Petreaus Proposed Visiting Syria: VP Refused him Permission.

[Landis analysis] The following “Exclusive” ABC story is not so exclusive. Syria Comment has been writing since August 2008 that Petraeus tried to go to Damascus in the fall of 2007, but was refused permission by the Vice President. It wasn’t the president. (That little bit of info is an SC exclusive told to me by a top intelligence officer.)

The refusal to find a political solution to the border problem, which could have been done at the price of returning a US ambassador to Damascus, left the officers in Iraq with no alternative but to solve their problem with the only means that remained – force.

Because Washington in its wisdom refused to pay the political price to win better Syrian cooperation and intelligence sharing, the boots on the ground had to use the method available to them. Of course there are many more infiltrators to kill where Abu Ghadiya came from. There is no military solution to this problem. The Syrian-Iraq border is a smugglers paradise. 30% of its inhabitants live under the poverty line, making less than $2 a day. The risks of smuggling may just have gone up due to America’s extra-judicial killing, but with hundreds of smugglers opperating along the border, the chances of being killed remain very small. Poverty is a cruel but effective whip. Others will step in to take Abu Ghadiya’s place.

Exclusive: Petraeus Wants to Go to Syria; Bush Administration Says No
Petraeus Proposed Visiting Syria But Was Rejected By Bush Administration
By JONATHAN KARL, ABC
Oct. 30, 2008

Apparently Gen. David Petraeus does not agree with the Bush administration that the road to Damascus is a dead end.

Officials familiar with Petraeus’ thinking on the subject say he wants to engage Syria in part because he believes that U.S. diplomacy can be used to drive a wedge between Syria and Iran. He plans to continue pushing the idea.

ABC News has learned, Gen. Devid Petraeus proposed visiting Syria shortly after taking over as the top U.S. commander for the Middle East. The idea was swiftly rejected by Bush administration officials at the White House, State Department and Pentagon.

The idea was swiftly rejected by Bush administration officials at the White House, State Department and the Pentagon.

Petraeus, who becomes the commander of U.S. Central Command (Centcom) Friday, had hoped to meet in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Petraeus proposed the trip, and senior officials objected, before the covert U.S. strike earlier this week on a target inside Syria’s border with Iraq.

Damascus has decided to cut off its diplomatic relations with Iraq in response to a deadly raid carried out by the U.S. on Syrian soil earlier this week, Al-Arabiya reported on Thursday.

In Washington, Syrian diplomats were quoted as saying they were reversing their earlier decision to have a senior U.S. State Department official visit Damascus to advance Syria-Israel peace talks.

US mulling over next move against Syria
Thu, 30 Oct 2008 02:16:25 GMT

The US State Department says it is considering a response to Syria after Damascus shut down US schools and a cultural center in the country.

“We will not go into further details of the diplomatic exchange. We’re looking at how to respond,” Wood said.

Syrian protesters on Thursday
AP foreign, Thursday October 30 2008

US Charge d’affaires Maura Connelly was summoned Wednesday to the Syrian Foreign Ministry where the chief of protocol “verbally communicated” Syria’s “request that the American cultural center be closed immediately,” Deputy Spokesperson Robert Wood said.

An abuse of power
James Denselow, guardian, Thursday October 30 2008

The US raid into Syria has damaged its relationship with the Iraqi government as well as highlighted its weaknesses

In May David Satterfield, under-secretary of state with responsibility for Iraq, boldly predicted that the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq would be agreed within weeks. Three months later with the agreement still unsigned it appears the Americans are resorting to more traditional arm twisting to secure the deal that legalizes their presence in Iraq.

The good cop routine has been to remind the Iraqi government how reliant they really are on US forces and how they shouldn’t get too big for their boots. This was delivered by the US commander in Iraq, General Raymond Odierno, who warned that the “Iraqi security forces would collapse” if US forces withdrew to barracks . Ironically this came out just before the 13th of Iraq’s 18 provinces, Wasit, was handed over to these same Iraqi security forces. ….

The pressure can be described as a “good cop, bad cop” routine. The bad cop decision to conduct a special forces raid into Syria appears to be rapidly backfiring. Indeed the decision by Washington to offer no public diplomacy has allowed the Syrians, perhaps the least media friendly of all Middle Eastern states, to control the agenda.

…. All we are left with [on the American side] is the comments from unnamed US officials that: “We are taking matters into our own hands”.

