Assad Rules out Cooperation with Hariri Tribunal if Sovereignty Threatened

Assad Rules out Cooperation with Hariri Tirbunal if Sovereignty Threatened

Syrian President Bashar Assad on Thursday ruled out cooperation with the international tribunal that would try ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's suspected assassins if it threatened Syria's sovereignty and independence. "We consider that the international tribunal concerns only Lebanon and the United Nations and that we are not directly concerned," Assad said in a speech to the newly elected parliament.

"Any cooperation requested from Syria which could compromise our national sovereignty is rejected."

"Syria is cooperating with the commission (investigating Hariri's murder) but not with the tribunal. There is a difference between cooperation and abandoning our independence," Assad told parliament.

"We have cooperated with the international commission of inquiry and we reiterate our readiness to cooperate with it as long as it respects our laws and our sovereignty," he added.

Assad also said that the current Israeli government was weak and is not prepared for a just peace with the Arabs.

"Israel is not ready on the official and popular level for a just and comprehensive peace, which requires strong leadership that can take decisive decisions, in addition to a mature public opinion that can push its government in that direction," he said.

"Both are not available now in Israel, particularly in the presence of a weak government which is unable to take a strategic decision (for peace), the Syrian leader said.

But, he cautioned, "we have to be careful" because "in the history of Israel, weak governments are able to wage war."(AFP-AP-Naharnet)

Assad said that Syria supported what the Lebanese agreed upon and Lebanon's peace was Syria's.

Bashar al-Assad will deliver a speech at the opening session of the new Syrian Parliament 

Rice: Syria Should Allow Creation of International Tribunal

Ban Ki-moon will meet next week with members of the Security Council to discuss what steps the Council would take on the tribunal. It said the Council could act to break the deadlock on the court before the end of May after Ban was convinced that the tribunal wouldn't be formed locally.

Sarkozy Underlines to Hariri France's Support for Tribunal

In response to Condoleezza Rice: political lessons which she forgot,” By Dr Imad Fawzi Al-Shu'aybi, Ad Diyyar, May 10 (Translation thanks to mideastwire.com)

Dr Imad Fawzi Al-Shu'aybi, the director of the Center for Strategic Data and Studies in Damascus, wrote in the pro-opposition daily Ad Diyyar: “Ministers usually don’t write articles because their job is to act and not to talk, let alone if it is a foreign minister whose job is to stay silent and work in the backstage. [To foreign ministers], the press should remain a mere tool used to issue quick statements through which they would be able to deliver their messages or raise the level of political tension. However, things get more complicated if the issue is about the foreign minister of a superpower like is the case with Condoleezza Rice.

“The Lebanese daily An Nahar chose to post [Rice’s article] as its main editorial to allow the aforementioned minister to address her message against Hezbollah and all those who are against the current Lebanese government. This government is in such a difficult position that it needs international ministers to come to Lebanon to support it at times, and at others, an article that will revive its faltering team. However, this is not the issue… The issue is that through her article, Ms. “Condi” wanted to threaten that she was pursuing her plan to have the international tribunal resolution issued through Chapter 7.

“This has two interpretations: she either wanted to send a message which was hard for her to send through the diplomatic channels to the permanent members of the Security Council, telling them that the situation could no longer be tolerated and that she wanted them to settle their reluctant position regarding the ratification under the aforementioned chapter, or a message to the Lebanese forces among others, telling them that she decided to shut the door and not to adopt the middle-ground formula of issuing the resolution under Chapter 6 and with a Lebanese concord.

“For your information Ms. Condi, one of the first principles of politics which you used to teach in college, is never to close the door… We teach our children in college that the policy of the “half-open door” and the policy of “never close the road before your enemy and always keep a way out for him…”, are the best crisis management policies. Managing crises is not conducted by closing doors and turning our backs on the main parties in the conflict. Ms. Condi, in political science, turning one’s back on the key forces and shutting the window of dialogue or compromise with them, pushes [things] towards an explosion.

“And just as a reminder, professor and colleague, the explosion starts with a resolution or a blocked horizon but can’t be extinguished with a resolution. Managing the crisis through an explosion could have massive repercussions on the option of compromise in the overall package of regional-international issues in which you are involved… Ms. Rice, you are defeated in Iraq and in South Lebanon… Your project is collapsing… and not even your Creative Chaos can succeed without burning you with its flames like what is happening in Iraq… and like what happened to your ally in Lebanon. Yes, you are defeated but no one wants to break it to you.

