Posted by Joshua on Sunday, October 19th, 2008
The following Haaretz report sounds completely untrustworthy. How could Abbas and his entourage be “unaware of the content of Bush’s letter,” for Assad and yet the Palestinian who has presumably leaked the contents to Haaretz was in the know? How could Jack Khoury publish something that sounds so improbably silly?
Before publishing the previous paragraph, written yesterday, I woke up this Sunday to read that Haaretz is denying its previous report:
Jerusalem sources denied over the weekend any knowledge of a U.S. proposal to Syria, to the effect that Israel would pull out of the Golan if Syria severs its ties with Iran, as reported in the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jarida on Friday.
Bush offered to press Israel to quit Golan if Syria cuts Iran ties
By Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondent, 17/10/2008
U.S. President George W. Bush has apparently offered his Syrian counterpart, Bashar Assad, to press Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights if Damascus promises to cut its relations with Iran, the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jareida reported on Friday.
According to the report, Bush made the offer in a handwritten letter transferred to Assad by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
A Palestinian source close to Abbas told the newspaper that the U.S. had presented the offer in a meeting with Syrian officials day earlier. If Assad agrees to the American proposal, he will carry out his end of the deal in the coming weeks, said the report.
Bush is keen on implementing the deal before the upcoming U.S. elections, said the newspaper, in order to significantly advance the peace process before the end of his term.
The Palestinian source said that Abbas and his entourage were unaware of the content of Bush’s letter, as it was meant to remain covert and away from diplomatic eyes, according to the report.
Even the American envoy in Damascus was not privy to this information, said the newspaper.
Despite this, the Palestinian source said that Abbas’ latest visit to Damascus was intended for the principle purpose of passing on this letter, said the newspaper. While on the visit, he scheduled no meetings with Palestinian officials or other diplomats in the area.
“Since 2006, the United States has committed more than $410 million in security assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces, and the United States will continue to provide equipment and training to the LAF,” US announces.
[Landis Analysis]For the time being, it appears as if the LAF will only be receiving “additional automatic grenade launchers.” There was no mention of the attack helicopters that Lebanon has been requesting. But Intelligence chief Hayden and other top US officials have been to Lebanon of late in an effort to access whether the LAF can be counted on to fight Hizbullah rather than to coddle it. The LAF’s anti-Hizbullah credentials will ultimately decide the quality of US aid. Israel has been very critical of the Lebanese government, accusing it of being little more than the handmaiden for Hizbullah and terror in the region. Indeed, Israeli officials recently revealed that their military has a plan to flatten government controlled regions of Lebanon if Hizbullah travels off the reservation as it did in 2006.
Corruption on the Rise in Syria….Syria was ranked 147 out of 180 countries in the international watchdog Transparency International’s 2008 corruption perception index, released last month. This poor placing is getting steadily worse, falling from 93rd in 2006 to 138th last year. Of the Arab countries, only Sudan and Iraq had lower rankings in 2008, at 173 and 178 respectively. …
Wary of Islam, China Tightens a Vise of Rules, New York Times
By EDWARD WONG
China places intricate restrictions on Muslims in a vast autonomous region in an effort to control Islam’s spread……..
Tony Karon, in TIME, here
“…Other key factors in tamping down violence may yet be the cause of further violence and instability; these include the truce declared by the radical Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, and the anti-Qaeda alliance the U.S. forged with the Sunni insurgents of the Awakening Movement. Deep distrust remains between the Awakening Movement, many of whose members were aligned with the Saddam regime, and the Shi’ite dominated Malikigovernment….. But it may not be the situation on the ground in Iraq that determines the future of the U.S. military mission there. For one thing, the fragile calm in Iraq coincides with an increasingly perilous Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan,……Then, there’s the financial crisis and looming globalrecessionthat will inevitably impose a far greater austerity on Washington. America’s military deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan are expected to cost close to $200 billion for 2008 alone, and maintaining that commitment will become considerably more burdensome as Washington is forced to funnel many hundreds of billions of dollars into simply averting financial collapse….”
U.S. policies may have contributed to Iran revolution, study says
By Borzou Daragahi
Los Angeles Times, 17 October 2008
A new report based on previously classified documents suggests that the Nixon and Ford administrations created conditions that helped destabilize Iran in the late 1970s and contributed to the country’s Islamic Revolution.
