Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, May 8th, 2007
(AP)–U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has urged the establishment of an international criminal tribunal to bring to trial those responsible for the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. In a front-page editorial published in the leading Arabic-language newspaper An-Nahar, Rice warned the U.N. would act on its own if the Lebanese parliament failed to give the go-ahead for the establishment of such a court.
Lebanon’s parliament must approve its establishment, but the process has been deadlocked amid deep political divisions. Although it is supported by the U.S.-backed government, the opposition led by the pro-Syrian and pro-Iranian Hezbollah has balked at supporting its establishment. The editorial was apparently aimed at assuring the U.S.’s allies in Lebanon that there was no change in policy after Rice’s meeting with Syria’s foreign minister last week.
The parliamentary impasse prompted the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority to demand that the U.N. Security Council impose the tribunal on Lebanon, but the Security Council has so far refrained from taking such a decision. “The special tribunal for Lebanon will help end this sad era of impunity,” Rice wrote in the editorial, titled ‘A tribunal for Lebanon: time to end impunity for murder.’
Although Rice’s position wasn’t new, its publication in a leading Lebanese daily ensures widespread dissemination of the U.S. view. Rice wrote the tribunal wouldn’t only help uncover those responsible for the killing, but help strengthen security and stability in the country. She added the U.S. believes the “best option” would be for the tribunal to be approved by the Lebanese parliament. If that proves impossible, then the international community “consistent with its pledge to help the Lebanese people achieve their vision of a free and democratic Lebanon will use every means at its disposal to further the pursuit of justice and to put an end to the current campaign of assassinations.”
Rice added the “enemies of truth have resorted to subterfuge and intimidation to prevent the establishment of the tribunal” to deprive the Lebanese of justice. She also criticized the opposition’s campaign to unseat the government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. Hezbollah is on the U.S. list of the terrorist organizations.
EHSANI2 added: Dr. Landis,
Rice Says U.S. Is `Not Looking to Leave Iraq': Charlie Rose
Ehsani Writes: "I just watched a charlie rose interview with Rice. She left absolutely no doubt that the tribunal will take place. Asked if there was an exit strategy in Iraq, she said that "we are not looking to leave Iraq" till we have done our work and make sure that Iraq's neighbors do not meddle with its affairs."
DAMASCUS, Syria: Syrian President Bashar Assad on Monday said last week's talks between his country's foreign minister and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were not a "breakthrough," instead accusing the Bush administration of making Damascus a scapegoat for the failures in Iraq.
Thursday's talks on Iraq's deteriorating security situation between Rice and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem were billed as a diplomatic turning point for the Bush administration, which has long refused to talk to Damascus.
But Assad would not go as far to say the talks were the end to poor relations between the two countries, saying it is difficult to make progress over Iraq's security when there are "bad political relations."
"It's too early to say it's a breakthrough. …We are still waiting to see how they (the U.S.) want to start," Assad said during an interview with NBC'S "Today" show.
The Rice-Moallem talks — held on the sidelines of an international conference on Iraq's future at Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik — were the first Cabinet-level talks in years between the countries.
NBC interview with Assad by Ann Curry. President speaks about US allegations it is supporting Iraqi resitance.
Syrian ambassador says the U.S. 'obsessed' with military solution in Iraq By ANDREW DeMILLO, AP, 8 May 2007
Syria's ambassador said the Bush administration is obsessed with seeking a military solution for Iraq at the expense of diplomacy, and noted it might be too late for the White House to bring stability to the strife-torn country.
"The situation has deteriorated to a level that, to be honest, we don't know how it can be salvaged from further deterioration," Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha said during a Monday night speech at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.
Moustapha spoke after the first cabinet-level talks between Syria and the United States last week, and said the United States is not focusing enough on the political process in Iraq but is "obsessed with a security solution."
He added: "every day that passes without some attention to finding a solution will make it more and more difficult."
Iraq's embattled prime minister has been leaning on the U.S. to engage Syria and Iran, arguing they could help lessen the violence in neighboring Iraq. Washington accuses Syria of looking the other way while fighters from many countries cross its border join the ranks of al-Qaida and other insurgent groups in Iraq.
Compounding Iraq's problems, Moustapha said, is the fact that most of the 1.5 million Iraqi refugees who have fled into Syria are middle-class workers such as teachers, lawyers and doctors.
"The middle class is staying out," Moustapha said. "Without the middle class, you can't have a state."
"This is why we're saying probably now it's too late after four years of disasters," Moustapha said.
Syria still wants to help and believes that the United States could still solve the problems in Iraq.
"We believe this is an opportunity for the United States to change its attitude toward the region and start engaging us and the rest of the region," Moustapha said.
Moustapha said he was hopeful that last week's talks on Iraq between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem were a starting point for a new relationship between the two countries.
"Across the political scene in Washington, attitudes are starting to change toward Syria," Moustapha said.
Hezbollah rejects forming tribunal under Chapter 7, DPA, May 6, 2007
Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said late Sunday that a proposed international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri must first be ratified by the Lebanese Parliament.
The leader of the Lebanese Shiite movement said that Hezbollah rejects any imposed United Nations Security Council decision to form an international tribunal in the Hariri case without first receiving approval in the politically divided country.