Al Jazeera provided the most in-depth coverage, managing to interview local residents of Sukkariyeh as well as obtaining mobile phone footage of the audacious daylight helicopter assault. …

The bigger picture is that the relative success of the surge has led to increased confidence in military action amongst US commanders who believe that having gained the initiative they can afford to be more assertive. Indeed the US press linked the attack to the policy that President Bush assented to earlier this year. This secret directive, for which Congress made an outlay of $300m, promised backing for covert attacks by US forces from Lebanon to Afghanistan.

Politics and peace
By Yossi Alpher Published: October 30, 2008

The Likud and Kadima are running neck-and-neck in early polls. Far behind is Labor’s Ehud Barak, whose peace platform appears to be based on a broader regional approach that embraces the controversial 2002 Arab Peace Initiative spearheaded by the Saudis. Unfortunately for Barak, the Saudis and other moderate Arabs are prepared to do precious little to make good on their initiative until Israel and its Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese neighbors first make peace on their own.

To this list of key actors we must add Olmert himself. By refusing to declare himself unable to continue in office due to his legal difficulties, he remains acting prime minister and leaves Livni out in the cold during her upcoming campaign.

Were he to step aside, she would automatically replace him, with all the advantages this would give her in the campaign. Moreover, by pursuing his own peace initiatives with the Palestinians and Syria despite his lame duck status and abject lack of a mandate, Olmert threatens to become a factor in these elections.

Another key factor in the campaign is the American election. If Barack Obama is elected president, this could influence some middle-of-the-road Israeli voters to pull to the left.

TV station: Syria pulls troops off of Iraqi border

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) – A Syrian television station is reporting that the country is reducing the number of troops on its border with Iraq in response to a deadly U.S. cross-border raid.

Comments (42)


1. Saghir said:

Dear Professor:

This past Monday morning, global stock investors woke up to witness massive losses incurred by those who had decided to short the shares of Volkswagon.

This White House has had a short Syria and long Saudi Arabia and March 14th trade on for close to eight years now.

In spite of all signs that the trade is not working and that it is time to cut losses and take this bad investment off the books, this Administration continues to argue that the trade will work and that we must keep faith in this investment.

Let us hope that the short Syria trade does not end up becoming the Volkswagon short of this White House.

Being a trader, I could not resist making the above analogy. The cardinal rule of my business is to “cut losses”. Sadly, this Administration stubbornly clings to its losses hoping for a turnaround.

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October 30th, 2008, 11:21 pm

 

2. AIG said:

Dear Saghir,

How about the Syrian trade, long Iran, Hamas and Hizballan and short US and Europe. Is that a good trade or should Syria cut its losses also? Given the paltry economic gains of Syria in the last years, I think the trade is a real bad one.

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October 30th, 2008, 11:44 pm

 

3. saghir said:

Dearest AIG,

Damascus does not like to go short stocks. It would like to have a nice diversified portfolio of long Iran, Hamas, Hizbolla, USA and Europe. She has tried to convince people about the merits of this diversification policy to no avail.

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October 30th, 2008, 11:56 pm

 

4. AIG said:

Dear Saghir,
Syria likes very much going short. During the cold war they went short the US and lost quite a bit. They are making the same mistake again. Some holdings are just not compatible, you cannot hold them both at the same time. It is high time Syria realized this.

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October 31st, 2008, 12:17 am

 

5. love you Alex said:

AIG: Syria always kept a balanced portfolio even in the era of the soviet union it had good relations with the west and the US.

Israel should really drop this jewish ghetto project, accept the Arab plan and live a nation amongst nations integrated and peaceful.

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October 31st, 2008, 12:52 am

 

6. AIG said:

LYA,

During the cold war Syria was deeply entrenched in the Soviet camp and had quite bad relations with the US.

As for the Jewish Ghetto Project, it is a fact on the ground. The sooner the Arabs accept the Jewish Ghetto (aka Israel) the sooner there will be peace. You really should understand that I and most Israelis would rather die than give up the idea of a Jewish homeland. History has spoken and it has no rewind button. There is a Jewish state in the middle east and getting rid of it means getting rid of the middle east. Accept it and let’s move on. Don’t accept it, and continue languishing under dictatorial regimes and lagging behind the rest of the world.

