Posted by Joshua on Sunday, July 29th, 2007
I am heading for the mountains and my father-in-law's village for a few days before flying back to the States. Just a few observations before I get onto a bus for Qadmous. I will not be posting for a few days.
Syria's new policy on Lebanon, begun with president's speech two weeks ago, is to stop public pronouncements on Lebanon, tell Western diplomats what they want to hear – that Syria will do what it can in Lebanon – yet, at the same time, explain that the West must go to Lebanon to find answers. The public stand is that Lebanon's problems are her own and Syria cannot do much about it. This is, of course, posturing and fits the Western insistence that Syria must not play a role, which Syria refuses. The result is that Syria and the West will both pretend that no one is influencing Lebanon. It is a good pretend policy.
Foreign policy makers in Syria were very optimistic following the Sharm al-Shaykh meeting between Rice and Moualem and believed that it might signal an opening. That mood broke two weeks later, when the UN passed the International Tribunal, George Bush renewed sanctions on Syria, and added a layer of new sanctions. Cousseran neglected to visit Syria before the Paris conference on Lebanon in contrast to his meeting with Iranians. Moreover, the SEC in New York is threatening to drop about 20 European companies with contracts in Syria from the New York Stock exchange. All of this sent a message to the Syrians, the Rice is not making policy and that the US administration remains determined to isolate and harm Syria.
Meanwhile the US is urging Syria to support the Maliki government and its policy in Iraq. But US-Syrian relations are completely jammed up and everyone is talking past each other. Syria is sitting on its hands and waiting for the US to begin pulling out of Iraq. Most officials here believe the Maliki government will collapse in short order and refuse to get on board a sinking ship. In the meantime, Syria is filling up with Iraqi refugees. The Americans are trying to threaten the Syrians that the refugee problem will grow much worse if America loses. Syria, for its part, is obstructing where it can and refusing to be impressed with this argument. It is a damned if you do and damned if you don't situation for the Syrians and Americans, both. The situation will get worse.
Indications that it could get worse are evidenced in the growing fear that Israel could strike at Syria or Lebanon again in order to reverse the momentum in the region.
NoblesNews, a relatively new on-line Syrian news outlet, reports that the Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon, محمد رضا شيباني , says that his country is acting as a go-between for Saudi Arabia and Syria and trying to improve their relations, particularly as concerns Lebanese affairs.
Rice, Gates Team to Lobby Arabs on Iraq
By ANNE GEARAN
The Associated Press, July 28, 2007
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates will visit Egypt and Saudi Arabia for a rare joint lobbying effort to prod Iraq's mostly rich, Sunni-led Mideast neighbors to help stabilize the chaotic country and support its weak Shiite-headed government.
"The United States wants to persuade all the countries in the region to be proactive in a helpful way," said Samir Sumaida'ie, Iraq's ambassador to Washington. "Waiting and watching is not a helpful posture."
Other Arab diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said waiting and watching is exactly what they plan to do, at least as long as the killing does not spread beyond Iraq's borders … "There is the general sense that no one wants to get aboard a sinking ship," said one diplomat, who like others requested anonymity to describe sensitive discussions within his government and with U.S. officials.
To hear President Bush tell it, all he does is sit back and patiently take the advice of his generals in the field and in the Pentagon. But every field commander to return from Iraq and put on his civvies has told a different tale: the White House hammers ridiculous strategies down their throats, doesn't listen to a word they say, and instead takes direction from a group of juveniles in their fifties over at Neocon Central Command, the American Enterprise Institute.
This is another point on which White House lies are wearing thin and the truth is beginning to shine through. And Rowan Scarborough over at the D.C. Examiner has offered up an extremely revealing vignette. He looks at where the current strategy for the surge got cooked up. He notes that in the final analysis, there were three plans sent to the White House. One was prepared by General Petraeus and his team out in Baghdad. The second was crafted by the Joint Chiefs in the Pentagon. And the third plan was put together by a bunch of overgrown teenagers who play with lead soldiers at the American Enterprise Institute. And guess which one the White House picked? That's right, the AEI plan. [complete article]
In an interview with the Al Hurra satellite television network, Rice said the conflict between Israel and Palestinians had gone on too long for both sides.
She went on to say Israel needed to alter its thinking on existing borders "because the future of Israel is not under the continued occupation of the West Bank.
The administration damped down expectations and indicated the meeting would focus on Palestinian institution-building rather than deeply divisive topics such as Jerusalem and refugees.
"I think a lot of people are inclined to try to treat this as a big peace conference. It's not," clarified White House spokesman Tony Snow. "This is a meeting to sit down and try to find ways of building fundamental and critical institutions for the Palestinians that are going to enable them to have self-government and democracy."
Meanwhile, the US has announced a 20 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. In order to pass this through congress, it has promised to increase Israeli military aid over the next decade by some 45% to over $30 billion.