Syrian Israeli Peace Process

Posted by Qifa Nabki

There is a new topic over at Creative Forum, and many of Syria Comment's regulars have weighed in. The theme of discussion is:

The Syrian-Israeli Peace Process 

Question: "Syria and Israel have embarked upon peace negotiations. How optimistic or pessimistic are you about their chances of success? If you had to lay out the terms for an acceptable deal, taking into consideration expectations and worries of Syria's allies, as well as other regional powers, what shape would it take?"

There are many noteworthy contributions; here is just a little sampling:

Alon Liel: "In 2000, it was still possible to trade the Golan for a peace agreement with Syria without discussing the overall regional situation; today, eight years later, that simple bilateral equation seems totally inadequate. Since then, Syria has allied itself with Iran, and with other reactionary terrorist forces of the Islamic world. Detaching it from the extremist embrace will be difficult—difficult, but not impossible…"

Ayman Hakki: "Syrians and Israelis love to talk politics, and that’s why this peace initiative is being discussed, but at heart they are mercantile people who share a y-chromosome that resonates to the music of cha ching."

AnotherIsraeliGuy: "As for Syria, it is unlikely that it is interested in peace with Israel. It is much more interested in a peace process only and with peace (or at least a cease fire) with the US. As the self proclaimed leader of the Arab resistance, Asad has much to lose from a peace deal with Israel."

Abufares: "My first concern is the consequences of a Syrian Israeli peace treaty on the Palestinians. They must not pay for our peace in any shape or form. Then I certainly would not accept a humiliating peace, not for myself nor for my enemy. “Give to Ceasar what belongs to Ceasar!” The Golan Heights must be returned to Syria."

Offended: "If I am to conjure up a physical metaphor to the conflict between Syria and Israel; I can only think of it as a devastating oil spill that is spread miles and miles across an exquisite seaside. It’s disastrous by all means. But while the proprietor of the oil carrier and the GreenPeace activists are stomping the snots out of each other, the spill grows bigger and bigger. And this is indeed what we’ve got in our hands at the moment: a terrible mess that requires nothing less than the efforts of all those involved to contain it."

Shai: "On Wednesday, May 21st, 2008, the ground shook in the Middle East. Two separate and significant conflicts suddenly and simultaneously headed in the right direction – that of peace. The warring Lebanese factions meeting in Doha at last reached an agreement, after 18 months of great tension, and Israel and Syria announced the restart of formal peace talks, after 8 years of near-silence… Is there room, therefore, for optimism? Certainly there is."

Nour Chammas: "The Syrian position has been clear and consistent throughout; namely that they have adopted peace as a strategic choice and that the Golan will be returned to Syria one way or another. Syria has consistently maintained an open door for any potential negotiations over a just peaceful settlement with respect to the return of its occupied land and the preservation of its national rights."

Be sure to read the rest of the articles, leave comments, and don't forget to vote!

Comments (129)


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101. Seeking the Truth said:

I’m having second thoughts.
Reluctance of the majority of Israelis to relinquish control of the Golan Heights, could represent the biggest obstacle to a peace treaty, and not the required change of the Syrian regime’s policies vis-à-vis Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas.

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May 31st, 2008, 5:25 pm

 

102. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Seeking,
Those two things go hand in hand. The more favorable the deal for Israel, the more likely that more Israelis would support giving up the Golan. The issues are related. If Syria does not flip, the chances of a deal are slim to none. If it does, the chances are much better but it is not a slam dunk. I would still be opposed to the deal but many other Israelis would change their minds.

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May 31st, 2008, 5:36 pm

 

103. why-discuss said:

Qn

Thanks for asking. Humbly, I think the priorities of the lebanese government should be:

Internally:

- Reconciliation steps between Lebanese through meetings and popular reunions with normal people. Not only among politicians but also between religious leaders. I want to see Sfeir sitting with Kabbani and Fadhallaha and Nasrallah too. Afer some time, this should lead to an official ceremony of national reconciliation.
- Establish a commitee to regularly organize national reconciliation follow ups. This is an ongoing process.
- Elaboration of strict media guidelines banishing vocal and written excesses that may trigger hatred and violence.
- Establish a strong internal security apparatus with increased infiltrations of threatening foreign groups.
- Elaboration of a national defense strategy and an increase in spending on the army build up. Russia and China should be approached too as US is shy of giving serious weapons to Lebanon.
- Elaboration of an acceptable set of civil rights for Palestinians.
- Officially cancel the Cairo accord. All Palestinians camps should be under the army control.
- Adding a clause in the Consitution or establishing a law rejectiing the granting of citizenship to Palestinian refugees.
- Elaboration of a strategy together with Hezbollah of economical infra structures and industry in the south of Lebanon.

etc…

Foreign Policy

- Develop a guideline of national interests to follow in foreign policy.
- Reconciliation and normalization with Syria through visits and exchange of ambassadors.
- Reopen the Shebaa farm issues in the international reunions.
- Increase political exchanges with neighboring non arab countries: Lebanon should turn to Asia much more. Turkey is the ideal partner and intermediary.
- Resist to US and western pressures and develop a national foreign policy in line with to national interests.
etc..

