Summitry 2

Wed 26 Mar 2008, 13:58 GMT

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

DAMASCUS, March 26 (Reuters) – Emboldened by its alliance with Iran, Syria has put its interests in Lebanon above the prestige of hosting an Arab summit that will open on Saturday with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Egypt conspicuously absent.

President Bashar al-Assad has dismissed demands to push Syria's Lebanese allies to abandon their quest for a larger share of power in Beirut, prompting the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, both U.S. allies, to stay away from the summit.

Their absence is intended to embarrass Damascus, the target of revived Western pressure in recent weeks.

Saudi Arabia and the United States accuse Syria of prolonging the crisis between the Western-backed Beirut government and pro-Syrian opposition that has kept Lebanon without a president since November.

Saudi Arabia opted to send only a junior official to the summit after mediation efforts with Syria over Lebanon failed.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal urged tough action against Syria during a tour of the United States and Europe in February, days after he made a secret visit to Damascus that failed to produce an agreement, diplomats said.

Egypt will be represented by a junior minister at the March 29-30 meeting. Lebanon will boycott the summit altogether.

Syria supports demands by the Hezbollah-led opposition for veto power in the cabinet. One Syrian source said Damascus was being asked to sell out Hezbollah by accepting formation of a Lebanese government free to "do Israel's bidding".

"The list of demands on Syria will not stop at solving the political crisis. There will be the issue of Hezbollah's weapons and Iran's influence in Lebanon," he said.

To Riyadh's dismay, Syria has been reinforcing its alliance with the Islamic Republic, which also supports Hezbollah, as Iran's regional influence rose after the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

An Arab politician in touch with Syrian officials said coordination between Syria and Iran remained close despite the assassination of a Hezbollah commander in Damascus in February.

The politician, who asked not to be identified, said Syria believed the Lebanon crisis could drag on until November's U.S. presidential election or beyond, carrying with it the risk of a new Israeli-Hezbollah war, which could this time involve Syria.

BATTLEGROUND

Lebanon has been a battleground for Syria in its struggle with Israel for decades. Syria was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon in 2005 under international pressure following the assassination of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. A deal between France and Syria for a solution in Lebanon collapsed in mutual acrimony at the end of last year.

Syria's isolation, which had been eroding, has deepened again. Washington has expanded sanctions on Syria this year and deployed warships off Lebanon, partly to show impatience with Damascus.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana this month called for greater pressure on Syria. He said it was using proxies in Lebanon to prevent the election of army chief General Michel Suleiman as president, while the parliamentary majority was shrinking as lawmakers were assassinated.

Syrian officials deny playing a blocking role. They said Syria supported Suleiman as consensus candidate and worked through Hezbollah to convince opposition leader Michel Aoun — no ally of Syria — to forgo his own candidacy.

Syrian political commentator Ibrahim al-Daraji said even if Syria accepted Saudi and U.S. demands, it could not force Hezbollah to accept political solutions it did not want.

A diplomat in Damascus said Syria's focus on its perceived interests in Lebanon could cost it dear.

"The Syrians are paying a huge price for a single-minded policy," the diplomat said. "They have lost goodwill in the West, went out of their way to pick a fight with Saudi Arabia and locked themselves into a strategic framework with Iran."

Critics Pounce on Obama Pledge
By JAY SOLOMON
WSJ, March 26, 2008; Page A4

[Go to Story]
Associated Press
Obama's pledge to hold direct talks with foreign adversaries is drawing fresh fire from both rivals and political strategists. Critics say the approach may legitimize leaders whose power the U.S. seeks to undermine. 
"If you look beyond Iraq, the entire diplomatic approach [of Senator Obama] seems to be kind of New Age: let's talk to our enemies rather then reinvigorating our allies," said Randy Scheunemann, the McCain campaign's director of foreign policy. "It's naive."

The Obama campaign said it may be necessary to balance the Bush administration and the way it isolated hostile countries and alienated allies.

"I don't think [what Obama's proposing] is that much of a difference from what U.S. policy used to be." said Anthony Lake, a senior foreign-policy adviser to Sen. Obama and a national-security adviser to President Bill Clinton. "It's just different from what the other candidates are saying."….

Sen. Obama has pledged his support for Lebanese sovereignty in the face of what is seen as extensive efforts by Syria to undermine Beirut's political process. He also has pledged his commitment to United Nations resolutions calling for the disarming of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, of which Syria is seen as the main arms supplier.

"Saying you'll talk to Syria no matter what undercuts Washington's position," said Emile El-Hokayem, a Middle East expert at the Henry L. Stimson Center, a nonpartisan Washington think tank. "I don't think it's feasible to revolutionize how diplomacy is conducted" with Damascus.

Still, Mr. El-Hokayem said he believes Sen. Obama's leadership could have a profound impact on the Middle East. "Switching from a hawkish leader to a charismatic one will have a huge impact" on Washington's perception in the region, he said.

Sen. Obama's aides disputed the charge that he would recklessly move into talks with Washington's adversaries. Still, they said Washington doesn't have the luxury to wait indefinitely to hold talks with the likes of Tehran or Damascus because of the depths of the instability in the Middle East.

Russian firm signs deal to fix Iraq-Syria pipeline

MOSCOW, March 26 (Reuters) – Russian firm Stroytransgaz has signed a protocol with Iraq to reactivate an oil export pipeline to Syria's Mediterranean terminal of Banias, the Russian firm said on Wednesday.

It said it had signed the deal in Amman, Jordan, with Iraqi North Oil Company.

"The participation of Stroytransgaz in this project will represent a substantial contribution by Russian firms to reconstruction and modernisation of Iraqi economic infrastructure," the statement said.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote a letter to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki calling on him to support Russian investments in the country.

The letter was sent as a delegation of Russian businessmen was visiting Baghdad.

The delegation included the head of oil major LUKOIL which is trying to revive a $3.7 billion Saddam Hussein-era deal to develop the West Qurna oilfield, one of Iraq's largest.

Putin specifically mentioned in his letter a project to rebuild the Kirkuk-Banias pipeline and West Qurna. Iraq has repeatedly said the West Qurna deal had been cancelled and LUKOIL would have to compete with other firms at a new tender.

Syria has a 600-km (375 mile) border with Iraq. U.S. forces bombed the 300,000 barrel per day pipeline on the Iraqi side during the 2003 invasion that removed Saddam Hussein from power.

