Is Syria Asking Too Much?

Syria is demonstrating that it will and can be accommodating on the Palestine front. Syria is throwing Washington and Tel Aviv a bone in Palestine by pushing Hamas to work out differences with the PLO. Washington wants more bones before it will agree to talk to Syria, but it looks as if Syria will hold firm on the Lebanon front and stair down the US. And why not?

Last year a leading Syria told me that the attitude of the countries leaders was that if the US believed that it could use Iraq and Lebanon as a base from which to launch an anti-Syria campaign, Washington would be sorely disappointed.

"Why?" I asked.

He replied, "Because Iraq and Lebanon are not nations. They are like quicksand and they will suck America into a swamp of infinite factionalism and weakness. This is what happened to Israel in 1982, when it tried to use Lebanon as a base to isolate and then bring down the Syrian regime.

"If this is in fact the Syrian belief, and there is plenty of indication that it is, then Damascus must be feeling vindicated. Washington is in big trouble in Iraq, which is bound to get worse. Washington is also in big trouble in Lebanon. Polls demonstrate is has lost popularity since supporting Israel's failed campaign to demolish Hizbullah. Pro-Syrian Lebanese have been emboldened to try to bring down the pro-American government. In the US, the Democrats have dealt Bush a blow. 

The Syrian elite will undoubtedly be saying to itself, "time is on our side. The Americans are still insulting us and claiming that our negotiating price is too high, but they are sinking in a swamp. Today the quicksand is up to their chests. But tomorrow it will be up to their nostrils; then the price will not seem too high or unreasonable. We tried to warn them not to invade Iraq, but they would not listen. Another year in Iraq and they will learn manners."

Syria exerts backstage influence on Hamas
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
, Nov 16, 2006

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Syria has stepped up backstage diplomacy to press Hamas into sharing power to demonstrate that Damascus remains a key player in the Middle East, Palestinian officials and analysts say.Open to a rapprochement with the West, Damascus has been gently pushing its ally Hamas into solving differences with President Mahmoud Abbas on a new Palestinian government that have played into the hands of Israel, they said.

The political failure of Hamas would reflect badly on Syria, which has expressed readiness to resume talks with Israel as part of a Middle East peace deal and is keen to show the United States it remains central to the region's politics.

A new Palestinian administration could prompt the West to ease sanctions imposed after Hamas, whose charter commits it to the destruction of Israel, took power in March after elections. The group, whose leader Khaled Meshaal lives in Syria, has abandoned its insistence on heading a new government, but no one doubts it will remain a force to be reckoned with in Palestinian politics.Independent Palestinian lawmaker Mustafa Barghouthi, who is mediating between Hamas's leaders and Abbas, told Reuters that Syria wants to change a perception that the exiled leadership of Hamas is extremist."Syria does not want the Palestinian government to turn into a theatre of Arab disputes and is strongly backing Arab efforts to conclude a deal. We would not have reached so far without the exiled leadership," Barghouthi told Reuters in Damascus.

Camille-Alexandre writes: Jihad El-Khazen of al-Hayat asked Hamas' leader Mashaal if he worries Syria will “sell out Hamas” if a deal is made with the Americans. Khaled Mashaal replied confidently “no, there will be more Syrian support.”

Syria will not get satisfaction for its gesture on the Palestinian front. Here is how the Jewish Forward explains Bush and Olmert's negative view of talking to the Syrians: "According to the Bush administration’s view, Assad wants not only the Golan Heights but also stronger control over Lebanon.  There really isn’t a reward big enough to give Assad.”

Olmert Hugs Bush, Praises Iraq War
Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet.

By Nathan Guttman in the Forward
Page A4

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert raised eyebrows this week when he praised the U.S. war in Iraq as a "great operation" that brought stability to the Middle East.

Olmert left the White House on Monday “very, very, very pleased,” as he described it, with the understandings that he and Bush reached on the Iranian nuclear threat. Both leaders stressed that the only way to deal with Iran is by international pressure and isolation, but the administration still expects Israel to do its share in improving the regional environment to facilitate such pressure.

A senior Israeli official said this week that though the opposition to engaging with Damascus “is not an ideology,” Israel doubts that talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad can be fruitful. According to the Bush administration’s view, Assad wants not only the Golan Heights but also stronger control over Lebanon. So, the Bush administration official argued, “there really isn’t a reward big enough to give Assad.”

