Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, August 12th, 2008
Middle East expert Joshua Landis sees U.S. policy in the region at a “crossroads.”
Interview by Daniel Luban | Posted August 12, 2008
Landis … describes the Syrian regime as making an unprecedented push to normalize relations with the West. But neoconservative hardliners in Washington continue to resist any engagement with Syria, presenting the possibility that this window of opportunity will be lost…..
Syria is engaging in a major charm offensive. And significantly, they’ve been courting people like [former American Israel Public Affairs Committee president] Thomas Dine to help set up meetings in Washington. This is new! For Syria to reach out to the Israelis not just through the negotiations in Ankara but through the Jewish community in the United States is a potential game-changer in many ways.
But it hasn’t worked—not yet. Where we are now is at a crossroads. There is a moment of opportunity right now to change the entire strategic architecture of the region which could be missed—and probably will be missed.
For instance, we just had a Syrian delegation that came to Washington, and initially Riad Daoudi, legal counsel for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and lead negotiator in the Israel talks, was supposed to meet with [U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs] David Welch. For reasons that remain a little murky to me, that fell through. A friend in the State Department told me that part of the reason was that it was just too much for the Bush administration to absorb. Washington had just announced that it was going to meet with the Iranians in Geneva, which had caused a firestorm of protest, and they could deal with only one meeting with one ‘axis of evil’ power at the same time. These are the sort of opportunities that are being lost….
JL: The real debate in Washington right now is about whether you can “flip” Syria, meaning to use the Golan as an incentive to tear Syria away from Iran and Hezbollah. The alternative policy, the more sane and feasible policy, is to try to bring Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah along together.
Hezbollah and Syria and Iran are not stupid. They know exactly what Washington is trying to do, and they’re not going to be flipped, ….
"We are seeing a significant strengthening by Hezbollah in the past few years," Barak told Ynetnews. "We're monitoring any possibility of a shift in balance (of power) due to the Syrians supplying Hezbollah with advanced weapons systems."
Barak made the comments Tuesday while attending live-ammunition training exercises by the Israeli military forces in the occupied Golan Heights near Syria, the Israeli Web site Ynetnews.com reported.
In Haaretz, here (Thanks FLC)
"…During the interview, Barak also said the 2006 Second Lebanon War – in effect, carried out to stop Hezbollah armament – had actually strengthened the Lebanon-based militant group.
The defense minister said the the six years prior to the war had actually been some of the quietest on Israel's northern border, despite the growth in Hezbollah's military capabilities.
"Sharon and his leadership were wise not to respond to Hezbollah's strengthening," Barak said. "We went to war unprepared and unjustified."
Visiting President of the European Parliament (EP) Hans-Gert Poettering Monday said Syria is "important and pivotal" in achieving regional … Poettering also expressed appreciation of the development in Syria in all fields, adding that the completion of the partnership pact between Syria and the EU will contribute to economic cooperation.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Thursday he was prepared to bring about a peace agreement between Israel and Syria during his term in office, according to a report in the magazine Paris Match.
Syria's Stock Exchange to Open in 6 Months, Deputy Premier Says
By Massoud A. Derhally
Aug. 12 (Bloomberg) — Syria plans to open its first stock exchange in the next six months in an effort to boost investment in the Arab country's economy, Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Abdallah Dardari said.
“Before the end of this year, even if it means trading on a chalk board, I told them they have to start dealing,'' Dardari said in an interview in Damascus today. “We gave them a temporary new building and the green light to buy the software but then the company said there are U.S. sanctions.''
The U.S. imposed sanctions on Syria in May 2004, including a ban on trade transactions with the Commercial Bank of Syria, the country's largest bank. The U.S. government has accused Syria of aiding Iraqi militants and pursuing weapons of mass destruction and destabilizing Lebanon. OMX AB, the Nordic bourse operator acquired by Nasdaq Stock Market Inc. and Borse Dubai this year, refused to sell Syria the software, Dardari said.
The ruling Baath Party, which came to power in 1963, began moving toward a market economy in the 1990s, allowing private banks and insurance companies to operate for the first time. About 25 companies are expected to list on the Damascus Securities Market when it opens, according to Dardari. Ratib Shallah, the president of the Federation of the Syrian Chambers of Commerce will head the exchange.
Syria first announced plans to establish the bourse in July 2006.
To contact the reporter on this story: Massoud A. Derhally in Damascus at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Xinhua) — Lebanese President Michel Suleiman is faced with a tough mission during his upcoming two-day official visit to Syria, local analysts said. …
Future TV station owned by majority leader Saad Hariri hosted on the eve of the Lebanese president's visit to Damascus, former Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam and a number of Syrian opposition leaders who are in exile.
This move was seen as a sign of disagreement on Suleiman's visit, observers said.
Moreover, a political bureau member of pro-government Christian Phalange party told Al-Akhbar daily that the Syrian invitation to the Lebanese president was "not positive, because there was no invitation sent to Premier Fouad Seniora to participate in the meeting as well."…
Syria Opposition Members claim that Syrian security forces have arrested several suspects in the assassination of Mohammed Suleiman, a senior aide to Syrian President Bashar Assad, earlier this month.