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May 31st, 2008, 5:38 pm

 

104. Qifa Nabki said:

Why-Discuss

You have some great ideas. Here’s what I think:

- Reconciliation steps between Lebanese through meetings and popular reunions with normal people. Not only among politicians but also between religious leaders. I want to see Sfeir sitting with Kabbani and Fadhallaha and Nasrallah too. Afer some time, this should lead to an official ceremony of national reconciliation.
- Establish a commitee to regularly organize national reconciliation follow ups. This is an ongoing process.

This is an excellent idea. In fact, maybe the government should declare something like “A Year of National Reconcilliation”, and plan events throughout the year to raise consciousness about the importance of this issue. I envision the establishment of public spaces in all of the major cities that are “gardens of reconcilliation and forgiveness” or some such thing… Also, a couple of big musical events to celebrate national unity, etc.

Such things may be dismissed as plastic surgery when what we need is cardiac surgery, but I do believe that consciousness raising of this sort is very important, and greatly unifying. I remember after the war, LBC had a program on TV called “al-Awwal 3al LBC”, in which a film crew traveled all around the country visiting different villages, where people would compete in fun and interesting competitions to show off the prowess of their village for a particular thing: whether it was the best tasting olives, or the most talented dirbekeh players, or the greatest dabke dancers, etc. I was just a kid at the time, but I thought it was a great show, because it showed the Lebanese at their best… to each other! And it brought people together, etc.

- Elaboration of strict media guidelines banishing vocal and written excesses that may trigger hatred and violence.

This is extremely important. I agree wholeheartedly, although, as with any example of attempts to moderate free speech, it will be difficult to do. But something should be done, especially during the election campaign time.

- Establish a strong internal security apparatus with increased infiltrations of threatening foreign groups.
- Elaboration of a national defense strategy and an increase in spending on the army build up. Russia and China should be approached too as US is shy of giving serious weapons to Lebanon.

Agreed.

- Elaboration of an acceptable set of civil rights for Palestinians.
- Officially cancel the Cairo accord. All Palestinians camps should be under the army control.
- Adding a clause in the Consitution or establishing a law rejectiing the granting of citizenship to Palestinian refugees.

I’d like this to be a major priority as well, but is there any chance that the Lebanese will get around to doing this? Just curious, what would the difference be between the civil rights granted, and full citizenship? Would they be totally identical, except for the right to vote? And if so, are you against granting citizenship because it would change the sectarian balance in Lebanon, or because it would relieve Israel of the burden of taking these refugees back?

- Elaboration of a strategy together with Hezbollah of economical infra structures and industry in the south of Lebanon.

Hugely important. On condition that the Hizb allows the government to gradually take its place as the sole provider of social services. In other words, the government should be given credit for doing its duty.

- Develop a guideline of national interests to follow in foreign policy.
- Reconciliation and normalization with Syria through visits and exchange of ambassadors.

Amen.

- Reopen the Shebaa farm issues in the international reunions.

I agree; but in order to do this, we need Syria to draw the borders so that we can state unequivocally that Shebaa is ours.

- Increase political exchanges with neighboring non arab countries: Lebanon should turn to Asia much more. Turkey is the ideal partner and intermediary.
- Resist to US and western pressures and develop a national foreign policy in line with to national interests.

I agree, but how do you define “national interests”? Obviously, good relations with the U.S. and Europe are very much in Lebanese national interests. Most of our diaspora live and do business in the West. We have extensive Western investment in Lebanon. And even if one totally rejects the logic of Phoenecianism and believes that Lebanon is an Arab country (as I do), there is no denying that Lebanese culture, history, people have strong ties to the West.

Anyway, thanks for your thoughts.

The only thing that I would add is the creation of a 10-year plan that lays out the gradual steps that must be taken for the eventual result of full deconfessionalization. This would basically lead to the implementation of the “end game” of the Ta’ef Accord, i.e. “the election of the first Chamber of Deputies on a national, not secterian, basis,” at which point “a senate shall be formed and all the spiritual families shall be represented in it.”

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May 31st, 2008, 6:15 pm

 

105. Seeking the Truth said:

AnotherIsraeliGuy,

It could be that the tricky part of reaching an agreement, is to find a way for how the withdrawal and the flipping should take place timewise in relation to each other.

