“Obama Aims to Engage Foreign Allies, Adversaries,” by Jay Solomon

Obama Aims to Engage Foreign Allies, Adversaries
By JAY SOLOMON – WSJ, NOVEMBER 6, 2008

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama’s foreign policy will focus on wooing longstanding U.S. adversaries while rebuilding alliances in Europe strained during the nearly eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency.Mr. Obama and his advisers are studying ways to engage Iran and Syria, countries that are viewed as central to American hopes for stabilizing Afghanistan and Iraq and forging a broader Middle East peace.

The Obama camp also is developing plans to heal tensions between the U.S. and the broader Muslim world. Aides said Mr. Obama may make a major speech in an Islamic capital during his first 100 days in office.

During the campaign, Mr. Obama pledged to make a sharp break from the Bush administration’s interventionist and often unilateral approach to the world-an approach that was honed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The president-elect alluded to that pledge in his acceptance speech Tuesday night. “To all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world…a new dawn of American leadership is at hand,” he said.

Mr. Obama also has vowed to move beyond the Bush administration’s hostility toward the United Nations and other international bodies that stand to check U.S. power, such as the International Criminal Court.

He is likely to face myriad obstacles in his quest to reorient American foreign policy at a time of shifting global power centers, say U.S. diplomats and strategists. As a candidate, Mr. Obama applauded recent drives by the U.S. and its allies to use engagement and economic aid to end the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea. Those efforts have largely foundered, and the new president could face major proliferation crises in those nations during his first year, say Bush administration officials.

Obama advisers said in interviews during the campaign that engaging U.S. adversaries is important in part because the tactic shifts the onus for any failure onto the other side. “There’s no guarantee that diplomacy will succeed…but it strengthens your hands with other people” if it fails, said James Steinberg, a former Clinton administration official who has been touted as a possible national-security adviser under Mr. Obama.

Vice President-elect Joe Biden warned during the campaign that foreign powers or terrorists could challenge the new president during his first months in office, a statement that defeated Republican Sen. John McCain tried to exploit. Among the fears are that Tehran could seek to provoke a standoff with the U.S. military in the Persian Gulf or that North Korea could test-fire missiles.

Stalled diplomacy could pressure Mr. Obama to pursue some of the same hard-line tactics as his predecessors. On the campaign trail, the senator regularly said he would leave “all options on the table” in confronting the nuclear ambitions of Iran. And Mr. Obama said he maintained the right to use unilateral military strikes to hunt down al Qaeda leaders inside Pakistan.

“Many people think that the Bush administration is leaving and it’s back to the good old days…but its problems were also a symptom of changes in the world,” Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the New York-based nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations, said before Tuesday’s vote. “Some things will change, but many won’t.”

The Obama administration could have a bigger impact in Syria, which is pursuing indirect peace talks with Israel. Wednesday, Syria’s information minister, Mohsen Bilal, said he hoped Mr. Obama would “change U.S. policy from one of wars and embargoes to one of diplomacy and dialogue.”

Mr. Bush had greater success building ties with Asian powers. Trade with China has surged during his two terms, and he sealed a nuclear deal with India. Some Asian countries are watching Mr. Obama with concern because he has expressed skepticism about free-trade agreements.

Write to Jay Solomon at jay.solomon@wsj.com

Comments (35)


1. Innocent_Criminal said:

Josh,

The picture of the Pakistani students has changed to Karzai’s for some reason.

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November 6th, 2008, 1:50 pm

 

2. Qifa Nabki said:

Egyptian Officials: Lebanon Could Benefit from Taba Experience

Egyptian officials stress in front of their visiting Lebanese officials, party leaders and media that Cairo is not against Lebanon in regaining its occupied territories at Shebaa Farms, Kfar Shouba Hills and the village of Ghajar, adding that Egypt cannot accept for others what it does not accept for itself when it comes to Israeli occupied Arab lands.

However, Egypt sees that it is wrong holding up any political, security, economic and development benefits of liberated territories while awaiting the liberation of relatively small and narrow territories that could be subject to border disputes requiring border demarcation or international arbitration to establish its ownership and sovereignty rights.

In this regard, Egyptian leaders refer to the example of Taba, following the return of the Sinai Peninsula from Israel. They compare the status of Taba at that time with that of the Shebaa Farms today.

They point that Egypt did not link benefiting from the return of the Sinai Peninsula with that of Taba. However, at the same time it did not give up its rights. Egypt moved to the end with international legal procedures, which allowed it to fully regain all of its territories.

