Posted by Joshua on Thursday, June 11th, 2009
“… Perhaps the only thing Carter hadn’t found time for, of late, was an epic e-mail from Jeffrey Feltman, the State Department’s envoy to Syria—“It’s this long,” Carter said, spreading his hands wide as if he were taking measure of a prize fish. Carter, who has been outspoken in his support for more American engagement with the Syrian regime, and groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, which are on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations, has a particular disdain for Feltman, who as Ambassador to Lebanon during the Bush Administration, consistently antagonized Syria. “For some ungodly reason, when Hillary decided to send some representative to Syria they picked out Feltman,” he said.
Carter praised Obama for his recent speech in Cairo but stopped short of agreeing with those who claimed it had helped March 14 win the election. Instead, he credited much of the progress to Obama’s “general attitude toward this region” and “the favorable attitudes that people now have toward the United States.
As for the future of Hezbollah, Carter said, “Oh, I don’t think Hezbollah’s going to create any problems for Obama, or for Lebanon. I think they’re satisfied to maintain the status quo.” This may be optimistic. Carter said, “We’ve met with Hariri, we’ve met with other leaders today, and I think that withdrawing weapons from Hezbollah is out of the question. I don’t think they’re going to even bring it up. And that’s the main thing that Hezbollah wants.”
Helena Cobban of Just World News writes:
With Mitchell now due to be in Syria either Friday or Saturday you can find the transcribed highlights of my June 4 interview with FM Walid Moualem here. You can find the news-analysis piece I did on this for IPS here:
Talking To: Blogger Elias Muhanna
Elias Muhanna talks about his blog, “Qifa Nabki,” and the election results
I am very eager to see a real improvement in our relations with Washington,” said Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem in an interview with Foreign Affairs magazine. “But nothing has happened yet.” Moallem acknowledged the Washington sanction decision was based on Syrian support, along with Iran, for the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas. “But it’s very strange that you condemn me as a ‘terrorist’ at the same time as you call on me to help you combat terrorism in Iraq and elsewhere,” he said, referring to Washington. “It doesn’t make sense!” He noted, however, that Damascus was ready to step forward to act as a possible intermediary regarding Washington concerns over Iranian proxies and its controversial nuclear program. “We are ready to help,” he said.
Will Syria play key role in Obama’s Mideast peace efforts? US envoy Mitchell was in Egypt Thursday, and arrives in Damascus Friday. Syrians hope for a new rapprochement under an Obama administration.
By Julien Barnes-Dacey in CSM