Inching Toward a Deal?

The top three headlines of Levant News, the London based webjournal with close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and new National Salvation Front which includes Abdulhalim Khaddam, Syria's ex-vice president suggest that Bashar al-Asad is setting the terms for a deal between the Syrian regime and the West. Like Lebanon's Jumblat, the Syria opposition is dead set against such a deal.

According to the Ibrahime al-Amine article, (published in a separate post) the Saudis are looking for a broader deal on Lebanon, which would require coming to terms with Syria. Both Egypt and Saudi tried to broker such a Syria-Lebanon deal btween Hariri and the Shiites on the one hand and between Lebanon and Syria on the other last winter. Washington, Jumblat and Geagea scuttled it. Now the Saudis are trying again, Amine claims, realizing that the Americans cannot win and that the Lebanese state is too weak to avoid compromise. The way forward is to get the Shiites more cabinet seats and to work out a deal with Michel Aoun about the upcoming presidential elections.

The United States and Jumblat remain determined to avoid any deals with Syria or Hizbullah.

Here is what Akhbar al-Sharq is saying about the rumors of a deal.

1. Asad presents a complete package to the British: Dropping Hamas and Hizbullah in exchange for realizing Syria demands [on returning the Golan, according to officials close to the British PM]

2. The French confirm that the results of European contacts with the Syrian regime have not been encouraging.

3. Syrian Authorities are forbidding Syrian Rights activists from leaving the country.

الأسد يقدم عرضاً "متكاملاً" للبريطانيين: التخلي عن "حماس" و"حزب الله" مقابل تحقيق المطالب السورية

الفرنسيون يؤكدون أن نتائج الاتصالات الأوروبية مع النظام السوري لم تكن مشجعة

السلطات السورية تمنع ناشطين حقوقيين من مغادرة البلاد

Khaddam's newsletters are insisting that a leading Arab official claims that Asad has intimated he will suggest that some rogue elements from the security were involved in the Hariri murder but that the regime was innocent.

Al-Hayat writes: "If reports on a Syrian offer to British envoy Nigel Sheinwald to trade Syrian pressure over Hezbollah and Hamas in exchange for kick starting the negotiations on the Golan Heights were true, then it would also at least entail convincing Olmert with the need to advance along the Syrian track: a possibility that Olmert adamantly rules out.

Alex commenting below, doubts that Syria will be satisfied with only the Golan. He explains:

I believe this is too simplistic … The problem with Syria is that, unlike Egypt and Jordan, the Syrians want to manage the same area the Israel would like to keep in its own sphere of influence .. Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinians

Two reasons:
1) Greater Syria … don’t believe anyone who tells you the idea is totally forgotten.
2) The Syrians simply do not trust Israel or the Americans to know how to maintain the stability and secular nature of the area.

German chancellor Angela Merkel: "We can't deny that Syria is a main regional player in the region," German News Agency DPA quoted Merkel as saying during her talks with British Premier Tony Blair in London last night.

Patrick Seale's "Has America ‘lost’ the Middle East" questions whether Richard Haass' prediction in Foreign Affairs is true – Haass wrote that America's moment in the Middle East is over. Like Charles G. Coutinho, commenting on this site, Seale questions whether Washington's influence is really about to end. He doubts it and calls for another US effort to solve the thorny Palestinian-Israeli mess. He is a bit of Seale's argument:

Perhaps the first thing to say is that, in spite of its recent failures, the US is still not seriously challenged in the Middle East by any other external power or group of powers.

The Iraq war may have all the makings of a major disaster, but what other power could afford to spend $500 billion and deploy an army of 140,000 men for an indefinite period halfway across the world? The European Union, which many had hoped would serve as a counterweight to the United States, has conspicuously failed to forge a common foreign and defence policy.

Because of its spectacular economic growth, China is emerging as a strategic challenger to the United States, particularly in East Asia.

But China’s economic partnerships and alliances have still not been translated into the sort of naked power the United States can project by means of its numerous deepwater fleets, its global network of military bases and its technological supremacy.

Russia’s economy, in turn, has improved on the basis of oil and gas revenues, but it is still very far from recovering the considerable influence it used to have in the Middle East as an arms supplier and great power protector of several Arab states.

