Can the US and France agree on a Post-Doha Lebanon Policy?

Commentary by Joshua Landis 

The US and France are struggling to find a common post-Doha policy on Hizbullah and Syria. France is exploiting the appointment of President Michel Suleiman to rehabilitate relations with Syria, which have been in the dumps since 2005. Washington is not happy with the Franco-Syrian honeymoon. This comes as little surprise, for it marks the failure of Washington's Lebanon policy. President Bush wanted to wrest Lebanon from Syria's sphere of influence as part of an over-arching effort to reform the Greater Middle East. It should be stated that Washington succeeded in driving Syria's military out of Lebanon in 2005. But far from being able to accept this as a victory, President Bush stubbornly insisted on eradicating every expression of Syrian influence from its smaller and divided neighbor –  a policy which seemed as unwise as it was unrealizable.

Differences between France and the US have came into sharp focus over the impending Bastille Day visit to Paris of President Bashar al-Assad. Although Syria's diplomatic isolation has been crumbling over the last year, Assad's trip to Paris will be a symbolic coming out party for the Syrian President. Washington has expressed dismay over France's warming relations with Bashar. The foreign ministries of both countries have been working overtime to patch up their differences. Secretary of State Rice in a Saturday announcement says she is happy that France understands that Syria should not be completely rehabilitated. Kuchner responded to this with a soul searching announcement that he has misgivings about Assad's visit to the epicenter of civilization, brotherhood, and liberty. All the same, he points out, Syria and France had a deal about the appointment of a Lebanese president. France is merely honoring this deal by inviting Assad to Paris. He assures America that Paris will not take undo pleasure in its renewed flirtation with Damascus.

It is hard to say with any precision where the recent Hizbullah victory and subsequent Doha Agreement leave Lebanese sovereignty or Hizbullah's status.

Is Hizbullah undergoing a rehabilitation in the halls of Western Powers? Does its return to Lebanon's government within the framework of the Doha Agreement, which France so warmly embraced, mean that France will treat it as a full-fledged and legitimate political party? Or, is it a terror organization? France has maintained an admirable degree of ambiguity in its relations with Hizbullah – much like France's relations with its presidents' mistresses.

Ambiguity over Hizbullah is expressed in this story: European MPs Pressing Towards Branding Hizbullah 'Terrorist' Group. Elmar Brok, a German member of the European Parliament and chairman of the EU's committee on foreign affairs, says he is pushing a resolution to officially brand Hizbullah a terror organization, but at the same time he confesses that any real decision of the EU will be made by the European Council. Brok stressed that the issue of classifying Hizbullah as a terrorist organization should be discussed in light of Lebanon developments. He added, "important steps" have been achieved in Lebanon in light of the Doha Accord that had been signed by the various factions, including Hizbullah. Brok seems to want to publicly rebuke Hizbullah for terrorism, while accepting that it must be treated as a legitimate party, which is, in effect, a signatory to a political deal — Doha — which included Europe.

Similar ambiguity characterizes western relations with Syria. Syria helped broker the Doha agreement – hence, Assad's invitation to France. The Doha agreement enshrines Syria's continued role in Lebanese politics. Only yesterday, the West declared that Hizbullah and the Lebanese opposition were Syrian-Iranian proxies that undermine democracy and Lebanese sovereignty. Today, they are part of the government, at the heart of Doha, and recognized as authors of Lebanon's new future and unity.

President Bush and parts of his administration are clearly very unhappy about Syria's and Hizbullah's change in status. Only a few days ago, President Bush demonstrated that he is not changing his tune. He called for "fighting Hizbullah terrorists supported by Syria and Iran." Hopefully, the French will give Bush a lesson in how to deal with shades of grey, if not with mistresses.

[End of commentary]

AFP: Bush to Syria - Stop fooling around with the Iranians and stop harboring terrorists":

The US president had a blunt message for Damascus in Paris: "Stop fooling around with the Iranians and stop harboring terrorists" and warn Tehran "that the West is serious" about curtailing the Islamic republic's nuclear program.

Sarkozy, who has invited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to attend France's national "Bastille Day" celebrations next month, underlined that Damascus must guarantee neighbor Lebanon's independence.

The French president said he wanted "that Syria break as much as possible with Iran in its quest to develop a nuclear weapon" in order to pursue improved diplomatic relations with Paris.

The National, a new EAU paper, had this to say:

In a statement issued by the French presidential palace, the United States and France sought to dispel signs that they have diverging thoughts on Syria.

The joint statement called on Syria and Lebanon to quickly establish full diplomatic relations – a signal that the countries hope Damascus will reduce its interference in domestic Lebanese affairs.

Mr Bush said Syria should serve as a constructive force in the Middle East to help advance a Palestinian state and make it clear to the militant group Hamas that “their terror should stop for the sake of peace”.

President Sarkozy warned Syria against standing with Iran on the nuclear standoff and other issues.

The French president said he and Mr Bush agreed about the need to guarantee Lebanon’s independence.

Kouchner Uneasy About Assad's Visit: French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Friday he is uncomfortable that Syrian President Bashar Assad has been invited to the Bastille Day parade, even though such visits are necessary to keep dialogue open. "I'm not especially amused" by Assad's visit, Kouchner said on Europe-1 radio. But he said Syria has made progress by resuming peace talks with Israel. The visit "doesn't leave me totally at ease, but this is what we have to do or else we'll maintain a state of tensions, difficulties and probably confrontations," Kouchner said. "I've said that if President (Michel Suleiman) was elected after months of vacuum, then France will normalize relations with Syria. That's what we are doing now," the French foreign minister said. (Naharnet)

Rice More Positive About Sarkozy-Assad Meeting:

French envoys in Syria to boost ties: Senior French envoys are to hold talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Sunday in an effort to boost diplomatic ties which soured over the crisis in Lebanon.

Bush Calls for Fighting Hizbullah 'Terrorists': U.S. President George Bush called Friday for fighting "Hizbullah terrorists supported by Syria and Iran" emphasizing the need to support the Iranian and Syrian peoples against their regimes. "We stand by the peaceful citizens in those nations which deserve better than what they have now, and we must reject those countries supporting terrorism for the benefit of local and global security," Bush said during a visit to France. (Naharnet)

Assad has said that Damascus will cooperate with UN inspectors due to visit on June 22-24 to probe claims Syria was building a nuclear facility.

The myth of the Shia crescent
By Michael Broening in Haaretz
June 15, 2008

AMMAN – Israel’s Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz recently offered an unequivocal veto on a key issue in the Middle East peace process: Any return of the Golan Heights to Syria would result in an “Iranian foothold” on Israel’s border and would thus not only be politically naive but irrational.

Mofaz’s statement is symptomatic of a perception that is now deeply entrenched, not only in the Middle East, but in the United States as well. That notion is of a hegemonic Iran that is attempting to dominate the region through an array of Shi’ite proxies. This Iranian fifth column is believed to stretch from Beirut via Damascus and Gaza to Baghdad and finally from Iran to Saudi Arabia to Yemen. Recent armed clashes between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government are, it is said, just another sign of Iran’s hegemonic reach.

Ironically, this perception brings Israel some rather unlikely partners. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt claims that Shi’ites are “always loyal to Iran,” while King Abdullah of Jordan has coined the axiom about a rising “Shi’ite crescent.” This “rise of the Shi’ites” and the resulting “Sunni-Shia divide” is alleged to be creating an ever-widening chasm in the region.

Although this perception may convince at first glance, it is ultimately based on generalizations that reveal more about its advocates than about the actual reality on the ground.

Take Iraq, where the looming “Shia crescent” is often blamed for much of the chaos. Recent developments in Iraq allegedly point to a fundamental clash between Sunnis and Shi’ites in the region and bear witness to malevolent Iranian interferences. But is Iraq really symptomatic of a greater Shia scheme?

True, sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shi’ites in Iraq have escalated since the fall of Saddam Hussein. But contrary to common perception, Iraqi Shi’ites do not constitute a homogenous block that opposes the supposedly unified Sunnis. Indeed, the opposite is true. In light of Iraqi nationalism that crosses sectarian boundaries, it is farfetched to consider the Iraqi Shia merely proxies of Iran.

