Assad and Ahmadinejad - "There is No Separating Iran and Syria" - Syria Comment

Assad and Ahmadinejad – “There is No Separating Iran and Syria”

President Bashar al-Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was in Damascus today, threw down the gauntlet. Only the day before Hilary Clinton warned Syria “to begin to move away from the relationship with Iran,” and stop supporting Hizbullah, Hamas, and ex-Baathists in Iraq. For several years, Syria has been told to “flip” and break from Iran if it expects to be allowed out of diplomatic and economic isolation.  Israel has made Syria’s break with Iran a condition for peace with Damascus.

Today, Assad came out forcefully and defiantly to end any talk of separation .

“We must have understood Clinton wrong because of a bad translation or our limited understanding, so we signed the agreement to cancel the visas,” Assad said. “I find it strange that they (Americans) talk about Middle East stability and peace and the other beautiful principles and call for two countries to move away from each other,” he added.

Ahmadinejad, for his part, held up his hand with his thumb and index finger only a centimeter apart to indicate how little separated the positions of both countries.

Ahmadinejad threatened Israel, which has threatened to bomb Iran’s nuclear refining facilities and which is urging the international community to cut off sale of refined fuel products to Iran. Here are his threats: (thanks Alex)

1) President Ahmadinejad, who is widely quoted for his conditional prediction: IF ISRAEL DECIDES TO COMMIT ANOTHER “MISTAKE” (start another war) it will be its end, also said today in Damascus:

وأقول لهم إن الشرق الأوسط الجديد هو في طور التحول.. داعياً الصهاينة إلى العودة لرشدهم وأن يعترفوا بحقوق شعوب المنطقة ويحترموا شعوبها وأن يعلموا إذا ساروا في المسار الخاطئ للماضي فلا مكان لهم في منطقتنا.

“I say to them that the new Middle East is in the process of formation … I call on the Zionists to return to their senses and to recognize the legitimate rights of the people of the region and to respect them and to understand that if they continue to go down the wrong path, which they have traveled in the past, there will be no place for them in our region.”

2) If Israel is not willing to change its ways:

إن الأخبار والأنباء تقول إنهم يكررون أخطاء الماضي ونعلم أنا والرئيس الأسد والشعبان السوري والإيراني يعلمان وشعوب المنطقة تعلم إذا أراد الكيان الصهيوني أن يكرر أخطاء الماضي مرة أخرى فهذا يعني موته المحتوم فهذه المرة كل شعوب المنطقة وفي مقدمتهم سورية وإيران ولبنان والعراق وجميع الشعوب سيقفون في وجه هذا الكيان

“The news indicates that they (the Israelis) are about to repeat their past mistakes. President Assad and I know it, the Syrian and Iranian people as well as the other people of our region know it, … if The Zionist entity wants to repeat its mistakes once again [go to war] such a move will lead to its inevitable demise. This time all the people of the region, particularly the people of Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Iraq, and all others will stand against this entity”

Interestingly, Lebanon and Iraq are singled out as members of the resistance front. Ahmadinejad is promising that Iraq will be among the nations that will respond to Israeli aggression.

Some might ask why Syria is making this calculated provocation now, when Washington has made a series of positive gestures to Syria. It has announced the return of an ambassador to Damascus. Last week William Burns, America’s most senior foreign service officer, was in Damascus for talks with the President. Ibrahim Hamidi of al-Hayat wrote in yesterday’s paper that Syrian sources have suggested that Burns assured them that the US would lift its veto on Syrian efforts to join the World Trade Organization. One can only assume that Burns read out the long list of demands that Hilary Clinton reiterated yesterday, beginning with the demand that Syria distance itself from Iran. But why should Assad make a public display of his refusal to go along with Washington’s plan for him, particularly in such a manner designed to embarrass Clinton? Why not just cash in his winnings and stay silent?

One can only speculate. Here goes:

  1. Syria believes that Washington has over-played its hand and needs Syria more than Syria needs Washington.
  2. The US is asking Syria, in essence, to give up its claim to the Golan in order to win normalized relations with the US. This is what distancing itself from Iran means.
  3. It is sick of being read long lists of demands and offered little in return.
  4. It has told America and anyone that will listen that it will not distance itself from Iran.
  5. When Obama backed down on his demand that Israel “stop settlements,” Assad realized that America could offer him little. He has reestablished Syrian influence in Lebanon; the US is pulling out of Iraq; Saudi Arabia has come to terms with Syria. Turkey and France split with the US on on the policy of isolating Syria and reengaged; Europe followed. The US is alone in its pretense of isolating Syria. Isolation backfired. Thus, Syria calculates that Washington’s return of its ambassador was motivated by weakness, not strength, as some Washington analysts insisted. What is more, Syria insists that the exchange ambassadors is normal behavior and not something it must pay for by fulfilling a laundry list of demands.
  6. Iran needs a boost. The US is trying to isolate Iran and ear-twist the international community into broader sanctions, as well as some form of UN rebuke. Iran needs Syria to start a little log rolling; it needs a bit of resistance momentum to give cover to countries like Turkey, Brazil, India and ultimately China and Russia to speak out against sanctions and further anti-Iran action.

Here are comments from two Syrian and an Israeli friend:

1:

I am glad the president finally set the record straight when it comes to this silly notion of separating Iran from Syria. It has been utterly frustrating to listen to this idiotic concept being promoted by the press and the white house. Damascus had to firmly kill this idea once and for all. Today, the world heard it from the horse’s mouth. From this day on, peace talks in return for throwing Iran under the bus no longer works. As for Israel, the reference to Lebanon and Iraq as part of the group is a message that the two countries will be in the cross fire should Israel decide to act foolishly. Taking on Hillary this way is an embarrassment for the white house. Damascus and Tehran are in control..Hillary are you listening? As for Cairo and Riyadh, not a peep, of course. You can hear a needle drop in their presidential palaces. Bashar must have been irritated by the latest visit of Burns who may have delivered a long to-do list to Damascus. The answer came back today loud and clear. Israel is paranoid of Iranians? Well today 75 million of them can walk visa free into their northern neighbor’s country anytime. Take that Bibi.

2:

Either they want to send s decisive message: no “pealing” of Syria off Iran will take place. So stop playing this card. Or Syria is upping the ante before a new round of negotiations with Israel.

3:

Ahmadinejad’s statements are, by all accounts, belligerent and threatening. His double-talk is useless, because the “sensible” parts (if you can find any) are quickly overshadowed by contradictions and threats. Unlike his Syrian counterpart, his isn’t an arm stretched out in Peace. While his differential use of “Zionists”, “Zionist rulers”, “Zionist entity” may be of some interest to Arabs (ya’ani, maybe he’s not really talking about all of Israel, just the Zionist-part), we Israelis aren’t particularly interested in careful examination of his choice of words, just as Syrians aren’t particularly interested in Lieberman’s anti-Syrian-regime rhetoric. To Israelis, “Zionist Entity” means Israel and all its citizens, just as to Syrians “You (Assad) and your family” means Syria, its citizens, its sovereignty, and its pride. When the Iranian President (and his boss) declare that the end of the Zionist Entity is coming soon, few in my country search for alternative meanings to this threat. Before Iran sought nuclear weapons, no one in Israel ever spoke of “hitting it”, despite the vehement anti-Israeli rhetoric that has been coming out of the Islamic Republic since the Revolution.

___ [News summary follows] Read the excellent Peter Harling article below.

Syria, Iran Leaders Snub U.S. With Vow of Closer Ties
February 25, 2010
By Massoud A. Derhally and Ladane Nasseri

Feb. 25 (Bloomberg) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, vowed to strengthen ties between their countries, rejecting a U.S. push for Syria to move away from Iran.

“I am surprised how they can talk about stability and peace in the Middle East and call on two countries to distance themselves from one another,” al-Assad said of the U.S. today in a televised news conference with Ahmadinejad in Damascus. “We are the ones who decide what’s in our interest and prefer that others not give us advice.”

Ahmadinejad called for the U.S. to “pack up and leave the region,” saying “nothing can come between” Syria and Iran. The allies signed a visa-waiver accord today, al-Assad said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Senate subcommittee yesterday that Undersecretary of State William Burns urged Syrian officials recently to “begin to move away from the relationship with Iran, which is so deeply troubling to the region as well as to the United States.”

The Syrian and Iranian presidents joined in condemning Israel, which backs U.S. pressure for tougher international action to halt Iran’s nuclear program. Ahmadinejad reiterated his stance on Israel today, saying if the Jewish state “repeats the mistakes of the past, this will affirm its demise.”

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said no option is being taken off the table in dealing with Iran. Israel and the U.S. suspect Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon, an allegation Iran denies.

Traded Threats

Syria and Israel have traded threats in recent weeks. Al- Assad said on Feb. 3 that Israel is “pushing the region toward war.” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned the following day that al-Assad risked falling from power “if he provokes Israel.”

Al-Assad said Syria supports Iran’s enrichment of uranium as part of its nuclear program. In a swipe at the U.S. and European countries, he said, “Colonial efforts are being made to forbid an independent state that is a United Nations member and signatory to Non-proliferation Treaty from attaining nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”

“There is a preplanned strategy to forbid Muslim countries from acquiring nuclear-energy technology, and what is implemented with respect to Iran will be applied to other countries,” al-Assad said.

Ahmadinejad, who is on a two-day visit to Syria, marked the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday today as he attended afternoon prayers at a mosque in Damascus with al-Assad.

To contact the reporters on this story: Massoud A. Derhally in Amman at +962-779-881-588 or mderhally@bloomberg.net

Syria’s ties to Iran self-isolating, US says
Feb 26, 2010

Washington – Damascus’ close relationship with Iran is undermining Syria’s position in the Middle East, the US State Department said Thursday, as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the Syrian capital.

State Department spokesman PJ Crowley told reporters that the United States has expressed concerns to Syrian President Bashar al- Assad about his country’s relationship with Tehran.

‘This is ultimately a decision that Syria has to make,’ Crowley said. ‘But I think as President Assad assesses Syria’s long-term interest, he need only look around the region and recognize that Syria is increasingly an outlier.’

Crowley said that the US wants ‘to see Syria play a more constructive role in the region, and one step would be to make clear what Iran needs to do differently. And, unfortunately, there was no evidence of that today.’….

Haaretz: Barak to U.S.: Now is the time to impose new Iran nuclear sanctions, 2010-02-25

Syria, Iran affirm ties despite US calls
By ALBERT AJI and ELIZABETH A. KENNEDY, AP

…..Assad’s strong words Thursday indicate that America does not have the kind of leverage it thought over Syria, said Joshua Landis, an American professor and Syria expert who runs a popular blog called Syria Comment.

“America overplayed its hand,” Landis said. “The rest of the world is engaged with Syria — France is doing business, Turkey is doing business. Syria can survive. But it can’t survive cutting ties with Iran.”

Still, there are signs Assad could be open to a breakthrough with America.

Assad has begun to dismantle his father’s socialist legacy since he rose to office in 2000. He has loosened the reins on banking, sought to attract foreign investment, and encouraged tourism and private education.

He also is hoping for U.S. help in boosting the Syrian economy and American mediation in direct peace talks with Israel — a recognition that he needs U.S. help to reach his goal of winning the return of the Golan Heights, seized by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war.

But Clinton said Wednesday that the recent decision to send an ambassador to Syria did not mean American concerns about the country have been addressed….

The Middle East’s Dangerous Equilibrium
BY PETER HARLING | FEBRUARY 23, 2010 | FOREIGN POLICY

President Obama’s first year of “engagement” has yielded little more than simmering crises and a frustrating diplomatic stalemate. But for all its pitfalls, the United States cannot quit the Arab world.

A year into U.S. President Barack Obama’s presidency, the Middle East is on the brink. Almost every country in the region spent 2009 waiting in vain for something dramatic to come out of Washington. By the time 2010 was rung in, most players appeared to have given up just as hastily on the Obama administration. As hopes of progress wane, the region risks slipping back into chaos.

The year’s holding pattern produced some positive signs. In Lebanon and Gaza, Hezbollah and Hamas showed relative restraint, a reflection of the new constraints they face, having both assumed a larger share of power and suffered the destructive consequences of past wars. The West Bank appears remarkably quiet. Iraq continued to witness, as the U.S. military put it, “sustainable levels of violence.”

But the calm is deceptive. None of the region’s fundamental problems has been solved. There has been no progress on the peace process, whether in its Palestinian or Syrian versions. Iran’s nuclear file is fast approaching a perilous impasse. Iraq’s future remains as unpredictable as ever: Regional actors have yet to fully play their part, even as the United States, seeming more interested in maintaining acceptable conditions for a withdrawal than in consolidating what it will leave behind, gradually bows out. In Lebanon, the stalemate reached during George W. Bush’s administration is now enshrined in a national unity government which has yet to prove it can produce much more than paralysis. Yemen is shaken to its roots. Throughout the area, a vicious struggle is taking place just under the surface at a time when the rules of the game are dangerously unclear.

Hamas, virtually strangled in Gaza, might be tempted to reframe its struggle more regionally — something it historically has been loath to do. So far, the United States has done little to lift the Israeli siege and has done much to obstruct Palestinian reconciliation, meaning thatHamas has few other options than to look outside the territory.

Hezbollah has been preparing for the next, more decisive round with Israel since the 2006 showdown. Because the movement is now an integral part of the Lebanese government, because it has redeployed its military deeper into Lebanese territory, and because it doesn’t see its defeat as an option, there exists a real potential for a far more comprehensive war than last time. Although, arguably, neither side wants a renewed conflict, their mutually reinforcing military and rhetorical buildup, combined with the absence of negotiated redlines and effective containment mechanisms, creates a dynamic that could spiral out of control. Rather than attempting to mediate between the parties and work toward clarifying and enforcing reciprocal redlines, the United States has urged the side on which it has least leverage, Hezbollah, to stop its “provocations.”

The Iranian issue has fallen back into a now familiar pattern, with yet another cycle of halfhearted diplomatic overtures, half-effective sanctions, and half-empty threats. Washington and Tehran apparently have turned the page on their elusive “engagement,” returning to a state of subdued confrontation. Here as well, Iran’s uneasy domestic situation, coupled with the U.S. preoccupation with withdrawing from Iraq and “surging” in Afghanistan, could lower the threshold for confrontation.