“You can withdraw with the highest level of media commotion… We have no problem with it. This gives you the chance to exit while defeated, while saving face… However, the problem resides in implicating those who believe you in Lebanon or in provoking a resolution that will block the way before all choices and chances of concord, in what would force you to seek a strategy to exit Lebanon instead of a strategy to exit Iraq. Ms. Rice, the first rule about political and military action says: “Do not open two fronts at the same time, let alone if you are defeated on the first front and in shock on the second…”

Bush extends unilateral sanctions against Syria

Brammertz Report update (Thanks to t_desco)

Brammertz’ Report ‘Concluded’ After Koleilat Grilling: Naharnet, Asharq Al-Awsat

Qoleilat ’sheds light on who killed Hariri’: The Daily Star

Comments: In his latest press conference, Brammertz did not rule out the possibility of a conncetion between the Al-Madina and the Hariri case, but he stressed that the evidence gathered so far did not suggest a strong link concerning the motive of the crime, according to this report by Al-Akhbar.

Later Monday, Rice responded with another public indication that Assad may soon have a partner for cooperation, telling Charlie Rose:
"If there is to be a better relationship, of course, we can't have a situation in which the Syrians are permitting foreign forces to come across that border and kill Iraqis and kill Americans. And so that would — it would be a good step to have cooperation about border security for Iraq."

The Secretary of State does not choose her vocabulary carelessly. "Cooperation" has become the new buzzword she is using when talking about Iraq-Syria border security. The US may "take this one step at a time," but Syria watchers can expect the next step to be a pretty big one.

Michael Young dissapointed in America for Rice meeting with Syrians. America moves forward to the past, Thursday, May 10, 2007

… The Syrians will not really give anything up to the Americans or anybody else, whether in Lebanon, on the Palestinian front, in eventual talks with Israel, or in their relations with Iran. Why should they? Assad's door is being scratched so frantically that he has little incentive to surrender the leverage that brought this about.

The Syrian president has two priorities: saving his regime by undermining the Hariri tribunal and reimposing Syrian hegemony over Lebanon.

The US has emerged as a fairly futile superpower, at least in the Middle East. For those of us who thought that the ousting of a tyrant like Saddam Hussein might usher in an era of pluralist change in the region, the disappointment is doubly felt.

Comments (39)


1. Observer said:

1.The US News and World Report on its front page had a question: Resolute or Delusional? The question relates to the current state of the White House with regard to Iraq and other issues. I think the term delusional is more apt: it is delusional to ask for a regime to cooperate in its own destruction, it is delusional to ask Russia to acquiesce to a missile shield on its border by claiming an Iranian threat to Europe, it is delusional to have a policy of military escalation without political compromise, it is delusional to ask the world community to come to the rescue without re positioning the US as a responsible leader and a source of stability and cooperation, it is delusional to ask for stability in Iraq while brandishing sticks towards its neighbors, it is delusional to think that Turkey will sit by while the Kurds carve out a state out of Northern Iraq. As an example of how Iran might respond read Asia Times today and find out how Afghan refugees are being forced back into Kabul at a rate of 44 000 in 2 weeks. If this continues you will see the collapse of Karzai in no time. Imagine if Syria were to do the same with the Iraqi refugees.
2.In my opinion, the current opinion makers in the ME fall into one of three categories: the stupid, the traitors, and the stupid traitors. I leave it up to the discussants to tell me where Mr. Young lies.

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May 10th, 2007, 6:10 pm

 

2. Atassi said:

What are the motives of Mr. Assad for escalating and setting the stage for a sure confrontation with the U.N. if the tribunal is created?
Can we fairly conclude that Mr. Assad & his inner circle became overly confidant to the point that are predicting real threats to the regime existence will NOT be one of the outcome of this tribunal ?
Has he being lead to believe that the American are so paralyzed in Iraq to a point where the multi conflicts management strategy of the US administration is no longer a viable in reality?
Is he really looking for a future strong Israeli governments as the next peace partner “weak Israeli government unable of to take strategic decision”? Or just sending hot balloons to the other side of the border…

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May 10th, 2007, 6:33 pm

 

3. why-discuss said:

