Assad on Stability in Lebanon

New Photo by popular demand

New Photo by popular demand

Lebanese Pro-American politicians fear that Feltman will sell out Lebanon in order to engage Syria and woo it away from Iran.

Syria fears that the US remains determined to dismantle the Doha agreement which gave the pro-Syrian opposition a permanent foothold in the cabinet and guarantees Syria that Lebanon cannot be “used against Syria.”

The US is trying to reasure the Lebanese that the US will protect them and push for Lebanese sovereignty even as it re-engages with Syria. The Obama administration believes that the two can be had at the same time. Also, Washington can point to the Doha agreement and Israel’s failure to destroy Hizbullah or kill Nasrallah in 2006 to argue that absolute sovereignty for Lebanon is unrealistic. Better for Lebanon to come to an amicable understanding with Syria that will allow it to move forward and get its economic and institutional house beyond the present crisis. Nothing good can come from stalemate. This the same message that Assad is sending. Lebanon can move forward so long as it does not become a danger to Syria.

Undoubtedly this will annoy some Lebanese, who insist that Syria is the problem in Lebanon along with its allies among the Shiites and Christians.

Here is President Assad’s recent statement on Lebanon to the al-Khaleej newspaper of the UAE:

What is important is for the Lebanese to reach an understanding and to live with agreement. Agreement brings stability. If there is no agreement between the factions, there will be no stability. The importance of this election comes from whether the winner will take Lebanon toward agreement or not. If they take it towards agreement over everything, I think the elections will be an important turning point that will create stability in Lebanon. And if there is another power that wants to destroy the agreement [by encouraging one side to proclaim] “I am the winner,” regardless of which side it is or which side wins, there will be one result which is to destroy the stability in Lebanon that was reached following the Doha agreement.

On the Hariri Tribunal, Assad sent a message to the March 14th camp that Lebanon would “pay the price” if it became “politicized.” What exactly that means is not clear.  All the same, Assad went out of his way to say that he was not saying that the Tribunal would not be “objective.” The warning, however, was clear. Syria’s expects Lebanon’s politicians to be polite to Syria.

Question: How worried are you that it will be politicized?

Assad: “There are no guarantees; and we do not see that everything in the world to be unobjective. If the UN and Security Council do not carry out their duties there is no guarantee, but if the trial is politicized, Lebanon will be the first to pay the price. I hope there will not be politicization of the court.

Syria has asked for the formation of a unity government in Lebanon regardless of whether the February 14 (pro-American) or March 8th [pro-Syria] coalition wins.

Jeffrey Feltman says that only the Lebanese can decide this. Naharnet reports:

Syria Demands Unity Government after Elections, Feltman Replies: This is a Lebanese Issue (Naharnet)

Damascus has reportedly told U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman that it wants a national unity government following Lebanese elections. Feltman replied: This is a Lebanese issue.

Pan-Arab daily Al Hayat on Tuesday quoted high-ranking political sources as saying that Damascus “took the initiative” to discuss Lebanon during weekend talks with Feltman and fellow envoy Daniel Shapiro.

The sources said Syrian officials conveyed to the U.S. delegation their country’s keenness on holding Lebanese parliamentary elections on time.

This was okay. But when it came to renewing their call for the establishment of a Lebanese national unity government following the June 7 elections, Feltman allegedly told the Syrian officials: “This is a Lebanese issue.”

The sources said the U.S. delegation discussed with Syrian officials the “principles of holding elections without Syrian meddling, not more.”

They said Hizbullah and AMAL Movement leaders have recently been emphasizing the formation of a national unity government following Lebanese elections.

Both Geagea and Jumblat, figure heads of the March 14 coalition, have gotten the message from Saudi Arabia and the US that Syria will no longer be a punching bag and they must repaire what they can of a relationship with Syria’s allies in Lebanon and retract their claws.

Geagea Stresses Need to Set Up Serious Ties with Syria

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Tuesday stressed the need to build good relations with Syria. His remarks came following a meeting with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah.

Jumblat in Naharnet:

Jumblat said he was pleased with the meeting between Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and Speaker Nabih Berri at Baabda Palace on Wednesday.

Concerning his own talks with Berri, Jumblat told An-Nahar newspaper that he considered Lebanon’s Shiites to be “partners.”

“Are we going to work towards isolating them or are we going to embark on dialogue with them?” he asked.

He also continued to praise regional developments by saying “the atmosphere that the Arab region has witnessed concerning the reconciliations is a positive thing,” adding that “they should reflect positively on Lebanon.”

“We should benefit from [the reconciliations] and employ them in developing the dialogue amongst ourselves,” the Druze leader said.