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May 31st, 2008, 6:38 pm

 

106. wizart said:

Creating a Strategy for Peace (conventional strategic planning)

Creating a strategy for a public interest campaign involves:
~ defining goals and intermediate and short-term objectives,
~ identifying opponents,
~ carrying out a SWOT analysis
~ imagining and playing scenarios,
~ identifying primary and secondary targets,
~ identifying allies,
~ deciding what resources are required (expenses, other),
~ devising tactics, and
~ drawing up an action timetable.

Strategically nimble players are able to consider a range of scenarios in making strategic choices. Strategies are a dime a dozen, more important than planning is strategic thinking.

What do we know about Syrian and Israeli peace negotiators? What are their backgrounds and likely tactics? What’s been their track record? What’ve they learned from years of past negotiation? Do they know enough to know they’re even asking the right questions?

Issues to consider:

SWOT: Assessing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing each party.

BATNA: What’s the best alternative to a negotiated settlement that each party has and why is that better than a negotiated settlement?

Strategic thinkers enable both parties to make profitable trade-offs provided they’re authorized to be realistic, decisive, courageous and responsible. Negotiating tactics not withstanding.

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May 31st, 2008, 6:53 pm

 

107. Shai said:

Wizart, thanks for the jokes… (wrote you a response in the previous thread).

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May 31st, 2008, 7:18 pm

 

108. Honest Patriot said:

Why-Discuss and QN, what does the phrase below mean? Why-Discuss wrote it and QN quoted it:
“- Establish a strong internal security apparatus with increased infiltrations of threatening foreign groups.”

And btw I believe that laws, methods, and implementations leading to an improved civic sense among the Lebanese, respect of law an order, etc., are indispensable to any long lasting improvement in the prospects for success for the country.

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May 31st, 2008, 8:12 pm

 

109. Qifa Nabki said:

HP

I see what you mean. I think that WD meant “a strong internal security apparatus [to prevent] increased infiltrations…”

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May 31st, 2008, 8:36 pm

 

110. Alex said:

Qifa Nabki, W-D,

Me too, I agree to everything you proposed.

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May 31st, 2008, 9:41 pm

 

111. ausamaa said:

Qifa,

“If Aoun can “see the light”, surely Saniora can, right…”

Only difference is that Aoun lived in exile for what he believed in, while Siniora and Feb 14 were “intimated” to vote for the extension of Lahoud.

I would rather deal with an Honest -even if troublesome- man like Aoun, than to deal with Feb 14 Parlementarians who have admitted that they voted this way or that way because they frightened of the Syrian-Lebanese security apparatus then.

Aoun was a Syrian antagonist for a long while until Syria left Lebanon, the Feb 14 heros proved to be no more than a bunch of apple-polishers and back-stabers who can easily not only be bought and sold on the open market but are shameless enough to admit something amounting to treason and who chose to place their political carreers ahead and personal safety ahead of their country’s interest. THat is if one can bring himself to beleive anything they say. Or have said before and now!

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May 31st, 2008, 10:44 pm

 

112. Honest Patriot said:

Ausamaa,

There is enough hypocrisy and corruption to go around for most if not all politicians in Lebanon. This includes the General who conveniently changed his mind about the likely culprits in the Hariri assassination (he is on video declaring who he thinks they are) and who kept playing spoiler recently until he had no other choice because his new allies were going to abandon him after being pressured by their Iranian “benefactors.”
If one uses the same logic you are, one can say that at least Geagea went to jail in order to stay on Lebanese soil – instead of exiling himself to the good life like Aoun did.
I’m no fan of Geagea or any of the leaders and zu3ama who are responsible for the repeated fiascos in Lebanon. But let’s apply the same metric to all.
There is one exception, and, in my eyes, only one. And indeed that is Siniora. I don’t believe Siniora was a MP at the time of the extension of Lahoud’s presidency so your reasoning doesn’t apply to him. The man jumped into politics by necessity after the assassination of his friend Hariri. On the world stage, and from an international perspective, he has really demonstrated himself to be the ONLY politician in Lebanon that can be regarded as a statesman – from the point of view of personality, wisdom, education, ability to express himself clearly and to communicate with any and all world leaders and their governments and staff.
The ridicule he has been subjected to by his detractors is quite regrettable and unfortunate. Siniora is a man that makes us proud to be Lebanese and/or of Lebanese origin. Aoun is not. Neither are Geagea nor any of the other clowns who pretend to be politicians and statesmen. The one other exception is the Sayyed – Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah that is. I don’t regard him as a statesman but as a remarkably gifted leader with the power to inspire not only a small country but a whole region and possibly the world. I disagree vehemently with his politics and with what I consider to be his fanaticism. But I do admire and respect the man and his talents. I also have a glimmer of hope that there is the potential in him to change into a positive force in Lebanon if/when the circumstances are right. Just a glimmer. I wouldn’t bet on it.

