Germany Restores Aid & Analyzing Aoun

"Screw France. Hello Germany." This is how one SC commentator greeted the news that Germany is giving Syria 46 million dollars in aid, breaking the European embargo on aid to Syria. Generally the isolation dam that the US tried to build around Syria is breaking down.

Addendum: (Aug. 31,2007) Zubaida writes: "You should be careful about overinterpreting the German aid package. There is no European aid embargo on Syria, even though the Association Agreement is on ice. The European Investment Bank is still providing substantial finance (eg. Deir Ali and Deir ez-Zour power stations, design of Damascus metro, rural telecoms upgrade), and the Finance Ministry is using a European Commission grant for a major consultancy contract to revamp its systems. The French and German development agencies are both heavily involved in backing the State Planning Commission and the Central Bank. What the Europeans are saying is that there could be more aid if Syria modified its policy towards Lebanon — but that's a different story."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak is now redeploying the IDF away from the north, deeming war with Syria “unlikely.” Barak ordered the redeployment from the Golan Heights following months of training exercises and a steady stream of rumors among Israelis that war with Syria would break out in the course of the summer months.

Katie Couric, anchor of "CBS Evening News," is headed for Damascus and Baghdad for 10 days.

Angelina Jolie flew from New York to Syria on Monday. She spent hours talking with Iraqi refugees in Damascus, Syria, also visiting a makeshift camp housing 1,200 people in Iraq. "I have come to Syria and Iraq to help draw attention to this humanitarian crisis and to urge governments to increase their support for UNHCR and its partners," Jolie said in a statement released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

All of these visits will do little for anyone if Bush is really serious about bombing Iran in some capacity. More analysts are becoming convinced he means it. I would be dumb-founded if he did. Nothing could be more stupid, but it is the only thing that explains the course he is on and the opportunities that he is passing up to mend fences in the region and try to stave off worse failure down the line, whether in Iraq, Lebanon, or Palestine. Why Sarkozy is playing handmaiden to this is beyond me. Blair was the last leader who believed he could ride the US lion and benefit, or at least do some good. He could do nothing to restrain Bush and only enabled him.

Lebanon: Two articles of interest come our way via FLC.

Reappraise us Lebanon Policy
August 16, 2007.
By Graeme Bannerman, MEI

The defeat of former Lebanese President Amin Gemayel in a local by-election in Metn earlier this month is like the death of a canary in the coalmine. American policymakers should be warned that it is time to reshape our Lebanon policy. Otherwise, a larger tragedy awaits.

The Metn region, an eastern Beirut suburb, is overwhelmingly Christian and probably more pro-American than any place in the Middle East. The people who live there are educated, prosperous and cosmopolitan. They share the American goals of keeping Syria out of Lebanon, opposing international terrorism and strengthening Lebanese democracy. They still have great respect for the Gemayel family, which includes a former president elect and a cabinet minister, both of whom were assassinated. Nevertheless, the voters rejected the Gemayel patriarch and put their faith in an unknown and uncharismatic candidate opposed to the policies of the current government….

The people of Metn agree any increase in Syrian influence should be prevented and Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs eliminated. A growing number, however, think the confrontational approach to Syria of the Siniora Government and espoused by the US will not succeed. More and more Lebanese believe that if Lebanon is seen by Syria as a threat to Syrian national security or as an instrument which the US uses to threaten or intimidate Syria, Damascus is likely to increase its coercion and foster instability in Lebanon. The way to minimize Syrian interference in Lebanese internal affairs is for Lebanon not to be seen as a threat to Damascus. ….

American leaders need to realize that the local election in Metn is a clear signal of a shift in Lebanese opinion against American policy. Lebanese leaders who have linked their fate to American power and influence against their domestic opponents will use every means they have to persuade Washington not to change course. The US administration must not be drawn into internal Lebanese political struggles. It needs to stand back and reassess US interests, goals and policies with a clear mind toward avoiding yet another Middle Eastern quagmire. (Read complete article.) 