Instead, what we are witnessing in Iraq today is not ever-increasing friction between religious communities but escalating internal power struggles within the Sunni and Shi’ite communities. Ongoing violence in Basra and the fighting between Sunni “Awakening Councils” and Al-Qaida in Iraq demonstrate this. In fact, the current escalation points to an increasing political struggle between the federalist position of Shia Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and the centralist position of Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al Sadr. This struggle will ultimately define the political structure of Iraq.

Here is where Sunni-Shi’ite cooperation comes in. Widely unnoticed, Iraqi Sunni and Shia centralists have managed in the last couple of months to form a united parliamentary platform that leaves sectarian tensions behind. More than a hundred followers of former interim prime minister Ayad Allawi, Sadr, and others have joined their ranks.

This supra-sectarian platform calls for a central government administration of Iraq’s natural resources and the postponement of the looming referendum to settle the status of the city of Kirkuk.

Change within the government is also noteworthy. Sunni ministers who had been boycotting the government since last year have returned to their posts. Thus, Iraq is seeing both escalating intra-sectarian violence and cautious steps toward inter-sectarian alliances.

And what about Iran? Contrary to the blame games being played out in the U.S., Iran cannot be accused of an unrestrained aggressive stance toward Iraq. Of course, no Iranian decision maker is interested in an American success in Iraq that might well put regime change in Iran back on the agenda. But the rationale behind Iran’s policy of economic, social and military engagement seems to be, first and foremost, defensive. …. (continue)

Michael Broening is director of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) in Amman, Jordan. FES is a political foundation affiliated with the Social Democratic Party of Germany.

Syrian official: Peace isn't the only way to get the Golan
-Post

Several weeks after Jerusalem announced the renewal of indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria, frustration about the pace of the negotiations seems to be settling in among some Syrian officials, with one senior member of the foreign ministry suggesting that if Israel did not willingly give up the Golan, then Syria would take it by force.

Syrian deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad said that Syria has "other options" to "liberate" the Golan, adding that should hostilities erupt, his country would be able to "protect its land within minutes."

Speaking directly to Israeli residents of the Golan – whom he labeled "settlers" – the foreign minister warned that they should not "raise their sons in the Golan, for this is not their place."

In Lebanon: Aoun Rejects Giving President Two Key Christian Cabinet Seats. The Cabinet crisis continues.

Comments (44)


1. Qifa Nabki said:

Hi Joshua

I think the answer to the question you raise in your commentary (about a joint U.S.-France post-Doha Lebanon policy) will depend entirely upon Syria’s post-Doha Lebanon policy.

Do you have a sense of what it might be?

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June 15th, 2008, 5:36 pm

 

2. Alex said:

Hi Qifa

It will not depend ENTIRELY upon Syria’s policy.

The Doha agreement was by itself more or less a translation of Syria’s policy on Lebanon.

The US_France disagreement on talking to Syria comes from

1) Personal differences:

- Sarkozy is staying for few more years. Bush is leaving.
- Sarkozy did not invest too much personally in the 5 year campaign to remove Bashar from power. Bush did. His ego is hurt much more than Sarkozy’s when Bashar is given a prominent role in Lebanon and elsewhere … Sarkozy challenged Assad only this year… he does not feel insulted meeting with a victorious Assad.

2) Neocon idealogy: Only Bush is committed to it. Sarkozy loves Israel too, but he believes that a peace treaty with Syria/Lebanon is the best thing tat can happen to Israel.

3) Relations with the Saudis: Bush is stuck with the Al-Saud … Sarkozy is willing to also work with Syria and Qatar.

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June 15th, 2008, 6:23 pm

 

3. Alex said:

Joshua,

The Shia Crescent on the map you posted seems to pass through Syria … but I did not read the percentage of Shia in Syria ;)

Syria has 1% of Shia, Saudi Arabia has 10 to 15% Shia

But I understand : )

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June 15th, 2008, 6:33 pm

 

4. Alex said:

McCain’s foreign policy adviser

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June 15th, 2008, 6:39 pm

 

5. majedkhaldoun said:

For over a year ,Joshua has been saying the isolation of Syria is crumbling, I frankly do not see it, Egypt and KSA are taking harder stands,USA is getting harder on Syria, I do not see England is easing it, France has always start a policy against USA ,initially, but later go along with USA, the tribunal is still a dark cloud over Syria president head.we are a month away from the french celebration,no lebanese goverment has been formed,would Assad sit next to Seniora in paris, or would he sit next to Mubarak of Egypt?

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June 15th, 2008, 6:42 pm

 

6. norman said:

This is interesting,

‘US offers Syria incentives over Iran’
Sun, 15 Jun 2008 20:15:19

Syrian President Bashar Assad
The EU and US have offered incentives to Syria to persuade the country into reconsidering its ties with Iran and Hezbollah, reports say.

The Israeli Ynet news website reported on Sunday that the United States and European Union had provided Syria with ‘a series of financial incentives’ in order to convince Damascus to sever its ties with Iran, Hezbollah and other resistance groups.

Syrian diplomatic sources, however, claimed that Damascus had opposed the deal, saying, “The national issues and the resistance in the face of the American-Zionist plans in the region are not for sale.”

Last month, Syria and Israel entered indirect peace talks brokered by Turkey. The focus of the talks is the fate of the Golan Heights which was occupied by Israel after the 1967 six-day war.

Tel Aviv has reportedly demanded Damascus to cut its ties with Tehran as a precondition for returning the Syrian land.

The Syrian President Bashar Assad, however, has refused, saying, “Israel’s demand would be as if Syria asked Israel to break its relations with the United States.”

DT/DT

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June 15th, 2008, 7:11 pm

 

7. Alex said:

No Norman, this is not interesting at all .. this is stupid.

When the Americans and Europeans offer Syria “incentives” they offer it to Bashar Assad, not to some old Baathist technocrat

This response “The national issues and the resistance in the face of the American-Zionist plans in the region are not for sale.” … can only come from a 70 year old Baathist.

Does this sound like what Bashar is saying these days?

If there is anything interesting in that piece, it would be that Ynet are against peace with Syria … for spreading such stupidites that are supposed to portray Syria as another Iran.

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June 15th, 2008, 7:18 pm

 

8. ausamaa said:

Yeh, we have to rehash the “incentives” issue, and the “historic visit to the Keneset” issue, the dam-breaking “handshakes with Olmert” and with the ending of “Syria’s Isolation” every once in a while.

I am sure that Bush & CO. are still thinking of Bashar as a merchant with a turban in an old oriental “Bazzar”, they do not seem to acknowledge that the world had changed a lot since the days of One Thousand Nights and Nights!!

To me. Syria is well “incentivized” by things going according to its expectations and according to its “old advice” as it is. More incentives will definitly spoil us more.

LOL…

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June 15th, 2008, 7:30 pm

 

9. Qifa Nabki said:

Alex

The Doha agreement was by itself more or less a translation of Syria’s policy on Lebanon.

What does this mean?

The Doha agreement was a temporary fix to a political stalemate engineered by Syria’s allies. It did not solve any of Lebanon’s long-term problems. So what is Syria’s policy on Lebanon, then?

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June 15th, 2008, 7:41 pm

 

10. ausamaa said:

AS to Lebanon, the issues or the “knots” seems to be very simple to Me:

1- NO Elias al Murr for Defence (because he was behind the HA telecom thing and he screwed up by getting too friedly with the Americans)

2- Aoun wants the Ministry of Finance so that he can have his show and see what has happened in the Ali Baba din during the past years

My prediction; Aoun will get his wish unless the 15-year “dammage” is too incriminating to the Hariris, Elias Al Murr may get Defence, but only if the selection of the Army Head, the Army Chief of Operations and the Head of Military Intelligence go to the other side.

Siniora may had discovered that he and Al Harriri have become somewhat more irrelvant, and we are missing the smiling face of the Saudi Ambassador for some reason. Layla al Sulh is appearing much more than he is. Nice.

But it is getting rather dull!!!

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June 15th, 2008, 7:42 pm

 

11. ausamaa said:

Come on Qifa.

“The Doha agreement was a temporary fix to a political stalemate engineered by Syria’s allies.”

