France Lets Key Witness in Hariri Trial Escape: Kushner Sorrowful

France "loses" Mohammad Suhair Siddiq, a key witness in Hariri trial 

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Tuesday that Syrian national Mohammad Zuhair Siddiq, apparently a key witness, had "disappeared" while under close watch in France. "I'm sorry for that, and I don't know the conditions for his disappearance," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said.

I’m certain that al-Siddiq did disappear and I feel really sorry about it,” Kouchner told AlArabiya News Channel on Tuesday, replying to a question about Mohammed Zuheir al-Siddiq, the Syrian key witness in Hariri’s murder.

Al-Siddiq gave detailed information about the Hariri killing to the panel of U.N. investigators probing the February 2005 assassination. He was later accused by Lebanon of being himself a suspect to the murder and asked France to repatriate him. Paris refused to send him back to Beirut, saying he may face the death penalty in Lebanon.

The former Syrian army officer was arrested in France in October 2005 and placed under house arrest. He was later released but remained under the protection of French security forces. Kouchner said he was “the first to be sorry'.

Naji writes in the comment section:

Al-Kataeb claimed on their web-site a few days ago that they had exclusive information that Siddiq and his family somehow made it to Abu Dhabi…??!! …perhaps he snuck out in one of those crates they are using to ship the Louvre there…??!!

I don’t know if you remember the NewTV kid who went to Paris and got an interview with the Siddiq and then got arrested and spent a month cooling his heels in jail upon his return to Beirut, but he did a report a couple of days ago on the high security he found around the Siddiq in Paris when he was interviewing him… Basically, the guy could not go ANYWHERE without at least 3 secret agents accompanying him and the kid had to interview him with them sitting one on either side of the Siddiq and the third blocking the exit…!! Even if he did get away from his guards, and with today’s paranoia at airports and border crossings, it is indeed a cause for concern if such a high-profile witness/admitted-accomplice in the crime of the century could make it across… and with his family…!!?? So, make your own conclusions about how he managed to get away

Summit Redux gives everyone a chance to snub

Egypt is now talking about convening a special Lebanon Summit in Cairo but is worried that Syria will boycott it and thereby "snub" fellow Arab leaders. Egypt and Lebanon refused to attend the last Arab summit in Damascus a week ago.

"Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Gheit warned Syria against boycotting a possible Arab foreign ministers' meeting to address the strained ties between Beirut and Damascus. Gheit told Future News television late Monday Syria must shoulder its responsibilities as it resides over the Arab summit.  He said no date has been set for the meeting called by Siniora.


US exports to Syria have continued to grow, while imports from Syria continue to shrink, leaving a trade deficit in America's favor of USD 250 million last year. In 2005 by contrast, Syria had a trade surplus of USD 168 million with the US. 90 percent of Syria's imports from the US are Corn and Soybeans. The dominant Syrian export to the US is fuel oil.  

Idaf has linked to a number of recent economic reports on Syria in the comment section. (Thanks Idaf)

Official Report on the increase in prices of basic consumer products 2007/2008

Syrian wheat production will witness a major 30% drop in 2008. It seems that Egypt and Jordan will face more political problems this year as they had been relying on imports of Syrian wheat with preferential rates for years. The angry and hungry Egyptians seem to have reached the tipping point

A decades-late anti-monopoly law is finally issued in Syria:
President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday issued Law No. 7 on Competition and Prevention of Monopoly: Assistant Minister of Economy and Trade, Ghassan Eid, indicated that the law will meet the urgent need for competition control in the light of transition to the Social Market Economy which will gradually lead to liberation of the prices, allowing a growing role for the private sector in the current comprehensive economic development in Syria. He also indicated that the new law will also meet the urgent need to ensure the prices actual subjugation to free equal competition which is unaffected by market forces monopoly practices that may harm the economy and consumer at the same time.

