Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, June 30th, 2009
Regional players once again swung into action amidst reports that a Saudi envoy will soon visit Syria to discuss, apart from bilateral relations and the Middle East situation, Lebanon in light of the upcoming speakership election and formation of a new government….
As Safir said Hariri is surely to become Lebanon’s new prime minister before Monday while parliament, which is scheduled to meet Thursday, will re-elect current Speaker Nabih Berri for a fifth term in office.
The paper quoted Palestinian officials close to President Mahmoud Abbas as saying that Saudi King Abdullah has expressed during a recent summit between them his wish to visit Syria.
The officials said Abdullah conveyed his wish to the Syrian leadership.
They said the course of the birth of the new Lebanon cabinet headed by Hariri “will be a decisive point in terms of setting a date for Abdullah’s Damascus visit.”
As Safir quoted visitors coming from Syria as saying that Damascus welcomes Hariri’s nomination as Lebanon’s next premier, adding that future relations between the two neighboring countries await the new cabinet’s policy statement.
The daily Al Akhbar, meanwhile, quoted Lebanese sources as saying a summit is likely to take place between the Saudi monarch and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “in an effort to convince Damascus to cooperate with the Hariri government.”
It also quoted Arab and Egyptian sources as saying Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak supports Hariri’s nomination for the post “in the framework of a Saudi-Egyptian consensus and non-objection from Syria.”
Al Akhbar said Mubarak encouraged Hariri to “take a goodwill gesture toward Syria.”
The regional action coincides with ongoing contacts that should culminate in a meeting between Hariri and Berri ahead of Thursday’s parliament session.
Once More the Smell of Falafel
by Zvi Bar’el (Haaretz)
Syria, like Israel or the Palestinians, gives nothing away for free. For the revival of ties with the United States it pays in hard currency at the Iraqi border, and by avoiding any involvement in the Lebanese elections, which led to the victory of Saad Hariri’s coalition. It will also require full payment for peace with Israel. ….
Last week Syrian President Bashar Assad said once more that Israel is not a partner for peace. This declaration was not intended for the Israeli people to press their government. Assad is addressing Washington when he says “take this recalcitrant player and start shaking him up.” … On this front, a relatively easy one, Washington appears to be in no hurry.
Making peace is not a bitter medicine that needs to be taken in doses. Multilateral peace talks have been held in the past; the impression is that even without a detailed plan the Mideast is preparing to give the peace process another chance. But this time Israel will find it very hard to say the Syrians and Palestinians are not “ready” for peace. The Americans have matured the Arab side quite rapidly, and Israel needs to hurry and respond in kind.
What we need is not a competition on who is a refusenik, but an Israeli diplomatic initiative. … Not a clinical evaluation of the degree to which Assad is serious, but the reestablishment of the negotiating teams, the rallying of Turkey to set up the venue, and a declaration of principles on a withdrawal from the Golan Heights. There is no other way to start the overall process, and it might spur a revolution in the Middle East…..
I thank Moran Banai for many of these links. She edits the Middle East Bulletin for the Center for American Progress in Washington. See www.middleeastprogress.org
An Ambassador to Syria and a Message to Iran —The National, Editorial
Whether Socialism: Syria Baath Party Debates Renewal —by Ayman Abalnour for Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
Edward Djerejian, former U.S. ambassador to Syria and Israel; former assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, “Job Advice for the New Ambassador to Syria,” interview with National Public Radio, June 25, 2009:
“When I was assigned to Damascus in 1988, under President Reagan and, later, President Bush, 41, we had a very adversarial situation between the two countries, as we do today, and admittedly in a different historic context, but we had major issues: the civil war in Lebanon, the Israeli-Syrian relationship, issues involving Syrian Jewry, et cetera. … But yet, we engaged. We engaged in a very direct, very authoritative manner with the president of the United States and the secretary of state fully behind the dialogue. And we were able, in that context, to achieve results … helping to end the civil war in Lebanon, getting Syria on board our coalition against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, getting freedom of travel of Syrian Jews. And the big prize was getting the Syrians and—especially then President Hafez al-Assad—to agree to face to face direct negotiations with Israel. So I am a very strong proponent of dialogue with our adversaries. I support President Obama’s initiatives for a dialogue with Syria and Iran, for example, but as long as that dialogue is conducted in a very authoritative and tough-minded manner.”
Israel to leave Shebaa after peace deal – UN envoy
By Patrick Galey,Daily Star staff, Monday, June 29, 2009
BEIRUT: Syria will hand back the Shebaa Farms as soon as it signs a peace deal with Israel, according to a senior UN official on Saturday. The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams said that Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem personally indicated to him that Syria considers the Farms to be Lebanese territory during talks this weekend. ….
Chinese exports could crush fragile markets Financial Times
By Ben Simpfendorfer , Financial Times, 29 Jun 2009
.– Syria’s government imposed tariffs on Chinese textile imports in response to rising factory closures in Aleppo, the country’s historic centre for textile production…..
The writer is chief China economist for The Royal Bank of Scotland and author of The New Silk Road
Sami Moubayed explains why: “Michael Jackson will be missed, and forever remembered, by his Arab and Syrian fans.”
Sex Matters:Low birthrates aren’t the result of economic growth and political stability; they’re a prerequisite. BY MALCOLM POTTS, MARTHA CAMPBELL | JUNE 22, 2009 / Foreign Policy
There is a well-known story about how a society stabilizes its population. As a country transitions from poverty to affluence, birthrates plunge—from six or eight children per woman to just about two. Population growth levels off. Prosperity and education, the story goes, are just about the best form of birth control there is. But this tale gets it backward. Low birthrates aren’t a consequence of national wealth; rather, they’re needed to create it. Soaring unemployment, endemic poverty, and flailing schools are quite simply impossible to combat when every year adds more and more people…..