Egyptian officials believe that Lebanon could benefit from the Egyptian experience, according to the seven-point plan adopted by the Lebanese cabinet in the summer of 2006 in terms of placing Shebaa Farms under the auspices of the United Nations and its Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) following an Israeli withdrawal.

The ownership of the Farms is to be decided following a border demarcation process, which will ultimately deliver it to its rightful owners.

It is wrong to keep all of Lebanon with its economy, policy and stability subject to a state of war and confrontation with Israel, with all of the negative implications on its society and institutions that would highly exceed the implications of Israeli occupation of a small portion of territory that could be regained through diplomatic means and international law, Egyptian officials say.

Egypt places this comparison regarding Shebaa Farms with all of the Lebanese parties it receives. Naturally, it does not seek to press the Lebanese to adopt this Egyptian model as a solution.

On the other hand, Egypt cannot remain silent and be a false witness to the high costs paid by Lebanon and the Lebanese resulting from a policy that could be substituted by a less costly and more beneficial one to regain Shebaa Farms.

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November 6th, 2008, 2:06 pm

 

3. norman said:

A letter to Barack
Please resist the temptation to fix the Middle East, and make sure your own country leads by exampleComments ()
Brian Whitaker guardian.co.uk, Thursday November 06 2008 15.00 GMT larger | smaller Article historyDear Mr Obama,

Over the next few weeks, lots of people will be asking what you intend to do about the Middle East. Please don’t rush to give them an answer, and don’t assume that you really must do something – at least not until you’re sure it won’t make matters worse. That’s one obvious lesson from the Bush years.

If you’re looking for good advice, don’t have dinner with Bernard Lewis or those guys from the American Enterprise Institute. There are plenty of other thinktanks, and experts in American universities, even the state department. Which ones to listen to? Well, if they’re regulars on Fox News or in the Weekly Standard, you can forget about them. For the others, check out what they have been saying over the last 10 years – and decide for yourself how much (or how little) they got right.

If anyone sends you a copy of The Arab Mind (a favourite with the US military) or Natan Sharansky’s dreadful book on democracy (Mr Bush’s favourite), as I’m sure they will, give it to your daughters’ new puppy to play with. Send a thank-you note and let them know what fun he’s had tearing it apart.

You have inherited problems – Iraq and Palestine among them – that you’ll have to deal with as best you can, but you also need a few guiding principles. George Bush was not actually wrong with his “strategy of freedom” for the Middle East. It’s just that in his usual cackhanded way he got it all muddled and back to front.

He thought it would be easy because of America’s military might, and we all know the result. He thought it was just a problem of tyrants and terrorists but it’s a lot more complicated than that.

Another lesson from the Bush years is don’t take on too much and if in doubt, hold back. The US can be a facilitator for freedom, but it should not try to be the deliverer as well. Provide help where it’s wanted but remember that in the end the people of the Middle East will have to find their own solutions.

President Bush also confused freedom with democracy, and I trust you already know they are not quite the same thing. Unless there’s a climate where people can speak their minds, exchange ideas and practise their politics, free elections don’t achieve much. By all means encourage democracy but if you’re going to complain when people you don’t like get elected, you might as well not bother.

In fact, people in the Arab countries don’t complain much about a lack of democracy. If you mention it to them, they often make jokes about Florida 2000 and hanging chads. What they do complain about – a lot – is corruption, the lack of transparent and accountable government, courts that make arbitrary judgments without properly considering the evidence and all the other obstacles that prevent them from doing the things they want.

These are areas where the US can use its influence, but be careful how you do it. It’s all very well to freeze the assets of corrupt businessmen who make use of their political connections, as George Bush did with President Assad’s cousin, Rami Makhlouf. Unfortunately, Bush didn’t do that because he’s against corruption; he did it to attack the Syrian regime, and nobody in the Middle East took it seriously. How many businessmen in “friendly” countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia have had their assets frozen because of corruption? None. If you want to go down that route you have to be even-handed about it.

It is easy to pin the blame for the Middle East’s ills – as President Bush usually did – on Arab governments, especially in a region dominated by hidebound regimes that have been in power for decades and whose tentative steps towards reform are directed mainly at their own self-preservation.

Yes, the regimes are a problem but political reform, on its own, is not the answer. The region needs social, religious and economic reform too. Take human rights for example. We all know there are regimes that imprison people unjustly and torture them but most of the abuses in the Middle East – at least in terms of the numbers affected and their impact on everyday life – are inflicted by ordinary people upon each other. Whether it’s based on ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality or family background, discrimination is rife almost everywhere.

