Posted by Joshua on Monday, June 9th, 2008
A French firm is to build two big cement factories in Syria worth $1.2 billion. It breaks the western embargo on doing big deals in Syria, imposed since the extension of Lahoud's presidency in 2004. Assad is to travel to Paris once the new cabinet is settled in Lebanon, perhaps for Bastille day in Paris. This should bring down what barriers remain in Europe to doing business with Syria. It will be interesting to see what effect this will have on international banks, which are reluctant to participate in Syrian deals because of the various layers of US sanctions.
Syrie: Lafarge remporte deux contrats de 1,2 md USD pour deux cimenteries
08/06/2008-[16:57] – AFP
DAMAS, 8 juin 2008 (AFP) – La Syrie a signé avec le géant français Lafarge deux contrats de près de 1,2 milliard de dollars pour la construction de deux cimenteries en Syrie, a indiqué dimanche le quotidien officiel As-Saoura.
“La Syrie a signé deux importants contrats avec le géant français Lafarge pour la construction de deux cimenteries à Damas et à Alep (nord-ouest) d’un coût atteignant près de 1,2 md de dollars”, a affirmé le journal citant un responsable du gouvernement français. Ces deux usines, dont la construction doit commencer en 2008, “sont parmi les investissements étrangers les plus importants en Syrie”, selon le journal. En 2007, les exportations de la Syrie vers la France se sont élevées à 700 millions de dollars, alors que les exportations de la France vers la Syrie ont atteint 500 millions de dollars, selon as-Saoura. As-Saoura évoque aussi un projet français pour “agrandir et exploiter le port de Lattaquié”, dans le nord-ouest de la Syrie, ainsi que des projets du groupe de distribution français Carrefour pour ouvrir ses premiers supermarchés en Syrie. Une usine de fromage Bel-Syrie, construite par le groupe français Bel et inaugurée en septembre 2005, avait constitué le premier investissement français direct en Syrie, hors domaine pétrolier.
Tough Words From This Cheney on U.S. Mideast Policy
By Michael Abramowitz
Monday, June 9, 2008; Page A15
Looks as though another former Bush administration official is off the reservation. But don't expect the kind of fierce counterattack the White House and its friends waged recently against former press secretary Scott McClellan after the release of his tell-all book.
On a panel at last week's American Israel Political Affairs Committee convention, former State Department official Elizabeth Cheney described the Annapolis peace process as "misguided," said the United States had been "fundamentally mistaken" to push for elections in Gaza and suggested that the Bush administration has not been tough enough with Syria.
"In my view, this administration has gotten it right when we have been bold, when we have been decisive, when we have been focused, when we have used our military force when necessary," Cheney said at the conference, according to a recording posted on the AIPAC Web site. "Where we have been less effective and less successful is when we have been unfortunately not so bold, when we have not held [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad to account for the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, for the killing of American soldiers inside Iraq, for his support to Hezbollah."
Cheney is, of course, a private citizen who until early 2006 worked as a principal deputy assistant secretary of state in the Near East Bureau before leaving to have her fifth child. She is also close to her father, Vice President Cheney — so much so that when she was at State, people assumed her views reflected his perspective.
Whether they do now is unknown. But judging from her remarks at AIPAC, Liz is one Cheney unhappy with key elements of U.S. Mideast policy, from Lebanon and the peace process to how the White House dealt with elections in the Palestinian territories. She was also critical of Israel's performance in the 2006 war in Lebanon, citing "Israel's inability, unwillingness to do what was necessary . . . to fundamentally deal a blow to Hezbollah."
"I think that getting back to a situation where our enemies in the region understand that America will stand up for its friends, that America will stand up for its principles and that we have red lines is critically important," Cheney told the friendly audience at AIPAC. "When those red lines aren't there, when our enemies like Iran and Syria begin to believe that they can act with impunity, you see situations like you have got in Lebanon today — where Hezbollah now has a veto over that government, where Hezbollah will be able, I fear, to significantly continue its efforts to rearm in southern Lebanon, continue to threaten Israel and allow Iran a real chokehold on the region."
Cheney offered critiques in a number of key areas. One was the decision, which went all the way up to President Bush, to push Israel to allow elections in the Palestinian territories, which ultimately led to Hamas taking power in Gaza.
"The United States was fundamentally mistaken to push for those Palestinian elections in Gaza," Cheney said, drawing applause. "I think that at the time there wasn't anybody that I spoke to in the Palestinian government . . . or the Israeli government who thought those elections were a good idea."
