The Pelosi Visit

The Pelosi visit to Syria gives Syrians further hope that the policy of isolation imposed on it by the US and Europe for the past two years is eroding. Saudi Arabia reversed its policy of isolation at the Arab League summit last week, giving Asad a warm reception. The last high-ranking U.S. official to visit Syria was then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in January 2005. The isolation, however, has begun to crumble in recent months, with visits by U.S. lawmakers and some European officials.

Initial articles on the visit stress various aspects of the meeting between Pelosi and Asad. Here are some of the main results of their talk.

  • House Speaker Pelosi and her 27-member delegation, which includes members of Congress and the Iraq Study Group, met with Syrian leaders in Damascus — but unlike Merkel, she wants "dialogue" with Syria.
  • Syrian officials said Damascus wants to help Washington achieve an "honorable withdrawal" from Iraq but in return the United States must press Israel to return the Golan Heights. Washington accuses Damascus of sponsoring terrorism and estimates up to 90 percent of suicide bombers in Iraq enter from Syria. Syria says it is trying to stop the flow.
  • Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said Syria was ready to resume talks with Israel based on an Arab plan calling for Israeli withdrawal from all Arab land for peace, adopted at a summit last month. "They said that Mr. Olmert is ready for peace with Syria. We replied that Syria is ready for peace according to the Arab initiative," he told reporters.  Ehud Olmert's office to underline the Jewish state's preconditions for such talks. "The prime minister said Israel is interested in peace with Syria, but Syria would first have to abandon the path of terror and providing support for terrorist groups."
  • Pelosi said it was important Syria used its influence with Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel, to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace.

  • Pelosi described the meeting with Assad as "very productive."

  • Rep. Tom Lantos, the head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who was in Pelosi's delegation, said the meeting “reinforced sharply” the potential benefits of talking to Syria. “This is only the beginning of our constructive dialogue with Syria and we hope to build on this visit,” he told reporters.

  • Pelosi told Lebanese leaders on Monday that her country "will not bargain over Lebanon," adding that the US was "totally aware" of the situation in Lebanon.

  • She was expected to have dinner with opposition members and members of Parliament at the American ambassador’s house.

  • At the White House on Tuesday, President Bush criticized Ms. Pelosi’s visit, saying it sent mixed signals to the Middle East and to President Bashar’s government. “Sending delegations hasn’t worked,” Mr. Bush told reporters. “It’s just simply been counterproductive.”

  • “Ms. Pelosi is going to be very happy in Syria,” said Izzat Abdoulkarim, who runs an optical shop in downtown Damascus. “George Bush says we are bad, but she will see this is not true. She views the world through a different perspective than Bush. She’s more open-minded.”

  • the Iraq Study Group (ISG) noted, "To put it simply, all key issues in the Middle East — the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq, Iran, the need for political and economic reforms, and extremism and terrorism — are inextricably linked." No one doubts that Syria is causing trouble in the region. "But we cannot wish that influence away," said ISG co-chairman Lee Hamilton. "Undoubtedly, they are part of the problem. It was the view of the study group that we must try to make them a part of the solution."

  •  Seventy-five percent of Americans now support U.S. talks with Syria.

Reception for Pelosi at Airport by Wreford

Photo sent by John Wreford www.johnwreford.com

Comments (48)


1. Atassi said:

I would love to see the back to office report of this mission. Please remember the policy of isolation is imposed on Syria by the US law makers “Congress” too. US official’s visits to Syria may contribute to the process of reengagements. But without a new peace process on the Syrian arena, nothing major will be eventful any time soon…

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April 4th, 2007, 5:08 pm

 

2. EHSANI2 said:

This picture of the VIP lounge does not look very VIP ish. Surely, it must be time to update these facilities.

On another note, Mr. Al-Moallem has confirmed that Syria “exercised a sort of quiet diplomacy” to solve the problem of the British sailors. Blair also thanked his “friends in the region” for their help.

It is now suggested that Syria and Qatar played a “key role” in solving this crisis.

The U.S. President was just interviewed by by ABC news:

Q Speaker Pelosi is in Damascus. Will there be — will there be
repercussions, negative repercussions from her visit today?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think it’s unfortunate. The fact of the
matter is, Bashir Assad has been a — I don’t want to say — a bad
actor, in many respects. He was, for example, the conduit for Iranian
support to Hezbollah when Hezbollah launched its military efforts
against the Israelis last summer. There have been inside Syria,
obviously, a flow of jihadists, terrorists, going into Iraq to
participate in the conflict inside Iraq.