Official Report: GDP grew to 6.5 percent in 2007 and Exports grew to 770 Billion SP
Some interesting breakdowns (the English version is yet to be published):

للسنة الثانية على التوالي يحقق الاقتصاد السوري تطوراً ملموساً أسهم في ارتفاع مؤشرات التنمية في القطاعات كافة حيث بلغ معدل نمو الناتج المحلي الإجمالي العام الماضي 5ر6 بالمئة بالأسعار الثابتة لعام 2000 مقابل 1ر5 في العام 2006 ومقابل 6ر0 بالمئة في عام 2000.
وتشير أرقام دراسات هيئة تخطيط الدولة التقديرية إلى أن قطاع الزراعة يسهم بالنسبة الأكبر في الناتج المحلي الإجمالي ووصل إسهامه في العام 2007 إلى 23 بالمئة يليه قطاع التجارة بنسبة 18 بالمئة يليه قطاع الخدمات بنسبة 14 بالمئة وقطاع الطاقة الاستخراجية بنسبة 13 بالمئة ثم قطاع النقل والمواصلات بنسبة 12 بالمئة يليه قطاع المال والتأمين والعقارات بنسبة 7 بالمئة والصناعات التحويلية بنسبة 7 بالمئة والبناء والتشييد 4 بالمئة وقطاع المرافق 2 بالمئة.

وخلقت قوانين الاستثمار المتعاقبة مناخاً استثمارياً جاذباً للاستثمارات العربية والأجنبية والمحلية وصل حجمها حتى عام 2007 حوالي 400 مليار ليرة سورية بالإضافة إلى ما حققه مؤتمر الاستثمار في الشرقية الذي عقد في شهر آذار الماضي من نتائج حيث تم تشميل 22 مشروعاً بكلفة تقديرية تصل إلى ملياري ليرة سورية كما ارتفعت الاستثمارات الأجنبية المباشرة من 600 مليون دولار عام 2006 إلى 750 مليون دولار عام 2007.

يذكر أن حجم الاستثمارات في عام 2007 بلغ 2ر68 بالمئة من مجموع استثمارات أعوام 2001-2005 وتضاعفت الاستثمارات الأجنبية لأكثر من ست مرات في العام 2007 عن الفترة نفسها.

وقد تضاعف حجم الصادرات السورية من 250 مليار ليرة سورية عام 2004 إلى أكثر من 500 مليار ليرة سورية عام 2006 وتجاوز في العام 2007 -600 مليار ليرة سورية.. وبلغ مجموع الصادرات الخدمية والسلعية في العام الماضي حوالي 770 مليار ليرة سورية .

وارتفع تكوين رأس المال الثابت للقطاع الخاص من 52 بالمئة عام 2005 إلى 54 بالمئة عام 2006 مقابل 36 بالمئة عام 2000.

ووصل عدد المصارف الخاصة إلى 9 مصارف عام 2007 منها مصرفان إسلاميان لها 66 فرعاً في المحافظات وعدد المصارف العامة 6 مصارف متخصصة لها 330 فرعاً في المحافظات .. هذا بالإضافة إلى الطلبات العديدة من المصارف العربية لافتتاح فروع لها في سورية وارتفعت التسليفات القروض المصرفية المقدمة للقطاع الخاص لغاية 30-9-2007 لتصل إلى 265 مليار ليرة سورية.

وتراجع عجز الميزان التجاري عام 2006 ليصل إلى مستويات متدنية وتشير التقديرات الأولية إلى أن رصيد الميزان التجاري سيبلغ عام 2007 ناقص 89 بسبب زيادة المستوردات الخاصة والمشتقات النفطية وستكون نسبة رصيد الحساب الجاري من الناتج المحلي الإجمالي ناقص4 بالمئة للسبب نفسه.

ولعل المؤشر الأهم هو تضاعف حجم التجارة الخارجية وانخفاض معدلات البطالة من 3ر12 بالمئة عام 2004 إلى 13ر8 بالمئة عام 2006 وانخفاضها إلى 3ر8 بالمئة خلال الربع الأول من عام 2007 وانخفاض نسبة الدين الخارجي من الناتج المحلي الإجمالي إلى 2ر17 بالمئة .

وبين تقرير مناخ الاستثمار العربي لعام 2006 أن سورية كانت من 12 دولة عربية سجلت معدلات نمو تجاوزت معدل النمو العالمي البالغ5ر4 بالمئة وأنها حققت انخفاضاً في نسبة عجز الموازنة من الناتج المحلي الإجمالي بحوالي 1ر78 بالمئة واحتلت بذلك المرتبة الثانية بعد المغرب … واستطاعت أن تحقق فائضاً في الحساب الخارجي حيث ارتفعت نسبته بمعدل 1ر31 نقطة مئوية .

