Posted by Joshua on Monday, December 28th, 2009
Year End Assessment: Over the next week – with the help of readers – Syria Comment will compose a retrospective of 2009 for Syria. We will consider – foreign policy, economic and cultural changes. To treat foreign policy, which normally gets the lions share of attention, we will review relations with each of Syria’s neighbors and with the states that have a large impact on it. I hope readers will add paragraphs in the comment section that I can copy and past into post. Comments should be directed toward one particular section so that they will fit neatly into the overall structure of the post. If they treat several topics in one paragraph, it will be hard to find the right place for them.
Talking to Syria: What About?“,
Peter Harling in The Huffington Post, 2009-12-26
Nine months into an engagement process with numerous bilateral meetings, the U.S.-Syria relationship is not going well. The administration has yet to even clarify what precise, workable objectives it seeks to achieve in talking to Syria. Renewing …
Syria launches first economic arbitration center - Some suggest that a serious attempt to establish judicial oversight of commercial law in Syria could bring the economy to a “tipping point,” which will usher in a period of more rapid economic growth and foreign investment.
Two Stages of the Syrian Ba’ath, Robin Yassin-Kassab [Qunfuz] Very good short assessment.
Iran: The police opened fire on protesters, killing at least 10 people, including a nephew of the opposition leader, as demonstrators flooded the streets.”
UAE likely to unveil nuclear deal result on Sunday
SEOUL, Sat Dec 26, 2009, Reuters
SEOUL (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates is likely to announce the results of one of the world’s biggest nuclear power contracts later Sunday, South Korean media reported.
South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak is currently visiting the UAE in a push to win one of the largest-ever energy deals of the Middle East estimated to be worth $40 billion to build several nuclear reactors.
“A South Korean consortium is very likely to win the nuclear power deal issued by the UAE,” Korean news agency Yonhap said on Sunday, quoting sources in the UAE. Another local media agency YTN said the announcement would be made later Sunday at the earliest.
The Korean consortium includes Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO), Hyundai Engineering and Construction, Samsung C&T Corp, and Doosan Heavy Industries.
Other bidders for the massive project include a consortium of General Electric Co and Westinghouse Electric, a subsidiary of Toshiba Corp, and a French consortium led by EDF and GDF Suez and including Areva and oil group Total.
“If selected as the final business partner, South Korea will be taking its first steps from being a nuclear power importer toward being one of the world’s top 3 nuclear power developers, which will be the historic milestone,” said Kim Eun-hye, a Korean presidential office spokeswoman.
The French consortium was initially seen as a front-runner for the deal but it recently appeared to be losing ground to the Korean group.
The UAE is the world’s third-largest oil exporter, but is planning to build a number of nuclear reactors to meet an expected need for an additional 40,000 megawatts of power.
Israeli settlers burn olive groves in ‘price tag’ retaliation attack
Sheera Frenkel in Jerusalem in The Times, London, July 21, 2009
Israeli settlers on horseback set fire to fields of olive trees and stoned Palestinian cars in the West Bank yesterday, apparently in response to the Israeli army’s removal of an illegal outpost in the area. (see photo here)
At least 1,500 Palestinian-owned trees were destroyed and two Palestinians were injured in the attack, near the city of Nablus, by about 30 settlers, security officials said. Farmers fought fires late into the afternoon, as fears grew that the flames would spread across the dry summer fields.
It was the most recent example of the “price tag” policy, in which settlers seek revenge by attacking Palestinians for every outpost that is demolished. “The goal is to create a price for each evacuation, causing Israeli authorities to think twice about carrying them out,” the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din said.
A settler activist, Itamar Ben-Gvir, put it more directly: “We will not be suckers for the Israeli Government. We will not sit idly by and allow them to remove our homes,”…
Mandour Dawish and Hanni Darawshi from Awarta village took photos of the settlers and the fires. While doing this the army arrived and detained the 2 men for 2 hours and wiped the photos from one camera. They were unaware that the men had two cameras. The army did nothing to prevent the fire despite witness’s statements and photographs of the settler attack.