The crisis -while welcomed by the opposition- was started by the brilliant strategists in Feb 14 through the unneccesary forcing of the HA commnication network and the airport Runway 17 thing. The fed up Opposition, saw the opportunity, or the threat, and moved fast and decisively to the surprise of local, regional and international supporters of the “democratically elected Siniora government”. The rest is history.

But it is unfair to say that the “stalemate was engineered by Syria’s allies”. Syria’s policy aside, your statement can represent an insult to more than half of the Lebanese who support the Opposition if nothing else.

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June 15th, 2008, 7:58 pm

 

12. Alex said:

Jordanian journalist om Syria’s negotiations with Israel

http://www.alarabalyawm.net/pages.php?articles_id=4842

ناهض حتر

وحدة المسارات اصبحت واقعا

(15/6/2008)

ما زلت اعتبر مانشيت “النهار” لدى رحيل الرئيس حافظ الاسد, عبقريا, حين لخص حياة رجل سورية القوي, بثلاث كلمات “مات.. ولم يوقع”. وبالفعل, كانت استراتيجية الاسد الاب, تقوم على مواجهات ومناورات لا تنتهي, ولكنها ترمي الى عدم الاضطرار الى توقيع معاهدة صلح منفرد مع “اسرائيل”. كان ذلك, وما يزال سيطيح بمشروعها السياسي الرئيسي للعب دور الدولة المركزية في بلاد الشام.

افلت الملف اللبناني من ايدي الاسد الاب مرارا, واستعاده تكرارا, لكن الملف الفلسطيني كان عصيا. ففتح, المغرمة بالقرار المستقل كانت قوية, ويقودها رجل صعب المراس كان قادرا على منع الانقسام الفلسطيني, وضم الجميع تحت عباءته. لكن الملف الفلسطيني هبط, الان, على مكتب الاسد الابن, كمحصلة للتطورات: فشل المفاوضات بين رام الله وتل ابيب, وصعود “حماس” وصمودها.

وهكذا لم تتأخر دمشق في ترجمة هذه الحقيقة الاستراتيجية, فصعدت سقف مطالبها للسلام مع “اسرائيل” فهي تشترط, الان, تسويات على المسارات الثلاثة في فلسطين ولبنان بالاضافة الى سورية, تقوم جميعا على اساس الانسحاب “الاسرائيلي” الكامل الى حدود الـ 67 وحل مشكلة اللاجئين والمياه والامن.

سورية تستشعر, الان, قوتها: (1) فلقد تجاوزت تهديد “المحكمة الدولية” (2) وعملت, منذ هزيمة “الاسرائيليين” في لبنان ,2006 على تطوير وسائل دفاعية تلجم العدوان (3) وحسم حلفاؤها المعركة في لبنان, (4) ورسخت حضورها الفلسطيني من خلال العلاقة الاستراتيجية مع “حماس” التي تغدو اقوى فأقوى, بينما تنهار قوة خصوم دمشق الفتحاويين (5) وبينما يؤذن عهد بوش بالزوال, فان احتمالات التسوية في العراق, تعطيها افقا اوسع للمناورة (6) واخيرا, لا اخرا, كسرت دمشق, الحصار العربي والدولي – بما في ذلك الاوروبي – ووثقت علاقاتها مع تركيا من دون ان تخسر علاقاتها مع ايران.

وعلى هذه الخلفيات كلها, تبلورت حاجة “اسرائيل” – المتراجعة استراتيجيا – الى مفاوضات عاجلة مع دمشق, اقله لتهدئة الجبهة الشمالية, وعزلها عن المسار الفلسطيني.

الرد السوري جاء متسلسلا من الرغبة الحماسية بالتفاوض الى وضع الشروط: سنفاوض باسم الفلسطينيين واللبنانيين ايضا, وعلى الشروط نفسها, من دون تنازلات في الارض او في ملف اللاجئين او في المياه او الامن. وهكذا, خطت دمشق خطوة للامام: فبدلا من “وحدة المسارين”, حصلت, الان, على “وحدة المسارات الثلاثة”, وتدرك “اسرائيل” ان سورية تعني ما تقول: فلا سلام في فلسطين من دون “حماس” ولا سلام مع لبنان من دون “حزب الله” والحركة والحزب هما حليفان موثوقان للسوريين.

لن تفضي المفاوضات, في رأينا, الى تحقيق نتائج في المدى المنظور. ولا بد من الانتظار حتى تحقيق انقلاب جدي في موازيين القوى يسمح باجبار “اسرائيل” على الانصياع. ونحن نرى ان هذا الانقلاب رهن بانسحاب الامريكيين من العراق, لكن, مجرد تأكيد وحدة المسارات, والحاح السوريين على التفاوض باسم فلسطين ولبنان يشكلان قطيعة استراتيجية مع “العملية السلمية” السابقة, ويكرسان مركزية القرار السوري في المنطقة.

المسارات, بالاساس, مترابطة, موضوعيا, ليس على مستوى تشابك الملفات فقط, وغنما, بالاساس, على المستوى الاستراتيجي. وهو ما تلحظه السياسة السورية من وجهة نظر مصالحها وثقافتها. فدمشق لا تحتمل المزاوجة بين سلامها الخاص مع “اسرائيل” وبين استمرار الصراع والحروب على المسارات الاخرى. وهي, اذا فعلت ذلك, فسوف تفقد كل اوراقها, بما فيها شرعية النظام.. عليه, فان السوريين لن يوقعوا معاهدة سلام مع “الاسرائيليين” حتى مقابل الجولان كاملة, من دون حصول الشيء نفسه مع الفلسطينيين واللبنانيين, لقد تجاوزوا المخاطر وكسبوا الجولة. لكن الجولة الكبرى ما تزال خطرة للغاية: العراق.

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June 15th, 2008, 8:20 pm

 

13. ausamaa said:

This has just occured to me:

Why does the MSM (supported by cetain Israeli generals of course) keep insisting that ISRAEL can NOT live with a Nuclear Iran (i.e., protecting Israel is portrayed as the main concern)!!

However, since the US intends through SOFA to keep up to 58 Military bases in “post-liberated” Iraq for years to come, then who really becomes more endangered by the Iranian nukes, the next door US bases in Iraq, or the 2000 miles away Israeli cities?

See; the benifits of “utelizing” Israel would never end for some, would it?

Oh, what wicked minds we have to deal with….

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June 15th, 2008, 9:31 pm

 

14. Qifa Nabki said:

Ausamaa

By “political stalemate” I was not referring to the runway issue. I was talking about the 18 months of political stalemate begun by Hizbullah’s walkout of the government.

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June 15th, 2008, 9:40 pm

 

15. majedkhaldoun said:

“The Doha agreement was a temporary fix to a political stalemate engineered by Syria’s allies.”

this is correct, but I want to add that march 14 through Douha,turned military defeat to great political victory, now we have a president in Lebanon,Maronite general M. Suleiman, Nasrallah is out of downtown Beirut, and got blamed for using power against the Sunni, Siniora is still prime minister, Aoun came out empty handed.
Also, I am not sure Bashar will enjoy paris.
Is abdulhalim Khaddam going to be there?is he invited?

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June 15th, 2008, 9:42 pm

 

16. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Any time that Hizballah’s hands get tied, Syria loses. What good is a Hizballah that cannot do anything against Israel as is the case in the last two years?

Any time that the Lebanese agree on the rules of the game Syria loses because it cannot use Hizballah to destabilize Lebanon.

The way I see it, Syria is currently negotiating from a very weak position. They cannot do much in Lebanon without risking completely Hizballah’s internal standing and they have no way of igniting the northern border of Israel. For all practical purposes, the “resistance” party in Lebanon has lost in setting Lebanon’s agenda. They are facing a slow economic melt-down unless they get serious foreign investments over many years. And they still have the tribunal and the nuclear issue to deal with.

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June 15th, 2008, 10:02 pm

 

17. SimoHurtta said:

And they still have the tribunal and the nuclear issue to deal with.

Hmmm AIG, would France and Turkey be warming their ties to Syria if that would be true.

AIG compared to Israel’s problems, Syria’s problems are relative small. You have still to settle the Palestinian problem, the Lebanon problem, the Syria / Golan problem, the nuclear weapon problem (meaning your bombs), your internal problems with your own non-chosen people (citizens) and in future with the hundreds of thousands angry settlers kicked out of West Bank and the water problem. It will not be “easy” to be an Israeli in the coming years.