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May 31st, 2008, 11:06 pm

 

113. Nour said:

HP,

I believe you forgot that Sanioura was the Minister of Finance during the reign of Rafiq Hariri and many questions abound as to his honesty and integrity during that period. As for your description of his statesmanship, I’m afraid I simply do not see it. A man who kisses and hugs the secretary of state of the country that is supplying the weapons to kill his people during the very time that his people are being killed by these weapons is no statesman in my book. A man who writes a piece praising, glorifying, and idolizing a figure such as the Saudi king is no statesman in my opinion. A man who says things like “I have no worries about Lebanon because I know it is in the conscience of King Abdallah” is as far from statesmanship as one can be. And let us not forget that this is the same man who, after his government passed the two decisions that led to the early May confrontations and sent those decisions to the UN, pronounced two days later that those decisions were never made. Of course these are only some of the many many faults in Sanioura that clearly show him to lack any qualities of a true statesman, but they should suffice for now.

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May 31st, 2008, 11:26 pm

 

114. why-discuss said:

QN

I think no country should be obliged to give citizenship to refugees that they have received temporary out of human compassion.
The same way I don’t think Syria should be obliged to grant citizenship to the Iraqis they have accepted open arms.
The countries who have created the refugees, i.e Israel for the Palestinians and the US for the Iraqis are the SOLE responsible of their fate. They are the one who have to come up with a solution. Of course they have been throwing the burden on who ever accepted the refugees, like Jordan, Lebanon or Syria. In addition Palestinians in Lebanon( and Jordan) have not been trouble free. Their presence has cause a lot of harm to Lebanon and have triggered the civil war. Most Palestinians in the camps have had low level education and they are sunni moslems. Their integration in the lebanese society will certainly create additional social and economical burden and increased sectarian tensions as it could be interpreted as a way to change the religious balance of the population. I don’t think Lebanese would happily accept to give them citizenship after such negative experiences.
The situation may be different in Syria where Palestinians were more integrated to the social system: Young educated Palestinians are in the Syrian army and treated like syrians.
Lebanon has all these reasons to make a law or official declaration that granting citizenship to Palestinian refugees is illegal or would require a popular referendum. This would calm many Lebanese who believe that this is the main plan of Israel and the US for Lebanon. That would definitely close that door on Israel and the US who will be obliged to explore other venues.

Obviously, good relations with the U.S. and Europe are very much in Lebanese national interests. Most of our diaspora live and do business in the West. We have extensive Western investment in Lebanon. And even if one totally rejects the logic of Phoenecianism and believes that Lebanon is an Arab country (as I do), there is no denying that Lebanese culture, history, people have strong ties to the West.

I agree with that but I believe Lebanon has been concentrating too much on the West and rich arab countries for historical reasons and also economical. Unfortunately this has come with constant intrusion on the part of these countries that have brought the Lebanese against each other. The relation with these countries is useful but very polluted and slippery.
Lebanon should open up to Asia with whom they have no history of colonialism and hegemony: India, Japan, Turkey, China and even Iran.
I havent given any of the priorities in then economic area, but I was pleased to hear Sleiman expressing that Lebanon should develop industries and agriculture and not just concentrating on tourism. I agree wholeheartly with that vision that would give Lebanon more autonomy and would keep the brains home.

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June 1st, 2008, 12:39 am

 

115. Syrian said:

AIG,

I think this relates nicely to our discussion from last night

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June 1st, 2008, 12:50 am

 

116. why-discuss said:

Nour,
Siniora is certainly not a statesman, far from that, but he is known and popular with European leaders and the present US administration. For the time being he represents some sort of continuity in the western eyes and that will ensure the flow of economical aid.
Is it not sufficient argument to re-instate him?

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June 1st, 2008, 12:52 am

 

117. Qifa Nabki said:

Ausamaa

What you are saying doesn’t make sense.

You respect Aoun because he … fled to France “for what he believed in”, but you scorn the March 14 guys because they stayed in Lebanon and followed the Syrian line for fear of their lives??!

So you tolerate a 180 degree change in Aoun’s statements, but not one by Hariri & co., even though there was bad blood between them and the Syrians for quite a few years prior to 2005: lots of resentment, lots of fear and intimidation, etc. They didn’t suddenly flip overnight, the way Aoun did.

I think you “would rather deal” with anyone who did what was best for Bashar. It has nothing to do with “honesty”. Let’s wait and see how the alliances change in the coming months, ahead of the next elections. That will be entertaining, but not half as entertaining as listening to you justify why this former March 14er was never really that bad, and this former March 8er is a back-stabbing apple-polisher.

I’m really looking forward to that. :-)

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June 1st, 2008, 1:23 am

 

118. Qifa Nabki said:

Why-Discuss

I’ll respond to your post later, but I wanted to say right away that I agree with you about industry/agriculture.

