Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, August 29th, 2007
"Screw France. Hello Germany." This is how one SC commentator greeted the news that Germany is giving Syria 46 million dollars in aid, breaking the European embargo on aid to Syria. Generally the isolation dam that the US tried to build around Syria is breaking down.
Addendum: (Aug. 31,2007) Zubaida writes: "You should be careful about overinterpreting the German aid package. There is no European aid embargo on Syria, even though the Association Agreement is on ice. The European Investment Bank is still providing substantial finance (eg. Deir Ali and Deir ez-Zour power stations, design of Damascus metro, rural telecoms upgrade), and the Finance Ministry is using a European Commission grant for a major consultancy contract to revamp its systems. The French and German development agencies are both heavily involved in backing the State Planning Commission and the Central Bank. What the Europeans are saying is that there could be more aid if Syria modified its policy towards Lebanon — but that's a different story."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak is now redeploying the IDF away from the north, deeming war with Syria “unlikely.” Barak ordered the redeployment from the Golan Heights following months of training exercises and a steady stream of rumors among Israelis that war with Syria would break out in the course of the summer months.
Katie Couric, anchor of "CBS Evening News," is headed for Damascus and Baghdad for 10 days.
Angelina Jolie flew from New York to Syria on Monday. She spent hours talking with Iraqi refugees in Damascus, Syria, also visiting a makeshift camp housing 1,200 people in Iraq. "I have come to Syria and Iraq to help draw attention to this humanitarian crisis and to urge governments to increase their support for UNHCR and its partners," Jolie said in a statement released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
All of these visits will do little for anyone if Bush is really serious about bombing Iran in some capacity. More analysts are becoming convinced he means it. I would be dumb-founded if he did. Nothing could be more stupid, but it is the only thing that explains the course he is on and the opportunities that he is passing up to mend fences in the region and try to stave off worse failure down the line, whether in Iraq, Lebanon, or Palestine. Why Sarkozy is playing handmaiden to this is beyond me. Blair was the last leader who believed he could ride the US lion and benefit, or at least do some good. He could do nothing to restrain Bush and only enabled him.
Lebanon: Two articles of interest come our way via FLC.
Reappraise us Lebanon Policy
August 16, 2007.
By Graeme Bannerman, MEI
The defeat of former Lebanese President Amin Gemayel in a local by-election in Metn earlier this month is like the death of a canary in the coalmine. American policymakers should be warned that it is time to reshape our Lebanon policy. Otherwise, a larger tragedy awaits.
The Metn region, an eastern Beirut suburb, is overwhelmingly Christian and probably more pro-American than any place in the Middle East. The people who live there are educated, prosperous and cosmopolitan. They share the American goals of keeping Syria out of Lebanon, opposing international terrorism and strengthening Lebanese democracy. They still have great respect for the Gemayel family, which includes a former president elect and a cabinet minister, both of whom were assassinated. Nevertheless, the voters rejected the Gemayel patriarch and put their faith in an unknown and uncharismatic candidate opposed to the policies of the current government….
The people of Metn agree any increase in Syrian influence should be prevented and Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs eliminated. A growing number, however, think the confrontational approach to Syria of the Siniora Government and espoused by the US will not succeed. More and more Lebanese believe that if Lebanon is seen by Syria as a threat to Syrian national security or as an instrument which the US uses to threaten or intimidate Syria, Damascus is likely to increase its coercion and foster instability in Lebanon. The way to minimize Syrian interference in Lebanese internal affairs is for Lebanon not to be seen as a threat to Damascus. ….
American leaders need to realize that the local election in Metn is a clear signal of a shift in Lebanese opinion against American policy. Lebanese leaders who have linked their fate to American power and influence against their domestic opponents will use every means they have to persuade Washington not to change course. The US administration must not be drawn into internal Lebanese political struggles. It needs to stand back and reassess US interests, goals and policies with a clear mind toward avoiding yet another Middle Eastern quagmire. (Read complete article.)
Predictions that Aoun’s alliance with the “Party of God” would dispel his support in the Christian community were proven wrong.
Throughout his political career, Michel Aoun’s bold maneuvering, boisterous, often ranting discourse and utter disregard for the complex rules and false niceties of the Lebanese political scene have made him one of the most divisive figures therein. To his admirers, he is the strong leader who can rise above the fray of perennial internecine conflict, clear out a divided and despised political class bent on the pursuit of factional and personal interest, and achieve longed-for, but ever elusive national unity. Likewise, Aoun has earned himself the intense loathing (even by Lebanese standards) of the members of exactly this political class (and their followers). Rather than a champion of secularist nationalism, they consider Aoun to be an irresponsible rabble rouser who threatens to upset the delicate balance of sectarian power sharing, and his calls for reform and a shakeup of public institutions to be thinly veiled Bonapartism. Aoun’s loud populism is seen as not only gauche but also a challenge to the country’s Byzantine political game, whereby decisions and distributions of spoils are supposed to be worked out behind impenetrable smokescreens of lofty principles and diplomatic cant. For the Christian part of this political class, he is also an upstart trespassing on territory that is rightfully theirs. “To his supporters,” as one journalist sums it up, “he is a Lebanese Charles de Gaulle seeking to unite this fractious country and rebuild trust in its institutions. To his critics he is a divisive megalomaniac willing to stop at nothing to become president of Lebanon.”
Another constant feature of Aoun’s volatile career is the persistence with which his popular support has bounced back every time his opponents have declared it spent.
“This is the most damaging accusation,” says pollster Abdo Saad. “The polls show that Aoun’s supporters have no problem with Hizballah as such. What they mind is Hizballah’s attachment to Syria. They have no problem with Aoun’s political decisions, but they take issue with his alliances with formerly pro-Syrian forces. My own wife, who is Christian, used to be all-out for Aoun, but now, the media campaign portraying him as pro-Syrian has succeeded to turn her against him.”
Yet the fact that, at the end of a long election day, Amin Gemayel was unable to capitalize upon these considerable advantages shows that the core support for the FPM remains resilient, and makes it appear unlikely that any force in the Christian camp will be able to challenge Michel Aoun’s position in the near future.
Finally, the inconclusive test of forces between Amin Gemayel and Michel Aoun bodes ill for the already intractable conflict over the upcoming election of a new president — a post traditionally reserved for Maronite Christians — where both men are candidates.
Maronite Patriarch Sfeir, the leading Maronite of Lebanon, argues that ammending the constitution in Lebanon would be better than failing to elect a president. This means that he would support the candidacy of Michel Sulaiman, the head of the army, who recently said that Syria was not behind Fatah al-Islam.
The Siniora government is having none of that. A leading member said, "But if we see in the first session that MPs boycotting the session intend to hinder the election of a new president, then the majority with half-plus-one of MPs would be the constitutionally authorized body" to elect the next president.
Jumblatt reiterated his previous position rejecting amending the Constitution for the sake of individuals.
Hizbullah MP Hussein al- Hajj Hassan chided the ruling coalition for turning against Berri and Army Commander General Michel Suleiman when the speaker tried to solve the impasse and when Suleiman said what they did not want to hear.