Sanctions on Businessman Target Syria’s Inner Sanctum

Posted by Alex 

Sanctions on Businessman Target Syria's Inner Sanctum
U.S. Action Alleges Corruption

By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 22, 2008; A18

The Bush administration yesterday froze the U.S. assets and restricted the financial transactions of Syrian businessman Rami Makhluf, a powerful behind-the-scenes middle man for the Syrian government, in a move targeting the political and economic inner sanctum in Damascus.

As a cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Makhluf, 38, is a key player in the Assad dynasty and is the force behind Syria's effort to privatize state-owned enterprises. However, his power over vital business monopolies has helped the government retain control over Syria's most important economic assets, according to U.S. officials and outside experts.

"Once you hit Rami Makhluf, you're at war with Syria," said Joshua M. Landis, a former Fulbright scholar in Syria who teaches at the University of Oklahoma. "When you sanction Rami Makhluf, you're also sanctioning all the people who deal with him, including the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country."

The Treasury Department sanctioned Makhluf under an executive order citing Syrians for alleged corruption. "Makhluf has used intimidation and his close ties to the Assad regime to obtain improper business advantages at the expense of ordinary Syrians," said Stuart Levey, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. "The Assad regime's cronyism and corruption has a corrosive effect, disadvantaging innocent Syrian businessmen and entrenching a regime that pursues oppressive and destabilizing politics, including beyond Syria's borders, in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories."

The move freezes any assets Makhluf holds in the United States and restricts his transactions through U.S. financial institutions. The impact, however, may be largely political and psychological, as he is unlikely to have identifiable U.S. holdings, experts said.

The action was taken under a presidential executive order, signed on Feb. 13, which expanded sanctions on Syria — covering support for activities related to terrorism, narcotics and intervention in Lebanon — to include corruption.

The ruling Syrian dynasty was crafted with the marriage of Hafez al-Assad, the longtime president who came from a rural background and was the first in his family to graduate from high school, to Anisah Makhluf, who hailed from a wealthy Syrian family. Since a military coup in 1969, the Assads have controlled politics while the Makhlufs have been big business players. The tradition continues in the next generation, with Bashar al-Assad as president and Rami Makhluf as a leading force in business.

Makhluf is a top player in Syria's telecommunications, commercial, energy and banking sectors, said Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"The considerable role the Assad family, their inner circle and the Syrian security services exert over the economy, coupled with the absence of a free judicial system and the lack of transparency, concentrates wealth in the hands of certain classes and individuals," the Treasury Department said in its announcement. "In turn, these classes and individuals depend upon this corrupt system for their success and fortune. Syrians without these connections are unable to improve their economic standing."

The Bush administration has expanded punitive measures against Damascus in recent months, with the Makhluf family coming under scrutiny. In November, the Treasury sanctioned Hafiz Makhluf, Rami's brother, for his connection with efforts to reassert Syrian control over Lebanon. Syria ended its 29-year occupation of Lebanon in 2005, but U.S. officials have charged that Damascus has been linked to subsequent attacks on Lebanese politicians.

"With these moves, the president of the United States is making it clear that the Syrian regime is anathema and unacceptable to him," said Ammar Abdulhamid, a fellow with the Brookings Institution's Saban Center. The U.S. action comes as the Syrian economy is vulnerable. Oil production is falling, and revenue from oil exports has accounted for as much as half of Syria's government budget, Landis said.

"A lot of people think of Makhluf as a highway robber, and in some ways he is. But he is also one of the few people who can work through the system to get things done," said Landis, referring to Rami Makhluf. "All kinds of banks and people and foreign investors who want to join in Syria's development are going to think twice and think 'What's going to happen to me?'

Comments (544)


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501. Enlightened said:

QN:

We are close, but if you subtract the meaningless and inane dialogue we had with AIG, we still have a long way to go

ps

how was your garlic shawarma dinner?

What do I have to do, pick a fight?

ok Ive got one “You terrorist Syrian Baathi Sympathiser”

is that bait was it good or should I try harder?

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February 26th, 2008, 3:57 am

 

502. Zenobia said:

You guys are sick.
SICK SICK SICK.
500 comments later, and you are still arguing the same things over and over again.

Does it really matter WHO IS A TERRORIST?????? or who is the worst terrorist or is a terrorist state or the most guilty of all??

ISN’T IT ALLLLLL BAD????

Isn’t all the violence bad? whether it comes from an army wearing uniforms and dropping bombs….
or a militia hiding in tunnels and shooting rockets out of launchers……
cave dwelling men in ‘manjammies’ staging ambushes……..
a guy wearing a ton of TNT blowing himself and everybody around him up………

Isn’t it allll pretty much SICK????

WHAT DOES IT MATTER WHO CAN CLAIM MORE LEGITIMACY!
or who has god on their side? or even who has the power of the world on their side?

What is the point of debating what is the “appropriate” or “justifiable” level of violence?, as if there is some line….that defines everything….
because it is obvious….that there is no line…. the line can always be moved…. under some created justification. Everyone defines and places the lines of acceptable violence where they see fit.
If there are any legitimate lines at all- they may only be drawn by a world court- if we had one….an unbiased…. unfettered….. uncorrupted- impartial world court…or body..

yet, the lack of this reality is hardly a reason to go on making up our lines as we go…. debating whether certain violence is warranted or not….whether torturing people is ok, whether cluster bombing is justified. whether if the violence is against soldiers or civilians it is acceptable. Mugniyeh planned the bombing of 241 soldiers…. and those aren’t civilians…. was that justifiable warfare then? and is Israeli bombing a Red Cross truck if it was in the wrong place according to their warning….warranted and justified?