Actually, one of the few things that Lahoud fought for that actually made good sense was the dam up near Faraya. Lebanon could put in 6 or 7 dams of different sizes, and sell water to other countries, create hydroelectric power, etc. Instead, we import water from Crete, and are still rationing electricity. Ridiculous.

We get more rainfall than Manchester, and yet most of it runs into the sea, erodes our soil, etc.

Here’s something on this subject from Blogging Beirut:

“Lebanon’s most significant (and perhaps only) natural resource is water, or what I’m dubbing Blue Gold.

It is estimated that over 1 billion cubic meters of fresh water are ‘lost’ to sea every year. 1 billion cubic meters! And it’s renewable…

Though we may not have a single drop of Black Gold (oil), our Blue Gold surplus is so great, so pure, and so renewable that we could pay off our entire debt (40B USD) by just harnessing the excess and shipping it out at a premium to our neighbors over the course of 10 years – perhaps less if fresh water prices keep rising as expected.

A hydrologist once told me that she had seen plans – in dusty boxes in the water ministry – drawn up before the civil war, of major water works in the bekaa, south, and metn, that were genius, pure genius. She said that had the Qaraoun Dam been fully developed, the entire bekaa region would have free power and irrigation.”

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June 1st, 2008, 1:37 am

 

119. Alex said:

Bashar will visit Lebanon!!
(ya3ni, according to a Lebanese source)

وكالة أنباء لبنانية تتحدث عن زيارة للأسد إلى بيروت الشهر الحالي

دمشق لا تؤكد ولا تنفي
دمشق: سعاد جروس بيروت: «الشرق الاوسط»
لم تتمكن «الشرق الأوسط» من الحصول على معلومات رسمية مؤكدة في دمشق حول انباء نقلتها الوكالة المركزية اللبنانية عن «مصادر مطلعة» ومفادها أن الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد سيقوم بزيارة الى بيروت في النصف الثاني من شهر يونيو (حزيران) لتقديم التهاني للرئيس اللبناني ميشال سليمان، في حين أعلن رسميا أن الرئيس الأسد سيبدأ هذا الأسبوع جولة عربية بصفته رئيسا للقمة العربية إلى كل من الإمارات العربية والكويت. وتأتي جولة الأسد العربية في إطار «استمرار التشاور والتنسيق العربي».

وأفادت مصادر إعلامية بأن الرئيس اللبناني المنتخب العماد ميشال سليمان ينوي القيام بزيارة إلى سورية بعد الانتهاء من تأليف حكومة الوحدة الوطنية اللبنانية برئاسة السنيورة وذلك تلبية لدعوة من الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد خلال اتصال تهنئة كان تلقاه منه.

وسبق للرئيس بشار الأسد أن زار لبنان عام 2002، وكانت الأولى لرئيس سوري بعد سبعة وعشرين عاما. وكانت وكالة «المركزية» اللبنانية للأنباء نشرت نبأ نقلا عن «مصادر مطلعة» مفاده أن الرئيس السوري سيزور بيروت في النصف الثاني من يونيو (حزيران) الجاري لتقديم التهنئة للرئيس العماد ميشال سليمان في قصر بعبدا.

واذا صحت المعلومات فان الخطوة السورية تأتي بعد الزيارة التي قام بها امير قطر الشيخ حمد بن خليفة آل ثاني لدمشق حيث أجرى محادثات مع الاسد

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June 1st, 2008, 1:37 am

 

120. Alex said:

http://www.asharqalawsat.com/leader.asp?section=3&article=473057&issueno=10778

Abdel Rahman writing about Syria … again.

معركة دمشق ضد السعوديين

تدور معركة صامتة وصاخبة من جهتين مختلفتين، الرياض ودمشق.

فدمشق رفضت اقتراح الامين العام للجامعة العربية باصلاح العلاقة العربية مع ايران، سورية رفضت الفكرة بصفتها رئيسة القمة العربية. ترى ان لا أحد على خلاف مع طهران إلا السعودية، وبالتالي دعوا السعوديين وحدهم يتحملون المشكلة. دمشق سربت افكارها في الصحافة اللبنانية. ورغم انها نفتها رسميا، إلا ان الجميع يدركون انها تصريحات سورية حرفا بحرف، وليست ايرانية رغم محاولة الايحاء بذلك. فدمشق تحاول منذ فترة اقناع الخليجيين بان ايران وراء تصريحات، واخبار، ووراء احداث بيروت، وان دمشق ليست طرفا.

بالتأكيد لإيران دور كبير في ازمات المنطقة، انما لا نستطيع ان نحملها كل ما يحدث ويقال، حتى إن ظهر منسوبا لوكالة ايرانية، مثل فارس، وغيرها التي استخدمت بكثرة في الآونة الأخيرة في نشر تصريحات مصدرها سورية هدفها ابعاد الشبهات عن دمشق والصاقها بايران، او استخدمت فيها محطة التلفزيون الايرانية.

