Iran Warns Syria Against Peace with Israel

Assads in Paris



 

ANALYSIS / At Paris summit, Assad has all the answers to Mideast conflict
By Zvi Bar'el and Barak Ravid, Haaretz, 14/07/2008

…….A few hundred meters away, a new star was born: Assad. He was the man with all the answers to regional conflicts. He solved the Lebanese conflict at the last minute; Hamas and Islamic Jihad are his guests and therefore are subservient to the well-known rules of hospitality. In the peace process with Israel he is considered the good guy.

France had fully renewed relations with Assad, and Washington watched with frustration how its policy of sanctions against Syria was taking a nosedive.

No wonder Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem was very happy, even though he looked drawn and pale. Every half hour he came down the elevator with one high-level visitor to Assad, and took another one up. Cypriot President Demetris Christofias was there, and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon disappeared into Assad's room and came out smiling embarrassedly a while later.

"Did you see Terje Larsen's face?" a member of the Syrian delegation asked a Haaretz reporter. "When he went in it was white and when he came out it was red. He must have gotten an earful from Assad."

Terje Roed-Larsen, responsible for implementing UN Resolution 1559 calling on Syria to withdraw from Lebanon, said some angry things about the peace process with Assad, which he saw as giving in to terror. Larsen is frustrated but his boss is happy.

Then came Assad's press conference. Things went fine in the elevator. The Syrian security detail was not quite together and allowed an Israeli reporter to reach the floor where the briefing was taking place. The cream of the Lebanese and Syrian press corps was wandering around waiting for Assad. No one fled when they heard the words "Israeli journalist."

A few years ago Syrian journalists would clam up or leave; this time, it was as if peace had already broken out. But the Syrian security men had not heard about it.

A short time later one of them "with all due respect" asked the reporter to leave. "This is only for Syrian journalists," he said. To the retort that Lebanese journalists were present, he responded: "Syria and Lebanon are one country."

He had apparently not heard Assad's announcement that a Syrian embassy was to open in Lebanon.

Hussein Shariatmadari, an advisor to Iran's supreme leader and editor-in-chief of Kayhan, warns Syria of the negative impact 'peace' will have on relations with Tehran….  He said that Iran does not recognize the Jewish State and does not look favorably on a Muslim country like Syria or Turkey carrying out negotiation with it….

حسين شريعتمداري يرأس أيضاً تحرير صحيفة "كيهان" المحافظة

دبي- العربية.نت

حذر مستشار للمرشد الأعلى لإيران آية الله علي خامنئي من أن توقيع أي اتفاق سلام بين سوريا واسرائيل سيكون له "عواقب وتغييرات جوهرية" على طبيعة علاقات طهران ودمشق، مؤكداً أن بلاده "لا تعترف بدولة اسمها اسرائيل، ولا تشعر بالرضا لقيام دولة إسلامية، مثل سوريا أو تركيا، بالتفاوض معها".

في المقابل، اعتبر حسين شريعتمداري، ممثل المرشد الأعلى في صحيفة "كيهان" الإيرانية المحافظة التي يرأس تحريرها، أن مفاوضات حماس مع إسرائيل، عبر مصر، للتوصل إلى هدنة، أو مفاوضات حزب الله مع إسرائيل عبر الوسيط الألماني، توصلاً لصفقة لتبادل الأسرى، هو "شيء مختلف" عن المحادثات السورية الإسرائيلية عبر تركيا

Syria basks in diplomatic breakthrough
By Sami Moubayed

DAMASCUS – "Our telephone number is 202-456-1414. When you are serious about peace, call us." These were the words of former United States secretary of state James Baker in June 1990 when he suspended dialogue with Yasser Arafat, claiming the Palestine Liberation Organization was still committed to armed war with Israel and thereby not interested in peace. …..