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June 15th, 2008, 10:38 pm

 

18. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sim,
Yes, yes, we have heard that for 60 years. It turns out that it has been much easier to be an Israeli than a Syrian. But of course, the future will tell.

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June 15th, 2008, 10:45 pm

 

19. Qifa Nabki said:

Majed

I don’t agree that March 14 has scored a great political victory. Doha was a setback for them, no doubt. We won’t really know who “won” or “lost” until 2009.

Anyway, by then, the political alliances may look very different.

The only thing that looks relatively certain at this point is that Aoun came out very badly indeed. It will be interesting to see where he goes from here, without an address at Baabda.

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June 15th, 2008, 11:44 pm

 

20. Qifa Nabki said:

What US role between Syria and Israel?
By Ariel Kastner
Monday, June 16, 2008

The recent announcement that indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria are being conducted in Turkey has led many to ask whether this round of negotiations represents anything more than political games. Given that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is facing a deepening corruption investigation with louder calls for him to step down, and in light of floundering negotiations with the Palestinians, many Israelis presume he might be using the cover of peace talks with Syria to divert attention from his political challenges.

But the unusual official announcements – both the Israeli and Syrian governments released coordinated remarks announcing the talks – and reports that agreement has been reached on a number of core issues indicate that something more than political games may be afoot. What remains to be seen and is of the utmost significance for forging a deal, however, is whether the United States will engage as a participant.

Israeli leaders have a history of acting boldly under political fire. Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, for example, announced plans in 2003 to withdraw Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip amid a corruption investigation. While political troubles on the Israeli side portend movements toward peace, economic woes on the Syrian side exert pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to make changes to the status quo.

In this climate, it is no surprise that the Israeli and Syrian governments are testing the waters. But, while talks have moved forward, a key component remains missing: the United States.

Until recently, the US was expected to act as the mediator in peace talks between Israel and its neighbors, including Syria. During Bill Clinton’s presidency American officials shuttled between Damascus and Jerusalem, overseeing negotiations between the parties. But today the US not only has a shared interest with Israel in pulling Syria away from Iran and halting Syrian weapons assistance to Hizbullah, it has its own interest regarding Lebanon – ensuring it be independent from Syria – that does not concern Israel.

When commenting on the possibility of Israeli-Syrian talks, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made clear that the United States does “not wish to stand in the way of any attempt to achieve peace,” but added that “Syria [has] yet to show a desire for Middle East peace, especially vis-ˆ-vis Lebanon.” Syria’s role in Lebanon, including its alleged assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, poses a direct assault on one of Bush’s priorities in the region: democracy promotion.

At the same time, things have changed on the side of Syria, whose main interest in talks with Israel is no longer the return of the Golan Heights: While this is a basic requirement, it is not incentive enough to reach agreement. Syria is struggling with a stagnant economy that is taxed by rising energy costs (partly due to a loss of illegal oil revenue from Iraq after the US invasion) and an influx of Iraqi refugees who are straining the country’s infrastructure.

Some analysts have speculated that the country may face a “day of reckoning” when the economy cannot keep up with population growth and domestic needs. Syria, therefore, seeks any financial and diplomatic relationship it can have with Washington.

While American compensation for making peace with Israel has been the norm – Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority all received large amounts of aid and deepening of trade when they worked out their respective agreements, this time the United States’ other interest – that relating to Lebanon – will play a determining role. Consequently, a peace dividend will not result from peace between Israel and Syria alone, but from a peace between Israel and Syria and the United States.

The question for the current round of talks then is whether the United States will engage not as a mediator, but as a participant. So far the White House, while apprised of the meetings, hasn’t expressed a willingness to join in the talks. So while Israel and Syria may make progress under Turkey’s guidance, a key piece of the peace puzzle will still be missing. But perhaps not for long. Even if the current US administration does not engage, Turkey may well be able to shepherd the talks to a point where at least the next administration can help finalize the deal.

Ariel Kastner is a research analyst with the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington. THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with the Common Ground News Service.

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June 16th, 2008, 12:02 am

 

21. norman said:

Alex,

What is interesting is that the US and Israel supported by Egypt and KSA continue to try to distance Syria from Iran , Hezbollah and and the Palestinians , sometime with pressure like the Hariri court and the nuclear issue , and sometime by incentives , they will fail because Syria will not abandon the people who stood by her in the hardest of time while everybody was trying to bite a piece of her ,President Asad explained that .

The best chance for Israel is not to take Syria out of the equasion so it can do whatever it wants to the Palestinians but to use Syria influence to moderate Iran’s and the Palestinian”s and to reach a comprehensive peace .

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June 16th, 2008, 1:33 am

 

22. norman said:

The talks are moving forward…,

Last update – 02:28 16/06/2008

Syria and Israel aiming for direct talks by next month

By Barak Ravid and Zvi Bar’el, Haaretz Correspondents

Tags: Israel, Turkey, Syria

The peace talks between Israel and Syria through Turkish mediation resumed on Sunday in Ankara, with negotiators aiming to prepare an agenda for a possible direct meeting next month.

Israel is represented in the talks by senior advisers to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Yoram Turbowicz and Shalom Turgeman, who left for Ankara on Saturday night and began talks on Sunday.

A senior Turkish source familiar with the talks said that at this stage there is still no talk of a meeting at the highest levels between Olmert and President Bashar Assad.
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“It is still early to talk about diplomatic agreements between the two sides since there are many technical issues remaining since the previous meeting for which Damascus and Jerusalem offered answers around which the current discussions will revolve,” the Turkish source said.

In response to an inquiry as to whether the two sides have began discussing the framework of a peace agreement, the Turkish source said, “This is too early a stage but it is clear that the talks are being held on the basis of an agreement in principle that Israel will withdraw from the Golan Heights in return for normalization of relations between Syria and Israel. The nature of that normalization, its extent and stages will be discussed at a later stage.”

The same source added that the visit of President Assad to Paris next month may serve as “a significant launch pad for furthering the process; however Assad is expecting American mediation and this can only happen following the presidential elections in the United States.”

Turgeman and Turbowicz will deliver a message to the Syrians that Israel is interested in continuing the ongoing indirect negotiations notwithstanding the complex domestic political situation at home.

The current round of talks is expected to last until Monday evening.

The departure of the two senior officials to Ankara was not readily apparent since they had been scheduled to attend meetings in Paris in preparation for the visit to Israel of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. However, the absence of the two aides at the cabinet meeting on Sunday revealed that their early departure had another purpose.

During a meeting Sunday with the governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, Olmert said that “furthering talks with Syria is the right thing to do, but it does not mean that Israel has relinquished anything. The way ahead is still long.”

Sunday on Channel 2, Vice Premier Haim Ramon, a close associate of Olmert, was quoted as expressing his opposition to the way talks with Syria are being conducted, arguing “this is a strategic mistake and a prize for extremist Islam.”

This round of talks in Turkey is the first since it was announced on May 21 in both Jerusalem and Damascus that the two countries planned to renew negotiations, indirectly through the good services of Turkish mediators.

Related articles:

Israel-Syria talks enter second round in Turkey

Report: Turkey and Syria consider joint nuclear energy project

Netanyahu, on Syria talks: Peace with dictatorial state won’t last

Uzi Benziman / Peace isn’t a discount sale

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June 16th, 2008, 1:37 am

 

23. majedkhaldoun said:

QN
“Doha was a setback for them, no doubt.”

Would you please explain why.

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June 16th, 2008, 3:06 am

 

24. ausamaa said:

Check Feb 14 facial expressions and body language for further proof.