As is often the case, Damascus offers a relatively accurate reflection of the regional state of play, as it endlessly seeks to adjust to the shifting political terrain. Washington contends that Syria is covertly deepening its military cooperation with Iran and Hezbollah just as fast as it is, overtly, developing ties with Turkey in all other domains. Skepticism in the United States has reduced prospects for a genuine partnership, while reluctance in Israel has thwarted progress in peace negotiations. For this reason, the Turkish and Iranian offers are — from the perspective of Damascus — the only games in town. Moreover, as pressure mounts onHamas , Hezbollah, and Iran, Syria’s room to maneuver shrinks. When the perils of war return, Syria will need those allies more than ever. In this instance, Damascus fears that anotherredline could be crossed, leading to conflict spilling over onto Syrian territory for the first time since 1973.

Such dynamics represent clear threats to U.S. interests. They render calls for disengagement illusory; if Washington were to ignore the Middle East, the region surely would find tragic ways to recapture its attention. At a time when the United States is discovering the limits of military might, confronting its tarnished regional image, and struggling with dwindling political leverage, it is tempting to conclude that there is little for it to do. Yet a lack of progress in the region is having a considerable effect all its own, and not for the better. As the administration’s calls for peace fall flat and pressure on the militant camp comes to bear, the balance between diplomacy and conflict is turning wobbly in a region that desperately needs some external stabilization from Washington.

BBC MidEast translation of Ahmadinejad’s speech: Iran president warns US not to “interfere” in regional issues
2010-02-25

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad has warned both US and Israel against repeating past “mistakes”. In a joint news conference with his Syrian counterpart in Damascus on 25 February, Ahmadinezhad said: “We believe that if the US secretary of State wants to do something, she should do it for the people of America. No-one has asked her to express her opinion on regional issues. Of course we know that they [American authorities] have reached a dead-end. They desired once to rule over the entire Middle-East. Now, they not only have failed to gain any power, but also they are forced to leave their aspirations behind and leave the region. They are leaving their reputation, image and power behind in order to escape. They are angry. Let them be angry. Our reply to them is: be angry and die with anger. The whole government of America has no influence in the regional ties.” The following is the text of Ahmadinezhad’s comments broadcast live by state-run Iranian TV news channel on 25 February; subheadings inserted editorially:

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. [Prayers in Arabic]. I would like to also congratulate my dear brother his Excellency President Bashar Al-Asad, you dears, the great Syrian nation and the whole of mankind on the birthday of the great prophet of Islam.

I thank the Almighty God for giving me the opportunity to visit my dear brother [al-Asad] and to extend my good wishes to the great Syrian people on such a great day. I would also like to thank the president [al-Asad] for mentioning important issues. I endorse everything that he has said. I also agree with and endorse everything that my dear brother said. Our hearts, thoughts and hands are together and God wiling this will be the case forever. Our great prophet was
the key to and flag-bearer of unity and the harbinger of our unity. He is the one that linked our hearts together. His love is the key to our endeavour toward genuine peace and justice. I would like to once more offer my best wishes on the birthday of the great prophet of Islam. I am happy about the fact that we are amongst our dear brothers on such a day. I would like to make one or two short points to reiterate on what my dear brother has said.

Iran-Syria relations

The first point is about Iran-Syria relations. Everyone must know that these relations are brotherly, deep, broad and ever-lasting. No factor can undermine these brotherly relations. These relations are becoming deeper, broader, and closer everyday. We are like two brothers living in two geographical locations. We have common interests and objectives and of course common enemies. Our economic, cultural and political cooperation is increasing everyday. The outlook for our relations is very bright and constructive. Both sides are determined to broaden their relations as much as possible. The second point is about the conditions of the world and our region. As he [Asad] clearly said, the whole world and our region are on the verge of great developments and changes. The relations and arrangements which have existed for the past few decades have reached the end of their path. Today, the world is in need of new arrangements and relations which are based on justice, respect for human beings and equal rights of nations.

“Zionist regime doomed to destruction”

Both the Zionists and their supporters have reached a dead end. Praise be to God, the passage of time is to the benefit of the nations of the region and to the disadvantage of the imperialists and occupiers. It is very clear. I explicitly stress that the Zionist regime is doomed to destruction. The reason d’etre of this regime has come to an end and the world is against the Zionist criminals and occupiers. Time is against the criminal and occupier Zionists. They are facing a complete dead end. The pressures that they are exerting on the Palestinians and the threats they are making are due to their weakness. They are seeing
themselves in a deadlock. They are under the impression that if they scratch the faces of the nations in the region they will find a way for their survival. Reports are suggesting that they are thinking of making their previous mistakes. But we – myself and my brother Bashar al- Asad – the nations of Iran and Syria know and everyone else must know that if the Zionist regime wants to repeat its previous mistakes, it confirms its definite death of that regime. This time, all of the nations of the region, spearheaded by Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, and all of the world countries will rise before them and uproot them.
The world must know that the Iranian nation will be by the side of the Syrian government and nation and the Palestinian resistance forever.

Dream of Greater Middle East “dead”

They were dreaming of creating a Greater Middle East under the hegemony of the Zionists and the imperialists. Today, this dream is dead. However, I would like to tell them that a new Middle East is on its way. It will be a Middle East without the Zionists and imperialists. This is a divine promise and God willing it will
materialize. This is a wish which the countries of the region have and hopefully it will materialize. Of course, we hope that they come to their senses and officially recognize the rights of and respect the countries of this region. But they must know that if they decide to repeat the same past mistakes they will have no place in our region. Today, relations between the nations of the region are very strong. Relations between Iran and Syria are very strong. The Palestinian resistance, Lebanese resistance and nation, the Syrian and Iranian nations are all by each other’s side forever. We are confident that
world developments are to Iran and Syria’s benefit. It is to the benefit of freedom-seeking nations and governments. The ill-wishes can not do anything.

I thank God for giving me the opportunity to visit my dear brothers on the birthday of the honourable prophet of Islam. It is a great honour for me to take part in the celebrations held to mark the birthday of the prophet of Islam alongside my dear brother and brave Syrian president, and the proud Syrian people. I would like to thank him for being a good host and will now answer any questions.

Unity among Muslim nations

[Reporter poses a question to President Asad regarding the increasing Israeli threats against Syria. In response, President Asad plays down the threats]
[Reporter in Arabic Farsi voice-over] I am from Al-Manar TV channel and would like to congratulate Mr Ahmadinezhad and Mr Asad [on the occasion of the birthday of Prophet Muhammad]. Mr Ahmadinezhad you are now standing next to Mr Asad taking part in the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday ceremonies. What does your presence next to Mr Asad in Syria mean?

[Ahmadinezhad in Farsi] I would like to thank my dear brother Mr Asad. I think we are a united nation. Many of these geographical borders are imposed on us. None of those borders are originated from our religion and our dear prophet. Our dear prophet was the harbinger of unity among Muslim nations. Our enemies are united today and we should obviously take lessons from our prophet and be united. For us, a mosque is [the same as any other] mosque, a Muslim is [the same as any other] Muslim and a brother is [the same as any other] brother, particularly the Syrian nation and government. We feel we are parts of
one same body with the Syrian nation. As it was well-said, we are one family. Our talks are held in a brotherly atmosphere. It is like a family atmosphere and I am very happy to be among my dear brothers for the birthday celebrations. I think that your answer is in the word brother.

In a family, too, there might be different views regarding different issues. However, a family remains a family and brotherhood remains there. Today, a stable relation and a deep bond have brought us [Iran and Syria] together. Our Islamic beliefs, aspirations, our Islamic independence and dignity as well as defending our nations, dignity and honour [are our common bonds]. We consider the Syrian nation and the Iranian nation as separate nations and yet we consider the two nations a united entity. There is no room for differences. We believe that all the arguments which promote differences are coming from the enemies.

Take a look at Iraq. The Iraqi nation coexisted for hundreds of years and people [from different sects] are still marrying into one another. Since the arrival of the aggressors the issue of differences among the people of Iraq has been raised. In the past, no one would ask you if you were Kurdish, Turkmen, Shi’i or Sunni. They all lived together. Ever since the aggressors arrived, such issues have been brought up. It is clear where those issues are originated in. We all have one God, one prophet and one holy book. We all follow one path and pursue one objective. With the grace of God, we shall all achieve our objectives.

[Reporter asks Bashar al-Asad to comment on the recent remarks by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. In response, he says that Damascus intends to improve its ties with Iran]

Future of regional relations

[Al-Jazeera’s reporter] I am from the Al-Jazeera network. Will Syria, Turkey and Iran sign any agreements in future, so that a new prospect can be created for the region?

[Ahmadinezhad] Yes, that is true. We want to act as that lady [the US secretary of State Hillary Clinton] advised [us]. [He and the audience laugh] She said keep your distance from one another. I want to tell her there is actually no distance. We have a proverb in Farsi used for anyone who makes inappropriate comments that he/she is not supposed to make: “Now a word from the mother-in-law”. [The audience applauds]

We believe that if she [Hillary Clinton] wants to do something, she should do it for the people of America. No one has asked her to express her opinion on regional issues. Of course, we know that they [American authorities] have reached a dead-end. They once wished to rule over the entire Middle-East. Now, they not only have failed to gain any power, but also they are forced to leave [their aspirations] behind and leave the region. They are leaving their reputation, image and power behind in order to escape. They are angry. Let them be angry. Our reply to them is: be angry and die with anger. The whole
government of America has no influence in the regional ties. The period when someone from overseas could issue orders for [the Middle- East] to be obeyed by rows of [regional] countries and nations is over. Today [regional] countries are in control. The expansion of Iran-Syria ties, Syria-Turkey ties and Iran-Turkey ties God willing, Iraq too will joint the circle shows that regional countries follow the path of convergence. [This coalition stands] opposed to those who are trying to rule over the region.

Of course, they want to gain [regional rule] and see that Syria and Iran are obstacles blocking their way. So they make comments and their comments have no validity for us. We recommend them to take their leave soon and cut the nuisance, instead of interfering with regional issues. If they are ready, we may hold a referendum in the region so that they can see how much they and their actions are hated; though we are sure that they already know [how much they are hated] however they are so rude that they pretend not to know.

We advise them to pack up and go. However, we also remind them that if they continue their interferences [and go on with] their previous approaches, the nations of the region will get rid of them. We stand together and we remain together to the end. Nothing can divide us. I believe what I said is enough for her [Hillary Clinton].

Originally published by Islamic Republic of Iran News Network, Tehran, in Persian 0902 25 Feb 10. (c) 2010 BBC Monitoring Middle East.

US sees no sign Syria heeding US concerns on Iran

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States said it saw no sign Thursday that Syria, which welcomed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Damascus, was heeding US concerns about the Syrian-Iranian alliance.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that Washington is urging Syria to “begin to move away from the relationship with Iran” now that a US ambassador is returning to Damascus for the first time in five years.

“As the secretary reiterated yesterday, we have expressed our concern directly to President (Bashar) Assad about Syria’s relationship with Iran,” Clinton’s spokesman Philip Crowley said.

“This is ultimately a decision that Syria has to make, but as President Assad assesses Syria’s long-term interests, he need only look around the region and recognize that Syria is increasingly an outlier,” Crowley told reporters.

“We want to see Syria play a more constructive role in the region,” he added.

“One step would be to make clear what Iran’s need to do differently and unfortunately there was no evidence of that today,” he said.

Syria and Iran defy Clinton in show of unity
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis -Thu Feb 25, 2010

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Syria and Iran put on a show of unity and defied U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday, dismissing her call on Damascus to loosen its decades-long alliance with Tehran…..

A New York-based company called Payoneer, named by Dubai police today in connection with the murder of Mahmoud al Mahbouh, is run by Yuval Tal, is a former Israeli special-forces soldier, and provides financial services for Taglit-Birthright Israel:

Lebanese PM: trust-building process with Syria can’t be obstruct
2010-02-25

BEIRUT, Feb 25, 2010 (Xinhua via COMTEX) — Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Thursday attempted to defuse tension with Damascus by vowing to maintain the trust-building process with the Syrian leadership, amid a looming crisis with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over earlier remarks made by Hariri. “I decided to build trust with Syria because it serves the interests of both Beirut and Damascus,” Hariri told reporters at the Government Palace in Beirut, adding that he would not go
back on his decision to do so. He said that “trust-building is an ongoing process with Syria, and nothing can obstruct it. The national and Arab interests are above anything else.”

Hariri’s comments came after Syrian daily al-Watan quoted high- ranking Syrian sources as expressing in remarks published on Wednesday disappointment about Hariri’s remarks published in Italian daily Corriere della Sera last Sunday. The Lebanese PM told the Italian newspaper that “Syrian behavior was similar to the one that existed between Iraq and Kuwait when former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein refused to recognize Kuwait.”

Al-Watan said that Damascus is seeking clarification from Hariri over his “insult” to both Lebanon and Syria. Gaza’s power plant to shut down amidst latest fuel crisis

Gaza – Ma’an

An EU contract paying for fuel shipments into the Gaza Strip for its sole power plant expired on 30 November 2009, according to Kan’an Obeid, deputy manager of the Energy Authority in the coastal enclave.

While the EU had been providing the service after the contract expired, EU officials notified the Energy Authority that they would no longer pay for the fuel shipments unless the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah drafted a new agreement and payment scheme.

Obeid said that the fuel in Gaza will last until Thursday morning. If a new shipment does not arrive, Gaza’s power plant will be forced to shut down, in turn affecting 70 percent of the population.

The Energy Authority is in talks with the finance minister in Ramallah to implement a payment plan whereby the Gaza Electricity Company will collect money from its customers, then transfer the funds to the minister, who would pay Israeli fuel companies for the service.

Gaza’s power plant has four generators, and while all are functional, only one is being used. This generator supplies electricity to the population of Gaza for 16 hours a day, Obeid said, as there is not enough fuel to power all four. The plant is currently running on reserve supplies, he added.

The fuel for the plant is delivered by Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing, southern Gaza, in trucks. The majority of fuel used for personal use is smuggled from Egypt through the tunnel matrix. The plant can only use Israeli industrial grade diesel.

In December 2008, Gaza’s power plant was shut down as a result of the fuel shortage, shortly before Israel’s military offensive on the blockaded area.

Support for Israel in U.S. at 63%, Near Record High
Near-record-low 30% optimistic about Arab-Israeli peace
by Lydia Saad

PRINCETON, NJ — For the first time since 1991, more than 6 in 10 Americans — 63% — say their sympathies in the Middle East situation lie more with the Israelis than with the Palestinians. Fifteen percent side more with the Palestinians, down slightly from recent years, while a combined 23% favor both sides, favor neither side, or have no opinion.

The 63% sympathizing with Israel today is statistically unchanged from the 58% to 59% seen from 2006 to 2009; however, it is considerably higher than most of the previous readings on this Gallup measure since 1993. The trend includes two 38% readings in 1996 and 1997. Only in January 1991 — shortly after Israel was hit by Iraqi Scud missiles during the Gulf War — did U.S. support for Israel register as high as it does today.