Though Bush made it clear in his meeting with Olmert on Monday that he is not interested in engaging with Iran before it gives up its nuclear ambitions, Israeli officials still believe that the United States might change course regarding Syria, if the Baker-Hamilton report suggests it is a needed step in order to stabilize Iraq.

As part of the effort to line up Arab states against Tehran’s nuclear program, Israel is coming under increased pressure from America to achieve progress in talks with the Palestinians.

In a meeting last week, the Forward has learned, a senior Bush administration official told Israeli visitors that in order to form a strong coalition against Iran, movement must take place on the Israeli-Palestinian track.

The main goal of the administration now is to get American-aligned Arab states — Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries — to join forces in isolating Ahmadinejad’s regime. According to sources, the senior American official said that what these countries — referred to in Washington lingo as “the Arab Quartet” — want to see is America making good on its promise to realize the vision of an independent Palestinian state. Where the Bush administration and the Arab Quartet countries differ is over the definition of success: The White House is promising effort; the Arabs want results.

This article is a must read in its entirety. Here is what it has to say about internal Jewish and Israel dialogue about giving land back to Palestinians as a basis for peace: 

In his meeting with Bush, Olmert did not present a new plan and — defying the administration’s expectations — he did not show any sign of being willing to move ahead on the Palestinian front. Yet within Olmert’s Cabinet, other ideas are brewing.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is working, according to sources close to her, on a series of new steps to reinvigorate the peace process, provided that the new Palestinian government is acceptable to Jerusalem. Livni, who said more than once that “as a lawyer, I always prefer to write my own drafts than to put corrections into the other side’s draft,” fears that without an Israeli initiative, the Arab League peace plan might gain momentum as the only game in town.

In her speech at the General Assembly, Livni signaled her new ideas, conveying the message that the Israeli public is ready for a historic compromise. “Israel has made its choice,” Livni told the Jewish activists in the opening session, stating that there is a conflict between the Jewish right for all of the Land of Israel and the need to preserve Israel as a democratic state. “For both elements to live together, and not in contradiction, and to assure our security, we have to give up part of Eretz Yisrael.”

Livni’s message did not resonate well with the 3,000-strong crowd at the L.A. convention center. Only scattered applause was heard in the hall, in contrast to a much more enthusiastic response when the foreign minister spoke of the need to confront the Iranian threat.

The head of the Knesset opposition, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud, drew strong applause as he argued that compromise would only lead to a greater threat to Israel. On three occasions he compared Iran to “Germany in 1938.” Netanyahu warned against pressing Israel to make concessions to embolden efforts to isolate Iran. “It is not that the Palestinian conflict affects Iran — it is the other way round,” Netanyahu said.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican who chairs the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia agrees with Olmert that Syria is bad. She has a long article in the Forward, entitled, The Two Faces of Bashar Al-Assad, which ends:

While it is important for Israel to pursue peace with its neighbors, it is equally important that Israel’s partner in negotiations be credible and sincere in wanting to achieve a peace that is just and sustainable. Syria’s Assad does not fit that bill, and the international community should not fall for Assad’s phony calls to negotiate while in the same sentence he is threatening war.

Lebanon

Russia is delaying approval of the special U.N.-backed court to try suspects in the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. It UN representative declared:

"We are somewhat bothered" that the plan had been approved by the Lebanese government but opposed by its president, Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said when asked if Moscow questioned the legitimacy of the government's approval.

Before Russia could consent to the plan along with its Security Council colleagues, "We will look at how it all fits into the Lebanese Constitution," he said.

The United Nations and the Lebanese government have agreed that a tribunal to prosecute the suspected killers of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri should have a majority of international judges, an international prosecutor and be located outside Lebanon, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report Thursday. He told the U.N. Security Council that having more international than Lebanese judges in the mixed tribunal would help ensure its independence.

The headlines from Naharnet.com alone tell a story of deadlock and threats as Lebanon slides toward paralysis and economic exhaustion.