[Iran has reduced its birthrate dramatically and should be ready for economic growth according to this article. Read why.]
Reuters– A joint venture led by Greek engineering firm Metka (MTKr.AT) signed a deal worth more than 640 million euros to build a natural gas-fired power plant in Syria, Metka said on Monday.
The project involves the construction, engineering and procurement of a 700 megawatt plant 35 km south of Damascus. Metka has a 75 percent stake in the venture with Italy’s Ansaldo Energia, a unit of Italy’s Finmeccanica (SIFI.MI), holding 25 percent.
Have we found the body of St Paul?
By A N Wilson Last updated at 2:43 AM on 30th June 2009
Ruthless, half mad, he stoned Christians to death. He also founded modern civilisation. And until yesterday, his fate was one of history’s great mysteries…
Deeply moved, the Pope delivered the news on Sunday that fragments of bones found in the tomb traditionally considered to be that of Saint Paul did indeed date from the first or second century.
Which means that, in all likelihood, they are the bones of the Apostle Paul – bones that have lain there for 1,950 years yet, astonishingly, have only been discovered in our time….
Also see this article [in arabic] about President Assad’s meeting with Christian religious leaders
Iraq after the US withdrawal
Anthony Shadid believes the situation in Iraq will get worse following the US withdrawal but explains that few foreign reporters will be there to report on it: “We are withdrawing, in more ways than one, even as the mud gets wetter.”
Joost Hiltermann writes:
“Much could go wrong, and much probably will. The warning signs will include flawed elections, an end to political negotiations, a return to sectarian fighting in Baghdad, and a renewed refugee flow. Or Iraqis could manage to keep talking and somehow muddle through. Either way, this week’s much-ballyhooed deadline won’t decide much of anything.”
ANDREW J. BACEVICH: Professor of history and international relations at Boston University; author of “The Limits of Power; The End of American Exceptionalism”
American interests are best served by sustaining the pretense that “the surge has worked.” By ignoring the absence of any meaningful political reconciliation among rival Iraqi factions and by pretending that Iraqis should find tolerable levels of violence that would be deemed intolerable anywhere else, the Obama administration may yet be able to extricate the United States from a war that has failed utterly: no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction found, no ties between Saddam Hussein and the jihadists established, no democratic transformation of the Islamic world set in motion, no road to peace in Jerusalem discovered in downtown Baghdad.
JOHN A. NAGL: President of the Center for a New American Security
It is time for America to take the long view. Neither Iraq’s nor America’s stake in a stable, peaceful Middle East will vanish when the last American combat brigade departs. American policymakers must advance U.S. interests in Iraq and the Middle East through a long-term, low-profile engagement to help resolve Iraq’s internal challenges, strengthen its government and economic institutions, and integrate it as a constructive partner in the region. While shaping this new relationship will be difficult, neglecting it will have serious consequences for U.S. national security.
Israel and Palestine
MODIIN ILLIT, West Bank, June 29 — Chaim Hanfling knows a lot about this settlement’s population boom. Six of his 11 siblings have moved here from Jerusalem in recent years to take advantage of the lower land prices, and at age 29, he has added four children of his own. (By Howard Schneider, The Washington Post)
NUCLEAR WEAPONS KEY TO ISRAELI RETENTION OF CAPTURED TERRITORY
by Grant F. Smith
June 20, 2009, OpEd News
“A newly declassified 1960 report on Israel’s nukes underscores role in foreign policy “assertiveness.”
“Possession of a nuclear weapon capability, or even the prospect of achieving it, would clearly give Israel a greater sense of security, self-confidence, and assertiveness…Israel would be less inclined than ever to make concessions…” are conclusions of a CIA Special National Intelligence Estimate released on June 5, 2009.
The December 1960 intelligence analysis, parts which are still classified, offers timely context as the Obama administration struggles to slow booming settlement activities in lands Israel captured during preemptive attacks in 1967.
Do nuclear weapons enter the calculation as Israel continues to reject pressure from the very country providing billions in yearly foreign aid, preferential treatment of exports and US charitable donations? Yes, is the clear conclusion.
For years the CIA resisted public calls to declassify files about the financing, development, deployment and strategy behind Israel’s nuclear weapons. This was in line with the policy of “strategic ambiguity.” Both the US and Israel officially refused to confirm or deny the existence of a nuclear arsenal. Such secrecy has been used to justify military aid to Israel despite explicit bans on proliferators legislated by Senators Symington and Glenn in the 1970s. Recent public confirmations of Israel’s nuclear status by US officials could enable legal challenges and new public scrutiny of taxpayer funds flowing to Israel.
The authors of the 1960s CIA estimate focus on the military deterrent nature of Israel’s nuclear capability. Nevertheless the possibility of subtle nuclear blackmail in return for diplomatic and foreign aid support was implicit. The declassified CIA report reveals that Israeli “assertiveness” and reluctance to negotiate could be empowered by nuclear weapons. Longstanding Israeli rejection of UN, US and human rights initiatives partially depend upon the influence of its secret arsenal. Success also depends on regional nuclear hegemony, explaining Israel’s ongoing drive to focus world attention on Iran’s civilian nuclear program.
Ironically, Israel may now be driving regional nuclear proliferation as it successfully demonstrates how such weapons bestow the ability to resist outside pressures and international accountability. Unlike Iran, Israel has never signed the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty. Recent estimates conclude Israel has deployed approximately 200 nuclear bombs and warheads.