“Iranian General Defects with Hizbullah’s Secrets,” by Nicholas Noe

Nicholas Noe of Mideastwire.com, an expert on Hizbullah, writes that the former Iranian deputy defense minister Ali Reza Asghari, who defected last month to the US, knows Hizbullah missile and defense secrets. "It may represent the biggest intelligence coup for the US and Israel in Hizbullah's history," writes Noe. News reports mention Asghari's possible knowledge of Iran's nuclear secrets and of the whereabouts of Israeli pilot Arad. But Noe explains that Asghari's most valuable knowledge may be about Hizbullah's military plans and capabilities.

For background read this article followed by Noe's analysis.

Missing Iranian official being questioned in N. Europe

By Yoav Stern, Haaretz

The Iranian former deputy defense minister who disappeared in neighboring Turkey last month is being questioned in a northern European country under strict supervision, the pan-Arab newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat reported Wednesday.

According to the newspaper, published in London, Ali Reza Asghari is undergoing thorough investigation by intelligence forces before being transferred to the United States.

Asghari, who is a retired general in the elite Revolutionary Guards, disappeared in Istanbul about a month ago. A hotel room was booked under Asghari's name, but several reports indicate that he never arrived at the hotel….

[End]

Here is Nicholas Noe's analysis received by Syria Comment Wednesday 7, 2007

Josh –
I just wanted to send you some quick thoughts about the recent defection/disappearance of a high ranking Iranian general. The story is particularly pertinent I think vis a vis Hezbollah – if in fact this is a defection, it may represent the biggest intelligence coup for the US and Israel (by association) in the Party's history. Indeed, as has been well acknowledged by US and Israeli officials, penetration of Hezbollah since its inception has been largely unsuccessful. Although the Mossad (presumably) has been able to track and assassinate some Hezbollah officials over the years – and less so after the withdrawal in 2000 – this has mostly been around the edges – hence the IDF's utter inability to predict accurately Hezbollah rocket capabilities of any sort in 1993, 1996 and in the 2006 conflict (as a confirmation of this, one should note that although Israel confidently predicted that almost all of hezbollah's long range capabilities were hit in the first few days of the summer war (not to mention their wild overstatements on short range rockets), recently the intelligence community in Israel has been "leaking" that Hezbollah has replenished precisely these stocks – in other words, the "proof" of the earlier specious claim is no longer an issue since Hezbollah merely "resupplied").

In any event, the defection is absolutely critical because it means for the first time, Hezbollah's adversary's may have accurate estimates of stockpiles, weapons types, even perhaps placement and tactics – this is crucial because the limits and placement of Hezbollah weaponry has been a major problem each time during a Hezbollah-Israel conflict – all the more so if there is a future one, as some analysts, myself included, suspect may very well be the case.

Here are some details Mideastwire has culled – more tonight from a translated piece from Asharq al Awsat. But as you can see the general was the IRGC liaison here in Lebanon prior to the 2000 withdrawal and, as a principle of the armaments industry going forward, would have detailed knowledge of Hezbollah capabilities even after he left Lebanon:

Ali Reda Askari or Asghari:

* He holds rank in the Iranian Revolutionary guard equivalent to that of a Major-General.

* He succeeded Ahmad Kana’ni and Hussein Muslih in the command of the Revolutionary Guard units in Lebanon where he stayed for two years in the 90s. He frequented Sudan, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

* He was one of the top officials in the logistics department in the defense department during the Iranian-Iraqi war in the 80s.

* He headed the general committee responsible for running the largest weapons production facility in Iran.

* He was appointed an aide to the defense minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani responsible for logistics affairs and military purchases during the reign of President Ahmad Khatami.

* He was known for his financial integrity and gained fame after he uncovered a corrupt network inside the ministry headed by one of the top commanders of the Revolutionary Guide. This network had managed to swindle more than 160 million dollars in commission as well as 60 million dollars from bogus weapons’ deals.

* He was responsible for acquiring spare parts and equipment used in producing the Shehab 3 ballistic missiles.

* Turkish newspapers report that he was opposed to the Iranian government and that he possessed knowledge of the Iranian nuclear secrets.

Nicholas Noe
Nicholas Noe is the founder of the Beirut-based Mideastwire.com, a news translation service covering the Arabic and Persian media. He is currently editing a collection of translated speeches by Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah.

Comments (76)


norman said:

Sombody like that who is not corupt will not defect , He was propably kidnaped and being interegated to have an excuse to attack Iran.

March 7th, 2007, 4:17 pm

 

Atassi said:

INTERVIEW WITH MENASHE AMIR, ISRAELI EXPERT ON IRANIAN AFFAIRS, DISCUSSING THE DISAPPEARANCE OF A HIGH RANKING IRANIAN OFFICIAL IN TURKEY (ISRAEL 103FM RADIO, 08:30 (GMT+2) MARCH 07, 2007)
7 March 2007
Federal News Service
English
(c) 2007 Federal News Service Moscow Bureau All Rights Reserved.

