Posted by Joshua on Friday, May 2nd, 2008
Turkcell has many Finish investors and, according to Ehsani, many US mutual funds own a substantial amount of its shares.
Turkcell Denies Pressure against Syrian deal
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey's leading mobile operator, Turkcell TCELL.IS(TKC.N: Quote, Profile, Research), denied on Thursday there was U.S. pressure on the company to abandon a takeover of a Syrian operator, saying that the talks were continuing.
"The U.S. has put no written or spoken pressure on Turkcell or made such a statement … There is no warning on investment (in Syria)," said one Turkcell official, who declined to be named.
Diplomats and Arab financiers on Wednesday told Reuters the U.S. Treasury Department was warning American investors in Turkcell, which is listed on the Istanbul and New York bourse
Shaping Lebanon’s Future
by Bilal Y. Saab, senior research assistant, foreign policy, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, The Brookings Institution
In many ways, the current U.S. stance is a policy of denial, denying Lebanon to Syria but with little hope of promoting a resolution to Lebanon’s internal crisis. The danger of such a policy is that it hands the political initiative to Syria and its allies in Lebanon who can win by waging a gradual war of attrition. Instead, Washington should craft its policy to support the Lebanese state, not to promote partisanship and political parties.
Washington should continue to provide technical and military assistance to Lebanon in its pursuit of democracy consolidation and military modernization, such as by building up the Lebanese Armed Forces. Always stressing transparency and local ownership, U.S. efforts should focus more on inclusive programs such as strengthening the capacity of the Lebanese state as a whole in developing and supporting institutions that are responsive and accountable to all Lebanese citizens. …
Providing the Shi’ah with an alternative to Hizballah will require implementing some of the reforms called for in the 1989 Ta’if agreement. These reforms will impose political costs on some parts of the governing coalition. Changes would include: the decentralization of administration and municipalities, the creation of a bicameral legislature with the lower house holding the legislative initiative and an upper house to represent communal interests, a new electoral law (to more fairly represent the popular vote and end the gerrymandered constituency system), and a stronger, independent judiciary. The abolition of political sectarianism, while essential to the future of liberal democratic politics in Lebanon, is not a realistic goal in the near term (a gradual process is a more stable and desirable path).
The Syrian obstacle
The continued negative interference of Syria in Lebanese domestic politics makes resolving the domestic crisis even more daunting. Syria has not left Lebanon quietly. Instead, Syria has obstructed the introduction of any serious reforms in Lebanon and has for years systematically eliminated its political enemies in Lebanon and cruelly silenced Lebanese voices calling for change and freedom from Syrian rule. Lebanon’s democracy and its foreign policy orientation directly affect Syrian national security. Damascus has been very clear that it will resort to any measure to regain its lost influence over Lebanon. The Syrian regime will also seek to impede any attempt by the UN tribunal to find the killers of Rafiq Hariri, whose murder the Syrian regime is strongly suspected of committing….
Lebanon is at the heart of the Bush administration’s Middle East democracy promotion strategy. But for the United States, Lebanon is also the perfect battlefield for settling scores with its adversaries, namely Iran and Syria. As such, Lebanon is where U.S. idealism and realpolitik meet and often conflict. The result is a shattered country torn between two divergent trends of U.S. foreign policy.
Washington treated Damascus’ suspected role in killing Hariri, a U.S. ally and very close friend of Saudi Arabia, as a threat to its interests in the region. The U.S. administration therefore set out to punish Syria. The United States pushed to isolate Syria regionally and internationally, most notably by sponsoring three United Nations Security Council Resolutions (1559, 1701, and 1757) calling on Syria to stop meddling in Lebanese internal affairs. Washington also took bilateral action with presidential executive orders against Syrian government officials.
From denial to support
While U.S. diplomatic initiative, especially at the United Nations, has played an important role in supporting the Lebanese government, U.S. policy has now reached its limits. U.S. policy is having little effect.
Like most of the regional and international players, the United States supports the “March 14” coalition against Syria through diplomatic and economic means while seeking to prevent any military confrontation with Syria. In many ways, the current U.S. stance is a policy of denial, denying Lebanon to Syria but with little hope of promoting a resolution to Lebanon’s internal crisis. The danger of such a policy is that it hands the political initiative to Syria and its allies in Lebanon who can win by waging a gradual war of attrition……
April 30, 2008
WASHINGTON — Bush administration officials are expressing increasing alarm that a deal being negotiated between the new Pakistani government and militant tribes in the country’s unruly border area will lead to further unraveling of security in the region.
Cross-border attacks into Afghanistan by militants based in Pakistan doubled in March from the same period a year ago and have not diminished in April, a Western military official said, while Pakistani counterinsurgency operations in the tribal areas have dropped sharply during the talks.
