“Why the Barak-Asad, Golan Deal Failed” by Swisher

Clayton Swisher, The Truth About Camp David: the Untold Story about the Collapse of the Peace Process, Nation Books: Yew York, 2004.

Clayton Swisher's book is excellent. Syria Comment readers will be particularly interested in the Syrian part of the Peace Process. I have gotten the author's permission to copy the chapters from page 61 to 130 here for everyone to read. It is in PDF format. They are the important Syria chapters and make compelling reading. Anyone who has read Denis Ross's book will also want to read Swisher's. He quotes most of the participants. Don't just satisfy yourself with the Syria part, however; the whole book is important and good reading.

The argument that emerges from these pages is that Clinton believed he could get Barak and Asad to close their differences by first ordering his aids to "find me a way to fudge it." The "it" here is the fact that Barak "was reluctant to deliver the Rabin deposit." The Rabin deposit was the understanding that Rabin had come to with Asad — Israel was prepared for "full withdrawal" to the June 1967 line if Syria was prepared to satisfy Israel's demands on full normalization of relations and on security guarantees.

Asad insisted that Barak accept the Rabin deposit and the principle of full withdrawal as the basis of reengaging in talks. Albright proposed to Asad that Barak would accept the Rabin deposit at a later date if the two sides could first agree on a number of issues which included water and security. It was on this basis that talks between Israel and Syria resumed under Barak.

Asad eventually agreed to Barak's water and security demands, but Barak got cold feet and would never commit to the 1967 borders. He wanted to give less. Asad would not accept less because he wanted no less than Egypt or Jordan had gotten. He had begun the negotiations on the understanding that both sides were discussing withdrawal to the 1967 borders. He had insisted all along that those were the only borders he would accept. Before setting out for Geneva to meet Clinton, he was led to believe that he would be satisfied on the border question. Once there, he was offered something less by Barak. As soon as he heard this, Asad insisted that Barak was not serious about peace between the two countries and left Geneva.

Swisher suggests that Barak may have decided by this time that he could not afford such a deal on the Golan if he hoped to conclude a deal with the Palestinians. Swisher does not belabor this point and gives a number of different actors' interpretations of the collapse of the talks. Some blame Clinton for being unwilling to pressure Barak. Others suggest Asad should have relented on the 1967 borders. What does seem to be clear is that Asad was determined on the 1967 borders from the beginning and had made it clear to all.

Here are some Amazon reviews

Highly recommended for any American who wants to know what happened., February 20, 2006

Reviewer: Utah Blaine (Somewhere on Trexalon in District 268) – See all my reviews

This book presents detailed, eye-witness accounts from all sides of the US/Israeli peace negotiations with the Syrians and Palestinians during the latter part of the Clinton administration. …

A significant fraction (roughly 1/3) of the book deals with the Syrian/Israeli peace process, the return of the Golan Heights to Syria, and the death of President Assad. The main point of interest in these discussions is that Israel could have peace tomorrow with Syria if the Golan Height were returned in toto.

The conventional wisdom in the US is that the US and Israel offered the Palestinians 90% of what they wanted, and were rejected. The conclusion is that since this offer was rejected, they have no partner for peace. The reality is considerably more complex. This book examines in detail, with accounts taken from participants on all sides, what was in fact offered to the Palestinians and why they rejected this offer. I challenge any reader who believes this conventional wisdom to read this book. Some of the negative reviewers below make very good points vis-a-vis Palestinian terrorism, Arafat's role in the second intifada, right of return, etc., but they miss the key issue of this book. To understand why the negociations failed and why the offer was rejected by Arafat, one must understand EXACTLY what was offered to the Palestinians. As described in great detail in this book, the Palestinians were offered far less than true statehood by the US and Israelis. They would have had a state in name (with a flag, an anthem, etc.), but the Palestinian state would be economically and politically subservient to Israel. They would not control their borders or their economy, their country would be divided by Israeli-only roads, and they would have a capital in a suburb of Jerusalem. This was not a process from which (from a US/Israeli perspective) a viable, independent, free Palestinian state would be formed, but one in which the Palestinians would accept Israeli political, economic, and military domination. Arafat quite rightly rejected this.

The second, and perhaps more chilling, aspect of this book is how the line dividing US and Israeli interests among the highest levels of the US government has almost totally disappeared. Why is Dennis Ross, a man described as more pro-Israel than the Israeli delegation and a servant of AIPAC, representing the US in these negociations? Surely there must have been someone who was slightly less one-sided in the State Department to take the role that Dennis Ross was thrust into?

Overall, this is a detailed, factual, balanced account of the US/Israeli peace negociations with the Palestinians and I recommend it to anyone with an interest in this issue. I look forward to reading more from Mr. Swisher.

Best book yet on Mideast peace process, September 7, 2004

Reviewer: M. Rosenberg "freddymac" (New York, NY United States) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   

Talk about doing your homework. Clayton Swisher has interviewed virtually everyone involved in the Middle East peace process. And they told him very different things than we have all read before. That is why, as of this time, this is the most definitive book on why the Oslo process collapsed in 2000. Well-written, heavily footnoted, loaded with juicy nuggets, this is a book anyone even mildly interested in the Mideast will want to read. All I can say is "Bravo."

Comments (48)


1. Alex said:

So, “find me a way to fudge it” (or: how can we just sit and start discussing things today) almost worked at the end … but it was not enough.

But it sure beats this administration’s opposite approach of “we will not talk to Syria at all”.