Syria has nothing to loose by taking a hard position. Bashar is sending a strong message to the US ( US is usually the one sending strong messages!) telling them : I don’t need you because your proxy, Israel is pathetically paralyzed after the Winograd report and can’t take any decisions until all the corrupted and incapable members of its governement resign. Because you are pathetically sending more young soldiers to death in Iraq without having a clue where this will lead. Because Condie Rice is a pathetic figure desperately begging Iran to soften its position and having Iran, ironically offering to help the US in an exit strategy. The international tribunal will threatened Syria’s regime, what a joke! We have seen the Security Council resolutions against Iran ignored and dismaying the US, we have seen the sanctions against North Koreas leading to nothing. Sanctions against Syria will simply open wide the borders to more arms to Herzbollah and more fighters to tease the US in Iraq.
The UN has no leverage against Syria, and its isolation will more harm the US than it will Syria.
It is time the US wake up to the dead-end they have put themselves in where the only pathetic success they hope for is a forced Chapter 7 for tiny Lebanon with all the potentially negative consequences. I think guilt and shame are unknown words in the US administration’s vocabulary.

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May 10th, 2007, 6:59 pm

 

4. ausamaa said:

The best policy for Syria during these troubled time is to keep saying: NO. And to say it more strongly than before. This is the only language its opponents understand. And Syria has -during the past few years- proved to possess the internal and external means to render its NO or its YES meaningful and worthy. Its oppononts are lacking this strength as the situation in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine clearly demonstrates.

Why not go out of its way and be “enthusiasticaly” accommodating? Simply because because Syria can not take the “promisses” of its oppononts at either face value or in good faith. Syria can never seem to be doing “enough”. Syria’s opponents’ previous and current behavior attest to this. And evidently, Syria is being given the run-around now; it has to prove its “goodwill” (and they keep insisting Syria must) and to prove its “good faith” before they award it its due. Despite the fact that Syria is the weaker side which needs to be reassured first. And despite the fact that THEY publicly and unashamedly keep repeating that they are a threat to Syria’s well being (not vice versa). Syria refused this when the situation was much more dangerous. It should continue to do so now, that it is stronger, until the other side “proves” its badly-needed goodwill and good faith. Super power or not. The fact remains that it is a Super Power yes, but a Super Power that can not attack Syria and win at will, and a Super Power which is in need of Syria’s assistance.
As in NOW!

Iranian policy is a good example of how a Strong and Confident party should act. And like it or not; Syria is a strong element in the current regional equation and a big firm Syrian NO would yield much greater results than any other approach.

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May 10th, 2007, 7:02 pm

 

5. Dameem said:

Hi everybody, LTNS

It finally happened, my long time wish: SC got and Icon. Un ugly one, but at least now it has one. Webmaster, I would suggest looking at the icon at fastcompany.com as an idea for an alternative.
The new design is nice as well.

Hmm, gotta say something relevant….what should I say, what should I say, ok,got it: what’s qusay khoory doing in the background?? Best I can do:)

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May 10th, 2007, 7:25 pm

 

6. majedkhaldoun said:

never the less Bashar statement is confrontational and arrogant, remind me of his previous statement(half men),it is not going to help him, it will encourage Russia to vote for UNSC to agree to establish tribunal, he could have avoided the subject,now,I blame his advisors too

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May 10th, 2007, 7:31 pm

 

7. Atassi said:

You would need to be careful when you say, Syria need to keep on pressing the “NO” button and keep taking a hard position. In the tribunal case every “NO” counts!!. Please keep in mind, the regime continues to be in a weak and isolated state, Dr Bashar must walk the fine line and my advice to him no to dig deeper.

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May 10th, 2007, 7:51 pm

 

8. Souri said:

Hi everybody,

repeat after me

Al-Asad ila al abad, Bilrouh bildam nafdiq ya bashar

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May 10th, 2007, 8:20 pm

 
 

10. Atassi said:

Dissident sentenced to 12 years in prison as Assad seeks 2nd term in office
By ZEINA KARAM
Associated Press Writer

10 May 2007

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) – A Syrian court sentenced a prominent dissident and human rights activist to 12 years in prison Thursday, signaling President Bashar Assad’s determination to continue to crack down on dissent as he seeks another seven years in office.

The sentence against Kamal Labwani, who was jailed after meeting White House officials two years ago, was the harshest against a dissident since Assad took over from his late father in 2000. It came less than two weeks after another pro-democracy activist was hit with a five-year prison sentence.

Assad, as expected, did not address the crackdown in his one-hour speech, which was repeatedly interrupted by applauding legislators in the 250-member parliament.