Equal rights, civil rights, freedom of expression – these are areas that you should focus on, because achieving those rights will unlock other processes that can move the region forward.

Changes are already happening to some extent. Thanks to satellite television and the internet there’s more openness than there was, and you can help it along. But, again, be careful how you do it. America’s reputation has become so tarnished that giving your support to local activists and popular opposition movements can easily discredit them in the eyes of their peers. So the first thing you have to do is set an example and start rebuilding America’s image abroad. Among other things, that means no more invasions, no more Guantánamos, no more Abu Ghraibs.

In fact, though you may not yet realise it, you have already made a start. By getting elected, as an African-American, you have sent a powerful message to people in all those countries where such things seem impossible. Could a Kurd ever become president of Syria, or a Christian president of Egypt? It looks impossible now, but you have planted an idea. If America, as you said in your victory speech, is “a place where all things are possible”, why not the Middle East too?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/nov/06/barackobama-us-elections-middle-east

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November 6th, 2008, 3:59 pm

 

4. Shai said:

Norman,

Excellent article. Let’s hope someone on his staff reads The Guardian. Does Sarah Palin read the Guardian? 🙂 Ah, who’s Sarah Palin again?

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November 6th, 2008, 4:32 pm

 

5. norman said:

Shai,

Do not count her out , she might become a senator from Alaska and come to Washington , then you will hear a lot about her.

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November 6th, 2008, 4:44 pm

 

6. Shai said:

Norman,

“Read my lips” – no more McPalin! In the coming months, the Republican party will have to do some very serious self-introspection, and I have a suspicion they’ll discover the extreme religious Right has transformed their party into something they cannot accept. If they’ll wish to avoid a split in the party, they’ll have to change from within, and Palin is not going to have a role in the future of the Republican party. That’s my guess. The Republican party cannot afford to foster anti-intellectualism, which is what Palin was so avidly for.

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November 6th, 2008, 4:49 pm

 

7. norman said:

Shai,

you are tough my friend , the Republican party will have a soul searching time but i do not think that they will abandon the Christian conservatives ,They will avoid antagonizing them without attacking them as they are the most reliable Republicans. They will stress lower taxes smaller government and abandon foreign interference and the Bush economic policy.

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November 6th, 2008, 5:08 pm

 

8. why-discuss said:

With Emanuel, Obama Could Be Sending Signal to Israel

Barack Obama has reached out to Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a prominent Jewish congressman, to be his
chief of staff.

FOXNews.com
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Barack Obama, by reportedly tapping a prominent Jewish congressman to be his chief of staff, earned renewed support
from the Jewish community here and abroad.
His choice, Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, has already accepted the job, one Democratic source told FOX News, though
Emanuel would say publicly only that he’s still considering his future. Obama’s offer could be an early signal to the Middle East that the new president intends to follow through on his promises to uphold the U.S.-Israeli alliance in his Administration.
“It’s just another indication that despite the attempts to imply that Obama would somehow appoint the wrong person or
listen to the wrong people when it comes to the U.S.-Israel relationship … that was never true,” said Ira Forman,
executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council.
Forman said Obama’s selection of Emanuel helps build confidence that the United States will be vigilant in responding to any threats to Israel posed by Iran.
“Rahm has certainly never been accused of being too naive or not decisive in his analysis of these types of issues,”
Forman said.
Here and around the world, the selection brought swift reaction. The Web site for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on
Wednesday was filled with articles on what an Obama presidency would mean for Israel. The top story, on Emanuel,
noted his deep Jewish roots.
Emanuel is the son of a Jerusalem-born doctor who worked for the Israeli underground before the nation’s creation
following World War II. The congressman belongs to an orthodox congregation in Chicago and worked as a volunteer in Israel during the first Gulf War.
Though Obama was accused of being conciliatory toward Iran and toward Palestinians during the presidential race, an
Emanuel appointment could combat those perceptions.
Last summer, Obama’s campaign gave conflicting statements over how he views the status of Jerusalem. He told the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee that Jerusalem “must remain undivided,” but later he said it would be a matter
of negotiation.
Emanuel, though, has indicated consistent support for Israel’s rights. While he has expressed empathy for Palestinians,
Emanuel has explicitly condemned their leaders.
In June 2007, Emanuel condemned an outbreak of Palestinian violence in the Gaza Strip and criticized Arab countries for
not applying the same kind of pressure on the Palestinians as they have on Israel.
“Fatah and Hamas are tearing the Palestinian area of the Gaza strip apart in what they call a political rivalry, and the
Palestinian people are paying a price for Palestinian violence,” he said at the time. “Governments from around the world
and the Arab world have said nothing. … I just want you to think for a second, if this were the result of
Israeli-Palestinian hostilities, would the international silence and the silence of the Arab world be this deafening?”
At a 2003 pro-Israel rally in Chicago, Emanuel told the marchers Israel was ready for peace but would not get there until Palestinians “turn away from the path of terror,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
It’s unclear exactly how an Obama administration would handle the Israel-Palestine peace process, which has failed to
take off during the Bush administration. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice left Wednesday for a series of peacemaking
meetings in the Middle East, but so far the kind of agreement sought at last year’s Annapolis summit has been elusive.
“I would expect that what we are going to do is we’re going to try to put this process in the best possible place going
forward so that whomever comes next can formulate their policies, take a look at the process and possibly use it, take it
further,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters, adding that upcoming elections in Israel further
complicate matters.