Poll: U.S. 'Big Loser' in Eyes of Lebanese after Isarel's War

Hopes Fade as Hizbullah Signals 'Civil Disobedience'

Lahoud Urges Formation of National Unity Cabinet to Avoid Protests

Berri Says Cabinet Meetings 'Unconstitutional'

Khamenei Tells Berri U.S., Israel Will be Defeated in Lebanon

Riad Salameh: Lebanon Inflation to Rise to 7% Due to Israeli Offensive

Comments (13)


1. Ehsani2 said:

>By Janine Zacharia
> Nov. 17 — Former Secretary of State James
>Baker, co-chairman of the panel reviewing American policy in
>Iraq, met with Syrian officials to urge their cooperation in
>quelling the violent insurgency, Syria’s envoy to the U.S. said.
> Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha said in an interview that
>he met twice in Washington with the 10-member Iraq Study Group,
>the first time on Aug. 3. The group met in September in New York
>with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and Moustapha, he
>said.
> His account of the meetings, which Baker’s spokesman said
>was “generally right,” suggests the Iraq panel will recommend
>that President George W. Bush reverse current policy and engage
>in talks with the leadership in Damascus. In the New York
>session, Moustapha said, Baker cited his 1991 trip to ask then-
>President Hafez al-Assad to contribute forces to the Persian
>Gulf War, recounting how he had told Assad to look past the
>“troubled history” between the U.S. and Syria.
> Syria believes it can play an important role in restoring
>stability because many Iraqis, particularly the Sunnis, “have
>started looking at Syria as someone who can protect their
>interests,” Moustapha said in the interview. He also cited
>Syria’s close ties with anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-
>Sadr, who he said frequently travels to Damascus, once for a
>two-week stay.
> “Most of these guys feel disenfranchised today in Iraq, so
>we can have some leverage on them,” he said.
>
> Withdrawal Sought
>
> Syrian officials told the Iraq Study Group that the U.S.
>needs to announce a readiness to withdraw troops if Iraq is to
>be stabilized.
> “We are just telling them there should be a very clear
>announcement about, a commitment for, withdrawal,” Moustapha
>said. “As long as certain Iraqis believe you are not planning
>to withdraw, they will continue to fight against you.”
> Baker’s spokesman, John Williams, while calling the Syrian
>account generally correct, noted that Baker “never asked” the
>Syrians for help in advance of the 1991 war, and only explained
>to them why it would be in their interest to get involved.
> U.S. engagement with Syria and Iran — an idea that is
>gaining traction among Democrats, in particular — is emerging
>as a possible element of the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations.
>Such a proposal might set up a conflict with the Bush
>administration, which has shown little openness to engage in
>dialogue with the Syrian leadership.
>
> No `Revolution’
>
> U.S. policy makers accuse Syria of meddling in Lebanon and
>sheltering Palestinian terrorists.
> “I don’t think we should expect a revolution in the
>administration,” said Dennis Ross, who served as special Middle
>East envoy under President Bill Clinton. “They are six years in
>power. There is a certain set of attitudes. There is a certain
>approach.”
> Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reflected that
>skepticism in comments to reporters en route to Vietnam on Nov.
>14. “There’s no indication that Syria wishes to be a
>stabilizing force,” Rice said.
> Rice said the Bush administration has held talks with
>Syrian officials “and nothing has ever changed in their
>behavior, and we simply have to keep that in mind.”
>
> `Old Days’
>
> In 1991, Assad agreed to dispatch troops to the coalition
>arrayed against Iraq after Baker’s visit. “We had a
>relationship based on respect,” Moustapha quoted Baker as
>telling Muallem in September. “Do you think we can go back to
>those old days when we delivered and you delivered?”
> U.S. relations with Syria soured after the March 2003
>invasion of Iraq, with top U.S. officials accusing the Syrian
>government of sheltering relatives and former aides of Saddam
>Hussein.
> Security cooperation, both along the Iraqi-Syrian border
>and in intelligence sharing on al-Qaeda, resumed in the summer
>of 2004 with the visit of former assistant secretary of state
>William Burns to Damascus. It culminated with the Syrian capture
>in January 2005 of Saddam Hussein’s half-brother Sabawi Ibrahim
>Hassan.
>
> Troubled Ties
>
> Syrian-U.S. dialogue halted again after the assassination a
>month later of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. The United
>Nations is investigating possible Syrian links to the killing.
>Assad has denied involvement in the attack.
> Since then, the Syrian envoy, Moustapha, has not met with
>administration officials. The U.S. ambassador to Syria, Margaret
>Scobey, who was recalled last year, quietly moved on five months
>ago to a position at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, leaving in
>Damascus only a new U.S. deputy chief of mission, Michael
>Corbin.
> “The Bush administration is still very reluctant to engage
>with Syria,” Moustapha said. “James Baker is trying to tell
>the administration you need this total engagement package with
>everybody, with Iraqis, and the others,” Moustapha added,
>referring to Iraq’s factions and neighbors, including Iran.
> “The last time the Syrians engaged with the Americans it
>was substantial, it was solid and we delivered,” Moustapha
>said.
>