…From France's perspective, in the past two months the following has been achieved:

  • The election of a president for Lebanon, after a vacuum that had existed since November 2007. France – the former colonial power in Lebanon – remains very much committed to Lebanon and was sincerely worried about Lebanese affairs, unlike the Americans, who used Lebanon for political reasons to achieve other ends (like Iraq) since 2005.
  • French credibility was restored in the eyes of ordinary Lebanese – even the Shi'ites among them – thanks to Sarkozy's even-handed policy of standing at arm's length from all parties and talking with everyone – Hezbollah included.
  • The French balance in the entire Middle East was restored after things became too personal in 2005-2007, due to Chirac's links with the Hariri family. France now returns to Syria, both politically, culturally and economically. One immediate result of the rapprochement is a contract for a French firm to build two cement factories in Syria, worth US$1.2 billion. Another is serious talk about granting a French firm the right to construct a metro in Damascus. [Landis adds: France is also discussing supplying Air Syria with Airbus planes to replace the antiquated Boeing jets for which Syria is unable to purchase spare parts because of sanctions.]
  • From the Syrian perspective, the following are important:

    Syria sidelined all of the anti-Syrian candidates running for the presidency and secured the election of Michel Suleiman, a man who is a friend of both Damascus and Hezbollah. It got its way when saying that it would not allow an anti-Syrian statesman to become the new master of the Baabda presidential palace. Suleiman is a staunch supporter of resisting Israel and will not tolerate any force being used to disarm Hezbollah. He is also a non-sectarian figure who believes in excellent relations with Syria and is on the payroll of neither the Americans nor the Saudis.

  • Greater representation has been given to the Hezbollah-led opposition in the 30-seat cabinet created by Siniora this weekend. They received 11 seats – thereby granting them veto power to obstruct any anti-Hezbollah legislation pushed for by the anti-Syrian March 14 coalition of political parties. Hezbollah got three portfolios – but only one will be occupied by an actual Hezbollah member – Labor Minister Mohammad Fneish.
  • Syria patched up with France without having to change a single policy it had been preaching since 2005. Nor did the Syrians have to make any concession with regard to Lebanon, such as cuddling up to Siniora or March 14, or working against Hezbollah's interests, or abandoning Iran. …
  • Spotlight on Israel and Syria at Paris summit
    By Tony Barber in Paris for Financial Times
    Published: July 14 2008 03:00 | Last updated: July 14 2008 03:00

    The European Union and its Mediterranean neighbours launched a new platform for their relationship yesterday at a summit boosted by a promise from Lebanon and Syria to open embassies in each other's capital.

    Leaders of more than 40 countries attended the inaugural session of the Union for the Mediterranean, a project conceived by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, as a way to bridge differences between the EU and the states of north Africa and the Middle East.

    As the ceremonies got under way at the majestic Grand Palais in Paris, the spotlight fell on Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, and Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president, whose countries, bitter enemies since 1948, have held three rounds of indirect talks since March with Turkey as mediator.

    It was the first time an Israeli and a Syrian leader had been seated in the same room, but the new union's plenary session was carefully choreographed so that Mr Assad and Mr Olmert neither exchanged words nor shook hands.

    Moreover, Mr Assad made it plain that he saw no prospect of direct peace talks with Israeli leaders at least until George W. Bush, the US president, left office. He told French television after the summit that it would take up to two years to reach a Syrian-Israeli peace deal….

    "We can say that Lebanon has moved from being a zone of turbulence, a war zone, to a more pacified zone where the Lebanese, and only the Lebanese, have the right to determine their own future," Mr Assad said after talks with Michel Suleiman, Lebanon's president….

    Comments (8)


    1. Qifa Nabki said:

    Joshua

    Its time for your weekly response from Qifa Nabki. 😉

    On the one hand, there’s no question that Syria has scored big.

    On the other, it is simply inconceivable that this turnaround could have come about because Sarko woke up one morning and decided that he really fancied a trip to Damascus for some delicious Syrian coffee with cardamom.

    We haven’t seen the concessions yet, but does this mean that there will be no concessions at all in the near future? At some point, the rubber is going to have to hit the road.

    What do you think the French (NOT the Americans) are looking for from Syria? I mean in terms of concrete actions, not vague and qualified assurances about working for productive relations in the Middle East and stability, etc.

    Or do you think that France is basically pursuing a more “soft power” approach with respect to Syria?

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    July 14th, 2008, 1:52 pm

     

    2. Alex said:

    Qifa,

    Until Joshua writes a proper answer to your questions, I would say that France is simply filling tha gap for now … we have a peace process that is advancing very smoothly … but America is not ready to sponsor it … not for another 6 months.

    Sarkozy is filling the time gap … he knows, and Assad said it, that the Americans are supposed to take over.

