Landis on BBC World Service Explaining Why Syria is Headed to Annapolis

Landis on the BBC World Service Newshour explaining why Syria is going to Annapolis
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The Radio clip is about 4 minutes long: Syria to attend peace conference
Syria has accepted an invitation by the USA to attend the Middle East conference in Annapolis. Syria said it would only take part if the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights was discussed. So why the change? Joshua Landis is the director of the Centre for Peace Studies at the University of Oklahoma.

Syria will join Mideast peace talks
Ziad Haydar and Richard Boudreaux, Special to The LA Times
November 26, 2007

U.S. officials initially rejected Syria's condition for coming to Annapolis, saying the conference would focus entirely on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But later they added a conference session to discuss a "comprehensive peace in the Middle East."

That was enough to satisfy Syria that it could use the gathering to demand a return of the captured territory.

"We received what we have asked for, which is the [conference] schedule, and on it is the 'Syrian-Israeli track,' " said a Syrian official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Based on that, we decided to go."

Another Syrian involved in the decision said, "We have to use every opportunity we get to raise the issue of Golan. Wasting this chance will harm our efforts."

Hadley, in a conference call with reporters, said the Golan Heights was not specifically on the agenda but added that the Syrians were "free to address the issues that they want to address."

"There is, of course, a recognition that to get to a comprehensive peace there will have to be negotiations in the future in separate tracks involving, of course, Israelis and Syrians, Israelis and Lebanese," he said. "And there will have to be . . . discussion . . . about a broader Israeli-Arab reconciliation."

But he emphasized: "Those will all be future and separate discussions."

Israeli officials welcomed Syria's announcement. But they cautioned that a resumption of talks depended on a show of Syria's willingness to break from Iran's orbit and stop harboring Palestinian and Lebanese militants opposed to the Jewish state's existence….

Here is Col. Pat Lang's comment on Haydar's article, here

"… Syria has been seeking a way to talk seriously to Washington for long time. Israel's willingness to discuss the return of Syrian territory on the Golan Heights provides a chance to do just that.
I am still of the opinion that little will result from the Palestinian-Israeli meeting at Annapolis, but there is a real chance that the Syrian aspect of the festering mess that is the Middle East could be cleared up in the near future.
Syria is extremely uncomfortable with its hostile non-relationship with the US and would go a long way in attempting to resolve that situation.
Lebanon, the "alliance" with Iran, past support of terrorist groups, all of those things could be "in play" if the United States (and Israel) accept the concept of real reconciliation with Syria."

Controlled chaos
Karim Makdisi in the Guardian
November 24, 2007

At midnight on Friday, Lebanon entered the uncharted waters of a constitutional crisis as the outgoing President Emile Lahoud's term ended without the appointment of a successor. Earlier in the day, the scheduled meeting of parliament to elect a new president was postponed for the fifth time, this time to November 30, amidst an opposition boycott that prevented the two-thirds quorum required by the constitution.

Lebanon has now entered what is being called "controlled chaos", a precarious phase in which leaders of both the pro-US March 14 coalition and the opposition have pledged to intensify the search for a consensus presidential candidate over the coming week while toning down the provocative political rhetoric and sectarian venom that has featured so prominently in recent months. This deal has prevented, or at least postponed for now, what most Lebanese fear most: civil unrest which could lead to yet another war. The dangers remain very real amidst claims by the more extreme elements within the March 14 group that they retain the right to elect a president even in the absence of the two-thirds quorum – something the opposition claims will provoke conflict.

In the meantime, it remains unclear who has inherited Lebanon's presidential powers. In his final act as president, Lahoud transferred authority to maintain security and order to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) to prevent a slide into what he considered a "state of emergency". March 14 members, including prime minister Fouad Siniora, dismissed this move as legally void, asserting that under the constitution it is the cabinet that automatically assumes the role of the presidency to avoid the dangers of a presidential vacuum. However, the opposition – which includes Hizbullah, General Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement, parliament speaker Nabih Berri's Amal Movement, as well as Lahoud – have considered the Siniora government illegitimate since the resignation of all the Shia ministers last November, and will interpret any attempt by the Siniora government to use such authority as tantamount to a coup d'état.