Heiko Wimmen looks at the political sociology of Aoun's base, at MERIP, here in "Rallying Around the Renegade" August 27, 2007. Here are a few bits:
Predictions that Aoun’s alliance with the “Party of God” would dispel his support in the Christian community were proven wrong.

Throughout his political career, Michel Aoun’s bold maneuvering, boisterous, often ranting discourse and utter disregard for the complex rules and false niceties of the Lebanese political scene have made him one of the most divisive figures therein. To his admirers, he is the strong leader who can rise above the fray of perennial internecine conflict, clear out a divided and despised political class bent on the pursuit of factional and personal interest, and achieve longed-for, but ever elusive national unity. Likewise, Aoun has earned himself the intense loathing (even by Lebanese standards) of the members of exactly this political class (and their followers). Rather than a champion of secularist nationalism, they consider Aoun to be an irresponsible rabble rouser who threatens to upset the delicate balance of sectarian power sharing, and his calls for reform and a shakeup of public institutions to be thinly veiled Bonapartism. Aoun’s loud populism is seen as not only gauche but also a challenge to the country’s Byzantine political game, whereby decisions and distributions of spoils are supposed to be worked out behind impenetrable smokescreens of lofty principles and diplomatic cant. For the Christian part of this political class, he is also an upstart trespassing on territory that is rightfully theirs. “To his supporters,” as one journalist sums it up, “he is a Lebanese Charles de Gaulle seeking to unite this fractious country and rebuild trust in its institutions. To his critics he is a divisive megalomaniac willing to stop at nothing to become president of Lebanon.”[2]

Another constant feature of Aoun’s volatile career is the persistence with which his popular support has bounced back every time his opponents have declared it spent.

“This is the most damaging accusation,” says pollster Abdo Saad. “The polls show that Aoun’s supporters have no problem with Hizballah as such. What they mind is Hizballah’s attachment to Syria. They have no problem with Aoun’s political decisions, but they take issue with his alliances with formerly pro-Syrian forces. My own wife, who is Christian, used to be all-out for Aoun, but now, the media campaign portraying him as pro-Syrian has succeeded to turn her against him.”

Yet the fact that, at the end of a long election day, Amin Gemayel was unable to capitalize upon these considerable advantages shows that the core support for the FPM remains resilient, and makes it appear unlikely that any force in the Christian camp will be able to challenge Michel Aoun’s position in the near future.

Finally, the inconclusive test of forces between Amin Gemayel and Michel Aoun bodes ill for the already intractable conflict over the upcoming election of a new president — a post traditionally reserved for Maronite Christians — where both men are candidates.

Maronite Patriarch Sfeir, the leading Maronite of Lebanon, argues that ammending the constitution in Lebanon would be better than failing to elect a president. This means that he would support the candidacy of Michel Sulaiman, the head of the army, who recently said that Syria was not behind Fatah al-Islam.

The Siniora government is having none of that. A leading member said, "But if we see in the first session that MPs boycotting the session intend to hinder the election of a new president, then the majority with half-plus-one of MPs would be the constitutionally authorized body" to elect the next president.

Jumblatt reiterated his previous position rejecting amending the Constitution for the sake of individuals.

Hizbullah MP Hussein al- Hajj Hassan chided the ruling coalition for turning against Berri and Army Commander General Michel Suleiman when the speaker tried to solve the impasse and when Suleiman said what they did not want to hear.

Comments (22)

norman said:

President Bush is putting the US in a corner by blaming Iran for killing Americans in Iraq , He is supported by what we hear from the American Generals in Iraq , next there will be the obligation to act and defend our troops in Iraq by teaching Iran a lesson , I think that will backfire and put the American soldiers more in harms way,
Lebanon is heading either for a civil war or a division of some kind, I wonder how much the Shea , the Christians and the Druze of Arsalan and the Sunni of Karamy , Meqati and Salam Have land and what is left for the March 14 is probably only the cities. which can not survive , we should remember that lands what count not people.

