Posted by Joshua on Thursday, May 7th, 2009
Felman’s Trip to Damascus Remains a Mystery. We are told he is there to buy Syria into dialogue with Israel, to warn the Syrians on the Lebanon vote, and that Feltman doesn’t know why he is being sent.
The truth may be “none of the above.” Obama may be sending a message to the Israelis and AIPAC as much as to Syria. He may want Israel to understand that it cannot make an end run around the president by going to congress or the American Jewish community. During the week that AIPAC is meeting in Washington and senior Israeli statesmen are in town, Obama may simply be saying, “I am in charge of US foreign policy. I can engage Syria if and when I want.”
U.S. links Syrian ties to Lebanese vote
May 6, 2009
WASHINGTON, May 6 (UPI) — A visit by top U.S. officials to Damascus is expected to couple the Lebanese parliamentary elections with Syrian efforts at engagement, analysts said.
Presumptive Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and National Security Council Senior Director Daniel Shapiro left Washington for Damascus on Tuesday “to discuss issues of mutual and regional concern,” the U.S. State Department said.
The visit has dual objectives as Washington seeks to reverse the isolationist policies of previous U.S. President George W. Bush and Damascus pursues its own engagement strategy.
Feltman and Shapiro, who visited Damascus earlier in the year, are expected to press the issue of the Lebanese parliamentary elections in June as a test for the Syrian commitment of non-intervention following years of heavy-handed tactics in Beirut.
Mona Yacoubian, a former State Department official with the non-partisan U.S. Institute of Peace, tells the pan-Arab al-Hayat news agency that the Lebanese elections may be a “major milestone” for U.S.-Syria relations if they proceed “without any meddling” from Damascus.
Syrians, for their part, have pledged to respect the sovereignty of their southern neighbor but hoped Lebanon would be able to form a unity government regardless of the victor for the sake of regional solidarity.
Lebanon holds parliamentary elections June 7. The March 8 coalition, which includes the Lebanese Hezbollah, is expected to secure a majority over the pro-Western March 14 slate. Hezbollah has pledged, however, to seek a unified government.
Lora Rosen in the Cable: “Behind the scenes of the Peres-Obama meeting” (The entire post is “must” reading)
….The NSC’s Shapiro is currently accompanying Jeffrey Feltman, the State Department’s acting (and nominated) assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, on their second trip to Damascus, Syria. Sources say that Feltman, a former U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, was mystified by the trip to Damascus being scheduled now, before the June 7 Lebanese elections, and wondered how the decision was made. Neither Feltman nor Shapiro responded to a query on the Damascus trip. Asked about the trip Wednesday, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said he had no more details. “We will engage in dialogue when and where we feel it’s appropriate,” Wood said. “But we think it’s time for both countries” — Syria and Iran — to “become part of the solution.”
Eli Lake, in the Wash-Times Via FLC
“…President Obama’s efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons threaten to expose and derail a 40-year-old secret U.S. agreement to shield Israel’s nuclear weapons from international scrutiny, former and current U.S. and Israeli officials and nuclear specialists say.
Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, speaking Tuesday at a U.N. meeting on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), said Israel should join the treaty, which would require Israel to declare and relinquish its nuclear arsenal. “Universal adherence to the NPT itself, including by India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea, … remains a fundamental objective of the United States,” Ms. Gottemoeller told the meeting, according to Reuters. She declined to say, however, whether the Obama administration would press Israel to join the treaty. …
Iranian leaders have long complained about being subjected to a double standard that allows non-NPT members India and Pakistan, as well as Israel, to maintain and even increase their nuclear arsenals but sanctions Tehran, an NPT member, for not cooperating fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog. …”What the Israelis sense, rightly, is that Obama wants to do something new on Iran and this may very well involve doing something new about Israel’s program,” said Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, a Washington think tank.
Bruce Riedel, a former senior director for the Middle East and South Asia on the White House National Security Council, said, “If you’re really serious about a deal with Iran, Israel has to come out of the closet. A policy based on fiction and double standards is bound to fail sooner or later. What’s remarkable is that it’s lasted so long.” Mr. Riedel headed the Obama administration’s review of strategy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan but does not hold a permanent administration position and has returned to private life as a scholar at the Brookings Institution.
Elliott Abrams, deputy national security adviser for the George W. Bush administration, said that administration resisted international efforts to pressure Israel on the nuclear front. “We did not want to accept any operational language that would put Israel at a disadvantage and raise the question of whether Israel was a nuclear power,” he said. “That was not a discussion that we thought was helpful. We allowed very general statements about the goal of a nuclear-free Middle East as long that language was hortatory.” ….
Mr. Netanyahu, whose meeting with Mr. Obama on May 18 will be the first since both took office, raised the issue of the nuclear understanding during a previous tenure as prime minister. Israeli journalists and officials said Mr. Netanyahu asked for a reaffirmation and clarification of the Nixon-Meir understanding in 1998 at Wye River, where the U.S. mediated an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Mr. Netanyahu wanted a personal commitment from President Clinton because of concerns about a treaty that Mr. Clinton supported to bar production of fissile materials that can be used to make weapons. ….The Bush administration largely dropped the treaty in its first term and reopened negotiations in its second term with a proposal that did not include verification.
