US-Syrian Thaw: Welsh and Muallem Talk

[US, Syria Step Up Talks]Syria’s Foreign Minister and David Welsh, the State Department’s point man on Syria, met today in New York to talk about regional security needs. This is important. In late July, the Syrians tried to arrange for a meeting between Welsh and Riad Daoudi, Syria’s lead negotiator with Israel. Washington would not meet with him. This counter-productive policy of isolation is beginning to thaw. Secretary of State Rice spoke with Muallem on Friday for 10 minutes. Jay Solomon of the Wall Street Journal writes that the meetings are “a sign of a potential thaw between the U.S. and a country that President George W. Bush has alleged is a principal sponsor of international terrorism.” He adds:

A State Department official said the U.S. used the talks as an opportunity to list its grievances with Syria. But the diplomats also discussed Washington’s support for peace talks between Syria and Israel over the future of the disputed Golan Heights region, participants in the talks said. The two sides also talked about Damascus’s role in the security situations in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

“I consider this a good progress in the American position,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in New York Monday. …. Mr. Moallem put a positive spin on the talks, saying Syria’s increased engagement with the U.S. underscores Washington’s recognition of Damascus’s role in promoting stability in Iraq and Lebanon. “The situation in the Middle East is improving,” he said.

The Syrian diplomat said Damascus is in the process of sending ambassadors to Iraq and Lebanon and is seeking to step up economic ties with both nations. He said Damascus would seek to improve counterterrorism cooperation with the West, particularly after Saturday’s bombing of a Syrian military installation in Damascus, which killed 17 people.

“There are Islamic extremists coming over our borders,” Mr. Moallem said. Terrorism has “spread and increased because of a lack of cooperation and a failure to tackle its roots.”

Serious obstacles remain to normalizing U.S.-Syrian ties. President Bush told the U.N. General Assembly last week that “a few nations — regimes like Syria and Iran — continue to sponsor terrorism.”

Syria’s foreign minister said his country is looking forward to closer ties with the next U.S. administration, whether it is headed by Barack Obama or John McCain.

“Unfortunately, [the Bush administration's position toward Syria] shifted too late,” Mr. Moallem said. “But I hope this shift will have its implications for the future administration.”

“We agreed to continue this dialogue.”

[Walid Moallem]

The Bush administration has not agreed to an official thaw with Syria, however. U.S. officials stressed the talks with Muallem were used to raise concerns about Syrian human-rights abuses and support for terrorism, as well as its strategic ties with Iran and other issues. “The international community still awaits a credible demonstration of Syria’s willingness to renounce their sponsorship of terrorism,” a State Department official said.  “The Syrians had approached us and said that they wished to
talk,” Rice said.

Viola Giengerof Bloomberg writes:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. may engage Syria more since the Arab nation slowed the flow of fighters into Iraq, began indirect talks with Israel and helped and a political stalemate in neighboring Lebanon.  “Nothing is a breakthrough, and I’m not sure that there will be,” Rice said today in an interview on Bloomberg TV’s “Night Talk with Mike Schneider” to be broadcast tomorrow night. “But it’s time to talk about some of the changes that are taking place in the Middle East.”

U.S. relations with Syria still have “a long way to go,” Rice said. She cited Syria’s human rights record, its involvement in spreading nuclear weapons and its support for groups the U.S. considers terrorist organizations such as Palestinian Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. “I don’t think it’s going to happen certainly in any short order,” Rice said. “But there are some trends to follow up.”….

She rejected rumors of indirect talks with Iran.

Bob Woodward

Ehsani, who has finished reading Bob Woodward’s new book on the Bush administration, has copied for us (below) the parts of the book that cover Rice’s policy toward Syria as she responded to the Iraq Study Group report put out by Baker and Hamilton just prior to the 2006 congressional elections. Ehsani writes:

Note how Rice totally flips in today’s WSJ article by Jay Solomon. In 2006, according to Woodward, She defied Baker, Clinton, and Blair who were urging her to begin a dialogue with Syria. Today, it is Rice who has flipped and not Syria.

Bob Woodward, The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008. Excerpts about Syria

Rice sat down with the Iraq study group. Overall, Rice said, there was a realignment taking place in the Middle East. “There are extremists within the Arab world, and then there are moderate Arabs. Many of the Arabs see Iran now as a more dangerous problem than Israel.” Syria is widely viewed as destabilizing, she said.

“Can we flip Syria?” asked Perry (of ISG), meaning get it to help with Iraq.

“The Saudis don’t talk to them,” Rice replied. “So why would we go around our allies, the Saudis, who after all are much more important to the peace process?”

That response agitated James Baker. “These Arab governments fight each other all the time” he said. “The real question is who is going to lead?”

The former secretary of state and the current one quarreled for a moment, with Rice acknowledging that diplomatic outreach to solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem might be worthwhile. But she had reservations about establishing relations with Syria and Iran.

“I am concerned that Syria is too high a price” she said. For the Arabs, the rise of Iran is the threat. The Iran factor today is different than it was 15 years ago”-a pointed reference to Baker’s tenure as secretary of state-“so I have to challenge the notion that Iran could be an ally in the process.”

Her position did not sit well with Baker and several others. Nearly everyone else had told the study group that active diplomacy with Syria and Iran was vital to stabilizing Iraq and the Middle East.