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October 31st, 2008, 1:10 am

 

7. norman said:

war stories
High Risk, Limited Payoff
In Syria, a dangerous new escalation of the war on terror.
By Fred Kaplan
Posted Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008, at 5:59 PM ET
——————————————————————————–

The Oct. 26 air raid in which U.S. special-operations pilots flew two dozen Black Hawk helicopters across Iraq’s border and killed eight people on Syrian territory marks a new phase in the Bush administration’s war on terror—a phase rife with limited payoffs and astonishingly high risks.

U.S. officials say the cross-border attack was aimed at, and killed, a high-level al-Qaida agent known as Abu Ghadiyah, who has long been smuggling jihadists and arms into western Iraq.

However, Syrian officials say the strikes killed civilians, including a woman and children. They filed a complaint with the U. N. Security Council, closed down the American School in Damascus, and canceled their participation in the upcoming regional conference on Iraqi security.

Even the Iraqi government has joined the Syrians in condemning the airstrikes and is now insisting that a new Status of Forces Agreement—the treaty that permits U.S. troops to remain in Iraq—must include a clause forbidding those troops from using Iraq as a base for attacking other countries.

Finally, at a time when some members of the Bush administration have begun to see the merits of reaching out to Syria—as an inducement to pry it away from Iran, sever its ties with Hezbollah, stabilize Lebanon, and secure the borders of Iraq—the air raid, a deliberate violation of Syrian sovereignty, pushes those goals further out of reach.

The strikes have also enflamed the passions of the Syrian people—thousands protested in the streets today—so that, if President Bashir Assad should ever want to cooperate with America, he might provoke still more protests, potentially a radical uprising. (All the evidence suggests that Assad would like to restore relations; his police are keeping the protesters away from the U.S. Embassy, a sign that he wants to keep things from getting out of hand.)

Certainly Iraq’s porous borders are a problem, which foreign jihadists have been exploiting for years now. However, earlier this month, Gen. David Petraeus, the recently departed commander of U.S. forces in Iraq (now commander of Central Command), said that the number of these incursions has dropped to just 20 a month, down from 120 per month a year ago. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani also told President Bush just last month that Syria was no longer much of a problem.

Still, that doesn’t mean it’s no problem, and the argument could be made that, if a high-level target like Abu Ghadiyah shows up on the scanners just a few miles across the border, we might want to exploit the opportunity.

But that temptation at least should be weighed. On the one hand, what is the tactical benefit of killing him and maybe taking out this particular safe house—to what extent will the act shock or foil the enemy, or cut down the flow of foreign fighters and arms? On the other hand, what is the strategic cost of violating international law, alienating the regional powers, and impeding a political settlement of the war in Iraq?

The intelligence isn’t in yet, but early indications are that the first answer is “Not much” and the second is “Quite a lot.”

Perhaps the raid could be justified if it were a one-time—or even a very rare—operation. But it seems we will be seeing more of these raids in Syria, Pakistan, and perhaps elsewhere. (Meanwhile, the Pakistani government has also formally protested the U.S. airstrikes in the frontier territories across the border of Afghanistan.)

Eli Lake reports in the New Republic that President Bush signed a decision in July allowing commanders on the ground to decide whether to launch tactical attacks across borders. The attack on Syria and the recent attacks on northwestern Pakistan—all taken without the permission of the Syrian or Pakistani government—are all of a piece.

One can understand the impulse behind this decision. If, say, Osama Bin Laden were spotted just across the border, why waste the time it would take to phone Washington for permission to strike? He might get away. But this is a rare, and hypothetical, example. It doesn’t justify giving colonels a broad blank check to make the sort of decision—essentially, committing an act of war—that should be made, and made very carefully, by the commander in chief.

Another consideration here: Recent history shows that there are other ways to deal with the threat of incursions from Syria.

In May 2007, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met for a half-hour with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem precisely to discuss border security. (The two were at a regional conference; Rice approached him for a private face-to-face talk.) In the weeks and months after Sept. 11, 2001, Syria had cooperated extensively with the United States, providing some of the most useful intelligence information about al-Qaida. Syria ended this relationship in March 2003, when Bush invaded Iraq. Relations deteriorated further in 2005 when Syria was implicated in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, and in response, the United States withdrew its ambassador.

At the 2007 meeting with Secretary Rice, Foreign Minister Moallem said that Syria would like to resume cooperating with Washington on security and intelligence, if Washington resumed diplomatic relations—that is, if a U.S. ambassador were returned to Damascus. The White House nixed the deal.

Later that year, Gen. Petraeus, increasingly frustrated with cross-border trafficking, wanted to go to Damascus to talk with military officers about possible security measures. The White House refused to let him go.

