Posted by Joshua on Friday, April 24th, 2009
Assad plans to go to Austria after 4 year delay due to US pressure
A delegation of 65 people business personalities are accompanying the Presidential trip to Austria. It will be led by Kuzbari, one of Syria’s richest businessmen.
In 2005 I wrote for the Council on Foreign Relations:
Syria is totally isolated. Bashar Assad had visits lined up to go to Austria and Brazil, but both were stopped due to U.S. pressure. The Turkish Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdogan] was supposed to come here a few months ago and he ultimately had to apologize and not come, but all the papers were saying it was because of U.S. pressure. The Europeans are not opening their doors to the Syrians….
Jerry Seinfeld’s mother is from Aleppo!! Who knew?
Money From Abroad Floods Into Lebanon to Buy Votes: NYT, 2009-04-23 By Robert Worth
BEIRUT, Lebanon — It is election season in Lebanon, and Hussein H., a jobless 24-year-old from south Beirut, is looking forward to selling his vote to the highest bidder.
“Whoever pays the most will get my vote,” he said. “I won’t accept less than $800.”
He may get more. The parliamentary elections here in June are shaping up to be among the most expensive ever held anywhere, with hundreds of millions of dollars streaming into this small country from around the globe….
…“We are putting a lot into this,” said one adviser to the Saudi government, who added that the Saudi contribution was likely to reach hundreds of millions of dollars in a country of only four million people. “We’re supporting candidates running against Hezbollah, and we’re going to make Iran feel the pressure.”….
Here is a note I received by email from an American Lebanese who is 40 and will be flown to Lebanon to vote:
My Mom called me this morning…. she was in Tripoli to get me an ikhraj qaid [birth certificate] that I need to submit at the naqabeh [court]. She told me the moukhtar was flooded with ID requests for the elections. he told her, let’s make one for your son so he can come and vote. She did not have extra pictures so they took an old one, copied it and generated 5 extra one on a color copier with photo paper, Incredible. He told her it will be ready in time for the elections and for me to make sure to see him when I am there. Wink wink, lord knows who he wants me to vote for!
Hezbollah win in Lebanon poll would be big upset By Sam Ghattas © AP, 2009-04-23
BEIRUT (AP) – With quiet campaigning and moderate talk, Hezbollah is building its strength for Lebanon’s June 7 parliamentary elections _ and the militant Shiite Muslim group and its allies stand a good chance of winning.
That could mean a stunning shake-up for one of the Middle East’s most volatile countries, replacing a pro-U.S. government with a coalition dominated from behind the scenes by Hezbollah, the political movement and guerrilla group widely seen as the proxy of Iran and Syria in Lebanon.
The U.S. and Israel consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization, and their biggest fear is that a win by the group and its allies would increase the sway of Iran and Syria. The U.S. ambassador in Beirut has already expressed concern, and Hezbollah’s opponents warn the consequence may be the West isolating Lebanon and Washington reducing its millions in aid…. U.S. Ambassador Michele Sison warned that American relations with Lebanon _ and future U.S. aid _ «will be evaluated in the context of the new government’s policies and statements.» Since 2006, the United States has committed over a billion dollars to Lebanon, including $410 million to the country’s security forces.
But Hezbollah, whose name means «Party of God,» has taken the strategy of a low-key election campaign with a moderate message, aiming to show that a victory by its coalition should not scare anyone….
The Obama-Netanyahu Divide
By Sadie Goldman, Senior Policy Associate, Israel Policy Forum
Wednesday, April 22, 2009 – 5:57pm
After his meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah yesterday, President Barack Obama said of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, “We can’t talk forever. . . . At some point steps have to be taken so that people can see progress on the ground.”….
Netanyahu Government Tells Obama What He Can Do With His Peace Plan
MJ Rosenberg, Washington Director of Policy Analysis, Israel Policy Forum, April 22, 2009
“…Netanyahu .. thinks Obama is a lightweight and that he can just roll him. Today’s Washington Post quotes Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon as saying that “the new Israeli government will not move ahead on the core issues of peace talks with the Palestinians until it sees progress in U.S. efforts to stop Iran’s suspected pursuit of a nuclear weapon and limit Tehran’s rising influence in the region.”
US Pushing for Two States Within Four Years [Thanks to IPF]
Reserve General Danny Rothschild was deputy head of military intelligence and former coordinator of government activities in the territories. He is President of the Council for Peace and Security, an association of former senior Israeli officers who advocate for a negotiated solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Pulse: How do you view the developing US position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Rothschild: I see real persistence on the American side. I met with Special Envoy Mitchell and others in the administration and what I heard from them coincides with the recent comments by Rahm Emanuel – - the message coming out of Washington is very persistent: they are pushing for a two-state solution within four years.
Michael Young in the Daily Star, via Qifa Nabki and FLC.
