Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010
Three important stories for Syria:
The Golan: The new Israeli referendum law dashes the hopes of a renewed Syrian-Israeli peace process. The law dictates that any “retreat” from land that Israel currently claims as its own (meaning the territories it has annexed – the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem) must be approved by a public referendum. The law passed by a majority of 65 to 33. It can only be overturned by a 2/3 majority of Knesset. See a recent protest in the Golan by Syrians worried about Golan lake drying up due to pumping by Israel’s national water company.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry announced the following:
“The decision taken by the Israeli Knesset to organize a referendum before withdrawing from the Occupied Syrian Golan and East Jerusalem constitutes a complete disregard for international law and the demands of the international community that considers East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan occupied Arab territories, and has decried the annexation of the Golan and East Jerusalem as null and void.
The decision taken by Israel on Monday confirms that it rejects the requirements of a just and comprehensive peace based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, and the principle of land-for-peace.
This procedure taken by Israel is unequivocally rejected, and does not change the fact that the Golan is occupied Syrian territory, not up for negotiations, and that the full return of the Golan to the line of June 4, 1967 constitutes the basis for establishing peace.
The Syrian Arab Republic considers this Israeli procedure as directed to those who are still under the delusion that the current Israeli government seeks peace and, on this basis, continue to shower Israel with rewards.”
Mitchell Plitnick writes:
The bill makes peace with Syria, which is conditioned on withdrawal from the Golan Heights, impossible. There might be even less public support for the Golan withdrawal than there is for a West Bank one; it’s just discussed less in the media.
What this law does is essentially present a choice to the international community: either force a resolution on the Israeli people or give up on the two-state solution.
U.S. State Department refused to take a stand on the new Israeli law. Spokesman Philip J. Crowley said the law was “an internal Israeli issue.”
Addendum: See Shai’s corrections and criticism of Plitnick in the comment section. He argues that the referendum law is fairly meaningless and will not inhibit a peace deal.
Iran: The Iranian Assembly Pushes to Oust Iran President reports the WSJ. Iran’s parliament revealed it planned to impeach President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but refrained under orders from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, exposing a deepening division within the regime.
Lebanon, Hizbullah, and the Hariri Murder: The Canadian Broadcast Company has published a long report by Neil Macdonald, “Who killed Lebanon’s Rafik Hariri?” It claims to lay out the evidence amassed by the STL against Hizbullah. Qifa Nabki has an excellent write up on it. T_Desco is skeptical that Macdonald gets the story right. He points out a number of inconsistencies with actual reports.
Qifa Nabki writes:
The material about Wissam al-Hassan [He oversaw security for Hariri at the time of the murder and is now considered potential suspect] is clearly the most disturbing and complicating element in this whole report. It’s an accusation that makes everybody’s life more difficult. Given al-Hassan’s close ties to Saad Hariri, no one in March 14 is going to be happy with these claims, and the Americans were apparently very uncomfortable with them. It also causes problems for Hizbullah and its allies: how can the opposition embrace the revelation about al-Hassan’s alleged culpability while disavowing the rest of the report? Finally, the Syrians, too, will not be happy with this leak, as Wissam al-Hassan was Hariri Sr.’s main channel to Rustom Ghazzali (former Syrian head of intelligence and de facto viceroy in Lebanon), which puts Damascus back under the spotlight.
If QN argues that Macdonald’s revelations put Damascus back under the spotlight, Angry Arab claims the opposite. He writes:
This CBC report rendered a great service to Hizbullah’s campaign against the Hariri court… to accuse the key intelligence guy in the Hariri camp, Al-Hasan, of complicity is to turn the investigation into a farce.
Addendum: Qifa Nabki has added a new post, laying out serious criticisms of the Macdonald article. One is by T-Desco who first pointed out that Macdonald is wrong to claim that the first two investigators ignored cell phone calls. Both were well aware of the “red team” and reported extensively on this group of people who seemed to be tailing Hariri. The second is a fuller explanation of these contradictions by Ben Ryan. Read it. Early reports presumed that the red team were Sunnis from Tripoli with possible Sunni extremist connections. The Ghamloush and girlfriend breakthrough, first reported on in 2006, linked the group to Hizbullah. We have no explanation for the Tripoli connection; this leaves a number of question marks. Ryan concludes:
I’ve seen no attempt at an explanation of how these magical phone records could point to the Syrians in October 2005 and then Hezbollah in 2006, 2009, and 2010. Basically, I smell a rat. Maybe these are real and maybe they say exactly what MacDonald says they do. But this story is being peddled, not investigated.