American counterterrorism officials express concern that the new coalition government in Islamabad may withdraw some of the 120,000 Pakistani troops in the border area or curtail flights by the Central Intelligence Agency’s armed Predator aircraft in the region.
Indeed, Washington and Islamabad seem to be on dueling timetables, with the Bush administration trying to cripple Al Qaeda’s safe havens before leaving office, and the new Pakistani government seeking to establish credibility with its public by distancing itself from the American-backed policies of President Pervez Musharraf.
American officials say that Washington’s options now are even more limited, in part because Mr. Musharraf is no longer calling the shots, and that the situation in the tribal areas is unlikely to significantly improve before President Bush leaves office. American economic and development aid aimed to help wean the region off the militants’ influence is just now seeping into the tribal areas, while a tribal paramilitary force still needs years of training and equipping to be an effective counterinsurgency unit.
The problems confronting the administration reflect what critics say is a failure over the past several years to pay sufficient attention to the growing numbers of Qaeda and Taliban fighters drawn to safe havens in the tribal area. Even under Mr. Musharraf, the administration’s main ally in Pakistan, the United States failed to develop a governmentwide plan to combat the militancy in the turbulent borderlands, these critics say.
The leaders of Pakistan’s new government, Asif Ali Zardari of the Pakistan Peoples Party and Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, have vowed to honor their campaign pledges to break with Mr. Musharraf’s emphasis on using military force in the tribal areas, a practice critics say has been heavy-handed and has undercut the government’s goals.
Pakistan Regime, Military At Odds
(Seattle Times)….Saeed Shah and Jonathan S. Landay, McClatchy News Service
Pakistan's newly elected government is clashing with the country's powerful military over peace deals that the military has secretly initiated with Islamic militants allied with al-Qaida along the country's border with Afghanistan.
New Traffic Regulations in Syria (thanks Naji)
On May 01, 2008, the Syrian government will begin enforcement of new traffic regulations which were announced in January, 2008. Many of these regulations are designed to increase road safety for both vehicles and pedestrians, and call for fines and a “point system” for violations. The following is a partial summary. The full text in Arabic can be found here.
Fines ranging from 500 to 10,000 Syrian lira (SYP) will be imposed for infractions such as:
• Children riding in the front seat or in the driver’s lap
• Tossing rubbish from vehicles while driving
• Playing loud music while driving through neighborhoods at night
• Failing to use directional signals when turning
• Reckless speed and changing of lanes
• Transporting items exceeding the body of the vehicle in a dangerous manner
• Using cellular phones (mobile phones) while driving
• Having a license plate with illegible numbers
• Allowing unlicensed drivers to drive the vehicle
• Passing other vehicles on corners, uphill slopes, tunnel, bridges and crossroads
• Driving without a valid insurance contract
• Not using safety belts in the front seat
• Not keeping a first aid (medical) kit in the vehicle
• Not keeping a fire extinguisher in the vehicle
• Driving with an expired license
Pedestrians may be fined 200 SYP for “jay-walking” — crossing the street not in the designated location or against the light.
In addition to fines, a “point system” has been developed to track repeat offenders. Each infraction carries a certain number of points, based on the severity of the infraction and the judgment of the official issuing the citation. The maximum number of points is sixteen (16). When someone reaches 16 points, the following rules apply:
• First instance of 16 points: suspension of driving license for three months
• Second instance of 16 points: suspension of driving license for six months and requirement to take a driving course
• Third instance of 16 points: suspension of driving license for nine months and requirement to take a driving course
• Fourth instance of 16 points: cancellation of driving privileges, requirement to take a driving course and a new examination will be required to get a new driving license. Also, a new license cannot be obtained in less than one year.
The following additional penalties have also been enacted:
• The “black box” speed governors are mandatory for public transport, small and large trucks.
• If someone is killed because a driver is violating the new traffic laws, that driver will be imprisoned for between three months and one year; will be fined between 50,000 and 100,000 Syrian lira; and will be banned from driving for two years.
• If a driver leaves the scene of an accident, speeds more than 40 km per hour over the designated speed limit, or drives without vehicle plates visible, that driver will be imprisoned for between one and three months; will be fined 25,000 Syrian lira; will have the vehicle seized by authorities; and will be given 16 points (see “Point System” above).
• If a driver leaves a vehicle parked on railway lines, allows materials to fall from a vehicle on public roads, or fails to have appropriate documents for Special Vehicles, that driver will be imprisoned for between ten days and seven months; will be fined 15,000 Syrian lira; will have the vehicle seized by authorities; and will be given eight points (see “Point System” above).
Raghida Issa, wife of human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni, imprisoned for his human rights work in Syria, will receive the Front Line Award on his behalf from President McAleese today. She hopes that the award will put pressure on the regime to free him.
