“How Syria Decided to Participate at the Deputy F.M. Level,” by Hamidi

Ibrahim Hamidi explains "How Syria Decided to participate in at the Deputy F.M. Level

Here is a loose synopsis by JL: 

The decision only came after an intense series of phone calls between Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Moualem and the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, and Egypt, all of whom pressured Syria to participate. Calls from Iran's President pressured Syria not to go.

Syria decided to go but the question remained at what level – the Foreign Minister, Deputy F.M. or Ambassador Imad Moustapha.

In the end, the middle road was decided on. In part this was because Michael Corbin, the US Charge d'affaires in Damascus, supplied the government with a finalized Annapolis schedule that included under the title of the third Tuesday session – "Comprehensive Peace" – two subheadings were added. One for the Syrian track and a second for the Lebanon track. This was an important element to the decision because Syrians can claim that the Golan is on the schedule, which has been Damascus' consistent demand from the beginning. Syrian authorities claim that they will use any legitimate foreign venue to raise the issue of the Golan and press for the execution on international law concerning this issue.

كيف قررت سورية المشاركة في انابوليس على مستوى نائب وزير الخارجية؟

دمشق – إبراهيم حميدي     الحياة     – 26/11/07//

أكدت سورية أمس مشاركتها في المؤتمر الدولي للسلام الذي يعقد غداً في مدينة أنابوليس الأميركية، ممثلة بنائب وزير خارجيتها فيصل المقداد، بعدما تسلمت صباح أمس جدول أعمال المؤتمر الذي أشار إلى أن الجلسة المخصصة لمناقشة «السلام الشامل» تتضمن «المسار السوري».   

وقالت مصادر ديبلوماسية غربية لـ «الحياة» أمس إن قرار القيادة السورية المشاركة جاء بعد اتصالات مكثفة بين وزير الخارجية السوري وليد المعلم ووزراء الخارجية السعودي الأمير سعود الفيصل والإسباني ميغيل انخيل موراتينوس والتركي علي باباجان والمصري أحمد أبو الغيط والأمين العام للجامعة العربية عمرو موسى وزيارة السفيرين الفرنسي ميشل دوكلو والبريطاني سيمون كوليس مقر وزارة الخارجية.

وأكدت أن هذه الاتصالات انقسمت بين «حض سورية على الحضور على مستوى عالٍ، وبين مطالبة المعلم العمل لدى واشنطن لالتزامها ما وعدت به»، وهو وضع الجولان على جدول الأعمال. كما قام الرئيس الايراني محمود احمدي نجاد باتصاله هاتفيا بالرئيس بشار الاسد نجاد  الى عدم مشاركة سورية.

وبحسب المعلومات كانت هناك احتمالات عدة بينها ان تمثل سورية بالوزير المعلم او المقداد او السفير في واشنطن عماد مصطفى وصولا الى احتمال مقاطعة المؤتمر، قبل ان يتخذ القرار بالمشاركة على مستوى المقداد كـ"حل وسط" ولترك الخيارات مفتوحة. وجرت محاولات عدة أمس لترتيب سفر المقداد إلى واشنطن بعد إعداد الخطاب الذي سيلقيه. ومن المقرر أن يضم الوفد السفير مصطفى.

وعلمت «الحياة» أن القائم بالأعمال الأميركي مايكل كوربون اتصل مساء السبت بمدير المكاتب الخاصة في وزارة الخارجية بسام الصباغ ليبلغه شفويا بجدول الاعمال، الامر الذي اطلق سلسلة من الاتصالات العربية والغربية مع دمشق. ثم ثام كوربون  صباح الاحد بتسليم نسخة من جدول الأعمال الى الصباغ، أشارت إلى أن الجلسة الثالثة من أنابوليس المخصصة لـ «السلام الشامل» تتضمن مناقشة «المسار السوري» و «المسار اللبناني» و «التطبيع» في تعديل للمسودة الأولى للبرنامج التي كانت تنص على أنه «ستكون هناك فرصة (في الجلسة) لمناقشة الصلح مع إسرائيل وفرصة لسورية ولبنان للحديث» عن المفاوضات.

ورأت مصادر رسمية سورية أن «ما طلبناه جرت تلبيته». وقالت لـ «الحياة» إن دمشق «قالت أنها ستشارك في المؤتمر إذا أدرج المسار السوري، أي الجولان. وبعد اتصالات عربية ودولية وممارسة جهود من الاجتماع الوزاري العربي في القاهرة لبّى الجانب الاميركي ذلك ووضع عنوانا أساسياً في الجلسة الثالثة للمسار السوري». واعتبرت أن مستوى التمثيل السوري في المؤتمر «عالٍ جداً». وأشارت المصادر إلى ما يقال عن أن المؤتمر «سيكون نقطة انطلاق لعملية مقبلة، ونأمل في أن يكون الأمر كذلك. والأولوية بالنسبة للحكومة السورية، هي الجولان المحتل ما جعلنا نريد أن لا يغيب موضوعها عن أي محفل دولي. وهذا ما استطعنا فعله».

Comments (76)


IsraeliGuy said:

Take another look at the AP report from 4 days ago:
http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5ijsgM7DvxB6hzT827a1YyLw2o1LAD8T2PM0G0

From the article:

“Syrian lawmaker Mohammed Habash said Syria was keeping its options open, but said Syria is not interested in going to Annapolis “to attend a carnival.”

Habash said Syria is the “spinal cord” of a front that includes Iran, the “resistance” in Iraq, Hezbollah and Hamas. “If Syria goes to such a conference, it will naturally shake this alliance. So do not think for one second that Syria would go just to get a piece of chocolate over there,” he said. “It would be political folly.”

And more:

“On Wednesday, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad, told the British Broadcasting Corp. that participation “depends on what kind of invitation we are going to receive … what kind of agenda” and other factors. Still, he insists that if the Golan is not on the agenda “there is absolutely nothing to justify our participation.”

Well, the Golan is not on the agenda.
US and Israel said right from the start that the Syrians may raise any point they wish, throughout the conference and refused to include the word ‘Golan’ on the conference’s agenda.

The “Syrian track”, as was written on the agenda, may include ‘peace for peace’, ‘peace for the Golan’, ‘make love, not war’ or anything anyone wants to raise as an idea, a claim or a proposal.

Syria may demand the Golan from Israel, Israel may demand Aleppo from the Syrians and Lebanon may demand Damascus and Tel Aviv from both.

This was meant to be a launch pad for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and that’s how it’s going to remain.

The game behind the scenes is actually far more interesting from the conference itself : )

November 26th, 2007, 5:25 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

IG,
What I have learned from this blog is that no matter how lame an excuse the Syrian regime comes up with, there will always be people willing to buy it and point to a Syrian “victory”. This self delusion on a massive scale is very interesting.

About two months ago Israel with US knowledge and perhaps even some assitance, bombed a Syrian installation. Not only have the Syrians not retaliated, they have agreed to come to a peace conference in Washington that is not directly related to them against the wishes of their allies Iran and Hamas.

Why is the Syrian regime accepting this much humiliation? I don’t know for sure but I think they are very very weak at this point. The combination of the Israeli attack, Hariri tribunal and Arab indifference to Syria as well as US hostility is taking its toll and the Syrians are very worried about the consequences of an Iran-Israel/US war.

November 26th, 2007, 6:19 pm

 

Alex said:

IG,

The Syrians will always send all kinds of conflicting signals. I wouldn’t try too hard to guess what they plan to do.

One thing is for sure … they sent the second most confrontational official from the foreign ministry… after Farouk Sharaa of course.

AIG, do you think “Mark Mackinnon” sounds like a Syrian Baathist name?

You read I’m sure this analysis today in the Globe an Mail.

Syria comes in from the cold
MARK MACKINNON

November 26, 2007

JERUSALEM — When U.S. President George W. Bush convenes a Middle East peace conference this week at the naval port of Annapolis, Md., most of the cameras will be focused on Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas. It’s peace between their two peoples, after all, that the summit meeting is purportedly about.

But neither man will be the most important person in the room, it can be argued, nor even Mr. Bush himself. Instead, it’s the relatively unknown deputy foreign minister of Syria, Faisal Mekdad, and more importantly the regime he represents, who holds the keys to real peace in this blood-spattered region.

November 26th, 2007, 6:34 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
Well Mackinnon is plain wrong just like Landis is in many cases even if they don’t have Baathist names.

For exmaple he says:
It’s far easier for Mr. Olmert to sell Israelis on the idea of surrendering the Golan in exchange for peace with Syria than it is to convince them that Jerusalem needs to be divided and hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers removed from the West Bank.

Selling a Golan withdrawal at this point is just as hard and even harder than selling a withdrawal from some parts of the West Bank.