We have communicated with him in the past. He knows what he needs
to do to be accepted internationally. He’s been isolated and cut off
because of his bad behavior. And the unfortunate thing about the
Speaker’s visit is it sort of breaks down that barrier. It means
without him having done any of those things he should do in order to
be acceptable, if you will, from an international standpoint, he gets
a visit from a high-ranking American anyway. In other words, his bad
behavior is being rewarded, in a sense.

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April 4th, 2007, 5:46 pm

 

3. Alex said:

Yup, nothing positive will happen apparently. Mr. Bush is here for a while.

But we’ll see how much more conflicts and escalation The US, Syria, Israel, Iran, and Saudi Arabia have a stomach for. Who knows, they might eventually decide to stop playing this game.

But more importantly, I see today that the number of visitors to this blog just passed the one million mark!

Bravo Joshua.

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April 4th, 2007, 5:52 pm

 

4. Observer said:

Two excellent articles in today’s WSJ discuss the effort by the Congress to distance Syria from Iran and the tremendous challenge that faces the KSA.
In the first instance, it seems that Syria has decided to bid its time and to hold on to its price for cooperation for now; seeing that there is little wiggle room for the West and the US. They see the UK toning down its rethoric and the Iranian jumping on the timing of that to gain the high moral ground in the sailors captor. They clearly saw that the UN and the EU notwithstanding the rethoric have not rushed to the aid of Britain.
The US policy in Iraq is now set by the insurgency as Robert Fisk rightly pointed out recently on C-SPAN. Sistani in refusing to allow for the re integration of Baath members has not helped either, clearly showing that the US is now a pawn in the local civil war; the worst of all situations. The KSA having had no strategy for the last 15 years with the ailing Fahd putting all the eggs of the kingdom in the US basket finds itself completely behind the curve. It is playing catch up. I think that the fact that they are playing the Arab nationalism card is a clear indication of their loss of prestige as the guardians and custodians of true i.e. Sunni Islam. Even the attempt at modernization is being hampered by decades of rendering religious discourse irrelevant to the point that now you have either the Salafi interpertation or the medieval one exemplified by the Mufti of the Kingdom who asserted a few years ago that the world is flat. Interestingly, the WSJ about Congress trying to woo Syria ends with a quote from one the oppostion figures Hussam Abdo Aldairi: ” We need a green light from Washington to do more”. Any member of the Salvation Front that needs a green light from anybody but the people of Syria has NO credibility and can join Cafe Chalabi.

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April 4th, 2007, 5:56 pm

 

5. Stephen said:

I’m disappointed that she only went to Syria with the usual message — stop supporting “terrorist” groups (i.e., duly elected groups like Hamas and Hizballah), stop sending extremists to Iraq (but keep your doors open for Iraqi refugees w/out any financial support from the international community or the U.S.), support the peace process with Israel (even though it’s Israel who turned its back on the peace process). It’s like all of D.C. gets their briefings from one source. Oh, wait. They do. My bad.

The U.S. government must completely reorient it’s thinking towards the Middle East in general and Damascus. Pelosi brought no new initiatives to Damascus, except the willingness to talk. Imad Moustapha comments that Syria is “weary” of the new attention. Again, very disappointing considering his constant crying over the lack of attention Syria gets in Washington.

So the Dems are going to work with Syria. In 2 years, if they don’t blow another election. I think this sends a few messages, mostly mixed, to Syria and the Bush Administration. To Bush, the Dems have said “enough.” And thank God for that. I wonder what Bashar thinks of pluralistic politics now? I wonder how long the PM of Syria would last conducting his own foreign policy? Do you think the Syrian people get this message — that in democracy, you say what you believe, and take action, even if it means flying your middle finger in the big dogs face like Pelosi has done to Bush. Or do they simply regard it a homage duly paid to one of the players you simply can’t ignore? I hope the message is not lost on the Syrian people — this act could only come from a democratic nation. I hope they appreciate that message.

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April 4th, 2007, 5:58 pm

 

6. Alex said:

Ehsani,

They want to convince Syria to cut ties with Iran, Hamas, Hizbollah while if they look at the past few months

1) Syria’s good relations with Hamas positively influenced that organization’s positions on the Mecca agreement as well as on the Arab peace plan (Hamas did not oppose it).

2) This role they played in successfully mediating between England and Iran.

To those who like to boycott Syria: Syrian diplomacy is highly successful … it’s your loss.

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April 4th, 2007, 6:01 pm

 

7. ausamaa said:

The Lady sort of reffered to the visit as a Confidence Building measure.

