Posted by Joshua on Friday, May 8th, 2009
Obama renewed President Bush’s sanctions on Syria. This is the clearest sign that negotiations between Damascus and Washington are going, if not badly, at least slowly despite statements by both sides that progress is being made. It tells us that despite the rhetoric about a “new US relationship” to Middle Eastern countries, Washington still believes that it must keep its foot on Syria’s economic throat in order to win concessions.
I copy below the official Presidential rational for renewing the sanctions on Syria put out by the President’s office today. (See the interesting debate by commentators under the last post. They discuss the merits and efficacy of US sanctions on Syria.
What has Syria done for Obama?
- Lebanon: Syria helped to negotiate a truce among Lebanon’s warring factions: the Doha agreement.
- It pushed forward Michel Suleiman for President to fill the presidential void that had paralyzed Lebanon for more than a year.
- Palestine: Both anti-Israel resistance groups, Hizbullah and Hamas, have reached out to the US, claiming to want engagement and expressing willingness to compromise on key issues. Syria has great influence on these groups and has aided with this outreach.
- Iraq: Syria has been largely successful in stanching the flow of fighters into Iraq across long border.
- It was among the first Arab governments to reestablish full relations with the Malaki government and to send an ambassador to Iraq. It has established good relations with every sector of Iraqi society, whether Kurdish, Sunni, or Shiite.
- Syria wants intelligence sharing on al-Qaida and Iraq, but it has not handed over Iraqi Baathists resident in Syria to the US.
What has Syria refused to do for Obama?
- Syria will not agree to concessions on the Arab peace plan, i.e. stating that Syria will give all resident Palestinians citizenship as part of a Palestinian-Israeli deal. (This is symbolic because Syria is the Arab state that has granted Palestinians the most privileges. They have all the rights of Syrians except citizenship, i.e. they can hold all government jobs, go to schools, access subsidized medical care, etc. There is little doubt Syria wold give Palestinians citizenship, but not outside the context of a deal.
- Syria will not stop arming Hizbullah and Hamas before it gets back the Golan
- Syria will not cut relations with Iran or down-grade them.
- Syria will not hand over Iraqis who have taken refuge in Syria.
What has the US done for Syria?
- Send Feltman and Shapiro to Damascus twice.
- Stop insisting on a checklist of conditions before talking.
- Softened its rhetoric on Iran and Syria.
- Not made too much of a fuss that Britain and Europeans have opened relations with Hizbullah
- Distanced itself from Israel a bit — see this story: “Jerusalem worried over breakdown of U.S.-Israel cooperation under Obama,” Haaretz, Aluf Benn
What has US refused to do?
- Send an ambassador to Damascus
- Stop supporting Hariri coalition in Lebanon’s elections
- Reduce economic Sanctions or lift them altogether
- Renew intelligence sharing over Iraq and al-Qaida
- Pressure Israel to negotiate with Syria on the basis of land for peace
- State that Israeli settlements on Palestinian land are “illegal” rather than simply “unhelpful.”
- Admit that Hamas is a legitimate organization that represents Palestinians and must be included in a peace deal
- Admit that Arabs have a right to resist occupation of their land
Read this Financial Times By Anna Fairfield in Beirut: (Anna got the story first! Congrats Anna)
US renews sanctions against Syria May 8 2009
The Obama administration has renewed its sanctions against Syria for another year, citing a continuing “national emergency” facing the US from Syria’s support for terrorist organisations and weapons trade.
The sanctions were extended after Jeffrey Feltman, a senior state department official, held “constructive” talks on Thursday during his second visit to Syria in as many months, as part of a drive to improve relations with Damascus.
The sanctions, which were introduced by the Bush administration in 2004, will remain in place for another year, a state department official told the Financial Times.
The order mainly affects weapons trade, Syrian Air, and the property of people with links to anti-Israeli groups including Hamas, Hizbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
It was introduced to crack down on Syria’s suspected support for terrorism and terrorist leaders, and alleged support for insurgent groups in Iraq.
“The national emergency with respect to Syria remains in effect because Syria continued to not meet its international obligations. We continue to have serious concerns about Syria’s actions,” the US official said.
Amid tentative steps towards détente with Syria, some members of Congress had been lobbying President Barack Obama to renew the order…..
But Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at Oklahoma university, said that renewing the sanctions sent the wrong signal.
“It was promulgated by the Bush White House, which believed that it could break Syria through a combination of economic, judicial, military and diplomatic pressure. Intimidation did not work,” Mr Landis wrote in a posting on his Syria Comment blog.
