Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, October 31st, 2007
Gulf states may drop dollar pegs in unison: Gulf Arab oil producers, torn between rising inflation and exchange rates fixed to a sliding dollar, could consider switching together to a currency basket to buy time for a troubled monetary union project, analysts said…
Syrians take to rugby with fierce pride, By Thanassis Cambanis, Oct, 30, 207 IHT. Thanassis, in this great story, might have mentioned Britain's military attache, Jason Wells, who started the league. (Now based in Dubai.) As well as, Roddey Drummond, the long-time British DCM, who I believe is now serving as Ambassador in Damascus. He was a big devotee of the league.
"… Annapolis "would be just a `photo op' without the Saudis." Some Administration analysts expect, in the end, the Saudis will come, although they fear their representative will be a lower level official than Foreign Minister, Prince Saud. Still, as one cynical Administration insider said last week, "The time couldn't be better for the Arabs to try to help us work things out. After all what better time than between two wars?"."… US policy towards Lebanon constitutes a glaring exception to the well thought out approaches to the major three Middle East issues. This casual attitude was most recently on display with the visit to Washington earlier this month by Saad Hariri,… On his visit here, Hariri, seen by Washington (and apparently himself) as a future Prime Minister ["He will be Prime Minister," says one State Department official. "Not necessarily a good Prime Minister."] was lavishly praised by the President and other top Administration officials. But in subsequent weeks, it has become apparent that while the Administration is prepared to offer generous vocal support, it is not willing to back up its rhetoric with action. As one veteran diplomat put it last week, in a cynical twist on former Secretary of State Powell's famous line about American responsibility for Iraq after the invasion, "If you break Lebanon, it's broken."
Syria-based Palestinian officials postpone Hamas-led Damascus meeting from Jerusalem Post
Syria-based Palestinian officials announced on Tuesday that a Hamas-led meeting due here in early November would be postponed to coincide with the US-sponsored Mideast peace conference later this year.
The Damascus meeting of Palestinian groups opposed to peace talks with Israel had been envisaged to rival the conference called for by US President George W. Bush in Annapolis, Maryland.
The US-sponsored Mideast conference, due in November or December, is expected to relaunch Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.
Talal Naji, a ranking official with the Syria-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, said that a preparatory committee had rescheduled the Damascus gathering, initially planned for November 7-9, to have it "coincide with the Bush conference."
EU politician: No peace without Syria, from Jerusalem Post
Syria will not allow any serious peace agreement to be reached without playing a central role in the negotiations, European Parliament member Jana Hybaskova told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday.
Hybaskova, chairwoman of the Delegation for Relations with Israel and a member of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) who also sits on the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Budgets, recently met with Syrian President Bashar Assad. She spent this week leading a delegation of European Parliament members in Israel.
"[Syria] has the vision that there is no peace without Syria," Hybaskova said. The Syrians have an "overexaggerated sense" of their own importance, she said, adding, "They want to put themselves in the center… and that is the key," so if they cannot be part of masterminding the peace, "they want to destroy it." "That is a very dangerous message," she said.
Hybaskova said she had been disappointed by the Syrians' "rigid" response on several issues, including the release of Syrian dissidents from jail, negotiations over the Golan Heights and the strengthening relationship with Russia.
"I am very much concerned with the mounting influence of Russia – not only in Syria, but in the whole Middle East," she said.
Hybaskova said she was particularly worried about Russia's ties with Iran and its actions to dissuade the construction of missile defense systems in Central and Eastern Europe.
"Whenever we are active, Russians come and say, 'No, Iran is not that important. Do not build this defense,'" she said. Israel should use its "special relationship" with Russia to persuade Moscow to change its tune on missile defense and Iran in general, she said, citing the number of Russian immigrants in Israel and the trade between the two countries.
"We do not want Iran to come up with a nuclear program. We realize this is a threat to all of Europe," she said.
October 17, 2007
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I write to urge you to consider pursuing direct, unconditional and comprehensive talks with the Government of Iran.
In the last two years, the United States has worked closely with the permanent members of the UN Security Council, Germany, Japan, and other key states as well as the UN Secretary General and the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency to pursue a diplomatic strategy regarding Iran's nuclear program. I have supported your efforts. Maintaining a cohesive and united international front remains one of our most effective levers on Iran…. (read the whole letter.)
Fareed Zakaria deserves a medal for breaking with most of the mainstream media pack to slap down, with the requisite rudeness, the hysteria over Iran being manufactured by the neocons, opportunist Israeli politicians and the Bush Administration. Perhaps stung by having participated in a secret Bush Administration policy discussion to help shape the Iraq war policy before the invasion, Zakaria is acting with honor now to prevent another disaster……