The apparently irreconcilable political split in Lebanon may be illustrated by the debate surrounding President Lahoud's legacy. On the one hand, supporters of March 14 demonise him for being Syria's man in Lebanon and for not preventing Hizbullah's construction of what they refer to as a "state within a state" in southern Lebanon. They trace the current crisis to Syria forcing the extension of Lahoud's term for three years in 2004 which, they say, precipitated the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri and Hizbullah's dragging of the country into war with Israel at the behest of Syria and Iran.

On the other hand, opposition supporters champion Lahoud's seminal role in protecting and defending the Lebanese Resistance, and in particular his legitimising Hizbullah's armed presence in the face of unprecedented pressure from March 14, the US and the UN security council via the insidious resolution 1559 that calls for disarming all militias. Moreover, Lahoud's status as former commander of the Lebanese army has solidified excellent relations in terms of cooperation and coordination between the army and Resistance during his tenure.

It is this second legacy which the US and March 14 perceive as a threat and thus share a common desire to destroy.

While the personal and sectarian dynamics of Lebanese politics (including the declining role of Maronite Christians in Lebanon that has so incensed Michel Aoun and even the Maronite Patriarch) should not be underestimated in terms of prolonging the current crisis, it is the larger US project to reconfigure the Arab (as well as larger Muslim) region – and the resistance this has engendered – that has played the decisive role. In this sense, Lebanon's constitutional predicament and effective state of emergency reflects the US failure to impose its will, and mirrors similarly botched US interference in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

For Lebanon the US project means eliminating Hizbullah, one way or the other, so as to remove Israel's only genuine security threat and deprive Syria and Iran of leverage in their own negotiations with the US regarding the Golan Heights and nuclear arms respectively.

However, in light of the failure of the US-backed Israeli war to destroy Hizbullah last year, the US has for now shifted its strategy away from a military solution to co-opting the Lebanese state itself to pursue these tasks on its behalf – much as it has done in Palestine with Abu Mazen's recent declaration of war against Hamas.

By recognising March 14's disputed claims to executive authority (now apparently reinforced with the governments' assumption of presidential powers), encouraging it to reject the opposition's repeated calls for a national unity government, and supporting its call for the full implementation of resolution 1559, the US appears to believe it has accomplished the first stage of this strategy which has focused on removing the Resistance's official cloak of state legitimacy it enjoyed under President Lahoud.

The second phase of US strategy is to create what the Pentagon calls a "strategic alliance" with the Lebanese army – the only state institution that enjoys broad support from all Lebanese communities, regardless of sect or class – by transforming it into a force that would confront, rather than support, the Resistance. US military aid has been rising exponentially, as has the EU's; while March 14 has been working hard to instal officers loyal to its cause in a bid to reverse the army's pro-Resistance sympathies.

In this case, the key question is: how far will the US push Lebanon's delicate system if the opposition remains intact?

All eyes in Lebanon turn now to Annapolis to gauge the likelihood of a deal over Lebanon in case US-Syrian relations thaw. However, while Syria influences the opposition's demands in some aspects, it by no means dictates them. The core issues of the dispute – the role of the Resistance; the sectarian balance; the nature of the Lebanese state; the endemic corruption; the social and economic crises – should be meaningfully addressed by the Lebanese themselves.

In any case, it is more likely that Annapolis will represent another signpost in the US drive to solidify the de facto unholy alliance that has bound Israel and the so-called "moderate" Arab states under US patronage. In this case, it is difficult to be optimistic about prospects for Lebanon or the region.

Comments (11)


1. Nur al-Cubicle said:

Thanks for the link to your interview and the Guardian article. Meanwhile, the Israeli FM, Mrs. Livni, has declared that Arab state have no business getting involved in Palestine-Israeli matters.

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November 26th, 2007, 5:37 am

 

2. Enid Houston said:

Nice job Josh.

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November 26th, 2007, 7:58 am

 

3. Youssef Hanna said:

Let us together look at the big picture.

On the one hand Petraeus praised Syria’s cooperation in stemming the flow of jihadis; further to the surge and to leaking reports about a military strike on Iran, concomitantly with regular meetings of the Iraq neighboring countries, casualties in Iraq have decreased. The Baghdad Abounawwass street has opened again.