At another point, Cheney appeared to suggest that it was a mistake for the United States to invite Syria to participate in last November's Annapolis conference: "It makes it much easier for the Europeans, for example, to say, 'Well, look, if you're not isolating Syria, if you are inviting the Syrians to Annapolis for a peace conference, why should we isolate the Syrians?' "
The Syrian Press (All4Syria.org) translated Saturday's SC post in which a high Israeli intelligence source is quote claiming that Bashar al-Asad is in control and supported by the Syrian street for not selling out the interests of his country.
مصادر استخباراتية إسرائيلية: الأسد يتمتع بدعم الشارع
خاص – (كلنا شركاء) نشر موقع سيريا كومنت على الانترنت الذي يديره الصحفي الأميركي جوشوا لانديز، (مدير مركز دراسات السلام في جامعة أوكلاهوما) رسالة نسبها إلى مقربين من "مصادر مخابراتية إسرائيلية رفيعة المستوى" تناولت تقييما لآصف شوكت، رئيس شعبة المخابرات العسكرية السورية، وزوج أخت الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد.
ونقلت الرسالة عن المصادر الإسرائيلية تأكيدها أن الأسد هو من يمتلك السيطرة الكاملة على الوضع في دمشق، ونفيها وجود أي تهديد له الآن على ما يبدو. وأضافت الرسالة أن الرئيس الأسد هو صاحب القرار في ما الذي يقال ولمن يقال وفي أي موضوع….
ثم نقلت الرسالة المقتضبة، عن المصادر ذاتها، أن شوكت لا يعرف شيئاً عما يجري وأن فاروق الشرق تم تحييده جانباً وأن وليد المعلم هو المسيطر اليوم على السياسة السورية الخارجية.
وختمت الرسالة بإظهار قناعة الأوساط الاستخباراتية الإسرائيلية بأن الأسد يتمتع بدعم الشارع السوري، لأنه بحسب المصادر، أثبت أنه لن "يبيع" مصالح بلاده.
خاص – (كلنا شركاء)
نشر موقع سيريا كومنت على الانترنت الذي يديره الصحفي الأميركي جوشوا لانديز، (مدير مركز دراسات السلام في جامعة أوكلاهوما) رسالة نسبها إلى مقربين من "مصادر مخابراتية إسرائيلية رفيعة المستوى" تناولت تقييما لآصف شوكت، رئيس شعبة المخابرات العسكرية السورية، وزوج أخت الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد.
Upbeat in Syria
Jun 6th 2008
From the Economist Intelligence Unit ViewsWire
Why President Bashar Assad is feeling cock-a-hoop
Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, is reaping substantial benefits, both economic and political, from the Lebanese political deal agreed in Doha last month, for which he has modestly claimed much of the credit. The ruler of Qatar visited him in Damascus to thank him for his role in the Doha agreement, and Mr Assad followed this up with visits to the UAE and Kuwait, from which he obtained generous promises of aid, including 500,000 tonnes of wheat to be purchased on Syria’s behalf by Abu Dhabi. The rehabilitation of his political reputation—which had been tarnished by association with brutal events in Lebanon and repression at home—is set to be completed by an appearance at the Mediterranean summit to be hosted by France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy on July 13th.
Assad to the rescue
What has Mr Assad done to deserve this unaccustomed adulation? By his own account, he has done no more than to remain consistent, waiting patiently for others to see sense. At a forum in Dubai Mr Assad said that when the Doha talks seemed to be on the brink of collapse, the ruler of Qatar called on Syria to provide some suggestions. “The ideas we provided were the exact same ideas we provided the French last year when they were mediating”, Mr Assad said, according to a transcript provided on the Syria Comment blog. “However, the French then did not comprehend or did not implement the ideas correctly.” He attributed this failing on the part of the French government to the mistaken assumption that Syria could speak and act on behalf of its allies in Lebanon, whereas in fact Syria was merely interested in furnishing practical solutions.
Mr Sarkozy had declared at the end of December that he would have no further dealing with the Syrian government until he was convinced that Mr Assad was prepared to allow Lebanon to have a consensus president. Following the election of Michel Suleiman as president of Lebanon, Mr Sarkozy has been true to his word, and has been in contact with Mr Assad once more, calling him on the telephone and dispatching two of his senior advisers to Damascus, presumably with an invitation to the Paris summit.
