Michel Kilo Will Not Be Freed

Michel Kilo, Syria's leading secular opposition spokesman and activist, will not be released from jail. This is what I am told by a reliable source. There must be a battle over his release within the Syria regime.Michel KiloMichel Kilo has been the leader of the Syrian opposition's drive to unify its ranks and become an effective political vehicle over the last two years. After Rafiq al-Hariri's murder he led the effort to get the "Damascus Declaration" written and approved by the many factions of the opposition. It was the instrument that brought together the Muslim Brotherhood and secular groups for the first time. He traveled to Morocco to meet the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Bayanuni and get his approval for the text of the agreement. He shopped it around to the many opposition groups, many of whom reworked sections of it. In the end, although many Syrian leaders had shaped the document and played important roles in making sure it was agreed upon, Michel Kilo was the master of ceremonies. It was his vision, patience, and skill in accommodating all that brought it together.I am not sure if his role in putting together the Beirut-Damascus Declaration was as central, but I suspect it was. It was following the appearance of this document that Kilo and 9 other signers were arrested last May. Eight of the original 10 of those arrested have been freed, but Kilo and Anwar al-Bunni, Syria's leading human rights activist, remain imprisoned.

Now that Syria has come through the Lebanon War unscathed, it would seem that Kilo and Bunni could be released by the regime, as a gesture of regal beneficence following victory. After all, the March 14 crowd in Lebanon has been discredited in Syria by the war. It is no longer a threat to the Syrian regime, having been weakened by the United States, its primary benefactor. When Syrians saw Washington turn against the Siniora government and Hariri bloc by helping Israel destroy the advances the Hariri team had made in Lebanon over the last decade, they lost their desire to emulate the March 14 strategy of relying of Washington. Washington proved once again that it is not a reliable partner for Arabs. Because of this, Michel Kilo should be freed; if for no other reason than the Syrian opposition has been weakened by this summer's war. President Asad should be gracious in victory.

On Friday, it was announced that Kilo's release was being postponed due to some silly reason, but this seems to be an indication of greater troubles. 

Comments (19)


1. annie said:

Let’s hope it only a postponement, but what a let down !

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October 22nd, 2006, 4:21 pm

 

2. Innocent_Criminal said:

Sorry Josh but your last paragraph just reads like it was written for Tishreen or Al Ba’ath.

You said “When Syrians saw Washington turn against the Siniora government and Hariri bloc by helping Israel destroy the advances the Hariri team had made in Lebanon over the last decade, THEY lost their desire to emulate the March 14 strategy of relying of Washington.”

Who do you mean by “THEY?” if you mean the Syrian opposition then I fully disagree and “this” & “this” proves my point. And Kilo’s release should be justified by the sole purpose that his arrest was a mistake and counter-productive. Not out of pity post Lebanon’s “victory”.

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October 22nd, 2006, 5:57 pm

 

3. ivanka said:

How the Lebanese supposedly “anti-Syrian” 14 march movement can make a hero out of Khaddam baffles me. What is the difference between Khaddam and the worst person in the current regime? Have the Syrian people accepted 40 years without democracy in order to end up having this guy rule them?! But at the end I think we get what we deserve. So let us idly wait until we get ourselves a new dictator or our own salafist democracy.

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October 22nd, 2006, 11:06 pm

 

4. ivanka said:

I want to try and write a more thought out comment about democracy in the middle east but the subject is probably too vast for me.

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October 22nd, 2006, 11:25 pm

 

5. norman said:

Well written Joshua,Do you think that MR Asad will put his foot down and release Kilo to prove that he can controle Syria and to get more credit for that release.?.By doing that he will prove to Israel and the US that he is the man to deal with.

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October 23rd, 2006, 12:53 am

 

6. Fares said:

I am not happy at all reading this…I had a sour feeling about it since last Friday. But I am giving them 2 days to sort things out. Otherwsie there will be massive retaliation.

THis will not pass. Kilo like Innocent Criminal said should not have been arrested and therefore released immediatly.

THis crap about a Morroco meeting between Kilo with Bayanouni was mentioned on Al Syyassah like 5 months ago and if we believe eveything Al Seyassah says then Assad would have fled Syria long time ago.

PEOPLE ARE REALLY UPSET about the arrest and I repeat actions will be taken. SYRIAN REGIME YOU CAN’T PLAY WITH PEOPLE’s FEELINGS Like that. WHY CAN’t THE COWARDS BE NICE JUST ONE TIME,

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October 23rd, 2006, 4:44 am

 

7. Joe M. said:

wow, wow, wow….

did you guys see this (i am sorry to post an article, but this one is pretty amazing if true):

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3318289,00.html

Saudis meet Syrian opposition leaders

Saudi king meets former Syrian VP in Mecca, hears of opposition developments in the country. Syrian regime rages: ‘Saudi Arabia trying to harm stability’

Roee Nahmias
Published: 10.23.06, 02:24

In response to claims that the King of Saudi Arabia met with former Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam – a recognized opponent of Bashar Assad’s regime – Syrian media announced Sunday evening that “Saudi Arabia is trying to create a civil war and implement US orders, in order to besiege Syria and harm its stability.”

Arab-Israeli newspaper al-Sinara reported that, last Tuesday, during a ten day pilgrimage to Mecca, Khaddam met with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz.

According to the report, Khaddam, the king and the crown prince spoke of the situation in the Middle East, particularly regarding Syria’s isolation from the international community, due to its political stance.