Bush and especially Vice President Dick Cheney were still firmly wedded to the belief that deals should not be made with dictators—or at least not with dictators who were not our allies—on the grounds that even sitting down with them legitimizes their regime.

At the time, whether covering for her superiors or speaking for herself, Rice justified the refusal to make a deal by saying, “The Syrians know what they have to do.” Maybe they did, but they didn’t know what they would get in return. That’s what diplomacy is about. The Syrians got, and still get, many goodies for their ties with Iran. To break away from that benefactor, they need to know we’ll supply them with goodies in exchange.

Israel is talking with Syria. Iraq is not only talking with Syria but also joining Syria in condemning a U.S. action. What is the point of our continued refusal?

If Rice or Petraeus had been allowed to take their talks further in 2007, last weekend’s airstrike might not have been necessary.

Maybe the next president will reconsider the costs and benefits.

Fred Kaplan is Slate’s “War Stories” columnist and the author of Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power. He can be reached at war_stories@hotmail.com.

Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2203243/

Copyright 2008 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC

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October 31st, 2008, 1:39 am

 

8. jad said:

(You really should understand that I and most Israelis would rather die than give up the idea of a Jewish homeland. History has spoken and it has no rewind button. )
Are this man/women (AIG) for real? does he know what history means?
Maybe he/she should ‘understand’ that no nation on earth is going to stay as it is now…who is strong now will become weak later, and ‘countries’ that exist now, tomorrow may become history and fairy-tale……
There is nothing called a lasting nation, but to make it last a little bit longer you must face your problem and solve them not by force and aggression..since you will loose that sooner or later, but by peace and understanding.
If I were you mr/ms ‘philosopher’, I wont use this dead end path as my argument, you sound very primitive and uneducated. ;)

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October 31st, 2008, 2:30 am

 

9. Love You Alex said:

AIG: All apartheid regimes have fallen. better for israel to join the 21st century and give up it racist project. It can not claim to be part of the west and practice the policy of racism of 20ths century europe that the jews were the bigest victims off (the Irony).

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October 31st, 2008, 2:52 am

 

10. AIG said:

Ha ha ha. Jad, your post is very funny.
Those that find honor in falling ever behind because of “resistance” and have promised me to take the Golan by force are talking of not solving problems by force and aggression. Those that argue that they are justified in using terrorism because they cannot win a regular war are talking of not using force and aggression. Those that support a regime that uses brute force to stop all dissent are talking of not using force and aggression. You really redefine what primitive and uneducated means. It is the inability to see 2 centimeters in front of your nose and realize that all the political systems in the Arab world are based on “force and aggression”.

For Arabs using force is honorable, for Jews it is primitive and uneducated. This muddled thinking explains why the economic and technological gulf between Israel and Syria has grown so large over the last 60 years. And it also shows just how prejudiced you are against Jews.

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October 31st, 2008, 3:10 am

 

11. AIG said:

LYA,

Why don’t you get rid of the apartheid regime in Syria where about 15% of the population, the Alawites, controls the country? Israel is a democracy while Syria is the perfect example of an apartheid state where only a small minority have privileges while the rest are left dirt poor.

Sorry to say, your view of reality is so distorted that nothing will help you. The brainwashing you have been receiving since childhood has gotten to you. Dictatorship in Syria is good, but the democracy in Israel is apartheid. When the Arabs in Syria have half the rights of those in Israel and one third the economic development, perhaps we can continue the discussion. So far though the Israeli Arab is 5 times richer and much more educated on average than the average Syrian and is well represented in the Israeli political system and has freedom of speech. But the fact that you do not see how far behind Israel you are in human rights is astounding. You sit in your little swamp of dictatorship, intolerance and illiteracy, ignore what is around you and complain about Israel. When will you ever learn?

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October 31st, 2008, 3:20 am

 

12. Saghir said:

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1033028.html

Our very own Alex made it to Haaretz

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October 31st, 2008, 3:20 am

 

13. Innocent_Criminal said:

I am not sure the decision to reduce Syrian troops on the Iraqi border is the right move. Publicly it makes Syria amateurish as if they’re doing it to spite the Iraqis and Americans. The fact that such a move is actually an offensive threat means the Syrians acknowledge there is a huge problem on their border and they’re planning on showing the Americans how bad it will get if Syria is not helping. And this might have the opposite effect than what Syria wants. increased smuggling of fighters into Iraq might hamper Syria’s efforts in improving its image with the new administration in Washington.

an alternative moved might have been the exact opposite. Increase army presence on the border and maybe even introduce symbolically offensive anti-aircraft batteries for public consumption.