Isn’t this a despicable line of debate?

Wouldn’t we rather find an end to it allll????
Is there any violence that doesn’t 90% of the time.. simply bring a reaction of more of the same. Endless revenge of man against man. and there is no end…..

Because, ultimately, the army cannot destroy the suicide bomber and the suicide bomber and even a militia cannot destroy an army…..
so… NOBODY WINS.

and isn’t the point really to figure out what people want and how we can minimize the motivation to continue the assaults- whether they come from armies or jihadists (even) or suicide bombers, or oppressive governments?

Because, everybody wants something. That is my assertion.
…. there are no human beings who just do things…including committing violence for no reason at all…. just because they are crazy irrational or think they are serving god…. THAT IS NOT THE REASON. Religion is just pretext….used for convincing people to identify with a group and get behind some cause.
But the needs behind the cause are real.

EVERY violent expression is a political expression….. an attempt to achieve something needed (no matter how misguided the justification or the pretext or the method)…. and unless there is some proper recognition and redress to the needs that are attempting to be met….. the violent method will continue…. end of story.

It serves no purpose to argue that one type of violence is justified…because it is committed to serve a god or to serve a state… or to serve justice….
It is allllll a sin….
and it all is useless destruction in the end.

so cease your useless arguments about who is the biggest sinner and evil person or group. It is so absurd a debate.

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February 26th, 2008, 3:57 am

 

503. Qifa Nabki said:

Enlightened,

It was delicious, thank you.

Zenobia,

You’re right. But it’s still fun to argue.

Yalla, shabab… with the Lord’s work now done, I bid you night night.

Tomorrow, we shoot for 600.

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February 26th, 2008, 4:00 am

 

504. Enlightened said:

Zenobia Im with you read my posts you terrorist sympathiser!

And please answer the Question should Meshaal be hosted by the Syrian Govt?

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February 26th, 2008, 4:01 am

 

505. norman said:

Nader Intered the race today , how will that affect the presidental race , Any thoughts?.

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February 26th, 2008, 4:05 am

 

506. Zenobia said:

Nizar Qabbani: “I am with Terrorism”

We are accused of terrorism:
if we defended rose and woman
and the mighty verse …
and the blueness of sky …
A dominion .. nothing left therein…
No water, no air ..
No tent, no camel,
and not even dark Arabica coffee!!

We are accused of terrorism:
if we defended with guts
the hair of Balqis
and the lips of Maysun
if we defended Hind, and Da`d
Lubna and Rabab ..
and the stream of Kohl
coming down from their lashes like the verses of revelation.
You will not find with me
a secret poem
or a secret logos
or books I put behind doors.
I do not even have one Qasidah
walking down the street, wearing Hijab.

We are accused of terrorism:
if we wrote about the ruins of a watan
torn, weak …
a watan with no address
and an ummah with no names

I seek the remnants of a watan
none of its grand poems is left
except the bemoans of Khansa.

I seek a dominion in whose horizons
no freedom can be found
red .. blue or yellow.

A watan forbidding us from bying a newspaper
or listening to the news.
A dominion wherein birds are forbidden
from chirping.
A watan wherein, out of terror [ru`b],
its writers got accustomed to write about nothing.

A watan, in the likeness of poetry in our lands:
It is vain talk,
no rhythm,
imported
Ajam, with a crooked face and tongue:
No beginning
No end
No relation with people’s worry
mother earth
and the crisis of man.

A dominion …
going to peace talks
with no honor
no shoe.

A watan,
men peed in their pans ..
women are those left to defend honor.

Salt in our eyes
Salt in our lips
Salt in our words
Can the self carry such dryness?
An inheritance we got from the barren Qahtan?
In our Ummah, no Mu`awiya, and no Abu Sufiyan
No one is left to say “NO”
and face the quitters
they gave up our houses, our bread and our [olive] oil.
They transformed our bright history into a mediocre store.

In our lives, no Qasidah is left,
since we lost our chastity in the bed of the Sultan.

They got accustomed to us, the humbled.
What is left to man
when all that remains
is disgrace.

I seek in the books of history
Ussamah ibn al-Munqith
Uqba ibn Nafi`
Omar, and Hamzah
and Khalid, driving his flocks conquering the Shem.
I seek a Mu`tasim Billah
Saving women from the cruelty of rape
and the fire.

I seek latter days men
All I can see is frightened cats
Scared for their own souls, from
the sultanship of mice.

Is this an overwhelming national blindness?
Are we blind to colors?

We are accused of terrorism

If we refuse to die
with Israel’s bulldozers
tearing our land
tearing our history
tearing our Evangelium
tearing our Koran
tearing the graves of our prophets
If this was our sin,
then, lo, how beautiful terrorism is?

We are accused of terrorism
if we refused to be effaced
by the hands of the Mogul, Jews and Barbarians
if we throw a stone
at the glass of the the Security Council
after the Ceasar of Ceasars got a hold of it.

We are accused of terrorism
if we refuse to negociate with the wolf
and shake the hand with a whore

Amrika
Against the cultures of the peoples
with no culture
Against the civilizations of the civilized
with no civilization
Amrika
a mighty edifice
with no walls!