The newspaper reported that Khaddam told the Saudi leaders about recent developments among the Syrian opposition.

He also told them of his intention to open offices of the National Salvation Front (as the umbrella group for Syria’s 17 opposition organizations is called) in a number of world capitals – including Washington and possibly one of the Arab capitals.

Pushing for regime change

In an interview aired by a television station owned by the al-Hariri family in Lebanon, Khaddam spoke to the Syrian people in honor of Eid al-Fiter, promising that “the tyrannical regime is about to collapse” and be replaced with a democratic one.

“The leader will find that the opportunists and hypocrites with whom he surrounded himself will run away. He and his corrupt family will find themselves in the hands of justice,” he declared.

“Ask yourselves, six years after coming to power, what has Bashar Assad done other than proliferating corruption, increasing suffering and making incorrect decisions that hurt national unity?” he continued.

Al-Sinara also published that the Saudi king recently met with other Syrian opposition leaders – Sheikh Ali al-Bayanoni, the banished head of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood currently residing in Belgium, and Bashar’s uncle, Rifat Assad.

Rifat, the late President Hafez Assad’s second in command, fled Syria following an unsuccessful coup attempt in 1983, which took place while the president was hospitalized in a coma.

King Abdullah’s meeting with Rifat Assad was conducted separately from his meeting with Khaddam, as the two have not spoken since the attempted coup.

Saturday, a diplomatic source in London confirmed the content of Khaddam’s meeting with the Saudi king and crown prince.

In contrast, a senior Syrian opposition source refused to comment concretely, stating that “Khaddam is visiting Saudi Arabia for a pilgrimage. The visit was not coordinated with anyone.”

The Syrian source did confirm that “the National Salvation Front does intend to open offices in Washington in order to further relations – with the Syrian community and the American government – in order to explain the organization’s stance and missions, and in order to create a democratic regime in Syria.”

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October 23rd, 2006, 5:28 am

 

8. annie said:

FARES says : “PEOPLE ARE REALLY UPSET about the arrest and I repeat actions will be taken. SYRIAN REGIME YOU CAN’T PLAY WITH PEOPLE’s FEELINGS Like that. WHY CAN’t THE COWARDS BE NICE JUST ONE TIME”

I am afraid these are only kalimat; of course, the regime can play with people’s feelings. Not much people can do about it.
On a political level though it would be wise to release Michel Kilo et al. It would also partly repair an unjustice.

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October 23rd, 2006, 7:11 am

 

9. t_desco said:

But there remains an obstinate, if misguided, logic to US policy, as summarized by Syria expert Dr Joshua Landis: “The resistance to opening the door to discussions with Syria [and Iran] stems from the stubborn hope among Bush advisers that it is not too late for this plan and that a turnaround in their Middle East fortunes may yet materialize,” he wrote. “They hope it is not too late for a regime-change opportunity in Syria.
Asia Times

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October 23rd, 2006, 11:43 am

 

10. Innocent_Criminal said:

Here is some more info about Kilo.

The war of words between damascus and saudi is heating up. Here & Here are two harsh articles in the Syrian press. But since the Saudi’s own the most influential media outlets i think it will be a one-sided battle. obviously the relations are at their worst level ever.

And here’s a weird report quoting an unnamed Syrian official who claimed Syria has agreed to give up sitting on the Galilee in any future peace agreement with Israel

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October 23rd, 2006, 12:50 pm

 
 

12. Innocent_Criminal said:

Hey guys,

I am really sorry but I accidentally deleted the last 12 msgs while trying to delete some spam. my deepest apologizes

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October 24th, 2006, 5:29 pm

 

13. Sami D said:

Alex wrote: “Lieberman is bad news .. but then again, Menachem Begin was not less extreme yet he signed with Egypt a treaty and he returned Sinai. But then again, at that time it was president Carter and his moderate team …. now, it does not look good. “

There’s largely no difference, other than in style or microscopic percentage points here and there, between Likud and Labor, right and left in Israeli political parties, espcially as far as the Palestinians are concerned. Both carry out the same policies of conquest and ethnic cleansing. The Labor carry it out while crying, Likud while laughing. I prefer Likud, because it projects a more honest (brutal that is) face of what Israel is doing. As Gideon Levy rightly observed, Lieberman will only put the honest –Fascist– face on Israel’s Fascist policies. (here) So Lieberman is in a way good news. As for Begin/Sinai, Israel was gonna relinquish Sinai whether it was Begin or whoever in power. It was what Washington wanted, (not out of Carter’s “moderation” either) and it was the way to get Egypt, the most powerful Arab country then, out of the conflict.