In the end the facts are plain to see and Mackinnon does not bother to discuss them because they don’t fit his wrong theory. Syria was bombed yet is crawling to this conference against the wishes of Hamas and Iran and without the word “Golan” on the agenda. It is in fact legitimizing Abbas over Hamas. Can you imagine? Hamas was not even invited yet the Syrians are attending anyway. This all implies that Syria is very very weak.

November 26th, 2007, 7:02 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Syria’s decision to attend was a smart tactical move. It is a win-win.

November 26th, 2007, 7:35 pm

 

Seeking the truth said:

AIG,

If the Golan is not going to be discussed, what would the Syrian delegation be doing after the opening ceremony is over?

November 26th, 2007, 7:47 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Seeking,
I don’t know exactly. My guess is as good as yours. Maybe the Syrians will be discussing the Golan with the Lebanese.

November 26th, 2007, 7:48 pm

 

why-discuss said:

AIG

Syria is very very weak..
As usual, wishful thinking, everybody is wrong except you
Syria has much to gain from Annapolis By SAM F. GHATTAS, Associated Press Writer Mon Nov 26, 10:36 AM ET

BEIRUT, Lebanon – Syria’s ally Iran said Monday that the U.S.-hosted Mideast peace conference has already failed. But Syria itself has much to gain from its participation in the Annapolis meeting — a long-sought opening with Washington, an end to its isolation among Arabs, and perhaps even movement on the Golan Heights.

November 26th, 2007, 7:48 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why,
Explain the following facts:
1) Syria was bombed 2 months ago but are willing to come to a peace conference in Washington nevertheless without any guarantees that it will not be bombed again.
2) Hamas was not invited to the conference yet Syria is coming. In fact, by attending Syria is legitimizing Fatah over Hamas as the representative of the Palestinians.
3) Both Hamas and Iran asked Syria not to attend, yet they are attending.
4) There is no session to discuss the Golan, yet the Syrians are attending.
5) The Syrians were given nothing by the Americans or Israelis who have gone out of their way to say that the Golan will not be disucssed.

All the rest is spin. The facts speak for themselves.

November 26th, 2007, 8:01 pm

 

Innocent_Criminal said:

im just gonna repeat a comment i wrote 3 days ago which i feel is relevant to this conversation.

Syria’s presence is important because it gives legitimacy to the presence of Saudi Arabia who wouldn’t attend if the only countries present are ones that have peace treaties with israel. But now they can declare that their presence is part of a unified arabic stand. which was nicely spun yesterday by their foreign minister in stating that saudi never stood against a unified arab voice.

Putting the Golan issue on the agenda was Syria’s way of letting everyone know that it remains a key regional power and its voice must be heard. Realistically speaking though, there is no way syria is seriously considering resuming peace talks with Israel in the near future. Not that it wouldn’t mind it if it happened, but because it knows that Israel and the US are not serious. That hasn’t stop it from using its attendance card as way to purchase solutions to more immediate issues, such as the lebanese presidency, hariri investigation, etc. Next few weeks will reveal if this strategy will work.

November 26th, 2007, 8:30 pm

 

why-discuss said:

Olmert has repeated many times he was happy to have Syria on board, the US too. They are both desperate for a display of legitimacy and power.
King Abdallah ‘crawled’ after 4 years of snubbing to beg Bashar to attend. He knows Syria is a necessary partner in any talk about palestinians.
Abbas will soon have to ‘beg’ Hamas to unite because Fatah is weak and corrupted.
Syria has only send its deputy foreign minister, a clear message of no serious commitment since the Golan is not high on the agenda. Iran’s alliance is not at stake, the iranians are not as possessive as the US about their long time allies. They understand very well that being an arab country and belonging to the arab league, Syria has also to respect other arab countries.

All is gain for Syria and for Olmert even if nothing happens after Annapolis. If it fails, the big loosers are Saudi Arabia and the US.

November 26th, 2007, 8:39 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Right, Olmert is happy to have Syria on board after just bombing them (did you forget that?). The conference would have happened even without the Syrians attending. When the Arab League decided to attend, Syria was not yet sure. Abbas will not talk to Hamas now or in the future. He is happy with Israel helping him control the West Bank and letting Gaza rot.

It is good to see in real time the processes of denial that have led the Arabs to so many mistakes over the last 60 years. It helps me understand why those mistakes were made. Why, do you really believe what you write or is it just to save face?

November 26th, 2007, 8:51 pm

 

Alex said:

AIG,

Do you know how much time Hafez Assad spent instructing his negotiators in the 90’s? …. half an hour. His instructions were simple: maintain Syria’s dignity and do not compromise over a single centimeter of our occupied lands.

That attitude did not change. There might be weeks or months of difficulties, but Syria can not be weak. Your friends have been trying since 1977 to weaken Syria … The regime is quite experienced in this game … they played more matches than anyone else.

But for the primitive minds in Israel who are still enjoying the “successful bombing mission” that destroyed a Syrian … building… this is too complex to understand.

November 26th, 2007, 8:55 pm

 

why-discuss said:

AIG

You know very well how weak Olmert is, you know very well that he repeatedly praised Bashar, can you tell me why?
You know very well that Abbas is very weak, and can be kicked out any time…
I can reply to you with the same question: Do you really believe in what you write or you write to convince yourself of your wishes?

November 26th, 2007, 8:58 pm

 

Friend in America said:

I agree with Ehansi2. Attending has a win-win potential for Syria. Some of the comments above claimed Syria is a weak state in the ME. Maybe but maybe not as weak as some think, but meetings of these types offer potential for “weaker” states to get what they seek but cannot otherwise obtain because of their “weakness.” It will be the stronger countries that will have to make the deeper concessions. I for one hope Syria will achieve a reward this week.

It is not clear to me which is at stake at Annapolis – settlement of boundary issues or the future of Israel as a state. If the former, differences can be negotiated. Maybe not easily – it will take patience but these issues can be negotiated. If the latter, an agreement will require a major shift in policy by some of the participants, one of which is Syria. If there is no shift, the outcome of the Annapolis conference will be limited.
The issue of the existence of Israel will be the dark cloud over the negotiations for resettlement of Palestian refugees. Not resolving this problem will mean Annapolis will have limited success and the impass will not be over. If the refugees are to stay in the countries where they find themselves, they should be given citizenship in their host country. The other alternative is to allow those who wish to return to Isreal.

That brings up an idea that I have considered for several years. Consider: at Annapolis the Palestinian representative says to Olmert, “I have a deal for you so good that you cannot turn it down. Here it is: We agree that any citizen of Isreal can live any where in the Palestianian Authority lands, own land there, start businesses and have a happy life protected by the Palestinian government. All we ask in return is for any citizen of the Palestinian Authority be allowed to live in any part of Israel, own land there, start businesses and be protected so they can live in safety. Also, there may be a need for compensation for perceived past injustices but we’ll ask the oil states in the ME to finance that. And if you are agreeable, we are agreeable to calling the entire area Israel and Palestine.”

Visionary perhaps, but consider the potential. A resolution that enables lasting peace is going to require a major shift in positions. And when that happens, the countries of the middle east near the Mediterranean will blossom economically like they never have had an opportunity to do so before. That change can start right here, and on other ME blogs as high grade as this one.

November 26th, 2007, 9:00 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

It is good to see in real time the processes of denial that have led the Arabs to so many mistakes over the last 60 years.

AIG,

You’re giving away Israel’s secret weapon again. Didn’t get the last edition of “The Protocols”? Next time, please check with your local elder before posting on this on public forum. Havanta?

Toda.

Do you know how much time Hafez Assad spent instructing his negotiators in the 90’s? …. half an hour.

Alex –

Thanks for the inside info. Perhaps with AIG’s fashla above, we can call it even.

maintain Syria’s dignity and do not compromise over a single centimeter of our occupied lands.

I’m impressed with Syria’s steadfastness, honor and self-respect.

Meanwhile, here’s a pitcure of the grand foreign minister amongst some of today’s leading “Zionists” discussing how, in fact, he was directed not to compromise over a single centimeter of occupied lands, and thus, did not have too many other options to offer. He also mentioned at this meeting that he would need to clear all proposals with his boss before making any decisions.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/olmedia/590000/images/_594898_talks300.jpg

November 26th, 2007, 9:15 pm

 

Disaffection said:

AIG,
Assad regime’s priority is legitimising its rule further by returning the Golan. if the cost is Hamas and/or Iranian ties, then be it. Thats clear by now. isn’t it? That’s ultimately the regime’s goal. and that will happen sooner than later. Question is, what then? The return of the Golan is irrelevent to the Hamas/Hizbolla/Iranian issues.