We are accused of terrorism:
if we refused an era
Amrika became
the foolish, the rich, the mighty
translated, sworn
in Ivri.

We are accused of terrorism:
if we throw a rose
to Jerusalem
to al-Khalil
to Ghazza
to an-Nasirah
if we took bread and water
to beleaguered Troy.

We are accused of terrorism:
if we raised our voices against
the regionalists of our leaders.
All changed their rides:
from Unionists
to Brokers.

If we committed the heinous crime of culture
if we revolted against the orders of the grand caliph
and the seat of the caliphate
If we read jurisprudence or politics
If we recalled God
and read Surat al-Fat-h
[that Chapter of Conquest].
If we listened to the Friday sermon
then we are well-established in the art of terrorism

We are accused of terrorism
if we defended land
and the honor of dust
if we revolted against the rape of people
and our rape
if we defended the last palm trees in our desert
the last stars in our sky
the last syllabi of our names
the last milk in our mothers’ bossoms
if this was our sin
how beautiful is terrorism.

I am with terrorism
if it is able to save me
from the immigrants from Russia
Romania, Hungaria, and Poland

They settled in Palestine
set foot on our shoulders
to steal the minarets of al-Quds
and the door of Aqsa
to steal the arabesques
and the domes.

I am with terrorism
if it will free the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth,
and the virgin, Meriam Betula
and the holy city
from the ambassadors of death and desolation

Yesteryear
The nationalist street was fervent
like a wild horse.
The rivers were abundant with the spirit of youth.

But after Olso,
we no longer had teeth:
we are now a blind and lost people.

We are accused of terrorism:
if we defended with full-force
our poetic heritage
our national wall
our rosy civilization
the culture of flutes in our mountains
and the mirrors displaying blackened eyes.

We are accused of terrorism:
if we defended what we wrote
El azure of our sea
and the aroma of ink
if we defended the freedom of the word
and the holiness of books

I am with terrorism
if it is able to free a people
from tyrants and tyranny
if it is able to save man from the cruelty of man
to return lemon, olive tree, and bird to the South of Lebanon
and the smile back to Golan

I am with terrorism
if it will save me
from the Ceasar of Yehuda
and the Ceasar of Rome

I am with terrorism
as long as this new world order
is shared
between Amrika and Israel
half-half

I am with terrorism
with all my poetry
with all my words
and all my teeth
as long as this new world
is in the hands of a butcher.

I am with terrorism
if the U.S. Senate
enacts judgement
decrees reward and punishment

I am with Irhab [terrorism]
as long this new world order
hates the smell of A`rab.

I am with terrorism
as long as the new world order
wants to slaughter my off-spring.
and send them to dogs.

For all this
I raise my voice high:

I am with terrorism
I am with terrorism
I am with terrorism …

Nizar Qabbani
London, 15 Nisan (April) 1997.

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February 26th, 2008, 4:07 am

 

507. norman said:

Enlightened one ,
Yes , Palestine is part of Syria and Mashal is a Palestinian Syrian Arab leader.

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February 26th, 2008, 4:07 am

 

508. norman said:

That is inspiring Zenobia, Good job.

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February 26th, 2008, 4:10 am

 

509. Enlightened said:

Norman I am kidding I was just using AIG’s line of thinking

Zen;

My head is in a spin, how does this poem sound in Arabic, was it translated into english?

I wouldnt put this poem up with Miltons Paradise lost, nor is it in the league of ny of Gerard Manley Hopkins poetry, but what the heck I dont read or write arabic anyway! (who am I to judge)?

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February 26th, 2008, 4:16 am

 

510. Zenobia said:

ys, of course it is translated.
i am sure it is more amazing in Arabic, if you can read it. lots of sites would have it i think.
i took it off this one, that has the arabic on the right side, but i couldn’t copy it.

http://salaheddine.tripod.com/nizar_terrorism.html

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February 26th, 2008, 4:23 am

 

511. Zenobia said:

Anyhow, i am not a terrorist sympathizer.

i think what the poem is saying is….. is that behind this word terrorism – that is hurled against people….. are in fact, real needs and a giant struggle to survive and to have life…… and the struggle becomes violent….but he is conveying through poetry….everything that is really the substance of the experiences and desires and desperateness underneath….any decision to undertake terrorism.

I am not inspired by some ability to be defiant, I think what is inspiring is the attempt to articulate the passionate yearning and pain underneath this violence.

and then if finally, the reader only chooses to focus on the word…terrorism…to see only that….again….
then this is the tragedy of not hearing and not seeing and not knowing the middle east… and the desperation of many of its people.

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February 26th, 2008, 4:32 am

 

512. Enlightened said:

Sorry Zen, dont read Arabic thats why I asked, but I do not condone violence since I am a pacifist, but i support Meshaal, and everyone else in Syria who has no home to go to ( Damn my head is in a spin, did I just say that)

better stop here or others might accuse me of something…………

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February 26th, 2008, 4:34 am

 

513. Enlightened said:

lol i understood what he said, someone like AIG might not see the shades of grey, but only in black and white

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February 26th, 2008, 4:36 am

 

514. Alex said:

This story is about an amazing Saudi invention … sold 30,000 copies in the first ten days … and we are happy about our 500+ comments in 2 days.

http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2008/02/25/46108.html

Zenobia and Enlightened, I am sorry you do not read Arabic.