The next day the study group held a secure videoconference with Tony Blair. The British minister had recently sent his top foreign policy advisor to Syria to see if there was a way to pry opens the diplomatic doors. Through Sir Nigel Sheinwald had not succeeded, Blair remained a strong advocate of talking with the Syrians.   

At 2:30 that afternoon the members of the study group gathered for a much anticipated session with former President Bill Clinton.

Clinton suggested initiating talks with Iran without any preconditions. “We have to have some trusted advisor and start to talk to Iran” he said. “If you might fight somebody someday, you sure ought to talk to them”.

The former president made a strong pitch for engaging the Syrians in the peace process:”Go to the Syrians and ask them. Do you really think this relationship with Iraq works for you?” The war in Iraq was weakening America in the eyes of the world. “Iranian and North Korean foreign policy is to stick it up America’s ass because we’re tied down in Iraq,” he said.

“Mr. President”, Baker said, “you came closer than anyone to a deal with Syria.”

In the meantime Rice repeated her frequent warning to the Iraqis that they needed to hang together or they would hang separately from lampposts.

“We need something to deter Iran and Syria,” said Cheney, “and that’s important not just for Iraq but for the region and for Lebanon, too.”

Several hours before the president was to present his new strategy on national television, Hadley held a conference call with members of the Iraq study group.

The President decisions were pretty much “Baker-Hamilton plus a surge,” Hadley said. adding that they should all be pleased because the President had embraced many of the 79 recommendations.

“Steve,” Leon Panetta said, “There are three principal recommendations we made.” The first had been an international push for more diplomacy, including Iran and Syria.

Hadley said they were doing a lot of international diplomacy but they just couldn’t do Iran and Syria.

Rice rejected the notion that the Middle East had been stable and that the Bush administration had come along and disturbed it by invading Iraq. “What stability? Saddam shooting at our aircrafts and attacking his neighbors and seeking WMD and starting a war every few years? Syrian forces, 30 years in Lebanon?

Rice considered the war nothing less than “the realignment of the Middle East. On the one side you’ve got Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the Gulf states” supporting non extremists. “At the other side, you’ve got the Iranians, Hezbollah, and Hamas.” with Syria shifting sides, she said.

Just as the State Department begins to thaw relations with Syria, A federal district court in Washington, D.C., issued an opinion awarding $412,909,587 in a judgement against Syria. It found Bashar al-Asad and Asef Shawqat liable. None of the Defendants filed an answer or otherwise appeared.

The suit was brought by relatives of Jack Armstrong and Jack Hensley, who were two U.S. civilian engineers who were kidnapped and beheaded in Iraq in 2004 by al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (“al-Qaeda in Iraq”). This incident gained worldwide notoriety after the terrorists released a gruesome video of the beheadings on the Internet.

The judgement reads:

“Plaintiffs presented evidence in the form of live testimony, videotaped testimony, affidavit, and original documentary and videographic evidence. Plaintiffs presented credible expert testimony from four experts and from an Iraqi countryman concerning Syria’s assistance to Zarqawi and al-Qaeda in Iraq. From this evidence, certain conclusions are clear. Syria was the critical geographic entry point for Zarqawi’s fighters into Iraq, Levitt T-1-127, and served as a “logistical hub” for Zarqawi. Id. at 119, 127. Syria supported Zarqawi and his organization by: (1) facilitating the recruitment and training of Zarqawi’s followers and their transportation into Iraq; (2) harboring and providing sanctuary to terrorists and their operational and logistical supply network; and (3) financing Zarqawi and his terrorist network in Iraq. Once Zarqawi beheaded civilian Nicholas Berg, the depth of his inhumanity was obvious but Syria did not withdraw its support.

Four experts testified regarding Syria’s support of Zarqawi and al-Qaeda in Iraq:

(1) Evan Kohlmann is a private consultant who gave expert testimony on the history, infrastructure, and the use of the Internet as a medium for the distribution and dissemination of propaganda by Zarqawi and his terrorist network. Kohlmann T-114. His testimony was based on evidence that he collected and archived from 2004 through 2006 from Internet sites that are direct sources of information from Zarqawi and his network. Id. at 25.

(2) Dr. Matthew Levitt is a director of Counter Terrorism Intelligence Studies and a Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute of Near East Policy. Levitt at 105. He was previously employed in counter-terrorism positions in the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Treasury. Id. at 107, 111. He is the author of a book that includes chapters on Syria’s sponsorship of terrorism. Id. at 115.

(3) Dr. Marius Deeb is a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and for more than thirty years has studied, written, and taught about Islamic politics, Syria, and Syria’s support for terrorism. Deeb T-1-61-64.

(4) David Schenker is the director of Arab politics at the Washington Institute and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Schenker T-1-81-84. Mr. Schenker previously was the senior policy advisor to the Secretary of Defense on matters relating to Syria from 2002-2006. Id. at T-1-79.

1. Facilitating the Recruitment and Training of Zarqawi’s Followers and Facilitating Their Transportation into Iraq

18. Syria and the Syrian Military Intelligence provided active assistance to Zarqawi and his
followers in Iraq by allowing and helping their operatives to move through Syria and across
the border into al-Qaeda’s first military training camp in Iraq, near the village of Rawha.
Kohlmann T-1-52-54.