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November 17th, 2006, 12:01 pm

 

2. t_desco said:

Lebanese Sunnis urged to confront Hezbollah

DUBAI – A statement posted on Friday on an Internet website used by Al Qaeda’s branch in Iraq called upon Lebanese Sunnis to confront the Shia group Hezbollah which it accused of wanting to dominate the country.

‘We call on our brothers in Lebanon … to face up to Hezbollah and the hatred of the rafidha (a pejorative term for Shia Muslims) and prepare for a confrontation,’ appealed the statement from the ‘Mujahedin of Lebanon’.

The tone and wording of the statement is similar to that of messages from the Al Qaeda branch in Iraq.

‘Today they want to dominate Lebanon in its totality, allying themselves with the crusaders in Lebanon, to definitively eliminate the Sunni community. The rafidha should know we are ready to combat them,’ said the statement, which also slammed Iran and Syria.

The statement accused Hezbollah of being under the control of Syria, which it charged had opened the door to Iranian influence in the country.

A message last week purportedly from the head of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Hamza Al Muhajer, called on Sunnis to stand up to Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.
AFP

Gee, and I thought that they were buddy-buddy with Iran and collaborating with Hizbullah in Somalia…

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November 17th, 2006, 12:47 pm

 

3. Atassi said:

I am afraid, Imad Mustafa; is over selling Syria’s ability to influence and improve the situation for the sunni in this sectarian conflict. This is not Lebanon, This is not 1976 and this is NOT Zahli
I think, Syria is being pulled to the conflict with a bad faith. the Syrian regime is very much stressed by it’s isolation by the American and regional powers the pressure is mounting, the regime is being blinded by the fear of losing control internally and the greed of empowerment of the regime if the US start a serious talk
This is a TRAP…. Syria can’t deliver what the Sunni wanted. Iran is was pushing for NEW Shiite IRAQ and it already accomplished it. What we are seeing now, is the final battle for the control of Baghdad … Syria can’t and will not be able to change that…

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November 17th, 2006, 4:47 pm

 

4. astras said:

strange, strange. the biggest obstacle to peace in the mideast seems to be the jewish community in the usa with their holocaust fetish.

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November 17th, 2006, 4:49 pm

 

5. ivanka said:

T-Desco If Al Qaeda is close to someone it is to Saudi Arabia. I think they are also close to Saad Hariri. It is only natural that Saudi Arabia will think of Al Qaeda as it’s proxy against Iran.

This is not a serious threat though. Lebanese Sunni groups have recently strengthened their ties with Hezballa considerably. Especially during and after the war.

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November 17th, 2006, 5:04 pm

 

6. ivanka said:

I ave a question, inspired by Attasi’s comment. What role will Moktada el Sadr play in the battle for Bagdad going on now. How close is he to Syria?

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November 17th, 2006, 5:08 pm

 

7. Wizart said:

Moktada and Berri seem to be working for Syria and Iran to increase their influence in the region. Syria and Iran in turn seem to be working for Russia to increase its influence in the region.

Bush and Putin both seek influence over the regional energy reserves. The more fear, instability and controlled wars there is in the region the higher the price of oil. The higher the price the happier the Russian and American oil companies will be. Exon alone made a cool 10 billion dollars in the past three months alone. The military industry is happy employing millions of people and making serious money as well. The U.S alone spends 400 bilion dollars on “defence” every and each year.

Shite, Suni, Alawi, Christian, jew, Budist..all that jazz is nothing but a distraction to use to establish control and to exploit the poor, the proud and the ignorant in the name of one religion or ethnicity or another.

Whoever said religion is the opium of the masses was indeed stating the obvious. In my opinion.