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November 6th, 2008, 5:26 pm

 

9. why-discuss said:

Son of a Zionist Terrorist

Rahm Emanuel’s Dirty Secret

by Christopher Bollyn
Independent Journalist
(Without Borders)
17 November 2006

http://www.iamthewitness.com/Bollyn/Bollyn-Emanuel.html

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November 6th, 2008, 6:00 pm

 

10. Shai said:

Why-Discuss,

“Son of a Zionist Terrorist”… Probably not a very useful description of the next White House Chief of Staff, wouldn’t you agree? 🙂

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November 6th, 2008, 6:57 pm

 

11. Friend in America said:

This maybe the wrap up. The Baathist connection is a new revelation. Abu Ghadiya was an Iraqi citizen.

LONDON, England (CNN) — The U.S. forces who killed a top militant in Syria last week intended to capture him, but he and his bodyguards were killed in a gunbattle, a Saudi source with access to detailed intelligence told CNN.

U.S. officials last week confirmed that an American airstrike from Iraq into Syria killed Abu Ghadiya, described as a kingpin in al Qaeda’s smuggling of foreign fighters into Iraq.

The officials — who did not want to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media — also said members of his network were killed as well. The U.S. military has not officially confirmed the October 26 strike in the town of Abu Kamal.

The Saudi source said U.S. forces picked up Abu Ghadiya’s presence at the Syrian location in the morning of October 26 and acted quickly against him.

Abu Ghadiya’s name emerged many times during Saudi interrogations of al Qaeda suspects, the source said, noting that a profile emerged of the militant as an important part of the logistical chain in al Qaeda’s network.

He had been an effective and persuasive recruiter of Arab fighters intent on attacking U.S. forces in Iraq, and had been described as a Baathist, a member of the political movement that ran Iraq during the Saddam Hussein era, the source said.

The source said Abu Ghadiya used Baathist money to smuggle fighters, and pay off Syrian generals to ignore the cross-border activities. The Saudi source said plenty of Baathist money is stashed away, hidden before the 2003 invasion.

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November 6th, 2008, 7:02 pm

 

12. Alex said:

Dear FIM,

I hope you know by now how to ignore the “CNN” in the story and pay attention to the source CNN is quoting, … then decide if this source can be considered neutral enough to be trusted, before you adopt the story.

“The source said Abu Ghadiya used Baathist money to smuggle fighters, and pay off Syrian generals to ignore the cross-border activities. The Saudi source said plenty of Baathist money is stashed away, hidden before the 2003 invasion.”

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November 6th, 2008, 7:12 pm

 

13. why-discuss said:

Shai

That is the title of the article, not my views. I don’t know the guy but what I read shows he is a very controversial figure, “a dem Karl Rove” etc… Sounds worrying. I hope Obama will pick an arab-american or a pro-arab guy in his staff to show a balanced choice, otherwise he may quickly loose his early credibility in the arab and moslem world.

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November 6th, 2008, 7:56 pm

 

14. Naji said:

Hi Alex,
The Syrian TV is, right now, running a little highly melodramatic production starring the “confessions of members the terrorist cell” (speaking Fus7a for the convenience of all!), responsible for the latest car-bombings in Syria and various other despicable acts… It would really be worth capturing for the SC audience if you can…!?

Enjoy 🙂

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November 6th, 2008, 8:00 pm

 

15. Shai said:

Why-Discuss,

I didn’t think it was your title, but I did find it a bit annoying, given that the guy hasn’t uttered a single word yet, as Chief of Staff. He apparently speaks a bit of Hebrew, but his entire family moved from Israel many years ago to the U.S. I would not assume an automatic bias against Arabs by this guy. But it is true that the burden of proof is on him. I somehow doubt Obama will be overly pro-Israel. He is much closer to Clinton than to Bush… let us remember. Btw, so was this Emanuel guy.