Good, not like the previous cliche of reitrating to Syria “the clear stand of the US”.

I think it was a great step forward on the road to a better Syrian/US understanding and dealing.

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April 4th, 2007, 6:06 pm

 

8. ausamaa said:

Congratulation Josh on crossing the 1,000,000 visitors mark.

It is also interesting to look at this site’s Cluster Map right above the Visitors Counter. Regards to those visitors from the middle of the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and to that lonely sole in eastern Russia!

Cheers

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April 4th, 2007, 6:29 pm

 

9. M said:

“Syrian authorities should immediately release six Iranian refugees of Arab ethnicity, or disclose a credible legal basis for detaining them, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned that the men may be forcibly returned to Iran, where they will be at risk of persecution. Iran has sentenced one of them to death in absentia.”
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/HRW/95364ce569b1f482292cb05d644557d0.htm

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April 4th, 2007, 7:09 pm

 

10. Alex said:

Nabih Berri, live on NBN, said 5 minutes ago that he has solid information that Israel Asked France and the United States to back a new invasion of Lebanon. They are now training in northern Israel on how to fight inside models they built of many south Lebanon villages and towns.

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April 4th, 2007, 7:16 pm

 
 

12. K said:

Observer,

“Any member of the Salvation Front that needs a green light from anybody but the people of Syria has NO credibility and can join Cafe Chalabi.”

Dissidents in totalitarian states have little choice but to turn to outside support or be eliminated, unfortunately. (Do you disagree?)

Even the Syrian regime seeks “green lights” from the world hegemon, the US, and obeys the hegemon’s “red lines”. (For example, Hafez entering Lebanon and Bashar exiting, respectively). So why do you pick on the poor dissident?

In a similar Ba’thist double-standard, Lebanese liberals are forbidden from speaking to Israel, and are shamed and accused of treason for receiving US aid; while Syria is permitted to beg Israel for peace and celebrate jubilantly at perceived US favor.

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April 4th, 2007, 8:40 pm

 

13. ausamaa said:

And which Lebanese Liberals are those if one may ask?

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April 4th, 2007, 8:45 pm

 

14. Alex said:

More from the Nabih Berri Interview on NBN

1) He claims he has recordings (sound and video) from the Lebanese Parliament that show before the Hariri assassination who was really working against him.

2) At the last meeting of the top Syrian Lebanese working group (not exact translation) attended by Bashar, Lahhod, And many other ministers from both sides, Syria already decided to exchange ambassadors with Lebanon and set up full diplomatic relations.

That was last meeting before Hariri was killed.

3) He warned the March14th group that Israel with its full war could not change things to their favor, so they should learn not to hope for much from any others.

4) He said he is interested in more useful dialog with Saad Hariri, but he reached a conclusion that there is not much use for the Lebanese to talk beyond this point while in fact “the two kings” are the ones who really decide … he did not specify who the two kings are, but he said a bit earlier that S& S (Syria and Saudi Arabia) decide.

5) He confirmed that supporters of March14th are arming and training their militias.

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April 4th, 2007, 9:01 pm

 

15. Alex said:

K,

Syria is not begging Israel .. Israel keeps complaining that Syria is not flexible enough. Only the Lebanese M14 group and the Saudi owned newspapers say Syria is begging Israel for peace.

Over the past two years, this has been another typical lose-lose scenario for Syria .. if they are not showing enough interest in Peace, then they are violent supporters of terror and they do not want a solution because if the Golan is back, the regime would lose its justification for ruling Syria.

But of course if Syria shows interest in Peaceful negotiations (without compromising any of its long-held patriotic and legitimate demands, then it is “begging”

Syria: Israel must clearly declare readiness to talk

By Amiram Barkat, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and News Agencies

Israel must clearly declare its readiness for peace negotiations with Syria if it serious about moving forward, Syrian Public Relations Minister Muhsan Balal said Wednesday.

Balal’s comments were Syria’s first official statement after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she gave Syrian President Bashar Assad a message from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Israel was ready for peace talks.

“If Israel is really interested in renewing negotiations for peace, it must declare this in a clear manner,” Bilal said.

The Prime Minister’s Office said Wednesday after Pelosi’s talks with Assad that Israel’s policy toward Syria had not changed, and that it still demanded that Syria renounce terror before it engage in negotiations.

“Comments (Olmert) made to the speaker of the House did not represent any change in a policy Israel has expressed to all international figures dealing with the [Syrian] issue,” a statement from Olmert’s office said.

