that some of these sought after individuals either ‘disappear or get eliminated’…
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 001162
SUBJECT: WHY FRANCE CLAIMS SYRIA HELPED CONVINCE IRAN TO
FREE FRENCH PRISONER …
SYRIAN ROLE: THE SPIN
¶2. (SBU) Since August 11, when a French Presidency press release first singled out Syria for appreciation, French government officials, journalists, and academics have pondered the “important” and “influential” role Syria played as “mediator” between France and Iran in the conflict surrounding the July 1 arrest by Iranian security officers of French citizen Clotilde Reiss…
SYRIAN ACTIONS: THE JURY IS STILL OUT
MFA Syria Desk
Officer Patrick Durel on August 18 confirmed that President Sarkozy called Syrian President Assad August 5 to ask for his assistance …. Assad did not, however, name his interlocutor or interlocutors. “I’m doing what I can to help” was the message he sent to Paris, Durel explained.
NEW PUBLIC POSTURE FROM ASSAD?
¶4. (S/NF) Richier and Durel suggested that the GOF has sought to exaggerate the Syrian role deliberately, in order to demonstrate to Syria the praise they might win for playing a constructive role in the region, and in order to create tension between Syria and Iran. And the French believe they have succeeded on both fronts. As a sign that Syrians welcomed the praise they received for playing a helpful part in Reiss’s release, Durel cited the absence of a public denial by Assad. In the past, Assad disavowed such activity.
Durel explained, for instance, that Assad had agreed in private during July of 2008 to pass a message from Paris to Tehran about the dangers of the Iranian nuclear program, but he publicly denied having done so, declaring he did not want to play the role of intermediary. Moreover, according to Richier, the French believe their reference to Syrian intervention has sewn some discomfort among the Iranians, whom the French hear from various sources want them to “stop this stupid Syria business.” In advance of Assad’s August 19 visit to Tehran, the French continued to tout Syria’s role and encouraged him to raise the issue of Clotilde Reiss’s still-pending court case.
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 000174
E.O 12958: DECL: 02/08/20
TAGS: PREL MOPS MARR FR IR AF NATO
SUBJECT: SECRETARY OF DEFENSE GATES’S MEETING WITH FRENCH FOREIGN
MINISTER KOUCHNER, FEBRUARY 8, 2010
¶1. (S/NF) SUMMARY: At the request of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (SecDef) met with French FM Bernard Kouchner in Paris on February 8, 2010. Discussions included how to persuade the Chinese and others to support sanctions against
Iran, and the importance of targeting the Iranian government rather than the people….
¶2. (S/NF) Kouchner said that the U.S. and France were working well together in New York on an Iran sanctions resolution – all the problems now are with the Chinese. Kouchner had met Chinese FM Yang twice the previous week, but said that right now it was difficult to predict whether the Chinese would veto or abstain. He noted that the Chinese were furious over the U.S.-Taiwan arms deal, which would make it difficult to get a resolution passed in February….
¶4. (S/NF) SecDef urged Kouchner not to exaggerate the Chinese concern over Taiwan – they would need a little more time and, in the end, an abstention might be a good enough result for us. He added that we should urge the Saudis to weigh in with Beijing since China has more at
stake in its relations with Saudi Arabia than Iran. He commented that the Saudis always want to “fight the Iranians to the last American,” but that now it is time for them to get into the game.
¶5. (S/NF) Raising his concerns about bringing non-permanent UNSC members on board, SecDef reported that in Ankara he had impressed upon PM Erdogan the dangers of proliferation to other Middle East countries or an Israeli strike if the Iranian nuclear program couldn’t be
stopped. Kouchner expressed his doubts about Turkey’s desire for a constructive role in region, describing Erdogan’s comments to Ahmadinejad defending the Iranian nuclear program as dangerous…….
¶8. (S/NF) Further explaining the U.S. position, SecDef said that while our understanding of the Iranian leadership was opaque, we do know that they do not like to be isolated. The USG would soon be designatingseveral IRGC companies under the Iran Sanctions Act. His own view was
that it was important to get the UNSCR passed quickly, even if it were not as harsh as we might wish. Once a resolution is passed, he explained, it will offer a legal platform on which the EU and
individual states can impose harsher sanctions.
¶9. (S/NF) Kouchner agreed, but added that another problem was to get he nine votes needed in the UNSC. He said that Lebanon was one of France’s prime targets in this respect, but he doubted that France would be able to bring the resolution to a vote during its presidency,
as February is a very short month. Gabon, which takes the chair in March, is a “good asset for France,” he commented. Audibert interjected that the Russians had supported deleting some sections of the draft UNSCR, but had approved including sanctions on the IRGC. Kouchner said that France had to proceed carefully since a French woman had been taken hostage in Tehran. He disparaged FM Mottaki’s duplicitous performance in Munich.