Resuming Iraqi oil exports through Banias would net Syria an estimated $1-$1.5 billion a year in transit fees. (Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov; editing by James Jukwey)

Comments (42)


1. thelevantine said:

Guardian International Pages
The ticking timebomb: UN tribunal gears up to try Lebanon PM’s killers: Rafik Hariri assassination: Hague court has caused panic among some Syrian officials, say analysts

Ian Black Middle East editor
1180 words
27 March 2008

Nothing special can be seen outside an anonymous modern office block in Leichendamm, a residential suburb of The Hague, though patrolling police vehicles and discreet security cameras are reminders that until recently it was the headquarters of the Dutch secret services.

Behind its shuttered windows preparations are accelerating for a sensational trial that lies at the heart of tensions in the Middle East, and which seems certain to inflame them further: the steel and concrete building is to house the international tribunal that will try those accused of assassinating Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, three years ago in Beirut.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, is expected to announce soon that the tribunal is finally ready to start work. “The aim is to send a political and legal message that criminals will not escape punishment,” he declared. Underlining the quickening pace, Daniel Bellemare, who is leading the UN investigation into the murder, is to submit a report to the security council today.

The controversy over the tribunal will also cast a long shadow over the Arab summit in Syria this weekend.

Eleven Lebanese and foreign judges have already been selected (though their names have not been announced for security reasons). Plans to equip the Leichendamm building with a courtroom and cells are being drawn up. Funds for the first year have been raised and Ban is seeking money for two more years.

The tribunal process is “irreversible”, insists Nicolas Michel, the UN’s chief legal counsel. “We have a prosecutor, we have judges, we have a registrar, we have a budget, we have a building and we have an investigation going on,” he said. “There is no way it can be halted.”

This is not the first time that the Netherlands, promoting The Hague as the legal capital of the world, has agreed to host a high-profile international court. The city already provides the base of the world court, the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal (where Slobodan

Milosevic stood trial), and the international criminal court. To the south is Camp Zeist, home away from home of the Scottish court that tried the two Libyans charged with blowing up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie – a crime with some striking legal and political resonance for the Hariri murder.

The case to be heard at Leichendamm is unprecedented: the result of the

security council bypassing Lebanon’s political deadlock to seek the truth behind the killing of Hariri and the 22 others in the massive and meticulously planned bomb attack on his motorcade on Valentine’s Day 2005.

The first UN report on the case, compiled by the German judge Detlev

Mehlis, found “probable cause to believe that the decision to assassinate Hariri could not have been taken

without the approval of top-ranked

Syrian security officials, and could not have been . . . organised without the

collusion of their counterparts in the Lebanese security services”. The names of two close aides of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, were mentioned in a draft document.

Four Lebanese generals known for their Syrian sympathies were arrested for conspiracy to murder and remain in detention. Syria has always strenuously denied any involvement in the killings.

Stung by the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon after the “cedar revolution” triggered by Hariri’s killing, Assad sees a not-so-hidden US-led agenda to isolate him. “We have some concerns about the

politics of the tribunal,” said a Syrian official, “but we are cooperating fully.”

Lebanon has been paralysed politically since Syria’s allies, led by the Shia organisation Hizbullah, quit the Beirut government when it voted to establish the tribunal: one consequence is that the Lebanese presidency has been vacant for months and Fuad Siniora, the western-backed Sunni prime minister, will not attend the weekend Arab summit. The leaders of Saudi Arabia, and Egypt are also demonstratively staying away.

Evidence gathered so far suggests that a young, male suicide bomber, probably non-Lebanese, detonated 1,800kg of explosives inside a van. No one attaches any credibility to the videotaped “confession” of a Palestinian claiming responsibility for the assassination on behalf of a previously unknown jihadist outfit.

Investigators are also looking at 19 other cases of political murder and links to the Hariri killing.

“The perpetrators had, and still have, advanced and extensive operational capacities available in Beirut,” Mehlis’s successor, the Belgian Serge Brammertz, reported last November. Bellemare, a Canadian former deputy attorney general, is expected to wrap up his work by the end of the year, further adding to the nervousness in Damascus. His big moment will come when he issues indictments. “That’s when the shit will really hit the fan,” said one UN source.

It is also at that point that the Hariri tribunal may face what has been called the “Lockerbie scenario”, mirroring the situation when two Libyan intelligence officers were indicted for the 1988 bombing. Colonel Muammar Gadafy refused to surrender them for trial and only did so after years of UN sanctions and a discreet deal spelling out that the trial was of two individuals – not the regime they worked for.

Lebanon is more likely than Syria to hand over any suspects.

“It’s a puzzle,” observed Augustus Norton, a Middle East expert at Boston University. “I can’t see the Syrians agreeing to give anyone up for trial – or at least anyone senior.”

Officials could claim immunity, though any who do “are unlikely to be successful in making a claim that assassination can be regarded as an official act,” said the former Foreign Office legal adviser Elizabeth Wilmshurst.

Handily, there is a provision for trial in absentia. Special arrangements are being made to protect any witnesses who come to Leichendamm.

“There is huge concern bordering on panic in Damascus,” said Paul Salem, head of the Carnegie Foundation’s office in Beirut. “There is a sense that Syria is drifting into a very serious problem without having thought through how to deal with it.”

Observers predict the tribunal may launch proceedings in late summer or autumn and adjourn until after the US presidential election – the source, as ever, of hope for change in the Middle East. “It’s very hard to predict what will happen,” said a UN official. “It depends who is indicted and at what level. Maybe the Syrians are waiting for the first indictment, or a new American president. They tried to stop the tribunal but misjudged. I’m not sure that they have fully internalised it – but they have lost.”

© Copyright 2008. The Guardian.

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March 27th, 2008, 1:31 am

 

2. Alex said:

“Saying you’ll talk to Syria no matter what undercuts Washington’s position,” said Emile El-Hokayem, a Middle East expert at the Henry L. Stimson Center, a nonpartisan Washington think tank. “I don’t think it’s feasible to revolutionize how diplomacy is conducted” with Damascus.

Emile? … did you call it “diplomacy”?

You like this “classic” diplomacy?? did the neocons make it the standard form of diplomacy that new administrations need to stick to its rules and procedures?… you like it because it works? .. is it working? 8 years later, is it working?

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March 27th, 2008, 4:38 am

 

3. Alex said:

“Lebanon is more likely than Syria to hand over any suspects.”

Exactly. And I said it here before.

What people fail to understand that it is Syria’s Lebanese allies (mainly Hizballah) who are at risk here. If the tribunal is to be used for political purposes (or “diplomatic” pressure, as Emile El-Hokayem probably sees it) then Syria will simply refuse, exactly like the “Lockerbie scenario”… it will easily take 10 years. Syria is used to this destructive game.