Scowcroft argues that there is a high probability of ‘Explosion’ in Lebanon, the Region

Brent Scowcroft, a former U.S. National Security Advisor, has said that the situation in the Middle East is “fragile,” particularly with regard to Lebanon, Iraq, and the Palestine territories.
The U.S. should not “wait until the change of governments because the region is fragile and the probability of it exploding in Lebanon, or Iraq, or Palestine is high,” Scowcroft told the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat in remarks published Tuesday.

Scowcroft stressed that the U.S. should become actively involved in the region ahead of the change in the Israeli government.

He added that, were any explosion in the region to occur, it would “topple… hope for compromise” and thus the U.S. needs to “get involved and get involved strongly.”

Israel has expressed its objection to the British cabinet’s decision to initiate talks with Hizbullah, Isreali media reported on Sunday. Israel called on the United Kingdom to stop establishing any kind of relations with the party. An Israeli foreign affairs spokesman said on Sunday that Israel considered any rapprochement between Britain and Hizbullah as very dangerous, since it said the latter was a terrorist organization.

Signs of U.S. Discontent Over British Contact with Hizbullah

A senior U.S. official said Thursday he was unhappy with a British decision to open low-level contact with Hizbullah and suggested London only indirectly informed the new administration ahead of time.
The remarks contrasted with those last week from the State Department which said U.S. officials had been informed about the move in advance and gave no sign of displeasure — even if Washington was not ready to follow London’s lead.

The senior U.S. government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to a group of journalists in Washington, clearly expressed discomfort with the British decision.

He said he would like the British to explain to him “the difference between the political, military and social wings of Hizbullah because we don’t see a difference between the integrated leadership that they see.”

Comments (5)


1. Observer said:

Too early to tell.
I am not convinced that either the resistance camp or the so called moderates camp have changed their position one bit.

The KSA Egypt Morocco Jordan group would like to regain a footing in the Arab world after they abandoned the scene to others. They stood on the sidelines for so long that they became irrelevant and the toppling of Saddam opened up the entire area for Iranian inlfuence to increase.

The US is also trying to play catch up, thrying to prop up Abbas and undermine Hamas, as I said before the train has left the station. It is too late. He is corrupt to the core with his cronies.

The only risk of an explosion is Bibi provoking a war or confrontation. No one is going to lift a finger to upsed the status quo. Everyone sees that what happened to Iraq and would think twice about changing regimes; however, if the regimes in the next 5 years do not truly advance the welfare of their people then they are in trouble.

Syria has enough influence in Lebanon but the regime can be vindictive and may with time opt to crush the oppostion. It is a tall order in Lebanon, a mosaic of omerta mafiosi who would sell their mothers and daughters to stay in power.

KSA is about to relaunch its peace inititiative. They want an end to the conflict more so than the Israelis, however, they will have to convince the resistance front on the one hand and they will have to deal with Bibi.

Now some may think that only the right wing in Israel can deliver peace and I tend to disagree. The right in Israel wants more than surrender they want to enslave the people of the region. Anything else is not in their imagination to fathom.

Stay tuned.

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March 13th, 2009, 6:16 pm

 

2. milli schmidt said:

Offensive, sexist foto, depicting a stupid stereotype of Lebanon.

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March 13th, 2009, 8:06 pm

 

3. norman said:

this will make our freinds here happy , My question is why we are celebrating in Baathist Syria Saadeh and not Aflaq,
Are we changing from one Arab Nation to one Syrian one ?.

The Arab American News

——————————————————————————–

Group celebrates Saadeh birthday, legacy

Friday, 03.13.2009, 08:48pm

SOUTHFIELD — Syria’s ambassador to the U.S. Imad Mustapha spoke at the Silver Garden Theater on March 7 during a commemoration of the birthday of Antun Saadeh, founder of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.

Syria’s ambassador to the U.S. Imad Mustapha speaks at the Silver Garden Theater in Southfield on March 7 during a commemoration of the birthday of Antun Saadeh, founder of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.

Mustapha said at the Al-Nahda Cultural and Social Association event that, since Barack Obama has taken over as president, the U.S. has “changed its attitude toward Syria to one based on dialogue and respect.”

“[Former President George W.] Bush wanted to dictate to Syria,” he said.

He said he expects the U.S. will at some point appoint a new ambassador to Syria, in light of the new tone between the two countries, but said he did not have a sense of when or who would be appointed.

Washington recalled its ambassador to Damascus following the February 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s ex-premier Rafik Hariri. Damascus has denied any involvement in Hariri’s killing.

Two top U.S. envoys made the first high-profile visit to Syria in four years last week amid Washington’s declared intention to engage with all regional countries.

Al-Nahda Cultural and Social Association youth perform a traditional dance sequence on stage at the Silver Garden Theater in Southfield on March 7. PHOTOS: Khalil AlHajal/TAAN

Mustapha said he was honored to speak at an event honoring Saadeh, even though, like much of the crowd there, he doesn’t subscribe to the platform of the party Saadeh founded.

“Even if you’re not one of his partisans, you still respect the great things he did for our region,” he said.