“….. more worryingly for Jumblatt, his statements have marginalized him within March 14. The Druze leader has always been a good triangulator – someone who gains from positioning himself between contending forces. He’s lost that capacity now. Saad Hariri is emerging as the most forceful guardian of the March 14 political line; he has stuck to his Christian allies, despite the improvement in relations between Saudi Arabia and Syria;……….Jumblatt’s analysis of Christian, particularly Maronite, electoral mistakes is sound. The excessive representation of the Phalange and the Lebanese Forces in candidate lists, at the expense of non-party independents, will doubtless lose March 14 votes……. his statements only reinforce that likelihood. If the Druze leader is preparing to alter his approach with respect to Syria and Hizbullah, isn’t it better for him and his partners to win the elections first and negotiate that change from a position of strength? The leaked video backfired, and now we may have to prepare for the grim fact, as King Abdullah of Jordan predicted this week, that the Hizbullah-led opposition will come out of the elections a winner.”
Syrian FM says large proportion of public opinion in Arab world supports Iranian president words.
DAMASCUS – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at a UN conference on racism had widespread Arab support even if it stirred a walkout over his anti-Israeli stand, Syria said on Wednesday.
“A large proportion of public opinion in the Arab world supports the words of the Iranian president,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said at a joint press conference with his Luxembourg counterpart Jean Asselborn.
The president used his podium in Geneva on Monday to criticise the creation of a “totally racist government in occupied Palestine” in 1948, branding the Israeli administration “the most cruel and repressive racist regime.”
Ahmadinejad said the West “sent migrants from Europe, the United States … in order to establish a racist government in the occupied Palestine.”
“The Palestinians should not be turned into victims of a Holocaust which they did not commit. It should not serve as a pretext for the Israelis to commit a Holocaust in Palestine, Gaza, the West Bank or Lebanon,” Muallem said….
“… Rahm Emanuel said, “In the next four years, there will be a peace agreement with the Palestinians on the basis of two states for two peoples, and it does not matter to us who is the prime minister.” Katz wrote: “For many Israelis, this report is a cause for worry because it reveals a condescending attitude toward our prime minister and Israeli public opinion. This is an attitude that Israel does not expect from a real friend such as the US, and all the more so from an Israeli Jew who has succeeded in being appointed White House chief-of-staff.”
by Frederick Deknatel | 19 Apr 2009
They lived well in Baghdad; their eldest daughter had two cars. Six years later, the Iraqi couple moves their mattresses out of the bedroom each night to sleep on the living room floor. The only bedroom is left for their daughters while they live in this concrete refugee suburb of Damascus.
Can the al-Asad Regime Make Peace with Israel?
By J. Scott Carpenter
April 21, 2009
Washington Inst. for Near East Policy
U.S. and European observers believe that Israel’s new government will seek peace with Damascus in an attempt to pry the Syrian regime away from Tehran. Pursuing the Syrian track would also give the Obama administration an outlet for its peacemaking energies, given the ongoing dysfunction of Palestinian politics. Syrian president Bashar al-Asad, however, poured cold water on such prospects at the Arab League Summit in Doha, calling efforts toward peace with Israel “useless.” Rhetoric notwithstanding, advocates of the Syrian track hope an isolated and economically desperate Damascus will grasp the olive branch, ushering in a strategic regional realignment and a period of relative stability. Although these are laudable objectives, such a peace with Syria remains highly unlikely for a fundamental reason: without Israel as an enemy, Syria’s minority regime loses its sole rationale for retaining power……
DAMASCUS, Apr 23, 2009 (Xinhua via COMTEX) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday reshuffled the Syrian cabinet with the appointment of five new ministers and the establishment of a new ministry, the official SANA news agency reported.
The president issued a decree in which he named Saeed Sammour as the new interior minister, Ahmad Younes as the new minister of Justice, Rida Said as the new minister of health, Tamer Fouad al- Hejjeh as the new minister of local administration, and Mansour Azzam as the new minister of presidential affairs.
The Ministry of Environment, headed by Kawkab al-Sabah Dayeh, was established according to the decree, the report said.
The decree also included the appointment of Mohammed Nabil al- Khatib as chairman of the Central Commission of Inspection.
It’s Assad’s second major reshuffle of his government since February 2006, when Assad changed 14 posts in the Syrian cabinet, including key foreign and interior ministers.
Last year, the president replaced five ministers, including housing and electricity ministers, in another reshuffle.
BAGHDAD, April 23 (UPI) — Syria and Iraq moved a step closer to normalizing relations during meetings in Baghdad by moving on plans to repair an oil pipeline between the two countries.
U.S. forces bombed the pipeline to Syria shortly after the 2003 invasion. Plans to repair the route have moved along in various stages since then. Iraqi oil officials opened invitations for bids to examine the pipeline and necessary repairs, The National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates reports.
The Kirkuk-Banias oil pipeline extends 500 miles from oil fields in northern Iraq to the Syrian port of Banias. At its peak, the line carried around 300,000 barrels per day. Repairs to the line would give Iraq a vital avenue for oil exports to Europe while providing much-needed economic incentives to Syria…..