Posted by Joshua on Monday, November 6th, 2006
The top three headlines of Levant News, the London based webjournal with close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and new National Salvation Front which includes Abdulhalim Khaddam, Syria's ex-vice president suggest that Bashar al-Asad is setting the terms for a deal between the Syrian regime and the West. Like Lebanon's Jumblat, the Syria opposition is dead set against such a deal.
According to the Ibrahime al-Amine article, (published in a separate post) the Saudis are looking for a broader deal on Lebanon, which would require coming to terms with Syria. Both Egypt and Saudi tried to broker such a Syria-Lebanon deal btween Hariri and the Shiites on the one hand and between Lebanon and Syria on the other last winter. Washington, Jumblat and Geagea scuttled it. Now the Saudis are trying again, Amine claims, realizing that the Americans cannot win and that the Lebanese state is too weak to avoid compromise. The way forward is to get the Shiites more cabinet seats and to work out a deal with Michel Aoun about the upcoming presidential elections.
The United States and Jumblat remain determined to avoid any deals with Syria or Hizbullah.
Here is what Akhbar al-Sharq is saying about the rumors of a deal.
1. Asad presents a complete package to the British: Dropping Hamas and Hizbullah in exchange for realizing Syria demands [on returning the Golan, according to officials close to the British PM]
2. The French confirm that the results of European contacts with the Syrian regime have not been encouraging.
3. Syrian Authorities are forbidding Syrian Rights activists from leaving the country.
الأسد يقدم عرضاً "متكاملاً" للبريطانيين: التخلي عن "حماس" و"حزب الله" مقابل تحقيق المطالب السورية
الفرنسيون يؤكدون أن نتائج الاتصالات الأوروبية مع النظام السوري لم تكن مشجعة
السلطات السورية تمنع ناشطين حقوقيين من مغادرة البلاد
Khaddam's newsletters are insisting that a leading Arab official claims that Asad has intimated he will suggest that some rogue elements from the security were involved in the Hariri murder but that the regime was innocent.
Al-Hayat writes: "If reports on a Syrian offer to British envoy Nigel Sheinwald to trade Syrian pressure over Hezbollah and Hamas in exchange for kick starting the negotiations on the Golan Heights were true, then it would also at least entail convincing Olmert with the need to advance along the Syrian track: a possibility that Olmert adamantly rules out.
Alex commenting below, doubts that Syria will be satisfied with only the Golan. He explains:
I believe this is too simplistic … The problem with Syria is that, unlike Egypt and Jordan, the Syrians want to manage the same area the Israel would like to keep in its own sphere of influence .. Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinians
1) Greater Syria … don’t believe anyone who tells you the idea is totally forgotten.
2) The Syrians simply do not trust Israel or the Americans to know how to maintain the stability and secular nature of the area.
German chancellor Angela Merkel: "We can't deny that Syria is a main regional player in the region," German News Agency DPA quoted Merkel as saying during her talks with British Premier Tony Blair in London last night.
Patrick Seale's "Has America ‘lost’ the Middle East" questions whether Richard Haass' prediction in Foreign Affairs is true – Haass wrote that America's moment in the Middle East is over. Like Charles G. Coutinho, commenting on this site, Seale questions whether Washington's influence is really about to end. He doubts it and calls for another US effort to solve the thorny Palestinian-Israeli mess. He is a bit of Seale's argument:
Perhaps the first thing to say is that, in spite of its recent failures, the US is still not seriously challenged in the Middle East by any other external power or group of powers.
The Iraq war may have all the makings of a major disaster, but what other power could afford to spend $500 billion and deploy an army of 140,000 men for an indefinite period halfway across the world? The European Union, which many had hoped would serve as a counterweight to the United States, has conspicuously failed to forge a common foreign and defence policy.
Because of its spectacular economic growth, China is emerging as a strategic challenger to the United States, particularly in East Asia.
But China’s economic partnerships and alliances have still not been translated into the sort of naked power the United States can project by means of its numerous deepwater fleets, its global network of military bases and its technological supremacy.
Russia’s economy, in turn, has improved on the basis of oil and gas revenues, but it is still very far from recovering the considerable influence it used to have in the Middle East as an arms supplier and great power protector of several Arab states.
As for local actors, which Haass predicts will soon “enjoy the upper hand”; it is hard to see whom he has in mind. All too often at odds with each other, the Arabs are even more divided than the Europeans.
Iran poses a more serious challenge to American power, but its ambitions would seem to be purely local and defensive.
As for non-state actors, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, they pose no credible challenge whatsoever to the United States.
Baker Panel To Avoid Calls for Peace Push
Sources Dismiss Israeli Fears, Predict U.S. Talks With Syria and Iran
Nathan Guttman | The Jewish Forward | Wed. Nov 01, 2006
Israeli officials have been privately expressing alarm over the influential role that Baker — who during the first Bush administration famously butted heads with Jerusalem over settlements and peace talks — is expected to play in crafting Middle East policy following the midterm elections next week.
The fear in some pro-Israel circles is that Baker and Hamilton, who have both previously stressed the importance of achieving a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement, would propose a formula that would implicitly require White House pressure on Jerusalem. But sources close to the study group, and experts who advised the committee on the regional policies, all say that the report will not urge a change of course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and will not advocate a more active role for the United States in brokering peace in the Middle East.
“It simply won’t be in there,” said one of the sources, who asked to remain anonymous.