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June 16th, 2008, 4:56 am

 

25. ausamaa said:

From the Lebanese Al Akhbar Newspaper

جنبلاط مودّعاً: تحضير تيمور لخلافتي

إبراهيم الأمين

فاجأ وليد جنبلاط حلقة ضيّقة من أصدقائه، بينهم رفاق له في الحزب بسؤال: هل تعتقدون بأنّ عليّ ترك العمل السياسي في لبنان؟
لم يكن بين الحاضرين من يملك الجواب، أو حتى القدرة على التفكير في الموضوع. وجنبلاط ـــــ الذي يدرك هذه الحقيقة ـــــ سارع إلى الإضافة: تيمور يتعلم الأشياء بسرعة، ويمكنه أن يلعب دوراً أكبر في المرحلة المقبلة، وأنا قلت له من عام ونصف على الأقل إن عليه الاستعداد لدور كبير إذا اغتالوني. وأنا أشعر بأن تيمور يستطيع أن يلعب دوراً مباشراً خلال الفترة القريبة المقبلة، مما يساعده في التعرّف على كل شيء، ولا سيما على أحوال الطائفة والحزب، ويكون جاهزاً لتولّي المسؤولية».
وعندما بادره أحد الحضور بسؤال: هل تشعر أنك في خطر الآن حتى وصلت إلى هذه النتيجة؟ ردّ جنبلاط: «الخطر لم ينحسر يوماً، وأنا مقتنع بأن هناك من يريد قتلي متى توافرت له الظروف. لكنني من جهة ثانية مللت هذه البلاد وهذه السياسات، وخصومنا ربحوا علينا، وربما يتطور وضعهم إلى أفضل في الفترة المقبلة، وهناك أشياء كثيرة مرتبطة بي شخصياً، وإذا بادرت أنا إلى الانسحاب المبكر فربما يتيح ذلك لابني تيمور ولآخرين من زعمائنا إعادة وصل الأمور مع كثيرين في لبنان وخارجه».
ناقل الكلام قال إن جنبلاط لم يكن متوتراً على الإطلاق، بل كان هادئاً، يتحدث براحة وصفاء، ويبدو كما لو أنه فكّر ملياً في الموضوع، واهتمامه منصبّ بالأكثر على كيفيّة الإعلان عن هذه الخطوة، وهو واثق بأن قواعده لن ترفضها، ولو ظهرت هنا وهناك، وهي لن تعدو كونها أموراً منتظرة، ليست من النوع الذي يعطّل قراره، ولكن جنبلاط يدرس الخطوة وهو في قلب عملية تقييم لكل ما جرى معه منذ أعوام حتى الآن. وبحسب هذا المصدر، فإن جنبلاط كان قد أطلق أمام المقرّبين منه في الآونة الأخيرة سلسلة من المواقف التي تعكس نمط تفكيره:
أوّلاً: إنه مقتنع بأن سوريا هي الخصم ما دام بشار الأسد في الحكم، وإن دول الغرب والقوى العربية لا تبدو قادرة على تحقيق انقلاب يغيّر الأمور في عاصمة الأمويين، وهذا سيترك الانعكاسات الصعبة على لبنان، وهناك مؤشرات قد تقود إلى تكرار الصفقات المعلنة أو غير المعلنة بين الأسد والعواصم الغربية الكبرى، الأمر الذي يعفيه من الضغوط ويفك عنه الحصار ويطلق يده في ملفات كثيرة، أبرزها لبنان.
ثانياً: إن الغرب «لا يبدو مستعداً لأن يذرف دمعة علينا، ولا أن يبذل دماً في سبيلنا، وهناك تجارب كثيرة تؤكد هذه الحقيقة، وحتى الدول العربية التي نراها قريبةً منا، تواجه أوضاعاً صعبة داخلياً وإقليمياً، وليست في وضع يمكّنها من خوض معارك كبرى لأجل حفظ مصالحها ومصالحنا».
ثالثاً: إن الواقع السياسي اللبناني صعب ومعقّد، «وها هو حزب الله يمثل القوة الساحقة التي لا يستطيع أحد أن يقف في وجهها. وعندما قال لي مساعدون وبعض الكوادر إن علينا خوض مواجهة مفتوحة مع الحزب في عاليه والشوف قلت لهم: إذا كانت معنوياتكم مرتفعة فهذا لا يكفي، إلا إذا كنتم تريدون أن نصبح نحن من أنصار كربلاء ونمارس انتحاراً جماعياً. ثم ماذا يضمن لي، إذا ما ازدادت الامور سوءاً، أن تظل سوريا في سوريا، وأن لا يكون الهدف الأخير من هذه العمليات هو أن أذهب أنا إلى دمشق وأناشدها توفير الحماية لي ولعشيرتي، فينتهي الأمر بي أنا مطالباً بعودة الجيش السوري إلى لبنان؟».
وفقاً لهذه التصوّرات، فإن جنبلاط يبدو مهتماً بتوفير هدوء يتيح له ترتيب أموره الداخلية بما يسهّل انتقال ابنه تيمور من موقع المساعد إلى موقع القائد بأقل التجارب الممكنة، وهو لذلك بات في الأيام الأخيرة يعبّر عن قلقه من تعرض اتفاق الدوحة لانتكاسة عبر تعثر تأليف الحكومة، مما يعيد فتح الملف الأمني بصورة لا تناسب فريق الأكثرية ولا تناسبه هو شخصياً، بعدما أثبت له حزب الله بالملموس أن فكرة تحييد جبل لبنان عن أية مواجهة داخلية أمر غير وارد، وأنه في معزل عن الطبيعة الديموغرافية التي يتشكل منها جبل لبنان الجنوبي، فإن في وسع حزب الله وحلفائه لا نقل المعركة والمواجهة إلى قلب الجبل، بل حتى حسم الأمور وإطاحة خصومهم، وعلى رأسهم جنبلاط وجماعته. كما إن جنبلاط يتلقى من محازبين ومناصرين معلومات، بعضها صحيح وبعضها الآخر ملفّق حول تعزيز حزب الله وحلفاء له وجودهم في مناطق الجبل كلها، وإن الترتيبات جارية بلا توقف لفرض أمر واقع من النوع الذي يحول دون قيام أي مواجهة متكافئة في المستقبل.
كذلك، فإن جنبلاط الذي لم يغادر بعد موقعه الرافض لإعادة صياغة علاقات لبنان مع سوريا، يعرف أنه بما يقوله كمن يسجل موقفاً في الهواء، لأن طبيعة الوضع اللبناني بعد السابع من أيار الماضي فتحت ملف العلاقات اللبنانية ـــــ السورية على واقع جديد يصعب معه تجاوز حقيقة تطبيع العلاقات مع سوريا، عدا أنه يعرف أن الرئيس ميشال سليمان يعرف أن في طليعة مهماته ترتيب هذا الموضوع، وهو يجد من يحثّه عليه في لبنان وفي العالم أيضاً، وربما هذا ما فسر موقف جنبلاط الحاد من قرار الرئيس الفرنسي نيكولا ساركوزي التوجه صوب علاقات أفضل مع سوريا، علماً بأن ساركوزي والعاملين معه حصروا شرحهم لأبعاد خطوتهم بمسألة المحكمة الدولية، وقالوا لفريق 14 آذار إن باريس ستظل إلى جانب المحكمة، وهي تدرس إمكان ربط مستوى التواصل والتعاون مع سوريا بمدى تعاون دمشق وتجاوبها مع متطلبات عمل المحكمة الدولية، بما في ذلك احتمال أن تجمّد فرنسا أي اتصال مع سوريا إن هي رفضت طلبات توجهها إليها المحكمة الدولية بعد قيامها.
ثمّة أشياء كثيرة تدور في خَلَد زعيم الغالبية الدرزية، لكن الأكيد أنه قد يكون أكثر أقطاب 14 آذار واقعيّة في التعامل مع مقتضيات المرحلة المقبلة

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June 16th, 2008, 5:30 am

 

26. offended said:

AIG katsa,
So according to you since Hezbollah’s hands have been tied for the last two years then Syria correspondingly has been losing and losing for the last two years as well?

Have you been following news recently?

Have you even read or skimmed through Josh’s analysis?

The mistake many of you (I am talking collectively here) makes is that they think that once the ‘resistance card’ is neutralized, Syria is utterly paralyzed. No habibi, this logic can be applied to Saddam or maybe used to dramatize a plot for Tom Clancy, but the reality is different.

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June 16th, 2008, 9:19 am

 

27. ausamaa said:

While visiting Beirut to give her “belssing?!!and support to Al Murr?” Condi -sounding humble and resigned- said about Al Doha:

“In any Compromise, there is compromises!”

God bless her heart!

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June 16th, 2008, 11:22 am

 

28. Qifa Nabki said:

Majed

Doha was a setback because they were forced to give up something that they had refused to give up for a year and a half. They could have negotiated a similar (or even less far-reaching) settlement many months earlier, but they stupidly did not. So the opposition got to look like the wrested it away from them.