“He who seeks to isolate Syria is isolating himself from the issues of the region,” he said, referring to the U.S. and Europe’s shunning of Damascus since the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

That isolation has eased in recent months with visits to the Syrian capital by foreign officials including EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with her Syrian counterpart in the highest-level bilateral meeting in two years — a gesture toward dialogue aimed at easing their numerous disputes.

Washington has repeatedly called on Syria to release Labwani and other activists jailed in the past two years.

When Assad succeeded his father in July 2000, he released hundreds of political prisoners detained during Hafez Assad’s 30 year rule. But he soon clamped down on pro-democracy activists, indicating there were limits to the amount of opposition he was prepared to tolerate.

Labwani, a 50-year-old physician and head of a pro-democracy group, was sentenced to 12 years in prison on charges of contacting a foreign country and “encouraging attack against Syria.” He was arrested in November 2005 after returning from a visit to the United States, where he met with White House officials.

Labwani looked shocked for a few seconds when the judge pronounced the verdict, then gave a faint smile and raised his fist in the air, without speaking. Relatives quietly murmured “Allahu Akbar” (God is great).

“It is too much,” whispered Labwani’s wife, Samar. She described the charges as “fabricated.”

Defense lawyer Khalil Maatouk said the ruling would be appealed within 30 days. “This is a political trial,” he said.

“What we’re seeing today is another symbol of the peaceful opposition to the Assad regime being punished for their views,” said Nadim Houri, Syria researcher with Human Rights Watch.

“If Syria wants to play the constructive role that Assad says that it wants to play, it has to show that it is serious about opening up space in Syria for dissent and activism in general,” he added.

Dissident Maamoun Homsi, a former lawmaker who was imprisoned before he fled abroad, said Labwani’s sentence sends a clear message to the U.S. in light of recent diplomatic contacts with Syria.

“It is an extremely important message that reveals the true face of this regime. The message is that the price of a visit by a dissident physician to the U.S. is 12 years in prison,” he said.

The Labwani verdict came after Anwar al-Bunni, a human rights lawyer who had spoken out about torture in Syrian prisons, received a five-year prison sentence on similar charges on April 24.

Al-Bunni was also among 500 Syrian and Lebanese intellectuals who signed the so-called “Damascus Declaration” that called on the Syrian government to improve ties with neighboring Lebanon, a sensitive issue in Syria. In May last year, a week after signing the declaration, he and at least eight other activists were arrested.

Two others who signed the declaration, Michel Kilo and Mahmoud Issa, are also on trial.

Assad is assured of a second term as president. The Syrian legislature — where his ruling Baath party is guaranteed a majority by the constitution — is expected to approve his nomination on Friday.

The nomination then goes to a popular referendum, expected before Assad’s term expires July 17.

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May 10th, 2007, 8:41 pm

 

11. majedkhaldoun said:

الأطلسي: ساعة الصفر للحرب على إيران اقتربت مع اكتمال الحشود وتحويل الخليج “محمية دولية”

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May 10th, 2007, 8:56 pm

 

12. ausamaa said:

Majedkhaldoun,

And you bet Iran is scared to death, right??!!

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May 10th, 2007, 9:47 pm

 

13. majedkhaldoun said:

Ausamaa;
there are several indications that USA will attack Iran, yes Iran should be scared,I do expect it more if USA neutralize Syria, and paralyze HA.
Do I understand your comment to mean that USA will not attack Iran?

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May 10th, 2007, 10:12 pm

 

14. Bakri said:

Dr Labwani deserves to be the president of Syria not this traitor son of traitor bashar al wahesh.

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May 10th, 2007, 10:44 pm

 

15. K said:

Alex believes there will be Syrian-Lebanese brotherhood if Aoun is elected President of Lebanon.

And I say: when Kamal Labwani, Anwar al-Bunni, and Michel Kilo rule Syria, there will be Syrian-Lebanese brotherhood.

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May 11th, 2007, 12:42 am

 

16. K said:

Friends,

I stumbled on this exchange on a different blog, between a few Aounists (I assume). Without agreeing or disagreeing with their analyses, I find it interesting, and I thought you might be interested too:

– Having betrayed ‘Aoun, stabbed him in the back, and ordered their resigning ministers to go back to work with the “traitor!” Saniora, the Shiite Bloc seem to have made their choices. They will resort to all kinds of smoke screens to conceal what they have done but the matter is very clear. Rice bought Syria in Sharm El-Sheikh and Syria instructed the Shiite Bloc to desert ‘Aoun. Meanwhile, David Welsh informed Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir of the deal when they met in Rome. A Hariri Employee will be elected as President. And that is the sad fact.