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November 17th, 2006, 7:58 pm

 

8. ivanka said:

By the way T-Desco,

The older Al Qaeda statement asking people to topple the Lebanese government turned out to be a sure fake. Hezballa said they traced it back to a fax machine in the interior ministry of Ahmad Fatfat! Moreover it is a supposed Al Qaeda statement that doesn’t start with a religious reference or a verse from the Quran. It does not look the least bit like an Al Qaeda statemet.

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November 17th, 2006, 8:27 pm

 

9. t_desco said:

Ivanka, I was just being sarcastic. The situation of Sunnis in Lebanon seems to be quite complex. I think you were alluding to the electoral alliance formed by Saad Hariri with some very radical elements, mentioned in the ICG report quoted by me here. As a result many extremists were released from prison.
More recently, some political analysts were speculating about using al-Qa’ida against Hizbullah, according to this report:

“Political analysts said they’d detected signs that the moderate Sunni leadership was working to reach an accommodation with the radicals – something that might benefit both sides.

The Sunni leadership would benefit, the analysts said, by winning Islamists’ agreement not to attack in Lebanon. It also might be able to depend on the Islamists as an effective armed counterbalance to Hezbollah.”

On the other hand, you have the Islamic Action Front which includes peoples like Sheik Fathi Yakan (who reportedly admires bin Laden but not Zarqawi).

One group I would like to know more about is Al-Ghurabaa, led by Omar Bakri Muhammad. A recent BBC report revealed that he is still maintaining close contact with his followers in Great Britain via the Internet, but it would also be interesting to see how he is connected to the Lebanese Islamist scene.

“Al-Ghurabaa took credit for organising flag-burning protests outside the Danish embassy in London following the Danish cartoons furore and the group made no secret of its admiration for Osama bin Laden.”
Le Monde diplomatique

On edit:
While I don’t doubt that al-Qa’ida wants to topple any government anywhere…, the timing of that statement did look suspicious. I also found it very strange that, according to the report, the statement was sent to a Christian radio station (!).

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November 17th, 2006, 8:30 pm

 

10. Ehsani2 said:

>By MARK N. KATZ
>WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 (UPI) — British Prime Minister Tony Blair has told the
>U.S. government-sponsored Iraq Study Group that pushing for an Israeli-
>Palestinian peace settlement “was the only way” to bring about long-term
>stability to Iraq and the Middle East as a whole. This is a viewpoint that has
>long been expressed by many Arabs and which has become increasingly popular in
>Europe. But as desirable as it would be to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace
>settlement, it is doubtful that this could contribute much to stability either
>in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East.
>It’s not that an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, or even just the push for one
>that Blair is calling for, would have no positive impact. America’s image in
>the Arab world would hopefully rise from the abysmal lows that it has fallen to
>under President Bush, thus making it easier for Arab governments to cooperate
>with the United States.
>But it is not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that Iraqis are divided over. If
>anything, support for the Palestinian cause is one of the few issues that the
>contending Iraqi factions are all agreed upon. As is well known, bitter
>disputes have emerged in Iraq between Arab Sunnis and Arab Shiites, and between
>Arab Sunnis and the Kurds. There are also conflicts between rival Arab Shiite
>groups, between rival Arab Sunni groups, and others still. An Israeli-
>Palestinian peace settlement, if one could be reached, will not magically
>resolve all these intra-Iraqi disputes. Just pushing for one will have even
>less impact.
>Nor will an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement prevent neighboring states
>from supporting rival groups in an Iraqi civil war. Even if an Israeli-
>Palestinian settlement could be achieved, Iran would still support the Arab
>Shiites while most Arab states would support Arab Sunnis. If anything, an
>Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement might free up resources previously provided
>to the Palestinians for various groups in Iraq.
>Closer to Israel, an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not
>necessarily lead to the end of the Israeli-Syrian one. But even if the Golan
>Heights issue dividing Israel and Syria could be resolved, Syria’s continuing
>desire to dominate Lebanon will lead to continued tension. Conflict between
>Hezbollah on the one hand and other Lebanese groups on the other also seems
>likely to continue whether or not an Israeli-Palestinian peace is achieved.
>Similarly, it is doubtful that an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement would
>curb Iran’s desire to continue pursuing its nuclear program which both America
>and Israel in particular regard as threatening. Indeed, since Iranian President
>Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be wiped off the face of the map,
>he may not recognize an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement as legitimate, but
>as a sell-out on the part of any Palestinian group agreeing to it.
>Further, an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement would not alter the fact that
>most Middle Eastern states are dictatorships. While America may no longer be so
>unpopular for supporting Israel if an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement were
>achieved, it would still be unpopular for supporting pro-American dictatorial
>regimes in the Arab world.
>Thus, as desirable as the achievement of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement
>(or even the concerted effort to achieve one) would be, this will not bring
>about an end to the Iraqi civil war, Syrian efforts to dominate Lebanon, the
>Iranian nuclear crisis, or authoritarian rule throughout much of the Middle
>East. Each of these problems will still have to be resolved individually — if
>they can be. An Israeli-Palestinian peace is not the panacea for the problems
>of the Middle East that Tony Blair and so many others think it is.