    As for concessions … Syrians never deviated from their “solution based on UN resolutions”.
    Military cooperation with Iran will probably stop in few years, and Hizbollah will turn into a political organization. That’s it.

    By the way, did you notice this part of the story b Zvi Bar’el? 😉

    A short time later one of them “with all due respect” asked the reporter to leave. “This is only for Syrian journalists,” he said. To the retort that Lebanese journalists were present, he responded: “Syria and Lebanon are one country.”

    hehehe.

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    July 14th, 2008, 3:09 pm

     

    3. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

    In my opinion the so called interaction with Syria is just to make sure that it sits on the sidelines when Iran is attacked. I think Asad is very happy to have his hands tied.

    Just like the (non) sale of Syriatel was an indication of how well the American sanctions are working, the purchasing of the Air Bus planes will be a concrete indicator of the isolation of Syria. Let’ see if Germany and France actually agree to sell them the planes. That would be a strong indication, not the photo-ops.

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    July 14th, 2008, 3:21 pm

     

    4. ugarit said:

    AIG: Interesting analysis. You may be right.

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    July 14th, 2008, 3:38 pm

     

    5. Jad said:

    “From the Syrian [and France?- divide and rule] perspective”:

    “France clears Syria of 1983 attack on its troops”

    http://wiredispatch.com/news/?id=250713

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    July 14th, 2008, 3:40 pm

     

    6. why-discuss said:

    In my view, one of Sarkozy’s aim is use Syria as a go between with Iran and Iraq for grabbing new businesses.
    The US is under the illusion that the Iraqis will be forever grateful for removing Saddam. They don’t know well the iraqis… If the US are opportunistic, the Iraqis are too. We can already see Iraqi showing their teeth and standing firm on the issue if the withdrawal timetable The US is shocked by such ingratitude.. and this is only the beginning.
    Syria has accepted millions of Iraqi refugees while the US was looking on the other side. That is something the Iraqis cannot forget. They got no harm from Syria, only benefits, even during the Saddam period when the West was shamelessly flirting with the dictator. This is why I think Syria is very well placed to play the intermediary to re-introduce France businesses in Iraq.
    Syria’s relationship with Iran may also offer some business opportunities unless the Syria-Israel peace process is done at the expenses of Hezbollah and the palestinians. Bashar is smart enough not to do that ( like Mobarak selfishly did and became a US puppet) As for Iran, Syria is the only arab country who has been Iran’s long time friend. They would not renounce to that friendship so easily, even if there is peace deal.
    “Assad said he would also help mediate with Syria’s ally, in response to a request from French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

    “We are going to have discussions with our Iranian friends to get to the heart of the matter, to the details. This is the first time that we had been asked to play a role,” Assad said.”

    Sarkozy has given his OK to the US administration on some symbolic issues ( Nato etc..) but he is also working for the economical interests of his country. Iran and Iraq are power houses of business opportunities and now the obvious door is Syria.

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    July 14th, 2008, 3:48 pm

     

    7. Alex said:

    Monday, Jul. 14, 2008
    The Syrians Take Paris
    By Andrew Lee Butters/Damascus
    TIME Magazine

    For the head of state of a former French colony, an official visit to Paris is always a good chance do a little shopping, take in some culture, and impress the folks back home. So it was for Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria (which was once ruled by France under a League of Nations Mandate). Over the past weekend, Syrian state television has been beaming round-the-clock images of the Syrian President and his tres chic First Lady making the scene in the City of Light: Bashar at a summit for Mediterranean leaders, Asma at the Louvre and Centre Pompidou, and both of them as official guests of French President Nicholas Sarkozy at Bastille Day celebrations on Monday. From all the high wattage smiles, it’s clear they’re having a blast.

    And well they should. Not so long ago the Syrian First couple were personae non gratae in Western capitals. The U.S., which accuses Syria of sponsoring terrorism, led an effort to isolate the country diplomatically and economically. And in a rare instance of Franco-American harmony, France had its own grudge against Syria: the 2005 assassination of Rafik Hiriri, the former Lebanese prime minister and close friend of former French President Jacques Chirac, an act for which many in the West blamed Syria.