Comments (117)


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

A proposal: Lets add a second question to Ahmadinejad’s referendum.

Question No. 2:
If you had the opportunity to leave Arabia, where would you want to go?
To America, to Europe or to Iran ?
.

February 26th, 2010, 9:29 am

 

thankgodimatheist said:

“If you had the opportunity to leave Arabia”…Amir
———————
How could he leave a place where he isn’t from ? *Sigh*

‘Amir in tel Aviv’ is someone I know from the Angry Arab site for quite a while and I had always been unimpressed by his knowledge of (or the lack of) the M.E and its people, and it doesn’t seem he has improved much in that specific area. Confusing (or is it conflating?) Iran, (Ahmadenjad’s country) with “Arabia”(sic) just proves the point I’m making..

February 26th, 2010, 1:18 pm

 

qunfuz said:

I do hope that, Hizbullah-like, the resistance front is ready to back words with actions in the event of an Israeli assault. Having said that, I would like to thank President Asad for his principled refusal to move away from Syria’s greatest ally, and his understanding of American duplicity. When we compare Syria’s position to that of other Arab states, it makes us proud.

February 26th, 2010, 2:08 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

To me, only the last two reasons offered make any sense.

5. When Obama backed down on his demand that Israel “stop settlements,” Assad realized that America could offer him little. He has got Lebanon back; the US is pulling out of Iraq; Saudi Arabia has come to terms with Syria. Turkey and France split with the US on isolation and Europe followed. The US was alone in its pretense of isolating Syria. Isolation had backfired. Of course Washington is returning its ambassador. It is normal to exchange ambassadors, not a favor to be paid for.
6. Iran needs a boost. The US is trying to isolate Iran and ear-twist the international community into broader sanctions and some form of UN rebuke. Iran needs Syria to start a little log rolling; it needs a bit of resistance momentum to give cover to countries like Turkey, Brazil, India and ultimately China and Russia to speak out against sanctions and further anti-Iran action.

Bashar is feeling confident these days while Iran is feeling low. So Bashar thinks he can swing his weight around a little bit, shoring up Iran’s position.

February 26th, 2010, 2:24 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

What Washington needs to understand is that Bashar’s basic strategy is cultivating as many allies as possible. He wants to hold on to his tried and true peeps in Tehran, Palestine, and Lebanon, while making nice with the Gulf, Turkey, Europe, and Russia.

It’s a good strategy, if your goal is to situate yourself as a facilitator. The problem is, you have to spend all of your time convincing everybody that you’re on their side and that you have their interests at heart. Eventually, this proves to be impossible, and you end up just looking disingenuous.

Last week, there was a spate of articles in the Western press about Syria’s unreliability, untrustworthiness, and lack of interest in really opening to the West. This week Bashar threw the hawks a big fat bone to chew on. Why? Because he had to placate Ahmadinejad. Tomorrow, he’ll be back to trying to cultivate good relations with the US again.

It gets a little old.

February 26th, 2010, 2:38 pm

 

Amir in Tel Aviv said:

A little bit of optimism regarding Iraq:

Nir Rosen:”…When you talk to people they tell you that the sectarian phase is over”.

http://ricks.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/02/23/nir_rosen_stop_the_iraq_madness

US ambassador Christopher R. Hill on Iraq (video).

http://www.cfr.org/publication/21479/iraq.html

(If you wonder why Amrica doesn’t like you, or what you should do
to make Amrica like you, listen to what ambassador Hill tells you
about the “leverage” in 18:20 ).
.

February 26th, 2010, 3:11 pm

 

Alex said:

I’ll suggest a third objective, Qifa Nabki

There is an impression in Washington that concessions can be obtained from Damascus by offering Syria back things which were withheld in the past, as part of pressure campaigns.

Damascus believes it is essential that Washington understands the futility of this tactic. Otherwise, the Americans will continue to believe this is a good way to get the Syrians to compromise: Isolate Syria and pressure Syria then offer Syria the removal of some of the components of the isolation package hoping that Syria will appreciate the offer by making some strategic concessions.

Let us look at the specific case of the American carrot of the return of the American ambassador and let us find out if Syria must return the favor.

The return of the American Ambassador is a correction of a mistake that the Bush administration made 5 years ago. Syria should not be expected to be grateful when Washington corrects its own mistakes. The ambassador was withdrawn when Hariri was assassinated… after 5 years of unprecedented efforts on the part of the United Nations and the international community to prove that Syria (and only Syria) killed him, no such proof was demonstrated.

Instead, we recently had another demonstration that Israel is the master of successful political assassinations… from Tunisia to Dubai.

And for those who still automatically reject the notion that Israel MIGHT have been behind Hariri’s killing (that led to American, European and “moderate Arabs” boycott of Syria and also led to the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon, both major neocon objectives as expressed in “Clean break”), remind us again please why is it that we a supposed to believe that Israel SURELY would not do that? .. it does not engage in assassinations? … it does not have the technical skills required to do that job? only Syria has those skills? … does not have the ability to operate in an Arab city as far as Beirut? .. it did not have enough spies in Lebanon to ensure the success of such an operation?

Or is it that such a scenario is “conspiracy theory” and we should never ever doubt that these wild stories are ever real.

Did anyone check the details of how the Turkish military officers were planning to overthrow their democratically elected government in 2003? … “bomb two Istanbul mosques and provoke Greece into shooting down a Turkish plane over the Aegean Sea.” … remember that by 2003 the Turkish government made it clear to the American administration that it is against the Iraq war and that Turkey will not be used by the American army to bomb or invade Iraq.

This is not to claim that Israel SURELY was behind Hariri’s assassination (or the Turkish coup attempt)… that would be as wrong as claiming that Syria SURELY did it, but to make the point that it was a mistake to withdraw the American ambassador from Damascus in 2005 following Hariri’s assassination that the Bush administration was happy to blame on Syria. Mrs Clinton should have explained to those asking her what Syria will offer in return, that she returned that ambassador because it is the right thing for her to do and that Syria should not be asked to pay anything in return.

This is similar to Israel asking Syria: “If I give you back your lands that I stole and used and never paid you rent since 1967, what will you do in return for me?”

And many more … if we Americans remove Syria from evil list A or list B, if we remove American objections to allowing Syria membership in trade organization A or B, if we stop preventing Bank A or B from extending loans to Syria, if we stop asking our Arab puppets to complicate Syria’s life, and if we stop preventing the French from selling you civilian planes … what Strategic concessions will you offer us in return .. for each of these carrots we throw you??

Syria will not compromise on its strategic choices no matter what tactical carrots others offer in return … the Americans and Israelis will not be able to offer Syria anything in return for gaining Syria’s decision to damage its hard earned strategic relations with Iran, and the Iranians will not be able (if they wanted to) offer Syria anything to convince the Syrians to abandon their strategic choice for peace with Israel.

February 26th, 2010, 3:26 pm

 

jad said:

QN,
What ‘Bashar’ are you talking about your friend ‘Bashar” or the Syrian President ‘Bashar’?

“Eventually, this proves to be impossible, and you end up just looking disingenuous.”
I’m not sure if you are writing about 2005 Syria or 2010 Syria? all those parties you mentioned including Israel and the US, actually trust Syria and they know very well that it is the only country in this region that can deliver what she promised.

“Last week, there was a spate of articles in the Western press about Syria’s unreliability, untrustworthiness, and lack of interest in really opening to the West.”
The problem is not Syria the problem is the West itself who always want us to do what they want, it’s the same old colonial mentality they should learn to drop it, it’s getting to annoying by the freaking west.

“It gets a little old.”
Old or new it is still working and it is the only way to let the aggressive west to understand that we are not their puppy.

What is happening with the Lebanese those days, they are attacking Syria without any reason, are you guys bored or something?

February 26th, 2010, 3:27 pm

 

Alex said:

Qifa Nabki said:

Last week, there was a spate of articles in the Western press about Syria’s unreliability, untrustworthiness, and lack of interest in really opening to the West. This week Bashar threw the hawks a big fat bone to chew on. Why? Because he had to placate Ahmadinejad. Tomorrow, he’ll be back to trying to cultivate good relations with the US again.

It gets a little old.

Qatar does is so well, Dubai does it and no one complains … Why is it that Syria is not allowed to seek better relations with all neighbors?

Remember when President Assad said that we need to improve Turkish Israeli relations so that the Israelis can accept again Turkish mediation?

Obviously That’s too avant gard for you : )

But seriously … there are times when leaders must take a stand and say “enough is enough”, and this was one of those moments when President Assad addressed Washington to say “We can’t take your hypocrisy anymore”

Those same right wing editorials and opinion pieces that you referred to, in addition to the disappointing language used on Capitol Hill when Hillary was being questioned for, and asked to justify, her decision to send a US ambassador to Damascus, both probably played a part in Assad’s decision to deviate from his usual diplomatic language and to use sarcasm instead.

Remember also Walid Mouallem’s remarks to Israel last week? … also not his typical tone at all.

It does not get a little old Qifa Nabki. There is a turning point here … Washington has to move it or else the region will explode. The Syrians are trying to speak a bit louder about the dangers that lie ahead if Washington continues to be stuck in its paralyzed (I can’t upset AIPAC) mode.

February 26th, 2010, 3:36 pm

 

Joshua said:

Qifa N.

You argue that Syria is overplaying its hand and presumably will be unable to maintain alliances with the broader Middle Eastern and European community, while continuing to stand with Hizbullah and Iran in challenging Israel and the US.

This presupposes that Turkey, Russia, and the broader community will punish Syria. Syria is taking a calculated risk that Washington has overplayed its hand by making Iran the centerpiece of it foreign policy.

The United States has decided to make stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear know-how and purification its number one foreign policy concern, which is a bad move in my humble opinion. Iran is not worth it. America should have bigger fish to fry. It will fail because the broader international community will not back it up.

Obama inherited the policy from Bush. Obama tried to avoid signing on to it, but failed in his desire to walk down the middle between the “containment crowd” and the “stop Iran crowd.” He has been forced to choose and he chose “stop Iran.” Syria had to choose as well. It chose Iran. No surprise there.

Now it is up to Obama to punish Syria and make its Middle East Arabs fall in line by returning to a policy of isolating Syria. This means Washington must try to convince Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, etc. to return to the world of Bush’s diplomacy and isolate Syria and ramp up hostility to Iran. It also means that Washington must arm twist Europe to believe that Iran cannot be simply contained but must be impoverished. Will Israel force the question by some sort of military move?

Syria is calculating that Obama won’t go through with this confrontational strategy and that he doesn’t have the fight in him. Moreover, Damascus authorities probably calculate that even if he did, the world will not follow. The Bush policy failed. The world will not return to it. They want to do business with Iran and believe that Israel can defend itself and shouldn’t be coddled, especially as it is now led by such an uncompromising leadership.

Clearly Washington will have to reevaluate its Syria diplomacy following yesterday’s provocations. One can only imagine that Ambassador Ford will not see Damascus for some time to come.

It is clear from Washington’s first statements that it believes, as you argue, that Syria’s new trading partners and friends will be horrified by its actions and will seek to downgrade their relations and investments in Syria.

As State Department spokesman PJ Crowley told reporters, “Syria is increasingly an outlier.” Syria’s ties to Iran are “self-isolating.”

We shall see if Syria has gone too far. You are right that Assad has given the neocons plenty of ammo to fire at Obama…. and Syria.

February 26th, 2010, 3:48 pm

 

jad said:

Is the system killing peaceful philosophers and thinkers now?
Nizar Rastanawi is one of the brightest writers in Syria, why do they do that??? Why to kill him????????????????????
I’m shocked,very sad and I can’t really express how angry I am, I still can’t believe this terrible news:

قالت اللجنة السورية لحقوق الإنسان ان مصدر خاص مطلع على نحو لا يرقى إليه الشك ابلغها “حسب وصفه بأنه لا أثر للناشط الحقوقي نزار رستناوي في سجن صيدنايا العسكري، وأنه قد لقي حتفه فعلاً خلال أحداث سجن صيدنايا الأليمة في صيف عام 2008”.

http://all4syria.info/content/view/22161/96/

February 26th, 2010, 4:01 pm

 

Nour said:

QN,

I don’t believe your description of President Assad’s strategy is accurate. Assad has stated repeatedly that Syria is willing to have open relations with any nation based on mutual interests; not on dictates and demands. Syria is not against having relations with the US, but if the US has an interest in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear know-how, then why should Syria be expected to follow US policy, regardless of its own interests.

There are many issues on which Syria and the US can cooperate in order to serve specific interests common to both countries. However, the US is willing to compromise those interests with Syria only because it wants to foolishly strong arm everyone to fall in line with its futile policy of preventing any country in the region from acquiring advanced scientific knowledge. Please tell me why this would be good for Syria.

This doesn’t mean that Syria wants to be an enemy of the US. Syria’s hand is always extended should the US want to meet it halfway, but Syria must make it clear that it will not accept the US imposing its own interests on Syria and issuing threats unless Syria falls in line. This type of behavior is belligerent and rogue, and Syria will not stand for it.

February 26th, 2010, 4:35 pm

 

Observer said:

Joshua,

I highly agree with your comment. However, I dont think Assad will take such a risk of losing his new friends especially Turkey. At the end of the day, over the last few years, he has proven to be a very cautious leader who does not take uncalculated risks. I have no reason to think that he would do that now. Maybe the developments in Turkey over the last two days have boosted his confidence in his position in Turkey. Regarding Europe, I dont see any European policy anymore. The EU is busy enough with its economic crisis while France is more interested in expanding its own influence zones that in pleasing a weak Obama adminstration. Egypt is becoming irrelevant by the day so the only possible country to re-isolate Syria is Saudi Arabia. I first dont see that happeneing and second I dont see many things Saudi can do against Syria except trying to worsen the Syrian-Lebanese relation by limiting Hariri openness to Syria; something that is not extremly important to Syria as it is not very happy with Hariri p[erformace anyway and as the last few years proved that at its heydays the March 14 coalition could not change the strategic position of Lebanon and cannot do anything beyond talking (Hell, the only one who can talk will visit Damascus in the next few weeks!!). So, the only option to undertake such a punishment is Israel and that will be too risky for the whole region.

Overall, I think Assad took the right decision.

February 26th, 2010, 4:42 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

A new round of sanctions on Iran is now imminent. Israel has already thanked and praised the U.S. for its “sincere” effort in that regard. While Israel praises the U.S., its leaders remain skeptical about the effectiveness of such measures and is considering what should happen “if, against our hopes and wishes and dreams, it won’t work,” as Barak said this morning.

