Posted by Joshua on Sunday, August 24th, 2008
Biden on Syria: Qifa Nabki rounded up Biden quotes on Syria and the region:
“There are plenty of reasons to mistrust Assad, but there could be real benefits to hard-headed diplomacy. Syria is the common denominator of many problems – in Lebanon , the Palestinian territories, and to a lesser extent Iraq. They are Iran 's closest ally. But it is also a fundamentally weak and isolated regime. We should work to break up its marriage of convenience with Iran. If Syria could be encouraged to act less irresponsibly it could have a real impact in the region.” (August 8, 2007)
It is a mistake not to let Israel, if it wishes to, if it sees an opportunity to go out and explore possibilities with the Syrians. If I’m in Damascus, what’s in my best interest? My best interest is to be free of Iran’s yoke, on the good side of the equation with the oil-producing Sunni states, and able to deliver for my people what appears to be a victory by having a settlement on the Golan. Now, whether that can be accomplished remains to be seen, but it should be explored." (March 20, 2007)
For more on what Biden thinks of various Middle East issues, see this helpful page at Jewish Virtual Library
Yoav Stern writes in Haaretz: Assad: Next round of Syria-Israel talks will be 'decisive'
The next round of indirect negotiations between Damacus and Jerusalem will be "decisive," Syrian President Bashar Assad told reporters over the weekend.
Responding to a query as to whether progress had been made during the talks, Assad told reporters: "As of now, we have not reached anything tangible."
The Turkish-mediated negotiations, which were meant to resume this week in Istanbul, have been postponed till next week.
Assad told an Arabic-language television station based in Russia that Syria was not sure Israel was even interested in peace. "I can't say at all that we have confidence [in Israel]."……
In an article posted yesterday on the Asia Times Web site, Syrian political analyst Sami Moubayed, wrote that the concern in Jerusalem is "playing nicely into the hands of Syria, which is using it to strengthen its ties with an old and resurrected friend, send messages to a traditional foe [Israel], and pressure the United States into changing course over Damascus."
U.S. Syria expert Joshua Landis wrote in his blog Syriacomment.com that "Syria's bad negotiating position is leading it to look for more weapons and to try to grow more teeth before returning to the table with Israel," adding, "Both Assad and Hezbollah are hoping to get new weapons systems from Russia and greater diplomatic backing." But despite the preoccupation with weapons, he asserts that all eyes are on the peace process.
Russia baulks at selling missiles to Syria
By Isabel Gorst in Moscow, August 22 2008, FT
The president of Syria spent two days this week in Russia with a shopping list of sophisticated weapons he wanted to buy. The visit may prove a worrisome preview of things to come. Although Russia has long supplied arms to Syria, it has held back until now on providing the next generation of surface-to-surface missiles. But the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, made clear that he was hoping to capitalize on rising tensions between Moscow and the West when he rushed to the resort city of Sochi to meet with his Russian counterpart, Dmitri A. Medvedev.
The list of ways a more hostile Russia could cause problems for the United States extends far beyond Syria and the mountains of Georgia…..
“If Russia’s feeling churlish, they can pretty much bring to a grinding halt any kind of coercive actions, like economic sanctions or anything else,” said Peter D. Feaver….
Syria becomes oil importer as production continues to decline
Saturday, August 23
LONDON — Syria's crude oil production, once the basis of its economy, is falling.
The London-based Oxford Business Group said Syrian oil production would fall by 7.9 percent in 2008. By 2009, OBG said, oil production in Syria would not exceed 350,000 barrels per day.
"Oil has been the mainstay of the Syrian economy for over four decades, but production passed its peak of 610,000 barrels per day in 1995 and is now falling even more rapidly than had been forecast," OBG said in a report.
The report said Syria, in contrast to previous forecasts, has failed to meet domestic fuel demand. OBG said Syria must begin to import light crude oil for gasoline in 2009.
Addendum: Idaf writes:
With regards to the Oxford Business Group’s report on oil imports in Syria, the increasing investments in oil exploration in Syria during the past year may suggest a less dramatic change in Syria’s oil export/import status. Syria Report reported last week the following on oil output in two Syrian fields:
Tanganyika Announces Sharp Increase in Output Rates
Oil output at the Tishrine and Oudeh fields increased significantly in the first half of this year, according to Tanganyika Oil Company.
However, there’s a welcome sudden interest by the Syrian government in renewable energy sources during the last few months. Some of the interesting headlines include:
Alternergie to Build Syria’ First Solar Power Plant
Alternergie, a German firm active in renewable energies, has been awarded a contract by the Ministry of Electricity to build the country’s first solar electricity plant at a cost of EUR 50 million.
The government recently assigned four sites to be used as wind farms, each with a capacity of 100mw and a cost of SYP 7.7bn (EUR 100m). The first wind station is also expected to be opened in Hassia on 555 hectares in an arid and year-round windy area. The government also recently introduced a program to subside the purchase of solar panel hot water heating systems. The greater uptake of solar water heaters is expected to help cut Syria’s household electricity consumption which totals around 50 percent of all consumption.
The ministry of electricity will distribute energy saving light bulbs for free. In addition new building codes and standards for heating and isolation and new legislations for wind energy production.
In addition, state run banks have recently started providing new loans with very low interest rates for businesses willing to install solar electricity systems.
In the business of peace: U.S. billionaire pursues his dream of Mideast peace
By Akiva Eldar
Between meeting in the Knesset with Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon and visiting his friend, President Shimon Peres, S. Daniel Abraham felt like pouring his heart out. The 84-year-old billionaire, who visited Israel earlier this month, says that for the last seven years, since meeting Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Saud – who has since been crowned king – he has not known peace. Abraham’s eyes become dewy as he talks about the meeting in Riyadh. That was when he heard the great news: 22 Arab countries had agreed to recognize Israel within the June 4, 1967 boundaries, and were offering it normal neighborly relations, as part of what became known as the Arab Initiative. Abraham recalls that he was moved to tears and told the prince that, being a Jew, he was at loss for words to describe how wonderful it was to hear such a declaration from an Arab leader of his standing…
The Role of Israel in the Georgian War
August 17, 2008
by Brian Harring
….Israel began selling arms to Georgia about seven years ago, following an initiative by Georgian citizens who immigrated to Israel and became weapons hustlers.
They contacted Israeli defense industry officials and arms dealers and told them that Georgia had relatively large budgets, mostly American grants, and could be interested in purchasing Israeli weapons.
The military cooperation between the countries developed swiftly. The fact that Georgia's defense minister, Davit Kezerashvili, is a former Israeli who is fluent in Hebrew contributed to this cooperation. “We are now in a fight against the great Russia," he said, "and our hope is to receive assistance from the White House, because Georgia cannot survive on its own. …..