A bit dramatic I know, but I think the public need an ego boost :P

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October 31st, 2008, 3:59 am

 

14. jad said:

What a smart translation of my comments? I thank you for actually proving my point that you are a primitive and uneducated, because none of what you wrote fit in what I meant. However, and since you mentioned the resistance, I must say aggressive occupier like yours deserve an aggressive resistance like that, it seems that this is the only language your state understand and that is fair you get what you deserve, it’s Karma…. Now you can laugh.

I thought that there is a limit on your meaningless and useless comments on here, you’ve been commenting the whole day today…Don’t you have a life outside the Internet? People don’t like you? Your mum doesn’t look after you since she is busy? Your father beat you every night? Your wife/husband run away from you? What’s your problem? Well, whatever your problem is you can go to hell I don’t really care…

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October 31st, 2008, 4:07 am

 

15. Alex said:

I will have to disagree with you IC,

If you display your guns, you better use them the next time you are attacked.

I imagine this administration wants Syria to shoot at American soldiers.

They can deliver a painful strike at various Syrian targets … but they need American public outrage at the Syrians before they can deliver a serious parting shot.

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October 31st, 2008, 4:23 am

 

16. jad said:

Hey Alex,
You are a big star now eh! Haaretz!
I liked the last sentence they wrote…(he does not represent the official Syrian position, but his comments are apparently close to that position.)
Any comment on that?

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October 31st, 2008, 4:29 am

 

17. why-discuss said:

innocent criminal

“I am not sure the decision to reduce Syrian troops on the Iraqi border is the right move”

I think it is, it will force the US and Iraq to deploy more of their soldiers on the borders, something they have no done despite several appeals from Syria to do it. It is too easy to punish Syria punctually when on the Iraqi side they have no one and when the US refused to share intelligence with Syria.
If the Iraqi-US do not control this border it will become more porous and the effects will be seen soon in Iraq.
It is time the US collaborates with Iraq’s neighbours to deal with Al Qaeda terrorism that none wants, instead of using these operations that backfire and brings more problems.

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October 31st, 2008, 4:33 am

 

18. Alex said:

Jad,

“close” is a flexible term.

My comments can also be considered close to Chinese position : )

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October 31st, 2008, 5:21 am

 

19. jad said:

LOL, good one Alex,
Actually, me and Shai are now very ‘close’ to the Chinese too, next week we are going with them for 4 maybe 8 years into the space…
I asked your comment because they wrote that in a way to sound as a taboo being close to the official syrian position.

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October 31st, 2008, 6:07 am

 

20. Rumyal said:

Jad,

I think you misinterpret. No taboo was implied. They just wanted to say that it’s likely the mainstream Syrian position that flipping tracks could backfire. I guess at least one of the reporters might be following the blog regularly. So Barak Ravid and Yoav Stern, if you read this, why don’t you give us a sign of life and clarify?

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October 31st, 2008, 6:30 am

 

21. Rumyal said:

I agree with IC’s position on Syria’s withdrawal of border patrol forces from the border. This is not a smart move. Syria should stick to the line that it abides by international law and cooperates with its neighbors. (I’m not saying it always does that, but this shouldn’t be an instance where it’s beneficial to say one thing and do the opposite). Here’s why:

1. A sovereign country controls its borders. If you can’t control your borders, you’re risking being declared a failed state and everything that is derived from that. For example, somebody may decide that it’s about time to redraw your borders… http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200801/goldberg-mideast
2. Syria has little to gain from bleeding the US by letting insurgents across the border. It may be impossible to prevent them from crossing, but it doesn’t make sense to intentionally harbor and support them, in case Syria is doing that.
3. The same al-Qaida that is bleeding Iraq will turn against the regime in Syria. Supporting them (if Syria is supporting them) is shortsighted (pretty much reminds me how Israel supported the Hamas against Fatah).
4. Syria needs to foster good relationships with the Iraqi state and preventing illegal infiltration is important in this regard.

BTW, I find it very hard to believe that the borders with Jordan and SA are hermitically sealed. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are plenty more fighters entering from SA than from Syria. Am I wrong about that? Do the Saudis really have such tight control?