Nasrallah meant that the UN should only approve the tribunal after parliament ratification, not just by agreement with the Western- backed Beirut government. For months, Hezbollah has calling for the Lebanese government to step down.
‘We consider any resolution issued by the Security Council (on the tribunal) illegitimate and illegal and without value because it violates the Lebanese national interest,’ he said in an interview with Iran’s Arabic-language al-Alam state television station.
‘We hope that things don’t get there.’
NSC Chairman: Syrian call for peace talks with Israel ‘authentic’, By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz, 07/05/2007
National Security Council (NSC) Chairman Ilan Mizrahi said Monday that “Syria’s call for dialogue with Israel is authentic.”
Speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Mizrahi added that it is difficult to determine whether Syria is interested in peace, or just a peace process.
The NSC chairman briefed the committee on the process of the strengthening of Islamic extremism, saying Al-Qaida is establishing itself in Lebanon – among other reasons, in order to play a role in a potential future power struggle in the country. At the same time, the organization is active in Egypt's Sinai peninsula, and is trying to gain a foothold in Jordan, Mizrahi said.
UN Chief in Syria says Assad not preparing for war, Jerusalem Post, May. 8, 2007
Says more military activity in Israel than in Syria; Israeli defense officials reject assessment; NSC head: Peace overtures genuine.
“Within my area of responsibility, there is no military buildup,” Jilke told the Post in his first interview since taking up the post in February. “From my point of view there is nothing on level of strategic interest that could or would lead to concern [for Israel].”
Jilke said Syria was repairing trenches and positions along the border with Israel, but that within the areas of limitation, Syria had only amassed 40 percent of the permitted forces. There was more military activity on the Israeli side of the border, he said.
“We are much below the allowed figures,” Jilke said. “There is a peaceful atmosphere and there is no intention to prepare for war.”
New Republic Online, May 7, 2007
…. If Syrian President Bashar Assad is willing to talk, shouldn't Israel engage Syria and see if a war can be averted? (For some, there is the possible added benefit that discussions with Syria might also be useful for weaning Syria away Iran and for imposing limits on Hezbollah and Hamas.) …
The lesson here is that the Bush administration needs to think far more carefully about its position on talks with the Syrians. Rather than simply telling the Israelis "no," it should work out a coordinated game plan with the Israelis, including common red lines for the talks. It should coordinate with the Lebanese to reassure Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government about the purpose of the talks — and then give them regular briefings on what takes place in them. Ultimately, the Bush administration has very little interest in an Israeli-Syrian war. Maybe it is time for it to shape an approach to negotiations and not allow either the United States or Israel to be driven into talks in a way that reduces our respective leverage. That would be an act of effective statecraft.
"Divide and Rule: U.S. Blocks Israel-Syria Talks," by Stephen Zunes
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is currently conducting staff work to prepare for the possibility of a renewed peace process with Syria, sources in the Foreign Ministry told Haaretz.
No conclusions have yet been presented to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, as the project is not finished. However, a ministry source said, “If the prime minister decides that he wants to hear it, we have a prepared plan – from the operational aspect as well.”
Damascus moves to center stage By Sami Moubayed
DAMASCUS – Fifty years ago, alarmed that Syria was becoming dangerously close to the Soviet Union, US president Dwight Eisenhower authorized a series of operations aimed at isolating, weakening and eventually overthrowing the regime of president Shukri al-Quwatli.
The Central Intelligence Agency tried to pull off two coups in Damascus. Both of them failed. The US then pursued a policy of
funding the Syrian opposition. US intelligence reports on Syria during the years 1956-58 are hauntingly similar to press reports coming out of Washington in 2005-07 – only the word "Soviet" is replaced by "Iranian".
Why Israel is after me," by Azmi Bishara, LA Times, 3 May 2007
Amman, Jordan — I AM A PALESTINIAN from Nazareth, a citizen of Israel and was, until last month, a member of the Israeli parliament.
But now, in an ironic twist reminiscent of France’s Dreyfus affair — in which a French Jew was accused of disloyalty to the state — the government of Israel is accusing me of aiding the enemy during Israel’s failed war against Lebanon in July.
Israeli police apparently suspect me of passing information to a foreign agent and of receiving money in return. Under Israeli law, anyone — a journalist or a personal friend — can be defined as a “foreign agent” by the Israeli security apparatus. Such charges can lead to life imprisonment or even the death penalty.
The allegations are ridiculous….
These trumped-up charges, which I firmly reject and deny, are only the latest in a series of attempts to silence me and others involved in the struggle of the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel to live in a state of all its citizens, not one that grants rights and privileges to Jews that it denies to non-Jews….
Addendum: Posted Later in the day
RIYADH, Saudi (AP)–One of the seven recently exposed Saudi terrorist cells used Syria as a base for coordinating with al-Qaida in Iraq and held training camps in the Yemeni desert, a newspaper owned by Saudi royal family said Tuesday.
The Al-Watan paper report provided new detail on the what Saudi authorities have described as the biggest terrorist plot ever uncovered in the kingdom. The government in April announced a monthslong sweep had netted 172 militants, some of who had trained abroad as pilots and planned attacks on government and military targets inside Saudi Arabia. The militants were said to have been organized in seven cells. "One of the uncovered cells used Syria as a 'safe house' for meetings and coordination with active elements of al-Qaida in Iraq," Al-Watan claimed.