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October 24th, 2006, 5:56 pm

 

14. Idaf said:

IC: here are most of the posts you deleted from my Google Desktop Cache(you should send a thank message to google!)…

Badger said: (October 23rd, 2006, 4:14 pm / #)

Fandi is making the case for
(1) Weaning Syria from Iran, by
(2) Helping it recover the Golan Heights, by
(3) Getting the US to pressure Israel in this regard, and finally (here’s where his scenario gets a little thin), giving the US what they want by
(4) Helping stabilize Iraq, which would involve
(5) Normalizing relations with Shiites not only in Iraq, but elsewhere in the Gulf too.
(The “we’ll help you in Lebanon” would be an additional or alternative carrot for Syria.)
I posted a summary of the whole interesting piece on my blog

ausamaa said: (October 23rd, 2006, 4:37 pm / #)

Alex,
While doubting the seriousness of the Fendi report, but indeed it sounds like a nice offer to Assad. Drop Iran, Drop Qattar???, Drop Hamas, Drop Hizbullah, and Drop the National Anthem, maybe??? He was willing to suffer the worst and he told them off. Why should he listen to them now, unless if it is from a position of: I told you so!! We seem to forget that Assad did not DROP Iran when the whole Arab political system was siding with Sadam against Iran. And things were a lot worse then than they were during the post Harriri era. Syria’s choices are already made long ago. Why should anyone expect such a change now. And Bashar Al Asad called them “half men” before the dust has settled in Lebanon, and before James Baker was called in. Do you think that now, when Syria seems to be out of the eye of the storm, accompanied by its other “Adventurist” partners ( which expanded recently to include Iran and N Korea), do you really think Assad is loosing any sleep over what Saudis, Egyptians and Jordanians have to offer.
As to the arrests and the releases, I beleive Syria is signaling its feeling of confidence and strength by those actions. Moreover, I would actually expect a couple of more positive signals to come out of Damascuse soon, the jest of which being: As you seem to have stopepd fooling with us, and as you have acknowledged that you not only can not harm us but actually need us, then now maybe, we can consider “forgiving” and turning the other cheek and ask: what was it you were saying????
That is Syria’s mentality I believe.

ausamaa said: (October 23rd, 2006, 5:25 pm / #)

…..and seriously guys, if the US (with Israel in tow)is now going through its own little confusion about what to do in Iraq and elsewhere, should we not expect that Saudi & Co. are also experiencing their own signs of, loneliness, anxity or confusion and are trying their best to cover all local bases (which stretch from Lebanon to Palestine to Iraq to Dhahran). Maybe they are “dangerously” trying to collect few cards that they think they can use in certain situations. Saudi cautious policies flew out of the window with their “Adventure” statement at the opening of the Israeli war on Lebanon in July and the uncharestaristic Saudi dipolmatic behavior which followed -encouraged by Mubarak and Abdulla, perhaps??-, so things may be in a mess over there now, until things clear up a little for them too.

Innocent_Criminal said: (October 23rd, 2006, 5:41 pm / #)

Ausamaa,
I think you are looking at this issue a bit too simplistically. This is not about “I told you so” or Iran vs. Saddam or even Israel vs. Hizbullah. What it all boils down to is interest!!! Any political leader would drop their own brother yet alone a strategic ally if it translates to bigger and better thing. The whole problem with that is no one has ever offered something big or better enough to Syria. There have never been any conqrete (except for Rabin’s word) promises that Syria will get what it wants (i.e. Golan and security for the leadership to remain). It has almost always consisted of; drop all your cards and we will see what we can do for you. Damascus is not dumb, it knows that the Saudi’s don’t even like them, so why the hell should they go out of their way to give Syria promises they can’t deliver. IMO this is backdoor maneuvering aimed at dwindling the shine of GCC’s newcomer (Qatar) more than it’s a serious offer to the Syrians. The Americans would never allow the Saudi’s to save the Syrian’s neck and the Saudi’s in turn would never try to without the explicit approval of Washington.
Qatar might be a rising star in the Gulf. But Washington has also started to rekindle their relationship with the Saudi’s. This can be read in a wider context when (guess who) made Abbas change his mind about a unity government and in turn wrecked Qatar’s mediation in the Palestinian case.

ausamaa said: (October 23rd, 2006, 6:17 pm / #)

You said it : “Strategic Ally”. No one drops strategic allies. That is how Syria and Iran see their relationship.
And to be fair; Syria has not been known to have alternated its positions on the Golan, the Palestinan Issue, and other related issues including Iraq and the US presense there. Its stand has always been consistant. It is not like you can buy it with a few billions and get things done. That is why it finds itself where itfindes itself while many others, such as Egypt, Jordan, and even Saudi, get away with whatever they do as long as they two the American line.
Simplistic? maybe, but I do not beleive Bashar will now sell out for what his father could have gotten years ago has he opted for Syria’s interests alone, but he refused. More simply, if Syria could find it within its ideological/political (and this is a crucial point that many miss about how Syria sees itself and its role) nature to sell out, it could have done so long ago and saved itself the continuous headachs. But it knows that if it sells out an inch, it would practically put all that it holds dear and sacrosant for a yard sale that starts but does not end.

ivanka said: (October 23rd, 2006, 6:26 pm / #)

Alex,
this is an interesting article. I really enjoyed reading it. Here are the reasons why I think Syria will not take this offer:
-The author says drop Iran and your “Iranian” allies and we will give you back the Golan. Who is “we”? Saudi Arabia! Does he mean KSA will tell the US or it’s new friends Israel to withdraw from the Golan. I don’t think KSA has that kind of influence over the US and Israel at all. At least not yet. In addition, Syria does not trust KSA.
-The author says Iran uses Syria and Syria never uses Iran. I disagree. Syria came under pressure about Iraq and about Lebanon and in both cases it’s ties to Iran, it seems to me, have helped it greately. This is just my vision of things, though.
-This is not how the Syrian regime works. If you know anything about Syria you know that they do things very slowly. They never take bold initiatives and they double and triple check everything. It is the nature of the Syria regime. They will not “just” drop Iran all of a sudden.
-The formula of “you give up on Iran first and we give you the Golan later” is not at all reassurig. It means give away all your negotiation cards and then we will get you into negotiations. Kind of like surrender and then we will see who wins.
-President Bashar takes his legitimacy in the eyes of many Syrians from his close relation to resistace movements and especially Hezballa. As we all know Hezballa are incredibly popular in the arab world. I mean people look at Hassan Nasralla as a hero, how do they look at king Abdulla? It is important to stay allied with the popular ones as this is a time of real changes in the region.
-If the US wanted a deal with Syria, the US would do it. I think the US still wants regime change and is not interested in a deal and KSA can not change their mind.
It is very possible that I will turn out to be wrong. ME politics is all about secrets. But it seems to me very very illogical that Syria would do this right now.