Finally the USA has succeeded in making ‘Aoun PAY VERY HEAVILY for
CROSSING THE SECTARIAN LINE to meet with Shiites. As it stands,a Sameer Ja’Ja’ Presidency is but a nod away from ‘Aoun with the blessing of the Cardinal.

– Samir Ja’Ja’ a possible president of Lebanon?

Isn’t a president supposed to be a unifying factor? How could such a controversial figue be considered a candidate for presidency?

– Hariri can give him 70 votes out of possible 127 which is the total number of votes. He also has the blessings of Cardinal Sfeir.
Nabih Berri, head of the Shiite Amal faction promised to respect
Cardinal Sfeir’s choice. Berri’s votes will be enough for a Quorum
and Ja’Ja’ victory. However, in view of what I stated above, it is more likely that Ja’Ja’ will be elected by ACCLAMATION.

– I understand your concern, but please note that the Shia’a ministers are back for one reason (take that to the bank): To pave the way to the formation of an opposition government with General Aoun as bullwark. That’s one way of being there in “transition” to being there!! No one stabbed anyone in the back: it’s the nature of Lebanese politics, just watch and see!

– Thank you for your comment. My reasoning is based on multitude of facts which I explained in postings below dealing with the Maronite Church desire to apply censorship. And I do have the feeling that there is a great credibilty to the theory that Hizbullah and Berri were using ‘Aoun all along. Hence, it is time for me to reinterpret all the steps that were taken by Hizbullah and Berri in that light. It is my opinion that ‘Aoun proved to be a naiive politician which was fooled by politicians much more shrewd than he will ever be. And it is high time for him as well as his well wishers and also followers to wake up and smell the stench of Lebanese realities. Thanks again.

– The issue of censorship in Lebanon is nothing but a red herring.
Lebanon has the least restrictive laws in the Arab Region when it comes to freedom of expression. So discussing the issue of censorship is a futile effort and a waste of everybody’s time. If any importance is to be granted to what comes out of the Bkirki Maronite Circles, it should be allotted to the recent moves and declarations after Cardinal Sfeir’s recent visit to the Vatican where he met with the Pope but most importantly with David Welsh of the US state department. This visit took place simultaneously with Sharm El-Sheikh Conference which witnessed the warm meeting between Condoleeza Rice and Syria’s foreign minister which made Iran extremely unhappy.

All of a sudden, a series of events took place:
– General ‘Aoun announces his candidacy for the post of President of Lebanon hoping that Hizbullah and Amal will declare support immediately.
– Instead Hizbullah sent a delegation to ‘Aoun to explain why they CAN NOT declare support for him! Thus dealing him a major blow.
– Instead, Hizbullah sent Qassim to Damascus to make speeches which included praising Bashshar Al-Asad, a most hateful charachter in Sunnis and Christian eyes. And to please Iran,the Hizb’s mouthpiece, Al-Manar, deleted any reference to Al-Asad in that speech.
– The other Shiite faction, Nabeeh Berri’s Amal announced that it will stand behind Cardinal Sfeir’s choice for President.
– Both Hizbullah and Amal ordered their resigning ministers to go back to work with Saniora, the traitor…..etc.
– As a result of all that, word coming from Beirut today is that
‘Aoun will be meeting with Ja’Ja’ to discuss the Presidency under the watchful eyes of the Cardinal and his blessings. The Cardinal has already signaled that it is possible for less than two thirds of Lebanese MP”s qualify for a Quorum in electing the President
thus joining the Hariri camp in that regard.

In conclusion, the Huge step that ‘Aoun took in crossing over to
join hands with Hizbullah has been sabotaged and is almost dead.
Hizbullah’s regional politics took precedence and Nabih Berri was bought by Hariri as was the case with his father always. It is a day of triumph for sectarianism in Lebanon today. It is a day of sadness for all nationalists in Lebanon.

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May 11th, 2007, 3:18 am

 

17. Enlightened said:

K:

Interesting, I think however that what ever candidate asumes the Presidency he has to be a unifying factor for all the Lebanese, I cannot see that Geagea is the right man, too many atrocities and blood on his hands, the Lebanese need to look elsewhere, Aoun has done his dash. Look for someone from M14 but not these two, we need to look forward not backwards.