August 29th, 2007, 11:29 pm


Nour said:

I agree in that I just don’t see how the US can launch a war against Iran at this point in time. However, unfortunately, we all know that Bush is a maniac and is driven solely by ideological considerations rather than pragmatism and facts on the ground. What is scary is that such a war would be truly disastrous for the entire region if not the world. I seriously do not understand how this president’s brain works.

August 30th, 2007, 2:35 am


Wassim said:

Bush a maniac? Perhaps…but from another viewpoint the position of the United States in the region is becoming untenable. All it’s adventures and clients have failed, Iraq is lost and Hezbullah is stronger than ever. Seen in this light, does it not seem more likely that the Americans will try a last ditch effort to save everything? The alternative might be more difficult for a declining superpower to accept.

August 30th, 2007, 12:23 pm


Observer said:

The biggest loser is the KSA. It put all its eggs in the US basket thinking that Iraq will be restored as a friendly Arab power to stop Iran, with bases just across the border filled with US troops and materiel, and with all the nay sayers cowed into submission. Then a mini Palestine is to be born and everyone will go back to discussing what is the cook preparing for dinner and how do we manage the interactions of all our numerous medications that we take and how to keep our bored women happy.
The surge has to be put into the context of bringing Iraq into the second tier of news, creat an illusion of stability, and then get the KSA to sit down with Israel to talk peace. To do that, Syria, Iran, Hamas, and HA have to be defeated on the ground while at the same time stop the violence in Iraq. If the US senses that it is about to lose big, then it will attack Iran with 5000 bombing runs using bombers and cruise missiles and this is where Iran is playing the game very shrewdly bleeding the US slowly so that the defeat is not so shocking as to invite this kind of retaliation. I have said before on this post, only Iran and Israel have a strategic deep thinking that spans at least the next 25 years. The rest are discussing what is for dinner.

August 30th, 2007, 1:22 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

If Bush attacks Iran, it will have nothing to do with Tehran’s desire to have the bomb. Bush wishes to weaken Iran regionally, PERIOD.

Anyway, US Ambassador Feltman has learned to talk out of both sides of his mouth, that is why it is crooked, like Cheney’s. The US want to “protect Lebanon from its enemies, both “internal and external”. Isn’t it odd that Michel Aoun is on the external enemies list, but Israel is off.

August 30th, 2007, 4:09 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

OBSERVER, this is the Bush calculus:

“It sees everything in the Middle East as part of a vast cosmic struggle between the United States and so-called moderates on the one hand, and terrorist extremists on the other. According to this view, Iran is the same as Hamas, which is the same as Hizbullah, which is the same as al-Qaida, which is the same as Saddam Hussein”

Rashid Khaliki, London Review of Books, 16 August 2007, p. 31

August 30th, 2007, 4:14 pm


norman said:

Guterres also said Syria deserved the recognition and support of the international community — regardless of how its policies on political matters may be perceived.

“Independently of what one might think about Syria’s policy … one thing is true: In relation to the refugees in Iraq, Syria has been the most constructive and positive country, and this needs to be recognized and this needs to have the expression of solidarity,” Guterres said.

Guterres painted a dire picture of the plight of those remaining in Iraq.

“To be honest, sometimes we don’t how they can survive,” he said.

August 30th, 2007, 11:10 pm


Habib said:

thanks josh. the french are political rhetoricians, and their policies are just that…talky talk.

by the way, no kids will die tonight in syria for playing tag.

IDF: 3 children killed in Gaza Tuesday were just playing tag

August 31st, 2007, 2:33 am


why-discuss said:

Franklin Lamb :”This, even though the French paper Le Figaro reported on August 26 that Serge Brammertz, the chief investigator into the assassination case of Former PM Rafic Hariri will soon charge Saad with bribing a witness in order to implicate Syria in his fathers death.”

This is the article in french. It does say that exactly but that Brammetz report will unveil the bribing of a witness by Hariri’s entourage.