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November 6th, 2008, 8:11 pm

 

16. Alex said:

Naji

I wish for once you would go beyond teasing us with those announcements about interesting things on Arabic TV channels that you have access to but we don’t, to actually write a thing or two about what was said!

: )

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November 6th, 2008, 8:26 pm

 

17. idaf said:

Yes Naji,

The confessions gave amazing insight into the planning of the explosion that took place on Sep 27. It included confessions from the daughter of Shaker Al-Absi (leader of Fateh el-Islam) and her husband and his right hand mastermind.

Very much worth watching. If anyone could find it on Youtube please post it.

Apparently the Iraqi car was stolen and the suicide bomber was a Saudi (nicknamed Abu Aisha). All full names, passports and photos were shown with great details on the life of the group and individuals.

Lots of fascinating details.
http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5gq6arHHkxl-wuzRVxux2KtF6E5qg

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November 6th, 2008, 8:34 pm

 

18. Alex said:

SANA says they admitted to being financed by Al-Moustaqbal (Hariri’s movement)

منفذو العمل الإرهابي بمنطقة القزاز يعترفون بانتمائهم لتنظيم فتح الإسلام وتمويل تيار المستقبل لهم
الخميس, 06 تشرين الثاني , 2008 – 10:25

دمشق-سانا

اعترف منفذو العمل الإرهابي الذي وقع في منطقة القزاز بدمشق بتاريخ 27 أيلول الماضي وذهب ضحيته عدد من المدنيين الأبرياء بانتمائهم لتنظيم فتح الإسلام الإرهابي كما اعترفوا بأن تيار المستقبل اللبناني هو احد ممولي التنظيم.

وجاء في الاعترافات التي بثها التلفزيون السوري مساء اليوم أن منفذ العملية الإرهابية سعودي الجنسية.

وكان العمل الإرهابي الذي استخدمت فيه سيارة مفخخة بـ200 كغ من المتفجرات أدى إلى وفاة 17 شخصاً وجرح 14 آخرين جميعهم من المدنيين في شارع المتحلق الجنوبي لمدينة دمشق في منطقة مزدحمة بالمدنيين المارة قرب مفرق السيدة زينب.

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November 6th, 2008, 8:41 pm

 

19. Naji said:

Alex,
There is a “division of labor” on SC whereby I am excused from doing anything useful but offering teasers… it usually falls to Idaf to supply transcripts, and to you for everything else… 🙂

I wish that Syrian TV did not so over-produce this thing… it really does lessen its credibility a lot…!

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November 6th, 2008, 8:56 pm

 

20. Naji said:

However, as you know, in Syria “the medium is the message” and the revelations about the Hariri/Saudi connections are revealing in their own right…! I guess Syria is on the the attack while its adversaries are down…?!

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November 6th, 2008, 9:05 pm

 

21. norman said:

WD,

If he is half of what Shai is , i will be happy.

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November 6th, 2008, 9:06 pm

 

22. norman said:

تفخيخ السيارة التي استخدمت في تفجير القزاز في مزرعة في خان الشيخ

اعترف المسؤول الامني في تنظيم فتح الاسلام عبد الباقي حسين انه تم تفخيخ السيارة العراقية التي سرقت بتاريخ 26 ايلول في مزرعة في منطقة خان الشيح, حيث قادها الارهابي ابو عائشة السعودي وفجرها على طريق المحلق الجنوبي في اليوم التالي.

2008-11-06 22:26:18

المجموعة الإرهابية التي نفذت هجوم القزاز بدمشق تنتمي إلى فتح الإسلام

أفراد المجموعة: التنظيم كان يتلقى تمويلا من تيار المستقبل, وهناك رسائل متبادلة معه عن طريق السلفيين في شمال لبنان

اعترف أعضاء المجموعة الإرهابية التي قامت بتفجير سيارة مفخخة في حي القزاز في جنوب دمشق في أيلول الماضي أنها تنتمي إلى تنظيم فتح الإسلام.

وشهد طريق المتحلق الجنوبي في مدينة دمشق قرب مفرق السيدة زينب في 27 أيلول الماضي تفجير سيارة مفخخة أسفر عن مقتل 17 شخصا وجرح 14 آخرين, الأمر الذي لاقى استنكارا دوليا وعربيا كبيرا.