The Obama agenda
Mr. Obama has made nuclear disarmament a bigger priority in part to undercut Iran’s and North Korea’s rationale for proliferation. His administration has begun negotiations with Russia on a new treaty to reduce U.S. and Russian arsenals. ……David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington think tank, said such a treaty would be the first step toward limiting the Israeli nuclear program. “The question is how much of a priority is
this for the Obama administration?” he said. John R. Bolton, a former U.N. ambassador and undersecretary of state, said Israel was right to be concerned. “If I were the Israeli government, I would be very worried about the Obama administration’s attitude on their nuclear deterrent,” he said. “You can barely raise the subject of nuclear weapons in the Middle East without someone saying: ‘What about Israel?’ If Israel’s opponents put it on the table, it is entirely possible Obama will pick it up.”
Andrew Sullivan wonders “why can’t Israel just declare that it’s a nuclear power?” Good question. I’ve never had much problem with Israel having a nuclear arsenal myself — if I were Israeli, I’d want one too. Nor am I surprised that they don’t want their neighbors to follow suit, because that’s basically been our position too. The United States would clearly prefer to be the only country with nuclear weapons; the problem is that it’s difficult-to-impossible to maintain a nuclear monopoly in perpetuity without fighting a lot of preventive wars. And the same goes for Israel too.
As for Israel’s policy of nuclear ambiguity — “we will not be first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East, but we will not be second” — it was probably an effective ploy for awhile. ….
Minister of Finance, Hussein does not expect foreign investment to increase لحسين: لا نتوقع زيادة في تدفق الاستثمار الأجنبي حالياً إلى سورية Syria News
It will suffer with the general economic crisis. There is also considerable anecdotal evidence for the decline of foreign remittances from the million Syrians working in the Gulf, some of whom have lost their jobs and will increase unemployment figures in Syria…..
قال وزير المالية محمد الحسين إن “حركة الاستثمار الأجنبي المباشر ترتبط بالأزمة الراهنة فلا نتوقع زيادة في تدفق الاستثمار الأجنبي حالياً (إلى سورية) لان الأزمة المالية أثرت سلباً على السيولة وبالتالي على الاستثمار”.
وأوضح الحسين، في تصريح لصحيفة محلية نشر يوم الثلاثاء، أنه “على رغم وجود تسهيلات مالية وجمركية وإدارية وتوفر بيئة جاذبة للاستثمار لكن لا يمكن أن نسقط تأثيرات الأزمة المالية الراهنة على الاستثمار الأجنبي في سورية”.
وتشير تقارير رسمية إلى أن الاستثمار الأجنبي المباشر في سورية بلغ 787 مليون دولار عام 2007 كان حصة القطاع السياحي منها 50% ، في حين ما زالت بيانات الاستثمار تتصف بعدم الدقة إذ يدخل إلى سورية الكثير من الأموال بهدف استثمارها تحت اسم التمويلات…..
وعن انفتاح الاقتصادي السوري، قال الحسين إن “سورية ملتزمة باتفاقية تحرير التجارة العربية منذ 1-1-2005 وهي ملتزمة أيضا باتفاقية تحرير تجارة ثنائية مع تركيا”.
وأضاف الحسين أن “سورية وقعت أوليا على اتفاقية الشراكة مع الاتحاد الأوروبي، وان أية إجراءات حمائية غير مدروسة ستقابلها إجراءات مماثلة وهذا لن يكون مفيداً أمام هذه الاتفاقيات ونحن مع استخدام الأدوات والتشريعات الموجودة لضبط المستوردات ومكافحة الإغراق وحماية الصناعة الناشئة وهذا من حقنا في الظروف الاستثنائية”……..
وووضع نظام بريتون وودز، الذي اقر عام 1944 من قبل 44 دولة، أسس النظام المالي العالمي بعد الحرب العالمية الثانية، وأسفر عن تأسيس صندوق النقد الدولي والبنك الدولي، بالإضافة إلى قاعدة الصرف بالذهب بالنسبة للدولار الأمريكي”.
New Book: “Off the Straight Path” Illicit Sex, Law, and Community in Ottoman Aleppo (Syracuse University Press, 2008).
Elyse Semerdjian, Associate Professor of History, Whitman College
The legal treatment of sexual behavior is a subject that receives little scholarly attention in the field of Middle East women’s studies. Important questions about the relationship between sexuality and the law and about the societies enforcing that relationship are rarely addressed in the current literature. Elyse Semerdjian’s “Off the Straight Path” takes a bold step toward filling that gap, offering a fascinating look at the historical progression of Islamic law’s treatment of illicit sex.
Semerdjian provides a comprehensive review of the concept of zina, sexual indiscretion, exploring the diverse interpretation of zina crime as presented in a variety of sources from the Qur’an and hadith to legal literature. She then delves into the history of legal responses to zina within the specific community of Aleppo, Syria. Drawing on a wealth of shari ‘a court records, Semerdjian brings to life Syrian society during the Ottoman period. With vivid detail, she describes specific women’s lives and experiences as their cases are presented before the court. Semerdjian argues that the actual treatment of zina crimes in the courts differs substantially from sentences prescribed by codifed Islamic jurisprudence. In contrast to the violent corporal punishments dictated in the Islamic legal code, the courts often punished crimes of sexual indiscretion with nonviolent sentences, such as removal from the community. Employing exceptional insight, “Off the Straight Path” presents a powerful challenge to the traditional view of Islamic law, enabling a richer understanding of Islamic society.