Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, July 15th, 2008
Paul Salem cautioned that "having an embassy doesn't mean [that Syria] won't interfere [in Lebanese affairs]… The US has an embassy in Iraq and it occupies Iraq."
Beirut cool on Syria embrace: The National, By Nicholas Blanford
…But an exchange of embassies still leaves numerous other outstanding issues to be resolved. The most pressing demand of anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians is the demarcation of Lebanon’s border with Syria.
The border was drawn up by French military geographers in 1920 and generally follows the peaks of the Anti-Lebanon mountain chain. But its path has never been clearly marked on the ground with border pillars, giving rise to numerous local disputes between Syrian and Lebanese landowners. A report put out by an anti-Syrian advocacy group last year claimed that Syria still occupies at least 460sq km of Lebanese territory along the border….
Haaretz editorial on the meaning of Assad's Embrace by France
….The disdainful attitude shown by Israel with regard to Assad's leadership ability, at the inspiration of the Americans, apparently came to an end, along with the conclusion of George W. Bush's term.
Assad demonstrated control of the situation, and with perfect timing brought about the establishment of a unity government in Lebanon a few days before he was invited to attend the Bastille Day military parade. In the eyes of the Europeans, he is perceived today as a leader who can mediate between them and Iran, who can make decisions and put them into effect. The aim is to get him to lead Syria in a direction that fits both his own interests and those of the West. ….
The price for not having peace with Syria became clear in the Second Lebanon War, and it is likely to become clear in the third and fourth war in the region. An improvement in relations with any of the Arab countries contributes to Israel's security more than any reservoir of weapons that Israel has at its disposal.
Israeli activists push for peace with Syria …. Under the banner "Peace with Syria", members of the Israel-Syria Peace Society held a meeting at the Dan Panorama on Monday evening, only hours after the Syrian president made his remarks in France.
"We need to change the image of Syria as an enemy to one of a neighbor," said Prof. Moshe Maoz, one of the event's keynote speakers. "This is an issue of interests on both sides, and it is in both of our interests to negotiate a peace agreement."
"A peace deal with Syria would have to include the Golan Heights," Liel said. "But we have to understand what we'd be getting in return. The Golan is not just for peace with Syria, the Golan Heights is the key to peace with the Lebanese and the Palestinians, and other Arab states that will take the Arab world away from Iran, and in effect, isolate Iran."
"However," Liel continued, "if we don't make peace with Syria, they will fall deeper and deeper into their relationship with Iran, and with Hizbullah, and with Hamas." The crowd was responsive to all the speakers, and organizers said this was a positive sign. But their real test, one organizer told The Jerusalem Post, was to "get the message to people on the street, this is what we are truly hoping to do."
The Caliph of Damascus celebrated the overthrow of the French king yesterday. Bashar al-Assad looked quite at home, standing in his pale blue suit, wearing those inevitable Baathist sunglasses, occasionally clapping the precision drill of the French regiments in front of him, some of whom spent decades repressing Arab nations.
The 1st Regiment of Spahis must surely have been of interest. Was it not this same French army which overthrew the first independent Arab government of Syria in 1920, coldly executing the minister of defence every bit as brutally as their predecessors chopped off Louis XVI's head? But Bashar looked every inch the self-confident President of Syria. As well he might.
Who could have imagined, just six months ago, that the man accused of Rafiq Hariri's murder – now hated by ex-president Jacques Chirac – would be standing a few metres from President Sarkozy of France, basking in the warmth of Parisian hospitality. Were there not a few soldiers in the Bastille Day parade who remembered the murder of 58 of their comrades at the French military headquarters in Lebanon in 1983 and that the French, at the time, blamed Bashar's father, Hafez, for his supposed complicity? But there were no end of cruel Arab regimes represented on the podium yesterday.
There was Sarkozy's co-host at the Mediterranean summit, President Hosni Mubarak, whose secret police regularly use electricity on their prisoners and whose prison guards force inmates to rape each other.
And there were the representatives of Algeria, whose policemen used to pump water into their prisoners till they burst; and Tunisia, where about a third of the population are paid spies for the secret police. And Morocco, where journalists are locked up for offending our latest plucky little king; and Israel, whose gentle treatment of all Palestinian prisoners has to be seen to be believed.
No wonder the French flics and "force de renseignement" and the Arab "mukhabarat" and any number of other dark figures littered the pavements around the Place de la Concorde yesterday. No one, it seems, can forget The Day of the Jackal, although tens of thousands of Arabs might have concluded that there were jackals enough on the podium alongside M. Sarkozy.
The French commentariat had bought the presidential line, prison hook and definitely sinker. "A winning gamble," one of Le Figaro's grovelling writers called it. The French admired Bashar's wife, Asma – a woman whose intelligence and elegance far surpass that of Madame La Presidente Carla, whose purple and red outfit matched the uniforms of the Foreign Legionaires. But the French still haven't learned the secret of Syrian foreign policy. Like the visa hunters in Casablanca, the Syrians wait. And wait. And wait. And in the end, there comes, inevitably, an invitation to Bastille Day.
The Syrians Take Paris
By Andrew Lee Butters, Time Magazine
Not so long ago the Syrian First Couple were personae non gratae in Western capitals. But now Syria is back in style…. The invitation to Paris is ostensibly a reward for the the start of indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel (through Turkish mediation.) But it's also recognition that attempts to isolate Syria have failed, and that the West needs Syrian help for resolving some of the biggest problems in the Middle East. For its part, Syria wants to come even further out of the cold. While in Paris, President Assad told French television that in the event of direct talks under American sponsorship, there could be peace between Syria and Israel within two years. So on the Fourth of July 2010, will Bashar be celebrating Independence Day in Washington?….
The Assad regime only wants a package deal, a grand bargain between Syria and Iran on the one hand, and America and Israel on the other, that would settle the cold war for the Middle East. This means that the United States would have to give up once and for all its project for a "new" Middle East, and its penchant for regime change. That might happen on its own in November if Barack Obama becomes president. But a package deal would also have to solve the Iranian nuclear issue, map out the future of post-American Iraq, solve the Syrian-Israeli conflict, the Lebanese-Israeli conflict, and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict all in one go. Would any American president, or any world leader, be able to pull that off in two years? Despite President Assad's rosy prediction, it's hard to imagine him shaking hands in the Rose Garden anytime soon. But at least he'll always have Paris.
Meanwhile Stratfor, the Texas based "intelligence" service, is putting out more total fantasy. For 6 months now, it has been pushing the notion of a coup in Damascus and that Asef Shawkat, the president's brother-in-law, is in jail or house arrest. He appeared on state TV last month, long after the last Stratfor brief explaining that he was under arrest for trying to overthrow the government with a hundred odd officers in the army and intelligence services. Here is the silly report
Subject: [STRATFOR] Syria: Alleged Coup Plot Leads to Military Reshuffle …
Syria: Alleged Coup Plot Leads to Military Reshuffle
11 July 2008
A Stratfor source in Syria reported July 11 that the top levels of Syria’s army and intelligence service underwent a reshuffle in the past week. The move came after Maher al-Assad, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s younger brother and head of the Republican Guard, learned that elements within Syria’s security apparatus were plotting a coup d’etat for August, the source said. The reshuffling was to be expected, particularly as Syria prepares for a major shift caused by its talks with Israel……