Both Tehran and Damascus are aware of the U.S. and Israeli new push. While no one expects an imminent military strike on Iran, both capitals cannot and will not ignore the possibility of this scenario.

The meeting in Damascus yesterday was a warning that the team is ready and has braced itself for the worst. In a not-so-unsubtle message, both Lebanon and Iraq were added to the team of resistance. The mention of Iraq, in particular, was noteworthy. This “moon” of resistance (no more only a crescent) would blind the enemy, the Iranian leader proclaimed.

While it is true that the U.S. has been opening up to Syria, the definition of this “opening” remains murky and unclear. This was confirmed 24 hours earlier when the Secretary of State told a group of Senators that the sending of an Ambassador was a sign of a “slight opening” with Syria. Mrs. Clinton then went on to state bluntly that Washington wants to drive a wedge between Damascus and Tehran and said that “we’ve laid out for the Syrians the need for greater cooperation with respect to Iraq, the end to interference in Lebanon and the provision of weapons to Hezbollah, a resumption of the Israeli-Syrian track”. This was a lecture and a chapter from the Bush White House days is the way Damascus must have interpreted the remarks. Events since those days have strengthened and emboldened Damascus. Syria was not going to accept Hillary’s public lecture nor was she going to allow Mrs. Clinton to shore up her hawkish pro-Israeli credentials at Damascus’s expense. Once the Syrian President was asked how he would respond to her comments, the answer was stunningly direct, sarcastic and final.

The American policy towards Syria that seems to have been built on the idea that Damascus must move away from the relationship with Iran before good things happen to her is now in tatters. Syria has now bluntly and publicly asked the White House to come up with a new game plan. The ball is back in Mrs. Clinton’s court. Let us see if the President himself wants to join or will he leave this high stakes poker game for his Secretary of State to play.

February 26th, 2010, 4:42 pm

 

AIG said:

So what is new?
The Israeli right said Syria would not flip and it was confirmed that it would not. There is absolutely nothing to gain from giving Syria back the Golan.

Not only that, Asad has decided to take the trust building measures to heart, but in reverse. What better way to gain the trust of Israelis than eat lunch with Ahminejad and Nasrallah and then clap when these guys start threatening Israel?

Asad tried to get the US to stop sanctions on the cheap (without Syria giving anything). When he finally understood that even Obama could not give this to him, he has resorted back to his old self. The Syrian people will suffer the economic consequences of Bashar’s foreign policy while ex-pats in the “pride and dignity” brigades will cheer him on.

February 26th, 2010, 4:43 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Did you guys miss me? 🙂

Alex ya habibi ya 3youni ya rou7i, the reason why Qatar and Dubai and Turkey (once upon a time) can get away with having good relations with everybody is because they’re not claiming to be part of the resistance camp. They sit on the fence. Qatar has a huge American military base and an Israeli trade office. Dubai embarrasses the Mossad one week, but also cuts military deals with the IDF. Turkey gets into a little shouting match with Israel one year, but the only reason anyone notices is because they have had strong relations since 1949.

Syria does not want to be on the fence like Turkey and Qatar and the UAE. Syria wants to be on both sides of the fence at the same time.

And what is going to make the region explode? Last week, it was actually not the Israelis that started the shouting match. Mouallem was the one who kicked it off, in response to Barak’s comments, that were actually expressing the same point that YOU are expressing: we need to reach a peaceful solution or the region will be back at war.

Mouallem either stupidly misunderstood Barak (unlikely), or it was all part of a calculated strategy on the part of Syria to raise the rhetoric level. Mouallem’s comments were followed by Nasrallah’s, and now Ahmadinejad. So who wants the region to explode? Is the resistance camp being defensive or offensive?

February 26th, 2010, 4:48 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

PS: I will just add that I personally believe they are being defensive, not offensive. As Ehsani said, people now believe that the US and Israel are beginning to see eye to eye again on Iran.

So all of the rhetoric last week, in my opinion, was designed to send the signal to Israel and the US that there will be serious consequences of a strike on Iran, or even in the case of further attempts to isolate it.

February 26th, 2010, 4:53 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

A new round of sanctions on Iran is now imminent. Israel has already thanked and praised the U.S. for its “sincere” effort in that regard. While Israel praises the U.S., its leaders remain skeptical about the effectiveness of such measures and is considering what should happen “if, against our hopes and wishes and dreams, it won’t work,” as Barak said this morning.

Both Tehran and Damascus are aware of the U.S. and Israeli new push. While no one expects an imminent military strike on Iran, both capitals cannot and will not ignore the possibility of this scenario.

The meeting in Damascus yesterday was a warning that the team is ready and has braced itself for the worst. In a not-so-unsubtle message, both Lebanon and Iraq were added to the team of resistance. The mention of Iraq, in particular, was noteworthy. This “moon” of resistance (no more only a crescent) would blind the enemy, the Iranian leader proclaimed.

While it is true that the U.S. has been opening up to Syria, the definition of this “opening” remains murky and unclear. This was confirmed 24 hours earlier when the Secretary of State told a group of Senators that the sending of an Ambassador was a sign of a “slight opening” with Syria. Mrs. Clinton then went on to state bluntly that Washington wants to drive a wedge between Damascus and Tehran and said that “we’ve laid out for the Syrians the need for greater cooperation with respect to Iraq, the end to interference in Lebanon and the provision of weapons to Hezbollah, a resumption of the Israeli-Syrian track”. This was a lecture and a chapter from the Bush White House days is the way Damascus must have interpreted the remarks. Events since those days have strengthened and emboldened Damascus. Syria was not going to accept Hillary’s public lecture nor was she going to allow Mrs. Clinton to shore up her hawkish pro-Israeli credentials at Damascus’s expense. Once the Syrian President was asked how he would respond to her comments, the answer was stunningly direct, sarcastic and final.

The American policy towards Syria that seems to have been built on the idea that Damascus must move away from the relationship with Iran before good things happen to her is now in tatters. Syria has now bluntly and publicly asked the White House to come up with a new game plan. The ball is back in Mrs. Clinton’s court. Let us see if the President himself wants to join or will he leave this high stakes poker game for his Secretary of State to play.

My friend Qifa Nabki,

The resistance camp is being preemptive. It is aware that the nice-boys-club is up to no good.

February 26th, 2010, 4:55 pm

 

t_desco said:

Hiya, I hope you are all well! I’m not quite, but Clinton’s latest comments on Iran (as well as some STL ‘news’) have once again drawn my attention to the region.

Looking back, I find it truly remarkable to what degree the process of ‘engagement’ with Iran has followed the path predicted by the Leveretts in their analysis of the Clinton team (the Dennis Ross approach: ‘negotiate’ in order to demonstrate that all engagement is ‘futile’ and that military action is necessary).

Sanctions are only another step down the same path:

“While Israeli political and policymaking elites are deeply skeptical that sanctions could actually leverage Iranian decision-making about the nuclear issue, they nonetheless believe that it is necessary to go through the process of debating and imposing sanctions on the Islamic Republic in order to focus U.S. and Western opinion on the futility of sanctions and the imperative for military action against Iranian nuclear threats.”
The Race for Iran, February 25th, 2010

Perhaps the same dishonest approach also dictates the policy towards Syria (hand over all your trumps in exchange for a vague promise of ‘talks’)? Israel may not be too keen to give up the Golan…

Regarding the press conference, I think that Assad said something very interesting (is there a transcript?), but perhaps I am reading too much into it: He mentioned that from his talks with Western officials he got the impression that they did not want to allow any enrichment at all, neither in Iran nor in any other Muslim country.

Why is that interesting? Because this is not the official position, as far as I know, but it would explain the strange puzzle why it is fine for Iran to send 2/3 of the lowly enriched uranium out of the country in one batch in order to be enriched elsewhere, but it is ‘totally unacceptable” to send it in three batches in exchange for already finished nuclear fuel.

It seems indeed to be the case that the West is simply “playing for time”.

February 26th, 2010, 4:59 pm

 

Nour said:

QN:

Syria is never going to give up the resistance camp, because if it does it will be turned into another puppet country, ala Egypt and Jordan. As I said before, there are many issues on which Syria and the US can cooperate that would serve specific mutual interests. The only reason the US is willing to forego such cooperation is because it is more interested in serving “Israeli” interests than its own. But the main point is that Syria is not going back and forth. Syria’s position is consistent and has always been. They want relations based on mutual interests, not on dictates. If the US wants true open relations with Syria then Syria is ready, but if the US wants to require Syria to move away from what is in its own interests in order to serve US and “Israeli” interests then they shouldn’t expect a kind response from Syria.

February 26th, 2010, 5:00 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Joshua,

I don’t actually believe that we’re heading back to the black-and-white world of the Bush years. I don’t think that Obama wants to try to coordinate a region-wide effort to isolate Syria, and so I disagree with your analysis. It’s not about whether or not Obama has the “fight” in him for a confrontation or not.

My point is that it costs the U.S. very little to just ignore Syria, while it actually costs Bashar a good deal more to be ignored. If your goal is to be viewed as an important regional country, then the worst thing that can happen to you is to be ignored, even if you’re not being actively isolated.

The US may have little to gain from isolating Syria, but it also has little to gain from engaging Syria. That is, unless Assad can make the case for it.

February 26th, 2010, 5:01 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Qunfuz said:

When we compare Syria’s position to that of other Arab states, it makes us proud.

Qunfuz,

Saddam Hussein was a proud thug too. Especially when he last met with April Glaspie.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_Glaspie

Syria is calculating that Obama won’t go through with this confrontational strategy and that he doesn’t have the fight in him. Syria had to choose as well. It chose Iran. No surprise there.

Joshua,

What will Syria do if someone lobs a Tomahawk against Iran?

What if UNSC applies more sanction against Iran? What if Iran’s population takes to the streets?

Anyway, I see the Golan isn’t the real issue anymore.

No surprise there.

February 26th, 2010, 5:02 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Nour

Qatar and the UAE and Turkey are not puppet countries are they? And yet, they are not members in the resistance camp.

February 26th, 2010, 5:06 pm

 

Nour said:

QN:

Qatar, Turkey, and the UAE are not directly involved in the struggle against “Israel”; Syria is.

February 26th, 2010, 5:13 pm

 

qunfuz said:

Saddam Hussain was indeed a thug, and for most of his career a pro-US thug. By the time he was deposed he had made enemies of all of his neighbours. This is the opposite of Syria’s current policy.

QN – you’re right that the choice is not simply between puppethood and resistance. However, Syria is in a different position from Qatar, the UAE and Turkey. None of these countries neighbour Israel or have land occupied by Israel. Withdrawing from the resistance front without a return of the Golan would be capitulation, and could only happen within the framework of a deal whereby the regime receives US military protection and cash in return for puppethood.

February 26th, 2010, 5:19 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Nour

Isn’t that the point? 🙂 Your argument doesn’t make sense to me.

If those countries aren’t directly involved in the struggle against Israel, that’s just another way of saying that they’re not in the resistance camp. So how have they avoided being puppets? Why can’t Syria?

February 26th, 2010, 5:21 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

I feel like we’re rehashing all of these old arguments, all over again. 🙂

Let me just go back to the original point of this discussion, which was Syria’s decision to raise the rhetoric, over the past few weeks, just when it seemed like things were starting to pick up on the American front.

IMO, we have to read this rhetoric in terms of a preparation for some kind of “aggression”. The question is: how do you define “aggression”? What do they think is coming?

February 26th, 2010, 5:28 pm

 

Nour said:

Come on QN, you know better than that.

Syria has land occupied by “Israel” and is directly linked to Palestine and Lebanon. That’s what makes it an integral part of the struggle. Syria is not part of the resistance camp in Chechnya against Russia; or part of the resistance camp in Tamil against Sri Lanka. It is part of the resistance camp in its own land against an occupier of that land. This is not the case for Turkey, Qatar, or the UAE. That’s what makes it different.

February 26th, 2010, 5:32 pm

 

jad said:

AP,
Nobody is a “thug” on SC but you.

QN,
What a funny joke, putting Turkey the same level as Qatar and UAE, Hilarious!
“My point is that it costs the U.S. very little to just ignore Syria,”
“The US may have little to gain from isolating Syria, but it also has little to gain from engaging Syria. That is, unless Assad can make the case for it.”
Are you kidding us or yourself? what little you are talking about? Lebanon was close to be burned, and still not functioning right because of the ‘little’ you are making fun of…
Today I’m so angry and not in the mood to read this rambling nonsense analyses of yours QN so it’ll be better for my health to stay away from you…I hope other guys will enjoy your show, I’m not.

February 26th, 2010, 5:34 pm

 

Nour said:

Yes Jad you’re right. I didn’t want to get into a argument over the puppetry status of Qatar and the UAE, both of which I believe have no real independent policies, so I just left it at what I said.

February 26th, 2010, 5:39 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Nour

That’s all well and good, but what you are suggesting is that Syria would remain a puppet even in the context of a deal. Egypt and Jordan are “puppets” even though they got their land back. My point is that this is a simplistic way of looking at things.

Jad, habibi, please stick to the issues. There is no need to insult other commenters. I refer you to the rules of Syria Comment, which were written by a very wise person.

Your argument about Lebanon almost being “burned” because the US was ignoring Syria suggests that political instability in Lebanon is like some kind of mysterious meteorological phenomenon. Whenever Syria is being isolated, suddenly things in Lebanon start going very bad. Nobody knows why. Hmmm, spooky… 🙂


For everybody’s reading pleasure, here’s an interesting piece I picked up off of Rime Allaf’s Facebook feed:

A Route To Resolution For Syria and Israel
by Gabrielle Rifkind

The diplomatic crisis following allegations that the Mossad assassinated Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai has come on top of what looks like ongoing deadlock in the two-state talks between Israelis and Palestinians. But the hysteria of conflict and the ensuing dramas tend to have more appeal than the careful steps of conflict resolution.

When it comes to Israel and its regional neighbours, bellicose language often drowns out peacemaking in a conflict that so often looks intractable. But a potential opening on the Israel-Syria track deserves attention because it could offer movement in a process that suffers from fatigue and cynicism.

The recent furore over potential Syrian-Israeli negotiations revealed both the extent of mistrust and the danger of misunderstanding between two veteran foes. The rhetorical battle flared up when Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, declared that it was vital to resume peace talks with the Syrians because otherwise a war was likely to break out. His remarks were interpreted in ­Damascus as a threat to pursue war.

Shortly afterwards Barak said: “This is a tough neighbourhood and there is no compassion for the weak.” Behind the statement was the belief that if words were used like bullets the enemy would come to the table more likely to escalate the conflict.