وأضاف أفراد المجموعة في اعترافات بثت على الفضائية السورية أن “تنظيم فتح الإسلام كان يتلقى تمويلا من تيار المستقبل الذي يتزعمه النائب سعد الحريري وذلك عن طريق بنك المتوسط”.

ونقلت ابنة قائد التنظيم شاكر العبسي عنه أن “هناك رسائل متبادلة بين تنظيم فتح الإسلام وتيار المستقبل وهناك تواصل عن طريق التيارات السلفية في شمال لبنان”، مشيرة إلى أن “تيار المستقبل متورط في تمويل التنظيم”.

من جهته, اعترف المسؤول الأمني في تنظيم فتح الإسلام في سورية عبد الباقي حسين إن “التحضير للقيام بعمليات إرهابية في نهاية شهر حزيران وبداية شهر تموز الماضيين”.

وأضاف حسين أن “التنظيم حدد عدد من الأهداف تمثلت بعدد من المراكز الأمنية السورية وعدد من الدبلوماسيين الأجانب, بالإضافة إلى مرافق الاقتصادية, وذلك بهدف إرباك النظام العام في سورية”, مشيرا إلى أن هذه العملية جاءت بعد اختفاء العبسي في سورية”.

اعترف المسؤول الأمني في تنظيم فتح الإسلام انه تم تفخيخ السيارة العراقية المستخدمة في تفجير القزاز والتي سرقت بتاريخ 26 أيلول في مزرعة في منطقة خان الشيح, حيث قادها الإرهابي أبو عائشة السعودي وفجرها على طريق المحلق الجنوبي في اليوم التالي.

سيريانيوز

copy rights © syria-news 2007

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November 6th, 2008, 9:13 pm

 

23. kooki said:

Syrian TV shows men ‘confessing’ to deadly bomb blast

DAMASCUS (AFP) — Syrian state television on Thursday broadcast statements by men it said were Fatah al-Islam militants, in which they admitted carrying out a bomb attack in September that killed 17 people.

The men included Abdul Baqi al-Hussein, described as the head of security in Syria of Fatah al-Islam, who said the aim of the attack was to “harm the regime in Syria.”

The television programme also showed a photo of a man said to have been the suicide bomber in the September 27 attack in Damascus, naming him as Abu Aysha al-Saudi — ‘The Saudi’.

Last year, the army in Syria’s neighbour Lebanon fought a 15-week battle with the Al-Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared near Tripoli that left 400 people dead, including 168 soldiers.

However, Fatah al-Islam chief Shaker al-Abssi managed to flee the camp and vowed revenge attacks against the Lebanese army. Before the deadly camp siege in Lebanon Abssi served a prison term in Syria for having links to Al-Qaeda.

On September 27, a car bomb exploded near a Shiite shrine in southern Damascus killing 17 people and wounding 14 others, in one of the deadliest attacks in Syria in a dozen years.

The car, packed with 200 kilos (440 pounds) of explosives, blew up near a security checkpoint on a road to Damascus international airport at an intersection leading to the Sayeda Zeinab neighbourhood.

All the victims were civilian passers-by.

Among those on the Thursday night broadcast was a woman Syrian television said was Wafa al-Abssi, daughter of the Fatah al-Islam chief.

The men who spoke in the programme said they had carried out a series of armed robberies to finance the September attack. They also said the car used in the bombing had been stolen from an Iraqi.

Sayeda Zeinab is popular among Shiites from Iran, Lebanon and Iraq who go there on pilgrimage to pray at the tomb of Zeinab, a grand-daughter of the Prophet Mohammed.

The blast was the worst to rock Syria since February when Hezbollah commander Imad Mughnieh was killed by a car bomb in Damascus.

Since May, Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli near the Syrian border has also been rocked by deadly sectarian violence between Sunni supporters of the government and their Damascus-backed rivals from the Alawite community.

Lebanon was under Syrian political and military domination for three decades until 2005.

After the assassination in February that year of Lebanon’s former premier Rafiq Hariri in a car bombing, Syria was forced to pull its troops out of Lebanon following a 29-year deployment.

It denied charges of involvement in the massive Beirut blast.

Beirut and Damascus agreed to establish diplomatic relations for the first time at a summit in Paris in July, but although Lebanese President Michel Sleiman visited Syria in September, embassies have yet to be opened.

(Are we sure the victims were all passers-by? I have heard higher casualty reports)

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November 6th, 2008, 9:28 pm

 
 

25. Alia said:

Any thoughts on why Emmanuel’s father who belonged to the Irgun would have left Israel as a young man to marry, raise his family and practice medicine in the U.S. instead of Israel ?

