Posted by Joshua on Sunday, October 5th, 2008
The stories on the US being on the verge of lifting sanctions on Syria, seem too good to be true. I doubt any action will be taken to improve relations with Syria so long as President Bush sits in the White House. Of course, the various US agencies that have to deal with Syria, such as Defense, State, Intelligence, etc. have all been urging the White House to reassess its policy toward Syria for some time.
‘US considers lifting Syrian sanctions’
By JPOST.COM AND Herb Keinon
Oct 5, 2008
Washington is considering a possible change of policy towards Syria in the near future, which would entail lifting sanctions against the country but would not include returning the US ambassador to Damascus, Israel Radio quoted senior US officials as saying on Sunday.
The officials reportedly said that discussions were being held over the best way for the US to influence Syria, in light of the improved relations with France and the visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy to the country in September.
A US official said there were several encouraging signals on the Syrians’ part, including the decision to renew diplomatic ties with Lebanon. On October 2, a senior Israeli diplomatic official said Jerusalem had no problem with the US engaging in dialogue with Damascus. …
….. Welch, according to the CNN report, also said Syria should play a more positive role in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations and stop supporting Palestinian terrorist groups. He also raised the issue of Syria’s strategic relationship with Iran.
It is precisely here, according to Israeli officials, that a US dialogue with Syria could be productive.
According the Israeli official, Israel realizes that if the West wants to move Syria out of Iran’s orbit, the US will have to play a more active role in Israel’s negotiations with Syria in general, as well as increase its own dialogue with Damascus.
Here is the al-Jazeera article in Arabic about America’s reassessment of its Syria strategy
Syria’s Deployment to the north of Lebanon
RIYADH (AFP)–Exiled Hamas supremo Khaled Meshaal has called for a thaw in ties between Saudi Arabia and Syria during a recent visit to Saudi Arabia, an Arab diplomat said Sunday. “During meetings with Saudi officials, Meshaal raised the issue of Saudi-Syrian relations, which have long been tense, and stressed the importance of improving those ties,” the diplomat told AFP, requesting anonymity…..
The head of the Palestinian Islamist Hamas also met in Mecca with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, the Arab diplomat said.
By Tim McGirk and Aaron J. Klein / Jerusalem: Time, Thursday, Oct. 02, 2008
Meshaal also met with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman for talks on Cairo’s efforts to broker a reconciliation between Hamas and the rival Fatah party of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, the diplomat added.
Cheyenne Mountain’s NORAD, the central collection and coordination center for a worldwide system of satellites, radars, and other early warning systems watching for threats to North American security from both aircraft and ballistic missiles. George Steinmetz / Corbis
When a contingent of U.S. soldiers opens a radar facility on a mountaintop in the Negev desert next month, Israel will for the first time in its 60-year history have a permanent foreign military base on its soil. And despite the early warning that the American radar would provide if Iran launches a missile attack on Israel, some senior Israeli officials are nonetheless wary about its presence. Complained one top official, “It’s a like a pair of golden handcuffs on Israel.”
From its mountain perch in Har Keren, the U.S. radar will be able to monitor the take-off of any aircraft or missile up to 1,500 miles away — giving Israel a vital extra 60-70 seconds to react if Iran fired a missile, Israeli military sources told TIME. Israel has its own radar system trained on Iran, but it’s range is much shorter. Still, some see several drawbacks for Israel in the radar, and blame Defense Minister Ehud Barak for requesting its deployment in Israel without consulting anyone other than his chief of staff. Some in the upper echelons of the Israeli Defense Force fear that although the radar will enhance Israel’s protection against Iran, it may also open up Israel’s own military secrets to the Americans.
The radar will allow the U.S. to keep a close watch on anything moving in Israeli skies, “even a bee”, says one top Israeli official who asked not to be identified. The U.S. may be a close ally, but Israel nonetheless has aviation secrets it would rather not share. “Even a husband and wife have a few things they’d like to keep from each other,” explains this source. “Now we’re standing without our clothes on in front of America.”
