Posted by Joshua on Saturday, December 19th, 2009
“… The visit by Hariri was “very difficult on the personal level” and involves “great sacrifice,” said Hariri loyalist and former lawmaker Mustafa Alloush. “But as prime minister of Lebanon, it is quite normal to have such a visit. … It is necessary and there is a need to settle all aspects of the relationship,” Alloush told The Associated Press. He said the visit did not mean Lebanon had dropped its belief that Syria was responsible for the killing of Rafik Hariri, who also served as prime minister. “But this matter is up to the international tribunal now; it is no longer a personal issue,” Alloush said.
Abu Wael – Muhammad Nasiif – oversees the Lebanon portfolio
إن العلاقات مع لبنان ستكون علاقة دولة بدولة، وباستطاعة الزائرين التقليديين، الذين سيخف وهجهم، ان يزوروا اصدقاءهم داخل الادارة السورية، مجرد زيارات ، ولن يستطيعوا كما قبل ان يتجولوا في مناطق ابو رمانة وكفرسوسة ذات الثقل الامني ، لانه بات لدمشق باب واحد فقط ، فالذي يمسك بالملف اللبناني، من الآن وصاعدا هو الرئيس الاسد مع الاستعانة بمساعد نائب الرئيس اللواء محمد ناصيف (ابو وائل) الذي يؤكد لزواره انه لم يزر لبنان الا مرة واحدة، وبإلحاح من النجل الاكبر للرئيس الراحل حافظ الاسد باسل الاسد لحضور حفل زفاف النائب طلال ارسلان.
The Enduring Iran-Syria-Hezbollah Axis
Michael Rubin | AEI Online December 2009)
The Obama administration would like to move Syria into the camp of more moderate Arab states, but there is scant evidence that Syria is willing to give up its support for terrorist organizations. Like Iran, it remains a destabilizing and dangerous force in the region.
Key points in this Outlook:
- The Lebanese and Israeli border is calmer today than during the 2006 war, but the potential for regional conflict is great.
- Both the Syrian and Iranian governments have used Hezbollah to conduct proxy warfare against Israel.
- The Obama administration has tried to move Syria from a rejectionist state into the more moderate Arab camp, but there is no evidence that the engagement policy has worked.
Successful U.S. and Israeli interdiction efforts of Iranian arms at high sea, while embarrassing to Iran, have made Syria’s role as a route for weapons delivery more important. The last decade has witnessed several high-profile interceptions of weapons:
- On January 29, 2001, the Israeli Navy seized two containers of weapons, reportedly offloaded in watertight containers by the Calypso, a Lebanese arms-smuggling ship.
- On May 7, 2001, the Israeli Navy seized the Santorini while it was on its fourth arms-smuggling mission. This ship carried 107mm rockets, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, antiaircraft missiles, and antitank weaponry.
- On January 3, 2002, the Israeli Navy intercepted the Karine-A, a Gaza-bound freighter, while it was on the Red Sea. Onboard, naval commandos found fifty tons of sophisticated Iranian weaponry.
- On May 20, 2003, the Israeli Navy intercepted the Abu Hassan, a fishing vessel carrying weapons, explosives, and detonators.
- On January 19-20, 2009, the U.S. Navy intercepted the Monchegorsk, an Iranian freighter carrying military supplies to Syria in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559.
| U.S.-Israeli Arms Cooperation Quietly Growing
By Nathan Guttman
December 16, 2009, issue of December 25, 2009.
Washington — Leaders in Washington and Jerusalem have publicly locked horns over the issue of West Bank settlements. And Israeli public opinion has largely viewed America’s new administration as unfriendly. But behind the scenes, strategic security relations between the two countries are flourishing.
Israeli soldiers train near the coastal city of Ashdod in October, part of the largest missile defense dry run ever held. Some 1,400 American soldiers were also involved.
Israeli officials have been singing the praises of President Obama for his willingness to address their defense concerns and for actions taken by his administration to bolster Israel’s qualitative military edge — an edge eroded, according to Israel, during the final year of the George W. Bush presidency.