As for local actors, which Haass predicts will soon “enjoy the upper hand”; it is hard to see whom he has in mind. All too often at odds with each other, the Arabs are even more divided than the Europeans.

Iran poses a more serious challenge to American power, but its ambitions would seem to be purely local and defensive.

As for non-state actors, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, they pose no credible challenge whatsoever to the United States.

Baker Panel To Avoid Calls for Peace Push
Sources Dismiss Israeli Fears, Predict U.S. Talks With Syria and Iran
Nathan Guttman | The Jewish Forward | Wed. Nov 01, 2006

Israeli officials have been privately expressing alarm over the influential role that Baker — who during the first Bush administration famously butted heads with Jerusalem over settlements and peace talks — is expected to play in crafting Middle East policy following the midterm elections next week.

The fear in some pro-Israel circles is that Baker and Hamilton, who have both previously stressed the importance of achieving a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement, would propose a formula that would implicitly require White House pressure on Jerusalem. But sources close to the study group, and experts who advised the committee on the regional policies, all say that the report will not urge a change of course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and will not advocate a more active role for the United States in brokering peace in the Middle East.

“It simply won’t be in there,” said one of the sources, who asked to remain anonymous.

Comments (9)

Dubai Jazz said:

True Facts;
As it was frequently mentioned and quoted in this Blog, the investment in Nasserllah and Mishal Oun turned out to be very profitable (you can see it for yourself). Although I don’t agree with the ‘investment’ term, I believe it is more like a matter of principle.
I understand from your quoting “ Al Mutajereen” palace, that you are one of Sa’ad Hariri supporters. You my friend are making a very bad investment on a commerce brat, whose knowledge of the political jargon is equal to that of a kindergarten kid.
But then if you shamelessly dare to deem Hezbollah and Hamas as terrorists, we will have to put up with a lot of baloney of yours.

November 6th, 2006, 7:21 am


ausamaa said:

“Wishfull Dreams”

Assad Presents a Complete Package to The British”. The INDEPENDENT Al Sharq Al Awsat which was enlightened us with its details..WOOOOOOOW!

It includes,we are informed, among other goodies, giving up Hamas, giving up Hezbollah, giving up the keys to the Chief of Staff Headquarters -maybe-, and FOR what exactly? The return of the Golan? Pulling the leach on Khaddam and the MB? Protection from a “frieghtening- as in past tense” imminent Israeli Strikes? Avoiding a boycott that is not in the cards? “Escaping” a presumed Al Hariri Tribunal which “may” finger Syria and which if it takes place would take forever to reach any conclusions (it would have reached them by now if there were any), being rewarded with the return of the US Ambassador and her puppy to Damascus?

Guys, this is NOT political Analysis. This is wish list of someone so naive, armature or he has a deadline to file a copy for some reader’s on Al Hamra cafes or get fired if he does not meat that deadline..

Assad is at the zenith of his strength now. If there is something like counting his cards, it would go like this: He has got Hezbollah with its 55% of the Lebanese population, He has Got Hamas and half Fateh, He has got one third of Iraq with 140,000 aimless soldiers who do not know from which side they would be shot at and when, He is an ally in Iran whose latest missiles shocked western intelligence, he is got Israel humiliated, defeated and crippled on the Lebanese Front, and He is got Israel bogged down and on the verge of promisingly more nation-shattering event that happened in Lebanon. And he is got his Army, which includes among other goodies the second and third generation of the anti-tanks rockets of Hezbollah which rendered the Merkava’s useless. And God knows what else his armed forces have, on it own, or through Russia and Iran. And he has got no serious threat at the home front. That where he stands if the cards are counted. That what “cards” he has if one looks at it this way. With one final card if Syria is squeezed hard. Open up the Golan Front. Do not raise your eyebrows; people watch, see and learn. And same like Israel and the US, if you really corner them, they hit back. Especially if the option of hitting back is a popular and a potentially half as risky as other options.

But, despite all, Bashar al Assad discards all that and presents a ” complete package”, and Not to POTUS, but to Tony Blair emissaries. Imagine!???

Maybe there is talk on the grapevine saying that Syria has changed its name from the Syrian Arab Republic, to the Syrian United Charity Organization.

In one of Harold Robbines novels, a father was telling his son, that the son should do his best to get “F… You” money. When the son asked the father what that meant. The father said: you have to have enough money to be able to tell the boss or your competitors “F… Off” when you do not like their offers, and get away with it.That is similar to the kind of money, or “assets” that Syria has now. Time some woke up from their dreams.

