Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, January 15th, 2008
The car bombing of an American Embassy car, which killed at 3 Lebanese, did not hurt any Americans. It is reminiscent of a string of previous bombings except for this time America was the target. Did it have anything to do with George Bush's tour of the Middle East? Tim Butcher of the Telegraph things so. Read: Analysis: Beirut bomb evokes terrible déjà vu.
The American Ambassador had a goodbye party arranged for him at the Phoenicia Hotel today. That farewell reception was quickly cancelled. The vehicle was returning from the airport after dropping off a U.S. official.
For Iraqi Refugees in Syria, Art May Be Avenue to New Life
by Deborah Amos at NPR Listen Now [4 min 48 sec]
Syrian refugees in Iraq present a unique problem. The UNHCR is trying to help the nearly 1,000 Syrian refugees trapped in Iraq. They are an older lot. Or else they are children of old Baathists who belonged to the Akram Haurani and Michel Aflaq wings of the party that were forced to flee Syria in the 1960s. Muslim Brothers fled in the 1970s and 1980s. Quite a few have been murdered. (I am trying to get the exact number from the UNHCR.) Some have become homeless, as they have been driven from their apartments or lost their stipends and salaries. Most do not have any papers to allow them to travel.
Bush calls IAF strike in Syria an 'important preemptive action". During his visit to Israel last week, Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert discussed the Sept. 6 attack in northern Syria, Defense News reported Monday, citing a Jerusalem official who was briefed on the talks.
Syria said on Sunday that it was waiting for the Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa to resume his efforts on pushing forward an Arab initiative aimed at ending the ongoing presidential crisis in Lebanon.
"The Arab plan is clear in its adoption of a no winner no loser stand which puts Lebanon on the road of health and stability because it will be the only winner," a foreign ministry official source was quoted as saying by the official SANA news agency.
Damascus slams Arab leaders for allowing Bush's 'criticism of Syria' A newspaper affiliated with the Syrian government on Monday slammed Arab regimes who tolerated U.S. President George W Bush's "criticism of Syria" in their own lands and what they branded "the indirect war" that Bush is drumming up.
Syrian analysts said Bush used the Arab countries' podiums during his multi-nation tour in the region to isolate Syria and orchestrate a war scenario against Iran.
The main strategic concerns of the visit is focused around enticing further hostility against Iran and securing the interests of "the Jewish community," read a front-page column in the Syrian Daily al-Thawra al-Islamiya. The newspaper added that Bush's plan for the Middle East has "clearly no intentions to implement peace."
Bassam Ishak, was about to leave for George Mason University in the United States when he was told by airport authorities. Syrian Human Rights Organisation, said one of its members, Bassam Ishak, was told by airport authorities that he was banned from travelling. A similar ban was recently slapped on seven human rights activists.
Rami Khouri in "Best and Worst America This Week" said "Washington's refusal to accept the verdict when groups like the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas were elected to power, left Bush open to accusations of hypocrisy… If you preach majority rule and the rule of law as a desirable global norm but refuse to respect it when Israeli interests are concerned, you come across as a hypocrite, at best, and a deceitful cheat, at worst…"
As President Bush travels through the Middle East, the prevailing assumption is that Arab states are primarily focused on the rising Iranian threat and that their attendance at the Annapolis conference with Israel in November was motivated by this threat. This assumption, reflected in the president’s speech in the United Arab Emirates yesterday, could be a costly mistake.
Israel and the Bush administration place great emphasis on confronting Iran’s nuclear potential and are prepared to engage in a peace process partly to build an anti-Iran coalition. Arabs see it differently. They use the Iran issue to lure Israel and the United States into serious Palestinian-Israeli peacemaking, having concluded that the perceived Iranian threats sell better in Washington and Tel Aviv than the pursuit of peace itself.
Many Arab governments are of course concerned about Iran and its role in Iraq, but not for the same reasons as Israel and the United States. Israel sees Iran’s nuclear potential as a direct threat to its security, and its support for Hezbollah and Hamas as a military challenge.
Arab governments are less worried about the military power of Hamas and Hezbollah than they are about support for them among their publics. They are less worried about a military confrontation with Iran than about Iran’s growing influence in the Arab world. In other words, what Arab governments truly fear is militancy and the public support for it that undermines their own popularity and stability.
In all this, they see Iran as a detrimental force but not as the primary cause of militant sentiment. Most Arab governments believe instead that the militancy is driven primarily by the absence of Arab-Israeli peace.
This argument has been a loser in Washington, rejected by many and not taken seriously by others. The issue of Iran gets more traction inside the Beltway. [complete article]
Nobody believes anymore what Mr. Bush is saying”
By Michael Abramowitz, Washington Post, January 14, 2008
Shortly before President Bush showed up in the region last week, human rights activist Abduljalil Alsingace tried to deliver a petition to the U.S. Embassy complaining about the lack of democracy in his native Bahrain. He thought he might have some hope, given the strong language coming from the White House on the need for political reform in the Middle East.
But as he tells it, the U.S. Embassy was cool to his plans to deliver a petition, accepting his document only grudgingly after several days of negotiations. Then he was astounded to hear Bush’s description of Bahrain as an example of positive democratic reform. “All the wealth and power are with the royal family,” Alsingace said in an interview.
America's 'freedom agenda' is still valid
Taipei Times, Taiwan – Jan 11, 2008
By Ammar Abdulhamid
Former Syrian member of parliament and political prisoner Mamoun al-Homsi, Kurdish activist Djengizkhan Hasso of the Executive Council of the National Assembly of Kurdistan, and I recently met with US President George W. Bush in the Oval Office….
while talking to us, Bush did not try to mask his disdain for Syria's rulers, and he rejected the possibility of direct talks or any improvement in relations.
As such, the "positive body language" that Syrian Ambassador to the US Emad Moustapha said he detected during his brief encounter with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during the Annapolis meeting was outweighed by Bush's negative verbal language during our meeting. And we all know where the buck stops.
For our part, we underscored the worsening human rights situation in Syria. Indeed, no sooner did our meeting finish, and with the world commemorating International Human Rights Day, the Syrian regime launched a massive campaign of arrests and intimidation directed against some of the country's most prominent dissidents. Though many were freed within hours, some remain in jail.
This episode also highlights the need for continued emphasis on human rights and promotion of democracy. Indeed, growing cynicism in this regard is a dangerous trend, because this is the one issue that still appeals to the people of the Middle East and can help immensely in the Western powers' battle to win hearts and minds in our region.