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November 6th, 2008, 9:44 pm

 

26. Friend in America said:

Alex, #12
I cannot identify the intelligence source the Saudi official referred to as his source of this information, although I can guess. However, I am certain the release of this information was not inadvertant.

I agree with you that relying on any publicist for veracity does not create the validity of the underlying facts in the news release, but good reporting can come very close. Here CNN is only saying an unnamed Saudi intelligence official said…. CNN is not validating the underlying story. From my perspective there are facts in this release that fill in some blanks in my analysis, so this time I take it as credible. There are readers here on SC that will recognize some of the facts in the story. The bribery claim should be no surprise – bribery in Syria has been a topic on SC for several years. The recruiting is not news. Financing terrorists by former government and business leaders in Sadam’s regime who are living in Syria has been mentioned in the press and occasionally on SC for over 3 years. For me the closest to a second verification is the comments of local government officials regarding Syria tolerating trans-border crossing by the terrorists who have been killing men, women and children in Mosul. They know where the terrorists are coming from. My assumption is these officials are a source that prompted the military to intensify survellence of that village and the non working farm.
The assertion that the attack was nothing more than a senseless jibe by a frustrated outgoing administration in Washington is nonsense – but give it credit for being a successful cover for the underlying truth (in Washington that is called “spin”). This cover story was very successful; it was accepted by many in the ME, including some on SC.
In America the major media outlets have a policy of requiring a second, even a third, source for validation of information (for intelligence sources, that may not be possible, so a judgment decision on reliability has to be taken), and CNN has been very good about verification. The press tells the readers no second verification was made when it repeats information from “unidentified government intelligence sources,” etc.
So, lacking another source at this time,it is better to wait before “closing the book” on this incident. Thank you for your response.

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November 6th, 2008, 11:54 pm

 

27. Friend in America said:

Alex, #12
I cannot identify the intelligence source the Saudi official referred to as his source of this information, although I can guess. However, I am certain the release of this information was not inadvertant.

I agree with you that relying on any publicist for veracity does not create the validity of the underlying facts in the news release, but good reporting can come very close. Here CNN is only saying an unnamed Saudi intelligence official said…. CNN is not validating the underlying story. From my perspective there are facts in this release that fill in some blanks in my analysis, so this time I take it as credible. There are readers here on SC that will recognize soem of the facts in the story. The bribery claim should be no surprise – bribery in Syria has been a topic on SC for several years. The recruiting is not news. Financing terrorists by former government and business leaders in Sadam’s regime who are living in Syria has been mentioned in the press and occasionally on SC for over 3 years. For me the closest to a second verification is the comments of local government officials regarding Syria tolerating trans-border crossing by the terrorists who have been killing men, women and children in Mosul. They know where the terrorists are coming from. My assumption is these officials are a source that prompted the military to intensify survellence of that village and the non working farm.
The assertion that the attack was nothing more than a senseless jibe by a frustrated outgoing administration in Washington is nonsense – but give it credit for being a successful cover for the underlying truth (in Washington that is called “spin”). This cover story was very successful; it was accepted by many in the ME, including some on SC.
In America the major media outlets have a policy of requiring a second, even a third, source for validation of information (for intelligence sources, that may not be possible, so a judgment decision on reliability has to be taken), and CNN has been very good about verification. The press tells the readers no second verification was made when it repeats information from “unidentified government intelligence sources,” etc.
So, lacking another source at this time,it is better to wait before “closing the book” on this incident. Thank you for your response.

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November 6th, 2008, 11:57 pm

 

28. SimoHurtta said:

In America the major media outlets have a policy of requiring a second, even a third, source for validation of information (for intelligence sources, that may not be possible, so a judgment decision on reliability has to be taken), and CNN has been very good about verification. The press tells the readers no second verification was made when it repeats information from “unidentified government intelligence sources,” etc.

Really FIA? Or are you joking? Most news I read in US press about Middle East use besides anonymous sources only the views of army / intelligence officers (and they certainly are no objective source of information). In recent years the trend has been that a growing number of news are “manufactured” based on the information of anonymous sources. Nowadays almost no US official dares allow to let his name be used in this kind of articles. Well US guys have been caught so many times that the information they gave was later found out being propaganda or a pure lie. After Powell’s total humiliation in UN nobody seems willing to allow using their name.