This is one of the reasons the opposition in Lebanon is refusing to relinquish its demand for a veto power in th next Lebanese government.. they do not want Mr. Seniora to comply with some tribunal demand to send Hassan Nasrallah to be questioned .. indefinitely.

Nasrallah won’t go anyway, but it would be much easier if the Lebanese government is on his side.

“That’s when the shit will really hit the fan,” said one UN source.

I would think that there is a difference between the Shit hitting the fan (letting the legal system work without any intervention), or the bullshit hitting the fan. If it is the later (using the tribunal process for political gains by the Bush administration and its “Arab moderate” allies) then … then I hope they have a good understanding of how Iran and Syria and Hizbollah .. and the Arab street will reciprocate … I have no doubt that they will. And it won’t smell good anywhere in the Middle East, not only in Damascus.

I worry about the Middle East when I see this incredible hunger for the day the tribunal will somehow lead to tremendous pressure on Damascus and on Nasrallah … those waiting for this happy day do not realize that everyone will pay the price for this “victory”.

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March 27th, 2008, 5:13 am

 

4. why-discuss said:

How can this tribunal be prevented from being politically oriented when the US and its regional allies intend to use all its manipulating power to achieve the goal that the Israel war, the US sponsored UN resolution and political pressures have failed to achieve: Enhance Israel’s security and hegemony by weakening Hezbollah, Syria and indirectly Iran’s growing regional influence?
The only attitude of these parties would be confrontational, certainly not cooperative.
Because the military options is out of questions, despite repeated threats from embattered Bush, Syrian and Iran have many powerful cards to play in the region. They will respond to US trying to pressure them economically and politically
Iraq is the primary battle ground for influence. I guess the real conflicts between the US and its opponents will continue there. The US is cornered and has no way out except by dealing with Iran. It is clear that the US allies, Saudi Arabia, is too weak militarily to take any position in Iraq and Egypt is overhwelmed by its economical crisis to have any desire to be present in Iraq.
Palestine is another area of confrontation with the US through its ally Israel. The US is trying to take a lead but it started so late that the chances it succeeds in anything is null. Hamas popularity is growing.
Compared to Iraq and Palestine, Lebanon is a minor issue but for the sake of US pride, it is an issue.
The struggle on the financial terrain is also going on between US and Iran and Syria. Many powerful arab and iranian businesses are now suspicious of the dollar and the USA using its financial power to cripple them as a way to pressure their country. Thus I imagine the businesses and arab money in the region will move to safer Asia and more investments will stay at home.
That will give an impetus to local arab economies and a switch to China and Russia. A new economical dynamic is operating now detrimental of the US.

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March 27th, 2008, 7:35 am

 

5. MSK said:

Ya Alex,

Maybe I missed something, but when was Hassan Nasrallah or HA ever implied to have been part of the Hariri assassination? I don’t recall anyone, not even somewhere in the darkest corners of M14 to have accused HN/HA of complicity.

I’m sure you have the sources handy, so would be so kind and post them here?

Thanks,

–MSK*

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March 27th, 2008, 7:41 am

 

6. MSK said:

Ya Alex,

Also, could you (or Josh) answer my question from the previous post about the rules for inviting non-Arab League guests to an Arab League summit?

Thanks again,

–MSK*

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March 27th, 2008, 7:44 am

 

7. TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

Alex and Why-Discuss, you’re addressing legitimate concerns about politicizing the tribunal process and other political fights. However, for some reason, you consistently overlook how fundamentally existential and fatefully important the assassination of Hariri and the subsequent string of assassinations and attempts is for many (most?) Lebanese who otherwise don’t care about the back-and-forth of ME politics.

For all the “saber-rattling” using but words by the M14 crowd, they are not the ones who are launching any assassinations against any of their opponents, nor are they entertaining militias and armed forces outside the legitimate Lebanese army. Their fight has been political. The horror of what appears to have been an attempt at intimidation by assassination, following years of political intimidation backed by tens of thousands of Syrian “boots” on the ground in Lebanon certainly has the appearance of hegemony even if one accepts the qualifiers with which some accompany the period of Syrian effective rule in Lebanon.

The passionate hunger and full commitment you see on the part of many Lebanese – people and leaders – is for full airing of the truth and for seeking justice. Those who argue against the tribunal seem to be saying that they have no faith in that justice system. That argument is weak and is not supported by the history of international tribunals. While many refuse the correlation, the coincidence of the timing of the resignation of the Shi’ite ministers from the Lebanese cabinet just before a vote for the tribunal was guaranteed to pass ans well as many other coincidences seem too systematic to be accepted as “coincidences” by many. Nor, as MSK points out, is it reasonable to assume that they are for the protection of HA itself or Nasrallah. It just does not compute. These coincidences have suspiciously been consistent in occurring in such a way as to derail the tribunal.

I’ve read some Syrian commentators here (I believe it was Georges) who have come to a point where they welcome the tribunal now to get done with this issue of accusing Syria once and for all. I can’t agree more.

Finally, the comparison to Lockerbie is a pretty bad one for Syria. I don’t see such comparison as in any way helping make the case for the Syrian regime. On the contrary, it is more of a severe condemnation and, while I’m not the one who introduced it or would want to use it, I would caution those who seek to be supportive of Syria to be careful about its implications.

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March 27th, 2008, 8:47 am

 

8. Naji said:

If MSK would check back with his “service driver”, he would find out that Jumblatt has famously and repeatedly accused HA on air, in print, in rallies, …etc. But since you hold your service driver and his opinions in such contempt, you could also find this in the archives of any of the Lebanese papers or TV…after all, these are mostly owened by M14 and are surely completely accurate and credible for you…!

Anyway, it is not only about Nassrallah appearing in court… If any prominent member of the opposition is called, even to testify, the same problems will emerge… I do not think those fools have the audacity to ask for Nassrallah…

…but what do I know… you are the ultimate nahostexpert around here, and everywhere…!!

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March 27th, 2008, 8:57 am

 

9. MSK said:

Naji,

Sources?

–MSK*

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March 27th, 2008, 9:22 am

 

10. TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

From Naharnet:
http://www.naharnet.com/domino/tn/NewsDesk.nsf/getstory?openform&1B7BA8610BA242E2C2257419000D3A80

Aoun Launches Vehement Attack against U.S. Policy, Saniora Government

Free Patriotic Movement leader Gen. Michel Aoun said Lebanon’s decision to boycott the Arab summit was wrong and slammed the United States and Premier Fouad Saniora’s government for leading Lebanon to the worst.