Whoever it might be they have a lot of work to do. Lets hope the right choice is made.

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May 11th, 2007, 3:37 am

 

18. Craig said:

Observer,

it is delusional to ask for a regime to cooperate in its own destruction

Is that an admission that the Syrian government was behind the Hariri assassination, and other similar acts? Is the Syrian statement tantamount to an admission of guilt?

You’re right, it would be foolish to expect the Syrians to co-operate if they are certain their government would be found responsible.

So, the next move is to proceed accordingly, right?

Because, wouldn’t it be equally delusional for the Syrian government to think that after all this, everyone is just going to forget about it, just because they don’t want to face the charges?

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May 11th, 2007, 7:40 am

 

19. ausamaa said:

MAJEDKHALDOUN:

“I do expect it more if USA neutralize Syria, and paralyze HA.”

And why not expect the Bush Admin to: wipeout the Iraqi resistance, make Hamas vanish and capture all of Taliban’s unicorns at the same time! You can also through in sidelining Putin for good measure too?

You have real high expectations from the Bush Admin. Don’t you?

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May 11th, 2007, 11:27 am

 

20. Ford Prefect said:

Ausamaa, you are right on. Also, if some entities can be “neutralized”, Israel would have been the first case study to look at as it has been trying to neutralize “things” for 60 years. Not a stellar neutralizing record so far.

And as for the US administration and its capabilities for “neutralizing”, one can observe the record of this incompetent administration in the US and abroad.

Apprarently, the Sharper Image isn’t selling enough inonizers.

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May 11th, 2007, 11:58 am

 

21. why-discuss said:

Hezbollah’s candidate to the presidency is certainly Aoun, there is no doubt in Seyyed Nasrallah lastest interview. The 14 Mars group has lots of aspiring president: Nayla Mowawad (ex Assad), Sza-Sza ( ex convict), Boutros Harb( No smell, no taste), Amine Gemayel ( ex-israel agent), Charles Rizk ( ex-international tribunal) etc…. There will be big fights within the 14 march group to get One candidate. So ultimately, in the very probable failure of finding a consensus president, Lebanon will look for a way out similar to Turkey: the voice of the people or face a parallel governement created by Lahoud. Interesting times to come…

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May 11th, 2007, 3:26 pm

 

22. Ford Prefect said:

I think that Fares Boueiz is the best unifying presidential candidate for Lebanon during these interesting times.

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May 11th, 2007, 4:17 pm

 

23. Alex said:

Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir visited president Lahhoud for the first time in years. After the meeting he talked about the need to have distinguished relations with “our neighbor”.

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May 11th, 2007, 5:08 pm

 

24. ausamaa said:

de javu…

Dont you like this?? Abouna Sfair came down from his high seat to visit the illigitimate, Syrian-puppet and the unconstitiutional President Lahoud!!!

That is similar to the Mountain coming to Mohammed. Or coming to Mohammed’s friend. And the Presidential Election fiasco has not rolled in full frenzy yet.

What do you all think him he asked him apart from: How is the weather in Damascus???

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May 11th, 2007, 6:27 pm

 

25. idaf said:

“Would you want to go back and live the normal life as an eye Doctor?”.. “Do you want your son to be the next president of Syria?”.. These are some of the interesting questions that Ann Curry asked Bashar Assad.. check out his answers in the 80 minutes long interview (the most interesting part starts at 1:07 minute of the interview).

Also worth watching, her interview with Asma Assad, the “surprisingly modern” first lady! ..”surprisingly modern” lady.. US media has a lot to learn on Syria.

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May 11th, 2007, 6:38 pm

 

26. G said:

Yeah Alex, that’s all you heard, eh? It’s nice to be clueless and pretend that you’re “perceptive.”

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May 11th, 2007, 6:42 pm

 

27. Bakri said:

As expected ,It seem that the american zionist lobby has chosen to polish the image of the asads amongst the american public.

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May 11th, 2007, 7:41 pm

 

28. why-discuss said:

Bakri, why would they do that?

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May 11th, 2007, 9:13 pm

 

29. ausamaa said:

Bakri,

The American Zionist Lobby has chosen to Polish Al Assad image????

Yeh, you got that right, I have also heard that White House staff have been trying to sway Bush away from placing a full length picture of Bashar Al Assad behind him during his next press conference!!!

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May 11th, 2007, 9:15 pm

 

30. Alex said:

Bakri,

wow! … that was really some statement.