Alex said: (October 23rd, 2006, 7:31 pm / #)

Ausamma,
I think your opinion represents the part of Syria that the west do not understand. Syrians (people and leadership) do really care to some extent about some issues to the degree that they sometimes are willing to not take the optimal option at a specific point in time in order to not abandon their values and long-held policies.
However, this is not always a good thing. Syria, just like any other country, needs to look at threats, interests and limitations.
I will give you the perfect example (I hope):
Jihad elKhazen (An influencial Arab journalist) told me that in 1997, at the request of his personal friend, the Turkish prime minister, he attempted to mediate between Turkey and Syria. He visited Syria, met with Khaddam, told him about Turkey’s offer to exchange Kurdish rebel leader Ocalan (living in Damascus at the time) for many serious incentives including additional guaranteed water supplies that Syria badly needed. According to Jihad, it was an offer Syria should not logically refuse.
Instead, Jihad was told the next day that president Hafez Assad is not interested. “Syria does not abandon its allies and freinds for anything”
A year later, Turkish army generals lost their patience with Syria’s support for Kurdish rebels. Turkey threatened Syria with its promise to launch war on Syria … President Hafez el-Assad compromised and delivered to them Abdullah Ocalan (indirectly).. in exchange for .. nothing.
I am not advocating abandoning Syria’s long held positions of course. but I am just saying that … it is ok to make the moral stands when the price (including lost opportunity costs) is not excessive … or if they are willing to pay the price in the short term knowing that they have a high probability of succes in the longer run… which is exactly what Syria believes will happen eventually after the tough past few years. But no one knows the future … I hope Syria’s calculated gamble pays off.
Ivanka, I agree, Syria will probably not go for this Saudi “offer” at this point.
A few relevant points about Mamoun Fandi
He is a close freind to memebers of the Saudi Royal family, especially the prince who owns Asharq alawsat. He interviewed (along with Jihad Khazen) King Abdallah earlier this year.
He is their man when they want to attack their #1 competitor… Qatar. They hate Qatar. Syria’s freindship to Qatar (and vice versa) is intended partially to get on the Saudis’ nerves… then to get compromises from the Saudis hopefully at some point in the future.
Here is where he hinted about Qatar in the article:
وقد يكون بإمكان بعض العواصم العربية لعب دور في فتح قنوات لحوار سوري أميركي في هذا الاتجاه ـ ولكن على السوريين هنا أن يكونوا أذكياء في التفريق بين عاصمة عربية سدت جميع أبواب واشنطن في وجهها، وتستخدم الملف السوري وغيره من الملفات العربية بشكل تطوعي كي تفتح لها الأبواب ثانية، وعواصم عربية أخرى لها وزن وكلمة مسموعة
So, his article is serious .. or at least it is a trial baloon.
It is a major departure from Mamoun’s tone last year when he was ridiculing the Syrians every week (Ausamaa you would have hated him) and he once said; “my sources in Washington tell me that if Bashar does not submit to ALL of Washington’s demands, he should expect the same fate of Baghdad for Damascus.” .. at the time Mamoun was a senior fellow a the Baker institute. (republican think tank)

KARIM AGHA said: (October 23rd, 2006, 8:26 pm / #)

L’affaire Michel Kilo révèle les manigances d’une justice d’Etat
Reporters sans frontières s’insurge contre les manoeuvres frauduleuses de la justice syrienne qui n’hésite pas à émettre un ordre de libération en introduisant de nouvelles charges contre le journaliste et écrivain Michel Kilo.
“Les autorités judiciaires ont introduit de nouvelles charges fallacieuses contre Michel Kilo alors qu’il risquait déjà la prison à vie. Cette surenchère du tribunal pénal de Damas vise à garder à tout prix le journaliste en prison alors qu’un juge a ordonné sa libération”, a déclaré l’organisation.
“En Syrie, le procureur général défend les intérêts du régime au détriment de la loi alors que l’intrusion de l’appareil sécuritaire dans les décisions judiciaires fait partie intégrante du modus operandi du système baasiste. Cette mascarade de justice a assez duré. Nous demandons la libération du journaliste et l’abandon de toutes les charges retenues contre lui”, a ajouté Reporters sans frontières.
Alors que sa libération avait été annoncée par les autorités le 19 octobre 2006 et que la caution avait été payée, Michel Kilo est toujours en prison. Le procureur général a retenu l’ordre de mise en liberté assez longtemps pour qu’un juge d’instruction inculpe le journaliste de nouveaux chefs d’accusation.
Le 19 octobre dernier, la juge Halima Haitar avait pris la décision de libérer Michel Kilo après le versement d’une caution de 1000 livres syriennes (soit l’équivalent de 16 euros). Selon le code pénal syrien, cette décision, comportant également la signature du juge de renvoi, est irrévocable à moins que le prévenu ne soit inculpé pour un nouveau délit. Mais le lundi 23 octobre, Michel Kilo a été accusé de “provocation de la rébellion civile” et “d’atteinte grave à la dignité de l’Etat, exposant le pays à la menace d’actes agressifs”. Le journaliste est de ce fait maintenu en détention préventive.
Collaborateur de plusieurs journaux arabophones, Michel Kilo est connu pour ses prises de position en faveur des réformes démocratiques dans son pays. Le journaliste est également directeur de “Hourriyat”, un centre de défense de la presse et de la liberté d’expression, créé à Damas, en 2005. Il avait été arrêté le 14 mai 2006 après avoir signé la déclaration “Beyrouth-Damas, Damas-Beyrouth”, un communiqué d’intellectuels syriens et libanais qui prône une réforme des relations entre les deux pays. Il avait alors été accusé de “provoquer des dissensions confessionnelles et raciales”, de publier des “informations mensongères et exagérées qui ont pour but de porter atteinte au prestige de l’Etat” et de “diffamation à l’encontre du chef de l’Etat et des tribunaux”.