“[Our] meeting with the president enabled us to communicate a message from Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert that Israel was ready to engage in peace talks,” Pelosi told reporters in Damascus after talks with Assad.

Pelosi said Assad in turn assured her of his willingness to engage in peace talks with Israel.

“We were very pleased with the assurances we received from the president that he was ready to resume the peace process,” Pelosi said. “He’s ready to engage in negotiations for peace with Israel.”

An Israeli government official said that was not the message Olmert had asked Pelosi earlier this week to convey to Assad, who seeks the return of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.

“The prime minister said Israel is interested in peace with Syria, but Syria would first have to abandon the path of terror and providing support for terrorist groups,” the official said, in reference to Palestinian group Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Pelosi said she and other members of her congressional delegation raised with Assad their concern about militants crossing from Syria into Iraq, as well the Israel Defense Forces soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah and Palestinian militants.

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April 4th, 2007, 9:12 pm

 

16. G said:

2) At the last meeting of the top Syrian Lebanese working group (not exact translation) attended by Bashar, Lahhod, And many other ministers from both sides, Syria already decided to exchange ambassadors with Lebanon and set up full diplomatic relations.

That was last meeting before Hariri was killed.

Your revisionist history is bad enough, but you can’t even get facts straight. The meeting happened AFTER Bashar had Hariri murdered.

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April 4th, 2007, 9:13 pm

 

17. ausamaa said:

Alex,

I think Saad Al Harriri and/or the Saudi Ambassador got to him before the interview and asked him to cool down and please leave space for dialouge! Word has it before the interview -which has been highly publicized since last week- was that he was going to hint at the Opposition’s final “option” of a military government by Army and Michel Suliman if all else fails, but he did not.

On your point #3, I thought he was giving a subtle warning to those Lebanses (who he claims are arming)by warning/saying/meaning: look,Israel with all its might could not defeat us, and compared to Israel you are nothing, so do not even think about wining an armed fight against us.

On your point #4, I think by the two kings -angels actually, Malakin(angels) not Malekin (kings)- around Saad Harriri, he was refering to Ja’Ja and Jumblat who are foiling the Berri/Harriri attemps at reconciliation.

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April 4th, 2007, 9:18 pm

 

18. K said:

Ausamaa,

Many Lebanese would like to see an end to the state of war between Lebanon and Israel. But in Lebanese political discourse, speaking to Israel is the ultimate taboo. To even consider ending the state of war between Lebanon and Israel opens you to accusations of treachery. In Lebanese rhetoric, this is called “plotting a new May 17”, in reference to the 1983 US-backed peace treaty agreed upon by Israel and Lebanon under Amin Gemayel. It was sunk by Syria and its Lebanese allies.

Lebanese liberals are cowed by the atmosphere of intimidation enforced by Hizballa and other bullies. (This is just one example of M14 surrendering the rhetorical high ground to Hizballa, regretfully.) I have no idea whether M14 leaders do indeed have contacts with Israel (as the opposition frequently alleges). That is because they feel the need to deny it vehemently in public, with cliches like “Lebanon will be the last Arab country to sign peace with Israel”.

Whenever I hear that, I cringe. Why should little Lebanon be the “the last Arab country” holding the line against mighty Israel, while the Arabs feel free to sue for peace? Because we are the hostage of bigger players.

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April 4th, 2007, 9:23 pm

 

19. Alex said:

Aussama,

Blame it on the differnet Syrian/Lebanese accents
: )

Malaik (king, in Syrian), Malaak, (Angel, in Syrian)

Malaik (Angel, in Lebanese)

I agree, though.

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April 4th, 2007, 9:29 pm

 

20. Fares said:

So Alex, you enjoy Lebanese politics even though you don’t understand what they say pretty funny.

In Syria it is Malek (with a short e, but maleik -angel in lebanese had a more emphasized e).

Why you guys are in a bad mood, I thought Pelosi visit should make you happy. Did not Assad change his diapers yet and decided to be nice again?

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April 4th, 2007, 9:34 pm

 

21. ausamaa said:

G,

Before or after, what the hell does it matter, full diplomatic relations between Syria and Lebasnon was approved by Syria and was not objected to during that meeting.

Oh, I wish we can have something like the Great China Wall somewhere around here!

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April 4th, 2007, 9:38 pm

 

22. Alex said:

Fares, while I might have missed for a fraction of a second a short-e versus a longer e, you have missed the whole past year of any opinion you did not like.

My father’s cousin is a member of Labanon’s parliament for 25 years now. I have a good ear in Lebanon if mine is not to your liking.