On the other hand, in Lebanon, the pro-Syrian president stepped down, presidential prerogatives passed to the Siniora headed government, but pro-Syrians did not put to execution their threat of a parallel government. Simultaneously, 14 march did not use the parliamentarian majority’s constitutional prerogative of electing the President.

Last, Syria is joining in Annapolis.

So during his 1st 4-year term, Bush upped the pressure, successfully taking Kaboul, Baghdad, and Beirut; all the 2nd term, starting with the Baker Hamilton report, sidestepping Rumsfeld, empowering Condi, then sending extra troops to Iraq, then organizing the Iraq neighboring countries meetings, and now Annapolis, seems devoted to the 2nd movement of harvesting by negotiation the durable advantages of the 1st term powerful thrust.

Well, are despising intellectuals as smarter than the present U.S administration as they think? i wonder.

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November 26th, 2007, 9:05 am

 

4. Innocent_Criminal said:

Youssef,

you want to see it as part of some grand plan, but thats not necessarly the case. one can argue that the shift in the Bush policy is due to the fact that the one in the 1st term was so retarded.

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November 26th, 2007, 10:53 am

 

5. ausamaa said:

“In any case, it is more likely that Annapolis will represent another signpost in the US drive to solidify the de facto unholy alliance that has bound Israel and the so-called “moderate” Arab states under US patronage. In this case, it is difficult to be optimistic about prospects for Lebanon or the region.”

BRAVOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

But based on the US record of “achievments”, even this devious excercise is bound to backfire somehow, somewhere, sometime soon. The Syrians must have already figured this one out, but have (especially after their demand that the Golan issue be raised was met, and after the US refrain from letting the Feb 14 crowd elect a President by a simple majority last Friday)decided that they will not give Bush & Co. the opportunity to accuse Syria of being the stumbling block.

So much for the New Middle East and the Dawn of Liberty and Democracy.Are we ever going to see a serious and honest US approach to solving the area’s problem or is the “solution” going to eventually come at the hands of Hizbullah and Hamas like strategies?

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November 26th, 2007, 12:23 pm

 

6. Honest Patriot said:

Karim Makdisi says:

“In this sense, Lebanon’s constitutional predicament and effective state of emergency reflects the US failure to impose its will, and mirrors similarly botched US interference in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.”

How in the world did the genuine uprising in Lebanon againt Syrian hegemony and the persistent struggle, against all odds, to see Lebanon’s true interests promoted (as opposed to Hizbolla’s foolish pretense to want to challenge Israel on behalf of the whole, unworthy, Arab world) and a final unveiling of and stop to the murderous methods of the Syrian intelligence, how did this all become part of the “US [imposing] its will” ?

The brainwashing that Hizbolla and its supporters have effected is nothing but remarkable!

The stumbling blocks in Lebanon have to do with protecting Syria’s interests and preserving the weapons of Hizbolla which really only serve to terrorize the peaceful groups in Lebanon. Militarily, Hizbolla does not stand a chance: Lebanon would be flattened by the IDF.

If all the energies spent on sabotaging true peace initiatives were spent on educating the masses and bringing true civilized thinking and culture, the Arab world would become Paradise. But alas…

For Syria’s leadership, the end justifies the means, regardless of whether it is massacring its own population (Hama, 1982) or assassinating Rafiq Hariri and the many others that followed.

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November 26th, 2007, 1:18 pm

 

7. norman said:

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.

After long hesitation, Damascus finally announced yesterday that it would send a delegation headed by Mr. Mekdad to the conference.

That conference begins today with a dinner in Washington where Mr. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will act as hosts, and continues tomorrow with a single day of negotiations in Annapolis and follow-up meetings Wednesday.

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Finding an agreement between Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas is one thing. Negotiations prior to the summit toward creating a Palestinian state quickly ran into the same roadblocks that scuppered every previous peace effort – namely the borders of such a state, the future of Jerusalem and the “right of return” for millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendents who were driven from their homes by successive Arab-Israeli wars.

Though optimists are few and scattered, an agreement of some sort between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization is possible, if not at Annapolis, then in the year that remains for both Mr. Bush and Mr. Abbas in office. Mr. Olmert may have even less time, and all three men are considered weakened leaders who are desperate for some sort of breakthrough in order to reverse their sagging political fortunes.