The government’s decision to boycott the March 29-30 summit in Damascus is “wrong,” Aoun told his OTV channel Wednesday night.

He said the anti-Damascus March 14 alliance lost an opportunity to solve the Syrian-Lebanese crisis by deciding not to attend the Arab summit.

He also accused the government of being against any agreement among the Lebanese and said it takes instructions from foreign powers, leading Lebanon to the worst.

“The government is attacking both us and Hizbullah because we have reached an understanding,” Aoun said during Maguy Farah’s ‘Al Haq Youqal’ TV show.

Aoun said the U.S. policy is against Lebanon and “no one can convince me of the opposite.”

“The U.S. policy hurts stability in Lebanon because it wants to isolate the third of the population which is represented by Hizbullah,” he said, adding that he “cannot understand the logic of the U.S. policy in Lebanon and neither the logic of the government,” which “refuses” to give the Hizbullah-led opposition its rights.

“We want partnership and a fair election law,” he stressed.

He told Farah that a settlement to the political crisis could be reached if the United States convinced March 14 to accept partnership.

About relations with the Maronite church, the FPM leader said that he differs with Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir over politics, but has no differences with the church.

He also said that Army Chief Gen. Michel Suleiman was still the FPM’s consensus candidate for the presidency.

“My candidate for consensus president is Gen. Michel Suleiman as long as the Arab Initiative persists,” Aoun stressed.

Beirut, 27 Mar 08, 04:28

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March 27th, 2008, 11:37 am

 

11. TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

The View from the US:
– The US supports (does not direct nor dictate to) the democratically elected government of Lebanon
– The Lebanese Opposition acts to protect Syrian interests, is directly influenced and controlled by Syria, and has taken every step to try to derail the Hariri tribunal
– In a democratic government, the opposition does not have nor is it entitled to claim a “veto.” The parliament reflects the will of the people and can – according to the Lebanese constitution – withdraw “confidence” in the government. Then it gets replaced. Not by subversion as is being done now.
– Aoun is a crazy megalomaniac

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March 27th, 2008, 11:42 am

 

12. Alex said:

Ahlain MSK,

I’m afraid I do not have the answer to your Arab summit question.

Here is one of the most recent times M14 accused Hizbollah of being part of the evil team involved in the Hariri assassination:

Lebanese MP and key February 14 figure Walid Jumblatt told the British Guardian daily that Damascus viewed Lebanon as just a province of Syria and that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who he assailed verbally, was trying to establish a Hezbollah state in the country. “For Syria, Lebanon is just a province, part of Syria. As for (…) Iranian Ahmadinejad, Lebanon is a platform to be used against the Israelis and the Americans and he is trying slowly but surely to establish his Hezbollah state in Lebanon. Lebanon is paralyzed … we won’t have stability and peace in Lebanon as long as these bloody butchers are there,” Jumblatt told the newspaper in remarks published Thursday.

He accused Hezbollah of helping “the regime in Syria” to carry out assassinations. “Hezbollah has a formidable security infrastructure and the Syrians couldn’t have done all their bloody murders without the facilities offered by Hezbollah and other allies of Syria,” he insisted. “We have a party that is run by remote control by the Iranians and the Syrians, that is very well armed and trained and is paralyzing the whole of life and is not willing to accept the rule of the Lebanese state,” Jumblatt told the Guardian.
Jumblatt charged that President Bashar Assad would “do anything” to sabotage the Special Tribunal for Lebanon that would try suspects in ex-Premier Rafik Hariri’s assassination and related crimes. “Lebanon is in an existential crisis,” Jumblatt concluded. “Either we survive as an independent state and a democracy or we disappear under the killings of the Syrians and the Iranians and their allies. Up to now I’ve been able to survive, but at a price.”

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March 27th, 2008, 2:54 pm

 

13. Naji said:

That is why we have Alex… 😉
…an excellent quote, and in English…

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March 27th, 2008, 3:14 pm

 

14. Alex said:

Naji,

Thank the internet : )

I remember when I was 12 in Egypt and President Sadat signed the Camp David accords with Israel. He claimed on a daily basis that he is recovering Palestinian and Arab rights as part of that agreement. And most people had no place to actually read what was in the Camp David accords. So they believed their president. I had to argue against it with everyone who told me “what else do you want? President Sadat helped you get your Golan back and helped the Palestinians get their state back …”

Unfortunately, I could not “link” to anything in 1978 …

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March 27th, 2008, 3:36 pm

 

15. MSK said:

Ya Alex,

Too bad – I am really interested to find out.

Re: the quote – Acknowledged. Let’s just hope Jumblat didn’t mean to imply that HA was involved in the Hariri assassination (and, technically he didn’t actually make that accusation – ya’nii he could still claim “Oh, I didn’t say they helped kill Hariri”).

But fair enough.

Let’s hope that some journalist will directly ask him (soon) if he thinks HA was involved in the Hariri killing & that he then would say “Uh, no, of course not.” or something to that extent.

Insinuating that HA was involved is one of the dumbest things to do, especially as – IF Syria did it – obviously there were so many other allies much more amenable and willing.

Naji,

Since when are the Lebanese papers and TV “mostly owened by M14”? Care to count?

–MSK*

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March 27th, 2008, 3:39 pm

 

16. TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

Addendum to my previous “The View from the US”
Continuing from the last bullet “- Aoun is a crazy megalomaniac”
Next bullet is:
– Jumblatt is crazy, period.

PS – My (TOPOV’s) use of the word “existential” did not come from Jumblatt
PPS – Being crazy doesn’t mean what Jumblatt says isn’t true sometimes

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March 27th, 2008, 3:53 pm

 

17. Alex said:

MSK,

Let’s hope that some journalist will directly ask him (soon) if he thinks HA was involved in the Hariri killing & that he then would say “Uh, no, of course not.” or something to that extent.

Actually this cycle already took place … Jumblatt accused HA more than once the past year, then he was asked about it in an interview and he said “no, I did not mean it this way”, then he accused HA again …

I linked above the most recent case. I would say he accused HA of facilitating (through their military power on the ground) the Hariri murder at least three times this year.

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March 27th, 2008, 3:54 pm

 

18. MSK said:

Ya Alex,

Oh well … so much for THAT idea.

No more to add to that. 😉

Personally, I blame the whisky. And I’m really curious about the brand.