Here is why Barak could not feel comfortable returning the Golan in 1999: The Israeli people did not see why they should return the Golan Heights to Syria which was for decades being portrayed in the media (US and friends) as a failed state (supporter of terror, isolated, rusty and tired army, poor economy…etc)

In addition, the Israelis later learned that their withdrawal from south Lebanon only made Hamas and others eager to imitate Hizbollah’s defiant resistance which made Israel withdraw from the occupied territories of Lebanon.

If they want to start peace negotiations with Syria and if they want those negotiations to reach a successful end, this time the American and Israeli governments better start early: They need to convince the Israli public:

1) To see in Syria a genuinely powerful and effective threat as long as Israel did not succeed in making peace with Syria.

2) To be reassured that peace with Syria will not lead to the empowerment of Israel’s remaining antagonists in the area. To the contrary, it will probably lead to a marked reduction in hostilities and threats.

Stop trying to marginalize Syria publicly … what is the use? that strategy did not work in weakening Syria’s negotiating position as the Israelis and Americans hoped in the past.

The Israeli people will only support returning the Golan to a powerful Syria. If Syria is not perceived as another Egypt (in significance), the peace process is doomed before it starts

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November 12th, 2006, 10:14 pm

 

2. t_desco said:

“Al-Qaeda Lebanon” group says it will will destroy the government

Beirut- A group identifying itself as “Al-Qaeda Lebanon” issued a statement Sunday threatening “to destroy the corrupt cabinet that takes orders from the US administration.” The typewritten statement by the previously unknown group was sent to the Christian Voice of Lebanon radio station.
DPA

Very odd timing and addressee. Looks fishy to me.

Sayyed’s lawyers accuse (Mehlis) UN team of falsifying evidence in Hariri probe

Korkmaz claimed that two weeks prior to his arrest, Sayyed held three “secret meetings” with Gerhard Lehmann, Mehlis’ senior assistant, who demanded that Sayyed provide the names of the people responsible for the assassination of Hariri – otherwise he would be incarcerated.
The Daily Star

True? Not true? It is certainly Lehmann’s style. In 1994, he was nearly arrested because of the methods he had used (probably blackmail) to get a Syrian diplomat to travel from Budapest to Germany to testify in the Weinrich/Maison de France case. Detlev Mehlis, you guessed it, was the prosecutor in that case and he intervened on Lehmann’s behalf.

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November 12th, 2006, 10:49 pm

 
 
 

5. ivanka said:

EHSANI that is amazing. Thank you.

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November 12th, 2006, 11:40 pm

 

6. ivanka said:

The comments on the article are also worth looking at.

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November 12th, 2006, 11:54 pm

 

7. norman said:

Israel will not get out of the Golan without war ,as long as it is not costing them anything to be there they will not leave ,it is time for Syria to prepare for a long term war making it clear to Israel that boming Damascus and other Syrian cities will result in boming Israeli ones and that war will not stop untill Israel is back to 1967 border ,a long term war will chase the Israelies to the US and the EU and a long term war will make them setle and not want to return.

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November 13th, 2006, 12:43 am

 

8. norman said:

The Syria opposition groups are against any deal with Syria even if that will improve the lives of the Syrian people because their interest will be affected , their goal is not to advance Syria economicly politicly and legaly but only to get to power so they can robb the Syrian people .

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November 13th, 2006, 1:15 am

 

9. Ehsani2 said:

Norman,

Isn’t this exactly what most of the current Arab leaders do already?

You are blaming Syria’s opposition for what “they may do” should they reach power. In the meantime, don’t we already have a 43-year record of what “has already been done” ?

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November 13th, 2006, 1:49 am

 

10. norman said:

Syrians should be proud of their goverment , if we look at the midleast in the last three years we see Iraq in a war ,terror attacks in Egypt ,Jordon and Saudi Arabia ,Syria was saved from an American attack by making the US army busy in Iraq then when the presure mounted against Syria’s presence in Lebanon and a plan was underway to destroy the Syrian army and Syria and to do to Syria what they did to Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait,Asad was smarter he left to fight another day ,now comes that day ,any time soon the US will be begging for Syria’s help in Iraq ,that is the time for Syria to get the Golan hights in return and get the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.

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November 13th, 2006, 2:17 am

 

11. Alex said:

No one liked the article I linked??

Fine.

Norman, a war with Israel is not a casual tactic we can simply try. Israeli soldiers did not fight well in Lebanon because they know in their heart that they were the aggressors and that there was no serious risk on the survival of the Jewish state in that Lebanon war.

But if Syria “attacks” Israel, then you will see much more motivated Israeli soldiers.

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November 13th, 2006, 3:22 am

 

12. Enlightened said:

Just read the seventy pages, damn peace was averted for those damn thirty yards!!!!!!!

My take on the article leads me to conclude that the US can never be an impartial arbiter of peace in this conflict, and that its resolution is far more complex than meets the eye. I was always under the impresiion that ASSAD had sabotaged the peace for sucession, now i am not so convinced.

If we are to have a peace ( ie peace with justice ) it is far more practical i believe to have more lenghty negotiations.

Probably the reality of peace would mean that more on the Israeli population side would want that peace, and it would appear there are too many vested interests from the American and Israeli right wing of politics to allow this to suceed.
The role of Ross as the spoiler did not surprise me. There are too many american politicians that pander to the wil of Israel.

Israeli Peace = Piece of Land that they can keep

That altruistically is the reality!!!!!