Israel has a much shorter border with Egypt and still the Bedouins can smuggle pretty much whatever they want despite Israeli and Egyptians patrols. Of course it helps that the smuggler has cousins heading the patrols on either side of the border :-) but I guess that’s the case with Syria and Iraq too.

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October 31st, 2008, 6:50 am

 

22. Jad said:

Hi Rumyal, Maybe you are right that they wanted to reflect the mainstream Syrian position but regarding this point (the Arab peace initiative) Alex article was too original and too unique to be consider as a mainstream before he publish it. Correct me if I’m wrong but when it comes to writing a news every word we read should imply to something and this is why I think that it was meant in a negative rather than positive.

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October 31st, 2008, 6:54 am

 

23. Rumyal said:

Hi Jad,

It’s definitely not a negative tone. I’m 100% about that. The article is subtly supportive of Olmert’s last ditch effort and it brings the SC commentary as a source reciprocating the importance of sticking to the current track, from a Syrian point of view. Alex’s credentials are presented such that it shows credibility to the claim that the Syrians are interested in the continuation of this track, too.

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October 31st, 2008, 7:05 am

 

24. jad said:

Thank you Rumyal for the explanation,
I agree with you about the article itself of not being negative, I was just talking about the word ‘close to the official syrian position’ from a very personal point of view it didn’t sound that innocent, that’s all.

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October 31st, 2008, 7:47 am

 

25. norman said:

THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Israel’s Olmert to push for more Syria talks
By Matti Friedman, Associated Press Writer | October 31, 2008

JERUSALEM –A spokesman for Israel’s prime minister says Ehud Olmert believes peace talks with Syria should continue even though elections are pending.

Mark Regev says Olmert “sees importance in the continuation of the dialogue” with Syria. Regev on Friday did not deny Israeli media reports that Olmert planned to ask Turkey next week to arrange another round of indirect talks with Syria.

Four rounds of talks through Turkish mediators have been held, but contacts have been suspended for months because of political upheaval in Israel.

Olmert announced he was stepping down because of corruption charges, but remains a caretaker leader until after February elections. Olmert’s political opponents say he should freeze negotiations as his days in office are numbered.

© Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

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October 31st, 2008, 12:14 pm

 

26. norman said:

This is for the people in Syria who can not link to Haaretz,

Alex should be famous there too.

w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m

——————————————————————————–

Last update – 12:24 31/10/2008
Right infuriated by Olmert plan to resume Syria talks
By Barak Ravid and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert intends to resume indirect, Turkish-mediated negotiations with Syria soon, according to a senior government official.

The official added that talks between the Prime Minister’s Bureau and the bureau of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan would be held next week to try to coordinate an agreed-on date for what would be the fifth round of indirect talks with the Syrians.

In response to the report, Likud MK Yuval Steinitz slammed Olmert as having delivered a “simultaneous blow to the principles of democracy and the crucial interests of the State of Israel,” by carrying out such negotiations with Syria.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister and Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni has called for an increase of international pressure on Syria.

Olmert’s intention to resume talks has raised fury among right-wing lawmakers, especially as the government elections.

Olmert met Tuesday with Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, who had held a two-hour meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad a few days earlier in Damascus. Assad expressed a desire to continue talks with Israel, and was “very serious,” the Danish minister told Olmert.

Moeller also said Assad had told him he was willing to conduct direct negotiations with Israel while President George W. Bush is still in office, if Assad were to receive a satisfactory response from Israel to the “six-point document” he gave the Turkish prime minister in September.

According to an Israeli government source, Israel is aware of the content of the document. Haaretz has learned that the document contains three points dealing with the marking of the border of the Golan Heights and three points dealing with security issues in the framework of a peace treaty between the two countries.

Olmert reportedly told Moeller that his intentions toward the Syrians were also serious and noted that he had said as much in an interview he gave recently to Yediot Ahronoth. Olmert also reportedly told Moeller that Israel would answer the Syrians’ questions at the coming meeting. The Prime Minister’s Bureau declined to comment on the matter.

If a date is set for another round of talks, it will be handled by the same team as the previous rounds, including Yoram Turbovicz and and Shalom Turjeman. Turbovicz retired in August from his position as Olmert’s bureau chief and recently received approval from the attorney general to head the negotiating team on a voluntary basis. The arrangement for Turbovicz was several months in the making, one of the reasons talks with the Syrians were frozen.