If Syria is to be reclassified as a force for stability in the Middle East, France clearly wants to derive some credit. The benefits for Mr Sarkozy include both securing a potentially valuable new recruit to his Mediterranean union project and the prospect of major commercial deals—a French consultant is working on engineering designs for the Damascus metro, a project that would appear to be tailor-made for French contractors, and the Toulouse-based Airbus Industrie could be in line for a contract to re-equip Syria’s national airline, whose fleet is now down to just six serviceable aircraft, according to the transport minister, Yarob Badr.
Economic considerations are likely to have played an important part in Syria’s recent push for international respectability—which has included embarking on peace talks with Israel and inviting the International Atomic Energy Agency (somewhat belatedly) to visit Syria and examine US claims that the building bombed by Israel last September was intended to house a covert nuclear reactor. The Syrian economy performed relatively well in 2005 and 2006 thanks to the beneficial effects of the Gulf boom, good harvests and capital inflows from Iraqi refugees. However, the picture does not look so bright now following two poor harvests, further depletion in oil production and a drop-off in Iraqi funds, as refugees have by now largely used up their savings….. (Read the rest)
Economic and Political Isolation of Syria is Crumbling very Fast
India's Ex-import bank extends first loan to Syria, whose imports from India expanded 45% last year.
Syria, Interpol To Co-Host Damascus Counterterrorism Conference; MEMRI translation: Source: Teshreen, Syria, June 8, 2008
On June 18-19, Damascus will host a conference on fighting terror in the Middle East and North Africa.
The conference, a joint venture of the Syrian Interior Ministry and the Interpol general secretariat, will be attended by Interpol Director-General Ronald K. Nobel. Invitees include representatives of countries dealing with counterterrorism in the Middle East and North Africa.
LA Times New forces fraying US-Saudi oil ties Surging prices, along with a weak dollar and an oil-thirsty Asia, have blunted America's leverage with the key oil producer and helped sour the two nations' relationship
Surging prices, along with a weak dollar and an oil-thirsty Asia, have blunted America's leverage with the key oil producer and helped sour the two nations' relationship
David Kaiser, History Unfolding: A must read on President Bush's speech in Israel.
A Presidential speech
Paging through the New York Times, I found that a certain Michael Vlock of Orange, Connecticut had purchased not one, but two full pages of the first section to reprint President Bush's entire speech to the Knesset. He argued that despite the controversy provoked by the speech in the United States, almost no Americans had had the opportunity to read it all. I did. …
President Bush is noted for his ability to speak in code, particularly to religious supporters. His use of words that will be understood by Christian Evangelicals has often been remarked upon, but before the Knesset, he did the same with respect to religious Zionists. The founding of Israel in 1948, he said, was "more than the establishment of a new country. It was the redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham and Moses and David–a homeland for the chosen people Eretz Israel. [sic]" In short, he invoked the Old Testament as the authority for redrawing the map of the Middle East. Although he may not know it, a minority of religious Zionists in Israel (including, in the 1950s, Menachem Begin) have long argued that the Israelis must settle all the lands that the Lord promised Abraham, including not only the West but the East Bank of the Jordan River. (In his book on peace with Egypt, Ezer Weizmann, a more secular Zionist, reported that Begin in the 1950s wrote articles with titles like "Amman Too Shall be Ours.") Certainly they will draw comfort from the President's speech..That, however, was not all. In the very next sentence the President linked the Zionist enterprise to the settling of North America by Europeans in the 17th century. "The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty." [That in itself is a fascinating sentence–does the President actually know that there is in fact no treaty of alliance between the United States and Israel?] "It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul. When William Bradford stepped off the Mayflower in 1620, he quoted the words of Jeremiah: 'Come let us declare in Zion the word of God.' The founders of my country saw a promised new land and bestowed upon their towns names like Bethlehem and New Canaan.".Now the President has history on his side here: that was indeed how those original settlers saw themselves. But in succeeding centuries, as more and more people of different religions (and of no religion at all) settled in the United States, we obviously abandoned such a vision in favor of a nation and a world based upon impartial laws, in which religion became a private, though protected, matter. To link the United States and Israel as two nations acting out God's will on earth strikes me as the perfect mirror image of Osama Bin Laden's call for Jihad against the Zionist-Crusader alliance–as well as the perfect confirmation of Bin Laden's propaganda.
"Occupiers who interfere in Iraq's affairs through their military and security might … are the main problems," Iran's state television quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying Monday.
Khamenei said Iraqis have to "think of a solution to free" themselves from the U.S. military. Though he did not explicitly mention the security agreement, he said Iraqis _ not Americans _ must decide the fate of their country.