I have yet to find a single time one of you, Assad’s harsh critics, could manage to come up with a remotely balanced assessment of anything he says or does.

Almost all journalists who met with Assad or his wife came out very impressed… American, British, Italian, Arab …

But of course we have instead to adopt the more “accurate” image designed by Cheney, Junblatt, Khaddam, and Chirac and spread all over the place through Asharq alawsat, assyassa, almustaqbal, and the many “Syrian opposition” sites.

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May 11th, 2007, 10:19 pm

 

31. Bakri said:

It’s easy for those who have stolen more than 100 billions of US dollars from syria’s wealth and who oppress a nation in the vilest ways to play the good looking people for some minutes , many sons of these killers and rapists could replace bashar very well in that role…here is not the problem and it’s possible to forgive an american journalist but not you Alex,because you must be aware of the syrian realities,the problem is that you are not sensitive of the endless list of misfortunes and sufferings of the syrian people.
As for asma akhrass i have pity on her.

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May 11th, 2007, 11:15 pm

 

32. ausamaa said:

Alex, come on, how could you be like this?!

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May 12th, 2007, 4:33 pm

 

33. G said:

* كيف تريد ان يتعاطى الرئيس الجديد مع ملفي سلاح حزب الله والعلاقة مع سوريا؟
– نحن بلد مستقل وله كيانه وله قوانينه وله شعبه ونريد ان يقوم بيننا وبين كل البلدان وخصوصا البلد الذي نحن جيرانه احسن العلاقات ولكن ما عدا ذلك فهذا امر قد يكون تجاوز القوانين المعهودة.
اما بالنسبة الى السلاح فهذا معروف في كل البلدان السلاح يكون فقط في يد المسؤولين في يد الجيش اللبناني وكل تعد على ذلك يشكل خروجا عن القوانين.

اذا تعذر الفصل السادس فيصبح اللجوء الى الفصل السابع ضروريا

Not even remotely close to what that regime stooge alex made it out to be. But then again, a regime stooge has the brains of a regime stooge.

If you like I can decipher word for word what this comment means. It cannot be farther from your silly selective, sinister, unethical, colonialist, interpretation. But then again, I’m asking a regime stooge and apologist for murderers to be honest…

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May 13th, 2007, 1:59 am

 

34. Alex said:

A much more reasonable Daily Star Editorial … sounds like Rami Khoury, but could be Michael Young too… who knows.

Assad can best serve his country by ending the witch-hunt

Syria’s government is like those of many Arab countries in being uncertain over how to take the next step at a time when the world is changing more quickly and more profoundly than ever before. This week’s events seem to remove any doubt that Damascus is bent on retrenchment, that absent a foolproof plan to keep political liberalization from getting out of control, it would rather stay where it is or even retreat into the past. This would be unfortunate, especially since the only way to pursue such a strategy would entail the imposition of heavy socioeconomic costs on the Syrian public – and in any event the effort itself would almost certainly be in vain.

Thursday’s sentencing of dissident Kamal Labwani to life in prison, commuted to 12 years, was not the act of a system infused with confidence in its own future. Coming as it did on the same day that Syrian legislators nominated President Bashar Assad for a second seven-year term, the sentence actually undermined his consistent efforts to portray his leadership as popular and stable. The facts of the matter are that Assad has a new Parliament controlled by his Baath Party and on May 27 a referendum will officially grant him a new mandate to remain in office. This should make him and the system over which he presides more than magnanimous enough to tolerate criticism from what is still a tiny and disorganized opposition.

Apart from the damage inflicted on Syria’s image, cracking down on dissent also distracts the government’s attention from far more pressing matters, including the possible resumption of talks with Israel over the hoped-for return of the Golan Heights seized by the Jewish state in 1967. Pursuing critics at home also undermines the efforts of international players working to end Syria’s continuing isolation from much of the West – and diverts resources from efforts to combat the effects of that lonely position.

These and other issues are important to all Syrians, but they also matter to the Lebanese. Beirut and Damascus are not on good terms right now, but geography and history dictate that this stage will pass. Come what may, a weak Syria would carry all sorts of potential troubles for Lebanon, so this country has a vested interest in seeing its neighbor regain the optimism and vigor that followed Assad’s initial rise to power in 2000. His youth and personal experience were touted then as evidence that a new generation had come to the fore and that with it would come a new approach to the full gamut of civil and human rights. The initial results of his softer line on dissent frightened many representatives of the establishment, though, and they successfully engineered a return to the Baath’s traditional stance toward its opponents.