ومن أهم الخطوات الاقتصادية التي حققتها سورية هي تحولها من بلد مستورد للسيارات إلى بلد مصنع لها وكان افتتاح معمل السيارات السورية الإيرانية المشتركة شام بطاقة إنتاجية قدرها 15 ألف سيارة سنوياً بالإضافة إلى إقامة العديد من المشاريع الصناعية الكبرى في صناعة السكر والحديد والصلب والزجاج وإنتاج الخيوط والإسمنت مرحلة بارزة في تحول الاقتصاد السوري إلى اقتصاد منتج حالياً ومصدر مستقبلا .

أن الإصلاحات الاقتصادية التي شهدتها وتشهدها سورية في مجالات السياسة المالية والنقدية والضريبية التي توازن بين تشجيع الاستثمار والنمو وعدالة التوزيع ومتطلبات تمويل التنمية والاستثمارية والتجارية وإشراك وتفعيل دور القطاع الخاص في عملية التنمية الاقتصادية الشاملة أسهم في خلق مناخ للمنافسة المتكافئة بين القطاعات المختلفة وتشجيعها على التطور والتحديث لمواكبة المتغيرات الأمر الذي انعكس على مؤشرات التنمية الاقتصادية وتحسينها بشكل ملموس.

وعلى الرغم من أن الاقتصاد السوري يمر بمرحلة انتقالية من الاقتصاد المركزي المخطط إلى اقتصاد السوق الاجتماعي وما يرافق هذا التحول من انعكاسات في بعض المحطات إلا أن سورية استطاعت أن تحافظ على سعر صرف الليرة السورية وعلى الاستقرار الاقتصادي في المجالات كافة وأن تحقق مؤشرات نمو مرتفعة تدل على ان سياسة الإصلاح الاقتصادي تسير بالاتجاه الصحيح على الرغم من أن مثل هذه العملية الانتقالية تتطلب وقتاً طويلاً حسب رأي الاقتصاديين والخبراء حتى تظهر نتائجها الحقيقية وانعكاساتها على المواطن والاقتصاد.

وتعمل سورية على استكمال الإطار القانوني والتشريعي والتنظيمي لاقتصاد السوق الاجتماعي وقد صدر العديد من التشريعات الناظمة أهمها قانون الاستثمار رقم 8 وإحداث الهيئة السورية للاستثمار وإحداث سوق دمشق للأوراق المالية وقوانين التجارة البحرية والتجارة والشركات والمنافسة ومنع الاحتكار الذي صدر مؤخراً.

In spite of US sanctions, General Motors sees growing activity in Syria
31 March 2008 (from The Syria Report)

How do you manage to sell GM cars in Syria, which is under US sanctions?

All of our sales transactions comply with US sanctions and the Syrian Accountability Act. The General Motors vehicles that we sell in Syria are manufactured outside the US. GM has plants all around the world and we source the cars from Australia, Brazil, Korea, Sweden, China, etc. The Cadillac BLS, for instance, is produced in Sweden. 

All of our sales transactions comply with US sanctions and the Syrian Accountability Act. The General Motors vehicles that we sell in Syria are manufactured outside the US. GM has plants all around the world and we source the cars from Australia, Brazil, Korea, Sweden, China, etc. The Cadillac BLS, for instance, is produced in Sweden. 

How many models are you selling?

Currently we offer 4 different types of vehicles but we are adding one new model every year. We have just been appointed agents for GMC, one of the GM Group brands, and we will be introducing this year the GMC Terrain, a compact SUV produced in South Korea. 

So the sanctions are not really an issue for you?

Of course they are. We are working closely with GM’s management to continue to execute operations in Syria, while at the same time remaining within the limits set by the Syrian Accountability Act; however working in Syria currently is a real challenge. To give you a very practical example, we can’t even ship service manuals for our cars because of the sanctions. We hope the SAA can be lifted after when the Executive order expires this May 2008. The sanctions are not simply an issue for individual entities marketing US products, but the sanctions are hurting the US economy as well. General Motors is a highly valued brand; we are number three in the market even with the limitations imposed by the US government. GM could be number one in the Syrian market but, now the US brands are losing market-share rapidly due to the foreign manufacturers mainly, Chinese manufacturers, capturing lost opportunity for GM and additional US manufactured brands.  The Middle East is GM’s second most profitable region in the world, and the third fastest growing region globally for GM brands.