ميزة الخلاف مع الايرانيين انه واضح، ويمكن تعريفه. فرغبة النظام في طهران في الهيمنة على شرق المنطقة العربية، من الخليج والعراق وحتى لبنان باتت معلنة، قالوا للاميركيين لنا دور في العراق وفي الخليج، وقالوا للسعوديين تعالوا نتفاهم في لبنان، وهكذا. امر يصعب ان يتخيل المرء ان يحقق بلا مخاطر وصدام طائفي بالغ الخطورة، مما يجعل كل المنطقة في حال استنفار سياسي وأمني. ثم هناك الملف النووي حيث لا تخفي طهران نواياها بتصنيع السلاح الذري. وهنا الخليج معني بهذا الخطر اكثر من اسرائيل، التي يروج اسمها تبريرا لتصنيع السلاح، كما كان يفعل صدام في الثمانينات ثم استخدم اسلحته الفتاكة ضد ايران ومواطنيه الاكراد واحتل الكويت. قناعة الدول الخليجية العربية الست مجتمعة بان السلاح الايراني يستهدفها، وسيضعها تحت الابتزاز الايراني في المستقبل، ان لم يستخدم بشكل مباشر ضدها. هذه هي الخلافات مع ايران واضحة، ورغم خطورتها الا ان التواصل ما بين الرياض وطهران لم ينقطع، بل يقال انه الذي أنقذ المنطقة في بعض التوترات، وان اخفق في أزمة انقلاب حزب الله الاخير التي تسببت لاول مرة في ملاسنة علنية بين الامير سعود الفيصل وزير الخارجية السعودي واحمدي نجاد الرئيس الايراني.

لهذا جاءت تسريبات دمشق الصحفية ضد السعودية مثيرة، لانها تعبر عن حال توتر وحنق وافتعال معركة، تكمل تصريحات فاروق الشرع نائب الرئيس السوري في مطلع هذا العام الذي تنبأ بسقوط مناطق النفط السعودية. التسريبات السورية الاخيرة في الصحف قالت ان السعودية تتآمر لقلب النظام السوري. يالها من تهمة! انا واثق ان السوريين يعلمون حق اليقين لو ان السعودية تبنت مشروع اسقاط نظامهم لن يكون ذلك مستحيلا، وبطريقة «شرعية». انما السعودية ليست سورية في لغة التعامل مع الازمات، فاقصى عقوباتها تخفيض او قطع اتصالاتها، أيضا لعبت السعودية دور الداعم الدائم لاستقرار سورية طوال ثلاثين عاما. ليس بالضرورة حبا في النظام بل لانها ضد الفوضى في المنطقة، وتعتقد ان الخلافات مهما ساءت تصلح في النهاية، ورأت ان الانظمة التي لم تصلح سلوكها لم تعمر طويلا مهما ركبت من تحالفات.

حاليا يمعن القادة السوريون في حملة متعددة الاشكال، وعبر اطراف مختلفة، تريد اهانة السعوديين واستفزازهم وتخويفهم، اعتقادا منهم ان ذلك سيجبر خصومهم على الانحناء لمطالبهم، لكن دعونا نرى.

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June 1st, 2008, 1:39 am

 

121. Honest Patriot said:

Nour,

I do know that Siniora was Finance Minister under Rafiq Hariri. I was pointing out that he was not a member of parliament and hence cannot be counted in Ausamaa’s arguments of those who yielded to Syrian pressure in the vote to renew Lahoud’s term.
As far as Siniora’s praising of the King of Saudi Arabia and other such praises, on the one hand, they are poetic praises that are quite common in the Arabic lore, and on the other hand it can be argued that paying lip homage to the King of a country that has been ultragenerous in donations and loans to Lebanon is common courtesy. What really matters is the man’s comportment in decision making, in negotiations, his outstanding ability to use logic and facts to express himself to an Arabic audience, and, importantly, to an international audience. This is why W-D is saying that Siniora is liked and respected in the West. I’ve been in the U.S. for the past 27 years and while it is fair to qualify my thoughts as being influenced by the US media, I have observed first-hand interviews and speeches from Siniora in international forums. There isn’t a single Lebanese personality that I’m aware of that presents itself and its country as clearly, logically, effectively, and persuasively as Siniora does. This is not a biased opinion of someone with an agenda. I am as apolitical as they come. It is an honest opinion based on objective observation. I can assure you that anyone in the West following the news comes to the same conclusion. Finally, if we set aside the possibly emotional anger against Siniora by some, and focus specifically on his words and actions as they relate to important decisions, events, and analyses, it would be interesting to understand why many are so accusatory of him. I just don’t see it.

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June 1st, 2008, 2:14 am

 

122. majedkhaldoun said:

I agree 100% with H.P. analysis,and statements.
but I know that Aoun, may change, he has to, his supporters will convince him to change, also Mr.M. Murr will change, and will support his son Elias AlMurr.