–MSK*

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March 27th, 2008, 4:04 pm

 

19. TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

Alex, the article quoting Jumblatt is from AL MANAR News. Here’s the actual article from The Guardian. Just to list the main source in order to avoid accusations of distortion by AL MANAR (which is a HA news outlet).
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/feb/21/lebanon
As crazy as he may be, Jumblatt’s language stops short of accusing HA of direct involvement in or knowledge of the assassinations. Just from a logical analysis of his statements, there is a plausible interpretation that HA facilities and support were used by the assassins but without HA having any knowledge of the mission or the targets. A “need-to-know” only basis could have been followed.

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March 27th, 2008, 4:29 pm

 

20. Alex said:

TOPOV,

Sure … and one can similarly argue that life is an illusion. We do not really exist.

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March 27th, 2008, 4:31 pm

 

21. MSK said:

So did or didn’t Jumblat say that HA took part in the assassination of Hariri?

–MSK*

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March 27th, 2008, 4:42 pm

 

22. Alex said:

MSK,

Same quote is in the Guardian

“We have a party that is run by remote control by the Iranians and the Syrians, that is very well armed and trained and is paralysing the whole of life and is not willing to accept the rule of the Lebanese state,” was his blunt opening gambit.

President Bashar al-Assad, Junblatt charged, would “do anything” to sabotage the UN tribunal investigating the Hariri killing, and was allowing Hizbullah to smuggle rockets into Lebanon – its arsenal reportedly fully replenished since the 2006 war with Israel. “Hizbullah has a formidable security infrastructure and the Syrians couldn’t have done all their bloody murders without the facilities offered by Hizbullah and other allies of Syria,” he insisted. “All the people who were killed were opponents of the Syrian regime and key figures in the military.

“For Syria, Lebanon is just a province, part of Syria. As for the crazy Iranian [president Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, Lebanon is a platform to be used against the Israelis and the Americans and he is trying slowly but surely to establish his Hizbullah state in Lebanon. Lebanon is paralysed … we won’t have stability and peace in Lebanon as long as these bloody butchers are there. It’s a long story.”

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March 27th, 2008, 4:49 pm

 

23. TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

Alex, OK I agree. I’m removing the qualifiers and sticking with the original statement “- Jumblatt is crazy, period.”

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March 27th, 2008, 4:52 pm

 

24. MSK said:

Ya Alex,

So for SOME of the murders Syria (who, according to Jumblat did a lot of them) needed HA’s “formidable security infrastructure”.

That’s not the same as putting HA and the Hariri assassination together.

–MSK*

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March 27th, 2008, 4:52 pm

 

25. TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

Anyone who can get Alex, MSK, and TOPOV spinning like this in figuring out what he did or did not say is… either crazy or a genius. Tilt is towards crazy. But then, aren’t geniuses a bit crazy anyway?

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March 27th, 2008, 4:55 pm

 

26. Nour said:

The bottom line is that the tribunal is politicized. The aim of the tribunal is not to bring justice to anyone or anything, but rather to pressure Syria and the Resistance, period. The US has never been interested in the political assassinations of foreign leaders and politicians, unless of course it has an interest in the matter. Since the very beginning of this whole process, even before the investigation began, the only avenue allowed for the investigation was that leading to Syria as the culprit, with the help of certain Lebanese elements. Therefore, the investigation was not conducted in a fair, objective manner, but was rather employed with the task of building a case against Syria. As such, the results of such an investigation cannot be taken seriously and the whole process of the tribunal should be put into question.

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March 27th, 2008, 5:28 pm

 

27. Alex said:

MSK,

Of course Jumblatt has room to switch .. he always does no matter what he said in the past.

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March 27th, 2008, 5:47 pm

 

28. Qifa Nabki said:

Nour said:

The bottom line is that the tribunal is politicized. The aim of the tribunal is not to bring justice to anyone or anything, but rather to pressure Syria and the Resistance, period.

Alex said:

I worry about the Middle East when I see this incredible hunger for the day the tribunal will somehow lead to tremendous pressure on Damascus and on Nasrallah … those waiting for this happy day do not realize that everyone will pay the price for this “victory”.

Dear Nour and Alex:

Is it your position that:

(a) the crime should be investigated in a completely impartial way, free of any political pressure? If so, how would this be achieved, in your opinion?

OR

(b) it is impossible to investigate this crime without any political pressure, and so it shouldn’t be investigated at all.

OR

(c) the question of who killed Hariri is irrelevant because even if Syria was responsible, punishing the Syrian regime or the Islamic resistance via the Tribunal is a greater crime than murdering Hariri.

OR

(d) none of the above (If so, please provide your position).

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March 27th, 2008, 7:14 pm

 

29. Nour said:

QN,

I most definitely believe that the crime should be investigated in a fair, impartial manner. However, I don’t believe that this is possible in our current state, as our entities are plagued by corruption and backwardness, while the powerful western states are only interested in imposing their will on us. We do not have the requisite institutions that would allow us to carry out a real investigation into this case, and the western countries will not assist in any investigation unless they have a stake in the outcome. For example, the US will not allow an investigation to be conducted that may implicate Israel.

In addition, even catching those responsible for the crime and punishing them will not change anything in our region, as true change can only come with a social awakening and an overhaul of our inherently corrupt political systems. Hariri is not the first high profile figure to be assassinated in our part of the world and is probably not the last. But why the sudden interest in this case in particular? And why would anyone believe that the outcome of the Hariri investigation is going to fundamentally change Lebanon or the region for the better? It is clear that this tribunal is being used as a mere weapon the US and Israel’s war on our people, and were it not so, the tribunal would never have been initiated to begin with.

I know it is difficult for some people to accept, but we probably will not know who killed Rafiq Hariri in the near future, and even if we did, nothing will really change. My main concern is not to find out who killed Hariri, but rather to build a system that will make such incidents rare and in the event they do occur our national institutions would be capable of investigating the crime and bringing the culprits to justice. And finally, I am most definitely not willing to burn the whole region so that some people may take comfort in knowing that the killers of Hariri were punished. I am a Social Nationalist and thus regard Antoun Saadeh as a much more important figure than Rafiq Hariri. Yet, even though I know that the Lebanese state was responsible for Saadeh’s assassination, I am not willing to support a foreign attack on my country and its sovereignty for the sake of punishing Saadeh’s killers.

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March 27th, 2008, 9:32 pm

 

30. TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

Dear Nour (and I guess Alex also since QN seems to attribute some level of nonchalence to you as well in this area),

Nour said:
“The bottom line is that the tribunal is politicized. The aim of the tribunal is not to bring justice to anyone or anything, but rather to pressure Syria and the Resistance, period (…)
http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=641#comment-129124

Your perspective is well articulated and you have certainly been consistent. One can also say it is understandable. But what I think you fail to appreciate is how deep the passionate outrage runs in the hearts of many Lebanese – including almost all expatriates – about the vicious crime of the assassination of Hariri and the follow-on series of equally heinous political assassinations (not to mention the prior assassinations and attempts). I think one way you might appreciate this passion is for you to imagine the same kind of assassinations happening in Syria – perhaps scaled in number by the same ratio of the populations of Syria to Lebanon – during a similar period of time. Would you then dismiss the necessity for justice, for a fair tribunal, international or otherwise, under the guise that there may be some corollary political dimension to it?