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February 26th, 2008, 4:38 am

 

515. Zenobia said:

well,
long live poetry.

i am worn out myself now, too. but i feel we did our job (the lords work as QN said lol)….getting past 500 ….even if a fair share was nonsense…

goodnight everyone….

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February 26th, 2008, 4:40 am

 

516. Enlightened said:

LOl Have to go to, have to pick up the boy, i might sign in later tonight at home.

Alex: I feel your empathy, you could have felt mine earlier. Anyway we are making headway AIG is sounding less and less like Netanyahu and more like Peres( damn who am i kidding) he is the Dark lord of the Sith and he is looking for a new apprentice!

Wonder if he will appear soon!

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February 26th, 2008, 4:45 am

 

517. Enlightened said:

Heres a story for QN when he comes back;

Shillong, INDIA (AFP)

When politician Adolf Lu Hitler-Marak stands for election in an Indian hill state next month, even he may have a tough time standing out in a field of the most unusually named candidates.

Politician and school teacher Frankenstein Momin is also hoping not to scare away the voters in Meghalaya, especially when faced with competition from more benign-sounding candidates such as Hilarious Pochen and Billykid Sangma.

The state in India’s remote northeast goes to the polls on March 3, with more than 331 candidates jostling for around 60 seats in the assembly in the state capital Shillong.

Looking for re-election in his seat is Zenith Sangma, and also trying to outshine their rivals are Celestine Lyngdoh, Starfing Jove Langpen Pdahkasiej, Edstar Lyngdoh Nongbri and Moonlight Pariat.

Romeo Phira Rani and Darling Wavel Lamare are also busy trying to seduce the electorate, while Bison Paslen is locking horns with his rivals in Sutgna Shangpung constituency.

Forward Lyngdoh Mawlong is leading the charge in his constituency, while Admiral K Sangma is also setting sail for battle — as are H. Britainwar Dan and Bombersingh.

Meghalaya is one of three northeastern Indian states voting over the next fortnight.

With a population of 2.3 million, the state is a predominantly Christian area with Khasi as the main language.

English is spoken, but not very fluently — so people often name their children after words and famous people they have little familiarity with or understanding about.

“Often they don’t know the background of the names. They get attracted to exquisite names,” said the conservatively named David Reid Syiemlieh, a professor of history at the North Eastern Hill University in Shillong.

Hitler-Marak — a stocky, balding and mustached figure — said his parents probably had no idea the name was a big no-no.

“Maybe my parents liked the name. But I am not a dictator,” he once told AFP. “My parents did not know who Hitler was.”

In any case, the voters do not seem to mind — Hitler-Marak has been elected to public office before and has served as a state forestry minister, while Frankenstein Momin is a former state education minister.

“It doesn’t matter to us,” said local journalist Geoffrey Kharkongor.

“Parents may christen their children funny names, but as long as the candidates perform their duties, we have no problem.”

And there is a serious side to all this because the elections in Meghalaya and the other two northeastern states will be closely watched as an indicator of national trends.

India’s federal ruling Congress party currently leads the coalition government in Meghalaya — which means the “home of the clouds.”

The results are expected there on March 7.
عودة للأعلى

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February 26th, 2008, 4:49 am

 

518. offended said:

Good night Zenobia.

The morning crew in Dubai will take it from here…

Thank you…

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February 26th, 2008, 5:06 am

 

519. qunfuz said:

I’m not going to have a discussion with AIG, except to say that my wife’s best friend is a Lebanese who lost 27 members of her extended family in 2006. I mean they were murdered by Zionist bombs. People who don’t benefit from the power structure are never going to accept one legal definition of terrorism, written by powerful states, that it is the political violence perpetrated by non-state actors. The term is meaningless. It’s pure propaganda. A better definition is ‘violence aimed at terrorising civilians for political purposes’ in which case the US and Israeli armies do it better than anyone else. They also blow up civilian targets, including buses and other civilian vehicles, and mosques and markets and private homes. AIG, you’re pathetic. Modern war involves murdering and terrorising civilians, full stop. It’s immoral and unIslamic, but it’s modern war. Calling your opponent a terrorist is, firstly, an attempt to make him submit silently to your violence and, secondly, a pyschological attempt to deny your own criminality and barbarism. The occupied and oppressed facing a relentlessly violent enemy have the right to use violence. Whether it’s always advisable is another matter…

And you haven’t left all of Lebanon, nor have you released all Lebanese hostages. And whether people agree with it or not, whether it’s wise or not, it’s clear that Hizbullah has a wider Arab-Islamic agenda beyond the Lebanese agenda. You haven’t left the Golan or Palestine. Your 48 lands are run on apartheid principles.

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February 26th, 2008, 5:22 am

 

520. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,

You say:
“Since we don’t live in an ideal world, then I’m willing to let Asad go on supporting Hamas and Hizbullah, since without these groups, Israel would be able to exercise its terrorism unchecked. It would still be in South Lebanon, it would still be in Gaza, etc. ”

This is an exact quote. So when I say you support terrorism because you think it is an effective way of fighting Israel I am not putting any words in your mouth. You don’t want to call it terrorism that is fine. I will phrase it differently: You support Asad funding Mesh’al to send Palestinians to blow themselves up in buses and restaurants and pubs because that is an effective way to fight Israel.

It appears also that Alex, Zenobia and the not so enlightened Enlightened support this.