But it would be a false peace, likely doomed to prove even less meaningful than the Oslo Accords that Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat signed at another peace summit presided over by the United States 14 years ago. Things have grown dramatically more complicated since then, with the rise of political Islam and the parallel decline in U.S. influence on what’s known as the “Arab street.”

All is not yet lost, however, as the gathering of Middle Eastern leaders at Annapolis proves simply by taking place. The decision by Syrian President Bashar Assad to send Mr. Mekdad opens the door for something real to come out of this process. But for that faint promise to be realized, it will require a rapid defrosting of relations between the United States and Syria, which Washington has for years treated as a pariah state, accusing it of supporting “terrorists” in Iraq and around the region.

Syria’s demands are well-known. It wants the return of the Golan Heights, which Israel has occupied since 1967. It would prefer that the coveted plateau come gift-wrapped in something resembling the billions of dollars in annual military and economic aid the United States pays to Israel and Egypt as an incentive for sticking to the terms of their 1979 peace deal.

The issue of the Golan Heights isn’t formally on the agenda for Annapolis, but Syria agreed to attend after receiving assurances that it would be discussed at a plenary session on the sidelines of the main meeting.

Privately, top Israeli officials say that making peace with Syria is far easier than doing a deal with the Palestinians since the issues involved are clearer and less emotionally charged. 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.

And Syria has something to give in return. Unlike all the other attendees at Annapolis, Syria holds real influence over Hamas, the militant Islamist group that trumped Mr. Abbas’s Fatah movement in the parliamentary election last year and then trounced them militarily six months ago, seizing control of the Gaza Strip, half of the putative Palestinian state. Despite its central role, Hamas didn’t receive an invitation to Annapolis, leading many to question how serious Mr. Bush’s peace initiative really is.

If Hamas actively opposes any deal, it will be worth nothing in Gaza, where the group has more popular support than Fatah, and little in large swathes of the West Bank. Among the attendees, only Syria, which plays host to Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Damascus, can put any pressure on the group. In many ways, Mr. Mekdad represents not only Syria, but Hamas, at the talks.

Syria has another card to play in Lebanon, where if it chose it could cut off the flow of arms to Hezbollah, another Islamist group sworn to Israel’s destruction. So if Damascus gets what it wants, it can make life easier for Israel on both its southern and northern flanks. And if the real point of Annapolis, as many analysts contend, is about building an anti-Iran alliance as much as it is about securing Israeli-Palestinian peace, then flipping Syria, Tehran’s staunchest ally, would be the biggest prize of all.

But on Lebanon is where the negotiations get truly complicated. Many Lebanese who support Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s pro-Western government – which is currently locked in an volatile power struggle with Hezbollah and other pro-Syrian parties – are terrified that Syria will demand a free hand to restore its hegemony over its smaller neighbour as the price for any deal. A similar deal was cut in exchange for Syria’s participation in another peace gathering, the 1991 conference in Madrid, when Mr. Bush’s father, George H. W., was U.S. president and Mr. Assad’s father, Hafez, ran Syria.

When Lebanon’s Syrian-backed president, Émile Lahoud, left office on Friday after his term ended, no successor was appointed and Mr. Siniora assumed presidential powers on an emergency basis. Mr. Assad won’t tolerate that for long. He wants to see someone with whom Damascus can get along installed as soon as possible, putting an effective end to the so-called Cedar Revolution that drove Syrian troops out of Lebanon in 2005.

And so tonight’s dinner and the meetings that follow will be watched nervously by the uninvited parties in Gaza City, Tehran and Beirut. The truth about how the conference went will not be found in the wording of any final communiqué issued from Maryland, but by the number of rockets launched from Gaza in the days that follow, and whether calm or chaos prevails in Lebanon.

Mark MacKinnon, The Globe and Mail’s Middle East correspondent, has covered the region since 2001 reporting on all the major events, from the Iraq war to Israel’s pullout from Gaza to the ouster of Syrian troops from Lebanon.

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November 26th, 2007, 2:37 pm

 

8. norman said:

MSNBC.com

——————————————————————————–
Failure has high price at peace summit
Price of failure has risen dramatically in an increasingly polarized Middle East
ANALYSIS
The Associated Press
updated 4:06 a.m. ET, Sun., Nov. 25, 2007
JERUSALEM – Next week’s Mideast peace conference is unlike any previous U.S. attempt to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because the price of failure has risen dramatically: radical Islamists could gain the upper hand in Palestinian areas and in an increasingly polarized Middle East.