Raghida Issa has come to Dublin to accept an award on behalf of her jailed husband, a Syrian human rights lawyer, writes Lara MarloweRECENT VISITORS to the home of the jailed Syrian human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni told his wife Raghida Issa that she had been invited to Dublin to receive the "Front Line Award for Human Rights Defenders" on his behalf."The phones are tapped," Issa explained in Front Line's office in Blackrock, Co Dublin. "So they had to tell me in person. The only people I told were our children and Anwar's lawyers. I was afraid if the government knew, they'd stop me travelling. I sent my passport to Dublin via DHL [courier service], and Front Line got the visa."
President Mary McAleese will present Issa with the award in Dublin's City Hall this morning. "I don't know if it will help," Issa says. "But we need pressure from outside, just to remind them there are people in prison." ……..
Issa is "afraid of what will happen when I go back. They may interrogate me: 'Why did you go? Who did you meet?'. . . When they kidnapped Anwar, I lost my job". Issa was fired without notice after 27 years as an engineer in the transport ministry. Now she helps nuns working with Iraqi refugees.Does she ever wish her husband had just kept quiet? "All the time," Issa admits. "I would still love him as much. Anwar thought only of helping political prisoners, to the point of neglecting his family. When he gets something in his mind, he is like his five brothers (two of whom have served 15-year prison sentences). He has to do it – for Syria."
Though a frail, humble man, Bunni has the aura of a future Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Ghandi. When I ask what she loves most about him, Issa at last breaks into a smile. "His enthusiasm," she says. "He never gives up. He is brave." Then she sighs.
Israeli rabbi visits Syria
An Israeli rabbi visited the Jewish community of Syria.
Yisrael Meir Gabbai, a fervently Orthodox rabbi who holds Israeli and French passports, traveled to
Syria on the latter last month.
Gabbai told the religious newspaper Hamodia that he was welcomed by the local Jewish community and walked around Damascus freely, despite his distinctive garb.
The rabbi came away with a fairly positive impression of a state that Israel considers an arch-foe, though
there has been recent talk of reviving peace talks between Jerusalem and Damascus.
"It's not Iran, which wants to destroy Israel," Gabbai told Hamodia. "All they want is the Golan."
According to the report, leaders of the small Syrian Jewish community told Gabbai that they are well treated by President Bashar Assad. But Assad critics have noted that minorities in Syria, a police state, are unlikely to voice open criticism of the regime.
This protection assessment mission to Syria is a joint effort of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB-MRS). The mission was funded by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM). The main objective of the mission was to provide an in-depth evaluation and analysis of the protection needs of vulnerable Iraqi individuals and families residing in Syria, to assess the existing system of response to these needs, and to make recommendations of the best approaches to address their protection needs.
Brief summary of the present situation of Iraqi refugees in Syria:
– In February 2008 this mission found the Iraqi population in Syria to be living a fragile, isolated existence with limited services and depleting resources.
– Most of the Iraqi refugees in Syria have experienced extremely distressing events in the last few years and appear to be struggling to manage the effects of these events.
– To this date UNHCR in Syria has registered 161,613 Iraqi Refugees.
– Estimates of the total number of Iraqi refugees in Syria are disputed and vary from 300,000 – 1.5 million with the vast majority residing in Greater Damascus.
– Regardless of numbers, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has stated that there are not enough funds and services to address the assistance needs of Iraqi refugees in Syria.
– The Syrian Government has good relationships with United Nations agencies and societies of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. International non-Government organizations are presently not operational in Syria.
– Recognizing the need for a joint effort in response to the Iraqi refugee situation, the Syrian government has currently given approval to 14 international non- Government organizations to work with the Iraqi refugees. They are in the process of being registered so as to become operational.
– Due to the lengthy process of registration of international non-Government organizations UNHCR has very few implementing partners and those that it has are stretched in capacity.4 In many instances UNHCR is implementing its own programs.
– The Iraqi refugee population that has registered with UNHCR has access to basic services such as essential non-food items, health clinics and food. Iraqi children can attend Syrian schools.
– The unregistered Iraqis have limited access to the same basic services, mostly through local Church organizations.
– There are insufficient resettlement places for those Iraqi who cannot return to Iraq.
– Iraqis arriving in Syria are now required to have a visa issued from the Syrian Embassy in Baghdad. Many, who arrived earlier, are now residing in Syria with lapsed visas and some are fearful of deportation. …. (Continue)
Syria and the prospect of an Iraqi
By Marwan Kabalan, Special to Gulf News
Published: May 02, 2008, 00:30
…. True or not, the fabricated nuclear crisis with Syria, many expect, would have far-reaching consequences. The aim is to put Syria in an awkward position. Many believe that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be soon submitting an inspection request to the Syrian authorities. If Syria complies, that would give the US and Israel an access to its military secrets. If it refuses, the case will go to the Security Council and we will be then facing another Iraqi scenario.