Now, your view is that the way Israel fights and the way the US fights, since it causes civllian casualties is terrorism. I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so if this is not what you believe let me know (we know Qunfuz believes it). If the Israeli army is terrorist to you, the US army must be the mother of all terrorists, no? And how about the US Congress that funds the terrorist Israeli army to the tune of $3 billion dollars per year KNOWING FULL WELL how Israel fights and approves the weapon sales to Israel. Is the US Congress supporting terrorists? I am not asking rhetorical questions, I would really like to know what you believe.

This is not a meaningless argument. At its heart are crucial questions on which we differ. If we follow your logic through, the US Congress is equivalent to Asad in supporting terrorism. Also, it shows that for you, the aim justifies the means. Blowing up busses works, and since this is not an ideal world, then this method should be used and supported. Now just tell me this is the same as firing cluster bombs at Hizballah positions.

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February 26th, 2008, 5:50 am

 

521. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QUNFUZ,
Thank you for being honest and not beating around the bush like the other enlightened people on this blog. I appreciate your clear positions to the extreme waffling that is going on. You are at least not ashamed of where you stand. Yours is the true Syrian-Lebanese position regarding Hamas and Hizballah when the tons of makeup are taken off Alex’s and QN’s arguments.

We will of course have to disagree since we have zero basis for any dicussion.

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February 26th, 2008, 6:00 am

 

522. offended said:

AIG, going by your line of thinking:
1- Hezbollah’s foray into northern Israel was totally justified.
2- Hezbollah’s firing of rockets over residential areas is justified as reciprocation for the Israeli massacres of Tire (27 civilians) and Qana (around 50 civilians)…

I see the gap of disagreement is getting narrower….

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February 26th, 2008, 6:21 am

 

523. wizart said:

Shai,

Did you know Shai means tea in Arabic? Just noticed Nizar Abbani discussed food when talking about why he’s proud to be a terrrrurist. Alex please explain Mlukieh is like Arabic Apple pie minus all the suggar. It’s green, healthy & full of nutrients

Food is really the basic most fundamental reason for war or peace.

Anyway, check this out..part of the solution is floating currency..

Former Fed chief Alan Greenspan says dollar peg ‘needs to go’

By Ahmed A. Elewa, Senior Reporter
Published: February 25, 2008, 23:40

Abu Dhabi Floating the Gulf currencies is the best means to relieving the region’s rising inflationary pressures, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

The dollar peg forces the Gulf states to follow US monetary policy at a time when the Fed is cutting rates to ward off recession and Gulf economies are experiencing an unprecedented boom from oil revenues.

“It [de-pegging] is probably the most useful thing that can be done to stop the increasing influence of foreign assets on the monetary system and therefore the monetary base which is basically the major force in inflationary pressures,” Greenspan told the Abu Dhabi Corporate Leadership Forum.

Arab economies have been reeling under rising inflationary pressure. In Saudi Arabia, where inflation was virtually zero for a decade, it recently reached an official level of 6.5 per cent.

According to the New York Times, the oil price boom is fuelling an extraordinary rise in the cost of food and other basic goods that is squeezing this region’s middle class.

“Inflation has many causes, from rising global demand for commodities to the monetary constraints of currencies pegged to the weakening American dollar. But one cause is the skyrocketing price of oil itself. It is helping push many ordinary people towards poverty even as it stimulates a new surge of economic growth in the Glf,” the report said.

At a conference in Jeddah yesterday Greenspan said: “In the short term free floating … will not fully dissipate inflationary pressure, although it would significantly do so.”

A number of participants in the Abu Dhabi Corporate leadership forum agreed with Greenspan. Pam Woodall, Asia Econ-omics Editor at The Economist, said that this is the beginning of the end for the US dollar as the currency of choice for foreign exchange reserves.

“If Asian central banks hold today more than 80 per cent of the global foreign exchange reserves, which indicates the shift of the global economy domination towards Asia, it seems quite awkward that the UAE still maintains the peg of its currency to the US dollar,” she told Gulf News.

Meanwhile, Shaikh Hamad Bin Jasem Bin Jabr Al Thani, Qatar’s Prime Minister, told Reuters that the exchange rate contributes about 40 per cent to inflation in Qatar, where the riyal is 30 per cent undervalued. “We prefer always to act with all the GCC countries. It’s now time for the Gulf to have its own currency,” Shaikh Hamad said.

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February 26th, 2008, 6:44 am

 

524. Alex said:

AIG,

No … Picking the right words is not like applying “make up” to mask my otherwise terror supporting arguments.

I have said it very clearly many times: the two wrongs are NOT right… they are both wrong! .. how much simpler can it get? … I think the two wrongs (Israel’s and Hamas) are … wrong.

I am a fan of Gandhi’s non-violence .. it worked in India and it would have worked in Palestine. But the PLO and then Hamas were too stuck to the same methd your amy always uses against them …violence, retaliation, teaching the enemy a painful lesson .. and other stupidities.

AIG, you seem to be struggling as you try to place each player neatly into one of the two corners: the Good group and the bad group … it won’t work no matter how much you try.

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February 26th, 2008, 7:06 am

 

525. MSK said:

Now this is really interesting:

Report: Widow of slain Hezbollah terrorist blames Syria for killing

“The Syrian traitors are responsible for his death,” Army Radio quoted Mughniyah’s widow as telling a press conference in Tehran. “Damascus’ refusal to allow Iran to investigate the incident is further proof,” she said.