Media Pushes Narrative That Arabs Want War With Iran, Ignores Cables That Show Arabs Urging Restraint
2010-12-01 23:04:54.500 GMT
Media Pushes Narrative That Arabs Want War With Iran, Ignores Cables That Show Arabs Urging Restraint Over the weekend, the whistleblower website WikiLeaks began leaking hundreds of diplomatic cables sent by U.S. embassies and diplomatic staff …
S E C R E T PARIS 002743
SUBJECT: U/S BURNS’ JUNE 12 DINNER MEETING WITH FRENCH
POLITICAL DIRECTOR ARAUD
¶1. (U) June 12, 2007, 8:30 P.M.
¶3. (S) Summary: U/S Burns and Political Director Gerard Araud
met June 12 for a lengthy discussion of key bilateral issues,…
¶15. (C) Burns also reviewed how Iran violated UNSC
resolutions by providing arms to Hizballah in Lebanon, which
appears to be taking new steps to threaten Israel, and to the
Taliban in Afghanistan. Loras responded that, given that the
evidence on Hizballah arms in Lebanon is not verifiable,
France is not currently pushing Iran on this issue. Araud
added that France is trying to keep open its dialogue with
Larijani on Lebanon…….
¶16. (C) Araud stated that Sarkozy had told President Bush
that France would maintain its policy on Lebanon, minus its
exclusive Harriri focus. Sarkozy had also solicited
President Bush’s advice about talking with Syria. Araud said
Sarkozy responded that now is not the time, as Syria remains
very destructive. Burns told Araud that the United States
had been surprised at not having been consulted prior to
France’s recent call for a conference on Lebanon in Paris.
Araud contritely agreed that consultations in advance were
warranted. Returning briefly to a discussion of the renewal
of UNIFIL, MOD advisor Mondoloni revealed that the French
military would like to downsize its presence, but that
civilian leaders had emphasized to them that political
obligations were paramount. …
Israel tells the French that Turkey has helped Iran get weapons-related material for nuclear program (the French seem skeptical).
4. (S/NF) The French participants in the Strategic Dialogue
noted profound disquiet among the Israelis about Turkey,
Bereyziat said. He reported that the Israelis claimed the
Turks have allowed weapons-related material for Iran’s
nuclear program to transit Turkey, with Prime Minister
Erdogan’s full knowledge. The French replied that Israel
would need to have clear and concrete proof of such activity
before leveling accusations. The Israelis replied that they
are collecting evidence which they will eventually publicize…
T_Desco writes in the comment section:
The picture of a reasonable, thoughtful Syrian president that emerges from this interview stands in marked contrast to the caricature that one finds all too often in our media.
The Saudi ‘documentary’ ‘Murder in Beirut’ by Charlie Smith, Christopher Mitchell/ORTV includes a number of shots of the first page of a purported UN tribunal/investigation document. The text is very similar to the Follath/Der Spiegel article.
Interestingly, the author still uses the Mehlis estimate regarding the amount of explosives (“1000 kg”). Since June 2006 the estimate was increased to “at least 1,200 kg” (Third UN report) and then to “closer to 1,800 kg than to 1,200 kg” (Forth UN report in September 2006). At the same time, the text contains information about the Mitsubishi Canter van that was only disclosed in July 2007:
“The van was then shipped to the United Arab Emirates and transported to a showroom close to Tripoli in northern Lebanon in December 2004, where it was sold. The Commission has recently acquired information regarding the sale of the van to individuals who could be involved in the final preparation of the van for the attack on Rafik Hariri.” (§24, Eighth UN report, July 2007).
However, if reports by Al-Akhbar are correct, that information had already been acquired in April 2006 by the Lebanese investigation (interestingly, the first to suggest that the van was bought in Tripoli was Faisal Akbar in January 2006 in his later retracted testimony).
This leads us to three possibilities:
The document is
1. not genuine;
2. just sloppy regarding the amount of explosives; 3. genuine and was written between April 2006 and June 2006.
According to CBC, Wissam Eid’s report was filed “in the first months of 2006”. However, the air of certainty that apparently pervades the text does not seem to correspond to a report that just relies on circumstantial evidence:
“Lebanon/Hizballah Behind Hariri’s Assassination
In the weeks prior to the Harir (sic) murder, a number of Hizballah operational cells closely followed the movements of the former Prime Minister, collected accurate information on his movements and waited for the best opportunity to assassinate him. According to accumulated information, this activity was carried out by a compartmented unit in Hizballah headed by Selim Ayyash (alias Haj Selim).