19. A militant Islamic cleric on the payroll of the Syrian government, Abu Qaqa, actively
recruited terrorists for the Zarqawi network in 2003. Schenker T-1-103.

20. In late 2003, a Syrian intelligence officer named Abu Moaz transported al-Qaeda operatives,
including senior leaders, across the Syrian border to the Rawha training camp. Kohlmann
T-1-52-54. The Rawha camp was where almost all of Zarqawi’s senior officers who led his
organization in 2003-2004 were trained. Id. at 54.

21. Members of al-Qaeda in Iraq who were captured by the company operated by Sheikh Abu
Massoquoi confessed to receiving training at camps within Syria. Massoquoi Dep. at 24; see
also Deeb T-1-67, 74-75.

22. The Syrian government provided assistance to facilitate the movement of terrorists through
Syria for Zarqawi’s terrorist network. Massoquoi Dep. at 20-23.

23. The airport in Damascus, Syria is “one of the most tightly controlled locations in Syria” as
people must pass through border guards and under the observation of intelligence officials
there. Schenker T-1-94. Syria allowed insurgents to arrive without restriction into the
Damascus airport in significant numbers, before continuing their journey across the border
and into Iraq. Id. at 94, 98-99. “This wasn’t an underground railroad; this was being done
with a full recognition and support of the government of Syria.” Id. at 95.

24. Syria did not require a visa for non-Syrian Arabs entering Syria until 2006-07. Schenker
T-1-94. The U.S. Government repeatedly asked Syria to require visas but it refused until
recently. Id. at 95.

Clif Burns has more about the case on his blog, Export Law.

In the comment section:
Alex writes:

President Assad was interviewed by a Lebanese journalist. He said that the North of Lebanon is by now a serious threat to Syria’s national security.

He said that if any country wants to play any role in the Middle East, that country will need to pass through Damascus. Hariri reacted quickly warning of Syrian intentions

idaf writes: 

Preliminary findings from the car bomb investigation are out.. It was a suicide bombing and the car used was a maroon GMC Suburban that entered the Syrian boarders legally on Sep 26 from a “neighboring Arab country”. SANA also published the car’s plate number and chassis number, without mentioning the source of the plate. DNA testing is being carried out to identify the suicide bomber…

It is a smart move from the Syrian authorities not to mention the source of the car. My guess is that the car had Saudi plate number and entered from Jordan. There are very very few GMC cars with Syrian plate numbers. In Saudi, GMC Suburban is the most common car because it accommodates large families. It is not a common car in Lebanon, but it’s also common in Iraq.

This could explain the mysterious Saudi silence so far. I was not surprised much with the official Saudi silence, but with the silence of the Saudi media. The Saudi financed media usually does not miss a chance to publish conspiracy theories vilifying Syria every time a security breach takes place in Syria. This time, even Al-Sharq Al-awsat’s opinion editors (who are the first to blame Syria for natural disasters even if they hit Syria) hasn’t utter a word yet….

It would be interesting to find out the actual source of the car and bomber….

Read the Arabic article on the car from Syria-news

التحقيقات الأولية في تفجير السبت:العملية انتحارية والإرهابي مرتبط بتنظيم تكفيري الاخبار المحلية
http://www.syria-news.com/readnews.php?sy_seq=83132

Comments (12)


1. norman said:

I wonder if Rice Gave Syria the go ahead to get rid of the extremists in northern Lebanon,

NEW LEBANON WAR?
By AMIR TAHERI

September 30, 2008 —
IS Syria preparing to seize the opportunity provided by the global financial crisis and the US presidential campaign to invade Lebanon?

For the last week or so, Syria has been moving heavily armed elite military units to the Lebanese border – with up to 25,000 massed there by early last week. Backed by tanks, armored vehicles and attack helicopters, the units were on “maximum war footing,” eyewitnesses say.

Damascus says the build-up is a response to smuggling rings that run the black market in the Syrian capital and major provincial centers. My Lebanese contacts call that explanation “laughable” – noting that Syrian elite itself runs the black market in both countries through the security services.

The buildup covers only the northern portion of the Syria-Lebanon border, leaving the eastern portions in the hands of the Iran-financed (and thus Syria-allied) Hezbollah militia.

And Lebanese analysts say the type of force Syria is massing is better suited for a classical invasion than for chasing small and scattered groups of bandits along the border.

More ominously, the official Syrian media claim that the force could be used to “hunt down and eliminate fundamentalist terrorists linked to al Qaeda.” This refers to a group called Fatah al-Islam (Conquest of Islam), which fought the Lebanese army in the northern city of Tripoli, close to the Syrian border, for months before being flushed out. Since then, the group has gone underground; it is suspected in a number of assassinations and suicide attacks.

In his meetings with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan last month, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad promised, without going into details, that he’d “play a more active part” in the War on Terror. The Lebanese see Syria’s claimed intent to fight al Qaeda-linked terrorists as a ploy to “hoodwink the Americans.”

“They want to present their invasion as part of the global War on Terror led by the United States,” says a Lebanese analyst.

Indeed, evidence suggests that Syria assisted the emergence of Fatah al-Islam in the Tripoli area. Lebanon borders only two other nations, Israel and Syria. Since it’s unlikely that Fatah al-Islam killers entered Lebanon from Israel, the assumption that they came through Syria can’t be dismissed easily.