But I agree that Doha was not exactly a sweeping victory for the opposition. Aoun is not president, so he lost out big. The veto is not very useful anymore, because the Tribunal is already moving. And we still don’t really know whom the electoral law will benefit.

Plus, HA’s lustre is now considerably diminished. If the writing was on the wall for them back in 2000 when Israel withdrew, it has now become a big neon sign. They need to accelerate their transition, or they will face problems.

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June 16th, 2008, 11:47 am

 

29. ausamaa said:

Qifa..

كل يغني على ليلاه…..

يعني حزب الله خلص دوره خلاص و بلا مقاومة وبلا هالقصة كلها. شو؟ رايقة معك عالأخر اليوم!!!

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June 16th, 2008, 12:10 pm

 

30. Observer said:

I am sorry I do not have the links right here but there were several excellent articles recently about the situation in the ME

One is from Sami Moubayed at atimes.com today, the other are in the English version of the Le Monde Diplomatique one by Alain Gresh about the latest battle in Lebanon and the redrawing of the balance of forces, the other by Samir Aita about the societal changes in Syria, and the third from Tom Englehardt on the near bankruptcy of the US through 15 key numbers that he enumerated.

Sami shows that the Doha accords are still not being implemented as there has been some significant foot dragging by Aoun on the one hand and by the Siniora group on the other.

Alain Gresh shows that the coalition has miscalculated big time on the HA not willing or able to defend its arms. He clearly shows that the Sunnis are quite disappointed with their current leaders and that the terrain is quite fertile for the Salafis to fill. The coalition also miscalculated when it relied on the US and France to come to the rescue and that was rather wanting to put it mildly. Syria came out the winner and Saudi Arabia was humiliated. France has drawn the conclusion that there is no escape from engaging Syria if its interests and ties to Lebanon are to be preserved in some fashion. The invitation of Bashar to Paris may very well mean that the tribunal is dead and that the opposition of Khaddam is also dead.

Sami Aita makes general observation of the frustration of the Syrian young ones with the pace of political reforms while the opening of the economy in a fashion that is ultra liberal or neo-liberal is leaving a huge gap between the elite the majority of the population.

Tom writes about the financial and more importantly the human cost of the travail of the current administration including the Katrina response and shows that the country is near financial ruin if these policies are not addressed.

This brings me to a synthesis of my readings into the following conclusions:
1. Globalization has resulted in a widening gap between those elements of a society that are connected to the global economy and the rest within both developed and developing countries. Those on Wall street, in the high tech arena, in International law, see no problem with globalization and continue to reap the benefits of their highly developed skills and connections to the world market, while those who have their earnings tied to a salaried position will see their position eroded through the out sourcing of their jobs to the cheapest labor force. So far, the purchasing power has not affected their standard of living too much as they continue to have the ability to purchase products that are affordable as they are made by cheap labor elsewhere. For example, the factory worker has a lower paying job but can still afford a flat screen TV from Wall Mart albeit with a credit card. The reality is that the rising price of oil and food is going to squeeze the pocket book even further and the standard of living of the average citizen is going to drive the next election. The next President will be up to his ears in trying to reverse the decline. It also means that the overseas adventures are over. Charity starts at home and the average citizen will ask for a withdrawal of the troops so that the kids can afford clothing and can go to school and to college.
2. Globalization is on the surface an equalizer as Thomas Friedman likes to say; flattening out differences. The reality could not be furthest from this assertion.
a. The number of scientific citations is by far highest in the US and EU
b. Fully 55% of the population eligible to pursue a higher education will do so in the US EU and Australia in comparison to less than 20% for the rest of the world.
c. Of those pursuing higher education in the US EU Canada and Australia, the quality and expenditure per pupil is astronomical in comparison to what is funded in other parts of the world
d. Therefore, the gap between the developed and the developing world may be difficult to bridge except for the following countries that emerged from colonial rule in the last century and have been able to organize themselves to maximize development and competition
i. China
ii. India
iii. Brazil
iv. South East Asia to some extent
v. Gulf countries
e. Globalization has its impact on the economic and information areas of the society but the two areas where globalization has not made any significant inroads are the political and the military; i.e. in the area of the traditional sovereign state. In this arena, the state has maintained its traditional position of control but has lost its ability to influence the economic and information spheres.
f. This leads to an erosion of the authority of the state. There is in the 21st century reluctance on the part of both citizens of the state and subjects of any authoritarian state or subjects of empire projects to reject the authority of the state.
g. This effect of globalization on the authority of the state is two fold: on the one hand we have supra national companies that have budgets and influence stronger than many a country’s economy able to influence political and social norms in many parts of the world; while at the same time internally we have a reluctance of the citizens/subjects to be willing to sacrifice blood, treasure, and well being for the sake of a common national identity. One result of this is the reluctance of the citizens of any developed country to die as they did in massive numbers during the 30 year horror between 1914 and 1945. As the world moves ever more from an agrarian based system to a technology and information system, the emphasis of every modern family is to have maximal chances and benefits for their offspring; hence small families, high level and long periods of education. This does not bode well for empire builders as there will be fewer citizens willing to send their children to die and be maimed in adventures of dubious return and in a conflict whereby the subjects of empire are not willing to accept empirial rule so easily. The best example is Iraq today.
3. Therefore the current divisions of the ME and the incredible tenacity of the ruling clans to maintaining this form of division and staying in power is exacerbating the intra state and inter state dislocation of the society. It is of course short sided. We have all the ingredients for the emergence of failed states in the ME in particular for they do not have the means to provide the basic elements of a social contract to allow for good governance. They are incapable of limiting the impact of forces that are supra national. There is no energy policy, education policy, health care policy, and certainly no effort for eliminating artificial borders. They are not prepared in any way to have a common market. They are not prepared to provide for jobs for their young people and the ability to migrate is becoming limited. A good example of such a reluctance to let go of the levers of power is the resistance to the Mediterranean project proposed by Sarkozy. For example, while the average European can travel from Warsaw to London without a stop, Lebanon is asking for further demarcation of borders with Syria and for an embassy. This is the same situation that has bedeviled the Iraq Kuwait borders. The lack of stature and statesmanship on the part of the leaders of these failed states is appalling.
4. Some in the ME are calling for local and parochial nationalism that is secular. This is a response to the rise of political Islam as there has been a decline of Arab Nationalism. The clamor for advancement of secularism is another attempt to keep the nationalist agenda of each country as the only venue of discourse. So in the face of ever more formidable and mounting difficulties in adapting to the demands of the regional and global changes, this demand will not help but will hinder any advance. It already will alienate a majority in many an Arab country from participation as they see that the issue of their religion is being sidelined or eliminated at a time when religious identity is ever more asserting itself.
5. It is much more important what Noah Feldman is trying to do to help Political Islam mature. His audience in the book the Fall and Rise of the Islamic State is mainly here in the US but what he is advocating is an indigenous genuine system of governance not necessarily rooted in an idealized version of the Medina City state but in the population’s identification with the Muslim heritage.
6. The limits of power are clearly going to be a wake up call for some élite in the West. The speech of Liz Cheney is one of utter divorce from reality. The examples of the limits of power are several
a. The French navy canceled its summer exercises for the cost of fuel
b. The airline industry is in deep trouble for the same reason
c. The so called improvement of the situation in Iraq has come only after Petraeus adopted the policies of Saddam of rewarding some with money and positions and punishing others.
d. Not even the US can control of affect the global areas of conflict for it is too big, too complex, and too plural. Many an ally of the US is now finding that it can strike on its own without having to follow the dictates of the administration: Siniora, Abbas, Mubarak, and even KSA and Jordan are learning that they are part of the area before being allies of the US.
7. Capitalism as we know it now is incompatible with life on earth. The economic changes in the last few years are a dramatic change in comparison to the last 10 000 years of human history. A history rooted and anchored around the pre eminence of the agriculture. The entire society is now being rapidly based on other modes of production and the model of ever increasing production will create conditions that are not compatible with 9 billion persons. IF every Chinese, Indian, Muslim were to enjoy the lifestyle of the average American, the earth today would have to produce enough energy and resources for the equivalent of 72 billion people clearly an impossible task.
8. It will be impossible for the rest of the world to achieve the same standard of living that is today enjoyed by the “north”. It is also impossible for the “north” to maintain its current standard of living let alone expand on it. The degree of frustration and sense of injustice that this will entail will be a source of major conflicts and more importantly of major exploitation by demagogues in both sides.
9. Conflicts in terms of actual combatant deaths are becoming smaller, but the high technological weaponry on the one hand and the fragmentation of the state control systems on the other are creating massive population displacement even when the conflicts are resulting in relatively fewer deaths: for example, the Iraq war has left more than 4000 US personnel dead but has displaced 4 million Iraqis. The conflict in 2006 displaced a million Lebanese and hundreds of thousands of Israelis with an infinitesimal number of combat killed. Therefore, the ability of even rich and modern countries to sustain a long campaign is coming to an end.
10. Here are my overall conclusions
a. The ME is in for a very rough period. The current post Ottoman structures are coming to an end. The resultant failed states will be the best breeding ground for extremism and for instability
b. Empires are finished. Not even the most powerful country in history can come to grips with the fact that the Iraqi subjects have effectively rejected the project and are refusing to bow out or to comply.
c. Capitalism will evolve or will die. It is no longer offering a solution to the local or global problems facing the inequities of wealth distribution and the limitation of resources of the planet and its ability to handle the garbage of such frenzied consumption.
d. The Nation State concept is under enormous strain as it has to grapple with a non compliant citizenry on the one hand and globalized forces of economic change. How it will adapt is not clear to me at present.