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November 17th, 2006, 9:35 pm

 

11. t_desco said:

For the record (somehow I’m unable to post this in the new thread):

A Statement from the Mujahideen in Lebanon to the Sunni Muslim People
SITE Institute

Previously unknown group warns of ‘Shiite death squads’ preparing to attack Sunni Muslims in Lebanon
AP

The Jerusalem Post currently has the same AP story under the headline “Iranian group (sic) warns Lebanese Sunnis“. 😀

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November 17th, 2006, 11:37 pm

 

12. youngSyria said:

I agree with IVANKA .al-Qa’ida statement looks like Saudi-hariri to me. extremists obviously wont side shia hizballah but they cant ignore that hizballah is fighting Israel(and is has popularity in Arab streets). also they are not that dump not to know that US + Europe + Israel are against hizh and the one that is inviting “crusaders” are 14th march people(at least this is what is pupular on streets).
I don’t think hizballah is the main al-Qa’ida target right now.
what about Saudi-Syria relations ? aren’t they suppose to get batter ?? moallim suppose to visit Riyadh!!

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November 18th, 2006, 11:03 am

 

13. Technology Occupation » Single diamond sheets offer semiconductors speed up (Addict 3D) said:

[…] Rime Allaf, Patching things up with the neighbours, The Guardian, November 16, 2006: “Even if they’re not willing to rejoin the world of diplomacy, London and Washington should at least become more level-headed and factually think of Syria and Iran as the ‘axis of inevitable partners’.” via Potter: Joshua Landis, Is Syria Asking Too Much?, SyriaComment.com, November 17, 2006: “Last year a leading Syria told me that the attitude of the countries leaders was that if the US believed that it could use Iraq and Lebanon as a base from which to launch an anti-Syria campaign, Washington would be sorely disappointed.” Imad Moustapha, Weblog of a Syrian Diplomat in America, “The journal of Imad Moustapha, Syria’s envoy to the US.” Patrick Seale, Syria’s Peace Offensive, agenceglobal.com, November 8, 2006: “This summer’s war in Lebanon has lent urgency to President Bashar al-Asad’s repeated calls for a resumption of peace talks, culminating in his statement in a recent BBC interview that Syria was ready to live side-by-side with Israel. ‘No Syrian has ever said that before,’ Vice-President Farouk el-Shara reminded me in an interview this week.” Sami Moubayed, Syria also wants carrots, Mideastviews.com, November 17, 2006, “The Syrians are confused. They are indeed getting contradicting signals from the international community, and particularly the US. Democratic Senator Joseph Biden, who is expected to head the US Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations, said the US should convene an international conference on Iraq with the participation of both Syria and Iran. These positive remarks are drowned out by the remarks of Rice and McCormack.” Samir Aita, Syria: a monopoly on democracy, Le Monde diplomatique, July, 2005: “It is worth recalling how Syria was built on a democratic compromise after the first world war.” Reuters, Syria, Iraq Restore Ties to Combat Militants, New York Times, November 21, 2006: “Saying the United States appeared to be “trapped in Iraq,” unable either to stay or go, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan urged Iran and Syria to be “part of the solution.” James Bennet, The Enigma of Damascus, The New York Times, July 10, 2005: “‘When you talk about upgrading society, you talk about open-minded,’ he said. ‘When you talk about open-minded, you mean freedom. Freedom of thinking.’” […]

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April 20th, 2007, 10:51 pm

 

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