Posted by Alex on Tuesday, May 15th, 2007
Posted by ALEX
Nir Rosen discussing the Iraqi Refugee crisis at length in the New York Times:
"At a meeting in mid-April in Geneva, held by António Guterres, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, the numbers presented confirmed what had long been suspected: the collapse of Iraq had created a refugee crisis, and that crisis was threatening to precipitate the collapse of the region. The numbers dwarfed anything that the Middle East had seen since the dislocations brought on by the establishment of Israel in 1948. In Syria, there were estimated to be 1.2 million Iraqi refugees. There were another 750,000 in Jordan, 100,000 in Egypt, 54,000 in Iran, 40,000 in Lebanon and 10,000 in Turkey. The overall estimate for the number of Iraqis who had fled Iraq was put at two million by Guterres. The number of displaced Iraqis still inside Iraq’s borders was given as 1.9 million. This would mean about 15 percent of Iraqis have left their homes…
Many of Iraq’s neighbors initially welcomed the refugees. These countries were motivated by self-interest as well as by generosity. Certain political refugees, like Baathist officials, who were among the first to leave Iraq, had a political use in negotiations with the American-led occupation and the Iraqi government that succeeded it. And the well-to-do early refugees — those who could meet Jordan’s requirement of $100,000 in the bank to qualify for a residency permit, for example — brought much-needed capital. But the numbers and the welcome became unsustainable: Jordan and Egypt have made it very difficult for Iraqis to enter, and even Syria, with a long history of welcoming refugees, has passed regulations, like restrictions on the purchase of property and on access to free health care, that are intended to ensure that Iraqi refugees are only temporary residents. Iraq’s neighbors take the position that Iraqi refugees are not in fact refugees at all, because refugee status enables refugees to make claims on the host country."
George Ajjan, a Republican of Syrian origin, attacks the Bush Administration's Syria/Lebanon policy in his letter to Liz Cheney, published by antiwar.com, in response to a Washington Post oped from last month:
"I'd rather reflect on your advice, starting with the comprehensive list of actions you suggest should be taken against Syria, or How to try to beat Syria into submission, but fail miserably, in 7 easy steps. One of these is for the US to "implement all remaining elements of the Syria Accountability Act and launch an aggressive effort to empower the Syrian opposition." I could insert a standard libertarian argument here to explain why the unilateral sanctions proposed by the Syria Accountability Act don't work, but I won't waste your time.
…I also found your mention of the American Revolution quite bizarre in the context of Lebanese political assassinations…It is also a shame that you did not continue this curious analogy and bring more personalities into the mix, such as Michel Aoun, so adored by American "conservatives" like Joe Lieberman, Richard Perle, and Chuck Schumer – all Board Advisors for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies – that he was a invited to Washington in 2003 to deliver a lecture to that organization…Sadly, Aoun's tenure as the neoconservatives' "Maronite of the Month" has since expired, and now he is aligned with Hezbollah in a political opposition to the "Lebanese democrats" hailed in your article. I suppose that makes him Benedict Arnold in your 1776 analogy. Then there's Samir Geagea. I'm not sure which American revolutionary he would correspond to, but it would probably be someone from the colony of Georgia.
Furthermore, Liz, I question in general the historical validity of this analogy. In 1776, the United States of America, which had existed as a possession of a European power, asserted its independence and was born. Lebanon also did that, but it was not in 2005, it was in 1943, when Lebanon declared itself a Republic independent from France, for whom it was an intra-war mandate. Thus, to a true Lebanese patriot, your analogy would be exclusionary, revisionist, and downright insulting. What about the many "Lebanese democrats" who gave their lives not only in Lebanon's struggle for national independence over 60 years ago, but in its vicious 15 year civil war?
…Your constituency consists of one very well placed person. Thus, these foreign agents, who care nothing for America and are only interested in grinding their own axes, view you as the cheapest date in Washington. They are your "allies." And by "allies," I mean the people who throw flowers upon you today but will stab you in the back as soon as you are no longer useful to their shortsighted, vengeance-driven worldview. Thus, your proposals basically sound like a bad remix of an even worse one-hit wonder from the early eighties. Remember, Liz: politics in Lebanon are a lot like that country's infamous "Dog River" – the scum rises to the top. You may wish to take a swim there, but don't drag the rest of America with you."