Plus, shortly after Fatah al-Islam seized control of the Nahr al-Bared area close to Tripoli, a pro-Syrian Palestinian group, Fatah al-Intifada (Conquest of the Uprising), merged with it. That couldn’t have happened without Damascus’ approval.

Fatah al-Islam members captured by the Lebanese army have said that almost all the group’s fighters came from other Arab countries. Once installed in Tripoli, they linked up with “sleeper” Palestinian terror networks there and launched a joint bid for the control of the mostly Sunni city.

Yet another pretext the Syrians invoke for a possible intervention in Lebanon is the protection of the Alawite religious minority.

The Alawites, an esoteric sect most Muslims regard as heretics, number some 50,000 around Tripoli. But they account for 11 percent of Syria’s population and dominate its government and armed forces through the Assad dynasty.

In its brief domination of Tripoli, the Fatah al-Islam gang refrained from attacking Alawite neighborhoods, giving credence to claims that it was a Syrian proxy.

When Syria invaded and occupied Lebanon in the 1970s, its excuse was that it wanted to protect the Christian minority against the Palestinians and their allies. Today, with a majority of Lebanese Christians opposed to Syrian intervention, it is painting the Alawites as those needing protection.

One thing is certain: The Syrian buildup has little, if anything, to do with fighting smugglers or terrorists. Syria has special police and security units for such tasks.

President Assad might well be tempted to remedy his humiliation in 2005, when he was forced to withdraw his army from Lebanon after 29 years of occupation.

If so, he may well be eyeing a brief window of opportunity right now. America is preoccupied by the financial crisis and the presidential campaign. And Europe, led by Sarkozy, has just committed itself to rehabilitating Syria and doesn’t want to jeopardize the supposed gains of its “positive dialogue” with Damascus.

Turkey would be in no position to criticize a Syrian incursion into Lebanon – Turkish forces have repeatedly entered Iraq, ostensibly to hunt down Kurdish rebels. And Russia – grateful for Syria’s support in the recent war with Georgia – wouldn’t frown at a Syrian move to topple the pro-Western regime in Beirut. Israel, politically paralyzed and possibly heading for early elections, is in no position to oppose a Syrian invasion.

So far, Syria’s military gesticulations on the Lebanese border haven’t elicited warnings from the United States or the European Union, encouraging the hard-line faction in Damascus that is pressing for a “return to Lebanon.”

I trnsfered from the other post.

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September 30th, 2008, 3:11 pm

 

2. abraham said:

The Mischief-Makers
The real troublemakers in the Middle East
by Justin Raimondo
AntiWar.Com

While the American people are consumed with the news on the home front – economic implosion, job loss, a record number of foreclosures, failed banks – and a presidential election in which the usual amount of smoke is being blown, if you look behind the headlines the outline of an emerging crisis in – where else? – the Middle East is beginning to take shape.

What the heck is going on in Syria? The news of a huge explosion in Damascus, caused by a car bomb, has shaken the region, and it isn’t at all clear who or what is responsible. Whatever the source, however, the attack – which killed 17 bystanders, including possibly a top Syrian intelligence official – augurs ill for the future of peace in the Middle East (an increasingly elusive goal).

The attack occurred Saturday morning, near a major Syrian intelligence facility, although news reports in the West are focusing on the proximity of the Shi’ite shrine. Israeli media are emphasizing the possibility of an internal struggle within the Syrian regime itself, while the Iranians are saying the blast was the work of the Mossad and/or CIA. Suffice to say that this incident is shrouded in mystery, as the Syrians hint of attackers from beyond their borders, and the context – a series of equally mysterious attacks on targets in Syria over the past few years – indicates they may be correct.

In August, Syrian army Gen. Mohammad Suleiman was assassinated by a sniper in the city of Tartus. Suleiman was reputed to be the Syrian regime’s chief liaison to Lebanon’s Hezbollah organization – a job description that would point to Israel as the culprit. Last February, an explosion in Damascus knocked off Imad Mughniyeh, a Hezbollah military commander. Hezbollah and Syria have close ties.

Add to this recent Israeli allegations that the Syrians were trying to build a nuclear facility – accusations debunked in this space, and later proven to be entirely bogus – and the circumstantial evidence certainly points in the direction of Tel Aviv.

The key to understanding what is going on in the Middle East today – including the American invasion and occupation of Iraq and the stepped-up pressure on the Iranians – is to be found in a seminal paper published in 1996 by an Israeli think-tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies: “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for the Realm.” In it, five U.S. academics and policymakers – many of whom hold (or held) high positions in the U.S. government, including Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and David Wurmser – outline a strategic perspective that posits a policy of regime change throughout the region. The premise is that Israel is caught in a bind, hemmed in by hostile neighbors and unfavorable demographic facts on the ground. Israel, the authors aver, must break out of its box, or perish in the attempt. The first item on the agenda: regime change in Iraq. The rationale for this was that the road to Damascus must first pass through Baghdad. Syria is the primary “frontline state” engaged in destabilizing the occupied territories and fomenting the Palestinian uprising, so it must be eliminated. Damascus has always been the primary target of the Israelis, whether they are engaged in Lebanon or the occupied territories, and now that Iraq is out of the way, thanks to Uncle Sam, it makes sense that the Israelis are moving against Damascus.