    But now Syria is back in style. The invitation to Paris is ostensibly a reward for the the start of indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel (through Turkish mediation.) But it’s also recognition that attempts to isolate Syria have failed, and that the West needs Syrian help for resolving some of the biggest problems in the Middle East. For its part, Syria wants to come even further out of the cold. While in Paris, President Assad told French television that in the event of direct talks under American sponsorship, there could be peace between Syria and Israel within two years. So on the Fourth of July 2010, will Bashar be celebrating Independence Day in Washington?

    Maybe, but maybe not. Of all the Middle Eastern conflicts, the rift between Israel and Syria would appear to be the easiest to mend. Israel would just have to return the Golan Heights, a rocky Syrian plateau that Israel captured in 1967. If Israel had a strong leader with a popular mandate (admittedly a big if) this wouldn’t be impossible given that Israeli settlement in the Golan is relatively sparse and the Heights are no longer so strategically important thanks to advances in Israeli defense technology. But the tougher question is what Israel should get in return for the Golan.

    Israel and the U.S. want more than just an end to a state of war between Syria and Israel. They also wants Syria to stop supporting anti-Israeli militant groups in Palestine and Lebanon (Hamas and Hizballah respectively.) In other words, they want Syria to break away from its strategic partnership with Iran, the senior member of what’s sometimes referred to as the Rejectionist Crescent, the arc of governments and militias stretching from Tehran to Gaza that oppose American and Israeli dominance in the Middle East.

    But Syria isn’t going to abandon Iran, according to figures close to the Assad regime here in Damascus. It’s not just that the elite of Iran and Syria have a long history of cooperation going back to 1979, when Syria was the first country to recognize the newly established Islamic Republic of Iran. It’s also because Syria has no reason to switch sides just when its team is winning. From the fiasco of America’s invasion of Iraq, to Hamas’s victory in Gaza and Hizballah’s victory in Lebanon, Iranian and Syrian power is on the rise in the Middle East. Defying America and Israel is the most popular position in most of the Arab world, and has helped keep the Assad regime in power all these years. Why change now?

    Assad only wants a package deal, a grand bargain between Syria and Iran on the one hand, and American and Israel on the other, that would settle the cold war for the Middle East. This means that the United States would have to give up once and for all its project for a “new” Middle East, and its penchant for regime change. That might happen on its own in November if Barack Obama becomes president. But a package deal would also have to solve the Iranian nuclear issue, map out the future of post-American Iraq, solve the Syrian-Israeli conflict, the Lebanese-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict all in one go. Would any American President, or any world leader, be able to pull that off in two years? Despite President Assad’s rosy prediction, it’s hard to imagine him shaking hands in the Rose Garden anytime soon. But at least he’ll always have Paris.

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    July 14th, 2008, 3:58 pm

     

    8. Seeking the Truth said:

    From http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2008/07/14/bastille-day.html:

    Monday’s official festivities also underscored France’s recent efforts to improve relations with Mideast nations and bolster ongoing peace negotiations.

    The leaders had stayed over following a summit Sunday that launched an unprecedented Union for the Mediterranean, a brainchild of Sarkozy’s aimed at securing peace across the restive region.

    Onstage, Assad turned away to speak to his interpreter when the Israeli leader approached him.

    Israel and Syria, who technically have remained in a state of war with each other since the Six-Day War in 1967, have been holding peace talks in recent weeks with Turkey serving as an intermediary.

    Assad’s presence sparks furor
    Assad’s back-to-back invitations from Sarkozy to the summit and the parade appear to have marked an end to Syria’s diplomatic isolation in France.

    But many in France are outraged that Assad — who stands accused of trampling human rights in his own country and facilitating violence and chaos in neighbouring Lebanon, a French ally — was invited to Bastille Day festivities.

    Among them are groups representing France’s veterans, who hold Syria responsible for the deaths of 58 French paratroopers in a 1983 bomb attack on a Beirut barracks housing peacekeepers.

    Assad receives few invitations from the West, where the British-educated former eye surgeon is viewed as a pariah allied with Iran and a supporter of militant groups including Hamas and Hezbollah.

    Syria is also accused of involvement in the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister of Lebanon, where disputes in Parliament between pro-Syrian politicians and the Western-backed government often threaten to spill out into violence in the streets.

    Former French president Jacques Chirac — a close friend of Hariri’s — bitterly condemned the welcome offered by Sarkozy, while the French opposition decried the inclusion of a dictator at a celebration of human rights.

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    July 14th, 2008, 5:30 pm

     

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