The belief that only the tough can win is common in a region where politics are all too often redolent of macho posturing. The model is that only an iron fist will bring security, and no calculation is made about the traumatic consequences of war. Addressing the legitimate grievances of the conflict is too readily dismissed as weakness – and in any case remains impossible if no one listens to what the other side is saying.

Walid Muallem, Syria’s foreign minister, reveals a very different approach to the revival of peace talks. In a meeting with myself and colleagues in December last year, he said: “For peacemaking, Israel needs to be ready to recognise that Syria is entitled to every inch of the Golan, but we wish to engage in talks.” “For us,” he continued, “the land is sacred and a matter of honour.”

Muallem suggested that Syria was prepared to contemplate a step-by-step approach to the return of the Golan Heights, territory that Israel captured in the 1967 war. “There could be stages of withdrawal, the timing of which could involve a form of normalisation,” he said. “Half of the Golan could lead to an end of enmity; three-quarters of the Golan, to a special interest section in the US embassy in Damascus: a full withdrawal would allow a Syrian embassy in Israel.” Key issues, such as Syria’s support for Hamas, Hezbollah and its policy to Iran, would, he said, “only be answered after withdrawal”.

In terms of third-party mediation the Syrians are in favour of indirect talks through Turkey, which has already worked on defining the 1967 border. This unresolved issue is the demarcation of the line on the water between Syria and Israel, and ­determining who controls the shoreline on Lake Tiberias.

The next stage, said Muallem, “would entail direct talks with America to address the security concerns. The key issue here is US flights over the Golan in order to provide security.”

In Syria’s view, Turkey plays the role of an honest broker. But relations between Israel and Turkey plummeted after last year’s war in Gaza, and the latest diplomatic spat does not augur well for any Israeli recognition of Turkey’s good faith as a mediator.

Syria’s insistence that it will not negotiate any change in its relationship with Hezbollah and Hamas until after the Golan is returned is particularly hard for Israel to swallow. This is because Israel believes that Syria plays an active role in providing passage for Iranian weapons to these groups.

If Syria and Israel managed to scale the initial peak of agreement on the Golan, the view from the top may be significantly different. A potential role for Syria as a mediator between Israel, Hamas and Hezbollah could drastically improve the chances of a long-term truce – or even a permanent resolution – between these parties. Without any legitimate process, a deluded fiction will prevail around a temporary quiet with the dangers of escalating violence, potentially leading to conflict.

As so often in conflict, it is not the end game that is the problem, but the inability to find a route to a resolution – not least because of the consequences of endless mistrust and suspicion that sets an inauspicious tone for peacemaking. It is in these conditions that active third party mediation becomes central to nurture any process and calm dangerously short-tempers. Turkey and the US now need to play a very active role.

February 26th, 2010, 5:40 pm

 

Nour said:

QN,

What deal are you alluding to? You are assuming that Syria can get all its land back, liberate Palestine, liberate the remainder of Lebanese occupied land, and be free to advance and develop and compete economically, technologically, industrially, and militarily with the cancerous occupation to the south, all through a simple deal, and it is just throwing away that opportunity. You realize the US is telling Syria it has to stop supporting the resistance, cut its strategic ties with Iran, end all opposition to “Israeli” occupation, stop building its military arsenal, and then we’ll maybe sit and talk about “negotiations.” How sane would Syria be if it agreed to those dictates?

As for Egypt and Jordan, they are puppets because they have no independent policies. And as far as their “returned” land is concerned, what land did Jordan get back? And Egypt has no real sovereignty over the Sinai (which never really belonged to Egypt anyway) as it has to ask permission from “Israel” if it is to move a single police officer in the peninsula.

February 26th, 2010, 5:49 pm

 

jad said:

” There is no need to insult other commenters.”
What are you talking about?
Calling AP a thug?? He called all of us thugs like Saddam? Maybe you missed that.
“Saddam Hussein was a proud thug too”

And please don’t call me Habibi, Thanks.

February 26th, 2010, 5:53 pm

 

offended said:

Couple of Syrian bloggers have taken it upon themselves to upload the ‘Syrian School’ series (BBC documentary).

http://www

It was an absolute delight to watch!

February 26th, 2010, 6:04 pm

 

DubaiKicksMossadAss said:

Offended here. Feeling very offended by the continuous harassment from Alex’s spam filter.

Just kidding.

A group of Syrian bloggers uploaded the ‘Syrian School’ series, a BBC documentary looking over the lives of few Syrian students over an entire year.

An absolute delight to watch:

http://www

February 26th, 2010, 6:19 pm

 

norman said:

Old habits are hard to break especially when you are busy at home as Obama is ,
The US is preparing for an attack on Iran and is giving Syria some carrots and expecting Syria to stay on the side line if Iran retaliates against Israel and a full scale war starts , Syria and Iran are making it clear to the US and Israel , DO NOT BE IN A HURRY ,

February 26th, 2010, 6:23 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Jad ya albi

I was referring to you calling my posts “rambling nonsense.” There is no need for hostility. If you disagree with me, why not engage on the issues?

Nour,

I will wait for Syria to liberate all of the Golan, all of Palestine, all of Lebanese (read “Greater Syrian) occupied territory, and the Sinai as well (which is just the south of Greater Syria). When that day comes, we will all rest assured that Syria is neither a puppet nor a resistor. I can’t wait.

😉

February 26th, 2010, 6:24 pm

 

Offended said:

Test

February 26th, 2010, 6:35 pm

 

jad said:

QN,
I’m sorry, I honestly didn’t mean it as an insult at all.
You are absolutely right and I apologizes, I have no right whatsoever to call your comment anything.
Regards

February 26th, 2010, 6:35 pm

 

AbuResistance said:

You know, it’s the most irritating thing in the world when you SO MUCH want to join in the discussion but the spam filter won’t let you.

Test.

(another one by Offended)

February 26th, 2010, 6:44 pm

 

Nour said:

QN,

Struggles for liberation tend to be a long process, so no need for the sarcasm. It only took Algeria 132 years to liberate itself from France. Vietnam had to struggle for nearly 100 years before it was able to free itself from French colonialism. There are similar examples all across the globe. Maybe at the time you would have advised these peoples that they were foolish to be in the “resistance camp” and that they should strike a deal with their occupiers and just accept the fact that they are under foreign rule. Either way, no one expects that we will liberate our land overnight, but the question is if we can’t end the occupation of our land tomorrow, should we just surrender and set a precendent that others are allowed to steal our land if a requisite amount of years elapse?

February 26th, 2010, 6:50 pm

 

aburesistance said:

A group of Syrian bloggers have uploaded the ‘Syrian School’ series. A BBC documentary about the lives of students in various Syrian schools over an entire year.

Was an absolute delight to watch…..

http://www

February 26th, 2010, 7:05 pm

 

AbuResistance said:

Rafeek QN,

You said Syria’s position looks to be disingenuous to you. Fair enough. I’ll give you 24 hours with google. Kindly find me a single statement by a Syrian regime figure in which he/she clearly stated the willingness of Syria to dump Iran, Hamas or Hezbollah in exchange for an x amount of perks from Hillary Clinton.

You’re still stuck at the rising of rhetoric and can’t seem to appreciate the significance of the stance itself. The rhetoric, let me assure you, isn’t what bothers the US so much. Otherwise, Lieutenant General Qaddafi’s call for Jihad against Swiss would be met by Tomahawk cruise missiles today. What worries the united states, on behalf of Israel, is Syria’s alliance with Hezbollah and Hamas, and with Iran, and the latter’s alleged intentions to acquire nukes. This is the US’s beef with Syria. I don’t see Syria’s position had changed. I’m assuming the united states is trying to fix its policy in the middle east. By ‘engaging’ with Syria and Iran. So I’m assuming this is why the US has sent an ambassador back. I don’t see where you brought the ‘disingenuous’ bit from.

Ironically, when asked about the Syrian-Iranian consolidating alliance, US state department said they didn’t mind ‘healthy’ (whatever that means) relationship between the two countries. They were just worried about the facets of this partnership that ‘destabilize’ the middle east. Ironically, these aspects of ‘destabilization’ are exactly why me, (and I’m willing to include Qunfuz and Nour too), are supportive of the regime’s foreign policy.

When the regime jumps off the fence, then we’ll talk about disingenuousness.

February 26th, 2010, 8:38 pm

 

AbuResistance said:

I’ve been trying to post this link for the past two hours. A Syrian blogger uploaded this BBC documentary: ‘Syrian School’, which follows the life of students across different schools in Damascus for an entire year.

One of them is Yosuf, an Iraqi christian kid who had been displaced by war. The others are couple of girls from Zaki Al Arsuzi high school.

http://www

Skip to 40:00 to see a visit surprise by a highly respected public figure : )

February 26th, 2010, 8:56 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Abu Resistance

You misunderstood my point. I didn’t say that Syria’s position is disingenuous, only that it is unproductive. They’re trying to be all things to all people and then they’re surprised when it doesn’t work out.

You said: “What worries the united states, on behalf of Israel, is Syria’s alliance with Hezbollah and Hamas, and with Iran, and the latter’s alleged intentions to acquire nukes. This is the US’s beef with Syria.”

I agree. 100%. For the U.S. Hezbollah and Hamas are terrorist organizations, so that makes Syria a state sponsor of terror. This is the policy, plain and simple.

February 26th, 2010, 10:05 pm

 

t_desco said:

Reading the news these days sometimes gives you a strange sense of déjà vu.

So with Yukiya Amano at its helm the IAEA is now more pliable and accommodating to Western wishes…?

Interestingly, you can interpret the recent articles about the STL by Le Monde and the F.A.Z. as an attempt to make Bellemare more pliable and accommodating to said wishes (regarding the timing of his next steps, indictment or summons).

Both articles (which appeared around the same time and seem to follow the same talking points) certainly contain an element of ‘psychological warfare’, but the question is if Western powers can resist the temptation to use the STL in the same way (against Iran) as the Mehlis UN commission was used in the past (against Syria).

BTW, what about the timing of the ambassador move, right before the Ahmadinejad visit? Could that have been a deliberate move by the Ross-crowd which in tandem with a Burns list of demands has now produced an entirely predictable result?

February 26th, 2010, 10:20 pm

 

almasri said:

As I read Mr. Nejjad speech, I only wished he was making it from Cairo and celebrating the Prophet’s Birthday there right in the middle of Sidi Hussein with the people of Egypt. Inshallah next year with Egypt free of zionist thugs mistakenly called ambassadors and with a real Egyptian President on his side.
As for Qifa Nabki’s argument, I do not think Qifa Nabki knows anything about Syria or its modern history. Bashar is the son of his father and he will never deviate one iota from his dad’a legacy. The alliance with Islamic Iran was made and sealed by Hafiz as a corner stone of a Syrian strategy. Go and learn politics from the masters of politics habibi Qifa Nabki.

February 26th, 2010, 10:29 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

To2borni AlMasri

I hope, for Syria’s sake, that you are wrong. If Bashar does not deviate one iota from his dad’s legacy, he will be condemning his country to another several decades of state planning and emergency law.

February 26th, 2010, 10:35 pm

 

almasri said:

So what’s your point ya fahim?

February 26th, 2010, 10:53 pm

 

Nour said:

QN,

What you’re saying is that because the US thinks we should not be resisting “Israel” then indeed Syria should follow that US policy regardless of how it affects its interests. Likewise, the Algerians should not have resisted the French, the ANC should not have resisted the Apartheid government, etc. We should just let foreign powers dictate how we should act.

As for your other point, Syria is not trying to be everything to everyone. Syria has made it clear that it has a strategic relationship with Iran which it is not willing to break. It has also made it clear that it is open to relations with anyone so long as those relations are based on mutual interests. It is not running around begging others to be its friends. Rather, it has held a consistent position as to how relations between nations should be, and any nation respecting that position is welcome. So I don’t see how you read that as meaning they want to be everything to everyone.

February 26th, 2010, 11:09 pm

 

Alex said:

An earlier comment from AIG (just to make sure it does not get lost, since it was stuck in moderation)

15. AIG said:

So what is new?
The Israeli right said Syria would not flip and it was confirmed that it would not. There is absolutely nothing to gain from giving Syria back the Golan.

Not only that, Asad has decided to take the trust building measures to heart, but in reverse. What better way to gain the trust of Israelis than eat lunch with Ahminejad and Nasrallah and then clap when these guys start threatening Israel?

Asad tried to get the US to stop sanctions on the cheap (without Syria giving anything). When he finally understood that even Obama could not give this to him, he has resorted back to his old self. The Syrian people will suffer the economic consequences of Bashar’s foreign policy while ex-pats in the “pride and dignity” brigades will cheer him on.

February 26th, 2010, 11:57 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Nour

Syria is trying to improve its relations with the United States. It is also trying to sign a peace deal with Israel. According to Walid al-Mu`allem himself, this is what Syria has been trying to do since 1991. They are even willing to contemplate a multi-phase process, whereby the Golan is gradually given back to Syria over several years.

Simultaneously, Syria is trying to maintain its relations with other countries and organizations, some of which are the sworn enemies of the United States and Israel.

When Bashar talks about making peace with Israel and establishing a Syrian embassy in Tel Aviv one week, and then smiles approvingly as Ahmadinejad calls for eradicating Israel the next week, then how do you expect the U.S. to react? I mean, it’s one thing if Syria could care less whether or not it gets back into the good graces of America or whether it could care less about making peace with Israel. But that’s not the case. Assad wants to make peace with Israel. Nasrallah has said that Hezbollah will never recognize Israel in a million years, and Ahmadinejad wants to see Israel wiped off the map.

The fact is, as long as you are trying to be in two places at one time, who is going to take you seriously?

February 27th, 2010, 1:03 am

 

Nour said:

QN,

An accurate reading of the events clearly shows that Syria is not interested in surrendering to either “israel” or the US. Syria understands how international politics works and so it shapes its policies accordingly. As such, Syria has always maintained that it is striving for a just and comprehensive peace. But it has also maintained that “Israel” has proven its inability and unwillingness to accept a just and comprehensive peace.

Moreover, Syria has never waivered from its position that relations and “peace” with any side should not be contingent on the nature of its relation with a third party. Syria has always said that it wants better relations with the US based on the principle of mutual interests; not on dictates from the American side. If the US is unwilling to open relations with Syria based on mutual respect and on cooperative work on issues affecting specific interests the two sides have in common, then Syria is not interested, and they have made that clear repeatedly.

As far as Ahmadinejad is concerned, he actually never talked of eradicating “Israel”, even though I don’t believe there is anything wrong with that, as every inch of our land should be liberated from any foreign rule. But it simply is not the case that Ahmadinejad said that; let us be accurate. He said if “Israel” continues in its wrong ways, this will lead to its eventual demise. This is not a position that is inconsistent with what Syria has always maintained.