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November 13th, 2006, 3:50 am

 

13. SOURI said:

I am sorry Norman but I am syrian and I am not proud of my government.
This is not only my opinion, this is the opinion of most syrians. I am sure that you are either not syrian or somehow gaining from its illegal presence. As for the opposition it’s looking for the best of the syrian people, specialy Kilo and all the other heroes.
And you are trying to make the regime look better saying that no terror attacks have happened in syria, well maybe it’s because it is the syrian regime who is behind all this terror, specially in jordan and all the bombings now in iraq. They are gaining alot from whats happening in Iraq and that’s just heartbraking!
May god bless a free Syria!

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November 13th, 2006, 3:51 am

 

14. Dubai Jazz said:

Syrian oppositions’ performance is very poor, and their endeavor to establish connection with the US administration is dubious…

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November 13th, 2006, 8:40 am

 

15. Dubai Jazz said:

The conspicuous frenzy and panic that characterize the Syrian Opposition’s behavior indicates that the chances of achieving a comprehensive peace deal between Arabs and Israel are now closer and more imminent.

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November 13th, 2006, 9:12 am

 

16. simohurtta said:

This Farid Ghadry’s article is a rather astonishing achievement for a “patriotic” Syrian (who left Syria at the age of ten). Demanding Israel to support democracy in Syria and brining down Assad’s regime, before it is too late (which is a rather direct announcement of supporting a war against Syria), is a rather extraordinary way to express one’s “patriotic” opinion. Has Farid Ghadry really real support in Syria or only in Washington?

Ghadry frequently brings out that democracy is a solution for peace. Well, Israel has been a democratic country (by its own definition) a long time, but that “democracy” has not been ale to create a fair solution with the Palestinians. Palestinians elected democratically a new regime, but Israel did not approve it, because the election result was “wrong”. Israelis did not want to negotiate with PLO because they were “corrupt” and not with Hamas because it had a wrong “attitude”. Democracy on both sides has not brought a solution. Also a real desire for peace is demanded and it obvious that Israel has not that desire.

Would a democratic Syria (even led by Syrian American immigrants like Ghardy) be able to make any faster and a better peace deal with Israel than the present regime? I doubt that, actually a less democratic regime is able easier to negotiate a less lucrative agreement for Syrians. On the other hand the parameters in a country’s security policy and strategic interests rarely change dramatically even if there is a regime change.

I suppose that Arabs in Middle East and elsewhere hate Israel mostly because what Israel has been doing, not because they are lead by less democratic regimes. How would democracy in Egypt, Syria, Jordan or Lebanon change that hate attitude if Israel doesn’t change it behaviour? The only way to reduce the hate on both sides is that Israel begins to behave as a civilized country. Then also the neighbours have a better change to develop their societies.

One thing is sure that Syrians deserve better than new leaders like Farid Ghardy.

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November 13th, 2006, 9:18 am

 

17. Dubai Jazz said:

Farid Ghadry said:
“The Syrian opposition leadership is ready to meet around a roundtable conference to map Syria’s future with the international community.”

Well Farid, who told you that Syrian people need a guardian? how about having conference with the Syrian people themselves? who made it your business to offer Syria on a salver to the International Community let alone Israel?
Shame on you Farid, shame on you…

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November 13th, 2006, 9:23 am

 

18. t_desco said:

Remember this:

Abramoff Supported Farid Ghadry as well as Militant Israeli Settlers
SyriaComment

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November 13th, 2006, 11:25 am

 

19. t_desco said:

Some more comments on Richard Labévière’s Le grand retournement.

He comes dangerously close to what Noam Chomsky once called the 9/11 conspiracy “industry” which is “diverting people from serious issues”(YouTube).

Yet there is no doubt that his books have some merit, for example:

Dollars for Terror: The US and Islam
Amazon.com

“Swiss TV journalist Labévière argues that the real threat to the West from radical Islamic fundamentalism comes not from Iran or Iraq but rather from America’s solid allies–Saudi Arabia and neighboring oil monarchies. Based on his four-year investigation, Labévière charges that Saudi Arabia is the principal financial backer of extremist Islamist movements around the world.”

He was obviously correct about this, and even today wealthy businessmen from the region are still supporting Islamist groups in Afghanistan and Iraq, and some of that money is even reaching extremists in Lebanon (for example, to quote myself, “Bernard Rougier reported in 2004 that four out of six mosques in Ain al-Hilweh were controlled by Salafi-Jihadist groups, which received support from “hommes d’affaires du Golfe” “).

Yet there is already a deplorable trend towards conspiracy theories:

“In Labévière riveting, often shocking, analysis, the U.S. is an accessory in the rise of Islam, because it manipulates and aids radical Muslim groups in its shortsighted pursuit of its economic interests, especially the energy resources of the Middle East and the oil- and mineral-rich former Soviet republics of Central Asia.”

CIA support for IMU? I really doubt that. I personally find Robert Baer’s account (according to which the CIA lost interest in and sight of its former protégés) to be much more credible.

This dangerous tendency seems even more pronounced in the French edition of the book:

“Plusieurs révélations sur les attentats meurtriers de Nairobi, Dar es-Salaam et la tuerie de Louxor tendent à prouver que les Etats-Unis et leurs alliés saoudiens parrainent et financent les islamistes radicaux.”
Amazon.fr

And it gets worse with each new book:

Oussama Ben Laden ou le meurtre du père. : Etats-Unis, Arabie Saoudite, Pakistan
Amazon.fr

“Ainsi, le journaliste rappelle que le héros de la guerre d’Afghanistan contre les Soviétiques a été formé par la CIA et protégé par les services secrets saoudiens.”