Perhaps because of these high stakes, the latest bid to partition the Holy Land and end a century of conflict is receiving unprecedented international support, with more than 45 nations to attend the summit at Annapolis, Md.

There may be no better time for relaunching peace talks. Beleaguered leaders are hungry for achievement, most Israelis and Palestinians long for a negotiated settlement, and moderate Arab nations appear ready to provide key backing to offset the growing influence of Iran _ a reality highlighted by Saudi Arabia’s decision Friday to send its foreign minister to Annapolis.

Old demons
But the region’s old demons are threatening new hope. Israel’s prime minister is kowtowing to his hawkish coalition partners, the Palestinian president controls only part of his territory and extremists on both sides hold the power to torpedo any progress.

The two-day summit at Annapolis brings together Israelis and Palestinians in a U.S. effort to heal what former President Clinton once compared to an abscessed tooth that only hurts more with time.

At stake is not just Palestinian statehood, but the survival of moderate forces in the Middle East and beyond.

“In this big picture, resolving this dispute is of colossal importance,” Mideast envoy Tony Blair said recently. “It is a signal of reconciliation across faiths and cultures. It removes the cause that extremists use above all else to try to ensnare moderates within Islam.”

The scope of the conference has been scaled back from trying to outline a peace deal to simply relaunching negotiations in hopes of reaching a settlement before President Bush leaves office in a year. But just getting the sides to talk again is an accomplishment, considering seven years of diplomatic deadlock and fighting that killed 4,400 Palestinians and 1,100 Israelis.

Bitterness evident
The bitterness of those years is evident in low expectations.

“We are not in the era of hope,” said 45-year-old Israeli civil servant Rivka Cohen. “We are now in the era of ‘so long as it doesn’t get worse.'”

Qassem Abu Khaled, 48, who lost his West Bank carpentry business because of Israeli travel restrictions, said he only trusts actions. “If they were to change we would have seen signals like freezing settlement construction or removing checkpoints. But all we see is more building and more restrictions,” he said.

Such pessimism has been reinforced by the troubled conference preparations, including failure to write a joint declaration to be presented there. These challenges pale in comparison to what lies ahead, such as drawing borders and dividing Jerusalem.

Past summits already outlined the contours of a solution: a Palestinian state based roughly on pre-1967 Mideast War frontiers, shared control of Jerusalem and recognition of the needs of Palestinian refugees.

The biggest question, it seems, is not whether a deal can be reached, but whether it can be implemented.

Israel has reason to fear a handover of the West Bank to the Palestinians. Hamas overran Gaza following Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from that territory — and then fired missiles at Israeli targets.

Palestinians fear that Israel’s expanding settlements and separation barrier jutting deep into Palestinian territory have swallowed up so much land that statehood is slipping away.

Another obstacle to a deal is the weakness of both Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whose hands are tied by right-wing coalition partners, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who lost Gaza to Hamas and has difficulty reining in militants in the West Bank.

Israelis and Palestinians long for charismatic leaders of the past — like Yasser Arafat or Ariel Sharon — and fear the buttoned-up Abbas and the cool-headed Olmert won’t inspire the popular backing necessary to push through a deal.

“You are asking way too much of mere mortals who are prisoners rather than masters of their own political houses,” said Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. Mideast negotiator.

Olmert may soon have to choose between two hawkish coalition partners and pursuing peace. For now, it appears he wants both — which may explain his reluctance to meet key Palestinian demands such as an immediate settlement freeze. If he reaches a peace accord, early elections are likely.

For Abbas, the biggest challenge is Hamas. It and its Iranian patrons are poised to capitalize on failure. In case of success, Hamas could try to derail talks by stepping up attacks on Israel, which in turn would likely force Israel to reoccupy Gaza.

A bipartisan group of prominent former U.S. policymakers recently urged Bush to rethink the strategy of marginalizing Hamas and another Hamas backers, Syria.

Notably, Syria is among the nations the U.S. invited to Annapolis _ an indication Washington may now be taking such advice into account.

In Gaza, Hamas official Ahmed Yousef declared Annapolis a “total failure” even before it started.