As for your number 4 and 5:

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – The United States has agreed to put the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on the Annapolis talks agenda but Syria will await confirmation before deciding whether to go, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Friday.
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
Reuters
Friday, November 23, 2007; 2:35 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/23/AR2007112300579.html

Damascus only said it would attend the meeting after Washington reportedly agreed to put the issue on the agenda.
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/11/25/world/main3537817_page2.shtml

The Golan is officially on the agenda. WHere is the spin exactly? Is that spin in itself? do you want someone to paint you a picture? perhaps sign language will do.

November 26th, 2007, 9:16 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Disaffection,
Maybe I am missing something. Could you please show me where the Golan is on the agenda? All the US said is that the Syrians can talk about what they want. They interpreted it or chose to spin it as the fact that “the Golan is on the agenda”.

November 26th, 2007, 9:38 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
Syria cannot be weak? All economic, diplomatic and military factors indicate otherwise.
What did Hafez achieve except staying in power?
Did he do anything good for the Syrians? He let several generations languish in poverty and backwardness. Yet you are proud of him. I really don’t get it.

November 26th, 2007, 9:42 pm

 

Alex said:

AIG,

I am proud of his regional policies…. most Syrians are. Most people who knew him wrote about his exceptional skills in handling whatever the Middle East threw at him.

But I do not want Syria to stay in this mode forever. That is why I am focused on supporting the peace process. It is a win-win for everyone, And it can be great for political reforms as well … if things are done right.

Here is Sami Moubayed’s article in the Washington Post today. He is also discussing Hafez Assad.

Annapolis Has No Legitimacy Without Syria

Syria finally decided on November 25 to attend the U.S. peace conference in Annapolis. This came only after the U.S. incorporated the Golan Heights issue into the conference agenda, after Syrian protests that it would not attend unless the occupied Heights were on the conference table. Had Syria not chosen to attend, the conference would have been doomed to fail. The reason is simple: the Americans cannot talk peace in the Middle East without Syria.

Not much has changed in terms of Syrian demands towards the Middle East peace process since Madrid, 1991. I’ll first detail the story here at length, because I believe it to be a prelude to what will happen at Annapolis on November 27.

On March 6, 1991, after the liberation of Kuwait, President George Bush Sr. gave his famed victory speech, saying: “We must do all that we can to close the gap between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” The Syrians believed him and showed enthusiasm towards what came to be known as the Madrid Peace Conference. The Israelis, led at the time by Yitzhak Shamir, did not. They were distracted by an international conference, co-sponsored by the U.S.S.R., which would bring them face-to-face with all of the Arab countries.

Seven days later, Bush sent his Secretary of State James Baker to meet President Hafez al-Assad in Damascus. Before the meeting, U.S. Ambassador to Syria Edward Djerjian advised, “Nobody can predict how long this meeting’s going to last. So be careful how much you drink. Assad will not leave the room. If you drink too much, the forces of nature will overcome you!”

After the meeting, Baker told the U.S. President, “Assad gave me the clear impression that he is serious about pursuing peace, but that he will be a tough nut to crack!” Assad told his American guest: “A peace conference should not be convened just once and then disappear. The conference should be re-convened whenever necessary.” Assad insisted that the U.N. co-sponsor the event, but Baker replied, “Mr. President, the Israelis will not accept the United Nations—they hate the United Nations.” Baker promised a U.S. guarantee to get the Israelis to withdraw from the Golan. The Syrians went along with that—and the rest is history.

Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara went to Madrid and called on Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights, the West Bank, Gaza, and South Lebanon. Shamir—uninterested—replied with a thundering speech, accusing Syria of being a state sponsor of terrorism. Shara was furious. He took out a newspaper clipping (given to Walid Moualim by a member of the Lebanese delegation), dated 1948, with a picture of the young Shamir under the bold words WANTED. Shara said, “I will just show you, if I may, an old photograph of Mr. Shamir. Why was this picture distributed? Because he was WANTED. He helped, as I recall, in the assassination of Count Bernadotte, the U.N. mediator in Palestine in 1948. He kills peace-makers!”

I believe Annapolis will follow a similar pattern. The Syrians did not want to create a problem at the conference but the Israelis, uninterested in peace, intimidated them to such an extent that they set aside their prepared speech and resort to the famed WANTED one. True, the Syrians will be represented at Annapolis by Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Miqdad, but they are very skeptical about what the Americans have to offer. Ehud Olmert is as uncomfortable with the conference as Shamir was in 1991. This time it is not Shara at Annapolis, but his trusted protégé, Dr Miqdad, a seasoned Syrian statesman who served as his country’s ambassador to the U.N. in 2003-2006.

The real difference, however, is that unlike President Bush Sr., this U.S. administration is not interested in a better Middle East. The Syrians have not forgotten that less than three months ago, the Israelis violated Syrian airspace on September 6, 2007. They claimed to have targeted a Syrian radar post, with help of the United States.

Shortly after the international community condemned the strike, Ehud Olmert said he was ready to start unconditional peace talks with the Syrians. He had made the same offer back on July 11, 2007, on the Saudi channel al-Arabiyya, saying: “I am ready to sit with you and talk about peace, not war. I will be happy if I could make peace with Syria. I do not want to wage war against Syria.” This proposal was echoed by President Shimon Peres on September 18, who added, “We are ready for dialogue with Damascus.”

In the wake of the air incursion, Israel also transferred troops out of the Golan Heights to the Negev to defuse rising tensions on the border. Hours before the Israeli planes crossed the Syrian border, Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign-policy chief, delivered a message from Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak that troop deployment on the border with Syria would be reduced to prevent war, insisting that Israel was not interested in war with the Syrians. It became clear to the Syrians on September 6 that Solana had been tricked by the Israelis, who were lying about their intentions vis-à-vis provocation with Syria.

In a speech in July 2007, before the attack, President Bashar al-Assad re-emphasized his country’s willingness for peace, reminding that the basis of any Syrian cooperation would be the borderline of June 4, 1967. He also asked for guarantees, saying that from experience in the 1990s, Syria does not trust the Israelis. “We did not trust them before the 1990s and now distrust them further.” Assad asked for something similar to the agreement reached with the late Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin, which promised to restore the Golan Heights in full to Syria.

With September 6 in the back of their minds, the Syrians are also aware that Olmert is in a difficult position because of the less-than-satisfying results of the Israeli war with Lebanon in July-August 2006. In that war – unlike any other in Israel’s history since 1948 – none of the Jewish state’s objectives was met. Israel said they were invading Lebanon to rescue two Israeli soldiers whom Hezbollah had abducted. Today, more than a year later, the two soldiers remain in Hezbollah captivity. Israel said it would crush the Lebanese military group, but Hezbollah remains alive and kicking and, according both to its own reports and to those of Western observers, has managed to rearm itself with an arsenal larger than the one it possessed before the war.

Olmert understands all of these difficult realities, and so does the Israeli public, which holds him and his team accountable for the ill-fated Lebanon adventure. With such a defeat on his record, the Israeli prime minister cannot possibly talk peace with the Syrians – or with anyone else. He needs to obtain his war medals to “right the wrongs” done to his image in Lebanon. Only after waging a war – and either winning or not losing it – can Olmert project himself as a peacemaker. That was the prevailing mood in Damascus this summer.

U.S. President George W. Bush vetoed peace with Syria in the aftermath of the occupation of Iraq in 2003: “Syria has to wait,” he said, until all other pending issues are solved in the Middle East. That was seconded by both prime minister Ariel Sharon and his successor, Ehud Olmert, neither of whom was interested in talks with the Syrians.

This lack of interest continued until 2006. Then Israel suddenly seemed to change course with regard to Syria. Public opinion in Israel shifted. Many believe that only Syria can secure Israel’s border with Lebanon. Making peace with the Syrians, the Israelis now believed, seemed all the more logical since it automatically would mean a calm front with Hezbollah.

Early this year, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz said secret talks had taken place in Europe between Israelis and a private Syrian citizen. In April, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi went to Damascus with a message to Assad from Olmert. The Israeli press went into a frenzy revisiting the Syrian-Israeli peace track. The “Syria story” made headlines in the Israeli press, and quotes from Syrian newspapers began appearing in leading Israeli dailies to monitor Syria’s readiness for peace.

One reason for this about-face was domestic pressure on the Israeli prime minister. His Kadima-Labor cabinet seemed on the verge of collapse. The Winograd Report on the summer war nearly destroyed his career, because its findings implicated some of his top officials in wrongdoings during the Lebanon war of 2006. The premier needed to divert Israeli attention – fast – to steal the limelight from former prime minister Ehud Barak, who was making a political comeback in Israel.

The Syrians were, and still are, unimpressed by the Israeli conditions for peace, which included halting Syria’s cooperation with Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.