Awarta village is at the base one of the many expanding and aggressive settlement, illegal under international law. The olive tree’s are vital to the villages’ economy and 10,000 dunums fall near the settlement where it is forbidden for Palestinian farmers to get to their land to harvest or tend to the tree’s. Just 2 months ago settlers attacked a farmer and stole his donkey while he was attending his trees in the area.
Growing violence between Palestinians and Israelis – ” Hamas Officials’ Deaths Stoke Tensions. Beirut Bombing Is the Latest Attack Against Iran-Backed Militants in Lebanon and Syria; Israel Denies Involvement
Lieberman: No peace deal this decade
Herb Keinon , THE JERUSALEM POST\Dec. 28, 2009
Even as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is trying to lure the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday that he does not see any chance for a comprehensive agreement in the next 10 to 20 years.
“We think that if we make more concessions everything will work out,” he said at a speech to the country’s 140 ambassadors and consul-generals who are participating in a conference this week in Jerusalem. “Even if we return the last grain of sand, and divide Jerusalem, and agree to all the demands, nothing will change and we will be in the same situation.”
Lieberman cast doubt on the ability of the Palestinian leadership to ever reach an end of the conflict with Israel.
“Israel has proved more than any other country that it is ready for painful concessions,” he said. “We brought here a group of terrorists from Tunisia, we gave them guns and a government and even gave up Gush Katif.”
Lieberman said that the leadership of the PA was neither ready nor willing to “sign on a peace agreement whose significance is an end to the conflict. It doesn’t matter what we offer, they will always find an excuse to say ‘no.’”
As proof of his thesis, Lieberman pointed to former prime minister Ehud Olmert who he said agreed to give the Palestinians “everything, including Jerusalem, refugees and a return to the 1967 borders – and nothing happened.”
The foreign minister said Netanyahu went a long distance toward the Palestinians by delivering his Bar-Ilan University speech on June 14, in which he spoke of a demilitarized Palestinian state, removed numerous roadblocks throughout the West Bank, and declared a 10-month moratorium on housing starts.
“We need to tell the world that there are no ‘magic solutions,’” Lieberman said. “We will not get to a permanent agreement in the coming decade, or the one after that. The Palestinians are even unable to reach a stable peace agreement among themselves.”
Lieberman also used the forum to make it perfectly clear that he was opposed to indirect talks with Syria, and especially opposed to mediation from Turkey, whose prime minister has lambasted Israel continuously over the last year.
“I am not picking a fight with anyone,” Lieberman said, “but unsuitable things were said by the prime minister of Turkey.”
In an apparent reference to the recent meeting in Copenhagen between President Shimon Peres and Turkish President Abdullah Gul, Lieberman said, “If anyone thinks that there will be meetings at the highest levels, and everything will be okay, they should forget about it.
“As long as I am foreign minister, and as long as Israel Beiteinu is the senior member of the coalition, there will not be Turkish mediation between us and Syria, but rather only direct talks, in Jerusalem and in Damascus.”
And there is a current spy case involving Israel which clearly is being swept under the rug. Stewart Nozette, a scientist working for the US government, was arrested on October 19th and charged with conspiring to commit espionage. Nozette was caught in an FBI sting operation in which the Bureau officer pretended to be an Israeli Mossad spy. Nozette enthusiastically embraced the offer to cooperate, demanding in return an Israeli passport and money for the information that he would provide. The US media quickly went into damage mode, the New York Times headlining its coverage “The Scientist Who Mistook Himself for a Spy.” Many in the media quickly noted that the FBI agent was not actually Mossad, meaning that Israel was not directly involved. The convenient spin ignored the fact the Nozette told the agent that he had already “communicated classified information” to Israel for many years through contacts in the Israel Aerospace Industries, for which he received $225,000. Nozette stated that he believed he had already been spying for Israel, telling the pretend Mossad but really FBI officer “I thought I was working for you already.” …