Fares said: (October 23rd, 2006, 10:13 pm / #)

There is danger in Surrender
I guess Michel Kilo is still in Jail. Need some creative art to cause an impact. Some people said I am only saying words, but together we can make a difference. Keeping Kilo in Jail will be very costly.

t_desco said: (October 23rd, 2006, 11:32 pm / #)

Avigdor Lieberman joins Israeli government as “deputy prime minister with responsibility for “strategic threats”, particularly Iran”.
The Guardian, Haaretz
Just a definite end to the possibility of peace talks? Or the prelude to something even more ominous?

t_desco said: (October 24th, 2006, 12:22 am / #)

Mr Lieberman said his party was joining the government to deal with what he termed the No 1 problem on Israel’s agenda: “The Iranian threat and the axis of evil that includes Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.”
The Scotsman

norman said: (October 24th, 2006, 1:51 am / #)

Is Kilo a communist?.

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October 24th, 2006, 6:26 pm

 

15. Idaf said:

IC: here are most of the posts you deleted from my Google Desktop Cache (no links or formating though). You should send a thank you message to Google!…

Badger said: (October 23rd, 2006, 4:14 pm / #)

Fandi is making the case for

(1) Weaning Syria from Iran, by

(2) Helping it recover the Golan Heights, by

(3) Getting the US to pressure Israel in this regard, and finally (here’s where his scenario gets a little thin), giving the US what they want by

(4) Helping stabilize Iraq, which would involve

(5) Normalizing relations with Shiites not only in Iraq, but elsewhere in the Gulf too.

(The “we’ll help you in Lebanon” would be an additional or alternative carrot for Syria.)

I posted a summary of the whole interesting piece on my blog

ausamaa said: (October 23rd, 2006, 4:37 pm / #)

Alex,

While doubting the seriousness of the Fendi report, but indeed it sounds like a nice offer to Assad. Drop Iran, Drop Qattar???, Drop Hamas, Drop Hizbullah, and Drop the National Anthem, maybe??? He was willing to suffer the worst and he told them off. Why should he listen to them now, unless if it is from a position of: I told you so!! We seem to forget that Assad did not DROP Iran when the whole Arab political system was siding with Sadam against Iran. And things were a lot worse then than they were during the post Harriri era. Syria’s choices are already made long ago. Why should anyone expect such a change now. And Bashar Al Asad called them “half men” before the dust has settled in Lebanon, and before James Baker was called in. Do you think that now, when Syria seems to be out of the eye of the storm, accompanied by its other “Adventurist” partners ( which expanded recently to include Iran and N Korea), do you really think Assad is loosing any sleep over what Saudis, Egyptians and Jordanians have to offer.

As to the arrests and the releases, I beleive Syria is signaling its feeling of confidence and strength by those actions. Moreover, I would actually expect a couple of more positive signals to come out of Damascuse soon, the jest of which being: As you seem to have stopepd fooling with us, and as you have acknowledged that you not only can not harm us but actually need us, then now maybe, we can consider “forgiving” and turning the other cheek and ask: what was it you were saying????

That is Syria’s mentality I believe.

ausamaa said: (October 23rd, 2006, 5:25 pm / #)

…..and seriously guys, if the US (with Israel in tow)is now going through its own little confusion about what to do in Iraq and elsewhere, should we not expect that Saudi & Co. are also experiencing their own signs of, loneliness, anxity or confusion and are trying their best to cover all local bases (which stretch from Lebanon to Palestine to Iraq to Dhahran). Maybe they are “dangerously” trying to collect few cards that they think they can use in certain situations. Saudi cautious policies flew out of the window with their “Adventure” statement at the opening of the Israeli war on Lebanon in July and the uncharestaristic Saudi dipolmatic behavior which followed -encouraged by Mubarak and Abdulla, perhaps??-, so things may be in a mess over there now, until things clear up a little for them too.