All of these recent events help explain why the Syrians are worried as they head off to Annapolis. Countries interested in peace don’t go around flying into their neighbor’s airspace without permission, especially when the two countries are in a state of war. They don’t fire missiles into other countries’ territory. The last time I checked, this was called ‘war-making’ rather than ‘peace-making.’ But despite all that, the Syrians have been committed to peace since Madrid and are willing to try Annapolis. But it’s doubtful that Annapolis will lead to a breakthrough, with George W. Bush in the White House, and Ehud Olmert in power in Tel Aviv.

November 26th, 2007, 10:18 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Those who are repeating the mantra that “Syria is weak” are missing the point.

Of course Syria is weak. My first grader knows that. What is relevant is how Syria manages to continue to move its pawns around the regional chess table in spite of its admitted weakness.

The Syrian leadership has defied all the odds that have been heavily stacked against it. The fact that it is still standing is a testament to its strength in spite of its well-advertised weaknesses.

Those who cannot wait to see the back of the Damascus leadership have been constantly and consistently wrong in their calculations of its imminent demise.

It is a fact that every day in office must be counted in the win column at the Presidential palace. Based on this metric, this amounts to 13,505 checks (37 years * 365 days).

Next time, anyone writes that Syria is weak ought to consider the above fact.

In spite of the world powers camping out in the Lebanese capital, Syria’s wishes have not been dashed. Lebanon is a standstill until Syria comes back from Annapolis and contemplate its next move.

For a country with such limited resources to exert such an influence does not strike me as weakness.

November 26th, 2007, 10:27 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ehsani,
“The fact that it is still standing is a testament to its strength in spite of its well-advertised weakness points.”

No, it is a testament to its ruthlessness. It does not care that it improvishes the Syrians as long as they stay in power. And I agree that the regime is very good at staying in power. For example, since 73 they have not risked a war with Israel and they did not respond to the recent Israeli bombing because they wanted to stay in power.

Few people in the world care enough about Syria or the Syrians to bother with the Syrian regime unless it causes trouble. Did Baker care about the Syrian people when he put together the atrocious deal with the Syrian regime? Did he care about the Lebanese? No, he cared only about short term US interests. And that is a big mistake that Bush will not repeat.

Syria can only do what it does in Lebanon at a huge price to the Syrian people. Syria is isolated internationaly because of this action. The meddling in Lebanon makes Syria weak while it makes the regime stronger. I do not need to tell you about the dire economical situation in Syria and the lack of foreign investment.

In the end, all the “strength” of Syria is its ability to cause problems for its neighbors. It cannot do anything constructive, it has zero soft power and only terror power. That is an indication of a very weak state. And it is really disgusting that this is what people like Alex support and admire.

And I think that the recent attack in Syria is a turning point. Israel and the US are willing to risk war with Syria if it doesn’t back down. These are the new rules of the game.

November 26th, 2007, 10:52 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
The Baathist propoganda is useless in Tishrin and also useless in the Washington Post. Why did you ever bother to paste it? Are you becoming a Baathist?

November 26th, 2007, 11:01 pm

 

why-discuss said:

AIG

And I think that the recent attack in Syria is a turning point. Israel and the US are willing to risk war with Syria if it doesn’t back down. These are the new rules of the game.

…and Israel and US troops and interests in Iraq and Afghanistan get bombed by Iran… You really have bright suggestions!
US and Israel are paralyzed vis a vis Syria since it has allied militarily with Iran. This is why they are desperatly trying diplomacy and rotten carrots.

November 26th, 2007, 11:07 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Then why did Israel/US attack Syria and why did Iran do nothing? Why didn’t it protect Syria? Why didn’t Hizballah target Israel? The attack and no repsonse showed that Iran and Syria are paper tigers. There are new rules in place and Damscuss better get used to them.

November 26th, 2007, 11:17 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

Seems that these Israeli guys are getting little nervous. What does mocking Arabs and Syria help? It is clear that Israel is the one who is in a defensive position in Annapolis. Israel is holding in this poker game very bad cards.

For USA Annapolis means success only if it manages to get an agreement with what the “moderate” Arab nations (if somebody can call Saudi Arabia moderate) are satisfied. And if they are satisfied, the “Israeli streets” most probably are not so happy.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said that in inviting his country to the Annapolis conference Washington promised to “use its full influence” to ultimately bring about a peace agreement. He said that meant if the two sides could not agree, “we assume the United States will come up with its own ideas.”

November 26th, 2007, 11:23 pm

 

Alex said:

No AIG .. the most ruthless regime is yours … you can express your anger as much as you want but it won’t change a thing.

As for the Washington Post article … you know … the editors of the Washington post and Newsweek liked and published Sami Moubayed’s article… an article in which he is writing mostly about historical and documented facts.

Why didn’t Iran and Hizbollah fight back on Syria’s behalf? … because it was not in Syria’s interests to go to war with Israel and the United States like some Neocons were hoping.

November 26th, 2007, 11:32 pm

 

Alex said:

Another thing AIG …

In the end, all the “strength” of Syria is its ability to cause problems for its neighbors. It cannot do anything constructive, it has zero soft power and only terror power. That is an indication of a very weak state. And it is really disgusting that this is what people like Alex support and admire.

What if I said the following about you: “I am shocked and disgusted by the way AIG supports killing of innocent Iraqi children and he is eager to see Israel randomly kill large numbers of Syrian children as well”

You can not hide you excitement for the “mission” that destroyed one military building in Syria … and you once threatened that Israel will teach Syria a big lesson next time they go to war.

Did I come back accusing you of lusting for Syrians’ blood?

You can not win an argument by distorting my opinion until it sounds “disgusting”.

November 26th, 2007, 11:41 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Right Alex, it is not in Syria’s interest to go to war, and the US and Israel are going to use this fact to make the Syrian regime back down in Lebanon and with regard to Hamas and Hizballah. That is what I mean when I say that the rules of the game changed. If Asad does not want a war, he better deal only with internal Syrian issues.

Moubayed is a Baathist who is so used to writing in Tishrin that he is not ashamed of publishing outright lies in a Washington Post BLOG, not the paper itself. For example he says about Israel’s recent bombing: “They claimed to have targeted a Syrian radar post, with help of the United States.”

This is an outright lie. All the rest of his article is third rate Baathist propoganda with a weird view of history. If this is what you can dig up to support your view, you are in trouble.

Alex, you are the one that admires Hafez’s accomplishments and thinks they are good even though he wrecked Syria to stay in power. How can you justify such a position?

November 26th, 2007, 11:48 pm

 

why-discuss said:

AIG

This attack from Israel was supposed to test Iran’s readiness to retaliate, how childish and pathetic! Protect what… an unused building, come on, it takes more than that for Iran to flex its muscles and Syria to call for help. Let Israel bomb Damascus or a real valuable target and then we’ll see.
I know you are more and more frustated at seing how weak Israel is becoming and how it may be pressured by a desperate Bush who does not need american Jewish voices for his reelection. The Mossaad, probably the only powerful institution in Israel will need take over to correct that…
If Israel listen to its master, it may create an upheaval internally and shake the country in its foundation and if does not, we are back to the statu quo of continuous violence. But as I understand you, this situation of continuous war does not seem to bother you much as long as you live in a “democracy”.

November 26th, 2007, 11:51 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
You repeatedly said that you admire and are proud of what Hafez Asad did which is basically wreck Syria to stay in power. I am not distorting your view one bit. And yes I find your view disgusting.

One example of your own words: “I am proud of his regional policies… most Syrians are”

You wrote that, I am not inventing anything. You admire his ability to terrorize and destabilize Syria’s neighbors and his intransigence that cost Syrians dearly but let him stay in power.

And please show me where I said I wanted to randomly kill children.

And yes, the only way to stand up to a despicable and ruthless murderer like Asad is to make it clear to him what will happen if he crosses the line. Sometimes you need to stand up to dictators even if it means a war.

November 26th, 2007, 11:56 pm

 

Alex said:

AIG

Moubayed is a friend of mine. He is not used to writing in Tehsreen. He writes in Asia Times, Ehypt’s al-Ahram and the Washington Post. He also has his own magazine (he is the Editor) FW (Forward) … one of two Syrian English dailies, both privately owned. I wrote in that magazine few times (they corrected and edited my English, don’t worry) and David Ignatius wrote in it once… many articles are politely and carefully critical of the situation in Syria… it is a smart and moderate opposition magazine, not a Baathist magazine.

So .. Sami’s opinion on Syria’s regional policies is genuine. I know that much.

November 26th, 2007, 11:56 pm

 

Alex said:

AIG .. you are not getting my point. calm down and read slowly please

I did not claim you said that you “wanted to randomly kill children” … I said: How would you like me to distort your words in a way that made you sound like you wanted Israel to Killl Syrian Children.