Osama bin Laden had his own money, Saudi government and charity money, support by Saudi intelligence and the ISI… He didn’t need the CIA (I doubt that he was very fond of Americans anyway) and I think that the claim that he was “trained by the CIA” is not supported by the facts.

Les Coulisses de la terreur
Amazon.fr

“Deux mois avant les attentats du 11 septembre, la CIA
négocie encore avec Oussama Ben Laden. Puis les Etats-Unis déclenchent les hostilités en Afghanistan. Ils laissent s’échapper le milliardaire saoudien et ses protecteurs, comme ils laissent s’évanouir leurs capitaux dans une jungle financière. Qui sont les complices au cœur même de l’establishment américain?”

In my opinion, Rumsfeld’s incompetence is a much better and more plausible explanation (combined with the need to spare and divert ressources for the upcoming war in Iraq) for why bin Laden managed to escape from Tora Bora. The same was true for the whole Afghanistan campaign, see for example the excellent “Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda” by Sean Naylor.

The main problem of this apparent closeness to 9/11 conspiracy theories is that it raises doubts about the reliability of the anonymous sources quoted in the book.

Having said that, there are also very interesting passages in Le grand retournement, mainly in parts where the author doesn’t rely on anonymous sources. More on that later.

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November 13th, 2006, 2:09 pm

 

20. ebw said:

Thanks for posting the link to the .pdf!

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November 13th, 2006, 3:54 pm

 

21. ivanka said:

This article is a very sad thing for the Syrian people. If this is the level of political intelligence (stupidity) of our opposition then may God help us.

Ghadri has showed in this article that the lives of Syrians mean nothing to him. He has showed that he knows within himself that the Syrian people will never ralley around him and help him to power. So he asks for the help of someone else than the people: Israel.

Ehsani I disagree, this is not what other Arab goverments are doing. They are not asking Israel to attack their country! They deal with Israel and try not to confront it. This is what Syria did during the Lebanon war.

Finally, the whole notion is ridiculous. That Israel would attack Syria because Farid Ghadri asked them to! What is he Ahmad Chalabi?

Basically, I think Ghadri wants to take revenge on the Syrian people because they don’t like him. He is saying you don’t want me well I will tell Israel to bomb the hell out of you.

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November 13th, 2006, 4:09 pm

 

22. ivanka said:

Alex,

Syria-Ukraine cooperation in sports goes a long way back. I used to have a ukrainian trainer when I played sports in Syria. He was very professional and competent. Thanks to him we won many important games.

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November 13th, 2006, 4:18 pm

 

23. Nur al-Cubicle said:

BTW, there is a very high hurdle for the restitution of the Golan Heights to Syria: The Israeli Law of 26 January 1999, that a absolute majority in the Knesset and a winning national referendum before this can be accomplished.

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November 13th, 2006, 7:15 pm

 

24. Alex said:

Ivanka, I’m glad that article was at least meaningful to you. 🙂

Nur, one would hope that only through intensive P.R. push by both the U.S. and the Israeli leaders can the Israeli people support returning th Golan to Syria.

But it is not as impossible as it seems today. I have seen how the Israeli public, not to mention the Likud leadership, at the time of Sadat’s peace overtures to Israel, changed their minds and accepted to return Sinai to Egypt … Sinai is much more significant than the Golan (size and economic significance)

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November 13th, 2006, 7:57 pm

 

25. t_desco said:

UN report tries to link Hizbullah, Iran and Syria with al-Qa’ida… via Somalia!

“A web of nations and armed groups are fuelling Somalia’s march to war, according to a U.N. commissioned report that offers detailed evidence of cooperation between Somali Islamists and established Islamic militants.

An advance copy of the report to the U.N. Security Council, obtained by Reuters on Monday, paints the most comprehensive picture yet of disparate foreign interests hardening into alliances with Somalia’s interim government and its powerful Islamist rivals.

The report by the panel, which includes two arms experts from Belgium and the United States, a maritime expert from Kenya and a Colombian finance expert, covers violations of the Somali arms ban since June.

But the report said about 720 Somali Islamist fighters with combat experience — selected by Afghanistan-trained hardline Islamist commander Adan Hashi Farah “Ayro” — went to Lebanon to fight Israel along Hezbollah in mid-July.

The fighters were paid $2,000 and as much as $30,000, to be given to their families, if they were killed, the report says.

At least 100 Somali fighters returned, along with five Hezbollah members, while an unknown number stayed in Lebanon for advanced military training, it states.

In exchange for the contribution of the Somali military force, Hezbollah arranged for additional support to be given … by the governments of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Syrian Arab Republic, which was subsequently provided,” it says.

That included shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, grenade launchers, machine guns, ammunition, medicine, uniforms and other supplies. Additionally, Syria hosted about 200 Islamist fighters for training in guerrilla warfare, the report says.

The report also gives a hint that Iran, locked in a battle with the West over its nuclear ambitions, may have sought help in finding uranium in the hometown of Somali Islamist leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys.”
Reuters

“The most violent known jihadist group is headed by Aden Hashi Farah Ayro, a hitman who may have trained in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and is implicated in the murders of foreign aid workers and Somali peace campaigners. He belongs to the same sub-clan as Mr Aweys and follows a similar fundamentalist interpretation of Wahhabi Islam.”
The Economist, Oct 12th 2006

What??