The Mandaean Diaspora in Damascus
Thara Magazine online, Damascus

In a field outside Damascus, a large gathering is taking place. In the center, eight men swathed in white cloth with full grey-white beards stand in rows and recite verses from a strange script in thick hand-written books. In front of them, smoke curls up from small wooden fires, and olive branches are scattered around. It looks like a scene from the Old Testament- the robes, the sacraments, and the low murmur of an unfamiliar language. Around them though, the mood is much less somber. Children chase each other around while glamorous women in Gucci sunglasses share drinks and gossip. Elsewhere, teenagers beat rhythms on tablas and sing along while families picnic on checkered blankets.

This is the weekly meeting of the Mandaeans, an ancient sect from the south of Iraq and Iran, also known as Sabeans. There are around 7,000 Mandaeans living in Damascus now, all refugees from the war in Iraq. As a small religious minority, they have been particularly vulnerable to violence, and have suffered acutely from the rise of sectarianism and religious extremism. Many have been tortured, raped, killed or subject to forced conversions because of their faith. The exodus from Iraq has increased as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated- it is thought that the Mandaeans in exile now outnumber those remaining in their ancestral homelands….. (Continued)

Comments (5)

Qifa Nabki said:

Bellemare still believes ‘political’ issues spurred Hariri killing

By Michael Bluhm
Daily Star staff
Wednesday, April 09, 2008

BEIRUT: The UN commission investigating the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri still believes “political motivation” spurred his killing, and investigators have recently unearthed “evidence” of the network that carried out his assassination, said commission chief Daniel Bellemare in his report to the UN Security Council Tuesday.

Bellemare, who took over the investigation on January 1, said he wanted to “clarify” new developments in the case, after the commission’s March 28 report said a “criminal network” stood behind Hariri’s killing, a phrase which provoked rampant speculation that the investigation’s direction had changed.

“The direction of the investigation has NOT changed, and the commission is still investigating crimes that are politically motivated,” Bellemare wrote in his report to the UN Security Council, the first by the Canadian prosecutor since replacing Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz as head of the Independent International Investigation Commission. “While previous reports have referred to the hypothesis of a network, what is new this time is that we now have the evidence of the existence of such a network and of its links.”

Former commission head Detlev Mehlis had made comments implicating Syria in the February 2005 car bombing on Beirut’s seafront that killed Hariri and 22 others, while Damascus has long denied any involvement in the assassination and has said Syria would not allow its citizens to appear before the prospective UN tribunal to try suspects in the crime. Hariri’s assassination sparked mass protests in Lebanon which led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon after 29 years.

Bellemare also said the commission would stand up to any attempts to exert political influence over the investigation, one week after Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said the tribunal – where Bellemare will serve as prosecutor – had been used as a political tool against Damascus. Moallem told ANB television on March 31 that Syria had received and rejected “bargain offers” to terminate the court in exchange for expediting a presidential election in Lebanon.

“The commission will yield to no pressure, political or otherwise, and the identification of suspects will be based on sound legal standards supported by concrete evidence,” the probe-commission chief said.

Bellemare also addressed the length of the investigation, requesting that the Security Council extend the commission’s mandate beyond its June 15 term. He did not specify when he would submit indictments to the nascent tribunal, saying only that the indictments should not lag behind the establishment of the tribunal. UN chief Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, has said that the tribunal will not officially come into being until the investigation makes “sufficient headway,” while Mehlis in an interview earlier this year questioned how much progress Brammertz had made in his two years at the helm of the commission.

“I will only state that the filing of eventual indictments will not be immediate after the establishment of the tribunal,” Bellemare said. “No one can predict or dictate how long this process will take … Ideally, the time between the establishment of the operations of the tribunal and the eventual filing of indictments should be as short as possible.

“Any illusion of immediacy must be dispelled. Our progress is neither slow nor immediate: It is deliberate.”

The commission’s next steps will be to continue to collect more evidence on the network behind Hariri’s killing, Bellemare added. The investigation has gathered evidence that the “criminal network” existed before Hariri’s killing, conducted surveillance of the former five-time premier, was operative on the day of the assassination and that parts of the network continued to function after the crime, Bellemare said.

The commission had previously established that a suicide bomber had set off the nearly 1 ton of explosives that killed Hariri. Bellemare did not mention witnesses, but France said Tuesday that Syrian national Mohammad Zuhair Siddiq, apparently a key witness, had “disappeared” while under close watch in France.

“I’m sorry for that, and I don’t know the conditions for his disappearance,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said.