I just watched a terrible interview on CNN with Imad Moustapha. Suzanne Malveau would not allow him more than 15 seconds to answer each question (without warning him) with the delay in the connecton with Damascus (and a 56k speed video quality) she was practically posing the next question as soon as he started answering the previous question.

I think he lost his temper at some point and shouted at her “WHAT ARE TALKING ABOUT!”

And his voice, which is often high pitch sounded terrible as the quality of the transmission was very so bad .. there was nothing but the ultra high-frequency in his sound .. sounded like a machine.

That was the worst interview I have seem in ages. Of course Suzanne did not apologize.

Oh, and she did not thank him at the end .. just interrupted him and changed to next topic.

She studied journalism with some friends of mine at the AUC (American University n Cairo)

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April 4th, 2007, 9:45 pm

 

23. ausamaa said:

Fares, ya malaky,

Sure, we are very happy about the visitors. Syrians are a very hospitable people, you know. It is just that it is getting to be little boring with so many of them on lined up on the road to Damascus. And with so much goodwill being bestowed upon us. Even in the release of the 15 Brits; CNN found it important to mention that Syria played a role there. You know, when they love you, you can do no wrong. They just cannot control themselves!

Touch wood!

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April 4th, 2007, 9:54 pm

 

24. Fares said:

Wow, Alex has connections in the Lebanese parliement…Is your cousin pro or anti Syrian?

Alex, I did not miss any opinion I don’t like, I know all the pro-Assad and Baath arguments by heart and they defy logic and reasonable more and more…

What are you exactly standing for? still confuses me because you are supporting a regime that does not see anything but trouble to create in order to increase its power. Even if you agree with them on something they would change it because you agreed.

You tend to blame every outsider for any problem you have and your regime is the true angle in all the chaos.

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April 4th, 2007, 9:55 pm

 

25. Fares said:

Aussama, you are becoming better and better in your comments…did you take a course or something?

I admire your arrogance, sounds like you belong to the ruling family so you take everything so personal.

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April 4th, 2007, 9:58 pm

 

26. ausamaa said:

Fares,

What does Alex stand for? Good question. I have been trying to figure him out for years. I think he stands for Liberty, Equality and what is the third one.. Something like that!

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April 4th, 2007, 10:01 pm

 

27. ausamaa said:

Fares,

All Syrians think they ARE the rulling family ( or SHOULD BE!). How did you miss that.

And arrogance? The genes thing I guess! Thank you.

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April 4th, 2007, 10:03 pm

 

28. Fares said:

Aussama, does that liberty that Alex supports include not jailing people arbitrarly?

and not creating all kind of troubles for the world to come and talk to you, just like bad students behave in schools to make themselves noticeable.

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April 4th, 2007, 10:07 pm

 

29. Fares said:

About the bad students…they fail to do their homework and what is asked of them.

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April 4th, 2007, 10:08 pm

 

30. Samir said:

Alex bala patriotic bala batikh… ,if the international community is really decided to overthrow asad,the toppling of the criminal hafez’s statues will follow in the next few days and in the syrian case,no need of US tanks…
No one syrian is ready to die for syrian regime survival,even not you Alex…its survival mostly depend on a western goodwill,this explain why bashar is so blind toward demands of the syrian civil society and so preoccupied by the foreigner factors.

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April 4th, 2007, 10:12 pm

 

31. ausamaa said:

This is from TomPaine.com :

Let Pelosi Talk To Syria
Helena Cobban
April 03, 2007

If it’s spring break in Washington, then that must be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—accompanied by, my goodness, the perpetually pro-Israeli Tom Lantos— heading for Syria this week.

Pelosi’s delegation is currently in Lebanon. AP’s Zeina Karam writes there that the Speaker:

said she thinks it’s a good idea to “establish facts, to hopefully build the confidence” between the U.S. and Syria.

“We have no illusions, but we have great hope,” she said.

… Pelosi, who is leading a congressional delegation on a fact-finding tour of the Middle East, said she would speak to the Syrians about Iraq, their role in the fight against terrorism, their support for militant groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas—whose exiled leaders live in Damascus—as well their influence in Lebanon.

And guess who’s waxing apoplectic about this? Yes, that would be Dana Perino, the fill-in for Tony Snow as White House spokesperson. Karam’s piece notes that Perino said, “We ask that people not go on these trips… We discourage it. Full stop.” [Plus, it] “sends the wrong message to have high-level U.S. officials going there (to Syria) to have photo opportunities that Assad then exploits.”