… (PHOTO “A” ATTACHED), who is a senior operative with a rich ‘operational’ past, is from the Nabatiya area in South Lebanon, was born on 10 November 1963 and is currently living in the Shiite area of south Beirut. He is the commander of the classified unit that deals in secret and compartmented activity in the Lebanese arena. He is married to Fatima al-Hajj and they have three children.
… was the commander of the assassination squad. He was apparently responsible for procuring a white Mitsubishi Canter in late January 2005, far from Beirut, and in a way that precluded him from being identified as the procurer of the vehicle. Hizballah demolition unit specialists, who have a great deal of experience in preparing car bombs, turned the vehicle into a car bomb and armed it with 1,000 kg of varied explosives (TNT, C4, RDX).
The unit headed by … was in 2005 directly subordinate to the military commander of Hizballah, Imad Mughniyah. The connection between …
Eyad (DOB: 20 April 1960) (PHOTO “B” ATTACHED) a former operative of Hizballah’s external operations apparatus and in 2005, “.
The names are mostly blanked out, but remain visible in some of the shots. A few lines of a second page are also discernible through the paper (unclear/guessed words are marked with a “?”):
minutely? involved in all aspects and stages? of the operation. Selim”
“was present? at the Parliament building. This enabled Ayyash then to precisely time the explosion”
“Samir Kassir?” “(2? June? 2005)” “George Hawi (21”
“2005)?. In each case there were cell phones – later identified as tied to”
“town? of Rumin?” “PHOTO”
“training? in Iran prior to the assassination”.
The similarities to Follath’s article are striking:
“He is believed to be Abd al-Majid Ghamlush, from the town of Rumin, a Hezbollah member who had completed training course in Iran. (…)
Ghamlush’s recklessness led investigators to the man they now suspect was the mastermind of the terrorist attack: Hajj Salim, 45. A southern Lebanese from Nabatiyah, Salim is considered to be the commander of the “military” wing of Hezbollah and lives in South Beirut, a Shiite stronghold. Salim’s secret “Special Operational Unit” reports directly to Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, 48.
Imad Mughniyah (…) ran the unit until Feb. 12, 2008 (…).
The deeper the investigators in Beirut penetrated into the case, the clearer the picture became, according to the SPIEGEL source. They have apparently discovered which Hezbollah member obtained the small Mitsubishi truck used in the attack. They have also been able to trace the origins of the explosives, more than 1,000 kilograms of TNT, C4 and hexogen.
(…) And, once again, there was evidence of involvement by the Hezbollah commando unit, just as there has been in each of more than a dozen attacks against prominent Lebanese in the last four years.”
Note that Follath uses the correct(ed?) estimate of “more than 1,000 kilograms” of explosives.
Egypt Sought Spies in Iraq, Syria to Stop Iran, WikiLeaks Shows
2010-11-30 23:12:11.192 GMT
By Heather Langan
Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) — Egypt’s spy agency recruited agents
in Iraq and Syria to try to counter Iranian intelligence
operations, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable posted on the
“Iran must ‘pay the price’ for its actions and not be
allowed to interfere in regional affairs,” said Omar Suleiman,
head of the intelligence service and one of President Hosni
Mubarak’s closest aides, according to the April 2009 cable. It
gives details of a meeting between Suleiman and Admiral Michael
Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“If you want Egypt to cooperate with you on Iran, we
will,” Suleiman told Mullen, according to the cable. “It would
take a big burden off our shoulders.”
Egypt has “started a confrontation with Hezbollah and
Iran,” the cable cited Suleiman as saying. “We will not allow
Iran to operate in Egypt,” he said.
Egypt, a close U.S. ally, has accused Iran of using proxy
groups such as the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement to
increase its influence in the Middle East. Egypt and Iran
haven’t had full diplomatic relations since 1979, when Egyptian
President Anwar Sadat gave refuge to the deposed Iranian shah,
Suleiman told Mullen that Egypt “sent a clear message to
Iran that if they interfere in Egypt, Egypt will interfere in
Iran,” according to the cable, sent to Washington from the U.S.
Embassy in Cairo.
Suleiman added that the Egyptian intelligence service had
begun “recruiting agents in Iraq and Syria,” according to the
cable. He also said the U.S. shouldn’t limit its focus on Iran
to one issue at a time, such as the Islamic republic’s nuclear