Among the new initiatives taken by the administration, the Forward has learned, are adjustments in a massive arms deal the Bush administration made with Arab Gulf states in response to Israeli concerns. There have also been upgrades in U.S.-Israeli military cooperation on missile defense. And a deal is expected next year that will see one of the United States’ most advanced fighter jets go to Israel with some of America’s most sensitive new technology.
Amid the cacophony of U.S.-Israel clashes on the diplomatic front, public attention given to this intensified strategic cooperation has been scant. But in a rare public comment in October, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren praised the Obama administration’s response to complaints about lost ground during the close of the Bush years as “warm and immediate.”
“We came to the Obama administration and said, ‘Listen, we have a problem here,’” Oren, told a gathering of the National Jewish Democratic Council. “The administration’s reaction was immediate: we are going to address this issue, we are going to make sure that we maintain your QME [qualitative military edge].”…..
Israel: EU official’s ‘occupation’ remark casts pall on ties
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent, 18/12/2009
Government officials in Jerusalem harshly criticized the new European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, for her scathing remarks about the “Israeli occupation” in her maiden speech.
Ashton on Tuesday leveled scathing criticism at Israeli policy in her first speech as the European Union’s first high representative for foreign affairs and security policy.
The government officials in Jerusalem said they were surprised, dissatisfied and concerned that such a senior figure had expressed criticism before visiting Israel and learning the facts.
They said the remarks cast a pall over relations with the European Union, and that they were particularly angry that she had not welcomed the settlement construction freeze, as had her European colleagues.
The British stateswoman, who has also served as the Commissioner for Trade in the European Commission, said that in the EU’s view, “East Jerusalem is occupied territory, together with the West Bank.”
Ashton demanded that Israel immediately lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip, and reiterated that the union opposes the existence of the West Bank separation fence, as it opposes evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem.
The stateswoman, whose full title is Baroness Ashton of Upholland, also only defined Israel’s partial freeze of West Bank settlement construction as a “first step,” as opposed to the warmer description of the move by EU foreign ministers, who last week took “positive note” of it.
In her address to MEPs in Strasbourg, Ashton, who was only recently appointed to the new position, said she had spoken with Israelis, Palestinians and the U.S. Secretary of State about the role the Quartet of international mediators, and that of its special envoy to the region, Tony Blair.
Ashton said she had told Blair personally that, “The Quartet [a special group set up by the U.S., EU, UN and Russia] must demonstrate that it is worth the money, that it is capable of being reinvigorated.”
Following her comments, a number of MEPs from the Liberal side of the house called for punitive measures against Israel, including the suspension of the EU’s Association Agreement. Irish centre-left member Proinsias De Rossa, who visited the West Bank last week, called Israel’s treatment of Palestinians a form of “apartheid.”
This time it was neither the “infamous” Swedish president who pulled the EU toward an anti-Israel resolution, nor a “daydreaming judge” in Britain who issued an arrest warrant against an Israeli foreign minister. Criticism of Israel has become the language of choice in European discourse.
When the Israeli government offers new benefits to settlers, and peace talks with the Palestinians are deadlocked, even the superpower’s long arm is helpless. Even former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, a devout Jew who serves as an external advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama, does not hide his chagrin with the settlements policy.
Indyk has recently told Haaretz in an interview that statements by figures like Minister without Portfolio Benny Begin, according to which settlement construction will continue despite the moratorium, are damaging to Israel’s interests. He said these comments, as well as the decision to pump funds into isolated settlements, strengthen the impression that the declaration of the freeze is not worth the paper it is written on. He warned that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will pay a political price for the move, without gaining the benefits which it was intended to grant Israel in the international arena.
‘Very old world’ wine makes a comeback in Lebanon and Syria
By Olivia Sterns, for CNN, December 18, 2009
Domaine Bargylus is Syria’s first private vineyard and is producing high-quality wine with European techniques.
London, England (CNN) — The fertile plains of Lebanon and Syria have been producing wine for thousands of years. Only recently, though, has the tradition come back in vogue.
Today, a new crop of boutique vineyards is sprouting up and older vineyards are earning increasing critical acclaim. Meanwhile, both local and international demand for their wine is steadily growing.