QN,

Syria, in my opinion, has used “negotiations” with “Israel” in order to buy itself time and maneuvre itself politically, while it tries to continue to develop its economy and build its military. That’s why they have repeatedly stated that while they have adopted peace as a strategic goal, they have not ruled out any other options. Syria is not interested in surrendering its national rights for the sake of a so-called “peace” agreement, and therefore, it is not about to give up all its strategic cards for vague promises from the Americans.

February 27th, 2010, 1:25 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

QuestioNs and Answers with QN

QN said:

Syria is trying to improve its relations with the United States.

It’s tough work, isn’t it?

It is also trying to sign a peace deal with Israel.

Now two back-breaking jobs. Top Notch Modern-Day Presidents with Western suits shouldn’t work so hard!

According to Walid al-Mu`allem himself, this is what Syria has been trying to do since 1991.

For 9 years? Now that’s outright slavery!

They are even willing to contemplate a multi-phase process, whereby the Golan is gradually given back to Syria over several years.

How low can one stoop?

Simultaneously, Syria is trying to maintain its relations with other countries and organizations, some of which are the sworn enemies of the United States and Israel.

Playing games with Uncle Sam may be a bad long-term strategy.

When Bashar talks about making peace with Israel and establishing a Syrian embassy in Tel Aviv one week, and then smiles approvingly as Ahmadinejad calls for eradicating Israel the next week, then how do you expect the U.S. to react?

Are we really that dumb? I guess we’ll find out.

Assad wants to make peace with Israel. Nasrallah has said that Hezbollah will never recognize Israel in a million years, and Ahmadinejad wants to see Israel wiped off the map.

The sad case of having too many lovers. A dangerous business IMHO.

The fact is, as long as you are trying to be in two places at one time, who is going to take you seriously?

Shai?

Welcome Back AIG.

February 27th, 2010, 2:25 am

 

norman said:

QN , it is good to see you here ,

To summarize Syria is simple , Syria wants the Golan heights and a just settlement for the Palestinians , Syria will keep all the friends that support her efforts , from Iran , to Venezuela , to Turkey , she would like the US to be Syria’s friend and help the US in Iran , Iraq and other places but the US have to change it’s behavior of supporting the illegal Occupation of Israel of the Golan Heights and the Palestinian land , until then Syria will not help the US , Syria helped the US in 1990 only to find out that the US has no teeth when it comes to Israel ,
so you ask why would Syria comes out in support of Iran while the relation with the US is improving , it is simple the US did not change what it wants from Syria which practically surrender including abandoning the Palestinians and the Golan as Dr landis said in return for some carrots ,

It is ashamed that they do not know that Syria is not for sale,

February 27th, 2010, 2:51 am

 

Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Offended,

Thank you for the link. Very interesting documentary !!
Parts 2 and 3 are here

http://www

.

February 27th, 2010, 3:18 am

 

Weekend roundup « Iran in the World said:

[…] affirms ties to Iran despite US calls” (Associated Press, Syria Comment) Despite recent diplomatic overtures from the US, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stood alongside […]

February 27th, 2010, 3:22 am

 

Shai said:

Though I haven’t read all the comments here, I do want to make three points regarding Assad’s “game” with Iran and the U.S. (apologies if I repeat anything said before me):

1) It is clear Assad will not become another Sadat: He’s not going to drop all his natural and unnatural allies, just because America wants him to. No one else, besides America and Israel, is asking him to do so. There’s little doubt Assad has made it clear, behind closed doors, that the nature of the relationship with parties deemed “problematic” to the U.S. will change, if and when other conditions are met (return of the Golan, lifting of sactions, etc.) But for Syria to give away any of these cards in advance would be foolish, even if we Israelis or other pro-Israel supporters in New Jersey or Washington really really wanted her to. Failure to understand this (i.e. to see it from Syria’s point of view, not only from ours) is indicative of an inability to empathize (not sympathize) with one’s rival. And those who cannot empathize, cannot make peace.

2) It is clear Assad is ready to gamble a lot: While Assad is continuing to court Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas, he is sending Washington messages that are not interpreted the way he wishes them to be. As long as Washington refuses to recognize Hezbollah or Hamas, and continues to suspect Iran’s motives, Syria’s “dance in both weddings” won’t work. While Syria may have made it clear to the U.S. that precisely because the it has isolated her for so long, Syria has no alternative but to join a new Alliance with nations that are ready to support her (Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Russia, China?), it is nonetheless a huge risk. It is difficult to rebuild trust when actions are being interpreted as bluntly supportive of anti-American parties. There will be an overwhelming consensus against Syria.

3) Assad may be setting himself up for Deception: Just as Syria and Egypt became so heavily dependent on Soviet support during the 60’s and 70’s, so too Syria may become overly-dependent on Iran. As Iran continues to increase its military and industrial investments in Syria, Syria becomes more indebted and hence susceptible to Iranian manipulation. The recent joint-declarations from Damascus clearly suggest that all parties are readying themselves for “the next Israeli attack”. Whether true or not, there’s little doubt that in such an environment, Iran has far greater leverage on the events in our region than ever before.

While I’m not sure any of us clearly understand Iran’s own “Grand Plan” for the Middle East, it seems to me that its influence in Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, (and Iraq) may not be in everyone’s best interest, not only in Israel’s.

February 27th, 2010, 11:47 am

 

norman said:

Shai,
It seems to me that Israel is the cheese that is bringing the Iranian mouse to our area , Israel can defuse that immediately by having peace with Syria and the hamas and Hezbollah and part of that that these naibours will not be a stage for Iranian anti Israel activity , so in my opinion Israel need to jump forward not backward to save itself ,If these parties do not want to safeguard Israeli security from Iran after a peacefully settlement then Israel would have tried , and as you say , Syria will and should use everything it has including attempt at acquiring nuclear weapon ,as Israel has, to get her land back ,

February 27th, 2010, 3:02 pm

 

Amir in Tel Aviv said:

QN (Syria wants to be on both sides of the fence at the same time), and Shai (Syria “dance in both weddings”) are right. But both of you describe a situation which was true until 2 days ago.

So why (‘The Bachelor’) Asad chooses to get rid of one candidate, live, brutally and rudely on TV, and hand the red rose to the other candidate?

What’s the rush? Why choose sides now? Why not continue and dance on both sides of the fence? Any explanation?

To me it looks like an outcome of a desperate situation of the Syrian economy.
I really don’t buy the stories about 100% of growth in the past 6 years. Nothing that comes out about the Syrian economy is verified, or could be trusted. To me it looks like lots of white smoke, to camouflage the desperate economic and real situation.

Asad probably needs cash from Tehran, and fast. And so this cash comes with a price tag. Dump Hillary.
.

February 27th, 2010, 3:25 pm

 

US can’t get no satisfaction from Syria and Iran — War in Context said:

[…] his blog, Syria Comment, Joshua Landis writes: President Bashar al-Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was in Damascus […]

February 27th, 2010, 3:32 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Amir,

As a person who has not had great things to say about the Syrian economy or its likely prospects, I disagree with your comment #60.

Syria has hardly any external debt to roll over. The currency is stable. There is no sign of an imminent collapse or major alarm. Growth is not sufficient to be sure. Exports are weak. The state sector is bloated. But, there is zero chance that the leadership is making a sharper turn towards Iran for purely economic reasons.

February 27th, 2010, 3:43 pm

 

Alex said:

Amir,

I don’t know if you are aware that when it comes to cash, Syria can have ten times more of that if it chose to please the Saudis and not the Iranians.

Do you know how much “cash” Iran is giving Syria?

Qatar?

Kuwait?

Saudi Arabia?

Which one is the top investor in Syria’s economy?

February 27th, 2010, 3:44 pm

 

Ghat Albird said:

From a thousand miles away from Syria’s neighborhood I admit to:-

a. not knowing IF Asad probably needs cash from Tehran, and fast. And so this cash comes with a price tag. Dump Hillary.

b. not certain that Assad may be setting himself up for Deception:

c. (THIS IS A CLASSIC) Syrians are even willing to contemplate a multi-phase process, whereby the Golan is gradually given back to Syria over several years.
How low can they stoop?

d. Assad may be setting himself up for Deception:

e. When Bashar talks about making peace with Israel and establishing a Syrian embassy in Tel Aviv one week, and then smiles approvingly as Ahmadinejad calls for eradicating Israel the next week, then how do you expect the U.S. to react?

Are we [ israelis ] really that dumb? I guess we’ll find out.

IMHO. any time 12 individuals with phony passports are sent to assassinate one individual thats real dumb.

As long as Mr. Assad is keeping the opposition guessing he must be doing the “right thing” for Syria.

February 27th, 2010, 3:58 pm

 

norman said:

do we have any doubt on who control the US ,poor Obama , he can not work for the American people ,

‘Israel pressing U.S. not to send new envoy to Syria’

By Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service

Tags: Israel news, Iran, Hezbollah

Israel is urging the United States to freeze its decision to send a new envoy to Syria, in the wake of this week’s tripartite meeting between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, according to a report Saturday in London-based Arabic daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat.

According to the report, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and an aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both made the request during meetings with U.S. officials in Washington this week.

The report added that Israeli officials made the request after witnessing Assad’s public defiance of U.S. calls to curb its ties with Iran this week. Assad said his long-standing alliance with Tehran remains strong despite overtures from Washington intended to shift his loyalties. With Ahmadinejad by his side, Assad told America not to dictate relationships in the Middle East.
Advertisement

“I find it strange how they talk about Middle East stability and at the same time talk about dividing two countries,” Assad told reporters when asked about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s call on Wednesday for Syria to move away from Iran. Taking a further swipe at Clinton, he said that perhaps he and Ahmadinejad had misunderstood, due to a translation error or their own limited understanding.

In a show of unity, the two signed an agreement canceling travel visas between their countries.

The report also said that Israeli officials said Syria had interpreted the appointment of a new U.S. envoy as a sign of weakness on Washington’s part, and not as a decision to improve ties between the two countries.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday said that the recent decision to send an ambassador to Syria did not mean American concerns about that country have been addressed.

Speaking to lawmakers in Washington, Clinton said the nomination of career diplomat Robert Ford signaled a slight opening with Syria.

But she said the administration remained troubled by Syria’s alleged support for militant groups in Iraq and elsewhere, interference in Lebanon and close relationship with Iran.

February 27th, 2010, 4:23 pm

 

norman said:

Alex,
Isn’t it , Kuwait , then Qatar, then Saudi Arabia then Iran ,

February 27th, 2010, 4:25 pm

 

norman said:

Look at this trash from our neighbour to the west,and people wonder why Syria is keeping Iran as a friend ,

http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/20450

February 27th, 2010, 4:40 pm

 

Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Ehsani & Alex,

Nothing that you think you know about Syrian economy, is verifiable or sure.
No one knows the truth, but maybe 5 people at the very top.

Syria (unlike Dubai) cannot allow herself politically, to be exposed to the world, and especially to her own citizens !

And if countries such as Greece and Britain are being caught manipulating the numbers, if not actually lying, then everything is possible elsewhere.

And most importantly: You still can’t explain what’s the rush to dump Hillary now?
.

February 27th, 2010, 4:43 pm

 

almasri said:

It is in the best interests of the Arab people for Iran to be the major player in the region. This is the answer from Islam to the imperialists spearheaded by the zionists who plotted day and night over 100 years ago to drive a wedge between Muslim Turkey and the Arabs, thus setting the stage for the establishment of a bastard colonial regime which they call Israel. This game is now coming to an end with major shifts in power taking place across the globe on a scale similar to the shifts that took place some 600 years ago. The rise of Iran as a major Islamic power is also a fullfillment of the prophecy made by the Prophet of Islam that this Religion will become victorious at the hand of this people of Iran. All indications point in this direction.
For anyone who hasn’t analyzed the turmoils of the last few years, he or she should be pricked back to his or her senses in order to see that the US as a world major power is on its way to becoming the irrelevant papaer tiger that soon no one will take seriously . What a joke? The US arms Taiwain hoping to twist China’s hand into committing to irrelevant sanctions against a rising power bearing the banner of Islam that no one will be able to stop. And the poor yanks think the Hungs will simply smile and nod as usual. What an arrogant dumb breed this anglo saxon duck turned into at the beginning of the 21st century?
Of course China will nod knowing that the US is over trillion in debt to the people’s republic. But it’ll be a different kind of nod. If you are not following on economic development, then you should that expected Chinese nod has indeed happened but not at the UN as was expected by a bunch of fools sitting in the White House, the Congress and Senate catering to nothing but the interests of a bunch of zionist thugs half a planet away instead iof dealing with the pressing problems of the average American! The people’s republic seems to have decided to reduce its holdings of this massive american liability debt by selling a huge portion of it recently (over 80 billion dollar). One would wonder what the Europeans would do if the roles were switched and Europe was doing Washington dirt job of covering the asses of a bunch zionist misfits that get implanted into a land that has legitimate owners? Do mass demonstrations that topple governments away make an average american open his jaw in shock and awe? Or has the average American become so indoctrinated by the Jewish/Zionist propaganda machine that he or she has become unable to see what is in his or her best interests? Would the growing number of of the 8 million American un-employed eventually destroy this American entity from within making it pay the ultimate of its arrogance and go down into the dustbin of history as if it never existed?
And you wonder why Asad is making sarcasm of Clinton? Could anyone resist the temptation? To all those who are theorizing on this blog the answer is clear and simple. Hafiz laid the foundation for this plan which he called the Grand Plan before he died. Bashar is simply walking in his foot steps and will never let his father down. The final outcome will be the destruction of the zionist entity and the dispersement of all the alliens that it brought back to where they belong and the ushering of a new Islamic era that will rule the whole world despite all the plots of the zionist Jews and their cohorts.
For an Arab the choice is simple. We and Iran have common history and common Religion. We, the Jews their foolish backers in the US have nothing in common but enmity. When Nejjad says you, Jews, should pack up and leave we cannot but agree with him 100%. Thank you Bashar for removing the Visa requirements between Iran and Syria. This is the way it used to be 100 years ago and it is the way it should from now till forever. Please do not forget to remove visa requirements between Iraq and Syria in August when the yanks pack up and leave. The road from Tehran to Jerusalem must remain fully open for the Grand Plan of Hafiz to materialize.
“They plot and Allah plots. And Allah is the best of all plotters.”

February 27th, 2010, 4:48 pm

 

Ghat Albird said:

AMIR IN TEL AVIV said:

if countries such as Greece and Britain are being caught manipulating the numbers, if not actually lying, then everything is possible elsewhere.

The numbers in Greece were manipulated by Goldman Sachs. In Britain it may be the Bank of England.