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November 13th, 2006, 10:12 pm

 

26. ivanka said:

Yes he is a shiite wahhabi who fights for hizbulla by throwing “bombs” from his house in Somalia onto Israel. These bombs are known as Kassam rockets and they are in fact Saddam Hussein’s lost weapons of mass destruction. It is all very clear, it leaves us with only one option : attack iran. This is the only way to save civilization from ayro, we all know how dangerous ayro is to civilization. God bless America.

(sorry for my silly comment)

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November 13th, 2006, 10:54 pm

 

27. t_desco said:

Great comment, Ivanka. I think you found the only possible explanation. Now I understand… 🙂

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November 13th, 2006, 11:24 pm

 

28. ivanka said:

I am collecting smilies today. Shokran ya shabab you are very kind.

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November 13th, 2006, 11:56 pm

 

29. Nur al-Cubicle said:

So who was betting on Bush to reject the Baker Report? Because you won.

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November 14th, 2006, 12:34 am

 

30. al-jabhawi » What does Syria want? said:

[…] In a recent post Joshua discusses Clayton Swisher’s new book The Truth About Camp David. In that book Swisher points out that Rabin, the former prime minister of Israel, promised Syria that Israel would return the occupied Golan heights in return for a normalization of relations. Ehud Barak reneged on the deal and Clinton tried to “fudge it”. Those wanting to understand what Syria wants as a price for cooperating in Iraq may want to read this excerpt of Swisher’s book. Put simply they want peace with Israel based and the return of the occupied Golan heights, and they will not budge an inch in that regard. […]

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November 14th, 2006, 3:07 am

 

31. Alex said:

Not yet. He did not reject them. this is a transition period. With Syria it can move faster than with Iran because Syria is not developing nuclear “energy”.

I would suspect that Syria already started to give them a hint of how it can cooperate with the close agreement in Palestine that will see Hamas reducing its power in the new government.

Then Tony Blair can phone president Bush and tell him “You see, if we include them they can help us move forwards on everything” … so president Bush will say “fine, but they have to stop messing up with Lebanon”

I think in reading President Bush’s words today, he was a bit softer on Syria already (not on Iran yet) .. that’s transition period type of position … until the final UN Hariri and Baker ISG reports are out in December. Then we will either see more clear movement towards Syria, or the opposite.

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November 14th, 2006, 4:46 am

 

32. Ehsani2 said:

Syria’s U.S. Ambassador is quoted towards the end.

> (From THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)
> By Yochi J. Dreazen and Neil King Jr.
> Washington — LAST WEEK’S midterm elections were largely about Iraq, but when
>President Bush departs for an eight-day Asia swing today, another country will
>top his list of concerns: Iran.
> How to deter Iran’s nuclear ambitions and persuade the country to help
>stabilize neighboring Iraq is expected to be a main topic during Mr. Bush’s
>private meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Hu
>Jintao. Russia and China have expressed reservations about U.S. and European
>efforts to pass a United Nations Security Council resolution designed to force
>Iran to rein in its nuclear program.
> The Bush administration has long ruled out direct talks with Iran unless
>Tehran suspends its uranium-enrichment efforts. But the White House is facing
>mounting domestic and international pressure to seek Iranian help in calming
>the situation in Iraq. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australian Premier
>John Howard said Monday they were in favor of talking to Iran and Syria about
>ways to reduce the violence in Iraq — a stance shared by many influential U.S.
>lawmakers from both parties.
> Calls for direct talks with Iran are likely to increase. The Iraq Study
>Group, a bipartisan panel led by former Republican Secretary of State James
>Baker and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, a Democrat, is expected to recommend that
>the U.S. negotiate with regional powerhouses like Iran and Syria about Iraq,
>said people familiar with its work.
> Members of the Baker-Hamilton commission met with Mr. Bush and his top
>national-security team for the first time yesterday at the White House.
>Speaking to reporters afterward, Mr. Bush said he was “impressed by the
>questions they asked” and looking forward to reading the group’s report. Many
>say they hope the report, which is expected next month, can serve as a
>blueprint for overhauling U.S. policy in Iraq.
> The administration would face tough choices in any potential negotiations
>with Iran. Tehran is expected to seek U.S. concessions regarding its nuclear
>program in exchange for providing any assistance in Iraq. Mr. Bush has ruled
>out allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons, so it is unclear what, if
>anything, the U.S. would be willing to give Iran in return for its help.
> “They would certainly want a quid pro quo. And the question would be: If they
>want it, what are we prepared to give them?” said David Steinberg, a
>foreign-policy expert at Georgetown University.
> White House officials yesterday reiterated that the U.S. would talk to Iran
>only if it halts its uranium-enrichment work, citing Mr. Bush’s comments
>yesterday that his position on Iran “hasn’t changed.” National Security Council
>spokesman Gordon Johndroe declined to say whether the administration expects
>Iran to seek U.S. concessions on its nuclear program in return for any
>assistance in Iraq, or how the U.S. would respond.
> “What we expect Iran to do is stop meddling in Iraq, and to stop providing
>weapons there that are used to kill Iraqis and Americans,” he said.
> Mr. Bush is bringing a range of objectives to his Asia trip, which will take
>him to Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia. The centerpiece is a three-day stop in
>Hanoi for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, where Mr. Bush is
>scheduled to sit down Sunday with a number of regional leaders, including
>President Hu, to talk trade, regional security, and issues such as North
>Korea’s nuclear program.
> In Vietnam, where Mr. Bush is slated to meet with Prime Minister Nguyen Tan
>Dung and President Nguyen Minh Triet, he hopes to announce the normalization of
>trade ties with Hanoi. Congress is expected to approve legislation that would
>lift Cold War-era economic restrictions on Vietnam, which joined the World
>Trade Organization, and grant the country the same benefits as other U.S.
>trading partners in the WTO. The House was slated to approve the measure last
>night, and the Senate could vote on it as early as tomorrow.
> Still, Iran will cast a shadow over Mr. Bush’s trip, as he seeks to reach
>consensus with several putative allies over the nuclear programs of both Iran
>and North Korea.
> For more than two months, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security
>Council — the U.S., Britain, France, China and Russia — have tussled over how
>to pressure Tehran after it spurned an earlier U.N. resolution demanding it
>suspend its uranium-enrichment work, and persuade it to join talks on the
>future of its nuclear program.
> Negotiations at the U.N. over the issue ground to a halt last week over
>Russian objections to a draft sanctions resolution put forward by Britain,
>France and Germany. Both Russia and China worry that a possible hard-line
>resolution could pave the way for an eventual military attack on Iran by the
>U.S. and others. Russia is also concerned that a sanctions push may turn Iran
>away from future talks and spur it to follow the example set by North Korea,
>which conducted its first nuclear-weapons test.
> Moscow is eager to preserve Russia’s lucrative business dealings with Iran,
>primarily at the nuclear-reactor project in the Iranian port city of Bushehr.
> China, which considers Iran to be far less important strategically than North
>Korea, also is anxious to preserve good relations with Iran. Iran is China’s
>third-largest supplier of crude oil and an expanding market for Chinese goods.
> Mr. Putin met Saturday with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, as
>part of a Russian bid to head off international sanctions against Iran and
>launch six-country talks that would include both Iran and the U.S.
> Last week’s Democratic sweep to take control of Congress, combined with the
>anticipated recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, have led many to conclude
>that U.S. talks may be inevitable both with Iran and with Syria, another Iraqi
>neighbor and U.S. rival.
> “There is no alternative to this approach,” said Imad Moustapha, Syria’s
>ambassador to Washington, who said he has met with people working on the Baker
>report. “If not today, if not in two months time, eventually the U.S. will
>re-engage with Syria. It is inevitable. And the same goes for Iran.”