As far as the interest of the US in political assassinations, may I remind you that this is a UN tribunal, not a US tribunal. The investigation was conducted by non-aligned international, expert, professional investigators and judges. If you have no faith in them, may I ask then whom you have faith in? Could it be Syrian investigators and judges, for example like the ones who are investigating the Mughnieh assassination? Or perhaps the investigators who revealed the perpetrators of the Kamal Joumblatt assassination? Beshir Gemayel? Rashid Karame?

I’m sorry but there is an air of abject denial and possibly subconscious condescention in your dismissal of the necessity for airing the real truth behind the assassinations in Lebanon and your unsubstantiated doubts in your questioning of the international tribunal. What specifically are you questioning there?

The Lebanese may be your cousins and the intellectual Lebanese may be your best friends abroad but kinship and friendship will never trump genuine patriotism and belief in justice. You have an open invitation to join others, like Georges, who are now, I believe, welcoming the tribunal.

Amen to this other point of view.

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March 27th, 2008, 9:52 pm

 

31. Nour said:

TOPOV,

Just to make clear, my positions are always based on this fundamental concept: the interest of my nation comes before any other interest. As such, I do not support any attempts by foreign powers or local leaders to cause harm to my nation for the sake of foreign or narrow, particular ambitions. I hold te same position vis-a-vis the latest events in our region.

First, I would like to address your contention that this is a UN, rather than a US tribunal. As I have stated before, it is clear that the US has complete dominion over the UN, such that the UN is not allowed to undertake any action without US consent, approval, or authorization. As an example, the “UN” sanctions on Iraq that led to the death of nearly 2 million people were clearly the work of the US and not the international community at large. Moreover, we all know now that the so-called UN inspectors regime was tainted with the presence of CIA and Mossad collaborates and agents in its ranks.

In the case of this tribunal, there is a clear political agenda behind its authorization, which the US has pushed and promoted. I for one do not believe that the Syrian regime was behind the assassination of Hariri, not because they are morally incapable of committing such acts, but because such a plot could have been nothing but harmful to Syria’s interest. But regardless of what I believe, the US immediately exploited the situation in order to attain maximum benefit from it. As a result, the US all but ordered the establishment of an international investigation and tribunal ostensibly to find and bring to justice the perpetrators of the assassination. However, since the very beginning, only one possibility was permitted to be investigated and examined; namely that the Syrian regime was responsible for the assassination. Therefore, the duty of the investigative team was not to uncover who the killers of Hariri were, but rather to build a case against Syria so that it may be used to pressure the regime there. For this reason, the investigation, since the beginning has been tainted and clearly partial. It made use of fake witnesses, threats, blackmail, pressure, and hearsay testimony all designed to implicate the Syrian regime in the crime. The investigation was never conducted in an impartial, objective manner, as this was not the command of the US and of those countries toeing the US line.

Forgive me if I do not have any faith in an institution that has proven time and again to be incapable and unwilling to protect my nation against attacks from foreign aggressors, but has been successfully used time and again to starve, kill, oppress, and persecute my people. This does not mean that I trust our own institutions, which I made clear in my previous post. But I will not support a tribunal the aim of which is not to help bring justice to my people, but rather to threaten, pressure, and attack my nation.

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March 27th, 2008, 10:16 pm

 

32. TheOtherPointOfVieW said:

Dear Nour, I very much appreciate your taking the time for this thorough response. I respect your opinion although I disagree with it. Hopefully some real proven facts will help sway one of us at some point. I know you don’t have much hope in that. It would be fun if one day we all had the opportunity for in-person friendly debates on these topics, as some long-lost “Honest Patriot” soul once suggested here. Until then, all the best.

– TOPOV

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March 27th, 2008, 10:25 pm

 

33. Qifa Nabki said:

Nour,

Thank you for your response. My intention here is not to refute your positions, or to argue that you are completely wrong. Indeed, much of what you say makes sense. I will try, instead, to offer my own point of view so that we might each benefit from this exchange.

I agree with you that “our entities are plagued by corruption and backwardness,” which makes it impossible to investigate the crime in an impartial manner within Lebanon or Syria. At the same time, while I am not so naive as to imagine that the West is altruistic with regards to our region, I do not believe that “the powerful western states are only interested in imposing their will on us.” To believe this is to subscribe to the view that the West and the Arab world are locked in a civilizational struggle that can only have one outcome: complete victory for one side and utter defeat for the other. This is an attractive perspective and one that has its partisans throughout our region, but in my opinion it is simultaneously nihilistic, conveniently counter-productive, and actually flawed. It allows one to ignore the messy realities of world affairs, and enables the perpetuation of corrupt dictatorships and extremist ideologies (both in Israel and the Arab world).

When you say that “true change can only come with a social awakening and an overhaul of our inherently corrupt political systems,” you are absolutely correct. But I would urge you to consider the possibility that the ‘Beirut Spring’ or ‘Cedar Revolution’ (whatever you want to call it) was precisely such a social awakening. Hariri’s assassination (and the subsequent ones) were mere triggers for a massive popular movement that saw an unprecedented number of citizens take to the streets to demand justice. This may not be the social awakening that you had in mind, and it is true that the popular movement has since been coopted by all of the old corrupt players, but social revolutions are never utopic affairs. The demonstrations in the spring of 2005 had an undeniably revolutionary consequence: the realization that ordinary people can transform their own political conditions, and demand leadership that is commensurate with their dignity. I would wish nothing less on the people of Syria.

I think that our disagreement stems fundamentally from what we regard the greatest threat to our ‘nation’ to be. For you, the greatest threat seems to be the West and Israel. Therefore, tolerating the existence of despotic regimes (even while recognizing that they are corrupt, backwards, and occasionally murderous) is justifiable when these regimes function as a resistance to the West and Israel. This privileging of the resistance element is, in fact, the only way that these regimes can become co-extensive with the nation itself, as they seem to be for you:

the interest of my nation comes before any other interest. As such, I do not support any attempts by foreign powers or local leaders to cause harm to my nation for the sake of foreign or narrow, particular ambitions.