February 27th, 2010, 4:53 pm

 

jad said:

Dear Norman,
I wrote this sentence the moment I read QN comment:

“What is happening with the Lebanese these days, they are attacking Syria without any specific reason, are you guys bored or something?”

I think someone somewhere gave the sign for the usual Lebanese ‘futuristic’ group to be loud about Syria with the same old group inside the US administration and of course they will happy to do it out of their historical love to Syria..Spooky

It’s interesting to always read the same sentence (Baathist dictatorial regime) next to Syria in any of those articles just to do the link between Syria and Iraq and eventually ask for the same treatment from the god of humanity (USA and the west).
Those writers are very civilized and truly for human right issues nothing more 😉

February 27th, 2010, 4:57 pm

 

Choices, choices… « Qifa Nabki | A Lebanese Political Blog said:

[…] Joshua Landis has an interesting round-up of the fall-out of Ahmadinejad and Nasrallah’s meeting with Bashar al-Asad in […]

February 27th, 2010, 5:06 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Amir,

Of course none of us have a firm grip on the true state of the Syrian economy. I am glad that you think that “maybe 5 people at the very top” do. You talk like Syria just decided to make a bigger shift towards Iran when the 5 people at the top suddenly realized that the Syrian economy is about to tank. This alliance with Iran has been in place for 31 years. The more that Syria is isolated, threatened and the longer she is denied her land the more she will align herself with Tehran. This move will take place regardless of whether Syria’s economic growth is 1% or 10% percent.

Syria did not dump Hillary. It is Hillary that has refused to mention, visit or directly talk to Damascus even once since she took office. When Hillary did talk about Syria finally, it was a laundry list of what she must do, who she should be talking and how she must throw her ally under the bus and start talks with Israel whose leaders just threatened to personally take out her leadership if they misbehave. Hillary and the White House have offered nothing but a silly ambassadorial presence in Damascus. What Hillary and the White House have demanded back in return is akin to asking Damascus to take down her per pants and walking naked on 5th avenue in the middle of this winter storm.

February 27th, 2010, 5:36 pm

 

Alex said:

Good comment Jad,

Lots of impressive Lebanese people, starting with our dear friend Qifa Nabki, but also lots of narcissists who are suffering from withdrawal symptoms after the departure of Bush and Cheney planet earth stopped making the news of the Hariri investigation (and Syria’s despicable role in it) a daily routine.

The Pakistanis are not writing that many opinion pieces in major US newspapers (like Michael Young’s NYT piece) demanding world attention to the investigation of Bhutto’s assassination in Rawalpindi only 2 years ago.

Five years after the Hariri assassination, the world must continue to revolve around Lebanon and the unfulfilled need for Michael Young and friends to take revenge from Syria. And to the right wing lunatics in the Untied States, those Lebanese “analysts” are perfect tools again.

February 27th, 2010, 5:37 pm

 

Shami said:

Alex,
The difference is that If Jumblatt lose election he goes home in his village and when Bashar will lose it would he remain inside Syria?it’s not about prophetical guessing of the future,political change is historical invariable fact,there will be a day we or our children will see the statues of Hafez Destroyed by the same people who shouted bil roh bil dam nafdiq ya hafez/bashar and not necessary through an invasion.
At least the lebanese as wrong most of their leaders are not in face of this asadian logic kill and terrorize or die.
As i said better for them to recognize this reality and to leave power in a smart manner before being badly erased by the logic of history.Bashar should erase the symbols of this 50 years old lies story by himself if he is really smart.

February 27th, 2010, 5:54 pm

 

jad said:

Dear Alex,
What is annoying in this over reaction about Mr. Assad and Mr. Najad meeting is that the two didn’t say anything new or alerting for the US or Israel, it was merely an answer to the same old tone of dictating and threating from the US and Israel. Then the usual neocons took it as a declaration of war and that they need to destroy us just because we talk back trying to defend our selves.
What did they expect? turn the other cheek?

And why all the fuss about appointing an ambassador? Is appointing an ambassador to another country such a big issue these days? They had an ambassador before 2005 weren’t Syria saying the same thing back then? Was it OK back then and it’s so big an issue now? Is America this dumb???? If it is that a big deal for them KEEP HIM THERE, the Syrians are surviving with and without a stupid ambassador.

I noticed in your latest writing how disappointed you are from Mr. Obama administration, but to be honest, I didn’t even have any hope from him or his administration from day one. For the west it will always be the endless Greek mythology of good against evil. The good is ofcourse them.

February 27th, 2010, 5:58 pm

 

Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Sorry.. mistake.. pls delete.

February 27th, 2010, 6:03 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Amir,

You are wrong. What is much more important for Syria is the lifting of the economic sanctions, taking the country off the terrorist list and getting her land back. Did you really think that Damascus is that naive to jump with joy now that an Arabic speaking ambassador is about to land? Syria has been very dissapointed, if not frustrated with how little this White House has offered her. When Syria was much more isolated, an ambassador from the US would have been a bigger plus perhaps. But the longer the U.S. waited, the more Damascus moved on, gained confidence and found a way out of her isolation, the naming of the Ambassador became a case of too little too late. The latest comments from your foreign minister were not exactly conducive to a joyful atmosphere either.

February 27th, 2010, 6:12 pm

 

jad said:

Prince, you never stop amaze me with your intelligent.
What is an Ambassador role in a sovereign country’s decision of having guests that they don’t agree with that ambassador’s country views?
And what if this meeting happened after this genius ambassador (he speaks Arabic, WHOHOO, I speak 5 languages fluently and almost every Syrian speaks 2-3 languages at least) already lives in Syria, are the American taking him back? Is America a nation or your grumpy next door friend?

February 27th, 2010, 6:16 pm

 

Ghat Albird said:

New York Times reporters and bureau chiefs in Israel are all dual nationsls?

from a newspaper whose logo claims only publishes “all the news fit to print”

http://www.counterpunch.org/weir02262010.html

February 27th, 2010, 6:17 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

Bashar is making the same mistake again.first calling KSA king half men, and now making sarcastic statement against Hillary Clinton.
the Syrian Iranian alliance is very strong and deterring to Israel.however Syria is the most importatnt ring in this chain,it is also the weakest,changing Syria first by sanction (will not work)second by dialogue(it will not work)third by military action this will take four hours,but has extreme effect on HA,and Iran ,who both will capitulate,however the new regime in Syria will not last three months.

February 27th, 2010, 7:36 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Alex said: “Lots of impressive Lebanese people, starting with our dear friend Qifa Nabki…”

Teslam ya Alex.

But you guys really need to stop worry about what some Lebanese say about the regime. They’re not going to stop. 🙂 The ones who hated the regime before Hariri was assassinated are going to hate the regime until the end of time. Even if Bellemare exonerates Damascus from the crime and blames it on Haifa Wehbe, they’re still going to hate the regime.

Bush and Cheney were just instruments to punish the regime. In the same way that Michel Aoun was happy to use AIPAC to create UNSCR 1559 and got funding from Saddam Hussein to fight the Syrians, people are happy to use any allies they can to fight their enemies.

February 27th, 2010, 8:02 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Here’s Sami Moubayed on the question of “Who Wants War in Lebanon?”

“Syria does not want war either, but top officials have said that they will support Lebanon if it comes to it. The Saudis feel the same way.
Iran, however, would not mind another war in Lebanon. There are certain radicals within Iran who are not pleased about the so-called ‘Lebanonisation’ of Hezbollah. The party, they believe, is becoming overly immersed in Lebanese domestic issues, pursing more of a political programme than a military one — a programme very different from the one formulated by Hezbollah’s founding charter in 1982. They are itching for another war, to remind the world what Hezbollah is really all about. They are seemingly very convinced that Hezbollah can strike back at Israel, surviving a war just as it did the one in 2006, inflicting maximal damage on Israeli cities and infrastructure. These people believe Hezbollah would do sufficiently well that the international community would think twice before pushing for another confrontation with the organisation or, at a later stage, with Iran itself.
Others, however, are more sceptical, fearing that if Israel lives up to its threats, striking at all of Lebanon and not just the Shiite south, then this would create a very unfavourable environment for Hezbollah within Lebanese society, at least among Sunnis, Maronites and Druze.”</blockquote

February 27th, 2010, 8:09 pm

 

jad said:

“But you guys really need to stop worry about what some Lebanese say about the regime.”
The first problem is that those ‘some’ Lebanese you are talking about don’t really separate Syrians as people from the Regime as an authority, what they really want is to see every Syrian dead to feel good about their lovely ‘sectarian’ ‘democratic’ ‘peaceful’ ‘westernized’ ‘americanized’ own ‘regime’.
and the second problem is not that they are the one ‘using’ the ‘instruments’ they are the ‘instrument’ themselves.

February 27th, 2010, 8:11 pm

 

norman said:

Alex ,

I do not think you believe that QN belongs with other Lebanese who bad mouth Syria , I think you are just trying to keep QN coming back to write , You are genios ,

QN Said ,

((people are happy to use any allies they can to fight their enemies.))

I guess you understand Syria after all,

February 27th, 2010, 8:22 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Jad

Can you show me a single op-ed, or an article in a journal, or a transcript from a WINEP function where a Lebanese journalist or lobbyist or politician says that he wants to see “every Syrian dead”?

Let’s not get carried away. People have a problem with the Syrian regime and what they perceive to be its role in Lebanon.

As for who is the “instrument”, your point is a question of perspective. Is Syria an instrument of Iran? Is Hizbullah an instrument of Syria? States, organizations, and even individuals find ways of exploiting other states, organizations, and individuals to achieve their ends. For the M14 diehards, the Bush administration was very much an instrument to achieve their own political ends, just as they were instruments in the Bush doctrine.

No one is immune from being an instrument, even you-know-who. 😉

February 27th, 2010, 8:24 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ammo Norman

If Alex wants me to keep writing here, he knows what he has to do.

I require one liter of olive oil per 10 comments, and one platter of kabab karaz for every 100 comments.

February 27th, 2010, 8:27 pm

 

norman said:

QN ,
Why are you trying to play hard to get , will it do if i take out to dinner when you are in the US ,

By the way i thought about it , where do you want me to send your price ?,

February 27th, 2010, 8:33 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ammo Norman

It’s ok. Ehsani is the one who takes me out to dinner. You can check my cholesterol because of all the kabab karaz that Alex keeps buying for me.

February 27th, 2010, 8:44 pm

 

Jad said:

“Seomeone wants to demolish my house’s roof,
it happened that all my family live there’
I know, you know, the contractors as well as the “instruments” know that it will kill everybody inside, do you write that in the contract draft?
Playing with word doesn’t change the core idea of distruction, does it?

No I don’t know who is the instrument you hinting about, please enlighten me.

February 27th, 2010, 8:54 pm

 

norman said:

Jad ,
what are you referring to ?

February 27th, 2010, 9:21 pm

 

Jad said:

Dear Norman 🙂
Could you please read your nephew reply to my earlier comment and his hint about someone being an instrument. Honestly, I didn’t get who does he mean.

February 27th, 2010, 11:06 pm

 

norman said:

Jad, QN ,

I think , I am dumb , i do not get it , read this for now ,

A route to resolution for Syria and IsraelAny agreement between Israel and Syria depends on Turkey and the US to mediate the process

Gabrielle Rifkind The Guardian, Friday 26 February 2010 larger | smaller Article historyThe diplomatic crisis following allegations that the Mossad assassinated Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai has come on top of what looks like ongoing deadlock in the two-state talks between Israelis and Palestinians. But the hysteria of conflict and the ensuing dramas tend to have more appeal than the careful steps of conflict resolution.

When it comes to Israel and its regional neighbours, bellicose language often drowns out peacemaking in a conflict that so often looks intractable. But a potential opening on the Israel-Syria track deserves attention because it could offer movement in a process that suffers from fatigue and cynicism.

The recent furore over potential Syrian-Israeli negotiations revealed both the extent of mistrust and the danger of misunderstanding between two veteran foes. The rhetorical battle flared up when Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, declared that it was vital to resume peace talks with the Syrians because otherwise a war was likely to break out. His remarks were interpreted in ­Damascus as a threat to pursue war.

Shortly afterwards Barak said: “This is a tough neighbourhood and there is no compassion for the weak.” Behind the statement was the belief that if words were used like bullets the enemy would come to the table more likely to escalate the conflict.

The belief that only the tough can win is common in a region where politics are all too often redolent of macho posturing. The model is that only an iron fist will bring security, and no calculation is made about the traumatic consequences of war. Addressing the legitimate grievances of the conflict is too readily dismissed as weakness – and in any case remains impossible if no one listens to what the other side is saying.

Walid Muallem, Syria’s foreign minister, reveals a very different approach to the revival of peace talks. In a meeting with myself and colleagues in December last year, he said: “For peacemaking, Israel needs to be ready to recognise that Syria is entitled to every inch of the Golan, but we wish to engage in talks.” “For us,” he continued, “the land is sacred and a matter of honour.”

Muallem suggested that Syria was prepared to contemplate a step-by-step approach to the return of the Golan Heights, territory that Israel captured in the 1967 war. “There could be stages of withdrawal, the timing of which could involve a form of normalisation,” he said. “Half of the Golan could lead to an end of enmity; three-quarters of the Golan, to a special interest section in the US embassy in Damascus: a full withdrawal would allow a Syrian embassy in Israel.” Key issues, such as Syria’s support for Hamas, Hezbollah and its policy to Iran, would, he said, “only be answered after withdrawal”.

In terms of third-party mediation the Syrians are in favour of indirect talks through Turkey, which has already worked on defining the 1967 border. This unresolved issue is the demarcation of the line on the water between Syria and Israel, and ­determining who controls the shoreline on Lake Tiberias.

The next stage, said Muallem, “would entail direct talks with America to address the security concerns. The key issue here is US flights over the Golan in order to provide security.”

In Syria’s view, Turkey plays the role of an honest broker. But relations between Israel and Turkey plummeted after last year’s war in Gaza, and the latest diplomatic spat does not augur well for any Israeli recognition of Turkey’s good faith as a mediator.

Syria’s insistence that it will not negotiate any change in its relationship with Hezbollah and Hamas until after the Golan is returned is particularly hard for Israel to swallow. This is because Israel believes that Syria plays an active role in providing passage for Iranian weapons to these groups.

If Syria and Israel managed to scale the initial peak of agreement on the Golan, the view from the top may be significantly different. A potential role for Syria as a mediator between Israel, Hamas and Hezbollah could drastically improve the chances of a long-term truce – or even a permanent resolution – between these parties. Without any legitimate process, a deluded fiction will prevail around a temporary quiet with the dangers of escalating violence, potentially leading to conflict.