Oops! Then I guess having the Bush administration’s very own Assistant Secretary of State for Refugee Affairs Ellen Sauerbrey go to Syria last month was all a terrible mistake then?

Even Israel’s Acting President, Dalia Itzik, was much more moderate than Perino. She told Pelosi yesterday that,

“Your expected visit to Damascus has naturally touched off a political debate in your country, and of course, here… I believe in your worthy intentions. Perhaps a step, seen as unpopular at this stage … will clarify to the Syrian people and leadership they must abandon the axis of evil (and) stop supporting terrorism and giving shelter to (terrorist) headquarters.”

But the main thing Washington needs to talk to Syria about right now is Iraq. And this strand of the American-Syrian diplomatic dance is quite complex, and in some ways very counter-intuitive. Did you think that it was the Syrians and their Iranian allies who want U.S. troops out of Iraq and the stubborn old Bush administration that wants them to stay?
To a great degree you’d be wrong, on both counts. Here in London a couple of weeks ago my friend the veteran strategic analyst Hussein Agha told me (and on reflection, I quite agree) that, for now, all of Iraq’s neighbors prefer that U.S. troops stay tied down inside Iraq, rather than withdraw. The gist of what Agha said was that for some of those neighboring countries—and this definitely includes both Syria along with Iran—the status quo lessens the likelihood of U.S. attacks against them. Meanwhile for others of the neighbors (and yes, that includes Syria, once again) it represents a situation strongly preferable to the regional turmoil they fear might follow U.S. withdrawal…

As for the Bush administration—well yes, at the ideological/political level of Bush and his resident “brain,” Dick Cheney, it is quite possible that some of them still believe all that stuff about “staying the course,” the value of the “surge,” etc. But Matthew Dowd, who was a key Bush political advisor during the 2004 election campaign is only one of the former Bush supporters who has now been “mugged by reality,” and has come out as openly critical of the way the Prez has been waging this war… As for the serving military, it has been clear for some time that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace has been prepared to quietly push back against the Bushites’ rampant bellophilia… And former commander of the U.S. Army War College Major General (Ret.) Robert H. Scales recently wrote openly in the Washington Times that

the current political catfight over withdrawal dates is made moot by the above facts. We’re running out of soldiers faster than we’re running out of warfighting missions. The troops will be coming home soon. There simply are too few to sustain the surge for very much longer.

Since Scales is also a former advisor to Rumsfeld when Rummy was at the Pentagon, I guess that makes him a clear defector from the Bush project in Iraq, too.

Here’s the bottom line though: It is now not only (or perhaps, even, not mainly) the Dems, in Washington, who now want to find the speediest and safest possible exit for the U.S. troops from Iraq. It is also the uniformed military—and also, quite likely, the very low-key Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who seems to see his role overwhlemingly as acting as the “anti-Rumsfeld” in the Penatgon.

But the Syrians, Iranians, and all the rest of Iraq’s neighbors are meanwhile (quietly) quite keen to see the U.S. troops remain in Iraq. I have a little direct evidence of that, myself. When I defied the President’s injunctions and went to Damascus at the end of February, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem was adamant during the interview I conducted with him that the U.S. should effect a complete withdrawal of all its forces from Iraq—but when I pressed him to specify the time-period over which he thought this withdrawal should occur, he notably declined my invitation to do that.

So the diplomacy of this U.S. withdrawal from Iraq look set to be very interesting indeed…

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April 4th, 2007, 10:27 pm

 

32. Alex said:

Fares,

While the wonderful neocons are still in power, I only have modest expectations:

Minimizing violence and human rights abuses in the Middle East for example… “minimizing” is my optimal mix between the practical and the ideal.

Shedding light on the lies and stupidities I have had enough of reading in Assyasa, Almoustaqbal, AlSharq Alawsat, CNN … You seem to believe that it is purely out of love to the Syrian regime. I see it as a necessary prerequisite to moving in the right direction in the Middle East… THEY have to stop fighting the Syrians, trying to change their behavior for free and trying to make them weak… ONLY when they are convinced of this conclusion (backed by vivid examples from recent history starting in 1970’s), will things move towards conflict resolution in a successful way, for a change.

And I am also motivated by some other things that I won’t discuss here … but they are all “good” and wise, I assure you.

But make your own conclusion if you prefer.

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April 4th, 2007, 10:32 pm

 

33. Alex said:

Samir,

I’m sorry, but as I realized from your comments last week, I don’t think it is constructive to discuss anything with you.