Similarly .. when I say: “I am proud of his regional policies… most Syrians are” … I did not say “I am proud of killing Lebanese politicians” …. which is only in your head … to me Assad’s regional policies are the collection of good strategic decision he took … opposing Saddam from day one when all your friends were selling him weapons and giving him political support … stating that the IRaq war is a disaster … when everyone else was sure the US can handle it with ease and that the Iraqi people will bring flowers to give them to the American soldiers.

Now please … do not start discussion if you agree with these facts or no. I realize you do not agree with anything here. It would be redundant to waste more time on something we went through many times in the past. The bottom line is: Syria’s successful foreign policy to me means a number of good (not disgusting) things … the disgusting things are your own interpretation of it … so please leave my opinion out of your imaginary analysis… I support Assad’s real regional policies .. not your black filtered version.

November 27th, 2007, 12:03 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
If you have a newspaper license in Syria, you are a mouth piece of the regime and cannot write any criticism of it. Everybody knows that. Why are you trying to protect this guy?

Since you know him, care to tell us if he is or is not a member of the Baath party?

November 27th, 2007, 12:07 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
You support the Asad’s foreign policy, the good and the bad. No? And if it is bad, you won’t admit it happened, like terrorizing and murdering Lebanese politicians or supporting the Hamas suicide bombing campaign in Israel. Is that distorting your view? I’ll let the readers decide if your view is disgusting or not.

November 27th, 2007, 12:12 am

 

Alex said:

AIG,

Do you know how many SYrians are “Baathist”? … registering for a memebership is often meaningless … something you do in University for some bureaucratic reason for example .. I have many “Baathist: friends who do not even remember that they are actually “Baathists”.

Sami is a Damascene Sunni from a “Good family” He has a Ph.D. from the UK … he got that in his early twenties. A hard working student and a very polite, moderate, and secular youngman.

His magazine, again, manages to sneak a lot of criticism without stepping over some red lines. This is the smart reformist mentality for this time… instead of going wild for an issue or two then get banned, they deliver the reform message calmly .. month after month.

November 27th, 2007, 12:14 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

[comments deleted]

AIG

Don’t you get it? .. you are a repulsive person and I am trying my best to remain polite to you. Again you called me a liar and you called Sami moubayed a liar.

If you do not learn to control your rudeness I will continuously remove your comments. I do not wish to spend my time defending my integrity (or others, like Sami) if you are a hopelessly aggressive and angry person.

Alex

November 27th, 2007, 12:18 am

 

Alex said:

AIG

I do not support any killing … I am totally against any Palestinian resistance mission in which they killed any innocent Israeli … no matter how much your army butchered their children the week before.

As for the Lebanese politicians … we have to get into uncertainty here … as you know (I hope) .. no one knows who killed them … or if it was one party behind all the killings. For example … George Hawi was killed two years ago .. everyone accused Syria .. until last month when his own people (his son?) said that they now believe that Israel, and not Syria killed him.

So .. how would you like me to answer you ? .. you want me to believe your GOD-LIKE powers of knowing the unknown and to therefore hate Syria’s foreign policy??

If you continue to make conclusion based on your own imagination, please understand that I am not obliged to believe you that Syria killed Hawi instead of believing his own people who now say that Syria did not kill him.

November 27th, 2007, 12:22 am

 

why-discuss said:

AIG

Are you becoming hysterical? what is bothering you so much? Why do you care so much about ‘poor and oppressed’ syrians? Please think about poor and oppressed palestinians for a change and ask yourself why instead of playing the Robin Hood of the syrians.

November 27th, 2007, 12:23 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
You said you are proud of Hafez Asad’s foreign policy, the policy that brought Syria to economic ruin and to its current state. That is a disgusting position.

I didn’t call you a liar but Mobayed certainly is as anyone looking at his article can see. He wrote that Israel said it attacked a radar site in Syria. That is a blatant lie. If you show me that it is not, I will apologize to him.

November 27th, 2007, 12:45 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Why,
What I find really interesting is why you, a Syrian, do not care one bit about the oppression in Syria and are giving Asad a free pass. I would like to understand why Alex who lives happily in a democracy endorses a tyrant in Syria. And so far, all I am getting are poor excuses together with propaganda. The “best” excuse so far is that while Arabs in the West have no problems with democracy, those in Syria are not ready yet for it. Nobody is buying this nonsense.

November 27th, 2007, 12:50 am

 

Alex said:

AIG

If you felt so outraged that Sami claimed it was a radar site, how do you think we feel at you all the time insisting and repeating it was a nuclear site … you need to understand that when something is not a proven fact, you can not claim you KNOW and expect that everyone MUST agree with you or else … if they dare believe in another hypothesis (a radar station for example) you call them “liars”

I am not a fan of Netanyahu as you know by now .. but when I criticize him I stick to his debating style for example … I do not say “That LIAR and murderer” .. although he surely lied and watched his troops murder innocent Palestinians many many times.

November 27th, 2007, 1:06 am

 

Alex said:

Condi’s Road To Damascus
2007-11-26 20:01 (New York)

(From THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)
By Bret Stephens

Remember Nancy Pelosi’s spring break in Damascus? Condoleezza Rice apparently does not. When the House Speaker paid Syrian strongman Bashar Assad a call back in April, President Bush denounced her for sending “mixed signals” that “lead the Assad government to believe they are part of the mainstream of the international community, when in fact they are a state sponsor of terror.” Today, said sponsor of terror will take its place at the table Ms. Rice has set for the Middle Eastern conference at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

Only at Foggy Bottom would Syria’s last-minute decision to go to Annapolis be considered a diplomatic triumph. The meeting is supposed to inaugurate the resumption of high-level negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, with a view toward finalizing a deal on Palestinian statehood before the administration leaves office. On a deeper plane of geopolitical subtlety, it is supposed to bring Israel and the Arab world together in tacit alliance against Iran.

This raises three significant questions. First, how does Syria’s presence at Annapolis affect those goals? Next, how does Syria’s presence affect U.S. policy toward Syria? And what effect, if any, will all this have on Syria’s behavior in the region?

Much is being made of the fact that, in accepting the administration’s invitation, Syria apparently reversed a previous decision, coordinated with Iran, to boycott the conference. This plays into the view that Syria can be persuaded to abandon its 25-year-old ties to Iran and return to the Arab fold, thereby severing the encircling chain that links Tehran to Damascus to southern Lebanon to the Gaza Strip. High-profile ridicule of the conference by Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who called it “useless”) and spokesmen for Hezbollah and Hamas add to the impression that Mr. Assad may be prepared to chart an independent course — all for the modest price of the U.S. agreeing (with Israel’s consent) to put the issue of the Golan Heights on the conference’s agenda.

It really would be something if the Syrian delegation could find their own road to Damascus on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. But that would require something approximating good faith. The Syrians’ decision to be represented at Annapolis by their deputy foreign minister — his bosses evidently having more important things to do — is one indication of the lack of it. So is the Assad regime’s declaration (via an editorial in state newspaper Teshreen) that their goal at Annapolis is “to foil [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert’s plan to force Arab countries to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.” And lest the point hadn’t been driven home forcefully enough, the Syrian information minister told Al Jazeera that Syria’s attendance would have no effect on its relations with Iran or its role as host to the leadership of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups.

At best, then, Syria will attend Annapolis as a kind of non-malignant observer, lending a gloss of pan-Arab seriousness to the proceedings. At worst, it will be there as a spoiler and unofficial spokesman of Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. If it’s clever, it will adopt a policy of studied ambivalence, with just enough positive chemistry to induce the administration into believing it might yet be prepared for a real volte face, provided the U.S. is also prepared to rewrite its Syria policy. Recent attestations by Gen. David Petraeus, that Damascus is finally policing its border with Iraq to slow the infiltration of jihadis, suggest that’s just the game they mean to play.

What price will the U.S. be asked to pay? Contrary to popular belief, recovering the Golan is neither Syria’s single nor primary goal; if anything, the regime derives much of its domestic legitimacy by keeping this grievance alive. What’s urgently important to Damascus is that the U.N. tribunal investigating the 2005 murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri be derailed, before the extensive evidence implicating Mr. Assad and his cronies becomes a binding legal verdict. No less important to Mr. Assad is that his grip on Lebanese politics be maintained by the selection of a pliant president to replace his former puppet, Emile Lahoud. Syria would also like to resume normal diplomatic relations with the U.S. (which withdrew its ambassador from Damascus after Hariri’s killing), not least by the lifting of economic sanctions imposed by the 2003 Syria Accountability Act. No doubt the Syrians believe the U.S. can deliver on these items: Dictators rarely appreciate the constraints under which democratic governments operate.