Bellemare also did not evaluate the cooperation the commission has received from nations outside Lebanon, saying only that countries could contact investigators and did not need to wait for requests for assistance. Meanwhile on Tuesday, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad was quoted in Syria’s Al-Thawra newspaper as saying Damascus “has cooperated in a positive manner with the international investigation.”

In his report to the Security Council, Bellemare did prod the Lebanese authorities to ask more quickly for help in their investigations into political violence. In addition to the Hariri killing, the commission is also participating in looking into 19 other assassinations and incidents of violence believed to be politically motivated.

“The commission would like to note, however, that the sooner its assistance is requested [by the Lebanese], the more likely this technical assistance can be meaningful,” Bellemare said.

He noted that the commission’s workload continues to increase as the assassinations plaguing Lebanon fail to subside, but he said the investigators were determined to resolve the crimes and end the cycle of political violence. The commission has taken on the recent assassinations of Lebanese Armed Forces operations head General Francois al-Hajj on December 13, 2007, and terrorism investigator and Internal Security Forces Major Wissam Eid on January 25 of this year.

“Each attack increases the resolve of the men and women of the more than 60 countries that have answered the call for help and who are fully committed to bringing an end to impunity in Lebanon,” Bellemare said. “Any unnecessary delay in finding the truth and bringing the perpetrators to justice must be avoided.

“With the continued assistance of [UN] member states and the ongoing support of the Lebanese authorities, I can assure you that no effort will be spared to expedite the process as much as is humanly possible.”

April 9th, 2008, 2:20 am


Alex said:

Report: Jimmy Carter to Meet With Hamas Leader in Syria

Tuesday , April 08, 2008
By Joseph Abrams


Former President Jimmy Carter is reportedly preparing an unprecedented meeting with the leader of Hamas, an organization that the U.S. government considers one of the leading terrorist threats in the world.

The Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat reported Tuesday that Carter was planning a trip to Syria for mid-April, during which he would meet with Khaled Meshal, the exiled head of the Palestinian terror group Hamas, on April 18.

Deanna Congileo, Carter’s press secretary, confirmed in an e-mail to that Carter will be in the Mideast in April. Pressed for comment, Congileo did not deny that the former president is considering visiting Meshal.

“President Carter is planning a trip to the Mideast next week; however, we are still confirming details of the trip and will issue a press release by the end of this week,” wrote Congileo. “I cannot confirm any specific meetings at this point in time.”

Meshal, who lives in Syria to avoid being arrested by the Israeli government, leads Hamas from his seat in Damascus, where he is a guest of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The State Department has designated Hamas a “foreign terrorist organization,” and some groups hold Meshal personally responsible for ordering the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack once said of the prospect of meeting with Meshal, “That’s not something that we could possibly conceive of.”

Some Carter critics called the latest reports typical of the ex-president.

“It’s about par for the course from President Carter, demonstrating a lack of judgment typical of what he does,” said John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. “To go to Syria to visit Hamas at this point is just an ill-timed, ill-advised decision on his part.”

“I’m not surprised that Carter would do this, as he has been supporting Palestinian extremism for many years,” said Steve Emerson, director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, a watchdog group.

Carter would be the first Western leader of his stature to meet with the Hamas chief. Though Meshal met with Clinton officials in the 1990s, the Bush administration has sought to isolate Hamas, enforcing rigid sanctions on its government in Gaza and refusing to meet with its leaders unless it recognizes Israel and abandons terror.

“I think this [visit] undermines the U.S. policy of isolating Hamas,” said Emerson. “I think this encourages Europeans to further dilute their sanctions against the Hamas government.”

“When you put the prestige of a former president of the United States in a meeting with one of its terrorist leaders, you’re giving it a legitimacy and currency it never had,” said Bolton.

But Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a non-profit advocacy group, said Carter’s efforts demonstrate he’s a true partner in peace.

“I think if true, this report would indicate that President Carter is willing to travel any road in search of peace,” he said. “I think President Carter would only undertake such a mission if he believed that something could be achieved in terms of peace and reconciliation in the region.”

Hooper added that because of Carter’s reputation among Palestinians he might be able to bring some pressure to bear.

“Obviously President Carter has a great amount of credibility in the region because of his past efforts seeking peace internationally, ” Hooper said.

The Al-Hayat report stated that Carter would be traveling in his capacity as head of the Carter Center, and not in his capacity as a former president.

“That’s a distinction that’s absurd,” said Emerson.

“Maybe he’ll give up his pension, but he’s always a former president,” said Bolton.