Stephen Zunes says "U.S. Blocks Israel-Syria Talks", from Foreign Policy in Focus:
"Even as American officials reluctantly agreed last month to include Syrian representatives in multiparty talks on Iraqi security issues, the Bush administration continues to block Israel from resuming negotiations with Syria over its security concerns. In 2003, President Bashar al-Assad offered to resume peace talks with Israel where they had left off three years earlier, but Israel, backed by the Bush administration, refused. Assad eventually agreed to reenter peace negotiations without preconditions, but even these overtures were rejected.
Beginning in 2005, with the knowledge of their governments, private Israeli and Syrian negotiators began crafting a draft treaty to end the decades-long conflict between the two countries. The Bush administration, however, downplayed the talks’ significance. Following last summer’s war in Lebanon, several prominent members of the Israeli cabinet – including Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Internal Security Minister Avid Dichter – called on their government to resume negotiations with Syria. Although Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni appointed a senior aide to prepare for possible talks, such initiatives did not get any support from Washington. According to the Jewish Daily Forward, it appeared that “Israel would be prepared to open a channel with Syria but does not want to upset the Bush administration.”
Indeed, when Israeli officials asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about pursuing exploratory talks with Syria, her answer, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, was, “don’t even think about it.” Similarly, the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reports that Israeli government officials “understood from President Bush that the United States would not take kindly to reopening a dialogue between Israel and Syria."
From Reuters: Lebanon president warns U.N. over Hariri court
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanese President Emile Lahoud warned the United Nations on Tuesday against setting up a tribunal for suspects in the 2005 killing of former premier Rafik al-Hariri.
In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Lahoud said there could be renewed instability in Lebanon if the U.N. Security Council moved to set up the court as requested by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
Siniora wrote to Ban on Monday urging the United Nations to form the tribunal unilaterally because he said efforts to secure full Lebanese approval had hit a dead end.
Lahoud said any move by the Security Council to set up the tribunal unilaterally “would imply a full bypass of the constitutional mechanisms in Lebanon.”
That “would not only threaten Lebanon’s stability … but would as well hamper the court’s judicial capacities to hold an impartial trial,” wrote Lahoud, quoting from a letter he sent to Ban in February.
Siniora was “falsifying facts to drag the Security Council … into siding with one Lebanese party against the other,” he added.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has refused to convene parliament to approve the court plans because he, like Lahoud, considers Siniora’s government unconstitutional.
Both Berri and Lahoud are allies of Syria. Lebanese leaders who back Siniora’s government accuse them of acting on Syrian orders to derail the court. They accuse Damascus of the Hariri killing, which was followed by attacks on other anti-Syrian figures. Syria denies involvement.
The opposition, which also includes pro-Syria Hezbollah, have said they accept the idea of the court but fear it will be used as a political tool and want to discuss its mandate.
The United States, which backs Siniora, said last week it would push for the court’s creation.
Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs David Welch arrived in Beirut on Tuesday and is expected to discuss the tribunal with Lebanese leaders.
L'Orient le Jour: A Resolution on the Tribunal is not imminent
De son côté, M. Karel de Gucht, ministre belge des Affaires étrangères, qui accompagne à New York le roi Albert II et la reine de Belgique, a indiqué à L’Orient-Le Jour, à l’issue de sa rencontre avec Ban Ki-moon et Zalmay Khalilzad, représentant permanent des États-Unis auprès de l’ONU, avoir « très brièvement parlé de l’éventualité d’une résolution portant notamment sur le tribunal Hariri ».
« En ce qui concerne, le recours au chapitre VII de la Charte de l’ONU, nous verrons dans les semaines à venir comment approcher cette question et comment y apporter la meilleure solution », a-t-il ajouté.