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June 1st, 2008, 3:49 am

 

123. Alex said:

Israel concerned: Frost around Syria is melting in Europe
By Barak Ravid

Foreign Ministry officials are growing increasingly concerned at what they see as signs that relations between Syria and European countries are thawing following many months during which the Syrian regime was internationally isolated.

In view of the restart of talks between Israel and Syria, Israeli diplomatic missions in Europe were issued instructions from Jerusalem to ask European capitals to exercise “caution” in their contacts with Damascus, because it has yet to prove the seriousness of its intent regarding to the negotiations.

In recent years Syria had suffered international isolation due to suspicions that the regime of President Bashar Assad was behind the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and the uprising in Iraq. However, senior European figures recently resumed contacts with Syria, and Thursday French President Nicolas Sarkozy telephoned Bashar Assad, even though France had been, along with the United States, among the major players leading the isolation of Damascus.

Five days ago, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos visited the Syrian capital, after a year of not visiting Damascus.

Last week, Israel’s ambassadors in key European capitals received a classified telegram pointing out that the recent contacts by leading European figures are the first signs of the breakdown of Syria’s isolation.

Haaretz received a copy of the content of the telegram, which was authored by the deputy head of the Western Europe division at the Foreign Ministry, Rafi Barak. The note also included instructions for diplomatic activities in those capitals.

“It must be explained to the Europeans that the negotiations have still not begun and therefore they must be careful and measured in contacts vis a vis the Syrians,” the note read.

Barak added in the note that the Israeli diplomats should ask the Europeans to treat Syrian requests carefully, “until we can tell if they are serious [in their intentions].” “The Europeans need to be reminded that Syria continues to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah, supports Hamas and Islamic Jihad and is not disengaging from Iran. All these are issues of great concern for Israel, and they are still on the table, unresolved.”

Sources at the Prime Minister’s Bureau said last night that the content of the cable was not coordinated with them.

Foreign Ministry officials had expressed concerns that international pressure on Syria would be on the wane following the announced resumption of indirect talks between Israel and Syria and the backing Syria gave to the Doha agreement, which brought an end, two weeks ago, to the political crisis in Lebanon.

Even before Sarkozy telephoned Assad, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem met with the French president and delivered a message from Assad that “Syria is interested that France will contribute to Israeli-Syrian negotiations.”

Details of the telephone conversation between Sarkozy and Assad, received by Haaretz, suggest that the French president expressed his satisfaction with Syria’s role in bringing the crisis in Lebanon to an end and said he expected Damascus to contribute to its implementation.

Sarkozy also expressed his support for the talks between Syria and Israel and said that “France recognizes the legitimate rights of Syria on the Golan Heights.”

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June 1st, 2008, 4:32 am

 

124. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
This is exactly what I was warning against. Syria gains just from negotiating with Israel and Israel should not have fallen into this trap. Olmert and his party will pay a huge price for all their mistakes in the upcoming elections.

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June 1st, 2008, 4:42 am

 

125. Alex said:

AIG,

Please keep in mind that Israel in not the center of the universe.

THe Europeans, including Sarkozy, and the King of Spain, told Assad few months ago that if he helped the Lebanese to reach a deal, they will reward Syria handsomely. Actually Sarkozy mentioned that Syrian French relations will “improve in a dramatic way”

Initially Assad refused to help because his allies in the opposition did not have what they want … at that time he would have needed to put a lot of pressure on his allies in order to MAYBE convince them to accept the deal offered at the time by M14.

Last month, after the M14 group accepted the Lebanese opposition’s demands, it became possible for Syria to help reach a solution without putting unwelcome pressure on its allies.

As for Israeli Syrian negotiations … I think you need to give the Europeans some credit … they are not that naive. They know exactly how far that agreement has gone (not far!) … they know that there is a good chance Olmert will not be here in few months from now …

Their opening to Syria is Lebanon related, not Israel related.

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June 1st, 2008, 5:00 am

 

126. ausamaa said:

Qifa,

I do not expect that Aoun will have a long honeymoon with Syria, that is if a honey moon is looming in the current horizon. I expect agreements, disagreement and a lot of turn-ons and turn-offs.

But I think with Aoun, you always know where you stand. That makes things much easier to handle.

However, has Feb 14 got nothing to count on now but a mishape among the Opposition and between Syria and Aoun or Syria an Nassrallah? Has the dreams of regime change, bombing Damascuse International Airport, the useless commings and goings of the USS Cole, the landing of the IDF or the Marines, and the unlimited support by Bush and Rice evaporated and dissappeared into thin air? And is the only thing left for them and thier cheerleaders is to bet on rifts developing between the Opposition and its allies?So much for the many things they lied to people and even to themselves about…

Sure, in politics, self interest comes first especially in countries like Lebanon. But again, the Friend or even the Devil (to keep you hopes alive) that you know is better than the Judas that you knew…

But I still think Aoun is solid. Honest, independent minded for sure, but not a crook like you know who…

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June 1st, 2008, 7:57 am

 

127. Qifa Nabki said:

Ausamaa

Whatever makes sense to you.