Yet there is no credible way the U.S. can deliver on the first demand, and only discreditable ways in which it could deliver on the second. The administration may be tempted to re-establish normal diplomatic relations and ease sanctions, which is about as much as it can do. Yet Damascus would view these concessions either as signs of niggardliness or desperation, and hold out for more. Put simply, there is nothing the U.S. can offer Mr. Assad that would seriously tempt him to alter his behavior in ways that could meaningfully advance U.S. interests or the cause of Mideast peace. Yet the fact that Ms. Rice’s Syria policy is now a facsimile of Speaker Pelosi’s confirms Mr. Assad’s long-held view that he has nothing serious to fear from this administration.

So look out for more aggressive Syrian misbehavior in Lebanon, including the continued arming of Hezbollah; the paralysis of its political process; the assassination of anti-Syrian parliamentarians and journalists; the insertion of Sunni terrorist cells in Palestinian refugee camps, and the outright seizure of Lebanon’s eastern hinterlands. Look out, too, for continued cooperation with North Korea on WMD projects: Despite Israel’s September attack on an apparent nuclear facility, the AP reports that North Korean technicians are back in Syria, teaching their Arab pupils how to load chemical warheads on ballistic missiles. And don’t hold your breath expecting Syria’s good behavior on its Iraqi frontier to last much longer.

In the meantime, we have the Annapolis conference, and the one-day photo-op it provides Ms. Rice. In the spirit of giving credit where it’s due, the least the Secretary can do is invite the Speaker to the party.

November 27th, 2007, 1:13 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

today;
Dick Cheney is going to the hospital to have cardiac electric shock.
G.Bush anounce that he is going to keep 50,000 american troops in Iraq indefinitely,(as if he is staying in power indefinitely.)
he,G.Bush, start Annaplois meeting.
the stock market dropped 237 point,appropriate answer to Annapolis meeting.it means the begining of the recession.

Ehsani I feel that Syria is trying to go to the extreme,to survive, Syria has ,so far ,succeeded, but they( syrian officials) realize that the odds are going against them in the long run,the Golan height return is not going to happen unless Syria drop the Iran card, infact USA will promise Bashar Lebanon back if he drop Iran,but he risks another Alawi officer to overturn him.
another way to return the Golan is war, bashar will not,will not ever take this course.

November 27th, 2007, 1:16 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
Moubayed said that that the Israelis said that it was a radar site. The Israelis said no such thing. Therefore he is a liar. Quite simple. His words again:”They claimed to have targeted a Syrian radar post, with help of the United States.” They, meaning the Israelis. This is a blatant lie. You even claim that the Israelis implied that they attacked a nuclear site. So even you should know that Moubayed is lying through his teeth. In fact, the Israelis said nothing.

And if Netanyahu “surely watched his troops murder innocent Palestinians many times” he should be put on trial. So please, let us know what you base your claims on.

November 27th, 2007, 1:19 am

 

Alex said:

When Netanyahu was prime minsiter .. were there any innocent Palestinans killed? .. not a single one?

Forget my Netanyahu example .. go with Shamir .. or Sharon if that makes it easier for you to understand my point.

As for Moubayed … you might be right about that part, although Sami has probably a backup article (one of the many sensational ones) that quoted an Israeli source as saying that they bombed a radar site… you do remember that there were many versions, right? .. including “we bombed weapons for Hizbollah” … and “we bombed missile parts coming from the Tartous port” … Sami probably picked one of those claims.

But I’m sorry to tell you that the “LIAR” and “BAATHIST” labels are still way off for this purpose … we are not going to use this Hysteric language every time we catch “a lie” … this is Middle East politics.

Sami’s article has a lot of historical facts … keep ignoring them and find yourself an excuse to do so (Sami is a Baathist Liar” … whatever.

November 27th, 2007, 1:42 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
Mobayed is not a politician. If he wants to be a respected journalist, then he better check his facts. My assessment after having read what he wrote, is that he is lying through his teeth because he does not want to even raise the nuclear option and that he is nothing more than a paid mouthpiece of the Syrian regime. Let the readers read what he writes and make up their own mind. His blog entry would have been very comfortable in Tishreen.

So you make a claim against Netanyahu and then cannot back it? I’m sure an innocent Palestinian was killed during Netanyahu’s tenure as prime minister. But that is very different than what you are saying. You are saying he watched innocent Plaestinians being killed and did not stop it. So please substantiate your claim.

November 27th, 2007, 1:52 am

 

IsraeliGuy said:

The thing that really puzzles me, is why Assad decided to send a representative to the conference.

I mean, it’s clear that the Golan is not on the text of the schedule – so Israel will not discuss the issue there with anyone.
The most he can get from the conference is having Faysal Mekdad carrying an angry speech in Annapolis.

Another benefit that Assad gets, is that in his home court, the Syrian people who will watch the conference through their TV screens, won’t see an Arab world, lead only by Saudi Arabia and Egypt – and free of Syrian presence and influence.

Yep, the participation saved him from this humiliation.
But these are just ‘rotten carrots’, as Why-Discuss put it or a ‘piece of chocolate’, as lawmaker Habash defined it.
Other than that, there are no significant gains.

Do the losses worth these ‘rotten carrots’?

Up until the Syrian decision to participate in the conference, the alliance between Iran, Syria, Hizbollah & Hamas seemed like an alliance of steel.

Nothing seemed to shake it up and all of Syria’s allies had a lot of faith in Assad, as a solid partner.

By going to Annapolis, Assad is betraying his close partners and practically stabbing them in the back.

The Hamas is “shocked”, Ahmadinejad says that “Participation in this conference is a sign of a lack of political intelligence” and Hezbollah says it’s “a media-political show in favour of Israel”.

The confidence between Assad and his partners will never return to it’s previous state.
He showed them that the partnership that he has with them is up for sale for the highest bidder.

True or not – that’s how they will interpret it, regardless of his explanations to them.

By sending only his Deputy F.M and not a minister, as the other Arab countries did, he’s alienating the Arab countries and further increasing the already existing tense relationship between Syria and the main Arab players.

Assad also failed on the arm twisting front – with the US, trying to have the word ‘Golan’ on the text of the conference timetable, unsuccessfully.

Even though he failed, he still went to Annapolis.

My feeling is that in the Assad Sr. era, such a poor show of performance, could not be possible.
Yep, he was a vicious dictator, but much wiser and more cunning.

Assad displayed a behavior of a cornered person.
I believe we don’t have all the details yet.

November 27th, 2007, 1:52 am

 

Alex said:

AIG

Whatever makes you breathe easier.

November 27th, 2007, 2:17 am

 

why-discuss said:

IG

The confidence between Assad and his partners will never return to it’s previous state.
He showed them that the partnership that he has with them is up for sale for the highest bidder.

True or not – that’s how they will interpret it, regardless of his explanations to them.

You seem to know very well how the Iranians think, but I am sorry to tell that you lack imagination in terms of politics.
Iran does not give a damn that Syria is sending a deputy foreign minister to Annapolis, it has not consequences other that satisfy the wishful thinking of panick-striken Israel that Iran is ‘finally’ weaken.
After 25 years of common strategy, the support of Syria during the 8 years Iran-Irak war would be forgotten because a low level official goes to sit with all the arabs of the arab league to listen to Condi promising “rotten carrots” to everybody!
Come one, extend your mind a bit… Syria will not dump Iran as long as it does not see tangible results, as the return of the Golan, stop to all the attempts overt or covert to change the regime, cancellation of the Syria accountability Act et… Then we can start to consider the possibility of a modification of the alliance with Iran. Annapolis is just a balloon, don’t expect it to have much impact on the alliances.

November 27th, 2007, 3:04 am

 

Observer said:

I agree with Ehsani2. Syria does not give a damn about the return of the Golan per se. The regime survived without the Golan since 1967 and would continue to do so even if it means that the Golan is not liberated for another 30 years. As I see this conference, it is the meeting of the desperates: the desperate KAS that has no coherent foreign policy and that is driven by fear and only fear; the irrelevance of Egypt; and the insignificance of Jordan. The cover for the meeting is the Israeli Palestinian track while the inside discussions are all about the most important non invited guest: Iran. I am willing to be surprised but I would predict that if Syria is to be wooed away from Teheran, the Golan will only be a small price to pay. I suspect Syria will ask for a lot more including a friendly regime in Lebanon. Syria has everything to gain from going to Annapolis: it shows that the Golan should be on the agenda, it shows that occupation should end without compromise, it will keep the soft Arab regimes from melting like ice cream on the floor, and it may become a link between Iran and the US. I am most certain the Iranians would have wanted Syria to go as they are sure that the offer at hand will not woo Syria away and that the position of the administration would be further confused on how to present the Iran Syria axis as all-evil and anti peace.

November 27th, 2007, 3:18 am

 

Enlightened said:

Question For All!