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April 4th, 2007, 10:34 pm

 

34. Samir said:

Alex ,i criticized your sectarian way of thinking btw who called the syrian kurds ,invaders ?

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April 4th, 2007, 10:42 pm

 

35. Fares said:

So Alex, you are mortgaging the country’s present and future on the neocons…therefore making the neocons controlling Syrian policies…it should not be this way.

Also what would happen if Syria is weak that won’t happen if Syria is strong????…it is same mess and the change comes from within and should not be a reaction to counter the world.

Prove to me that the rulers are interested in the well being of the people instead of benefiting from one crisis after another to escape their moral duties and obligations toward the country and the people, then I’ll support your position.

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April 4th, 2007, 10:48 pm

 

36. Fares said:

Another thing, Syria should have withdrawn from Lebanon after Bashar came to power, neocons or not. It was the right thing to do. How would you like it if Turkish or Iraqi Army was in Syria? bossing you around in your country?

The equation of Lebanon instead of the Golan was not good and won’t motivate Syria to get their land back since they were profiting big time from Lebanon.

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April 4th, 2007, 10:53 pm

 

37. Fares said:

Here is something for proud Syrians to read:
an email from Kamal Labwani’s Family to Amnesty:

Dr Kamal Labwani in v poor health and ominous signs :his sentencing

“Our father’s situation is very bad now; he needs help now more than at any other time.

Yesterday they let us see him for just ten minutes. There was a police officer with us during the visit to listen to what we said.

He is still in the solitary cell. He looked very tired and yellow. He has lost about 10 kg in weight. He cannot eat properly because of the dirty smells that come from the toilet in his cell. The toilet is broken and full of sewage. His clothes are very dirty and he has not been able to wash with soap for fifteen days. They have not allowed him to take a bath. He is wearing a thin and dirty uniform.

His skin is red and bleeding. He has scabies and lice. Also the room is cold and no sunlight enters it.

We think he has been put in this cell because of his defence statement.

The next hearing is still due on the 10th April, and it will be the final judgement session.

The worst signals are that now, before the final session, they have changed all the judges in the case. We think they have changed the judge because they have prepared the verdict and want the judge just to read it. People say that this judge is weaker than the former one.

We are very worried now about our father’s health: we fear that he will catch a disease from this wet and dirty place. His beard and hair are very long now. They are trying to kill him slowly because they cannot do it fast.

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April 4th, 2007, 11:04 pm

 

38. Alex said:

Samir,

If you want to interpret my stating of historic facts regarding the demands of some Kurds as a “sectarian way of thinking”, then you need to be consistent: How can I be sectarian and be against Jeajea? against today’s “crusades” in the Middle East?

Fares,

I have stated it many times already in previous posts: Syria’s current regime proved many times int he past 35 years that they know their neighborhood much better than the outsiders … Lebanon, Syria, Iraq can not be managed succesfully (for now) without the active involvement of the Syrians. Saudi Arabia, the United States, Egypt and Israel can help balance things and to make sure the Syrians do not go out of line and abuse their power or go beyond their respeonsilities, but they can not replace the Syrians.

We learned that through the many mistakes that led us to chaos today… 9/11 was part of the problesm, but attempts to weaken the Syrians are a big part too. I am convinced that this is what can tip the scale towards peace in the Middle East.

As for the regime not wanting a settlement .. I guess Clinton in his book was very clear … Assad really wanted a peace agreement that ends the conflict with Israel. The Israelis had “cold feet” at the last minute.

One other thing: The same way no one her eis asking us to differentiate between Egypt and “the Egyptian regime”, or between Saudi Arabia and “the Saudi reginme”, I do not see the issue with my use of “Syria” instead of the Syrian regime… so my “Weaken Syria” menas for now “weaken the Syrian regime”

As for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon when Bashar came to power: He already reduced the number of troops from 40 thousands to 16 thousands … he pulled them out of Beirut and the major cities, and he committed to continue to withdraw them at a pace of about 4000 per year I think … in 3 years (by now) they would have been out anyway… without the hostilities.

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April 4th, 2007, 11:06 pm

 

39. Fares said:

Alex is that how Syria fights the neocons by torturing and bad treatment of Syrian people who dared to say something they did not like????

last year I remembered you told me Kilo would be free when Auon wins Lebanon, now you are saying Bush needs to go first! why do we always have to depend of foreign events to be able to live???