My point of view is fundamentally different. I believe that the greatest threat to our nation is precisely our corrupt, backwards, unaccountable, dictatorial, and murderous leadership. Therefore, in my view, the interests of my nation are precisely not those of the regime. I am all for promoting “a social awakening and an overhaul of our inherently corrupt political systems.” That is why I have actively supported the burgeoning independence movement in Lebanon. How else will true change take place?

Alex has often expressed the view that Lebanon and Syria will likely merge in the future (his horizon is 10-14 years), once Syria becomes “attractive” again to the Lebanese. This strikes me as an entirely reasonable proposition, and one that could be extremely beneficial to both populations. However, in order to achieve this goal (or, even less ambitiously, to raise ourselves up from our current sorry state), we need to be as strident in our criticisms of home-grown corruption and brutality as we our in our criticisms of Israel and the West. Indeed, the criticism of American brutality is nowhere as strident as within America itself… such criticism and activism is what makes a nation strong.

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March 28th, 2008, 1:11 am

 

34. Friend in America said:

We have been through this matter before. To assert the International Tribunals are a tool (controlled or dominated) of America is to engage in self deception. Including all of the issues in the ME is not the context in which a clear understanding of the Tribunals can be learned. Let the politicians engage in such claims. I do not know the names on the list of judges but it likely contains no more than one American. Knowing the names of Americans who might be called upon, I can safely say that such person will have a record of impartiality as a jurist, as will the others. The International Tribunal will not risk damaging its reputation by empaneling justices whose integrity can be challenged. Don’t presume it, don’t count on it.
If there is no case against the presumptive defendants, then bring the Tribunals on and show the world their innocence. If there is a case, then lets just say so, leaving obfuscation to the foreign ministries.

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March 28th, 2008, 2:38 am

 

35. wizart said:

Friend In America,

No body had a stronger motive to take him out than Israel and yet despite their state track record of assassinations, the media was all over Syria from day 1 assuming Israel to be innocent bystander.

We still don’t know who killed president John F Kennedy 45 years after his death in Dallas, Texas. If America has not been able to bring justice to its own people over this much loved man’s assassination, why in the world should we expect A UN special tribunal to be able to do any better for a multi-sectarian Lebanon hosted in the Middle of a never ending Arab Israeli conflict?

Rafic Hariri brought to Lebanon JP Morgan’s creative, capitalistic free spirited mind along with JFK’s style of courageous progress and peaceful co-existence in the face of a challenging political and economic environment. Hariri was a great loss for Lebanon and a bigger loss for Syria as well. The prime suspect should be Israel.

Rafic Hariri never wanted to have anything to do with Israel as far as I am aware. What he really had was a productive working relationship with Saudi Arabia and with Syria despite periods of difficulties over national security policies. When Rafic was taken out, Syria’s longstanding relationships with both Lebanon and Saudi went downhill only to the benefit of Israel which saw Syria become isolated from its two most important natural alies while the conflicts in the occupied territories of both Gaza and Iraq continued with now black eyes focused on Syria instead of Israel.

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March 28th, 2008, 7:40 am

 

36. MSK said:

Ya Nour,

How would you know what the international commission was and wasn’t allowed to investigate?

Unless you have inside sources – and I truly wish you do because that would give us greater insight than through the official statements & media – all you and we have are the official reports and the few tidbits of information leaked to the media.

How do you know that the commission wasn’t allowed to investigate the possibility that the Mossad killed Hariri? Or, for that matter, the Saudis, Jordanians, fellow ‘anti-Syrian’ Lebanese who wanted to get Syria maligned, etc.?

In addition, I find your argument that the UN is nothing but a US-controlled body somewhat facile. Yes, the US has veto powers – but so do China, France, Russia and the UK. Remember how the US just could not get a UN resolution for the 2003 Iraq War and how the secretary-general called the war “illegal”? That doesn’t sound like total US control to me.

–MSK*

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March 28th, 2008, 7:49 am

 

37. why-discuss said:

TOPOV

“The horror of what appears to have been an attempt at intimidation by assassination, following years of political intimidation backed by tens of thousands of Syrian “boots” on the ground in Lebanon certainly has the appearance of hegemony even if one accepts the qualifiers with which some accompany the period of Syrian effective rule in Lebanon.”

You seem to forget that the Syrian ‘boots” came to lebanon with the benediction of the arabs and the international community when the embattered Christians were facing a slaughter after 15 years of civil wars when Lebanese showed their sense of “unity” and “nationalism”!!! During this rescue the syrians lost many soldiers, are they ever mentionned by Lebanon? The ‘boots” period was also used by late Hariri to rebuild the facade of Beyrouth with lucrative businesses where the syrians participated both in workers and in profits.
Concerning the tribunal, in view of the US policy in the region and the 1559 do you really think that Hezbollah has no reason to be suspicious of it?
Hariri’s death as well as the horrid killings in Lebanon have to punished. I just hope it does not unravel beside any arab or syrian role, the filth that lebanese have tried to hide after the civil war?
Yet who will punish the murderer of Rashid Karame and the mass murders that happenned during the civil war, who will indict the leaders who are now pointing to Syria after being responsible for mass murders in Lebanon. The amnisty that followed the war was a big mistake, this is where an internationl tribunal should have been set up and the leaders that some lebanese are following would be still in prison. Lebanon would have started clean on a new basis, but this habit the lebanese have to forget quickly is haunting them: they are lead by people with bloody hands who prefer to blame the others than accept their guilt.
The tribunal may take years to start being effective. In the meantime the atmosphere of the area will be poisonned. Yes, this Tribunal is necessary since the justice in Lebanon is totally corrupted, but would it change anything in the rotten system Lebanese leaders have build over the years out of religious racism, ostracism ,hatred and arrogance?
The lebanese population remaining in lebanon is trapped, disorganized and far too weak to have a voice calling for a real change in their leadership. Thus the perpetuation of the zaim mentality is guaranty to stay with all the excesses and dangers that it carries. I consider Lebanon as a ‘failed’ state that needs a serious overhaul: Constitution, Institutions etc and they need the UN , not only to protect their borders and to do their justice, but to rebuild a sound governing environemnt. Hoping for a renaissance of Lebanon after the tribunal is an illusion.

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March 28th, 2008, 8:23 am

 

38. wizart said:

Timely (healing) question for our region:

What’s the best way to resolve PTSD in living war victims?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) seeks to identify and change distorted or unrealistic ways of thinking to influence emotion and behavior first by evaluating the validity of clients’ thoughts and beliefs and second by assessing what the client expects and predicts.