Israel will have no direct access to the data collected by the radar, which looks like a giant taco. It will only be fed intelligence second hand, on a need-to-know basis, from the Americans — unless the radar picks up an immediate, direct attack on Israel, Israeli sources claim. And Israeli officials expressed concern that the radar’s installation may anger Moscow, since its range will enable the U.S. to monitor aircraft in the skies over southern Russia. When the U.S. stationed anti-missile radar and interceptor systems in Poland and the Czech Republic — ostensibly directed at a future Iranian threat, although the Russians believe their own missile capability is its real target — Moscow warned those countries that the move could result in their being added to the target list of Russia’s missiles.
Israeli military sources say that Barak requested the radar from U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in July, after U.S. requests to station such a system in Turkey and Jordan were rejected. Barak was eager to acquire the advantage of the early warning that the system would provide in the event of a possible Iranian attack. But with the Russians already peeved at Israel for having had military advisers inside Georgia when war broke out over South Ossetia, the radar’s deployment in Israel, say officials, might make Moscow even more likely to supply Iran and Syria with its highly-accurate SA300 anti-aircraft missile batteries.
The top-secret X-band radar will be staffed by around 120 American technicians and security guards in the Negev, say Israeli military sources. But Israeli planning and air force officials are perturbed that Defense Minister Barakdid not carry out any evaluation of the radar’s possible impact on Israeli military operations before approving it. For one thing, Israeli defense experts are worried that waves from the X-band radar might throw off the accuracy of a new Gil anti-tank missile also being tested in the Negev. “The Bush Administration is in the mood to give us anything, as long as we don’t attack Iran,” gripes one senior official. “So why did we take this radar?”
Dangerous Talks with Syria
Maj.-Gen. Uzi Dayan and Dr. Jonathan Spyer – 9/30/2008
The current indirect talks between Israel and Syria are highly unlikely to result in a peace agreement. The talks, far from playing any positive role for Israel, are mistaken both in terms of our values and in terms of our practical interest. They are being conducted by an irresponsible government with no public mandate, and are already causing real harm. We should be working to isolate the Syrian regime, not rehabilitating it.
From the point of view of values, the government’s approach is fundamentally mistaken. The Golan Heights were taken in a just war in 1967, a war which was provoked by an extremist and reckless Ba’athist regime in Damascus. Our presence is both legaland essential. The Golan Heights must be retained under Israeli sovereignty.
The Syrian regime preached the destruction of Israel, and was directly responsible for the deterioration which made the 1967 war inevitable. There is no moral content to the claim by the same regime that its “rights” were violated by defeat in a war which it had actively sought. Independent Syria controlled the Golan Heights for exactly 21 years. Its borders are based not on some ancient patrimony, but rather on the division of the Ottoman Empire by the Western powers after 1918. Syrian rhetoric regarding its connection to this area lacks all content……
ANALYSIS / Will Israel’s next war be a repeat of Lebanon 2006?
By Amos Harel, HAARETZ, 05/10/2008
What will the next war look like? Recent statements from several senior Israeli military officials offer a surprising answer: Perhaps much like the last one.
Following on the Israel Defense Forces’ failure in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the army is likely to resume fortifying its maneuvering capability, represented by the Armored and Infantry Corps, at the expense of its firepower, particularly that of the Air Force.
However, a recent interview with GOC Northern Command Gadi Eisenkot, and articles written by two senior reserve officers, indicate that the IDF will continue to give first priority to firepower, even if the targets it chooses are different than those chosen in previous conflicts.
This is not merely a theoretical matter. Though neither Israel nor Hezbollah seems particularly interested in another round of fighting, another conflagration is certainly possible. This could come as a result of a revenge attack for the February killing of senior Hezbollah operative Imad Mughniyeh, for which the group blames Israel, or as an Israeli response to the group’s smuggling of anti-aircraft weapons into Lebanon.
In an interview Friday with the daily Yedioth Ahronoth, Eisenkot presented his “Dahiyah Doctrine,” under which the IDF would expand its destructive power beyond what it demonstrated two years ago against the Beirut suburb of Dahiyah, considered a Hezbollah stronghold.
“We will wield disproportionate power against every village from which shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective, these are military bases,” he said. “This isn’t a suggestion. This is a plan that has already been authorized.”
Colonel (Res.) Gabriel Siboni recently authored a report through Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies backing Eisenkot’s statements.
The answer to rocket and missile threats from Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, he believes, is “a disproportionate strike at the heart of the enemy’s weak spot, in which efforts to hurt launch capability are secondary. As soon as the conflict breaks out, the IDF will have to operate in a rapid, determined, powerful and disproportionate way against the enemy’s actions.”