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June 16th, 2008, 12:28 pm

 

31. Qifa Nabki said:

Ausamaa

ما فهمت قصدك أبداً . إرجع فهمني على مهلك…

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June 16th, 2008, 12:37 pm

 

32. norman said:

NEWS | OPINIONS | SPORTS | ARTS & LIVING | Discussions | Photos & Video | City Guide | CLASSIFIEDS | JOBS | CARS | REAL ESTATE

Israeli envoys propose Olmert meet Syria’s Assad

By Dan Williams
Reuters
Monday, June 16, 2008; 4:30 AM

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli envoys holding a new round of indirect peace talks with Syrian counterparts in Turkey will propose that the two leaders meet at a Paris conference next month, Israeli political sources said on Monday.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched Turkish-mediated negotiations last month but there has been no word on prospects for a face-to-face meeting given the gap between the sides’ bedrock demands.

Both men are to attend a July 13 summit of a new union of European and Mediterranean countries in Paris and Olmert, who sent aides to resume talks in Turkey on Saturday, has offered to meet Assad on the sidelines, an Israeli political source said.

According to another Israeli source, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is trying to arrange a three-way meeting with Olmert and Assad during the Euro-Med conference but has not yet received final confirmation from Damascus.

The French embassy in Tel Aviv had no immediate comment.

Sarkozy has invited leaders attending the summit to stay on for France’s July 14 national day parade.

“The idea isn’t necessarily to hold an hours-long conversation, just a face-to-face encounter that would, in itself, serve to take things forward,” said one Israeli source. “This is one of the fresh ideas that is being raised in Turkey.”

Olmert aides Yoram Turbowicz and Shalom Turjeman held indirect talks with Syrian counterparts on Sunday and were continuing contacts on Monday, the Israeli sources said.

There was no immediate confirmation of this from Syrian or Turkish officials.

NOT OPTIMISTIC

Olmert’s delegation was not optimistic about the chances of Assad agreeing to meet the prime minister at this stage, an Israeli political source said.

“The assessment in Israel is that he (Assad) would first need something concrete in hand,” the source said.

The last round of indirect Israeli-Syrian talks, in mid-May, took place at an Istanbul hotel, with Turkish diplomats shuttling between the delegations’ rooms. Israeli political sources had no immediate word on the venue of the current talks.

A diplomatic breakthrough could shore up Olmert at home, where he faces a corruption scandal that threatens to force him from office. A key American witness in the case is due to be cross-questioned by Olmert’s lawyers in open court on July 17.

Israeli officials said last week Israel would favor direct negotiations with Syria.

The last direct talks — between then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara — stalled in 2000 in a dispute over how much of the Golan Heights, which Israel captured in a 1967 war, should go back to Syria.

Damascus is firm in demanding all the Golan. Olmert has been hazy on whether his government would satisfy this, saying only that “difficult concessions” may be required for peace with Syria but that he has made no promises regarding the territory.

Israel, echoing a long-running U.S. demand, in turn wants Syria to scale back ties with the Jewish state’s most virulent foes — Iran, Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah. Syrian officials have rejected this precondition.

(Additional reporting by Paul Taylor in Brussels and Brenda Gazzar in Jerusalem; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

© 2008 Reuters

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June 16th, 2008, 1:32 pm

 

33. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Offended,
“The mistake many of you (I am talking collectively here) makes is that they think that once the ‘resistance card’ is neutralized, Syria is utterly paralyzed. ”

So what other card does Syria have to play? What other carrots or sticks does it have in its arsenal? I just do not see them.

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June 16th, 2008, 1:36 pm

 

34. Alex said:

AIG,

Syria’s “cards” are not limited to “Hizbollah” or “Hamas” … if there is no Hizbollah, there are many Lebanese people who support Syria. If there was no more Hamas, Half the Palestinian people trust no other Arab country but Syria …

Syria was under pressure or under attack on and off since 1977. Some years were very difficult (1981, 2004, 2005) … but Syria always finds new “cards”… we’ve had enough historical data to be able to forecast that part.

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June 16th, 2008, 4:08 pm

 

35. Alex said:

Observer,

Another excellent comment. ANd here is another excellent article by Sami on the Iraqi situation:

A popular Iraqi joke speaks of an aged man who marries a young girl many years his junior, called Mana. Whenever he visits his young bride, she complains that his long beard has become too white, and plucks out its white hair. The next day, he visits his first wife Hana, who is his age, and she complains that the remaining black hairs do not compliment him, plucking them out as well. He eventually ends up with no beard, and miserably speaks to himself in front of the mirror saying, “Between Hana and Mana, I lost my beard!”

The moral of the story – which rhymes in Arabic – is that men cannot please all tastes, nor two wives. Iraqis today are using the story in reference to their Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who is torn between appeasing the United States, which brought him to power and kept him there despite all odds, since 2006, and pleasing his patrons and co-religionaries in Tehran.

The Americans tell him to sign a long-term agreement between with the US, maintaining 50 permanent American military bases in Iraq. The Iranians angrily order him not to, claiming this would be a direct security threat to the region as a whole, and Iran in particular. The Americans reportedly are pressing to finalize the deal by July 30, 2008, upset that no progress has been made since talks started in February. Iran has carried out a massive public relations campaign against the deal, calling on all Shi’ites in Iraq to drown it.

Traditional foes like Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, chairman of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, and Muqtada al-Sadr, a leading Shi’ite cleric, have gone into high gear in recent weeks, pressuring Maliki not to sign. Hakim, who enjoys excellent relations with Washington, cannot stand up to his patrons Tehran – or defy his Shi’ite constituency – and say yes to such an agreement, which Iran considers a pretext for long-term US occupation of Iraq.

The first to come out and speak violently against the agreement was the Qum-based Ayatollah Kazem al-Hairi, a very influential cleric in Iraqi domestics, matched only by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. He issued a religious decree – a fatwa – prohibiting ratification of such an agreement long before similar declarations were made in Najaf.

Despite all talk of tension between the Sadrists and Iran, Muqtada echoed the statement, staging massive weekly demonstrations against the agreement. In addition to the 50 US bases, the deal calls for long-term American supervision of the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and Defense (no less than 10 years). It gives the Americans almost exclusive right to rebuild Iraq, train Iraqi forces and maintain personnel on Iraqi territory – with immunity from the Iraqi courts.

It gives the US the right to arrest or persecute any Iraqi working against its interests, within Iraq, and pledges to protect Iraq from any war, coup or revolution. It also gives the US control of Iraqi airspace. Barhan Saleh, the deputy prime minister, said that the Americans threatened to freeze no less than US$50 billion worth of Iraqi hard currency, and keep all of Iraq’s monetary debts to the US, if an agreement is not signed before December (the date that the United Nations mandate for the American presence in Iraq expires).