According to the report, rumors abounded in the months prior to Mughniyah’s death regarding a rift between himself and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. The rumors were that Mughniyah was attempting to take over command of the militant organization.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/958004.html

Any thoughts? Comments? Maybe even Syria(n) Comments?

–MSK*

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February 26th, 2008, 7:10 am

 

526. Alex said:

MSK,

“Army Radio quoted Mughniyah’s widow as telling a press conference in Tehran”

Do you know that if this is the case then the Iranians would be furious at the Syrians (and Nasrallah) according to this story?

Do you think the Iranians who supposedly organized this press conference and allowed the widow’s words to be known to all … will take this Syrian assassination of one of their top figures (Muhniyah) with some sense of humor?

I am not saying that it is impossible for Syria to assassinate him … but … I doubt it.

And .. remember that this same story was first made popular few days ago in the ridiculous Al-Syassa.

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February 26th, 2008, 7:24 am

 

527. MSK said:

Ya Alex,

I have no clue who assassinated Mughniyeh & didn’t post the article “to show who did it”.

I saw it, found it bizarre, and posted it.

So, are you coming to Istanbul or not?

–MSK*

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February 26th, 2008, 7:43 am

 
 

529. offended said:

MSK, this reports about Mughneyia’s widow blaming the Syrians have initially appeared in the Kuwaiti Al Seyassa, I posted a comment about it yesterday:
http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=601#comment-118352

Al Syeassa concoct those lies and then everyone else report them….

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February 26th, 2008, 8:07 am

 

530. Shai said:

Naji,

The article you posted is very very sad indeed. And I too disagree with its conclusion, that the region should be left alone. The region was once the most advanced, and it can once again flourish, but it needs help from outside. I believe that we are not that far from peace, that given a few applications of pressure in the right places, we’d soon find ourselves storing the past 60 years into neat little archive boxes, and beginning to focus and work towards a better future. The same negative energies that persist at the moment, can and will turn into positive energies that’ll fertilize the region once more. As for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, it is truly difficult to expect societies that 50 years ago were mostly Beduin, to already show signs of patent-invention skills, especially when their sudden wealth enables the employment of others at their service.

Zenobia,

As to your analysis of the waste in arguing over who is a justified terrorist, and who isn’t, I could not agree with you more. You are ABSOLUTELY correct in stating that it gets us nowhere. While it may be “fun to argue”, as QN put it, it really doesn’t move us forward one inch, only serves to further implant our innate ill-feelings towards one another. Now is the time to focus on shedding those feelings, and opening up our ears and hearts towards one another. Empathy MUST be a strategic goal no less than getting our armies and militias to stand down. This is where it all starts, where forgiveness and reconciliation can begin. We have no other choice. Our fate is to live with one another, to share with one another, to face the same challenges and the same future. The way I see it, Zenobia, it is people like YOURSELF that are the real “warriors” in this region – fighting day and night for PEACE!

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February 26th, 2008, 8:33 am

 

531. MSK said:

Ya Offended,

Fair enough – I didn’t catch your post. (The connections here in Beirut are such that if an SC post has more than 150 comments it often does not completely load ’cause the server times out.)

If Israeli Army Radio quoted Al-Siyassa, then I take my post back. It WOULD’ve been interesting, though, had Mughniyeh’s widow blamed the Syrian gov’t. Oh well …

Feverishly awaiting the Mehlis- … errrr … Muallem-Report.

–MSK*

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February 26th, 2008, 9:32 am

 

532. idaf said:

Just not to miss taking part in this historic post of 500+ comments, here’s my contribution:

Imad Moustapha defends Hezbollah
The Bush administration ignored concerns by Syria five years ago that invading Iraq would further destabilize the Middle East, and briefly reached out to the nation in the fall to ensure its participation in a peace conference, a top Syrian diplomat said Monday.
Speaking at Carnegie Mellon University, Imad Moustapha, Syria’s ambassador to the United States since 2004, said he was ignored in Washington until two weeks before the November peace conference in Annapolis, Md. Suddenly, Moustapha said, he began receiving invitations to dinners at the White House and State Department.

“In Annapolis itself, everything was beautiful. Photo opportunities! We had to say ‘cheese’ plenty of times. The only bad part was, there was not a single discussion of any issue. … We already knew, prior to going to Annapolis, it was merely a grand photo opportunity.”

“I don’t believe this administration is capable of delivering peace to our region,” Moustapha said after his speech.

The Bush administration accuses Syria of harboring terrorists, of supporting Hezbollah — a Lebanese group classified by the United States as a terrorist organization — and of allowing insurgents to freely cross its border into Iraq.
The White House yesterday said President Bush is committed to making progress in the peace process, and that Syria has played a negative role by harboring terrorist groups.

Moustapha said Hezbollah is considered a national liberation movement from Morocco to Bahrain.

“We are very proud of Hezbollah. Hezbollah has successfully fought against the Israeli occupation of Lebanon, and drove the Israelis out of most of Lebanon. We are not ashamed of saying this,” he said.

“It’s incredible: Israel occupies Lebanon. (Hezbollah fights) against Israel in their own Lebanon, and you consider them terrorists!”

Moustapha said numerous U.S. senators and members of Congress have told him dialogue with Damascus is essential to bringing stability to the region. And U.S. participation in peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders is essential, he said, despite his doubts about the Bush administration.