What has previous regional conferences taught us that this Annapolis conference will succeed?

To me this is just one gigantic smokescreen, attempting to provide a solid front against Iran. Forget the Palestinian/Israeli issue both sides are as far apart as they have ever been. This will not be resolved quickly, neither will Bush’s support for a Palestinian State make one iota of difference, America has neither the will or the clout to end the conflict.

What concerns me about this whole process, is that this whole conflict can be ended in six months if there is the political will to do so. Sadly this is not the case. There are too many competing interests at stake from both sides of the fence. 60 years of perpetual conflict! I wonder what the next 60 years will do?

November 27th, 2007, 4:04 am

 

Enlightened said:

Alex;

I admire your courage under fire, how you remain calm under constant provocation bewilders me sometimes, just to let you know of a old saying in Australia “Class is permanent, form is temporary”

November 27th, 2007, 4:06 am

 

offended said:

AIG

The above article suggests that an immense pressure had been exerted on Syria to attend the conference (Spain, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia….). Do you think that a party that has been pressured/coaxed/cajoled/bullied this much into attending, would be a significant or insignificant one?

And by the way, spare us your pontification about how un-democratic and ruthless the Syrian regime is, because:
1- This is none of your business.
2- Syria is essential and significant player in the region, regardless or who’s ruling it!

November 27th, 2007, 5:28 am

 

ausamaa said:

Has to occured to some of the “hopefull” soles above that Syria IS coordinating it moves in full with its allies all around?

Why underestimate Syrian policy, and why day-dream about things that may suite certain sides but which are not going to happen anytime soon?

Only to be “dissapointed” again as usual?!!

November 27th, 2007, 6:06 am

 

Alex said:

Thanks Enlightened … it is not difficult … as long as you have exceptionally low expectations… this makes it possible to have a dialog with someone like our dear Syria’s Robin Hood.

This conference started as the administration’s answer to the baker report … ignoring the “we must talk to Syria and Iran” part, instead trying to look like the administration is doing something about the Palestinian problem … which the Baker-Hamilton report said was the root of America’s problems in Iraq.

The conference’s timing became tied to the Lebanese elections … to make Syria deliver the Lebanese presidency to the Americans and Saudis in exchange for being invited to the conference (and not much more)

Annapolis also gives the impression that the “coalition of the Arab moderates” is taking positive action … because previously, all they did was to support America’s war in Iraq and Israeli’s war in Lebanon … which made them so unpopular in the “Arab street”… they needed to do something about the popularity of Nasrallah and his allies in Damascus and Tehran… that was then … when the conference was announced.

By now … Saudi Arabia does not feel the same Nasralah popular pressure … things calmed down a lot in “the Arab street”. Iraq is relatively calm .. so the American administration also lost its original incentive to sponsor such a conference.

What we are left with is Condy Rice trying hard to help save this administration’s legacy… President Bush is undecided between her approach and that of the Vice president.

But who knows what to expect … everything is possible.

November 27th, 2007, 6:47 am

 

SimoHurtta said:

For example he says about Israel’s recent bombing: “They claimed to have targeted a Syrian radar post, with help of the United States.”

This is an outright lie. All the rest of his article is third rate Baathist propoganda with a weird view of history. If this is what you can dig up to support your view, you are in trouble.

AIG is complaining that Sami Moubayed is wrong by this Israel hitting a Syrian radar station. The last Aviation Week’s article however mentions that the attack against started with and attack against a radar station located at Tall al-Abuad on Turkish border.

When Haaretz published an article based on this latest Aviation Week story, with the radar station information, I put there a comment: Doesn’t it mean if the attack against Syria started with neutralizing a radar station on Turkish border, that the Israeli planes attacked from the Turkish side, not flying cross most of Syria as reported before. It would make more military sense than that the Israeli planes fly first cross Syria, destroy the radar station and then vanish in the Turkish airspace. After neutralizing the Syrian radar capacity there would be no need for that. Strangely Haaretz never did let my comment to appear, but allowed the normal kick-Arab-ass comments.

If the Israeli planes attacked the radar station from Turkey, which would make more military sense, than flying first hundreds of kilometres in Syrian airspace, opens room for new speculations. The Turkish army certainly must then have had prior knowledge of the operation.

Amusingly now the Israeli “experts” are retreating from the nuclear ractor story. Now the “nuclear reactor” is a nuclear bomb-assembly plant. Naturally the Israeli expert doesn’t much bother to explain of what parts the nuclear bombs are assembled and from where did the parts come. If North Koreans provided the nuclear stuff, why then they did not bring along a ready bomb? This new theory makes even less sense that the “nuclear reactor” story.

AIG the one who should check his own facts before accusing others to be liars is you yourself.

November 27th, 2007, 10:47 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sim,
Moubayed does not claim Israel hit a radar site. He claims that Israel says it hit a radar site. That is obviously false and that is why Moubayed is a liar.

And the Jeruslaem Post quotes ONE expert that says he believes that it is a nuclear bomb assembly plant and you interpret it as all Israeli experts and American ones changing their opinion. Oh well. We are used to your generalizations by now.

November 27th, 2007, 11:32 am

 
 

Gullgamish said:

I am Testing my participation and comment here for the first time! No where in the Arabic reported article did I read that Syria was “pressured” and as many who lived in Syria and the Arab world know, Syria will only “trade” and bargain with issues, and is rarely “pressured” without resiliently fighting back!

November 27th, 2007, 11:50 am

 

offended said:

AP,
Seeing the schedule, it turns out that there is a session for the Syrian-Israeli track.

What do you think would the core subject of the discussion?

November 27th, 2007, 12:28 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

Sim,
Moubayed does not claim Israel hit a radar site. He claims that Israel says it hit a radar site. That is obviously false and that is why Moubayed is a liar.

Well AIG you are amusing as normal. From where do you think Aviation Week did get their knowledge about the details of the attack? From Syrian or Israeli intelligence and military experts?

You AIG have frequently claimed that Israel had hit a nuclear reactor in Syria. Has Israel ever said that? So why are you a liar. 🙂

Israel has officially not told much about the attack against Syria. I suppose the only official announcement related to the attack is the amusing apology to the Turkish government.

To your amusing generalization “talk”, in a previous comment you said

It is good to see in real time the processes of denial that have led the Arabs to so many mistakes over the last 60 years. I

Why are you a racist AIG? Some Arabs have made mistakes not all. I am now very, very angry AIG (even if I am not an Arab). Stop AIG using that anti-Semitic rhetoric and making stupid generalizations. 🙂

November 27th, 2007, 1:28 pm

 

norman said:

Syria wants peace and is willing to have it’s own forign policy to acheive it ,

Report: Iran caught by surprise by Syria’s decision to attend Annapolis summit

The Associated Press
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
TEHRAN, Iran: Iran was caught by surprise when Syria decided to participate in a U.S.-sponsored Mideast summit, an adviser to the country’s supreme leader said in an interview published Tuesday. Syria took the unusual step of publicly defending its decision to attend.

Several Iranian officials and media also condemned the conference Tuesday and urged Arab countries not to compromise with the Israelis. But Syrian state-run media said the country hoped the conference could bring real peace to the region.

Syria is attending the conference “because peace is its choice and because it has made strides in previous negotiations to achieve it,” the daily Tishrin said in the editorial Tuesday.

Iran’s public criticism and Syria’s statement seemed to indicate at least some tension between the two allies over the issue, although it was unclear how serious the tension is.

Hossein Shariatmadari, an adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told a pan-Arab daily based in London, Asharq Al-Awsat, that Iran, an ally of Damascus, was surprised by Syria’s decision to take part in the Annapolis, Maryland meeting. The conference aims at trying to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

“We were surprised by the Syrian position, and we said that we do not support the conference. We expressed our opinion clearly and openly,” Shariatmadari told the paper, adding that the conference was a “a plot against the Palestinians.”

Syria previously has said it decided to send its deputy foreign minister, Faysal Mekdad, to the summit only after the issue of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights was added to the agenda.

Iran has been sharply critical of the conference, saying it was doomed to fail. But Shariatmadari’s comments were the first from Iran that explicitly mention Syria’s decision to participate.

U.S. officials are hoping Annapolis could mark a start to moving Syria out of its alliance with Iran and the Hamas and Hezbollah militant groups. But Syria has been cautious though so far, sending Mekdad instead of the country’s top diplomat as other Arab countries have done.

On Monday, dozens of hard-line Iranian students gathered in front of the Jordanian Embassy in Tehran to protest the summit after Khamenei said in a speech broadcast on state TV that the summit was a failure meant to salvage America’s reputation and not designed to help the Palestinians.