It also computes in a broader sense: the Israelis have always targeted the more secular elements among their many enemies in the region. Saddam Hussein was their first target, and his regime was notably irreligious, although in its latter years the Ba’athists tried to assume the mantle of Islamic legitimacy. Earlier, you’ll remember, the Israelis also went after Yasser Arafat hammer and tongs, while helping Hamas – at least, in its initial stages – to gain a foothold. Now they are going after the secular Ba’ath Party of Syria, which has ruled that country with an iron hand since the days of the late Hafez al-Assad. Assad’s son, Bashir, a UK-educated ophthalmologist, is generally seen as an ineffective ruler, and is reportedly in the midst of a power struggle between the old guard and his own supporters. Israeli news outlets portray the mysterious explosions as being a function of this purported internal struggle, but it is more likely that the Israelis are using their new position of strength to exert enough pressure to cause the brittle Syrian regime to implode.

FULL ARTICLE:

http://antiwar.com/justin/?articleid=13522

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September 30th, 2008, 4:06 pm

 

3. nafdikn said:

Zanobia

First, I agree with you that Bashar is not responsible for the massacres of his father.

If Bashar was practicing medicine in Somerset I would be the first to say leave the man alone. As I do not believe in killing entire families because of the political views or acts of other family members.

But Bashar is not practicing medicine in Somerset he is the head of the regime that perpetuated Hama, his presidency will clearly not survive a vote, so it is a presidency based on fear.

The fear was the outcome of violence and threats of violence by the regime, the ultimate example of which was Hama.

So Bashar is not responsible for Hama because he is the son of Hafez. He is responsible because his presidency is the daughter of Hama.

You say that:
“However, you have your opinion that fits one side. Ok, I see that.”

Which part of my opinion is one-sided?

- The fact that many children and innocents died?
- The fact that the army should never be used to protect an unelected regime from its own people?
- The fact that we lost more Syrians in Hama in 5 days than in 50 years of ‘struggle’ with Israel?
- The fact that we live in fear because we know the cost of speaking against the regime?

What would your reaction be if after 9/11 the US army went to the Muslim parts of Detroit and killed 30000 American Muslims?

Grey zone?
One should look at both sides of the event before judging?
I somehow doubt that.

Zenobia, I don’t want to be unfairly critical of you. But I speaking through you to our Syrian consciousness that would rather hide the facts to ourselves, sometimes out of shame, others out of desire for social peace.

The terrorist acts of the last week might be repeated and then we might face a choice:

To Hama or not to Hama?

Which side are we on?

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September 30th, 2008, 5:02 pm

 

4. ugarit said:

Source

“How did Salah Jadid die? I was surprised that Salah Jadid still has some appeal among the secular Syrian opposition based on reactions I received regarding my last article on Syria in Al-Akhbar (the issue of Al-Akhbar on Saturday was not distributed in Syria, I am told). Many people (including some with connection to his family) wrote to me regarding his death. One of the Syrian political prisoners who last saw him wrote this:
“بالنسبة لصلاح جديد ‘ أبو أسامة ‘ ، في الواقع أنا السجين الوحيد ـ ربما ـ الذي رآه وتحدث معه قبل وفاته بثلاث ساعات ونصف فقط ، إذا استثنينا رفاقه في القيادة السابقة الذين كانوا معه في غرفته . وتفصيل الأمر كما يلي :

تم نقلي من سجن تدمر الصحراوي إلى سجن المزة العسكري ( عبر شعبة المخابرات العسكرية التي مضيت فيها 40 يوما ) ظهر يوم السبت 7 آب/ أغسطس 1993 . وبالنظر لأن أمر الشعبة المذكورة كان يقضي بإبقاء سجني انفراديا ، لم يجد مدير السجن العقيد بركات العش سوى غرفة رئيس الوزراء الأسبق الدكتور يوسف زعيّن ليضعني فيها ، وهي في الطابق الثاني . كانت الغرفة فارغة منذ إطلاق سراح زعين في العام 1981 ، وكان جرى تحويلها إلى مستودع . أما جدار حمامها ومرحاضها فكان مشتركا مع حمام ومراحيض جناح القيادة السابقة ( صلاح جديد ، رئيس الأركا ن الأسبق اللواء أحمد سويداني ، ضافي الجمعاني ، كامل حسين ، عبد الحميد مقداد ، مصطفى رستم ، عادل نعيسة .. إلخ ) .

لم يكن صلاح يخرج إلى التنفس الصباحي أو المسائي مع رفاقه منذ 15 سنة خلت ، احتجاجا على الإهانة التي وجهها له ذات يوم أحد السجانين حين كان في التنفس يستمع إلى راديو ترانزستور في يده ، حيث طلب منه تخفيض صوته بعد أن وصفه بـ ‘ الحمار ‘ ! وكنت أغتنم الفرصة للحديث مع ‘ أبو أسامة ‘ ـ عبر فتحة صغيرة في الجدار المذكور ـ خلال وجود رفاقه في التنفس . ( طبعا لم يكن ذلك من وراء ظهورهم ، فهم من ساعدني من الطرف الآخر للجدار على إحداث ثقب بالقرب من فتحة يمر منها أنبوب توصيل المياه ، حيث يكون الجدار هشا ، ليؤمنوا الاتصال معي ومعرفة أحوالي من حين إلى آخر . وقد أرسلوا لي الكثير من المساعدات بالنظر لأن لم أكن مُزارا في حينه ) .