August 31st, 2007, 3:28 am


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Wow, the Washington has come out saying it opposes a change to the Lebanese Constitution that would allow a magistrate to run for President and also said it opposes Aoun and any other general. Who is this Boutros Harb?

August 31st, 2007, 4:36 am


Zubaida said:

You should be careful about overinterpreting the German aid package. There is no European aid embargo on Syria, even though the Association Agreement is on ice. The European Investment Bank is still providing substantial finance (eg. Deir Ali and Deir ez-Zour power stations, design of Damascus metro, rural telecoms upgrade), and the Finance Ministry is using a European Commission grant for a major consultancy contract to revamp its systems. The French and German development agencies are both heavily involved in backing the State Planning Commission and the Central Bank. What the Europeans are saying is that there could be more aid if Syria modified its policy towards Lebanon — but that’s a different story.

August 31st, 2007, 9:27 am


ausamaa said:

“What the Europeans are saying is that there could be more aid if Syria modified its policy towards Lebanon — but that’s a different story.”

And we are actually talking about Aid to help Iraqi refugees endure their Bush enforced trauma..!

More Aid if Syria modified its policy towards Lebanon? Wasnt reducing Syrian troops from 40,000 to 24,000 to 16,000 to ZERO as of April/May 2005 a “modification”?. Aint that enough of a “modification”?

Could other Syrian “modifications” in other places such as in Palestine, in Iraq, in relations with Iran, relations with Turkey, be neccessary follwing that so that Aid (to Syria, or to the other Syrian guests of the neo-cons other adeventures) would flow more generously?. How about “modifying” the country’s name? Flag? National Anthem?

And had all those Syrian “modifications” taken place, could we then have expected a free Palestinan State, a less-horrible situation in Iraq, a weakened Iran that is not a “presumed” threat to American/ Saudi intersts in the Gulf, a more stable and prosperous Lebanon under a wiser and more responsible and “patriotic” government? A better Arab world in general?

While appreciating the distinction and the differences between some Eouropean positions and the Bush admin position, one is forced to conclude that the policy of “being nice”, especially to uneven demands, is a perscription for disaster. Moderate Arabs knew the dangers associated with the Bush Iraqi camgain but kept supported it neverthles. They could not stand up to their master actually although they could see what disasters would follow. Syria chose to say a big NO and is proven once again correct. A look at Iraq and the whole region now supports that conclusion.

So, are the sought “modification” in Syrian policies a justified request? Actually, the answer to that question is the responsibility of the ones who are asking for the modifications. But for Syria, would adhering to such “modifications” have provided for a better situation in the area than exists today? And where would such “modifications” requests have stopped at had Syria went along with them?

I believe Syria has done the right things from day one the crisis had errupted. And had stayed its course. Had Syria changed its stand or its course as was “needed” to suit the neo-cons plan, things would have been much worse. Both, politically and psychologically.

So, honestly, let us forget about their called-for “modifications” and stick to what we think is better for ourselves. Although it does not exactly fit some “more-doubious” and “less-knowing” local and external agendas. They will come around. Evetually, as usual!

August 31st, 2007, 11:46 am


ausamaa said:

Syria Hysteria, from the Begravia Dispatch:

I liked the Comments as well; Syrian Agents, I would suppose!

August 31st, 2007, 11:59 am


Joshua said:

Dear Zubaida, Many thanks for setting us straight on the steady stream of European aid that has been reaching Damascus. Yes, Lebanon seems to be the sticking point.

August 31st, 2007, 1:48 pm


Friend in America said:

There will be no bombing of Iran by the U.S. If a bombing occurs, it will be by Israel in self defense to Iran’s preparations to wipe Israel off the face of the earth (to use the current leader of Iran’s words).
This writer believes Iran’s internal problems will result in its leaders pulling back from its previously announced intention to create an international power crisis in the middle east. The governments of Arab countries are doing their best to persuade Iran’s leaders to back away from its nuclear intentions, not so much because of its love for Israel but in recognition of the chaos in the middle east that such action would create.
If the administration in Bagdad will divert its funding for nuclear development and financing Iraqi insurgents and Hezbollah to rebuilding its infrastructure and energizing its economy, the people of Iran will benefit, as it should be beause it is their oil. Unfortunatey that will not occur soon. Instead Bagdad’s lleaders are resorting to intimidation and inprisonment – tactics used by dictators interested only in self preservation. Intimidation may work in the short term but at the cost of creating strong long term hostility among the people.