A trove of transcripts, memos and other correspondence show sharp differences over rising oil prices developing between the Republican administrations and Mohammed RezaShahPahlavi in the mid-1970s, says a report to be published today in the fall issue of Middle East Journal, an academic journal published by the Washington-based Middle East Institute, a think tank.
The report, after two years of research by scholar Andrew Scott Cooper, zeros in on the role of White House policymakers — including Donald H. Rumsfeld, then a top aidetoPresident Ford — hoping to roll back oil prices and curb the shah’s ambitions, despite warnings by then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that such a move might precipitate the rise of a “radical regime” in Iran.
“The shah is a tough, mean guy. But he is our real friend,” Kissinger warned Ford, who was considering options to press the monarch into lowering oil prices, in an August 1974 conversation cited by the report. “We can’t tackle him without breaking him.”
Analysts and historians often contend that President Carter, a Democrat, fumbled Iran, allowing the country to eventually become one of the chief U.S. opponents in the region. But the report suggests that his Republican predecessors not only contributed to the shah’s fall but also were inching toward a realignment with Saudi Arabia as the key U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf…
FT interview: Fouad Siniora, Lebanese prime minister
Published: October 16 2008
…. Q: Do you think the March 14 [ruling coalition] can win?
A:I strongly believe that the commitment of the majority of the people is in getting back to a situation where the state is in control. If it is a state run by Hizbollah, fine. But somebody is in charge. There is one captain. This situation is unsustainable where there are many captains.
I believe in March 14 and the people who subscribe to what they say it stands for: democracy, openness, tolerance, independence, excellent relations with Syria. I am fully in favour of excellent relations with Syria but on the basis of mutual respect and on an equal basis. Equal partners. Syria is our neighbour and we have a history of thousands of years together, and we will be together for thousands more. Israel is an enemy, Syria is not an enemy. But we cannot and we should not continue to be a satellite state to Syria.
These Sunni extremists are a scarecrow. I don’t mean that there are no Salafis [al-Qaeda-linked fundamentalist Sunni Muslims]. There are Salafis. But they are really creating this giant and magnifying it in order to create a perception that there is a need for a policeman. And at the same time, to intimidate. [If] they are coming from Anbar [in Iraq] they are coming from where, through where? They are coming through Syria? They are not coming by parachute. Instead of waiting for them to come in from Lebanon, they would do better to control them when they are coming from Iraq. All the people caught or killed in Nahr al-Bared did not come via legal Lebanese points of entry, they came through these porous points.
Q: Are you ready for security coordination with Syria?
A: On any issue we are fully ready to talk like two mature brothers. Syria is not an enemy it is a sister country, we are ready to co-operate on any matter that is good for both countries with all sincerity and openness. But as two mature brothers.
Q: It is surprising that you say Syria is not an enemy, when there is a suspicion that Syria was responsible for the assassination of Rafiq Hariri?
A: This matter is in the hands of the investigators and there is an international tribunal…..
Peres: Drop in global oil price serious blow to Iran
Haaretz.com, 17 October 2008
President Shimon Peres on Friday said the global financial crisis will seriously damage the Iranian economy, saying “the recent drop in global oil prices is a serious blow for Iran.”
Sitting under the sukkah of Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the president further predicted that Tehran “won’t be able to bear the increased spending in military and to continue its nuclear armament all at the same time.”
If oil prices continue to fall, Peres said, Iran will not be able to fund terrorist activities.
He added that Israel should become a central player in the field of alternative energy, saying “Israel should run ahead. We will overcome the Iranians and all other threats.”
Peres also visited the sukkot of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger.
The issue of Hamas’ release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit also came up during Peres’ conversations with the rabbis. The president said that he “welcomes the renewal of talks on the issue of Gilad Shalit.”
“However,” the president added, “it is a complicated matter that could yet take time because we are dealing with a group of crazed extremists who do not hesitate to deal in human life for personal gain.”
UN rejects Iran’s bid to join Security Council
By Shlomo Shamir and Reuters
Haaretz.com, 17 October 2008
The UN General Assembly on Friday elected Japan, Turkey, Austria, Mexico and Uganda to seats on the Security Council for 2009-10, rejecting bids by Iran and Iceland.
As expected, heavyweight Japan defeated Iran, which is under Security Council sanctions because its nuclear program, for an Asian seat coming vacant on Jan. 1. Japan had 158 votes from the 192-member assembly and Iran only 32, mostly from Arab countries.