“We believe, in Syria, the peace process in the Middle East can never yield results without the brokerage of the United States,” Moustapha said.

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/cityregion/s_554277.html

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February 26th, 2008, 11:34 am

 

533. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
I’ll tell you how simple it can get. It can get very simple.
Since you support Asad hosting and funding Hamas and Mugniyeh, you support what most people in Canada, US and Europe consider terrorism.

You don’t think it is terrorism or you think like QN that this is justified because what Israel does is also terrorism. But that is beside the point. The facts are what they are.

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February 26th, 2008, 12:38 pm

 

534. wizart said:

Can We Save Honey Bees from Colony Collapse Disorder?

* Better Planet: Beepocalypse

Normally, the announcement that yet another species is in danger does not trigger economic jitters and hyperbolic headlines—but there is nothing normal about the disappearance of honeybees. The die-off has been rapid and inexplicable. The first reports surfaced in October 2006; within months beekeepers in 27 states, from Florida to California, reported a serious decline in the insects, and similar troubles were showing up in Canada and Europe. And honeybees, or Apis mellifera, are big business: Bee pollination of agricultural crops—everything from almonds to apples to carrots—provides one-third of the U.S. diet, and the bees’ services are valued at $15 billion annually. If these six-legged laborers vanish, then many of the staples that we take for granted could be threatened—and a lot more expensive. By March 2007, Congressional hearings were under way to explore how Colony Collapse Disorder, as the bee syndrome has been dubbed, threatens America’s agricultural vitality and what can be done about it.

There is no easy answer to the problem. Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, appears to differ significantly from previous bee maladies in that the bees simply fly away from the hive and never return, leaving behind only an egg-laying queen and a few young workers. Colony losses first seemed to be restricted to migratory beekeepers, merchants who transport hundreds of beehives from state to state, selling pollination services to farmers. Hypotheses proliferated: A brand-new disease is killing the insects. Pesticides are disrupting bees’ ability to navigate. Parasitic mites are weakening them. Mite-killing chemicals, sprayed into the hives, are building up in the wax and eliminating the bees instead. It’s a fungus. It’s a virus. Maybe vibrations in the trucks that transport bees across the country are driving the little buzzers insane. Overwhelming stress is making the bees vulnerable to disease. And some of these conjectures sound truly loopy. The British newspaper The Independent ran an article anxiously asking, “Are mobile phones wiping out our bees?�? It floated a baseless theory—citing a study that was not, in fact, carried out—that radiation from cell phones was disorienting the bees.

For the rest of this article, please visit: http://discovermagazine.com/2007/jul/better-planet/articl..

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February 26th, 2008, 12:43 pm

 

535. Qifa Nabki said:

AIG,

I imagine that at one time, people like you were able to win arguments with Palestinians, and convince the sleepy-eyed corn-fed politicos in Washington that Israel held the moral high ground.

This is not the case anymore. You’re simply not convincing.

It’s one thing to play word games. (You support terror, we fight like modern western armies. You target civilians. We give notice before murdering ten times more civilians).

It is another thing to be right.

I don’t really know why you come here, if you’re not willing to actually learn something, have an opinion altered, give yourself something to think about. If you can’t even do this with an interlocutor who is sensitive to your anxieties and feelings of injustice (namely, someone like me), then what hope does our region have?

If you actually get off by trying to label someone as a terror-supporter, and then generalizing up the ladder such that this person’s views are now indistinguishable from those of Ahmadinejad, then I suppose you are free to do that.

I could do the same with you, but it’s just not satisfying to me. I could say, for example: AIG, Hamas is justified in blowing up suicide bombers in cafes and buses because your society is essentially a militarized society, and Hamas actually has a far greater success rate in killing people with military background than Israel does when it drops bombs on Lebanon.

But then, that would make me a hair-splitter like you, who supports the murder of civilians behind the cover of sophistic word play.

There’s no makeup.

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February 26th, 2008, 1:26 pm

 

536. Qifa Nabki said:

AIG said to Qunfuz:

We will of course have to disagree since we have zero basis for any dicussion.

Ha! That’s cute.

Tell me AIG, what constitutes a “discussion” for you, since someone either agrees with you or is a terror supporter?

If you really believe that, then there really is zero basis for discussion, and I suppose that Alex should ban you after all.

Zero basis, indeed.

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February 26th, 2008, 1:43 pm

 

537. Shai said:

QN,

Instead of spending so much energy uncovering one another for “what-we-are”, why aren’t we investing time looking for a common language, which we can use to move forward. What some people are attempting to do on this forum, it seems to me, is to get to the facts of our history. While this is a legitimate thing to do, and certainly historians will be debating these issues for the next century or two, I think this forum should be used to bridge our gaps, so that we really can move forward. And when I say “gaps”, I don’t mean our individual subjective understanding of our history, as some might claim is a prerequisite to discussing the future, I mean our concerns and needs from one another, which up until now, have yet to be overcome.