President Barack Obama said Monday he was committed to keeping Lebanon free of “terrorism” as tensions and fears of violence rose sharply in Beirut. “We continue to support the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which will end the era of political assassinations with impunity in Lebanon,” he said. “Lebanon and its children need a future where they can fulfill their dreams free of fear and intimidation.”
Lebanon: justice at what cost? By James Denselow in the Guardian
The predicted indictment of Hezbollah members would suggest that they are suspected of killing Hariri at the behest of their Syrian allies. In response, the Syrians have regularly looked to discredit the investigation as biased, with a senior Syrian diplomat telling me that its enemies were using the tribunal as “a game” against it.
If it is a game then Syria still has cards to play and none more powerful than its alliance with Hezbollah. A senior Hezbollah official warned that “such an indictment is a warning bell equivalent to lighting the fuse, to igniting the wick for an explosion, and is dangerous for Lebanon”.
Peace is the Problem, Not Engagement. Ahmed Salkini the spokesman for the Syrian Embassy makes a good point in letter to the editor of the WSJ.
In regard to your Nov. 8 editorial “The Damascus Mirage”: President Bashar Assad was never “visited by” Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman or National Security Council Senior Director Daniel Shapiro; in fact, he has yet to meet with them. As for other American politicians who have visited Syria, we did indeed reciprocate. They came with nice words about engagement; they heard kind words about engagement. They want to send an ambassador to Syria, we exceeded that by not withdrawing our ambassador to the U.S. to begin with.
The crux of the problem is not engagement. It is peace. The truth is that only when Israel—the illegal occupier of our lands—decides to return our land will there be peace in the Middle East. Until then, political and military resistance will inevitably, and rightfully, persist. Instead of implying the need for more U.S. military enterprises and chaos in our region, you should think about what is best for “beloved” Israel: peace.
Bribing Israel: Former U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer criticized the recent U.S. offer to provide Israel with a 3 billion dollar package of incentives in exchange for an additional 90-day freeze on West Bank settlement construction. He wrote:
Marriage between relatives, which accounts for thirty-eight percent of marriages in Syria, threatens Syrians with disability, which affects ten percent of the population. (SSRC’s latest update)
The level of remittances to Syria is estimated by the World Bank at USD 1.4 billion for 2010, a figure significantly higher than in previous estimates. (Syria Report)
The General Company for Mills, a state-owned company, is expecting its losses to reach some SYP 53 billion, or USD 1.15 billion, next year, according to its director-general, Abu Zeid Katbeh. (Syria Report)
Syria’s threats and counter threats – Haaretz, 2010-11-20
Speaking in New York last week, International Atomic Energy Agency director general Yukiya Amano said the organization had the authority to send inspectors to sites in Syria where there is a suspicion that prohibited nuclear activities have taken …
Syria important for India’s energy security needs: President Patil By Praful Kumar Singh,
On Board Air India One, Nov 21 : President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, who left on nine day state visit to West Asia on Sunday, described Syria as an important country for India’s energy security needs.
Democracy Debate – Shadi Hamid and Greg Gause discussed whether democracy in the Middle East is in Washington’s interests, what Islamists would do if they came to power, and the durability of authoritarian rule across the Arab world. Blogginghead TV.
Great TV, ما ملكت إيمانكم from this past Ramadan season? writes Tyler:
The best I’ve ever seen from the Arab world. Not the same production values of الاجتياح or some of the other historical epics, but the writing is great and the topics they take on are legitimately ground-breaking. A BBC Arabic article about it: but WARNING: don’t watch the film clip through to the end if you don’t want a big plot point spoiled!
Stratfor Claims that Russia has provided Iran with a new and enhanced radar system that extends its ability to detect hostile aircraft and missiles from around 250 miles to more than 1,850 miles.