I’m more inclined to regard them all (with few exceptions) as some variety of cheats, crooks, or zealots. But they are what we have, so we have to deal with them.

Luckily, Lebanon is becoming freer and more democratic by the day. Inshallah, within a decade or so the political scene will look considerably different.

With any luck — especially if Bashar succeeds in his peace initiatives and liberalizing programs — Syria will be freer and more democratic as well.

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June 1st, 2008, 1:55 pm

 

128. ausamaa said:

Qifa,

Nice speach, reminds one of Siniora..

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June 1st, 2008, 9:36 pm

 

129. norman said:

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Financial Times FT.com
WorldCloseSyrians wary over Golan Heights peace hopes
By Heba Saleh, recently in the Golan Heights

Published: June 2 2008 03:00 | Last updated: June 2 2008 03:00

Across the valley, the sound of a bulldozer breaks the silence of the early afternoon. The machine’s orange tentacle moves back and forth in a clearing between the houses of Majdal Shams, a Syrian village in the Golan Heights, which have been occupied by Israel since 1967.

To the Syrian citizens watching the scene from a hilltop in the sliver of the Golan still controlled by their country, Majdal Shams, its roofs shimmering in the sun, appears so near – yet so far away.

It would take less than 10 minutes to get there on foot, but that would be a walk through a mined valley and into enemy territory.

There are no Israeli troops in sight, but two large military observation stations sit atop the mountains above the village, scanning Syrian movements in the foothills and on the plains beyond that stretch to Damascus, a mere 60km away.

All that could change if the latest peace talks between Israel and Syria lead to an agreement restoring the whole territory to Syria.

Israel occupies about 1,200 sq km of the strategic territory, including five Syrian Druze villages, most of whose 20,000 inhabitants profess loyalty to Damascus.

In Syria, news of the talks revived hope – tinged with a heavy doze of caution – that Israel would give back the Golan region.

“Our previous experience does not allow us to be optimistic,” said Hamed al-Halaby, a retired teacher originally from a Golan village. “We don’t trust Israel and for 35 years this has been an inactive front. So what is going to compel them to give it back?”

Not expecting the occupation to last, he left his Golan village to study in Damascus soon after the Israelis arrived in June 1967.

But for many years, Mr Halaby was completely cut off from his family on the other side.

There are tears in his eyes when he recounts how he watched from the hilltop facing Majdal Shams the celebrations at his sister’s house when his niece got married.

Contact with his relatives is now possible through internet calls and reunions in Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994. But for decades the only way of talking to his family was by loudspeaker.

Little is known about the Israeli-Syrian negotiations, mediated by Turkey, though Damascus says Israel has agreed to a full withdrawal to 1967 lines.

Ehud Olmert, Israel’s beleaguered prime minister, has not confirmed this, but he has said that his country must be prepared for “painful concessions”.

The two countries came close to an agreement in 2000 during talks in Geneva, held under the auspices of Bill Clinton, the former US president.Syria pulled out when Israel insisted on moving the 1967 border to give it full control of Lake Tiberias.

This time, too, success could prove difficult.

Mr Olmert’s tenure as prime minister is in jeopardy following calls for him to step down over corruption claims. Attacks by Syrian-backed groups, such as the Lebanese Hizbollah or the Palestinian Hamas, could also torpedo the process.

“There are too many players and the process is very fragile and vulnerable,” said Samir Altaqi, a Syrian analyst familiar with the authorities’ thinking.

“Everything could inadvertently turn upside down in case of any minor player making a wrong move.”

Israel wants Syria to distance itself from Iran, its close ally, and from Hizbollah and Hamas, as a condition for a deal. Damascus has refused. On Wednesday, it signed a new defence co-operation pact with Tehran.

All the same, Mr Altaqi insists that both sides are serious about resolving their differences. But so far, the talks seem to have had only the grudging acceptance of Washington.

“I think the Americans mind that these talks are going on,” said a western diplomat in Damascus. “They don’t like the government here and they don’t want to reward it in any way.”

The Syrians say they are not banking on any US help as long as President George W. Bush is in office, but, according to Mr Altaqi, they want a peace process under way before the next US administration is in place.

“We shouldn’t wait until the next administration to begin something,” he said. “Let’s begin now, so it would be on the agenda of any incoming administration. Then it cannot be avoided.”

Youth in the Middle East and North Africa, see separate section

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June 2nd, 2008, 3:14 am

 

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