When we bring up these concerns, we mustn’t argue over their legitimacy (i.e. “do the Lebanese have a right to fear Israeli terrorism” or “do the Israelis have a right to fear Syria”), but simply accept them as facts. Whether I like it or not, you may see my army as a bunch of terrorist warmongers . I can try to convince you until I’m blue in the face that the IDF is the most moral army in the world, but if your family lost 27 members last summer to IDF bullets and bombs, you’re still going to view us as terrorists. By arguing this point and others endlessly, because I don’t accept your view, we won’t get anywhere. The real questions, and the real debate, should be with the premise “Ok, this is how you view me, and this is how I view you. Now, how do we move forward?” What are your concerns, and what are mine? What are your demands, and what are mine? The so-called exercise cannot take place if either side already assumes that peace cannot occur, or that only the other side must alter reality to achieve it. We must come clean to the table, open to hear anything, regardless of how we may view it. The arguments should be over bridges to the future, not the past. This is my humble opinion…

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February 26th, 2008, 1:55 pm

 

538. Qifa Nabki said:

Shai,

You and I are in agreement. I was naively trying to bring AIG into the fold, with an offer to do precisely what you (and he) suggested: move FORWARD.

I am willing to agree on a definition of crimes against humanity that apportions guilt to both sides, because there is guilt on both sides. However, I’m ultimately not so interested in even this discussion. I’m interested in moving WAY beyond these silly incriminations, and addressing true concerns, as you’ve suggested.

As for concerns, and briding gaps for the future, here are my ideas:

Israel should withdraw from Shebaa and return the Lebanese hostages, so as to remove the final pretexts for Hizbullah’s war. They will find new ones, but ultimately even Hizbullah understands that their future is in the Serail and not on the border. Israel should simultaneously engage in aggressive peace talks with Syria and Lebanon. You have to understand, Shai, the Lebanese are ready for peace. Even many of the people who support Hizbullah. We are tired of this conflict. But we’re not going to accept a situation that will perpetuate the chaos under new terms.

What are your concerns, vis-a-vis Lebanon.

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February 26th, 2008, 2:13 pm

 

539. Qifa Nabki said:

Alex,

Seriously, this post is now starting to crumble! Is there a news roundup in our future, or should I put one up?

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February 26th, 2008, 2:18 pm

 

540. offended said:

Husni Mubarak is in Bahrain; using his charms to undermine the upcoming summit.

Alex, I think we need a fresh post (the page is taking ages to load), for these new developments…

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February 26th, 2008, 2:18 pm

 

541. Qifa Nabki said:

Alex & T_Desco,

I hate to do this, but JUST for the record: I’m sure you realize that Mughniyyeh’s widow accusing Syria is exactly the same as Hawi’s family accusing Israel.

Not that it matters what grieving family members have to say (which was my original point).

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February 26th, 2008, 2:26 pm

 

542. Qifa Nabki said:

New post up. Your browsers will thank us.

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February 26th, 2008, 2:42 pm

 

543. why-discuss said:

Qifa Nabki
“Israel should withdraw from Shebaa and return the Lebanese hostages, so as to remove the final pretexts for Hizbullah’s war.”

Israelis will never make a move that could be interpret as a failure or a weakness. This has been their policy throughout their history and its is shared by their ally the US. They believe that any sign of weakness will endanger the country even more. That explains the hysteria they went in at the end of the 2006 Lebanese war, where they knew they were loosing and persisted in destroying more of the countries to make it look as a victory. Israel will only negotiate in a position of strength, and that is where the problem lies, because Hezbollah and Iran are in the same state of mind.
It is only after Israel and Hezbollah (and its allies) recognize that they are equal in terms of strength that they may agree to negotiate. The escalation of violence is testing that balance of power. Iran with its nuclear facility is posing as a strong enough opponent to threat seriously Israel for the first time in Israel’s history. When Israel will accept that Iran is a respectable adversary, then they may think about a peaceful relationship. Iran has not recognized Israel as a country because Israel is a country with NO constitutionally defined borders. Iran rightly calls it the “Zionist entity”. Ahmadinejad and official statements never mention the word ‘Israel’ . The biased medias are more than happy to translate “Zionist entity” to “Israel”. When Israel will renounce to the Zionist principles of undefined borders and to opportunities to grab “jewish” sacred lands in palestine, it will no longer be a “Zionist entity” it will be a country with defined borders that Iran and arab countries deal with peacefully.
This can only come from the combined pressure of Israelis citizens and the international community.

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February 27th, 2008, 9:49 am

 

544. Alex said:

UPDATE 1-INTERVIEW- Turkcell to complete Syriatel talks in March

By Ercan Ersoy

415 words

28 February 2008

04:01

Reuters News

English

(c) 2008 Reuters Limited

(Adds quotes, details, background)

ISTANBUL, Feb 28 (Reuters) – Turkey’s leading mobile firm Turkcell expects to complete within 30 days talks on buying a stake in Syriatel and will decide within three months whether to buy an east European operator, its CEO told Reuters.

Sureyya Ciliv also said in an interview on Thursday that the strong lira was a major reason for the 54-percent rise in Turkcell’s 2007 net profit to $1.35 billion, announced in a statement on Wednesday evening.

Syrian tycoon Rami Makhlouf told Reuters on Tuesday he was in talks to sell a majority stake in Syrian’s leading mobile operator Syriatel and Ciliv said Turkcell may seek a Syrian partner.

“This operator has 3.4 million subscribers and has a 54 percent market share in Syria. We expect these talks to be completed within 30 days. We have still not decided firmly on the financing,” Ciliv said.

But he said the company wanted to get a balance between using its own funds and credit for the project.

Shares in Turkcell were up 1.6 percent at 12.4 lira by 1018 GMT having hit 13.0 lira in the wake of the results.

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February 28th, 2008, 3:17 pm

 

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