In a three-way contest for two European seats, Iceland – an apparent victim of its grave financial crisis – scored 87 votes, well short of the two-thirds majority required. Turkey went through easily and Austria by a narrow margin.
The election of Mexico and Uganda had been virtually assured since they were unopposed in their regional groupings.
The General Assembly votes once a year for five of the 10 non-permanent seats on the 15-nation council, the powerhouse of the United Nations with the ability to impose sanctions and dispatch peacekeepers.
The new make-up of the council is seen as favorable to Israel, after South Africa, which has championed a persistently anti-Israel policy, stepped down.
Prof. Gabriela Shalev, the Israeli ambassador to the UN, said that the international community demonstrated responsibility for preventing the accession of a “state that endangers peace and supports terror.”
“The notion of considering the nomination of a state that has threatened to wipe Israel off the map is unacceptable,” she said.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni welcomed Japan’s accession to the council.
“By thwarting Iran’s bid to join the Security Council, the United Nations managed to save face,” Livni said.
She also urged the international community to “continue its efforts to restrict Tehran by any means possible.”
The permanent members, which have veto power, are the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China.
U.S. and British envoys were exultant about the low vote for Iran. British Ambassador Sir John Sawers said Iran had been “thrashed.”
Bush backs Golan-for-Iran offer?
JTA.org, 17 October 2008
President Bush offered Syria an Iran-for-Golan deal, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported.
Al Jarida said Friday that Bush made the offer in a handwritten letter delivered through Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president.
According to accounts of the story appearing in Israeli media, Bush wants an accelerated Syria-Israel peace process that would give Syria the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War, for Syria’s agreement to distance itself from Iran.
If true, the proposal would mark an about-face in the U.S. position, which has been to discourage Israel from talks it is already pursuing with Syria. Israel wants to reduce Iran’s influence in the region, but until now the Bush administration’s position has been that the Bashar Assad regime is not a reliable partner.
Syria indicts opposition figure for spreading ‘lies’
AFP, 16 October 2008
A Syrian author and opposition figure has been indicted on a charge of spreading lies undermining the state, a human rights group said on Thursday.
Habib Saleh, who was arrested in May “has been indicted for having spread lies aimed at weakening national sentiment,” the Syrian League for the Defence of Human Rights (SLDHR) said.
Saleh, 61, is also accused of having provoked “dissension aimed at triggering confessionalstrife,” and is due to appear before a Damascus criminal court, at an unspecified time, a statement added.
Syrian human rights groups said earlier this year that Saleh disappeared after being arrested on May 7 by the security forces in the northwest town of Tartus as he was walking through the market.
He went missing after having posted on the Internet political articles calling for the establishment of reform and democracy in Syria.
In 2001 he was arrested along with nine other opposition militants and jailed for three years. He was again arrested in May 2005 for posting “lies” on the Internet and released in September 2007.
Amnesty slams probe into Canadians jailed in Syria
Reuters, 17 October 2008
Three Canadians who say they were tortured in Syria have been denied due process and fairness by a commission investigating Ottawa’s role in their detention, Amnesty International said on Friday.
Retired Supreme Court Judge Frank Iacobucci, who headed the 22-month inquiry, is due to deliver his report to the government on Monday. A shorter version — stripped of sensitive information — will then be made public.
Ahmad El Maati, Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin were arrested separately when entering Syria between 2001 and 2003. They say they were tortured and interrogated, and some of the questions they were asked were based on information that could only have come from Canada…
“…On Iran, Olmertarguedthat Israel had lost its “sense of proportion” when stating that it would deal with Iran militarily. “What we can do with the Palestinians, the Syrians and the Lebanese, we cannot do with the Iranians,” Olmert said, in stark contradiction to his own earlier warnings on Iran as well as the rhetoric of many of his hawkish cabinet members. “Let’s be more modest, and act within the bounds of our realistic capabilities,” he cautioned. Olmert’s interview dashed the hopes of neoconservatives in Washington hoping for an Israeli post-November surprise through the bombing of Iran’s nuclear facilities …Olmert’s statement may signal a long-overdue shift towards Israel’s Plan B on Iran….. Warning about being “boxed into the corner,” a recent Haaretz editorial offered a clear break from Israel’s Plan A: “The best chance of calming the atmosphere and reducing the threat lies in starting negotiations between the United States and Iran… [I]t is the only route not yet tried and is likely to help moderate Iranian policy…”