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November 14th, 2006, 7:17 am

 

33. Innocent_Criminal said:

How this will develop is far from certain. We have too many inflated egos that would only compromise if their face were saved. What the UK is offering is nothing new. They are just re-introducing the EU offer that was snubbed by Tehran. They might appear more pragmatic but the obstacles are very much still there.

And if the Iran track is not gonna develop i doubt Tehran would allow the Syrian one to develop on its own. And since its almost impossible for the west to offer a weaker Syria what they didn’t offer a stronger one (i.e. all of the Golan, plus a free pass out of the Hariri trial) there wont be enough incentives for Syria to break from Iran.

BUT, and here’s when my conspiracy theory mill starts turning, if the west are adamant on attacking Iran this “pragmatic” move can be an excuse later on to say that we (the west) tried to accommodate and reach out but the Iranian regime refused our offer.

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November 14th, 2006, 12:27 pm

 

34. Dubai Jazz said:

I have to admit that I am not so comfortable with putting Syria and Iran in one basket while talking re-engagement. While it was necessary in the past to stand united with Iran against the American hegemony, it’s equally necessary now for Syria to distant itself a little bit from the ramifications and the shenanigans of the Iranian nuclear program.
It’s a tricky situation; I hope that we’ll see through to the end…

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November 14th, 2006, 12:35 pm

 

35. t_desco said:

Grist for your conspiracy theory mill, Tarek:

Iran ‘is training the next al-Qa’eda leaders’
The Daily Telegraph

Iran plotting to groom bin Laden’s successor
The Daily Telegraph

First the strange Somalia story, now this… I have to say that it does look like a new campaign…

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November 14th, 2006, 6:19 pm

 

36. Alex said:

T-DESCO,

These stories could also be pre-pressure tactics .. to give the Iranians an idea of the kind of things they can expect if …

Funny how after the way the Iraq war was justified through lies, and after the way Mehlis conducted the investigation like a circus, not many of us in the Middle East are willing to believe anything anymore.

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November 14th, 2006, 6:48 pm

 

37. Nur al-Cubicle said:

Allying with the United States in the Middle East raises your chances of being on the receiving end of US bombs, whether delivered by the US or Israel. Look what happened to Iraq and Lebanon. Syria has the _certainty_ that it’s current allies, Russia and Iran, are not going to invade, strafe, bomb or level its cities.

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November 14th, 2006, 7:51 pm

 

38. Nur al-Cubicle said:

There are certainly some very strange goings-on concerning the Baker report. Its public release is now being delayed until late, late November because Congress cannot find a consensus on the findings/recommendations.

Now if Bush had any intention at all of a change in policy in Iraq, his footmen in Congress would be showing signs of acquiescence to the recommendations of the Baker Report. However, they are resisting it tooth and nail.

It was Congress which dispatched the team in the first place –it wasn’t Bush trying to save his own bacon. In fact, the timing of Olmert’s visit was not accidental; Olmert praised the occupation! Bush is ideologically wedded to a long and brutal occupation of Iraq, bombing of Iran’s nuclear installations and the fall of Asad.

What we are witnessing, I think, are skirmishes in a promised partisan battle royale in January 2007 between the Administration and Congress.