A medical doctor and a family man, Labwani is hardly a bomb-throwing radical. His associates say he plans to appeal, and with luck the verdict will be overturned. If it is not, Assad would do himself a huge favor by pardoning Labwani and ending a witch-hunt that only serves to discredit the president, his party and his country. Far from impairing Syrian national security, such a move would enhance it by freeing the government to get ready for the next stage of development.

The full weight of globalization has yet to make itself felt in Syria, but it inevitably will. This gives Assad and his colleagues two choices: They can try to implement reforms that allow it to shape the outcome of this process, or they can batten down the hatches and watch their edifice decay until it is swept aside by forces far beyond the ability of any government to defeat.

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May 13th, 2007, 7:34 am

 

35. why-discuss said:

Bashar in his interview said that priorities for Syria have changed: Now security is first, economy second and political reform third. Who can blame him? It is very hard for a country hosting more than a million iraqi refugees and a sizable number of Palestinian refugees ( not all of them with good intentions), a country having a border with another where there is civil war, and another border with a bellicous country occupying syrian land, to feel it has an urgency to make political reforms! The US after 9/11 has spent all its energy in national security, war etc…and created Guantanamo where there is no trial, just detention!
I think Bashar is waiting for the region to calm down before embarking in any major reform, in the meantime any threat to the political statu quo is severely punished. Sounds logical to me.

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May 13th, 2007, 7:48 am

 

36. Homo Libanus said:

Actually, Why-Discuss, there is a lot to blame on Assad. He has about 35% of the IQ of his father, but 110% of his father’s zeal. He has achieved nothing but embarassement and isolation for his country. Yes, it makes sense to say security first. You can claim some of the US problems are of its own making. In Syria’s case, however, all of its problems are 100% of its own making. The Baathists have failed at everything: economically, militarilly, socially. They are poor. The population is badly educated. They are also military failures, and have avoided every confrontation since they lost the Golan. Their only contribution to the world has been terrorism. He is now fighting his last battle. The Hariri Tribunal will likely present the names of his Brother, Brother-in-Law and others as suspects, and by next month he will be a wanted man like Milosevic. Let’s hope that Iran can be pried away from Syria (not the other way around like the Syrians seem to think is happening), so that regime change can be made in the country without a region-wide conflict. One this is for certain: there will be no peace in the Middle East as long as the current regime is in place in Damascus.

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May 13th, 2007, 11:10 am

 

37. why-discuss said:

Homo Libanus, do you mean to say that Bashar has inherited from his father a prosperous and rich Syria and he as spoiled it all? I doubt that, I think he has inherited a crippled country, partly occupied by Israel ( 100 % his making?)and did’nt have much time to change the voracious dinosaurs still in his Baath party.
He has been the neighbour of lovely Saddam Hussein Irak, he has now 1.5 million iraqi refugees without counting the palestinians (his making?) to whom he is giving free education and access to medical service and Syria is a poor country..
Yes, if this family is implicated in the murder of Hariri, that would be very a blow for him but I think he is clever enough to fight back ( we will see if you are right about his IQ) and inflict harm to Lebanon by implicating proeminent Lebanese politicians now in the 14 march group and others too.
We are in for a bloody political battle…

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May 13th, 2007, 4:36 pm

 

38. K said:

Why-discuss

Harming and terrorizing Lebanon does not require a high IQ, just callousness. It’s actually the easiest path for the Ba’thist regime; it’s their tried-and-tested specialty. All other options are costlier for them, and require more skill and intelligence than they possess. Our role as Lebanese is to increase the regime’s cost of harming Lebanon, and we will not hesitate to use every means at our disposal to defend ourselves.

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May 14th, 2007, 12:42 am

 

39. why-discuss said:

K

I think the lebanese have harmed themselves enough for 15 years of civil war and it is was not for the syrian army, there would not be much people to run the country. Syria could have left the lebanese to kill each others instead of loosing syrian lives.
The Lebanese are still harnming themselves and have killed young innocents (you can’t blame Syria for that). Unfortunately Lebanon is ruled by vendettas and left to themselves they would eat each other like wolves. Now that they have tasted the devastating civil war, they seem full of hatred for the Syrian and its allies instead of being full of hatred to themselves for having destroyed the country once.

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May 15th, 2007, 2:01 pm

 

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