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April 4th, 2007, 11:08 pm

 

40. Samir said:

La Hawla Wa La Quwatta Illa Billah

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April 4th, 2007, 11:09 pm

 

41. Alex said:

Fares, I said “minimize violence and human right abuses” … Since Bashar came to power he jaild how many secular (innocent) Syrian dissidents? .. ten? … how do you compare that to how many Saddam killed and abused in a similar period of 7 years?

Egypt? (the number one destination for those to be tortured, if you do not know) …. Saudis?

THIS IS THE MIDDLE EAST … jailing Kilo and the others is wrong. But You will not have a Sweden in the Middle East for a long time … so look instead at the next few best options and pick one of them … a Liberal secular Syrian opposition capable of running Syria is not there … stop dreaming.

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April 4th, 2007, 11:13 pm

 

42. Fares said:

Alex, I did not say the regime does not want Peace with Isreal. I am saying that it thinks everything it does from trouble making in the region to arresting decent Syrians will eventually improve its negotiating Status with Israel.

If Assad said in some interviews that he does not believe any Peace negotiaitons progress would be made while Bush is in power. Why is he holding on to reforms internally? and what if a person worse that Bush become president? does Syria stay hostage to that or start to be creative now and shows signs of flexibility instead of the only thing they know how to do: be a hardline and a pain in the ass in people’s lives.

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April 4th, 2007, 11:15 pm

 

43. Fares said:

Alex, if you are making Saddam and Egypt your benchmark for Syria then of course you should jump from joy.

I have higher standards, while you are willing to live with 100 prisoners, I have a 0 tolerance policy, because nothing satisfactory comes out of it.

While Syria is no Sweeden, look at Lebanon? how many prisoners do they have? or better yet Syria did not really have political prisoners of low levels after independance.

And if people like you accept anythign that goes under the pretext that it is the middle east then there is no motivation for progress and making things better. You would be like an animal with no ambitions. please don’t display some psychological charts of needs, you have done that in the past.

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April 4th, 2007, 11:22 pm

 

44. Alex said:

Fares,

You don’t need me to explain the message the regime sends when they jail Kilo. It is obvious.

Will the regime continue to restrict political rights in Syria until there is a peace between Syria and Israael and a few years beyond? .. yes.

Is it the end of the world?

no. Provided they can at least work harder on the economy and on fighting corruption.

Will the few dissidents who choose to continue to challenge the regime to step down be punished by jail?

Probably yes.

Is it moral?

no

Do I support it?

No

Is it “understandable for now” given how the rest of the major players in the Middel East are behaving?

Yes.

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April 4th, 2007, 11:30 pm

 

45. Fares said:

Alex, jailing Kilo message has expired long time ago, eventhough I never agreed on it and it still not clear what message they wanted to send except saying we are just barbaric sadists who don’t mind jailing anyone regardless of how decent they are.

2nd, Why do we have to wait for Peace with Israel that might never come to improve our lives????? Last time I checked Israel does not boss Syria around and tell it which prisoners to arrest and hold.

3rd, how can they fight corruption if they are part of it and how do you fight corruption whne you silence all courageous voices and people rather piss in their pants rather then telling what they think.

Nothing happens is the end of the world, so why you choose which issues to care about…

If you are this practical I don’t see why you get mad when Syria is mentioned badly in all anti Syrian news…just ignore it and switch on your favorite Baath news magazine.

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April 4th, 2007, 11:39 pm

 

46. Samir said:

Alex:How can I be sectarian and be against Jeajea? against today’s “crusades” in the Middle East?

But you are a supporter of worse… of the asads and their lebanese proxies like elie hobeika,nabih berri, michel samaha,asaad hardane… and ….and…
Alex ,for us syrian,there is no differences between the crusaders and those who killed,tortured and raped our people…in every part of Syria.
Unlike you,Fares believes in the greatness of his people and not in killers ,thieves and rapists.

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April 4th, 2007, 11:41 pm

 

47. Observer said:

There are examples of dissidents that relied on their own for change and even if they relied on outside allies kept their independence intact and did not need any green lights from anyone: examples abound in Vietnam, and most recently the Iranian revolution of 1979. I would say that those that have relied more fully on outside powers ended up being disappointed: the Shia and the Kurds after the 1991 Gulf war. I still maintain that to be credible you do not need a green light from anyone.

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April 5th, 2007, 1:13 am

 

48. Leila said:

I don’t have time to read all the comment. I just want to say that I’m enjoying the discomfiture of Lebanon’s neo-conservatives at this moment.

How anybody, Arab or American, can hold on so tightly to George W. Bush’s coat-tails after the long disaster of his presidency is really beyond me.

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April 5th, 2007, 7:25 am

 

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