مساء 17 آب ، أي بعد وصولي إلى السجن بعشرة أيام ، وعند حوالي السابعة مساء ، كنت أتحدث معه . لم يكن يشكو من أي مرض سوى الضعف البسيط الناجم عن الاعتقال الطويل وسنه المتقدمة ( 67 عاما ) ، وبعض الآلام في الجهاز البولي من حين إلى آخر ، كما فهمت منه ومن عادل نعيسة وضافي الجمعاني و من العقيد بركات لاحقا. وبتعبير آخر : لم يكن يعاني أي مرض يمكن أن يؤدي إلى الموت أو حتى إلى العجز ولو جزئيا .

بعد حوالي ساعة على انتهاء التنفس ، جاء طبيب السجن ، برفقة أطباء آخرين من خارج السجن (؟) ، والعقيد بركات ، وأخذوه . وقد رأيته بأم عيني من نافذة زنزانتي ( الواقعة فوق ديوان السجن مباشرة ، والمطلة مباشرة على البهو الداخلي للسجن المؤدي بدوره إلى بابه الرئيسي الداخلي) يمشي مع الأطباء والمدير بشكل طبيعي . وقد علمت لاحقا من مدير السجن ( الذي أصبحت علاقتي به ممتازة في السنوات اللاحقة ، إذ كان يحرص على تقديم نفسه كتلميذ لالياس مرقص خلال دراسته الثانوية ، وعلى تمييز المعتقلين اليساريين إيجابيا ، وقد سرّح تعسفيا من الجيش صيف العام 2000 بعد اتهامه بتقديم مساعدة وتسهيلات ‘ غير قانونية ‘ لي !) بأنه نقل صلاح إلى مشفى المزة العسكري بسيارته المرسيدس الخاصة على خلفية شكواه نفسها ( كريزا في الجهاز البولي ) . وأجزم أنه كان صادقا . فقد كان يحترمه جدا ، ويحرص دائما على مخاطبته بـ ‘ سيدي اللواء ‘ .

أنظمة السجون والمخابرات لا تمنح مدير أي سجن عسكري صلاحية نقل أي سجين مريض ، أيّا كان ، سوى إلى المشفى الذي يتبع له السجن ( مشفى المزة العسكري ، 601 ، بالنسبة لسجن المزة ، ومشفى التل العسكري بالنسبة لسجن صيدنايا ) . وفي حال قضى الوضع الصحي للسجين /المريض نقله إلى مشفى تشرين العسكري ( الأكثر تطورا) ، فإن الأمر يحتاج إلى موافقة الجهة المسؤولة عن اعتقال السجين ( مخابرات عسكرية ، مخابرات جوية ، أمن دولة … ) . وبالنسبة لصلاح ورفاقه تحديدا ، كان نقل أي منهم يقتضي موافقة رئيس شعبة المخابرات العسكرية شخصيا أو مساعده . وفي حالة الطوارىء العاجلة ، كان الأمر يحتاج لاتصال هاتفي فقط . ( في الحالة غير العاجلة يقتضي الأمر توجيه طلب عبر البريد الرسمي للسجن ) .

ما قاله لي العقيد بركات لاحقا هو التالي على نحو شبه حرفي :

‘ بعد أن أوصلته إلى مشفى المزة بسيارتي ، وليس بسيارة اللاندروفر المرهقة له وغير اللائقة به ، قال الطبيب إنه بحاجة لنقل إلى مشفى تشرين العسكري . فأجريت الاتصالات اللازمة من أجل الموافقة ، وبعد قليل جاءت سيارة من شعبة المخابرات ونقلته إلى تشرين ، فلم يكن من صلاحيتي نقله إلى هناك . وقد توفي بعد وصوله إلى مشفى تشرين بقليل . وكانت حوالي منتصف ليلة 17 / 18 آب ‘ . وهذا يعني أنه توفي وهو رهن الاعتقال ، بعكس ما نشر في الإعلام لاحقا ، حيث قيل ‘ إنه توفي بعد صدور أمر بإطلاق سراحه ‘ . وهذا لا أساس له من الصحة .

هل جرى تسميمه حسب بعض المعلومات المتداولة ؟

ليس ثمة أي دليل على ذلك ، خصوصا وأنه لم يجر أي تشريح للجثة ، ولم يذكر ذووه وجود أي عرَض من أعراض التسمم على جثمانه . ولكن من المؤكد أنه قتل عمدا . والأرجح خنقا بواسطة فصل الأوكسجين عن جهاز التنفس الذي وضع له ‘دون مبرر ‘ كما أخبرني المقدم الطبيب المخبري ‘ أ. ج . ح ‘ في مشفى تشرين العسكري قبل يومين من إطلاق سراحي بتاريخ 6 أيار / مايو 2001. وطبقا لأدق المعلومات المتوفرة ، فإن من نفذ الجريمة هم زبانية مصطفى طلاس شخصيا . فمن المعروف أن طلاس كان يكن له كرها وحقدا أعمى . وكان يحرص دوما خلال خطبه وأحاديثه العلنية العامة ( أحدها نشر في الصحف الرسمية) على شتمه والقول عنه حرفيا إنه ‘ كان يحارب الناس في أرزاقهم وأخلاقهم ‘ ، في إشارة إلى راديكاليته في عمليات التأميم وملاحقة الفاسدين وطهرانيته ‘ المتطرفة ‘ ، وفي وقوفه وراء العديد من كراريس التثقيف السياسي الصادرة عن القيادة القومية والقطرية ، والتي كان ينشر من خلالها مفاهيم المادية التاريخية ، والإلحاد الماركسي ، وبقية أقانيم المعرفة الماركسية وتراثها الفكري والنقابي ، فضلا عن نظريات غيفارا وماوتسي تونغ في حرب العصابات والحرب الشعبية . وقد قرأت بنفسي العديد من هذه الكراريس التي كان يحتفظ بها والدي في مكتبة المنزل .