Haven’t you Friend In America been wondering that nowadays so many US (European and Israeli) army and intelligence officers and diplomats tell their views to the press anonymously using the excuse that they are not authorized to give such information? I certainly have. The US generals and ministers must be frustrated that so many “unauthorized” persons nowadays leak information. Or are they? 🙂

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November 7th, 2008, 12:48 am

 

29. norman said:

FIA,
Is it confirmed that the target was taken care of with DNA ?,

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November 7th, 2008, 1:27 am

 

30. Friend in America said:

SIMO-
I, too, have noticed the growing trend toward source annomnity. I know why it is happening but I do not favour the trend. It does not, however, signal the information reported by “annoymous capitol hill source” is unreliable. It signals the source is (a) not the top person or (b) the public relations spokesperson. Some reporters have said they like it better because the information has not been “sandpapered by these PR people,” but I still like a name.
I also agree with your last comment. A lot of the information “leaked” to the press is deliberate. There is no doubt in my mind that is the case with the Saudi intelligence officer.

NORMAN:
How the “target” was ID’d will have to be revealed in the future. Perhaps by more conventional ways such as information found on the body. It would be nice if it was DNA but we’ll just have to wait.

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November 7th, 2008, 2:21 am

 

31. Friend in America said:

Rohm Emanuel has just accepted the position of Chief of Staff. This is an important position because the Chief of Staff always has the President’s ear. Now is the time (last chance, guys) for those in the middle east and in America who have been hoping “change” includes a change of policy for all of the middle east to write letters to the major American newspapers expressing your concern. If you can verify Emanuel was born in Israel and/or served in the Israeli Army during Gulf War II, include that information also. Those letters will be read.

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November 7th, 2008, 2:32 am

 

32. Shai said:

Alia,

It’s quite simple – when you can’t get a job, you put your ideologies aside, and you go searching, even across the high seas… 🙂

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November 7th, 2008, 8:37 am

 

33. Alia said:

Shai,

Your point is well-taken 🙂

But really, would it have been hard around 1950 for him to have a life in Israel right after 1948 ? or to return at some point later on and practice Medicine? He was born in Israel it seems. There is a discontinuity here that is intriguing and may shed a further light on the man.

All the more so since the father’s story seems to be reflecting negatively on the son in our collective sensibilities…The son, who, beside being “a civilian volunteer in the Israel Defense Forces during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, serving in one of Israel’s northern bases, rust-proofing brakes” does not seem to be any more pro-Israeli than your average congressman, as far as I can tell; perhaps even more enlightened in his stand than quite a few who seem to need to show themselves to be “more royalist than the king”…Hillary Clinton comes to mind here.

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November 7th, 2008, 10:50 am

 

34. Shai said:

Alia,

Most Israelis who leave for the U.S. remain emotionally attached to Israel (just as any expat would, from any other country). Since in Israel we have mandatory army draft at age 18, for 3 years (women 18 months), and then Reserves duty for many more years, some sons and daughters of these expats feel indebted somehow to Israel, for not doing “their share”. So they come sometime to volunteer doing (pardon my French, crap-work) on army bases, and really trying to contribute what they can, without having served in the army. Rahm Emmanuel seems to have felt this in particular during the 1991 war (when SCUD missiles were landing inside Israel, and literally millions of Israelis were wearing gas masks, and remaining in shelters). So like many other American volunteers, he got up, took a plane to Israel, and helped out in whatever way he could.

From our (Israel’s) point of view, this was certainly a blessed thing, and it does help many in the U.S. remain connected somehow to Israel. Apparently, from what some have said here before, someone like AIG did more than that – he actually did an army service, and then went back to the U.S. So he did more than his fair share, especially if he’s an American citizen. I somehow doubt that Rahm Emmanuel is like his father, though, in his patriotism to Israel. If he was, he’d probably have lived in Israel at some point, gone to the army, perhaps studied or worked here, etc. He’s obviously connected to Israel (apparently speaks a little Hebrew), but I wouldn’t assume an automatic anti-Arab bias because of his father belonging to the Irgun eons ago.

Don’t forget, even some “fulltime Israelis” may not be innately anti-Arab. Yours truly might be such an example… 🙂 So let’s let Rahm start working – btw, he’ll be working far harder than the President. His job is literally 24/7/365/4. We’ll see how much time he has to influence Obama’s mideast policy, and in what fashion. There’s another Israeli expat living in the U.S. I would have loved to have seen in that position – his name is Rumyal, and he is often on SC… 🙂

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November 7th, 2008, 12:19 pm

 

35. Shai said:

From Ha’aretz: “Syria will restrain Hezbollah and Hamas if Obama shifs U.S. Policy” (about Sami Moubayed’s article in Asia Times) http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1035326.html

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November 7th, 2008, 12:36 pm

 

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