“Those who recognize Israel commit treason against Muslims and Palestinians,” the protesters said in a statement in an apparent reference to Arab leaders who attended the conference.

On Tuesday, Iranian government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham called on Arab and Muslim countries not to compromise with Israel at the Annapolis summit.

“Compromise in Annapolis will have no result except discrediting. It will damage the reputation of the U.S and its supporters,” Elham was quoted as saying by the official news agency, IRNA. He said Iran might host a conference of Palestinian groups soon.

The official Iran daily newspaper also condemned the conference.

“Will Arab leaders be ready to compromise over rights of Palestinian nation against Palestinians?” Iran said in an editorial. “The Annapolis conference is nothing more than a ridiculous intervention maneuver in and inter-Palestinian dispute.”

Elham also urged Muslim countries not to show their support for the Jewish state.

“Regarding our brotherhood relations with Islamic countries, such as Saudi Arabia, we are not interested in these countries standing next to the U.S. and Israel,” IRNA quoted Elham as saying.

Nearly 50 nations and organizations are set to attend the summit to relaunch the long stalled Middle East peace process. Iran is not among the invitees.

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November 27th, 2007, 1:57 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

How funny would it be if the conference was a huge success?

George and Condi actually emerge as the architects of a comprehensive and lasting peace… In one fell swoop, a whole series of agreements are reached, one leading fluidly to the next like a clicking train of dominoes… Candid video shots of Syrian, Palestinian, and Israeli representatives weeping on each others’ shoulders in happiness… A beaming Nasrallah appears on al-Manar congratulating the Arab delegates and announcing that Hizbullah will begin imminent disarmament… Ahmadinejad tries to appear on Iranian state TV but trips on a microphone cable on his way to the sound stage and bumps his head, falls into a coma, and then awakens six months later to find that Iraq is peaceful, a Palestinian state exists with East Jerusalem as its capital, and that Iran is a pro-Western constitutional monarchy once again…

Ahhh… wouldn’t that be lovely?

November 27th, 2007, 2:34 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sim,
So you know the Israelis told aviation week or are you just assuming? And what the Israelis told aviation week according to you is that a radar site and a nuclear site were hit. So again according to your logic Moubayed is a liar.

And I based my conclusions that a nuclear site was hit not on what the Israelis said, because they didn’t say anything (therefore Moubayed is a liar), but based on the sattelite photos, the lack of international condemnation, the risk Israek was willing to take and the cleaning of the site. I have explained my position many times that based on the totality of the evidence, I believe it was a nuclear site and not based on what the Israelis said (because they said nothing).

And thank you for pointing out that my statement could be understood as a generalization. I apologize to anybody this may have offended. It should read: It is good to see in real time the processes of denial that have led Arab regimes to so many mistakes over the last 60 years.

November 27th, 2007, 2:51 pm

 

norman said:

It seems not all israelis as hostle as AIG,

Peres: Israel keeps in touch with Syria

http://www.chinaview.cn 2007-11-27 23:20:08 Print

JERUSALEM, Nov. 27 (Xinhua) — Israeli President Shimon Peres said Tuesday that Israel maintains contact with Syria and transfers messages both overtly and covertly, local media reported.

“We are conducting contacts, some of them ‘under the rug.'” Peres was quoted by Army Radio as saying in the Negev town of Yeruham, “The Syrian, however, must solve two problems. One, the problem of Lebanon becoming a satellite state of Iran, and the other, the permission given to Haled Mashaal to remain in its territory.”

“If Syria wants to negotiate with us, this is not a good way to start. It is, however, good that they came (to Annapolis) and the fact that the Saudis arrived is also important.” he added.

Regarding the U.S.-sponsored Annapolis summit, attended by representatives from some 40 countries in efforts to relaunch dormant peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the president said it was an important step in the peace process.

“The conference certainly has potential, and in the meantime, until we see all its results, it was certainly a good start from which to progress to something of importance,” he was quoted.

Peres pointed to the participation of Arab countries in the conference as an especially positive sign, “and it is not important who is shaking hands and who is not.”

The president also regarded Washington’s participation in the peace process positively, saying “I think that now all sides are interested in not wasting time or potential opportunities. Each one aspires to reach peace. I think this is common to all sides.”

Editor: Mu Xuequan

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November 27th, 2007, 3:54 pm

 

Friend in America said:

The Wall Street Journal Article: Syria’s decision to attend the Annapolis Conference was controversial in Washington as well a Damascus. Just as the “old guard” advocated boycotting the Conference, there were some in Washington that argued Syria would bring more roadblocks than solutions. This article reflects those concerns. What happened, however, is Secretary Rice and others prevailed (the leadership in Washington is not the leadership of 2002) and the foreign policy leaders in Damascus pervailed, but had to get assurance that Golan would be on the agenda in order to allay the suspicions of the old guard. This is part of decision making and I am not surprised, nor should any group in either capital be criticised for advocating its beliefs and fears.

November 27th, 2007, 4:26 pm

 

norman said:

برامرتز يحدد أربعة أشخاص متورطين في الاغتيال يكشف عنهم بعد مؤتمر أنابوليس

November 27th, 2007, 4:38 pm

 

Friend in America said:

Annapolis is about 60 miles east of Washington, DC. The Naval Academy is located there. So is the capital of the State of Maryland. The Chesapeake Bay is about 75 miles north and south and is a lovely area for boating, so it is one of the fine sailing centers in North America. Years ago I was at the naval academy for sailboat races and during a practice day I ran aground (the Chesapeake is shallow) and had to be pulled off by a naval academy boat. I and my crew were put ashore until the first race. Very embarrasshing for a 17 year old.
I have been told each participating country will have a separate hotel, if requested. The entire building will be searched for listening devices by the security employees of both countries working together, each country selects the menus for every day and some bring chefs to work with the host hotel chefs. The meetings are being held at the conference center.

November 27th, 2007, 4:41 pm

 

Observer said:

From Augustus Norton blog this is an interesting piece on the state department notice to its employees around the world on what the Annapolis “meeting” ( downgraded from a “conference” ) is supposed to mean
http://bostonuniversity.blogspot.com/2007/11/are-you-wondering-about-annapolis.html

November 27th, 2007, 5:13 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Does anyone want to argue that the Golan was on the agenda? Neither Bush nor Olmert mentioned it or Syria. Bush did mention Lebanon and the US committment to it in detail. Abu Mazen mentioned it in one sentence when talking about the Arab peace plan.

November 27th, 2007, 5:51 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Back from my lunchbreak demonstrating in Annapolis.

I have to admit, it was pretty quiet.

I guess it will be a while until Jews demonstrate like Gazans.

November 27th, 2007, 6:07 pm

 

Atassi said:

What are you exactly demonstrating !! Why would you be demonstrating !!! Greedy and Cowered peoples like yourself, makes me wonder why I should be moderate….

November 27th, 2007, 6:24 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Atassi,

As I already mentioned to the forum, I was demonstrating in SUPPORT of Bush and the peace conference.

My poster read: “Bush was Right”, “CONFRONT terrorism, don’t reward it”

Unlike most of the posters here and unlike most of the demonstrators in Annapolis, I am FOR a 2 state solution.

November 27th, 2007, 7:51 pm

 

ausamaa said:

AP SAYS: My poster read: “Bush was Right”, “CONFRONT terrorism, don’t reward it”

But do you really think that Bush is serious about Confronting and Rewarding trerrorisem? Heck, AIPAC would be up in arms against him if he even “thinks” about reducing Cluster Bombs supplies to Israrel, let alone “confronting” Israel’s terrorism!

November 28th, 2007, 11:01 am

 

eamonn said:

I think Syria’S attendance at Annapolis was set sometime before the Israeli raid on Deir Ezzor, which was obviously exploited as best as can be by the media. this might have served to alleviate the shock following a seemingly changed American policy in the region. Now, if we go back to all previous Republican adminstrations, this is the time of harvest which needs to be quickly used before Democratic adminstration takes power (especially after visits to Syria By two prominent Democrats, Nancy Pelosy and Bill Nelson). This actually closed the door on Democrats and allowed Republicans the necessary tools to bargain on iraq. The democrats were possibly open to talks with Syria, but they were never at any time ready to renegotiate Lebanon. Senator Nelson, for example, made it clear in a speech before the Washington Institute for Middle East policy that he made certain his visit to Syria would never be interpreted in way that would undermine the Signiora Government. The rush transcript of that paper was a crucial part of what Senator Tom Lantos presented to the congress. At that stage, no one in America was ready to renegotiate Lebanon, it only happened later when the Republicans felt the mounting pressures to reassess the war in Iraq, which made the prospect of another war in the region obsolete. But this is only temporary, and Ghadiry was recently visiting Richard Pearle to revist the (clean break) policy.

December 5th, 2007, 1:14 pm