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November 14th, 2006, 8:04 pm

 

39. Sami D said:

On Ghadry article “Israelis deserve better” http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3326871,00.html
:

[Basically Ghadry’s begging the conquerors to help put him in power (to be labelled “democracy”), against the local dictator. Some of what he says About Asad’s regime is true of course. But to exaggerate that and use it to pander to the conquerors is beyond disgusting. Highlighting some of his repulsive statements: Arab hatred for Israel is due not to Israeli aggression and racist ideology but Arab dictators. Hizbullah, an organization born out of Israeli aggression, is “the violent” while Israel yearns for fair and just peace. Asad is a multi-face chameleon; what does that make Olmert/Bush with vastly more PR deceptions and violence at their finger tips, let alone the fact that politicians BY DEFINITION are ALL more or less chameleons? Asad is a racist, against Jews presumably. But almost all Arab anti-Jewish racism is a result of Israel’s ethnic cleansing project of Palestine; ie hating “Jews” for what they do to Palestinians not because of what they are. And how does Asad’s racism compare to Zionism’s, which has produced an on-going ethnic cleansing of Palestine? It is Asad’s “apartheid” repression (apartheid??) that produces suicide bombers, not Israeli denial of rights and aggression. Israel’s and US not wanting to push Asad regime to implode is to Ghadry “Israel’s lack of resolve”. And “the Israelis deserve better”, not better ISRAELI leadership that works for real peace, but better SYRIAN leadership that totally submits to Israeli demands & belligerence. Egyptians hate Israelis not because of what Israelis do to Palestinians and Arabs, but because they don’t have democracy. Only a fool wouldn’t notice that with real democracy in Egypt, like most driven-to-extremism Arab world today, would mean that anti-Israel and anti-US Islamists would be voted into power. But Ghadry is not that type of fool; he notices that so he adds a caveat: The way to prevent Islamist from power when the dictators fall in the Arab world, is, in Ghadry’s words, learning the lesson of Iraq, by preparing a “pluralistic government-in-exile ready to go BEFORE a regime falls” (his emphasis). Voila!! Presumably pluralistic means to include people like him. So, in summary, replace the current dictator by one that sees Israel as a peace loving country — a puppet in other words, who will have to “convince” his people of “Israel’s peace intentions”, which can only be done with massive propaganda and violence. Hence, it will be pro-west/pro-Israel dictatorship, therefore, it is, Ghadry-Orwell Speak “moderate”, “peace loving” and not a “chameleon”. Towards the end Ghadry tells the readers that Asad has the ability to carry out Ahmadinejad’s message of destroying Israel, and is most likely preparing to attack Israel once Israel gives back the Golan height. Israel, one presumes in this scenario, doesn’t have the nuclear bombs and ability to destroy Syria in a blink if Syria launches an annihilating war against Israel.. but please don’t notice this minor wrinkle in Ghadry’s otherwise perfect scenario. And the last label bestowed on Asad by now an infantile suck-up, is that of the “destroyed of Israeli cities” because of Hizbollah retaliatory-defensive rockets that targeted Israeli cities.

Basically, his message will be believed only by naive Israelis. To non-naive Israelis he’s the puppet they need, after demonstrating sufficient brown-nosing and sucking up to “the Jewish state”; their part of the deal is just to help him to power. To non-naive Arabs he will remain the repulsive quisling that he is.

Sami D.

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November 14th, 2006, 9:10 pm

 

40. t_desco said:

Update on the Somalia story:

“However, Matt Bryden, a regional analyst who specialises in Somalia, said nobody else in the intelligence or diplomatic community was aware of Hizbollah’s involvement and no one had ever suggested that Somalia has uranium.

Previously there had been false reports of terrorist groups trying to get their hands on uranium, he added.”
FT

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November 14th, 2006, 10:16 pm

 

41. ivanka said:

The story about Ayro was too big to swallow, if we might put it this way.

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November 14th, 2006, 10:19 pm

 

42. t_desco said:

For the first (and probably the last) time I tend to agree with a Somali Islamist:

Somali Islamists dismiss UN report as “fabrication”

“This is very much a fabrication and doesn’t have any credibility,” Islamist leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who is on a U.N. list of al Qaeda associates, told Reuters.

“The U.N. will lose its credibility by releasing this kind of report and by the way they collect information,” he said.
Reuters

U.N. Says Somalis Helped Hezbollah Fighters

UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 14 — More than 700 Islamic militants from Somalia traveled to Lebanon in July to fight alongside Hezbollah in its war against Israel, a United Nations report says. The militia in Lebanon returned the favor by providing training and — through its patrons Iran and Syria — weapons to the Islamic alliance struggling for control of Somalia, it adds.

The report, which was disclosed by Reuters on Monday, appears to be the first indication that foreign fighters assisted Hezbollah during the 34-day conflict, when Israel maintained a tight blockade on Lebanon.

The report also says Iran sought to trade arms for uranium from Somalia to further its nuclear ambitions, though it does not say whether Iran succeeded.

While the sources of the information remain unclear, the report is dense with details about arms shipments to the groups vying for power in Somalia.

It states that in mid-July, Aden Hashi Farah, a leader of the Somali Islamist alliance, personally selected about 720 combat-hardened fighters to travel to Lebanon and fight alongside Hezbollah.

At least 100 Somalis had returned by early September — with five Hezbollah members — while others stayed on in Lebanon for advanced military training, the report says. It is not clear how many may have been killed, though the report says some were wounded and later treated after their return to Somalia.