As so often in conflict, it is not the end game that is the problem, but the inability to find a route to a resolution – not least because of the consequences of endless mistrust and suspicion that sets an inauspicious tone for peacemaking. It is in these conditions that active third party mediation becomes central to nurture any process and calm dangerously short-tempers. Turkey and the US now need to play a very active role.

February 27th, 2010, 11:19 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

QN,

I wish I could take a smart and witty man like you out for dinner more often. May be I need to entice you by finding a place that offers kebab karaz. That way, you will be less dependent on Alex. I am sure they offer a diet version of that meal around here so you won’t need norman either.

February 27th, 2010, 11:58 pm

 

norman said:

Hey Ehsani ,
I did not sleep yet, how about i take you , QN , Alex and DR Landis to dinner as long it is driving distance for me ,

February 28th, 2010, 12:09 am

 

Ford Prefect said:

Norman,
Please wait for me. I should be back next week.

February 28th, 2010, 2:02 am

 

Nour said:

QN,

You really believe the clowns of March 14 are capable of using the US as instruments? Most of these people are either self-interested opportunistic characters with no real cause (who were tools of the Syrian regime at the time they were in Lebanon) or violent and vulgar sectarian warlords who are willing to prostrate themselves for the sake of satisfying sectarian hatreds. The bottom line is that the US would use them and dump them as it wishes without them having a real say in anything. So it’s hillarious that you would put them on almost equal footing.

February 28th, 2010, 2:06 am

 

jad said:

Nour,
First Qatar, UAE and Turkey, then, the Diehard 14M using the Americans as their own instruments, I’m worried about the next comparison 😉

February 28th, 2010, 2:38 am

 

norman said:

Ford Prefect ,

You are always welcomed ,I will wait ,

February 28th, 2010, 2:44 am

 

norman said:

Nour, Jad ,

I do not know who used whom but it looks to me that the interest of March 14 , the US , and Israel met with the death of Hareri to push Syria out of Lebanon , which was probably one the blessing that Syria had , getting rid of Lebanon and it’s problems ,

February 28th, 2010, 2:48 am

 

Nour said:

Norman,

Many of the people in March 14 were stooges of the Syrian regime when the regime was in Lebanon. They switched because they felt that the political winds were shifting and many took certain positions in exchange for monetary compensation. In other words, these people have no principles, so the only way that their “interests” met with the US and “Israel” is in that they felt they would personally benefit from such a position. But they have no ability to use the US as an instrument for anything. They are used and dumped by the US as the US sees fit.

February 28th, 2010, 3:57 am

 

AbuResistance said:

Phil Sands isn’t only an awesome reporter, he’s a solid analyst as well. Michael Young could learn a thing or two from him.

—————————————

Business as usual as Syria stands firm with Iran

Phil Sands, Foreign Correspondent

Last Updated: February 27. 2010 11:10PM UAE / February 27. 2010 7:10PM GMT

DAMASCUS // If Washington was hoping Syria would sell out its alliance with Iran, it has now been shown in the starkest terms there are no cut-price political deals on offer.

The renewed diplomatic offensive by the Obama administration has been widely advertised of late; the recent announcement that a US ambassador would be returned to Damascus was much touted.

Last Wednesday in a Senate hearing, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, made explicit the underlying rationale. The US, she said, was asking Syria to “generally move away from the relationship with Iran”.

It didn’t take long for Syria to respond: Bashar Assad, the president, met his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the following day. They signed an agreement ending visa restrictions, publicly reaffirmed the strength of their ties and, for good measure, Mr Assad sarcastically thanked Mrs Clinton for her advice on how to manage Syria’s affairs.

If that slap on the wrist was not clear enough, the message was rammed home that evening when the Syrian president hosted a dinner for Mr Ahmadinejad and none other than Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hizbollah. He rarely leaves secret locations in Lebanon to avoid Israeli assassination squads, but he made the trip to Damascus to break bread with his principal allies.

Hizbollah is considered a terrorist organisation by the United States and Israel, notwithstanding its electoral successes and the fact that across much of the Middle East it is considered a resistance movement locked in a justifiable war. The group has grown into one of the most influential political players in the region.

Support for Hizbollah and, in similar fashion, Hamas, also happens to be a major way for Iran to project its power right up to Israel’s doorstep.

These alliances have been brought into sharp focus with growing international concern over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, widely suspected of being directed towards making weapons, despite Iranian denials.

With Iran defiant in the face of international pressure, Israel – the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East – has said it would consider military strikes to stop Tehran obtaining atomic weapons.

Such threats will be costly to enforce if Iran is able to call on Syria, Hizbollah and Hamas to help retaliate. That is what Thursday’s Damascus summit between Hizbollah, Iran, Syria and Palestinian militant factions spelt out: if Iran is attacked, there will be a regional war. Not limited skirmishes, not a few unanswered air strikes – a Middle East war.

Syria, as many here are keen to point out, is not a natural ally of Iran or a natural enemy of the United States. The regime is broadly secular and pragmatic, not ideological.

But neither is Syria’s continued defiance of the United States and policy against Israel irrational. Just as Hizbollah and Hamas were born in response to Israeli policies and tactics, so has Syria’s support for these groups been nourished by Israel’s occupation of Syrian territory.

Syria’s relationship with Iran has, likewise, drawn strength from that same source; the relentless decades of failure to achieve an Arab-Israeli peace. The United States can send an ambassador to Syria. And Washington might even lift economic sanctions. But although important, such developments will not be enough for Syria to relinquish the leverage it gets from alliances with Hamas, Hizbollah and Iran.

The political price of that is much higher. For one, it will take a sincere effort by the United States to bring about a Middle East peace, and emphatically not yet another hollow “peace process”.

It means Washington taking a firm and visible step away from its role as Israel’s lawyer and taking up the position of a genuinely neutral mediator.

The United States refuses to allow Europe to sell civilian aircraft to Syria, but at the same time supplies Israel with the latest in jet fighter technology, which is then used to break UN resolutions in the skies above southern Lebanon.

Ending sanctions against Syria would not amount to neutrality. Ending offensive weapons sales to Israel, however, might.

In her Senate testimony, Mrs Clinton said she had “laid out for the Syrians the need” for greater co-operation with the United States on Iraq, Lebanon and peace with Israel. Rather than a new, respectful dialogue between equals, that sounded very much like Washington laying down terms.

There had been a “slight opening” with Syria, Mrs Clinton said. For it to grow, Damascus will have to believe its interests have come to be aligned more closely with US interests.

Syria has, for decades, refused to bend to the will of the United States, even under duress. Therefore, any shift will have to come from a US realisation that its best interests lie in a peaceful Middle East, not in Israeli dominance and Israeli occupation.

Barack Obama, the president, may understand this, but there is no sign it is something he is currently either willing or able to enact as a matter of policy. Which means only one thing: from both sides, business looks set to continue very much as usual.

psands@thenational.ae

http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100228/FOREIGN/702279870&SearchID=73383144879792

February 28th, 2010, 8:32 am

 

why-discuss said:

Hillary Clinton seems to be the dumbest of all the State secretaries we have seen for years. While Condie was worshipping Bush, she was still active and taking positions. Hillary is aloof, only visiting the Gulf and Cairo and saying nothing. Is she trying to show she is doing something? but her result after a year are simply pitiful.
The last blow will be the refusal of Russia and China to adopt the sanctions she is forecasting in a month. Will she resign then?

February 28th, 2010, 11:38 am

 

t_desco said:

The yellowcake is back! No, not from Niger this time, but… from North Korea:

(Kyodo) — North Korea provided about 45 tons of “yellowcake” uranium to Syria in September 2007 for production of fuel for an undeclared nuclear reactor, diplomatic and military sources knowledgeable on North Korean issues said Saturday. (…)

The diplomatic source said that the cargo of the yellowcake left North Korea’s Nampo and passed through China’s Dalian and Shanghai (completely unnoticed by the Chinese authorities; t_d) before reaching the port of Tartus in Syria on Sept. 2, 2007. (…)

The diplomatic source said Iran provided financial support for the construction of the Syrian nuclear reactor. Iran asked Syria to hand over the yellowcake after the strike, and the source said it is highly likely that the material was transferred to Iran via (NATO ally; t_d) Turkey.” (sic)
(Mainichi Japan) February 28, 2010

February 28th, 2010, 1:15 pm

 

nafdik said:

Can they have their cake and eat it?

February 28th, 2010, 3:32 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Phil Sands wrote (via AbuResistance):

“That is what Thursday’s Damascus summit between Hizbollah, Iran, Syria and Palestinian militant factions spelt out: if Iran is attacked, there will be a regional war. Not limited skirmishes, not a few unanswered air strikes – a Middle East war.”

Is Bashar really going to launch a full missile attack against Israel if there is an attack on an Iranian reactor? I kind of doubt it.

February 28th, 2010, 7:03 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Nour said:

“You really believe the clowns of March 14 are capable of using the US as instruments? Most of these people are either self-interested opportunistic characters with no real cause (who were tools of the Syrian regime at the time they were in Lebanon) or violent and vulgar sectarian warlords who are willing to prostrate themselves for the sake of satisfying sectarian hatreds.”

I think you misunderstood my point, which is that the relationship was mutually beneficial. The U.S. had an agenda in Lebanon which fit the agendas of certain Lebanese parties. Some of those parties had previously worked with the Syrians, helping them fulfill their agenda in Lebanon. Some parties previously worked against the Syrian agenda and now work with it.

It strikes me as intellectually dishonest of some commentators in this forum to put such a high emphasis on ideological steadfastness. Michel Aoun once worked for AIPAC to fight Syria, and even tried to assassinate Hafez al-Assad with support from Iraq. Today, he is one of Syria’s most important allies in Lebanon. I can only imagine that if Geagea and Gemayel had taken the same path as Aoun, you all would be waxing rhapsodically about them as well.

February 28th, 2010, 7:17 pm

 

norman said:

QN ,
Why are you trying to expose our bluff, we just trying to make them think hard before they do anything ,

February 28th, 2010, 7:32 pm

 

norman said:

QN ,
Why are you trying to expose our bluff, we just trying to make them think hard before they do anything ,

February 28th, 2010, 8:00 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ammo Norman,

Sorry, I’m a bit slow; my lips are sealed. 🙂

February 28th, 2010, 8:39 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Syria Faces Increased Iranian Pressure To Join War

BY DAVID BEDEIN, MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2010

The Thursday visit of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Syria may convey a signal that Syria is under increasing pressure from Iran to join any war against Israel.

The Iranian president was also expected to visit Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah and Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Masha’al.

The Middle East Newsline has learned from Arab diplomatic sources that Syrian President Bashar Assad has received several messages from his Iranian counterpart for a commitment by Damascus to join any war against Israel. The sources said Mr. Ahmadinejad was demanding that Syria employ its ballistic missile arsenal in a massive strike on the Jewish state.

“Perhaps the next war, if it breaks out, will change the face of the region from top to bottom, just as World War II did,” Abdul Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based pan-Arab daily Al Quds Al Arabi, said.

Mr. Atwan, regarded as close to several Arab regimes, reported that Mr. Assad has come under increasing pressure from the Iranian leadership to prepare for war against Israel. The Palestinian journalist said Mr. Ahmadinejad recently telephoned Mr. Assad and demanded that Syria launch tens of thousands of missiles that would destroy Israel in any future war.

Mr. Assad’s response to Mr. Ahmadinejad was not clear, Mr. Atwan said. The editor said Syria was caught between a choice to stay out of the next Israeli war, as in 2006 against Hezbollah, or fire tens of thousands of missiles, including those with weapons of mass destruction warheads, “under the current binding agreement” with Iran.

“The second possibility is the more likely of the two.” Mr. Atwan said in a column on Feb. 13.

Under the Iranian scenario, diplomatic and other Arab sources say, Hamas and Hezbollah would continue their military buildup until Israel is forced to strike. Then, Syria, with help from Iran, would launch a massive missile strike that would target major Israeli cities and critical facilities.

Egyptian parliamentarian and editor of the state-owned Al Gomhuriya daily Mohammed Ali Ibrahim said that Mr. Ahmadinejad has been pressing Mr. Assad to prepare for a major strike should Israel attack either Hamas or Hezbollah. The parliamentarian, regarded as a mouthpiece for President Hosni Mubarak, said Iran has already taken the first steps toward a regional war by expanding its uranium enrichment program.

February 28th, 2010, 8:47 pm

 

Ghat Albird said:

QIFA NABKI said:

Syria Faces Increased Iranian Pressure To Join War.

Pressure or no pressure. If israel with or without US support attacks “anyone in the Middle East” as the Jean Paul Sartre’s screenplay with the same title is known to have said, “Les Jeux sont faits” or its English versions “The Plays have been made” or the ” die has been cast.” or more succintly “there’s no going back”.

Me thinks somebody is playing somebody.

February 28th, 2010, 9:18 pm

 

Amir in Tel Aviv said:

QN,

Mr. Bari Atuwan is a journalist with a personal agenda. So I wouldn’t necessarily trust every thing he says. He’s maybe well connected, but sometimes his publications are more of a wishful thinking, than factual.

You don’t win wars with missiles and rockets.
Wars are won by placing tanks in the command center / capital of your enemy.

Nazi Germany was bombarded to dust, yet the allies needed to conquer the bunker of the Chancellery in the heart of Berlin, to declare victory over Nazism.
Israel has this (tanks placing) capability. Syria, Iran Ha and Hamas have not.
.

February 28th, 2010, 9:20 pm

 

qunfuz said:

Of course AbdulBari (not Bari) has a personal agenda. Thanks to Zionism he was born in a tent. His crippled grandmother was shot dead by Zionist terrorists. One of his brothers was mentally damaged by Zionist torturers. His baby nephew was murdered when a tear gas cannister was shot into his cot by another Zionist terrorist. How much more personal do you want?
http://qunfuz.com/2010/01/23/a-country-of-words/

February 28th, 2010, 9:40 pm

 

Ghat Albird said:

Sixth Annual Apartheid anniversary will be held in over 40 cities according to

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Editorials/Article.aspx?ID=169868&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

February 28th, 2010, 11:07 pm

 

Syria Comment » Archives » Will Israel Flex Its Muscle Further? said:

[…] Syrian support for their policies in Iraq and the region as a whole. Despite Assad’s recent summit with Ahmadinejad, during which he stated that Syria would not distance itself from Iran, Western leaders continue to […]

March 16th, 2010, 4:17 am

 

A Process of Change « Qunfuz said:

[…] than distancing herself from Iran, Syria held a tripartite summit in Damascus between al-Asad, Ahmadinejad, and Nasrallah. Ahmedinejad made the most dramatic […]

March 23rd, 2010, 7:16 pm

 

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