In an un-disturbed frame of mind, a person is likely to check his/her impressions and appraisals of events in order to obtain clear and accurate information. When emotionally upset the person will usually distort incoming information so that it becomes biased, rigid and overgeneralized.

Common information processing errors found in emotional distress:

Jumping to conclusions: judgments are rushed.
Mind reading (without evidence)
Labeling.
Emotional reasoning. (Thinking that things are what we feel)
NATS: negative automatic thoughts

Teaching clients how to identify and correct these errors in their thinking facilitates the return of information processing that’s evidence based, flexible and relative.

Self knowledge and mastery leads to self confidence.

Source: Cognitive Therapy (book.)

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March 28th, 2008, 8:44 am

 

39. Naji said:

Isolating Syria serves to highlight its importance

By Zvi Bar’el, Haaretz Correspondent
Last update – 07:46 28/03/2008

“In the name of merciful and compassionate Allah, I hope you solve just one Arab problem,” begged a surfer on television network Al-Arabiyah’s Internet site. His supplication, which will apparently go unanswered, was directed at the heads of state convening in Damascus on Friday for an Arab League summit, or at least those heads of states bothering to attend after Egypt and Saudi Arabia neutered it.

The pair seek to punish Syria for continually thwarting any political solution in Lebanon by not allowing the appointment of General Michel Suleiman as president and not forcing Hezbollah to accept a reasonable division of cabinet posts. Syria rejected, albeit politely, the Arab League’s compromise proposal, positioning itself as the victor over the united Arab front.

But the Saudi-Egyptian penalty could become an own goal. It does not promote a resolution to the crisis in Lebanon and it highlights the chasm between the camps. This is no longer the well-known split between “moderates” and “extremists,” but between the “Arab circle” and the “Iranian circle” and has emphasized the power of organizations like Hezbollah, and to some extent Hamas, to set the Arab agenda.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are frustrated that Iran succeeds in influencing Arab policy no less and maybe – regarding Lebanon – more than the Arab countries themselves. The attendance of the Iranian foreign minister – not a member state and not an Arab state – emphasizes Tehran’s role in this rift.

It is possible that Egypt and Saudi Arabia’s partial embargo of the summit will turn Syria’s isolation into a source of power. The Arab states know that the solution to the two most severe crises in the Middle East pass through Syria, yet they don’t have the means to force its hand. Syrian agreement to the suggested solution would gnaw away at Hezbollah’s political maneuvering power, which could lead to Syria losing control in Lebanon.

This summit will be considered the Arab League’s largest failure, but could clarify how Syria, in spite of its isolation, is becoming the most significant state in the region’s diplomatic processes. The question now will be what option Egypt and Saudi Arabia will have to resolve the Lebanon crisis and how they can extract Hamas from the Iranian-Syrian circle to resolve the Palestinian crisis.

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March 28th, 2008, 3:15 pm

 

40. Naji said:

Ben-Eliezer: Israel trying to revive talks with Syria

By News Agencies
Last update – 10:43 28/03/2008

Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said Friday that Israel has been making efforts to bring Syria back to the negotiating table.

Ben-Eliezer spoke just days after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hinted that Israel might be holding – or planning to hold secret talks with Syria.

“All efforts are being made to bring Syria to the negotiating table in order to sign a peace treaty,” Ben-Eliezer told Israel Radio.

“We know exactly what the price would be,” he added – namely, Israel’s return of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War.

He would not disclose what results there have been, if any, from Israel’s efforts to resume dialogue with the Syrians.

Israel-Syria peace talks – a centerpiece of then-prime minister Ehud Barak’s political agenda – broke down in 2000 with Syria rejecting Israel’s offer to withdraw from the Golan Heights, and insisting that Israel pull back to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Ben-Eliezer told Israel Radio that Barak, now defense minister, was a partner to the current efforts to renew talks with Damascus.

On Wednesday, Olmert told foreign journalists that Israel favors face-to-face talks with Syria that could result in a peace treaty, adding: “That doesn’t mean that when we sit together you have to see us,” he said, an apparent reference to the possibility of secret contacts.

A week earlier, Olmert told a joint meeting of the Israeli and German Cabinets that he was ready to restart negotiations with Syria if Damascus would end its support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrillas and Palestinian militant groups. All are backed by Iran and opposed to Israel’s existence.

Since Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah, both Israel and Syria have declared their readiness to renew negotiations and exchanged messages through third party emissaries, but there has been no sign of movement.

The Israeli efforts to engage Syria in negotiations come at a time when
Israeli attempts to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians are making no visible progress.

Arab FMs re-endorse 2002 peace initiative

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said on Thursday that Israel must show a commitment to the peace process if Damascus were to re-evaluate its support of a 2002 Saudi peace initiative.

Moallem’s comments came just hours before Arab foreign ministers meeting in Damascus ahead of an Arab League summit this weekend agreed to re-endorse the initiative, which promises recognition of Israel should it withdraw in full from territories it captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.

During talks with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney earlier this week, President Shimon Peres dismissed recent Syrian calls for peace talks, saying Israel would not consider ceding the Golan Heights to Syria only to have Damascus and Tehran increase their dominance in Lebanon.

The president added that while Israel is always ready to negotiate toward peace with Syria, the duplicitous game that Assad is playing in Syria cannot be ignored.

He noted that a tremendous amount of Iranian-funded weapons are transferred to Hezbollah every day through Syria.

Olmert had told visting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week that Israel was “ready to begin a diplomatic process with Syria only if they distance themselves from the axis of evil and stop supporting Hamas and Hezbollah.”

He made in the comments after Lavrov inquired whether Israel would be willing to hold talks with Damascus if Moscow were to mediate.

Lavrov had announced during his visit that a Moscow summit would aim to relaunch peace talks between Israel and Syria, and that the issue of the Golan Heights would definitely be on the summit’s agenda.

Related articles:

Arab FMs re-endorse 2002 Saudi peace initiative

ANALYSIS: Isolating Syria serves to highlight its importance

PM says worried Russian weapons will reach Hezbollah

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March 28th, 2008, 3:20 pm

 

41. Naji said:

As I have said before, Syria will come out of this summit much stronger… its serious adversaries realize and accept that, but the real losers are the fools and knaves who were not able obtain their master’s permission to attend…!

I love quoting myself… 😉

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March 28th, 2008, 3:26 pm

 

42. Naji said:

Further reinforcing my point above, the just-submitted 10th report to the UN on the Hariri murder/tribunal has moved closer towards exonerating Syria, and has praised its cooperation…!!

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March 28th, 2008, 4:12 pm

 

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