Innocent_Criminal said: (October 23rd, 2006, 5:41 pm / #)

Ausamaa,

I think you are looking at this issue a bit too simplistically. This is not about “I told you so” or Iran vs. Saddam or even Israel vs. Hizbullah. What it all boils down to is interest!!! Any political leader would drop their own brother yet alone a strategic ally if it translates to bigger and better thing. The whole problem with that is no one has ever offered something big or better enough to Syria. There have never been any conqrete (except for Rabin’s word) promises that Syria will get what it wants (i.e. Golan and security for the leadership to remain). It has almost always consisted of; drop all your cards and we will see what we can do for you. Damascus is not dumb, it knows that the Saudi’s don’t even like them, so why the hell should they go out of their way to give Syria promises they can’t deliver. IMO this is backdoor maneuvering aimed at dwindling the shine of GCC’s newcomer (Qatar) more than it’s a serious offer to the Syrians. The Americans would never allow the Saudi’s to save the Syrian’s neck and the Saudi’s in turn would never try to without the explicit approval of Washington.

Qatar might be a rising star in the Gulf. But Washington has also started to rekindle their relationship with the Saudi’s. This can be read in a wider context when (guess who) made Abbas change his mind about a unity government and in turn wrecked Qatar’s mediation in the Palestinian case.

ausamaa said: (October 23rd, 2006, 6:17 pm / #)

You said it : “Strategic Ally”. No one drops strategic allies. That is how Syria and Iran see their relationship.

And to be fair; Syria has not been known to have alternated its positions on the Golan, the Palestinan Issue, and other related issues including Iraq and the US presense there. Its stand has always been consistant. It is not like you can buy it with a few billions and get things done. That is why it finds itself where itfindes itself while many others, such as Egypt, Jordan, and even Saudi, get away with whatever they do as long as they two the American line.

Simplistic? maybe, but I do not beleive Bashar will now sell out for what his father could have gotten years ago has he opted for Syria’s interests alone, but he refused. More simply, if Syria could find it within its ideological/political (and this is a crucial point that many miss about how Syria sees itself and its role) nature to sell out, it could have done so long ago and saved itself the continuous headachs. But it knows that if it sells out an inch, it would practically put all that it holds dear and sacrosant for a yard sale that starts but does not end.

ivanka said: (October 23rd, 2006, 6:26 pm / #)

Alex,

this is an interesting article. I really enjoyed reading it. Here are the reasons why I think Syria will not take this offer:

-The author says drop Iran and your “Iranian” allies and we will give you back the Golan. Who is “we”? Saudi Arabia! Does he mean KSA will tell the US or it’s new friends Israel to withdraw from the Golan. I don’t think KSA has that kind of influence over the US and Israel at all. At least not yet. In addition, Syria does not trust KSA.

-The author says Iran uses Syria and Syria never uses Iran. I disagree. Syria came under pressure about Iraq and about Lebanon and in both cases it’s ties to Iran, it seems to me, have helped it greately. This is just my vision of things, though.

-This is not how the Syrian regime works. If you know anything about Syria you know that they do things very slowly. They never take bold initiatives and they double and triple check everything. It is the nature of the Syria regime. They will not “just” drop Iran all of a sudden.

-The formula of “you give up on Iran first and we give you the Golan later” is not at all reassurig. It means give away all your negotiation cards and then we will get you into negotiations. Kind of like surrender and then we will see who wins.

-President Bashar takes his legitimacy in the eyes of many Syrians from his close relation to resistace movements and especially Hezballa. As we all know Hezballa are incredibly popular in the arab world. I mean people look at Hassan Nasralla as a hero, how do they look at king Abdulla? It is important to stay allied with the popular ones as this is a time of real changes in the region.

-If the US wanted a deal with Syria, the US would do it. I think the US still wants regime change and is not interested in a deal and KSA can not change their mind.

It is very possible that I will turn out to be wrong. ME politics is all about secrets. But it seems to me very very illogical that Syria would do this right now.

Alex said: (October 23rd, 2006, 7:31 pm / #)

Ausamma,

I think your opinion represents the part of Syria that the west do not understand. Syrians (people and leadership) do really care to some extent about some issues to the degree that they sometimes are willing to not take the optimal option at a specific point in time in order to not abandon their values and long-held policies.

However, this is not always a good thing. Syria, just like any other country, needs to look at threats, interests and limitations.

I will give you the perfect example (I hope):

Jihad elKhazen (An influencial Arab journalist) told me that in 1997, at the request of his personal friend, the Turkish prime minister, he attempted to mediate between Turkey and Syria. He visited Syria, met with Khaddam, told him about Turkey’s offer to exchange Kurdish rebel leader Ocalan (living in Damascus at the time) for many serious incentives including additional guaranteed water supplies that Syria badly needed. According to Jihad, it was an offer Syria should not logically refuse.

Instead, Jihad was told the next day that president Hafez Assad is not interested. “Syria does not abandon its allies and freinds for anything”

A year later, Turkish army generals lost their patience with Syria’s support for Kurdish rebels. Turkey threatened Syria with its promise to launch war on Syria … President Hafez el-Assad compromised and delivered to them Abdullah Ocalan (indirectly).. in exchange for .. nothing.

I am not advocating abandoning Syria’s long held positions of course. but I am just saying that … it is ok to make the moral stands when the price (including lost opportunity costs) is not excessive … or if they are willing to pay the price in the short term knowing that they have a high probability of succes in the longer run… which is exactly what Syria believes will happen eventually after the tough past few years. But no one knows the future … I hope Syria’s calculated gamble pays off.