The fighters were paid a minimum of $2,000 for their service, the report says, and as much as $30,000 was to be given to the families of those killed, with money donated by “a number of supporting countries.”

In addition to training some Somali militants, Hezbollah “arranged for additional support to be given” by Iran and Syria, including weapons, the report found. On July 27, 200 Somali fighters also traveled to Syria to be trained in guerrilla warfare, the report says.

It also indicates that Iran appears to have sought help in its quest for uranium in Dusa Mareb, the hometown of Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, the leader of the Islamist alliance in Somalia, which is known as the Council of Islamic Courts.

“At the time of the writing of this report, there were two Iranians in Dusa Mareb engaged on matters linked to the exploration of uranium in exchange for arms” for the Council of Islamic Courts, says the report, which is dated Oct. 16.
NYT

U.N. Report Cites Outside Military Aid to Somalia’s Islamic Forces

Iran and Syria denied in separate letters to the U.N. team that they had shipped weapons to Somalia or trained Somali forces.
WP

Powers ‘stoking Somali conflict’

‘Plane-load’

What is most striking about this report is the detailed links between countries such as Iran, Syria and Lebanon and the Islamic Courts Union, says the BBC’s Laura Trevelyan at the UN in New York.

For example, the authors say 720 Somali fighters went to Lebanon to help Hezbollah fight Israel in July.

Syria is said to have sent an aircraft full of guns to the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
BBC News

BTW, Al-Jazeera International is absolutly stunning.

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November 15th, 2006, 3:17 pm

 

43. norman said:

I do not think that the relation between the US and Syria will change ,the Us is still asking for compleet help without reward ,that is the result of Ulmert visit,

Rice cool to talks with Iran, Syria
Agencies

Ramstein Air Base, Germany: US Secretary of State Condoloeeza Rice was sceptical on Tuesday about British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s plea for US talks with Iran and Syria, saying that neither appeared interested in helping stabilise Iraq or the Middle East.

“There is no lack of opportunity to talk to the Iranians. I think the question is: is there anything about Iranian behaviour that suggests that they are prepared to contribute to stability in Iraq and I have to say that at this point, I don’t see it,” Rice told reporters as she flew to Hanoi for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation regional summit.

Blair and former US Secretary of State James Baker have suggested that talks with both nations may be a way to curb violence in neighbouring Iraq.

The United States has accused Iran and Syria of helping to fuel the Iraqi insurgency. Both have denied doing this.

However, Rice did not rule out talks with Iran about Iraq, noting there is a channel between the US and Iranian ambassadors to Iraq “that, at some point, it could make sense to activate.” But she made clear she saw little profit in such discussions.

“I will talk to anybody, anywhere, anytime, under the right circumstances if I think we can make progress,” she said.

“But we have had, over the course of this administration, discussions with the Syrians, talks with the Syrians, envoys to the Syrians, and nothing has ever changed in their behaviour.”
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November 15th, 2006, 3:56 pm

 

44. ebw said:

The report also gives a hint that Iran, locked in a battle with the West over its nuclear ambitions, may have sought help in finding uranium in the hometown of Somali Islamist leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys.

via Reuters, cited by T_Desco at # (above)

You know, I write about uranium and enrichment, and incidently about Iran, and access to yellowcake is the least of anyone’s problems pursuing uranium enrichment on an industrial scale.

Looks wicked faux.

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November 15th, 2006, 4:03 pm

 

45. ivanka said:

I do not think the window for dialogue between Syria and the US is closing. I think it has not yet opened. The Americans will decide on Syria when they decide on Iraq and after they decide on Iran. These things have not happened yet.

Declarations made by American officials during a visit from an Israeli PM have to be tough, that is the tradition. That’s it. Just because Olmert visited Bush doesn’t mean a decision is made in any direction.

Moreover, the international situation can change even more. When the conservatives come to power in Britain they will have a significantly more Syria-friendly policy. The conservative party currently likes Syria!

France is allready softening. When Chirac goes things will be different. If the socialists win, one of the first things they will do is improve relations with Syria. They have said this publicly and it is a popular idea with their voters.

Segolene Royal has said the solution to the standoff with Iran is recognizing their regional role!

Of course I am not saying let’s pray for all the people who like Syria to win elections everywhere. I am saying the final picture is not yet defined. All the elements are not yet there.

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November 15th, 2006, 9:28 pm

 

46. Enlightened said:

Norman:

The article sounds like the Pre war Iraqi affair
( Iraq trying to source uranium from Niger ) sounds like they are using the same tactic again.

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November 15th, 2006, 10:49 pm

 

47. norman said:

I expect an attack on Syria and Iran by Israel and the US at the same time now that the unifill in south Lebanon protecting Israel northern border from Hizballa.

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November 16th, 2006, 3:04 am

 

48. Enlightened said:

Norman:

I pray to God that you are wrong, My wife has family living in Syria, and her and her family were caught in the summer war , i got them flights out of Damascus, we were ver fortunate. We both live in Australia. ( she was born here, my family emigrated in the late sixties fro Northern Lebanon, but we have familial links through marriage in Syria).

I remember the anxiety i went through during the Hizbulla fiasco , and trying to get them out. I pray that no such thing happens!!! just for the sake of the syrian people, I am no friend of the rulers however. We will all have to wait and see how this international tribunal progresses first.

I feel even if they did attack syria, it will be the same as attacking a hornets nest with your bare hands. Lets pray that this doesnt eventuate for the sake of both the Lebanese and Syrian people!

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November 16th, 2006, 5:52 am

 

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