Saleh commented, “Our American allies need to understand and realize that this agreement must be respectful of Iraqi sovereignty. We need them here for a while longer, and they know they have to remain here for a while.”

After a visit to Tehran this month, Maliki at the weekend made his position clear – surprising the Americans – saying, “Iraq has another option that it may use. The Iraqi government, if it wants, has the right to demand that the UN terminate the presence of international forces on Iraqi sovereign soil.”

He added, “When we got to demands made by the American side we found that they greatly infringe on the sovereignty of Iraq and this is something we can never accept. We reached a clear disagreement. But I can assure you that all Iraqis would reject an agreement that violates Iraqi sovereignty in any way.”

These bold words were given under direct orders from the Supreme Leader of Iran, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, during Maliki’s latest visit to Tehran. The second draft, put forward by the Americans, changes some of the basic points, giving Iraq the right to prosecute American officers, soldiers and private contractors who violate Iraqi law, and requires the Americans to turn over any Iraqi arrested, to be tried by an Iraqi court.

Maliki’s refusal, according to officials at the US Embassy in Iraq, was to the first draft, insisting that the idea was still being debated by lawmakers from both countries. One Iraqi lawmaker was quoted – questioning Maliki’s big words, “If tomorrow the Americans decide to leave, I want to caution against overconfidence. It is still very precarious and we don’t have the capabilities to defend ourselves.”

What got into the prime minister? A sudden bolt of Iraqi nationalism? Or a stream of orders from Tehran – whose leaders are worried about increased talk of a US attack before January 2009? An Iraq chained to the US administration in post-George W Bush America could come in handy, after all, for any military adventure against Tehran.

The Iranian leaders have been watching three developments in the region with interest, all of which took place over the past week. One was the increased talk in Israel of the need to bomb Iran because of its nuclear program, made on Friday by Deputy Prime Minister Shaoul Mofaz. The Israeli minister – who has his eyes set on winning elections and becoming prime minister if or when Ehud Olmert gets ejected, noted that sanctions were not enough, saying that Israel must bomb Iran, with the United States. Analysts saw this as a prelude, coming after the latest Bush-Olmert summit, for Bush’s final adventure in the Persian Gulf.

Second was the debate in Iraq on whether or not to sign the agreement with the US. Third was the “coup” by Democratic senator and presidential hopeful Barack Obama, in his highly controversial speech before the influential lobby the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which changed all perception in the Third World that he would be the president to talk to – rather than bomb – the Iranians.

Iran fears these three developments. Shortly after Mofaz made his remarks, Iranian Defense Minister Mustapha Mohammad Najjar snapped back, “Iran’s armed forces have reached a pinnacle of their military might and if anyone is to take such measures, the response will be excruciating.”

Bush echoed these threats in a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, repeating traditional jargon that Iran is a threat to world peace. Then from Germany, he added that “all options are on the table” for dealing with Iran.

According to certain press reports, the Israeli government has set up a military command in preparation for an attack on Iran, called the Iran Command. “The command’s operations are aimed at improving coordination among Israeli ballistic missiles and air and missile brigades which deploy the Arrow and Patriot missile systems.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki downplayed this news, saying, “We don’t think there is any chance of a military strike,” claiming Mofaz’s remarks were “not serious”. These worlds do not refute those of Mofaz and have sent shockwaves throughout Tehran.

With regard to Obama’s speech, Olmert described it as “very moving”, much to the displeasure of the mullahs of Tehran. Among other things, Obama said that Jerusalem will remain the “united” and “eternal” capital of Israel. He then added that if elected, “I will bring to the White House an unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security. The bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable today, unbreakable tomorrow and unbreakable for ever.”

Obama added, “The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race, and raises the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists. Its president denies the Holocaust and threatens to wipe Israel off the map. The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat.”

These are ample reasons for the Iranian leaders to exert maximum pressure on Maliki, to change course, or leave office and make room for a Shi’ite statesman who can defend Iranian interests. Shi’ite leaders of Iraq – regardless of their differences – have been asked to unite by Khamenei, to kill the proposed US-Iraqi treaty.

Maliki was bluntly told to turn it down – or else. In as much as the Americans think they can press a button and get Maliki to respond affirmatively, reality is very different. They can eject him of course, but given these circumstances, it would be difficult to find any serious or credible Shi’ite statesman from within the United Iraqi Alliance willing to defy Iran, for the sake of America.

Mofaz’s statements and those of Obama do not make life any easier for Maliki. There are six more months of George W Bush at the White House. He still has the power to bomb Iran.

Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst. This article was published in Asia Times entitled “Iraq takes a turn towards Tehran” on June 16, 2008.

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June 16th, 2008, 4:09 pm

 

36. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
What “cards” are you talking about? The only “cards” Syria plays are spoiler cards. When it spoils less, it considers itelf doing a favor.

Syria spoils in the following ways:
1) It funds terrorist organization
2) It assasinates people in Lebanon
3) It agitates the Arab street

Options 1 and 2 have been mostly taken out of the hand of Syria. Hizballah cannot attack Israel any more and as for 3, the Saudis are going to attack Syria using Syrias methods. You are complaining about the Saudi funded press and its attack on Syria, but until Syria stops its own agitation the Saudis will not stop either. Have fun playing this game with them.

In the modern world power comes from building strong democratic societies with educated citizens that can compete globally. Unless Syria changes drastically it is doomed to becoming an insignificant and backward country.

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June 16th, 2008, 4:29 pm

 

37. offended said:

AIG, I’ll get to your points about the ‘cards’ issue later. For now I have a question and I wondering if you can please help understand how this thing is played.

Today, the british forigen office raised the “terrorism level alert” in the UAE to “high” (the highest possible, apprently). They’ve even warnted thier good 50000 citizens living here in a bulliten posted on their embassy’s website.

I am just curious: usually, how would the British find out that a terrorist attack is now imminent? I mean, if they have solid info why dont they share it with their Emaratis couterparts and together finish off this threat in the buds?

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June 16th, 2008, 5:16 pm

 

38. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Offended,
They do share the info with UAE officials but people have different ways of interpreting data. The UAE would be more prone to discount the data since it does not want to harm trade and tourism with the UAE. No country is happy to admit that a terror attack on its soil is going to happen soon.

As to stopping the threat in the bud, it is not always possible. Sometimes you have good data from a reliable source that an attack is about to happen but you do not have exact details on who are the people behind it.

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June 16th, 2008, 5:40 pm

 

39. Alex said:

Offended,

It is a tactic … to send a signal to the Emirs that Some Brits are not happy after their getting too close to the Syrians.

By issuing those warnings few more times in the future, they can hurt Dubai’s image as a stable place to do business.

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June 16th, 2008, 5:44 pm

 

40. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
Right it is a conspiracy against the UAE.
Even the Canadian government is saying basically the same thing:
“There have been credible reports that terrorists may be planning attacks in the UAE, possibly against Westerners and/or Western interests.”

http://www.voyage.gc.ca/dest/report-en.asp?country=306000

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June 16th, 2008, 5:48 pm

 

41. offended said:

AIG,
But these chains of informatoin supply will eventually lead somewhere, no?… I mean, I have no idea how this thing is done and I am not trying to now. I just want to know whether the Brits are putting out some read herrings or, if they do have such solid info, why not act on it?

Conflict of interest with the locals, as you said, might be one reason. But I am still not sure what all this means.

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June 16th, 2008, 5:55 pm

 

42. offended said:

Alex, this is actually quite possible. A deterent for the UAE not to get so close to Iran or Syria.

Such news hurt Dubai, out of all the places in the world, even more than the terror act itself.

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June 16th, 2008, 6:01 pm

 

43. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Offended,
Not all good info is actionable. For example, Israel often gets credible info that a suicide bomber is going to attack but it doesn’t exactly know where and from where. The only solution then is to raise altertness in all fronts.

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June 16th, 2008, 6:18 pm

 

44. tv wall mount said:

Alex,
The law is a conspiracy against the United Arab Emirates.

Even the Canadian government basically means the same thing:

“There were credible reports that terrorists could plan attacks in the United Arab Emirates, possibly against Westerners and / or Western interests.”

tv wall mount

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July 26th, 2011, 11:51 am

 

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