Ivanka, I agree, Syria will probably not go for this Saudi “offer” at this point.

A few relevant points about Mamoun Fandi

He is a close freind to memebers of the Saudi Royal family, especially the prince who owns Asharq alawsat. He interviewed (along with Jihad Khazen) King Abdallah earlier this year.

He is their man when they want to attack their #1 competitor… Qatar. They hate Qatar. Syria’s freindship to Qatar (and vice versa) is intended partially to get on the Saudis’ nerves… then to get compromises from the Saudis hopefully at some point in the future.

Here is where he hinted about Qatar in the article:

وقد يكون بإمكان بعض العواصم العربية لعب دور في فتح قنوات لحوار سوري أميركي في هذا الاتجاه ـ ولكن على السوريين هنا أن يكونوا أذكياء في التفريق بين عاصمة عربية سدت جميع أبواب واشنطن في وجهها، وتستخدم الملف السوري وغيره من الملفات العربية بشكل تطوعي كي تفتح لها الأبواب ثانية، وعواصم عربية أخرى لها وزن وكلمة مسموعة

So, his article is serious .. or at least it is a trial baloon.

It is a major departure from Mamoun’s tone last year when he was ridiculing the Syrians every week (Ausamaa you would have hated him) and he once said; “my sources in Washington tell me that if Bashar does not submit to ALL of Washington’s demands, he should expect the same fate of Baghdad for Damascus.” .. at the time Mamoun was a senior fellow a the Baker institute. (republican think tank)

KARIM AGHA said: (October 23rd, 2006, 8:26 pm / #)

L’affaire Michel Kilo révèle les manigances d’une justice d’Etat

Reporters sans frontières s’insurge contre les manoeuvres frauduleuses de la justice syrienne qui n’hésite pas à émettre un ordre de libération en introduisant de nouvelles charges contre le journaliste et écrivain Michel Kilo.

“Les autorités judiciaires ont introduit de nouvelles charges fallacieuses contre Michel Kilo alors qu’il risquait déjà la prison à vie. Cette surenchère du tribunal pénal de Damas vise à garder à tout prix le journaliste en prison alors qu’un juge a ordonné sa libération”, a déclaré l’organisation.

“En Syrie, le procureur général défend les intérêts du régime au détriment de la loi alors que l’intrusion de l’appareil sécuritaire dans les décisions judiciaires fait partie intégrante du modus operandi du système baasiste. Cette mascarade de justice a assez duré. Nous demandons la libération du journaliste et l’abandon de toutes les charges retenues contre lui”, a ajouté Reporters sans frontières.

Alors que sa libération avait été annoncée par les autorités le 19 octobre 2006 et que la caution avait été payée, Michel Kilo est toujours en prison. Le procureur général a retenu l’ordre de mise en liberté assez longtemps pour qu’un juge d’instruction inculpe le journaliste de nouveaux chefs d’accusation.

Le 19 octobre dernier, la juge Halima Haitar avait pris la décision de libérer Michel Kilo après le versement d’une caution de 1000 livres syriennes (soit l’équivalent de 16 euros). Selon le code pénal syrien, cette décision, comportant également la signature du juge de renvoi, est irrévocable à moins que le prévenu ne soit inculpé pour un nouveau délit. Mais le lundi 23 octobre, Michel Kilo a été accusé de “provocation de la rébellion civile” et “d’atteinte grave à la dignité de l’Etat, exposant le pays à la menace d’actes agressifs”. Le journaliste est de ce fait maintenu en détention préventive.

Collaborateur de plusieurs journaux arabophones, Michel Kilo est connu pour ses prises de position en faveur des réformes démocratiques dans son pays. Le journaliste est également directeur de “Hourriyat”, un centre de défense de la presse et de la liberté d’expression, créé à Damas, en 2005. Il avait été arrêté le 14 mai 2006 après avoir signé la déclaration “Beyrouth-Damas, Damas-Beyrouth”, un communiqué d’intellectuels syriens et libanais qui prône une réforme des relations entre les deux pays. Il avait alors été accusé de “provoquer des dissensions confessionnelles et raciales”, de publier des “informations mensongères et exagérées qui ont pour but de porter atteinte au prestige de l’Etat” et de “diffamation à l’encontre du chef de l’Etat et des tribunaux”.

Fares said: (October 23rd, 2006, 10:13 pm / #)

There is danger in Surrender

I guess Michel Kilo is still in Jail. Need some creative art to cause an impact. Some people said I am only saying words, but together we can make a difference. Keeping Kilo in Jail will be very costly.

t_desco said: (October 23rd, 2006, 11:32 pm / #)

Avigdor Lieberman joins Israeli government as “deputy prime minister with responsibility for “strategic threats”, particularly Iran”.

The Guardian, Haaretz

Just a definite end to the possibility of peace talks? Or the prelude to something even more ominous?

t_desco said: (October 24th, 2006, 12:22 am / #)

Mr Lieberman said his party was joining the government to deal with what he termed the No 1 problem on Israel’s agenda: “The Iranian threat and the axis of evil that includes Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.”

The Scotsman

norman said: (October 24th, 2006, 1:51 am / #)

Is Kilo a communist?.

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October 24th, 2006, 6:28 pm

 

16. t_desco said:

Lieberman joining the Israeli government as “deputy prime minister with responsibility for “strategic threats”, particularly Iran“: just an end to the possibility of peace talks or a sign of something even more sinister?