April 9th, 2008, 5:43 am


Alex said:

سوريا في الواجهة: كيف صمد بشّار الأسد؟ (1)

إبراهيم الأمين
عندما قام فؤاد بطرس بوساطته الشهيرة، قابل الرئيس السوري مرات عدة. تحفظ كثيراً عما دار في المناقشات، لكنه قال إنه ذكر أمام الرئيس الشاب جملة عدّها مفتاحاً للتغيير والحل: لتنجح، عليك تنفيذ انقلاب على والدك. هل تقدر على ذلك؟
لم يكن كثيرون يتوقّعون أن ينجح بشار الأسد في البقاء رئيساً لسوريا أكثر من عام أو عامين، في سوريا، كما في لبنان وعواصم أخرى. تحدثوا كثيراً في المجالس المغلقة عن التجربة الهشة وعن الخبرة المحدودة وعن الفارق الهائل بينه وبين أبيه. ثم أكثروا من تعداد المشكلات التي تواجه هذه الدولة، وعن صعوبة إحداث تغيير جدي من دون انقلاب كامل. الكل أفاض في توقع انهيار تدريجي، إن لم يكن سريعاً، وما إن يرفع الغرب راية التغيير في سوريا، حتى تكون نهاية بشار. وعندما وصلت الدبابات الأميركية إلى مشارف بغداد، كان خصوم بشار يعدّون العدّة لاحتلال القصر والمقارّ.
ها قد مرّت سنوات ثمان، والرجل يبدو قابضاً على الأمور. التغيير لم يحصل كما أراده هو، أو كما يريده السوريون، لكن بالتأكيد لم تحصل التغييرات التي يريدها الغرب أو عرب أميركا. حتى خصوم الرجل الداخليون، تفاوتت مواقفهم، بين فكرة فترة السماح التي سرعان ما تخلّوا عنها، والاعتراض الكامل لأنّه ابن أبيه.
الآن، وبعد السنوات التي مرت، يمكن ملاحظة مئات الكوادر الفاعلين في إدارات الدولة ومؤسساتها، من أبناء جيله. عملية التسلم والتسليم تجري ببطء. لكنها تحصل، وبعد سنوات قليلة، سوف يكون طاقم الحكم في كل مراكز العمل الرسمية من الجيل الذي تعرف إليه بشار رئيساً، لا ابن رئيس ولا مراقباً.
والسؤال عمّا يمكن توقعه في الفترة المقبلة، يشبه في تعقيده السؤال عمّا يمكن توقعه للمنطقة برمّتها. لكن الأكيد أن نمط الاعتراض على السياسات العامة لحكومة بشار الأسد، يتصل بأمور موجودة في كل دول المنطقة، حيث النفوذ القوي لأجهزة الأمن، وحيث الأفضلية لرجالات الحزب الحاكم في المناصب الأساسية، وحيث البيروقراطية في الإدارات العامة، وحيث الفساد يتحكم ببعض المفاصل، إلى جانب المشكلات الناجمة عن الأزمة الاقتصادية. لكن الصورة هي نفسها في مصر المسالمة، والعراق المحرر، وحتى السعودية الغنية بالمال وبسماحة الإسلام وعطفه. إلا أن ذلك لا يلغي النقاش القائم في هذا البلد الذي يجيد أهله أن يقيموا حداً بين موقفهم من أزمة المنطقة، ومشاكلهم الداخلية. وثمة سؤال يحتاج إلى تفسير من خارج سوريا أو من خصومها، عن سبب تعاظم مكانة الرئيس الشاب عند شعبه.