هل كانوا ‘مضطرين ‘ لقتله ، وفي ذلك الوقت بالضبط ؟

أعتقد نعم . فقد كانت السلطة قد اتخذت عمليا قرارا بإطلاق سراح من تبقى من القيادة السابقة ( كانوا 17 سجينا على ما أذكر ) . ولم يكن بإمكانهم إطلاق سراحه معهم للأسباب التي تعرفها ويمكنك تقديرها ، لاسيما وأن حافظ الأسد لم يكن ليقبل بوجوده حرا طليقا وهو على رأس السلطة ، إلا إذا أعلن ولاءه له ، أو التزم الصمت. وهذا كان مستحيلا ، كما يستشف من المساومات التي حاول النظام فتح بازارها معه. فقد كان لا بد من التخلص منه . وهذا ما حصل . وقد جرى إطلاق سراحهم تباعا بعد بضعة أشهر من وفاته !

هذا بالتفصيل ما أعرفه عن القضية وبمنتهى الأمانة .”
Posted by As’ad at 7:06 AM

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September 30th, 2008, 6:19 pm

 

5. Alex said:

ISRAEL MAY BUY LOCKHEED F-35 FIGHTER JETS VALUED AT $15.2 BLN

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September 30th, 2008, 7:35 pm

 

6. ToddGMoney said:

For pictures of various license plates in the Middle East, go here… http://www.worldlicenseplates.com/world/AS.html. It doesn’t look like that Saudi Arabia or Jordan have been using 5-digit numbered plates for some time that would match the 83115 number given in the article, but for example, Lebanon or Kuwait could be candidates. Of course, this is just based on the pictures, and maybe someone who has lived in these countries would know more.

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September 30th, 2008, 9:49 pm

 

7. Alex said:

More (in Arabic) from President Assad’s interview yesterday.

الرئيس الأسد: شمال لبنان قاعدة للتطرف تشكل خطراً على سورية.. كشف جريمة اغتيال الحريري يخدم سورية مباشرة
الرئيس الأسد: شمال لبنان قاعدة للتطرف تشكل خطراً على سورية.. كشف جريمة اغتيال الحريري يخدم سورية مباشرة

