Posted by Joshua on Sunday, July 25th, 2010
Joshua Landis will be traveling for two weeks. He will leave SC in the capable hands of Alex.
Lebanese PM calms fears over naming Hizbollah in Hariri inquiry
Mitchell Prothero, Foreign Correspondent
July 24. 2010
Hasan Nasrallah has refused to discuss Hizbollah’s response if some of its members are indicted in the assassination of Rafiq Hariri. Wael Hamzeh / EPA
BEIRUT // The potential indictment of Hizbollah members by an international tribunal investigating the 2005 murder of the former prime minister Rafiq Hariri will not cause widespread civil unrest in Lebanon, the current prime minister and son of the slain leader has said.
Saad Hariri, in an interview published yesterday in the daily Al Hayat, also said any named suspects that may be members of Hizbollah will be regarded as rogue elements of the Shia militant group.
Mr Hariri made the statements in an effort to reassure the country that any indictments of Hizbollah members by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon would not lead to a return of sectarian violence between Sunni supporters of the Hariri family and the mostly Shiite supporters of Hizbollah.
The prime minister was said to have informed the Hizbollah leader, Hasan Nasrallah, during a meeting in May that the indictments – expected later this year – would include several members of the Shiite militant group….
“Mr Nasrallah called the indictments “a dangerous plot that is targeting the resistance”.
“We are not at all afraid, nor are we worried. We know how to defend ourselves,” he added.
Mr Nasrallah, who spoke for about an hour and answered several questions, refused to discuss how Hizbollah will react should the indictments be issued….. “As long as the probe does not look into the possibility that Israel is implicated, we believe it is biased,” he said. “Never has the investigation considered the hypothesis that Israel had the means and the motive” to assassinate Hariri…..
Mr Nasrallah used his press conference to imply that the March 14 movement has been duped by the United States and Israel into an overreaction to Hariri’s murder. He called on the movement to re-evaluate its positions now that it seems certain, he said, that Syria will not be directly accused in Hariri’s murder….
Special Tribunal of Lebanon and the Rafiq al-Hariri Investigation
“I agree with Qifa Nabki (aka Elias Muhanna) that this is probably the most important speech by HN in the last year – although if there is indeed war in the coming months then I would say HN’s articulation of how they view the coming conflict may have been more important…. But in any case, I would take issue with the key statement by QN
“…There is no desire anywhere — except among certain politicians in the Kata’ib and Lebanese Forces — to use the STL as a battering ram against Syria or its allies in Lebanon.”
You can see Nasrallah’s speech on UTube here.
The sectarian danger presented by the investigation is greater than some people, such as Elias Muhanna, seem to realize: the Special Tribunal for Lebanon indictments will not put pressure only on Saad Hariri. Read the following excerpts which suggest that there is evidence of a connection between the Hariri murder and the other killings.
SPIEGEL (Follath): “And, once again, there was evidence of involvement by the Hezbollah commando unit, just as there has been in each of more than a dozen attacks against prominent Lebanese in the last four years.”
UN 8 (Brammertz): 78. In addition (…) the Commission’s findings suggest that there may be a link between the group claiming responsibility for the Hariri killing and the group that claimed responsibility for the attacks on Samir Kassir, Gebran Tueni and Pierre Gemayel.
81. Communications analysis conducted so far has helped confirm the Commission’s hypothesis that a number of individuals may be relevant to the Hariri case and one or more of the other cases.
UN 10 (Bellemare): “25. The Commission can now confirm, on the basis of available evidence, that a network of individuals acted in concert to carry out the assassination of Rafiq Hariri and that this criminal network, the “Hariri network”, or parts thereof, are linked to some of the other cases within the Commission’s mandate.”
In short, Shi’ites are seen targeting leaders off all other sects. Will this lead to an additional motive being suggested for these attacks, i.e. 1. revenge on behalf of Syria: 2. stirring up sectarian tensions to ignite a civil war?
- STL may be adopting a ‘lobster cooking’ strategy (first indicting 3, then 20, then…?), expecting Hizbullah to sit still while the heat is being turned on
- the ‘rogue elements’ theory is obviously absurd
- final indictments could still target leadership
- or, they could point to an ‘International Hezbollah’ i.e. (Mughniyah)
- or even Revolutionary Guards and Iran.
- expect new Siddiqs!
- the ‘findings’ will be based on more than just communication analysis
- e.g. the link between phones and ‘secret’ commando unit has to be human intelligence
- witnesses could identify the person who bought the 8 phone cards (Ghamlush)
- or the 2 persons who bought the van, etc.
- as a result the indictment will be convincing for March 14, Hariri, the Western media, etc.
Syrians are flocking to the Turkish city of Gaziantep for its Western goods, including at the Sanko Park mall.
Syrians’ New Ardor for a Turkey Looking Eastward
By DAN BILEFSKY, July 24, 2010
GAZIANTEP, Turkey — Well-heeled Syrians had already been coming to this ancient industrial city, drawn here by Louis Vuitton purses and storefront signs in Arabic. But local shop owners say Israel’s deadly raid on a Turkish-led flotilla to Gaza in May has solidified an already blossoming friendship between Syria and Turkey, the new hero of the Muslim world.
“People in Syria love Turkey because the country supports the Arab world, and they are fellow Muslims,” Zakria Shavek, 37, a driver for a Syrian transport company based in Gaziantep, said as he deposited a family of newly arrived shoppers from Aleppo, which competes with Damascus for the title of Syria’s largest city and is about a two-hour drive from here. “Our enemy in the world is Israel, so we also like Turkey because our enemy’s enemy is our friend.”