August 31st, 2007, 4:10 pm


ausamaa said:


You keep interchanging the words Tehran and Bagdad for some unexplainable reason. Are you refering to Iran’s current nuclear “threat”, or are you still refering to Saddam’s “presumed” WMD which Dubbya is still searching for in Liberated Iraq? There is a difference, you know.

August 31st, 2007, 5:02 pm


Nour said:

Friend in America,

You obviously have no idea what you’re talking about. You jump from Iran to Baghdad to Hizballah without any logical link or transition, as if you’ve memorized certain names and words which you hear on the news everyday and just decided to regurgitate them randomly. In addition, the president of Iran did not state what the US media continually falsely claimed he did. President Ahmadinejad merely quoted Khomeini, who at one time said that the regime in occupied Palestine will fall, meaning that the Zionist state in Palestine cannot sustain itself.

August 31st, 2007, 7:07 pm


norman said:

Friend in America explains the poor policy of the US in the Midleast.ignorant and misguided.

August 31st, 2007, 11:02 pm


norman said:

Friend in America explains the poor policy of the US in the Midleast.ignorant and misguided.

August 31st, 2007, 11:02 pm


Jamal said:

The German handout might be nice but look what less naughty guys get

Financial Times (UK) August 31 2007


The US signed an economic assistance package with Morocco worth nearly $700m on Friday, under a programme that is designed to stimulate growth and foster improved governance.

The $697.5m (€511.2m, £346.4m), five-year package under the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a US development fund set up in 2004, is linked to targets for the receiving country and progress in areas including political rights, corruption and economic reforms.

Since being formed, the MCC has committed about $4.5bn to 14 countries.

The Moroccan agreement is the largest single package so far, with funding for projects in sectors including agriculture, fishing and financial services.

September 1st, 2007, 9:41 pm


Friend in America said:

Sorry for the errors….wrote my comment too fast. Teheran, of course. Thank you for pointing this out.
The 2 announcements in Teheran yesterday are exactly on line with my observations: The “3,000 active centrafuges” announcement is intended to get the international community’s attention diverted from the internal situation while the concurrent announcement that a hard line general has been appointed commander of the revolutionary guards (who previously advocated cracking down on the students) is the real tip off – the economic situation in Iran is causing unrest and the government’s response is to crack down on dissent. A more forceful commander was needed. Watch the news to see if there are further repressive measures.
I am not sure how my comment ilustrates U.S.’s “failed policies in the middle east.” except perhaps the comment about Israel. For years commentators in Europe and the middle east have accused the U.S. of being too close to Isreal – we all know that. There is a new development in intellectual circles. A book will be published – this month, I think – by two American scholars on that very point. It is intended to create discussion within the U.S. on how the U.S./Israel affinity came about. It does so by studying what has been called the “pro-Israel lobby,” that is, those who have used political advocacy in an effort to infuence U.S. foreign policy.
It touches on a lot of sensitive points and will undoubtably irritate the pro Isreal supporters (which will only create more attention to the book’s central point). Comments from observers in the middle east will be read carefully and thoughtfully by many of us in the U.S.
If a military strike against Isreal by Iran would create chaos in the middle east (and it will), the same is true if Israel invokes first strike as self defense. So there is not going to be a first strike either unless matters became extremely accute, and we are years away from that, if ever. The comments in the featured article are fanciful and out of touch with the current political movement in the U.S. The entire political scene here is how and when to reduce the U.S. presence in the middle east.

September 3rd, 2007, 12:31 pm


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