في هذه الفترة، تعرّض بشّار لاختبارات عدّة. واجه أزمة داخلية مع فريق من الحرس القديم، أولئك الذين رفضوا تولّيه المسؤولية، وعملوا منذ ما قبل وصوله إلى منع الأمر. وكان واضحاً أن مشكلة عبد الحليم خدام مع الرجل بدأت قبل وقت بعيد. وإذا كان هناك من يفترض أنها قامت لمجرد وصول بشار، فإن وقائع كثيرة تظهر العكس. لقد كلّف الأسد الأب نجليه وآخرين متابعة أمور كثيرة داخل الدولة، وفي ما يخص ملف لبنان. وكان واضحاً، للّبنانيين على الأقل، الاختلاف بين بشار وخدام على أمور كثيرة. لم يكن الابن بالتأكيد مخالفاً لتوجهات والده، وما كان اتخذ مساراً متناقضاً مع مسار خدام لو لم يكن الأسد الأب راضياً. ربما كانت هذه الطريقة وسيلة تعبير عن اختلافه مع رفاق دربه، مثل خدام وحكمت الشهابي وآخرين، في طريقة إدارة ملف لبنان.
كذلك تعرّض بشار لاختبار العلاقة القاسية مع المحيط. كان كثيرون من الزعماء العرب يريدون منه الولاء مقابل الدعم. حدّثه حسني مبارك وولي العهد السعودي (آنذاك) عبد الله وقادة آخرون من الخليج ومن المغرب العربي عن علاقتهم بوالده، قالوا له أشياء كثيرة تصب عملياً في خانة: تعالَ وانضمّ إلينا، نحمِك ونوفر لك الشرعية. وكان عليه اختبار الموقف لناحية تثبيت سياسة والده في ما خص الصراع العربي ــ الإسرائيلي، وكان عليه تأكيد موقف بلاده غير الحيادي من القضية الفلسطينية، وكان عليه إقناع العرب بإمكان التغيير دون الانفجار.
ثم برز أمامه مسلسل الاختبارات المفتوحة من الغرب كله، الولايات المتحدة تتحدث عن فرصة له لتغيير ما كان سائداً، وحمل الأوروبيون الكلام نفسه. وبينما كان الحديث العلني يدور حول الديموقراطية وحقوق الإنسان، كان جوهر المطلوب يتصل بلبنان والصراع مع إسرائيل ودعم سوريا للمقاومة في لبنان وفلسطين. وكلما ثبّت هو علاقته بهذا المحور، أُعطي علامات سلبية من الغرب وجماعته.
ثم جاءه اختبار لبنان الأقسى، ليست وراثة ما سبق من تجربة مليئة بالأسئلة والأخطاء والأحلام والأتعاب هي الأصعب، بل إدارة ما بقي من سيطرة بدت غير متماسكة يوم انفجرت المشكلة داخل الفريق اللبناني الحليف لسوريا. سرعان ما ظهر أن رفيق الحريري ووليد جنبلاط لا يختلفان مع استراتيجية الكنيسة بقيادة البطريرك الماروني نصر الله صفير في رسم إطار آخر للعلاقات اللبنانية ــ السورية. جرى تحميل الأسد الابن مسؤولية كل ما سبق. ليس هو أو نظامه مُعفىً من المراجعة أو المسؤولية عما جرى، لكن الأمر لم يكن يستهدف مراجعة يمكن أن تنتج حلولاً من النوع القابل للحياة. كان على بشار أن يدفع الثمن مضاعفاً، أن يدفع فاتورة مستحقة على غيره، وفاتورة كدفع مسبق عما يريد أن يقوم به في الوقت اللاحق.
وأكثر من كل هذه المهام، كان على بشار التعامل بواقعية مع مجريات الصراع مع إسرائيل. تعرّف قبل وصوله إلى القصر إلى واقع جيش بلاده، وتعرّف في هذه الأثناء إلى تجربة المقاومة في لبنان، وكان عليه المباشرة بخطة عمل لا تزال مفتوحة حتى الآن. وكانت للأسد الشاب تجربة خاصة يوم حرب تموز التي جرت في صيف عام 2006. ثمّة الكثير من الكلام الذي لم يُبَح به حتّى اليوم، وثمّة دورٌ لهذا الرجل الذي أقنعه حسن نصر الله بأنّ الوضع لا يتطلّب منه الضغط على الزناد!