“Obama has promised that he will change the nature of US relations in the region. If he renews the Bush sanctions it will be a step in the wrong direction. What impression will it leave in Damascus or on the Arab street? Certainly not a good one,” he wrote.
Mr Feltman met Walid Moallem, the Syrian foreign minister, in Damascus on Thursday and said they had “constructive” talks. Mr Moallem, however, stressed it was still early days. “This is a time when US intentions towards Syria will be put to the test,” he said.
The Obama administration’s efforts to improve ties with Syria are still at a “fact finding” stage, diplomats say, but are picking up speed.
Underscoring Washington’s difficult relationship with Syria, Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, the Iranian president, was feted during a visit to Damascus on Tuesday….
Obama’s sanctions send a message to Lebanon’s Feb. 14 coalition that America still has its back. A friend writes: “Just as Feltman and Shapiro touched down in Damascus for their second trip, US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, David Hale, flew to Beirut and reaffirmed the US commitment to Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence. “The aim of my visit is to reaffirm the message delivered by Clinton to Michel Suleiman from his counterpart Obama.”
Here are the stories from the wires:
“We conveyed … President Obama’s sincere commitment to pursue Arab-Israeli peace on all tracks, including on the Syrian-Israeli track,” senior State Department official Jeffrey Feltman said after meeting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem in the Syrian capital.
US Talks In Syria Intensify CBS News
The Obama administration believes engaging the Syrian regime will weaken Syria’s strategic alliance with Iran, but Syrian officials have repeatedly dismissed the idea, saying Damascus was more than willing to be a bridge between Washington and Tehran.
Assad, following his talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday in the Syrian capital, defended his country’s alliance with Iran as “strategic,” saying the vision they shared over the past years was “correct.”…
Damascus, which has great influence over two of Israel’s main enemies — Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon, and Hamas, whose leaders are based here in Damascus, has indicated that it seeks no further quarrel with Washington, even saying it would like the new administration to mediate stalled Syrian-Israeli peace talks to restore the Golan Heights, to end sanctions, and allow inflow of Western investment and technology….
Changes to peace plan for Palestine rejected by Syria, Irish Times
In addition to Syria, Qatar and Lebanon are likely to reject any softening of the full-withdrawal-for-peace formula and the stance on refugees. …
Here is a copy of the Presidents order issued today explaining why he has renewed sanctions on Syria.
Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to the Actions of the Government of Syria
Presidential Documents, 21765, Federal Register
Vol. 74, No. 88, Friday, May 8, 2009, Title 3
—The President, Notice of May 7, 2009
On May 11, 2004, pursuant to his authority under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, 50 U.S.C. 1701–1706, and the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003, Public Law 108–175, the President issued Executive Order 13338, in which he declared a national emergency with respect to the actions of the Government of Syria. To deal with this national emergency, Executive Order 13338 authorized the blocking of property of certain persons and prohibited the exportation or re-exportation of certain goods to Syria. On April 25, 2006, and February 13, 2008, the President issued Executive Order 13399 and Executive Order 13460, respectively, to take additional steps with respect to this national emergency.
The President took these actions to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States constituted by the actions of the Government of Syria in supporting terrorism, maintaining its then-existing occupation of Lebanon, pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, and undermining U.S. and international efforts with respect to the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq.
Because the actions and policies of the Government of Syria continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States, the national emergency declared on May 11, 2004, and the measures adopted on that date, on April 25, 2006, in Executive Order 13399, and on February 13, 2008, in Executive Order 13460, to deal with that emergency must continue in effect beyond May 11, 2009. Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act, 50 U.S.C. 1622(d), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency declared with respect to certain actions of the Government of Syria.
Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 88 / Friday, May 8, 2009 / Presidential Documents
This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.
THE WHITE HOUSE,
May 7, 2009.
[FR Doc. E9–11047
Filed 5–7–09; 1:00 pm]
Damascus Bourse Should Let in Overseas Investors, Broker Says
By Nadim Issa
May 7 (Bloomberg) — The Damascus Securities Exchange must allow international investors, remove trading limits and open for more than two days a week, said Rashad Halwani, head of trading at the Damascus-based brokerage IFA Financial Services SA.
“The fluctuation limit of two percent and the limited number of days for trading are two major reasons which are restricting trading on the bourse” said Halwani in a telephone interview from Damascus.
Halwani said the value of transaction for the seven listed companies on the exchange today reached 524,200 Syrian pounds ($11,200) while Bank of Syria & Overseas didn’t trade.
The Syrian Commission on Financial Markets & Securities is reviewing whether to open the exchange to international investors in an effort to increase trading.