Posted by Joshua on Sunday, April 5th, 2009
Erdogan Auditions as Obama Broker With Mideast Ties
By Ben Holland
April 3 (Bloomberg) — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his Middle East ties make him useful to President Barack Obama in his quest to connect with the region. Erdogan’s quarrels with the West may be his best asset.
For his first visit to the Muslim world, Obama picked a country that angered the U.S. by refusing to be a staging ground for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, reaching an energy accord with Iran over American objections and straining relations with Israel by criticizing its December incursion into Gaza.
At the same time, Turkey is cultivating Syria and Iran just as Obama, who arrives in Ankara on April 5, pursues a thaw with those traditional U.S. adversaries. And displays of independence, such as promoting Iran’s involvement in a planned gas pipeline, have enhanced Erdogan’s status with countries suspicious of the U.S.
“Turkey is key to Washington’s design to improve relations with the Muslim world,” said Josh Landis, co-director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.
Still, fulfilling that role requires some delicate calculations on both sides. “As Turkey becomes more democratic, its leaders will be forced to oppose U.S. interests in order to gain public approval,” Landis said.
Bill Rammell, Britain’s minister of state for foreign and Commonwealth affairs, said in a brief interview late last week in Damascus that despite protests to the contrary, the new U.S. administration does not object to the fledgling contacts with the political wing of the Lebanon-based Shiite Muslim group, which also has a heavily armed militia…..
France, with its deep historical and cultural ties to Lebanon, has long maintained relations with Hezbollah. Rammell said the British attempt to engage Hezbollah would proceed incrementally, in an attempt at “testing the waters.”
In a meeting last week with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, Rammell also said London was ready to engage with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which has its political headquarters in Damascus, Syria, if it renounced violence.
“I would like to talk to Hamas, but we need change before engaging in that position,” he said at the meeting.
He added that Hezbollah must also reject violence before any dialogue could broaden.
Rammell, who ended a two-day visit to Syria on Thursday, said the West must acknowledge what he described as “positive changes” that have taken place in Lebanon over the last few months, including the formation of a unity government and the appointment of a consensus president supported by U.S.-backed political groups and the Hezbollah-led camp.
Rammell noted Hezbollah’s increased involvement in Lebanon’s ordinary political life, with “Hezbollah [lawmakers] sitting side by side with their opponents” in the legislative chamber.
Lieberman Finished as Foreign Minister – Haaretz: The corruption investigation into Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is likely to produce charges of money laundering, fraud and breach of trust, police sources said Saturday, adding that questioning of the Yisrael Beiteinu leader was nearing an end…. Lieberman was first questioned on the matter in April 2007, but last week was the first time he was asked about thousands of documents obtained by investigators since then. Sources at Yisrael Beiteinu said this weekend the party would not leave the government even if Lieberman is forced to withdraw from the governing coalition during the investigation.
New Egyptian Generation Sees Little Benefit from Peace with Israel by Slackman for NYTimes
Iran Willing to Export Natural Gas to Syria, Oil Minister Says
2009-04-02, By Will Kennedy
April 2 (Bloomberg) — Iran is willing to export natural gas to Syria through a pipeline running through Turkey, Iranian Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari said today, the state run Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Assyrian Nationalists Cooperate with Kurdish PKK Insurgents Terrorism Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 8, April 3, 2009. By Wladimir van Wilgenburg
New Wave of Violence Targets Christians in Iraq
The Middle East Times
A recent string of killings in Iraq is raising fear among Iraqi Christians after four Assyrian Christians were killed in areas ranging from Kirkuk in Northern Iraq to the capital, Baghdad.
Col. Pat Lang argues that Feltman is too preoccupied with an “Iranian-Syrian Conspiracy” to be even handed in the region and carry out Obama’s objectives.
RJC curious about Carter meeting
By Eric Fingerhut
March 31, 2009
The Republican Jewish Coalition wants the White House to “disclose the role of former President Jimmy Carter” in advising the administration on “critical foreign policy issues.” That’s after Seymour Hersh, in an article in this week’s New Yorker magazine, reports that Carter and President Obama discussed the Middle East for an hour during a meeting the two men had shortly before the inauguration.
The article says Carter refused to get into any details of his meeting, but did write in an e-mail that he hoped the new President “would pursue a wide-ranging dialogue as soon as possible with the Assad government.” An understanding between Washington and Damascus, he said, “could set the stage for successful Israeli-Syrian talks.”
“Carter believes that pressuring Israel will result in peace between Israel and those still openly dedicated to her destruction,” said RJC executive director Matt Brooks. “If this is the kind of advice that President Obama is turning to, that is indeed of great concern to us, to the Jewish community, and to the vast majority of Americans who support our ally Israel.”
….The Obama administration has proceeded more cautiously with Syria. The issues were explored early this year by an Arab intermediary trusted by both sides. Through this channel, the Americans signaled their desire to talk about Syria’s role in Iraq, joint Syrian-American action against jihadists, and the future of Lebanon, including the role of Hezbollah. The emissary signaled that the United States couldn’t discuss return of the Golan Heights, which is a matter for Israel, or the international tribunal to investigate the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri, which is under U.N. jurisdiction……
President Assad is caught between America’s peaceful overtures and the bellicose language of Israel’s new leader. Donald Macintyre reports from Damascus …..
… Israel would no doubt like to see the displacement of Hamas and Islamic Jihad offices in Damascus as a precursor of any thaw. But some Western diplomats believe a more realistic olive branch might be a firm commitment to seal fully its border with Iraq to insurgents as American forces prepare to leave. “It’s a way of helping America and it’s a card that only has a limited shelf life”, said one. “They might as well play it now.” Some statements from Syrian officials have suggested it is only the US that needs to change its attitude to Syria, not vice versa.
On the other hand, John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is among those arguing that he is “willing to do the things that he needs to do” to change the relationship with the US.
Either way, average Syrians seem pleased at Bush’s replacement. “I am very happy about Obama,” said taxi driver Salah Qadri, 56. “I hope with a new [US] President things will change.” And no, on balance this was not only a matter of the US altering its attitude to Syria, “Maybe we need to change some small things on our side too.”
Netanyahu’s father discusses the peace process: excerpts from the exclusive Maariv interview (part I)
A: “I don’t see any signs that the Arabs want peace… we will face fierce attacks from the Arabs, and we must react firmly. If we don’t, they will go on and Jews will start leaving the country… we just handed them a strong blow in Gaza, and they still bargain with us over one hostage… if we gave them a blow that would really hurt them, they would have given us Gilad Shalit back.”
Q: Operation “cast Lead” was one of the worst blows we handed on a civilian population.
A: “That’s not enough. It’s possible that we should have hit harder.”….
UNRWA Breaks American Law by Holding Accounts with Commercial Bank of Syria, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon grilled on Capitol Hill.
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