The six-point document was first made public at a summit in Damascus at the beginning of September, attended by the president of France, the Turkish premier and the emir of Qatar, where Assad announced that he had given the document to Ankara, and that it included Syria’s demands regarding an agreement with Israel. Assad is believed to view Israeli agreement to the document, which Israel received via Turkey, as a condition for a move to direct talks.

Despite Olmert’s desire to talk to the Syrians, he may find it difficult to do so because of the major tensions between Damascus and Washington following the U.S. air attack on Syrian territory on Sunday, which killed eight people. Syria took a number of steps against American institutions in Damascus, and the U.S. State Department announced that the American Embassy in Damascus would be closed until further notice.

Syria announced Thursday it would withdraw its Border Guard forces from the border with Iraq as a “punitive measure” against the United States for the bombing. A huge anti-American demonstration was also organized in Damascus to protest the attack.

The last round of Turkish-mediated indirect talks between Israel and Syria ended the same day Olmert announced he was leaving office in the wake of the investigations against him. The fifth round, planned for the beginning of September, was postponed because of the political situation in Israel and Turbovicz’s departure.

Olmert kept a low political profile after the Kadima primary to allow the party’s new chairwoman, Livni, to conduct coalition talks without interruption. However, sources told Haaretz that following Livni’s failure to form a government and the call for early elections, with Olmert now having at least three months left in office, Israel initiated the move to renew talks with the Syrians.

Renewing talks with Syria does not exceed Olmert’s authority as head of a transition government; however, he could find himself the subject of criticism by Livni. Livni told the Turkish defense minister Thursday that the smuggling of weapons from Syria to Hezbollah was very serious, adding, “International pressure must be brought to bear on Syria to stop this phenomenon.”

Olmert did not discuss the diplomatic talks in his speech at the opening of the Knesset’s winter session Monday, but he did note that “the interests of the country do not go into deep-freeze. Olmert also said that “the feeling of a preelection freeze is misleading – there are decisions to be made and a country to run. The decisions will be made and the country will be run.”

Meanwhile, a Syrian commentator living in the West, Camille Alexandre Otrakji, said he believed the proposal raised by President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to negotiate based on the Arab peace initiative could be dangerous. In a blog on a public affairs Web site focusing on Syria, Otrakji wrote that the initiative could “…probably be another cycle of chaos, violence, war threats followed by a sequence of flipping peace tracks.” Otrakji does not represent the official Syrian position, but his comments are apparently close to that position.

Related articles:

Turkey: Syria-Israel talks to continue with Livni in charge

Turkey hoping Syria talks will ease domestic turmoil

Official: Latest Israel-Syria talks end in ‘positive atmosphere’

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October 31st, 2008, 12:23 pm

 

27. All Our Might » Blog Archive » Petraeus wanted to visit Syria… said:

[...] to Syria Comment, this goes back to August: Syria Commenthas been writing since August 2008 that Petraeus tried to [...]

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October 31st, 2008, 12:24 pm

 

28. brian said:

This attack recalls another: the One made by Israel on the Lebanon border post in 2006. That too was designed to provoke a response by Lebanon to justify an israeli invasion.

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October 31st, 2008, 12:41 pm

 

29. kooki said:

Now here’s a curious thing. The websites of Haaretz and Jerusalem Post were blocked by the main Syrian broadband provider earlier this year, but today, alhamdilillah, they’re available again. I got quite excited and rushed off to see if Facebook, Youtube,all4syria, blogspot et al, had been unblocked, but no such luck. Even Amazon.com is still blocked. (FYI it depends which provider, or internet cafe you’re with as to which sites are blocked. I’m with STE, or Tarassul.)

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October 31st, 2008, 12:51 pm

 

30. why-discuss said:

It looks like Olmert, humiliated by the august 2006 defeat and the corruption charges is hoping of saving his face and reclaiming some kind of honor if he is able to have a Syria-Israel peace process working.
Having nothing to loose in Israel, and indifferent to local criticism, he may be the only one that can do it, even though he has only 5 months to go.
I am sure Tzipi Livni and others are privately looking favorably at this.

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October 31st, 2008, 1:43 pm

 

31. Enlightened said:

A little girl, as placid and beautiful as all girls are to a very happy father. ( We called her Dahlia) Born at Masada Hospital Melbourne East St Kilda ( A jewish hospital, and delivered by very fine jewish doctors)

Offended a few complications but everything now all good ( the absence for a few days)

Rumyal many thanks for the kind words. I hope all our children know and live a peace that some of us where deprived of in our lifetime.