April 9th, 2008, 6:07 am


T said:

What do you suppose would happen if they started selling “Who Killed Bibi Netanyahu?” T-shirts?
Is this a Pulsa Denura foreshadowing? But it is not hate-speech or incitement to violence?

Israeli designs ‘Who killed Barack Obama?’ T-shirts april 7, 2008

Israeli fashion designer shakes up New York with T-Shirts, hoodies bearing this controversial message. Shirts are a hit, but designer receives death threats
Yaniv Halily

NEW YORK – The American political system sees its fair share of mudslinging, accusation and incendiary statements—especially during a presidential election campaign. An Israeli fashion designer residing in New York has, however, managed to stir up heated controversy in the city even in the midst of a hotly contested presidential campaign.

The brouhaha began several weeks ago, when the American press began to examine the possibility that Senator Barack Obama might be a target for assassination should he win the Democratic Party’s nomination for the presidency. Obama is believed to have a real chance at becoming the first African-American US president, but many Americans are less than thrilled by this likely scenario.

Doron Braunshtein, an Israeli fashion designer and owner of the Apollo Braun fashion boutique in New York, decided to capitalize on this sensational Obama story by creating his own line of T-shirts bearing the logo “Who killed Obama?”

In creating this controversial clothing line, the designer had hoped to wed the political and fashion scenes, and comment on various societal phenomenon surrounding the heated election campaign. The “who shot Obama?” slogan is a throw back to popular 80’s TV show, Dallas, which featured the immortal line “who shot J.R.?”

What was supposed to be a limited clothing line for New York’s youth soon caught fire, however, and became a fashion phenomenon all throughout the United States. With success came fierce debate and public scrutiny, as millions of Americans saw the shirts as blatant incitement against Obama and as a call for his assassination.

The story received massive media coverage on TV, internet websites and in the US press. Photographers swooped on Braunshtein’s store hoping for a shot of the damning shirts and hoodies. [A BLATANT lie. NOT ONE MSM outlet covered this T-shirt story. Google confirms it. There are only 121 total entries on this subject]

Since everyone truly has their 15 minutes of fame, suffice it to say that all the Obama shirts very quickly sold out. Braunshtein had to quickly produce fresh stocks of the coveted T-shirts, sported by youngsters all throughout New York.

Not all has been rosy for Braunshtein, however. Ironically, the shirts have lead to numerous death threats against the designer and a multitude of angry phone calls to his store and home. Braunshtein’s boutique window has also been spray painted and vandalized by people enraged by his clothing line. Conversely, many see these shirts as a defiant statement decrying American preoccupation with skin color as part of the presidential campaign, as well as the looming threats on Senator Obama’s life.

One owner of the Obama T-shirt, Amy Weinstein, stated that she had purchased the shirt in order to “‘challenge those who are wholly preoccupied with Obama’s color, which has zero relevance to the election campaign, and to awaken the American public to this very ugly reality.”
—–But this meets with the usual anti-semitic/racist charges:

Obama Hosts Anti-Israel Blogger
4 Nissan 5768, 09 April 08 11:05by ( United States Presidential candidate Barack Obama is hosting leftist blogger Tony Wicher on his official website. Wicher’s blog is promoted as “A forum for a new foreign policy based on peace, democracy, and human rights instead of hegemony and war, with particular attention to the Israel/Palestine conflict as the key to a new Middle East policy.”

Wicher repeatedly refers to Israel as an apartheid state, and in fact claims that Israel’s treatment of Palestinian Authority Arabs is “worse than apartheid.” He also refers to the Likud party as “right-wing jingoists,” and insists that “Zionism means ethnic cleansing.”

Israel’s current government, Wicher says, “is faithfully carrying out the Zionist policy, by relentlessly persecuting the Arabs until they give up and go to Jordan or whatever.” He dismisses any who call his claims of Israeli “apartheid” anti-Semitic as members of the “Zionist thought police.”

April 9th, 2008, 8:08 am


Naji said:

The best commentary on yesterday’s Senate hearings came, as usual, from the inimitable Maureen Dowd in her column in today’ NYT:


Many words hovered Tuesday in the Senate — including some pointed ones by the woman and two men vying to be commander in chief. But the words seemed trapped in a labyrinth leading nowhere.

The Surge Twins were back, but the daylong testimony of David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker before two committees seemed more depressing this time. As the Bard writes in “Macbeth”: “From that spring whence comfort seemed to come, discomfort swells.”

They arrived on the heels of the Maliki debacle in Basra, which made it stunningly clear — after a cease-fire was brokered in Iran — that we’re spending $3 trillion as our own economy goes off a cliff so that Iran can have a dysfunctional little friend.


You know you’re in trouble when Barbara Boxer is the voice of reason.

“Why is it,” she asked, “after all we have given — 4,024 American lives, gone; more than half-a-trillion dollars spent; all this for the Iraqi people, but it’s the Iranian president who is greeted with kisses and flowers?”

She warmed to: “He got a red-carpet treatment, and we are losing our sons and daughters every single day for the Iraqis to be free. It is irritating is my point.”

Ambassador Crocker dryly assured the senator from California that he believed that Dick Cheney had also gotten kissed on his visit to Iraq.

April 9th, 2008, 9:07 am


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