Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008
Turkey: Direct Israel-Syria Talks Imminent
(IsraelNN.com) Direct peace negotiations between Israel and Syria are imminent, according to a Wednesday report in the Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat. In the report, Turkish officials announced that the direct talks will follow the upcoming round of indirect talks between the two countries.
Yoram Turbowitz and Shalom Turgeman, advisors to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, arrived in Ankara on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of launching direct talks with the Syrians. The next round of indirect talks, the fourth, is slated to begin in two weeks' time.
Israeli and Syrian negotiators will decide on a start date for the direct negotiations, as well as the composition of the negotiating teams, in about a week and a half, after Syrian President Bashar Assad returns from a scheduled trip to Paris. Assad will be attending a conference in the French capital, alongside Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
The Turkish sources were quoted as saying that France also plans to mediate in the talks, primarily with regards to the Shebaa Farms land dispute.
Assad called the political climate in the Middle East Earlier this week "positive," and called on the EU to intensify its involvement in the peace talks with Israel.
"The political climate in Israel is generally positive. We must give the different political processes a new push in order for them to proceed in the right direction," remarked Assad in a Damascus meeting with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store, reported Sana, the Syrian government news agency.
Reality check on Middle East talks: Motivation is there, but peace will take time.
By Rayyan Al Shawaf
Christian Science Monitor, July 2
Lebanon – Optimism is taking wing in the Middle East: The Israelis and Syrians have been negotiating and Israel and Hamas are two weeks into a cease-fire. But is the Arab-Israeli conflict moving toward a resolution? A closer look at the situation reveals myriad and contradictory interests at work, making it unlikely that there will be a comprehensive peace in the Middle East soon…..
But what is Syria's stake in all this? Why do the Syrians all of a sudden appear flexible and moderate? ……
For all his eagerness to rejoin the international community, however, Mr. Assad will not budge without first trying to extract a few concessions. Principal among these is an assurance that the UN tribunal charged with bringing to justice the killers of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri will not implicate the Syrian regime. ……. Assad does not believe he can elicit such a guarantee from the current US administration, and brazenly announced that there will be no Syrian-Israeli agreement in 2008.
• Rayyan Al Sawaf is a freelance journalist in Beirut, Lebanon.
[Landis comment: Who would have guessed that Rayyan al-Shawaf was Lebanese?! Contrary to Sawaf's brazen assertion, Syria is not dealing on the Hariri trial. It has never asked for a deal on the Hariri trial nor has it brought it up in negotiations. To do so would indicate Syria's guilt. Syria insists it is innocent. Shawaf is making up his claim that Syria insists on bringing the trial into the negotiations with Israel or intends to do so with a new administration. Assad's supposition that a deal with Israel will not be signed while Bush is president is not proof — nor does it even suggest — that Syria is searching for protection from the trial. US guarantees for both countries will be at the center of negotiations, but they won't be about the Hariri trial. If we take Camp David as a model, both countries will be looking for bucket loads of money and security benefits from the US. That is why the US must be a participant to the negotiations and an eventual deal. Both countries are counting on the US paying a royal ransom to stop Syria's military support for Hizbullah and Hamas. This is not about Hariri.]
Spy Games in Iran
By: David Ignatius | The Washington Post
The United States appears to be running some limited covert operations across the Iranian border. But according to knowledgeable sources, this effort shares the defect of broader U.S. policy toward Iran — it is tentative and ill-coordinated, and it undermines diplomacy without bringing serious pressure on the regime….
The covert program illustrates the larger dilemma facing the Bush administration and its successor — what to do about an aggressive and increasingly confident Iran? The Iranians make little effort to hide their own covert-action campaigns — including extensive financial and military support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. The Iranians have used Syria effectively as a platform for these intelligence operations, from political action to paramilitary operations to clandestine terrorism…
Saudi Arabia has taken a tougher stand to oppose what it sees as Iranian meddling in the region. There are reports out of Syria, for example, that the Saudi military attaché in Damascus was expelled a few months ago after the Syrians uncovered what they believed was a plot to pay $50 million in subsidies to members of a prominent Syrian tribe. One source said the money was simply intended to support the kingdom's longtime tribal friends rather than organize political opposition to President Bashar al-Assad. But the Saudis have made no secret of their desire for regime change in Syria…"
The Odds are Against an Attack on Iran By: Rami G. Khouri | The Daily Star
I expect the U.S. and Israel to finally accept the reality that a military strike, no matter how punitive, would only temporarily set back Iran's nuclear capability, because the technological knowledge is already in Iran's hands and cannot be destroyed with bombs.
Softer Tone From Iran Has Experts Guessing
By: Helene Cooper | The New York Times
Iranian officials on Tuesday continued their long history of befuddling Western diplomats, as two top officials sounded conciliatory notes about the prospects of eventually breaching the impasse between the West and Tehran over the country’s nuclear ambitions.
U.S. States Continue to Divest from Businesses Tied to Iran By: Brian Radzinsky | World Politics Review
Eleven U.S. states have adopted legislation to divest public pension funds from companies with financial ties to Iran's petroleum, defense, and nuclear sectors in an attempt to persuade Iran to give up its uranium enrichment program and alleged sponsorship of terrorism. Almost 20 more states are considering similar legislation to supplement existing federal and international sanctions.
This is the first time that state investments have been leveraged for nonproliferation goals. During the 1980s, anti-apartheid activists urged state and local authorities and some universities to divest holdings from companies invested in or doing business with South Africa. During the 1990s, humanitarian activists persuaded Massachusetts to divest from companies "doing business with" Myanmar. More recently, almost 30 states passed legislation to divest from companies with investments in or engaged in trade with Sudan. The Iran case is unique, however, because divestment legislation explicitly references Iran's alleged sponsorship of terrorists and its uranium enrichment program…..
WorldPublicOpinion.org conducted an 18-nation public opinion poll on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict released yesterday. The poll finds that in 14 nations people mostly say their government should not take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Just three countries favor taking the Palestinian side (Egypt, Iran, and Turkey). No country favors taking Israel’s side, including the United States, where 71 percent favor taking neither side.
Israel Still Paying for its Defeat By: Jeff Jacoby | The Boston Globe
Two years after its war with Hezbollah, Israel is still paying for its defeat.
From Triumph to Torture By: John Pilger | The Guardian
Israel's treatment of an award-winning young Palestinian journalist is part of a terrible pattern.