Back to the news:

The government has played fairly smart at this stage with the demonstrations, and pulling some of the troops back from the border. My question to anyone that might know was whether there was any Iraqi complicity in this matter?

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October 31st, 2008, 2:27 pm

 

32. trustquest said:

Correction: previous discussion of Alex article was not fully comprehensive.

On 26, what Haarets quoted Alex does not reflect Alex’s article neither his intention at all.
Alex was saying, and he is right, that Syria is fully with the Arab initiative but also saying in the end of his post that Peres raising the Arab initiative just as a spoiler in this time is a bad thing and expected “…probably be another cycle of chaos, violence, war threats followed by a sequence of flipping peace tracks.”
Because Alex said earlier:
” If Israel is falling in love again with the Arab Peace Initiative for all the right reasons, then it can only be good news for everyone. Syria will be the first to sit on that table.”

Alex:Corrected me if I’m wrong

Note: I do find Syria foreign policy position toward peace in the middle east balanced and reasonable and becoming more engaging. I do differentiate between the regime and the state position and I find most of foreign Syrian policy reflect the state interest but sadly it is not inclusive in representation and discussion.

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October 31st, 2008, 3:02 pm

 

33. jad said:

Congratulations Enlighted, tirba bi 3zak.

There was a small Iraqi demonstration in Damascus against the attack.
Very few people are blaming the iraqis since everybody knows that they have no power to do anything but words, though, I read some harsh comments on different Syrian and Arabic news websites asking to kick them out of Syria, but as usual those are part of the picture we usually see when such incident happen. They will be fine I guess.

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October 31st, 2008, 3:03 pm

 

34. Alex said:

Enlightened,

A thousand Mabrouks my friend!

Dear Trustquest,

You are absolutely right.

I tried to discuss both possibilities … if Israel is sincere about peace, or if Israeli leaders are planning to use the well publicized Arab initiative to undo the advances in negotiations with the Syrians and Palestinians.

But this happens all the time, in a short opinion piece or news report, every item (like my article) takes one or two paragraphs at most. They can not quote all the nuances of the article in one paragraph.

Jad and Rumyal,

It is mostly my fault … Yoav asked me if this article represents official Syrian position on the subject and I replied (by email):

No it does not, except the part I am directly quoting Ambassador Moustapha … but “IN MY OPINION it is close”.

I received an email today that I will publish later … it seems that the way Syria views the recent Saudi plan promotion is indeed closer to the part Haaretz chose to publish.

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October 31st, 2008, 3:46 pm

 

35. norman said:

Enlighted one,

Congrats , I am happy that mother and daughter in good shape , May God give her and you two long life to and to grow and with your care .

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October 31st, 2008, 3:53 pm

 

36. Rumyal said:

Enlighted one: Alf Mabrouk to you and your wife!

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October 31st, 2008, 5:12 pm

 

37. Shai said:

Enlightened,

Mazal Tov! Congratulations to you, your wife, and your family. May Dahlia grow up healthy, strong, wise, open-minded, and peace-loving like her father (and of course mother). Btw, Dalia is also a girl’s name in Hebrew…!

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October 31st, 2008, 5:19 pm

 

38. Joshua said:

Dear Enlightened.

Congratulatins on Dahlia – may she give you 100 years of happiness, pride and adventures.

Wonderful. Joshua

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October 31st, 2008, 5:24 pm

 

39. Off the Wall said:

Dear Enlightened

Congratulations and best wishes to your entire family. The 21st century is a good time to be born, may she live through the 22 as well inshalla

“Mabrook Terba b3ezzkon”.

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October 31st, 2008, 8:41 pm

 

40. Enlightened said:

Many thanks for everyones kind words.

Thought that letting everyone hear some good news might lift some spirits, in what has been a depressing week.

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November 1st, 2008, 11:58 pm

 

41. Bush & Cheney still have until January!! « BuelahMan’s Redstate Revolt said:

[...] border with Iraq.” Glenn Greenwald points out, this is not the exclusive Karl claims. Joshua Landis writes that he “has been writing since August 2008 that Petraeus tried to go to Damascus in [...]

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November 3rd, 2008, 3:02 pm

 

42. Bush and Cheney’s Last Shot « Politics or Poppycock said:

[...] Comment blogger Joshua Landis writes that he “has been writing since August 2008 that Petraeus tried to go to Damascus in [...]

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November 3rd, 2008, 5:51 pm

 

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