Well, it seems the Frensh know the score. They said that Syria is not cooperating. And they are right. Why should it? Unless the deal is really a deal.

November 6th, 2006, 8:40 am


Innocent_Criminal said:

I look at any “deal” rumors with high skepticism. The only way a deal might go through is if the Syrians compromise on the Golan. Why would anything develop on the peace front now? Nothing did when Syria was in a stronger strategic position and all it had to worry about was the Golan.

November 6th, 2006, 1:40 pm


Idaf said:

Syria’s first private political daily launched – Reuters

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – A group of Syrian businessmen has launched the country’s first private political daily, five years after the Baathist government ended a decades long monopoly of the media.

Al-Watan, a 16-page broadsheet, was launched at a reception on Sunday night attended by journalists, diplomats and officials. Page one of the first issue had a picture of Israeli students demanding peace talks with Syria.

President Bashar al-Assad allowed private media in 2001, a year after he succeeded his late father Hafez al-Assad. Al-Watan, however, has been the only political paper so far to be granted a license, along with three established government dailies.

“This has been a dream. Syria has entered a new era and we have been in need of private media to reflect the people’s will,” publisher Wadah Abed Rabo told Reuters.

Rabo, who runs a leading publishing house, said al-Watan (Arabic for homeland) is independent and will adopt a “moderate” political line.

Others in the industry expressed doubt that private Syrian media could be completely independent, considering close links between the business class and the government, controlled by the Baath Party since 1963.

“There is a real problem in decision making in Syrian media. Just about everything has to be sanctioned by a higher political authority,” said leading journalist Johnny Abbo.

One diplomat said: “Al-Watan represents a positive step. The identity of the newspaper’s owners is murky but, this is the case of many newspapers in the region.”

Around 80 private newspapers and magazines that mostly cover business, fashion and entertainment have hit the stands in the last few years.

Among the most successful was al-Domary, a satirical newspaper launched by renowned cartoonist Ali Farzat, which the authorities swiftly closed.

November 6th, 2006, 4:45 pm


ivanka said:

IDAF this is a good thing but this newspaper still needs to imrove a lot. It is not of the same level as Al Iqtisadeya which is owned by the same person.

November 6th, 2006, 5:49 pm


Chris said:

Very interesting on the Baker report.

I wonder what actually will be in there. I grow more doubtful by the day. If there is no mention of Israel-Palestine (especially with Israel-Lebanon still smoldering), then I fail to see how this report will be worth the paper it is printed on.

November 6th, 2006, 10:29 pm


Enlightened said:


Sounds like Bashar is wearing his caped cruaders outfit under his suit! (lol).
Its Just a matter of time , the international investigation will hit him and his regime, i am afraid that syria is next in line for regime change, it just depends on the will of this US administration, whether it has enough guts left for one more final adventure ( or misadventure ).
Time will tell

November 7th, 2006, 2:52 am


debate said:

The Alawite Regime in Syria is more commonly but wrongly known under the name of the Baath regime. This terminology is wrong since the idea of the Arab Baath died with its founder Michel Aflaq a long time ago. All what is left is a gang of criminals and sectarian haters. Here are the six main points against this despicable regime.This regime is guilty of high treason because:1-it sold the Golan to Israel in exchange for Lebanon2-it allied itself with the Persians in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) against the Arabs3-it declared war on the Palestinian cause and on the Palestinian people, and it committed war crimes and massacres against them in Lebanon4-it brutally occupied Lebanon for 30 years and committed mass murder and massacres against the Lebanese population5-it left Syria in a state of under-development and mass poverty6-and above all, it ruled the Syrian people with the armored fist for more than 35 years by filling the concentration camps of Tadmour and Mazzeh. All while committing acts of mass murder, annihilation (Hama 1982), atrocity, rape, torture, and mass deportation against anyone who dared to speak up against their absolute rule.

November 7th, 2006, 4:31 am


ausamaa said:


Here we go again…

Hope is a nice “thing to have”!. Keep it up, and wait for “time to tell”. But I am afraid that TIME, has allready TOLD. But you wanna keep the vigile? GO Right Ahead.

November 9th, 2006, 3:48 pm


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