Par ailleurs, un diplomate de l’ONU a indiqué à L’Orient-Le Jour qu’« il est prématuré de parler d’une réunion du Conseil de sécurité sur la question du tribunal ». Selon lui, « la lettre de Siniora devra être étudiée par les différentes capitales ». « Nous sommes en consultations constantes avec certains membres du Conseil de sécurité et avec les autorités libanaises pour la mise en place d’une option possible dans le cadre d’une résolution sur la question du tribunal. Notre approche doit être prudente et bien étudiée avant de nous adresser à la Russie, la Chine, l’Afrique du Sud, l’Indonésie et le Qatar », a encore indiqué ce diplomate. « Rien n’est encore imminent, a-t-il poursuivi. Nous avons encore quelques jours avant de décider. Mais en tout cas, pas cette semaine. »
The Daily Star covers Assistant Secretary of State David Welch in Lebanon, including a meeting with Maronite Patriarch Sfeir.
"BEIRUT: The US State Department's top official in the Middle East said Tuesday his government remained committed in its support for Premier Fouad Siniora's government and to what he described as Lebanon's advance toward "full democracy." "The United States' commitment to Lebanon remains firm, enduring and non-negotiable," Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch said following a meeting with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir at Bkirki.
Welch reiterated his government's support for timely presidential elections and for one government in Lebanon. He said that for members of Parliament to meet and elect a president without pressure would be a "significant step."
"There is only one government and there should only be one government," Welch said. Leaders from both of the country's main political camps have warned in recent weeks that a failure by Parliament to elect a new president as planned in September could give rise to a double government.
Welch arrived at Rafik Hariri International Airport Tuesday afternoon and was whisked away amid tight security to the US Embassy in Awkar, where he met with pro-government MPs.
Welch's visit came a day after Siniora sent a letter to the UN seeking help with the establishment of the international court to try suspects in the killing of former Premier Rafik Hariri.
Welch said he was confident the tribunal would "see the light of day," pointing to an earlier agreement on the issue between the current Cabinet and the UN.
Welch also met with parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri in Qoreitem on Tuesday, and was also scheduled to meet with Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Democratic Gathering leader MP Walid Jumblatt.
The Central News Agency (CNA) reported Tuesday that members of the parliamentary majority, in discussions with Welch, had stressed the need to expedite the Hariri tribunal.
Welch was scheduled to meet Wednesday with Speaker Nabih Berri, Siniora and former President Amin Gemayel.
Welch told reporters at Bkirki that his government "will continue to support and stand with the Lebanese people as they complete their historic transformation to full democracy."
"I shared with his eminence the belief of the US that the Lebanese have a unique opportunity at this time to take their future in their hands by electing a new president – on time, in accordance with the Constitution and free of outside interference," he said.
Welch also conveyed birthday greetings to Sfeir "from US President George W. Bush, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the American people."
According to the CNA report, Berri conveyed a desire to visit Bkirki through the head of the Phalange Party, Karim Pakradouni, who met Sfeir Monday.
Sfeir reportedly welcomed the visit, saying that "the doors of Bkirki are open to him and to all the Lebanese."
Sfeir hoped the meeting with Berri would be "preceded by adequate preparation and agreement over the desired results of the meeting" within the framework of a joint memorandum of understanding that covers the matter of presidential polls.
Parallel to American diplomatic activity in Lebanon, Iran's ambassador to the country, Mohammed Rida Shibani, met with Hariri for an hour and a half on Tuesday afternoon. Shibani declined to comment after the meeting."
Brussels, (SANA)- Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem discussed on Monday with British Foreign Minister Mrs. Margaret Beckett bilateral relations and the latest developments in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon .
The two sides stressed the importance of Iraq's territorial integrity and independence and realizing security and stability in the country, calling for encouraging the national reconciliation efforts and taking the required steps in this regard.
On the Arab-Israeli conflict and Arab peace initiative, they underlined the necessity of implementing UN relevant resolutions and to exerting efforts to achieve the just and comprehensive peace in the region.
Regarding the situation in Lebanon, talks concentrated on the need to intensify efforts to urge the Lebanese sides to concordance in order to overcome the current situation in Lebanon.
Foreign Minister al-Moallem also met his Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos and discussed with him latest developments in the region and steps taken in this regard to find a way out of the existing situation.
Both sides discussed bilateral relations and aspects of cooperation between Syria and Spain.