‘Not a good time to negotiate’
“At a time when your country is split, it’s not a good time to negotiate. They (the Israelis) will exploit your weakness,” he said.

Despite threats from spoilers, Annapolis is being held under a rare convergence of interests.

Abbas needs a lift in his showdown with Hamas. Bush hopes to salvage his Iraq-tainted legacy.

Olmert is seeking redemption from corruption scandals and an unpopular war in Lebanon in 2006, and may never find a more amenable negotiating partner than Abbas.

“The prime minister thinks clearly that time is not in our favor,” said Olmert’s spokeswoman, Miri Eisin.

Sunni-dominated Arab countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia find themselves sharing the West’s concern about the growing influence of Shiite-majority Iran, a key backer of Hamas and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. Saudi support would bestow credibility on any agreement and give Israel an incentive to make concessions in exchange for Arab recognition.

Israelis and Palestinians may require intense U.S. involvement to bridge their differences _ something that’s been absent during most of the past seven years.

Both sides also recognize that the status quo is not sustainable.

“It’s either the path of peace and moderation, or the path of drowning in extremism, bloodshed, violence and counterviolence,” said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Former Israeli negotiator Gilead Sher warned that Israel “cannot possibly govern … the Palestinians for the next 40 years as we did for the last 40 years.”

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21956445/

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November 26th, 2007, 2:43 pm

 

9. Youssef Hanna said:

Innocent Criminal,

Be it or not a grand plan, there appears from the negotiation paths regarding Iraq and Palestine, in both of which the U.S are pivotal, that the eurasian plateau is on the verge of durably integrating into its system the US conquest of Kaboul, Baghdad, Beirut, as much as it did integrate earlier the friendly regimes that the US have installed in all the western and southern belt of the ex USSR.

Since the US is the 1st empire ever in the history of the world not to have its base on the eurasian plateau, it has endeavored to weaken all local eurasian powers in order to reign, through the principle launched by Woodrow Wilson at the end of the 1st World War, according to which “people are free to determine their future”.

This is why Eisenhower gave Nasser the political victory against France, the UK, and Israel, in 1956, and why the U.S, after breaking the colonial powers (France and Gr8 Britain), weakened and broke the USSR.

Small peoples and countries, like Lebanon is, find in the U.S a natural ally against conquering neighbouring powers.

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November 26th, 2007, 2:53 pm

 

10. why-discuss said:

Syria has much to gain from Annapolis By SAM F. GHATTAS, Associated Press Writer

…But Syria also sees gains. Although Washington has kept it on a list of terrorism-sponsoring countries and has pulled its ambassador out of Damascus since 2005, Syria was invited as recognition of its regional standing.

Syria also broke its isolation among Arab countries, which largely oppose its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and its closeness to Iran. Before Syria’s announcement to participate, King Abdullah II of Jordan made the first trip to Damascus in four years to lobby Assad, who is to host an Arab summit in Damascus early next year.

“The Syrians don’t stand to lose anything. They’ve taken a decision (to go) knowing in advance that it’s all a win for them,” said Sateh Noureddine, managing editor of Lebanon’s As-Safir newspaper, which is close to the pro-Syrian opposition….

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November 26th, 2007, 5:51 pm

 

11. Youssef Hanna said:

As-Safir’s pro-Syrian-regime opposition’s Noureddine claim that it is all win insinuates that the SR was not seeking admittance and did not pay its entrance ticket, while the Petraeus late kudos seem to prove to the contrary that it did bow to the pressure and tighten the jihadi flow spigot, and though Lahoud’s regular threats to utilize a secret weapon before leaving office materialized in… advising the army to watch out for security, in such a manner that there is no legitimate authority left in Lebanon but the Siniora government. Quite a dearly paid entrance ticket indeed, on both fronts. How much will it continue to pay to avoid transferring A. Shawkat and M. Assad to the Hague is next to be seen.

The regime bears all too much of judicial pressure for it to adequately defend Syria’s interests in the starting peace process. The U.S appears to fail on its declared objective of democratizing Syria; it shd have engaged the Ikhwan; peace with a legitimate democratically elected government is much stronger over the long run than the one that may be starting now.

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November 26th, 2007, 8:44 pm

 

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