…. in Syria, the first private vineyard has just been opened by the Saade brothers, who already operate a successful estate in Lebanon — Chateau Marsyas…..
Enough of blaming the Goldstone Report!
By Rami G. Khouri
Daily Star staff
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
A brief news item in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) a few days ago made depressing reading. It was entitled: “State Department blames Goldstone for stalled peace talks.” “Wow!” I thought to myself, has it really come down to this? The United States and Israel, who do not hesitate to toot their horn about their democratic credentials, now blame the stalled Arab-Israeli peace process on Judge Richard Goldstone, the main author of a report on potential war crimes during the Gaza war that was issued last September by the United Nations Human Rights Council inquiry commission?
It is hard to think of a more distorted and backward brand of political morality than this American-Israeli view of the Goldstone report, which most of the world sees as a historic breakthrough in the elusive quest to apply international norms of accountability to avoid the savagery that has come to define Arab-Israeli warfare.
Syrian president meets Iraqi SIIC leader
Dec. 18, 2009
DAMASCUS, Syria, Dec. 18 (UPI) — Security and political progress in Iraq are included in the foreign policy interests of the government in Damascus, the Syrian president told Iraqi leaders.
Syrian President Bashar Assad met with Ammar al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council in Damascus, the official Syrian Arab News Agency reports.
Assad during his meetings with the Shiite leader relayed his support for political stability and national security in Iraq.
Syrian relations with Iraq were strained following a deadly August attack in Baghdad. Iraqi leaders lashed out at Damascus
, saying supporters of the Iraqi Baath Party played a role in the attacks from their bases in Syria.
Damascus denied the link, and the Iraqi branch of al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the August bombings and a string of similar attacks.
U.S. military officials, however, said several members of the former Iraqi regime could be in Syria, including former Iraqi commander Izzat al-Douri, who took over as head of the Iraqi Baath Party following the 2006 execution of Saddam Hussein.
The SANA report noted Hakim expressed his appreciation for Syria’s support for Iraq as it emerges from years of war.
Ammar al-Hakim emerged as the SIIC chief following the death of his father and former leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim in August.
A pro-Jewish movement within Israel’s Likud Party says a referendum bill making its way through the Knesset would effectively end the Oslo accords and prevent the Israeli government from giving away important territory to the Arabs in any so-called “peace agreement.”
As previously reported, Israel’s Parliament recently gave preliminary approval by a 68 to 22 vote on a piece of legislation that would require a national referendum on any peace deal that cedes land in Jerusalem or the Golan Heights. If it passes two more readings, the law could constrain the ability of any future Israeli government to turn covenant land over as part of a peace deal as the Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, while Syria has demanded the return of the Golan Heights as part of any peace agreement with Israel.
2009-12-17 13:26:08.421 GMT
Damascus (dpa) — Former Syrian president Amin al-Hafez died Thursday at 88 in the Syrian city of Aleppo, his wife Zainab confirmed. Al-Hafez passed away in the military hospital in Aleppo, where he lived since he came back to Syria in 2003, after living in exile for almost 36 years. Al-Hafez became president when he led a 1963 military coup and installed a Baathist cabinet. He was overthrown three years later in another coup, and left for Lebanon, where he lived for two years before settling in Iraq. The funeral will be held in Aleppo, his hometown, on Friday.
Queen Rania champions Palestinian designer Rami Kashouat: “Rania’s style is elegantly conservative. She can wear something open, but she can’t wear something strapless. And she loves my draping — the thing they beat me up for on ‘Project Runway’ takes me to the queen of Jordan!”
On the recent Israeli Legislation Requiring a Referendum before Occupied land can be returned to Palestinians or Syrians
Rob Muchnick, U.S. spokesman for Manhigut Yehudit, the Jewish Leadership Movement, believes that this is a great piece of legislation “that will kill any chances of a deal with any Arabs who Barack Obama says are moderate [and] who the Israel government says [are] moderate, even though we know they’re just terrorist thugs wearing suits. So if it destroys that chance, then no matter how much Obama screams or how much the Israeli left wants to give it away, it pretty much would wipe out the Oslo agreement and get us back on the right course. And that’s what’s so great about it,” he contends.