The monthly pilgrimages of tens of thousands of Syrians to this southeastern Turkish city — which intensified after the two countries removed visa requirements last September — are just the latest manifestation of the growing ties between Turkey and Syria, part of the Turkish government’s efforts to reach out to its neighbors by using economic and cultural links to help it become a regional leader.
Turkey’s shift toward the Muslim world — from the recent clash with Israel to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s description of Iran’s nuclear program as peaceful — has prompted concerns in the United States and Europe that Turkey, an important NATO ally, is turning its back on the West.
But in Turkey, where 70 percent of all exports go to Europe, businesspeople insist that the government’s policy of cultivating friendly ties with all neighbors reflects a canny and very Western capitalist impulse to offset dependence on stagnating European markets while cementing Turkey’s position as a vital economic and political bridge between east and west.
Indeed, most Arab states, including Syria, enthusiastically support Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, viewing Turkey as a vital intermediary to Western markets that might otherwise be off limits. At the political level, Turkey’s influence in the Middle East is also deeply enhanced by its strong Western ties — a fact recognized by Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, who shocked many in the Turkish capital this month by warning that the latest crisis between Israel and Turkey could undermine Ankara’s role as a mediator in the region.
Only 10 years ago, relations between Syria and Turkey were strained, with Turkey accusing Syria of sheltering Kurdish separatists and Syria lashing out at Turkey over water and territorial disputes. Syrians also harbored historical resentments of Ottoman subjugation, while many secular Turks, defined by the Western orientation of Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, saw Syria as autocratic and backward.
With the recent elimination of border restrictions, however, Turkish exports of everything from tea to textiles to diapers are booming, along with a newfound ardor.
“Today, Arab countries that once resented us want to be like us, even if they are looking to Turks more than we are looking to them,” said Emin Berk, a Turk who is coordinator of the Turkey-Syria Trade Office here.
Trade between Turkey and Syria more than doubled from $795 million in 2006 to $1.6 billion in 2009, and is expected to reach $5 billion in the next three years. Last year the Middle East received nearly 20 percent of Turkey’s exports, about $19.2 billion worth of goods, compared with 12.5 percent in 2004. In Iran, Turkish companies are making products including fertilizer and sanitary products for women. Iran, in turn, is an important source of energy to Turkey.
Here in Gaziantep — whose past is so intertwined with Syria’s that it was part of Aleppo Province during the Ottoman Empire — the signs of the new honeymoon between Turkey and Syria are everywhere.
Every Friday, several thousand Syrians descend on the center of town. Lured by bargains and Western brands, most head immediately to the Sanko Park shopping mall, the largest in town, where their lavish shopping sprees have made them coveted customers. In the city’s bazaars, pistachio vendors summon passers-by in Arabic, while Arabic courses for Turkish businessmen are flourishing. Marriages between Turks and Syrians have become more common.
In Syria, meanwhile, where the alliance with secular Turkey represents a move away from its courtship with Iran, Turkey’s blend of conservative Islam and cosmopolitan democracy is increasingly viewed as a model in the younger generation. Turkish soap operas and films are attaining cult status, while “Made in Turkey” labels near the cachet of Paris or Milan.
On a recent day at the gleaming Sanko Park mall, Mays al-Hindawi Bayrak, a chic 27-year-old Syrian who was buying a Pierre Cardin shirt for her Turkish husband, observed that for Syrians, Turkey had become synonymous with European modernity. After Turkey recently lashed out at Israel, she said, her 21-year-old brother told the family he wanted to apply for Turkish citizenship.
“In the past, many Turks thought that all Arab women wear burqas and that all the men drive camels to work,” she said. “Now, we are getting to know each other better.”
Turkish businesspeople here say that regardless of whether the governing party’s politics is driving economics or the other way around, what matters is that the new openness to the east is enhancing the bottom line.
Cengiz Akinal, managing director of Akinal Bella, a large shoe manufacturer, said that the Islamic-inspired politics of the governing Justice and Development Party had helped ease relations with Arabic clients. The company, which exports a majority of its shoes to Europe, increased its exports to Syria by 40 percent last year.
Mr. Akinal, whose ancestors imported leather from Syria during the Ottoman Empire and produced shoes for the sultans, recently shifted part of the company’s manufacturing to Aleppo and Damascus, where monthly wages are about half those of Turkey. But he said Syria was still decades behind Turkey when it came to quality standards and technical know-how.
“Turkey may be 15 years behind Europe, but Syria is still 30 years behind Turkey,” he said.
Indeed, businesspeople say the shift toward the Middle East is forcing them to change the way they do business after decades of trying to cultivate Western European attitudes. Mr. Akinal noted, for example, that negotiations with Arabic corporate clients over price were reminiscent of a Middle Eastern bazaar rather than a boardroom.
“With Europeans, you can have a deal in a half an hour,” he said. “With Syrians, I sometimes spend the whole day bargaining.”
While most people here welcome the Syrian invasion, some Turks complained that the Syrians were pushing up the prices of everything from hotels to designer dresses. Others lamented that Syrians’ religious conservatism was out of place in secular Turkey.
“We are more liberal than they are, and it can sometimes be uncomfortable when the women arrive covered from head to toe and the men leer at you,” said Deniz, a Turkish teenager in ripped jeans and a T-shirt, who declined to give her last name for fear of antagonizing her Syrian boss.