دمشق..
أكد الرئيس بشار الأسد أن شمال لبنان بات يشكل قاعدة تطرفٍ خطيرة على سورية، مشدداً على أن العلاقة مع القوى اللبنانية لا تعني التدخل في الشؤون الداخلية للبنان.
وقال الرئيس الأسد خلال لقاء صحفي أجراه معه نقيب المحررين اللبنانيين ملحم كرم في دمشق: «إن زيارة الرئيس العماد ميشيل سليمان إلى سورية فتحت صفحة جديدة مع لبنان الذي لا أعتبر المشكلات معه صفحة سوداء بل غيمة صيف عبرت».
وأضاف : «لقد عبرت للعماد ميشيل سليمان عن دعم سورية الكامل له كرئيس للجمهورية ولموقع الرئاسة اللبنانية»، مضيفاً: «إن شمال لبنان بات قاعدة حقيقية للتطرف وتشكل خطراً على سورية».
وأوضح الرئيس الأسد أن اتفاق الدوحة الذي تحقق من دون تدخل خارجي «أبعد شبح الحرب الأهلية عن لبنان»، مؤكداً أن سورية ستستمر في استقبال كل من يريد أن يزورها.
واعتبر الرئيس الأسد أن زيارته للبنان «لم تكن ولن تكون مرتبطة بقيام السفارة»، لافتاً إلى أن سورية ستبقى مستعدة لدعم لبنان بالشكل الذي يريده اللبنانيون.
كما أشار إلى بداية ظهور نوع من التكامل بين السوقين اللبناني والسوري، مشدداً على أن المحكمة الدولية تعد موضوعاً لبنانياً ودولياً.
وقال الرئيس الأسد: «إن كشف جريمة اغتيال الرئيس الحريري يخدم سورية بشكل مباشر»، مضيفاً: «يريدون تحميل سورية مسؤولية المفقودين اللبنانيين، علماً بأن لجنة مشتركة بين الجانبين ستعلن النتائج».
وقال الرئيس الأسد: «لا يمكن أن نتوقع تحسن العلاقات بين سورية ولبنان إذا كانت هذه العلاقات يجب أن تمر عبر دولة أخرى»، لافتاً إلى أن تبادل السفارات «لا يعني اعترافاً باستقلال لبنان، فنحن نعترف دائماً باستقلاله».
وأضاف الرئيس الأسد: «إن مصالحة المملكة العربية السعودية ضرورية ولا مصلحة في الجفاء معها»، لافتاً إلى أن دعم المقاومة «لم يكن على حساب الحكومة اللبنانية» وخصوصاً أن سورية «لم تفكر للحظة أن هذا الدعم يهدف لإضعافها».
ورداً على سؤال تناول العملية الإرهابية التي جرت السبت الماضي في دمشق، قال الرئيس الأسد: «لقد حذرت دوماً من الإرهاب، وأكدت على مدى السنوات الماضية، أن السياسات الخاطئة حيال منطقتنا هي التي تخلق التربة الخصبة للإرهاب، لكن هذا لن يثنينا عن متابعة سياساتنا الداخلية والخارجية لمقاومة الاحتلال والعنف والإرهاب، كما يؤكد لنا مرة جديدة ضرورة تضامن جميع الجهود لمكافحة آفة الإرهاب وتحقيق العيش الأمن للجميع».
وفي الشأن الفلسطيني قال الرئيس الأسد: «إن الفلسطينيين يدفعون ثمن انقسامهم وعلاقتنا بحماس جيدة، لكنها لا تقل قوة عما عليه الحال مع الرئيس الفلسطيني محمود عباس».
وقال الرئيس الأسد: «أي جهة أو دولة في العالم تريد أن يكون لها دور في المنطقة يجب أن تمر عبر سورية»، لافتاً إلى أن الإدارة الأميركية «لا تمتلك الرغبة في دفع العملية السياسية بالعراق، علماً بأن أوروبا قادرة على مساعدة أميركا في أن تكون موضوعية».
وأكد الرئيس الأسد أن «تركيا صادقة في علاقتها مع سورية»، موضحاً أن علاقة سورية مع إيران «لن تكون على حساب الدول العربية، بل تساعد على استقرار المنطقة».
وقال الرئيس الأسد: «إن العلاقة السورية الإيرانية لن تتأثر إذا توصلنا إلى اتفاق مع إسرائيل»، معلناً «أن الضغوط الأميركية الإسرائيلية على سورية لم تتوقف قط ونحن لن نتوقف عن تطوير قواتنا المسلحة». كما أكد أن المفاوضات غير المباشرة مع إسرائيل لم تصل بعد إلى شيء.
واعتبر الرئيس الأسد أن المنهجية التي تتبعها الولايات المتحدة الأميركية في إدارة ملفاتها في الشرق الأوسط «عسكرية وتعتمد على الحرب، وليس على السياسة».

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October 1st, 2008, 12:29 am

 

8. Akbar Palace said:

nafdikn said:

What would your reaction be if after 9/11 the US army went to the Muslim parts of Detroit and killed 30000 American Muslims?

Nafdikn,

I can tell you one thing for sure, if that were to happen, the administration in power would not be re-elected, and most probably, impeached and thrown in jail.

Of course, it’s always easier to blame America and Israel for the the ills that befall the Middle East. Just FYI, the Assad family has led Syria for the past 37 years without any opposition.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hafez_al-Assad

So much for “CHANGE”…

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October 1st, 2008, 11:26 am

 

9. Akbar Palace said:

Has anyone seen a similar article in the Syrian newspapers?

Something about Hizbullah issuing a warning to refrain from visiting Syria? What could this mean?

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3604082,00.html

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October 1st, 2008, 11:45 am

 

10. jad said:

AMERICAN REACTION TO 9-11?!! What a wrong example and what a lame comment by AP…
Yo, AP…since your brain is obviously damaged and you can’t figure what was the price for that attack, I will help you out, just because you are my Semitic brother.
The reaction was and still:
Occupying two countries,
Killing 1 million human, mainly Muslims,
Forcing 4 millions to become refugees, mainly Muslims,
Starting and fueling sectarian wars,
4000+ American soldiers pay their lives,
Spending billions of dollars and Plunging the economy in a terrible crisis.
not to forget Patriot act.
YET, the US administration was re-elected and NOBODY was impeached…

Aren’t you ashamed to ignore that as a reaction?

Finally, when Syrians talk about their problems why don’t you stay out of it and try to be a better human for change…it might be good for all of us.

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October 2nd, 2008, 5:13 am

 

11. Shai said:

JAD,

Nice to see you here again! Listen, AP may yet be right. If Sarah Palin will be one 72-year old heartbeat away from becoming President of the United States of America, good ‘ole Dubya may still be viewed one day as a hugely successful liberal…! :-) (God Help Us All)

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October 2nd, 2008, 3:54 pm

 

12. Shai said:

I really hate to ruin our SC Republican-commentators’ party here, but I’ve been discussing the McCain-Palin ticket and its possible effects on the “peace process” with some friends in Israel lately, and the results are not promising…

Today I heard someone describe her as follows: “A nut case. An in-tongues speaking, apocalyptic bimbo. She thinks having a border with another nation qualifies her to handle foreign policy. She thinks the bailout being discussed right now is about healthcare. She thinks America has a right to invade Pakistan in order to go Al-Qaida huntin’ on the border with Afghanistan. She thinks dinosaurs were around 4,000 years ago!…”

I wonder what our Bush-supporters think about their (possible) next VP.

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October 2nd, 2008, 7:17 pm

 

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