Sami Aboufawaz, who heads the Al-Nahda group, and Osama Siblani, representing the Congress of Arab American Organizations, also addressed the crowd of about 600.

Saadeh opposed the French and British division of the region in the 1930s and pushed for unity of a “Greater Syria,” which would have included what is now Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Cyprus, Palestine and other territories.

“Antoun Saadeh preached the dangers of sectarianism in our society and just by looking at what has happened in the past and what is still happening this very day… one can identify with him,” said Anthony Aboufawaz, of The New Generation, a youth extension of the Al-Nahda Cultural and Social Association. “That is why we try to learn from the teachings and philosophy of Antun Saadeh and implement the notion of unity amongst all people in their natural geographical settings.”

Aboufawaz said the group hopes to establish scholarship and financial aid programs as part of its platform.

“We aim to create leaders in our society… It is crucial that our youth understand the emphasis of the link between them and their homeland. We must become active as the Americans we are and practice our rights in the political arena to better the lives of our people abroad.”

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March 14th, 2009, 2:06 am

 

4. norman said:

They keep trying,

Syria loyal to Iran after Riyadh meeting
Sat, 14 Mar 2009 10:16:59 GMT

Syrian President Bashar Assad (L) shaking hands with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Damascus says it will not abandon its strategic ties with Tehran, despite reports of a Saudi and Egyptian effort to distance the two allies.

Syrian presidential adviser Bouthaina Shaaban, who recently accompanied Bashar Assad on a visit to Riyadh, said that Syria has not changed its policies toward Iran.

On Wednesday, President Assad visited Saudi Arabia to meet with King Abdullah, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Kuwaiti emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah ahead of an Arab summit later this month in Qatar.

Several media outlets reported that during the meeting the Saudi king and the Egyptian president had tried to persuade Syria to downgrade its relations with Iran, as the country’s role is growing in the region.

Back in Damascus, however, Shaaban said that Syria would not change its policies toward Iran and rejected the whole notion that Saudi and Egypt has made such a suggestion.

The Syrian advisor accused some regional media of trying to spark tension between Iran and the Arab world, clarifying that in Riyadh, the four leaders had discussed ways to use Iran’s regional influence in their favor.

She said that during the meeting Syria had pointed out that support for ‘Arab rights’ was the key to ties with non-Arab neighbors.

“The summit was a step in the right direction,” she told the reporters after arriving back in the Syrian capital.

During Israel’s recent military campaign in the Gaza Strip, Egyptian and Saudi Arabian officials came under heavy criticism for keeping silent about the offensive that claimed the lives of more than 1330 Palestinians.

Meanwhile, support for Syria, and non-Arab Turkey and Iran grew in the Middle East as their senior figures objected to Israeli war crimes in the Gaza Strip.

This new situation widened the rift between Syria and the two US allied states, deepening disagreements that already existed between the Arab powers since a 2007 Arab summit in Riyadh.

MJ/DT

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March 14th, 2009, 11:29 am

 

5. jad/2 said:

Surprise, surprise. Fair comment in ..Asharq Awsat
http://aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=2&id=16061

“Contradictions in US Openness to Iran and Syria
14/03/2009
By Huda al Husseini

(…)

” Iran is prepared to give up Hamas and Islamic Jihad; however, it is a different case with regards to Hezbollah. This is where the Iran-Syria problem arises if we accept that Syria will consider that the US will grant it the long-awaited opportunity to come out of diplomatic isolation. Washington’s interest in engaging in dialogue with Syria goes back to its desire to break up its strategic and decisive alliance with Iran and its push for Syria to stop allowing weapons to pass through to Lebanon (to reach Hezbollah and Palestinian organizations in and outside of Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon). But Washington is yet to reveal the concessions that it will offer Damascus. It gave Lebanon to Syria once before and then forced it to leave; it sponsored Syria’s negotiations with Israel; the former US Secretary of State Warren Christopher visited Damascus twenty one times; and US president Bill Clinton met with late Syrian President Hafez al Assad in Geneva. However, Israel, under Ehud Barak, agreed and then retracted clinging to a 300-meter-long line at Lake Tiberius [Sea of Galilee] and the Golan Heights remained under Israel’s control.

” How will Israel abandon a foreign policy that it has adopted for thirty years, especially after the International Tribunal for the Hariri assassination has been established? There is another issue that is more serious; Sudanese President Omar al Bashir. After having surrendered Carlos [the Jackal, whose real name is Ilich Ramírez Sánchez] and expelling Osama Bin Laden, Sudan has no more cards to play and it allowed its forces to commit massacres in Darfur and the International Criminal Court has issued a warrant for al Bashir’s arrest. Therefore, he is serving as an example to many, despite his defiance, that concessions can no longer provide guarantees for anybody! “

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March 14th, 2009, 12:52 pm

 

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