“This strike has to be carried out as quickly as possible, through prioritizing strikes at its assets, rather than chasing after launch sites. Such a response is likely to be remembered by decision makers in Syria and Lebanon for many years, thus deepening deterrence,” he said.
Major General (Res.) Giora Eiland, formerly head of the National Security Council, belongs to a similar school of thought, and even goes a step further.
He believes Israel failed in the Second Lebanon War and is liable to fail in a third such war, because it is fighting the wrong enemy: Hezbollah, instead of the state of Lebanon itself.
Writing for an INSS publication set to come out this week, Eiland states it is impossible to beat an efficient guerrilla army supported by a state immune from retribution. The fact that Hezbollah has rebuilt its strongholds beneath the Shi’ite villages in southern Lebanon will make any IDF maneuvering efforts difficult, he writes, adding that targeted strikes against rocket launch sites will not decrease the number of rockets fired at Israel.
“Hezbollah operates under optimal conditions from our perspective. A legitimate government runs Lebanon, supported by the West, but it is in fact entirely subordinate to the will of the Shi’ite organization,” he writes.
Eiland recommends preemptive action: that Israel pass a clear message to the Lebanese government, as soon as possible, stating that in the next war, the Lebanese army will be destroyed, as will the civilian infrastructure.
“People won’t be going to the beach in Beirut while Haifa residents are in shelters,” he writes.
While Eisenkot and Siboni deal primarily with striking Shi’ite strongholds, Eiland sees Lebanon’s infrastructure as a primary target, in a plan highly reminiscent of the one proposed by then-IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz, which was eventually shot down by U.S. opposition.
Eisenkot’s “DahiyahDoctrine” also raises a number of questions about a possible international backlash, which could end the conflict under conditions favorable to the enemy.
What the three officials have in common, surprisingly, is their emphasis on air power. Anyone who thinks the Air Force will step aside given the results of the last Lebanon war will likely be proven wrong.
Syria’s next step to reform
By Andrew England
Financial Times, Published: October 1 2008
Still, once it is up and running it will be a symbolic success for those promoting liberalisation in Syria, an issue that has become more pressing as the country’s limited oil reserves decline.
“The creation of a stock market sends a strong signal we are moving towards our objective of a social market economy.”
Bassel Hamwi, general manager of Bank Audi and deputy chairman of the exchange, says the real significance of the opening of the stock exchange lies not just in attracting foreign investment but in the signal it sends to the Syrian bureaucracy.
“I think with the stock market, Syria will be very much on its way to becoming an emerging market and an important indication that we are open for investment,” he says.
“This signalling effect could also have an important internal impact. Today, if you were to talk to government, you would probably hear divergent views on the need and speed to open up and reform the market, and it may even convince those sitting on the sidelines.”
Saatchi backs angry art of Middle East
The Britart patron is finding new talent amid the troubles of Iran and Iraq
The art impresario Charles Saatchi has picked his latest new wave of talent – painters who have sprung from the wreckage of Iraq and the religious strictures of Iran.
Saatchi, famous for spotting and promoting Britart in the 1990s, is to stage an exhibition of work by some 15 young artists from the Middle East at his new gallery in Chelsea, London.
Their work ranges from graphic depictions of the carnage in Iraq to nudes that defy the edicts of the Iranian ayatollahs. All the artists were born in these countries or in Syria or Lebanon, although some now live in exile.
Saatchi, who since his patronage of the Young British Artists has spread his wings with exhibitions of new European and American artists, is staging a show of Chinese work to open his gallery this week.
Over the past few months, however, he has been quietly accumulating works by the Middle Eastern artists. Some he first spotted online, others he picked up at galleries in New York or Dubai.
The show represents a return to his roots for Saatchi, born to an Iraqi Jewish family in Baghdad before moving with his parents to Britain at the age of four. “Some of this Middle East art is witty, some of it is hair-raising, and the best works are as sharp as a scalpel,” said Saatchi.
His new gallery, which will be free for all exhibitions, opens on Thursday at the Duke of York’s headquarters, a former barracks off the King’s Road.
“The work of these artists from the Middle East looks very different to the art we are used to seeing from America, Europe and now China,” …. Click here to view the artists’ works