“Mr Lieberman said his party was joining the government to deal with what he termed the No 1 problem on Israel’s agenda: “The Iranian threat and the axis of evil that includes Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.””

“The choice of the most unrestrained and irresponsible man around for this job constitutes a strategic threat in its own right. Lieberman’s lack of restraint and his unbridled tongue, comparable only to those of Iran’s president, are liable to bring disaster down upon the entire region.”
Haaretz Editorial

Interestingly, Seymour Hersh predicted this worrying development in a discussion with Scott Ritter some days ago. You can listen to it here (at 1:00:06); unfortunately, he doesn’t elaborate).

After reading Scott Ritter’s new book, “Target Iran” (which has some weaknesses, but is nevertheless very interesting), it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Israel wouldn’t attack Iran. Some are looking for a different solution:

Spain: Mideast ‘Road Map’ Not Working

“Everyone agrees that sooner or later there will be a peace conference,” he said. “I can say that the government is discussing and sharing ideas and proposals, even with the United States, in reference to paths for the future of the region.”

“It is necessary that this diplomatic initiative be led by the European Union, not with small, gradual steps, but with a major initiative that has great scope,” said Moratinos, a former EU envoy to the Middle East who is considered to have excellent contacts throughout the region.

Moratinos said the talks should involve Syria – a longtime foe of Washington – and that Iran’s nuclear program would also need to be addressed at such a conference.
The Guardian

“Western leaders should indeed take this opportunity to reengage Damascus, recognizing that Syria is a major player that can be ignored only at the risk of continuing turmoil. By taking into account legitimate Syrian interests, they could persuade Assad to work constructively with the Lebanese government and with international efforts to stabilize Lebanon, withdraw support from forces trying to undermine an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, and prepare his own country for diplomatic reengagement and eventual peace with Israel. All this would also separate Syria’s agenda in the Arab-Israeli conflict from that of Iran.”
Volker Perthes/Foreign Affairs

BTW, is this the answer to the Baker proposal? —

U.S. blames Iran, Syria for Iraq violence

Khalilzad depicted the struggle to build a united, democratic Iraq as “the defining challenge of our era” and said it would shape the future of the Middle East and global security.

“Those forces that constitute the extremist camp including not only al Qaeda but Iran and Syria are at work to keep us and the Iraqis from succeeding,” Khalilzad told a rare joint news conference with Casey, two weeks before U.S. Congressional elections.

“They fear Iraq’s success. They want to undermine our resolve by imposing costs on us in terms of prolonging the conflict, imposing casualties and creating the perception that Iraq cannot be stabilized,” Khalilzad said.

Al Qaeda and Iraq’s “foreign rivals” were trying to tear the Iraqi people apart along sectarian lines, Khalilzad said, naming Iran and Syria as countries that “cynically support rival groups involved in the violence.”

Casey called both Syria and Iran “decidedly unhelpful.”
Reuters

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October 24th, 2006, 7:00 pm

 

17. Innocent_Criminal said:

thanks Idaf, i tried looking for them but didn’t find them

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October 24th, 2006, 9:28 pm

 

18. t_desco said:

Syrian Gallerist-Artist Faces Military Tribunal

The gallerist and photographer Issa Touma is facing a military tribunal in his native Syria. As Die Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Matthias Kolb reports, the charges against him are unclear. Touma, who regularly organizes art events, such as the annual Women’s Art Festival, just launched the photographic festival Meeting the Middle East at his gallery Le Pont (The Bridge) in Aleppo, the second largest city in the country. The festival, which runs until the end of November, features more than 1,400 works from seventy international artists, including Jean-François Pirson, Vance Jacobs, Johannes Hepp, Pedros Temizian, and Nadim Bou Habib.

As Kolb notes, Touma did not cooperate with the country’s secret service and the reigning Baath party by showing them the selected artworks for state approval before the festival opening. “That’s gutsy in a country where foreign cultural institutions must get the approval of the Syrian ministry of culture for every project,” writes Kolb, who adds that works by Jewish artists, images of nude women, and video works are all against the ministry’s official policy. In September, Touma suddenly learned that he was only allowed to receive one package per country every six months—a rule that left some shipments stranded. An informant then told Touma that Syria’s military court was preparing a case against him. By October, the prime minister’s secret service had issued a decree forbidding all Syrian politicians from communicating with the gallerist-artist.

Touma’s current dilemma can be traced in part to an event in 2005, when the regional government closed down his gallery—a state intervention that a court later judged to be “arbitrary and not legally founded.” Despite this ruling, it seems that the military tribunal is claiming that Touma reopened the gallery illegally. “It’s impossible to find out what he’s accused of,” writes Kolb. “But the state bureaucrats simply cannot understand how someone without state approval can operate independently.” While Touma was allowed to proceed with the festival, “it’s impossible to predict what will happen when it closes.”
Artforum

Schuldig wegen Unabhängigkeit
Süddeutsche Zeitung

The German article is very interesting (if you can stomach the automatic translation). It is more than obvious that this kind of stuff is not only bad for the arts but it is also hampering Syria’s economic development.

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October 24th, 2006, 10:22 pm

 

19. Fares said:

This is how Art gets Promoted in Tightly Controlled Syria

TY T_Desco for bringing this to my attention. If more people speak up and refuse to tolerate this kind of harrasment then we won’t be in this shit to begin with.

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October 25th, 2006, 12:16 am

 

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