(Note – The following was translated from Hebrew) Q: So what do they say about this in Iran, Menashe Amir, expert on Iranian affairs?

Shalom and good morning to you.

MENASHE AMIR: Good morning to you.

Q: You never get a vacation or a break. The Iranian issue is always, however you look at it, in the headlines.

MR. AMIR: Yes. Yesterday was a difficult day, because all the television and radio stations, including Al Jazeera, were interested in this issue. Especially on Al Jazeera, they wanted to know why Israel kidnapped him.

I said that nobody said anything like that, and that there is no connection to the State of Israel.

The truth is that since two days ago, I said that the whole plan looks like it is a defection rather than a kidnapping, and that the man came through Syria to Istanbul in order to hide his tracks. He brought his family out before his trip, not together with him, but rather before his trip. For a few years after 1988, he was very active in Lebanon and responsible for maintaining contact and coordinating with organizations including Hezbollah in Lebanon. And one reason for his defection could be a financial motive, and another could be to take revenge on people who dismissed him from his position.

I do not know if in the last year and a half, since (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad was chosen as president, if duties were imposed on him. I assume that there were not, and he was under supervision.

However, at any rate he succeeded, for one reason or another to travel to Syria. Syria is a sister country for the Iranian regime, and it is very easy to get there. From there, he moved on to Turkey.

As Ronnie Daniel said – the United States is preparing a record of the Iranian regime, and a person like this could certainly provide much incriminating information in order to prepare this record. In effect, the United States relates to the Iranian regime as it related to Saddam Hussein.

Q: What do they say about this person in Iran? Have they already announced that he has defected?

MR. AMIR: No. They certainly have not announced that.

However, I can quote you the main article in the important Iranian newspaper from yesterday. It said, ‘Each senior person’ he did not actually refer to Iran but ‘each senior person can be bought with money, with a lot of money.’ Q: Now, one more word about (missing Israeli airman) Ron Arad. As one who follows Iranian affairs, can this person know something and shed some light on this issue?

MR. AMIR: I have no doubt. In his role in Lebanon, with his connections and his senior status, I have no doubt that if there are ten people in Iran who know the fate of Ron Arad, this man is one of them.

Q: Thank you very much Menashe Amir.

MR. AMIR: Thank you.

March 7th, 2007, 4:31 pm

 

Alex said:

WOW! …Saudi Prince supports Greater Syria plans!
(I’m exaggerating, Gibran)

Prince Turki Al-Faisal in a speech he gave few days ago at the UAE.

Instead of seeking, or fearing, a Shia crescent, let us all work to built a fertile crescent that starts from Iraq and ends in Lebanon … Syria will be the prominent one (or central one), Jordan will have a role, and Palestine will be at the other corner.

. دعوني أقولها بملء فمي: فعوضاً من الحلم بهلال شيعي، أو التخوف منه ، يمكن أن نعمل معاً لبناء هلال خصيب يمتد من العراق حتى لبنان، تكون لسورية صدارة فيه، وللأردن حصة فيه، ولفلسطين زاوية فيه، ينشغل بالبناء والرخاء والسعادة، وتستفيد منه دول الخليج كافة، ليكن هلالاً نتفق عليه، لا هلالاً نختلف عليه.

March 7th, 2007, 4:48 pm

 

M said:

I seriously doubt that this man defected. I take it as a disinformation campaign when I see reports that he did, which are located for instance in “The Washington Times” and “The Jerusalem Post.” When a story about Iran seems to be coming from such sources, you have to take it with a brick-ton of salt.

Also, this operation might well be tied to an Iranian attack on Americans in Karbala, as well as a shooting-down of a small Israeli jet in Lebanon in the 80’s, which might’ve resulted in the capture of an important Israeli general by the Revolutionary Guards.

March 7th, 2007, 5:07 pm

 

Atassi said:

Alex
I am sure “Turki Al-Faisal” stole the idea form Dr. Bashar!! how could he do that..
and according to your statement” Saudi Prince supports Greater Syria plans”
I would think he is applying for a membership with some known party !! very Funny…

March 7th, 2007, 5:08 pm

 

ausamaa said:

I think that he is directing the remark towards Syria and Syrians. Sort of Syrians;leave Iran, and join hands in something better. Otherwise, it does not -such remark- make much sense to me. Notice how he named Jordan, Palestine and Syria and left out the “positions” for Lebanon and Iraq ( parts of the Fertile Cressent historically).

I say, we take it since Syria will have the Central Part. His “offer”, I mean.

March 7th, 2007, 5:22 pm

 

Alex said:

Atassi

You remember that I always said that I like the Al-Faisal’s? .. Turki and Saud.

And I was joking about the bold “Saudi Prince supports Greater Syria plans” … think of it as my imitation of Asssyassa headlines.

Ausamaa:

I read the whole speech. It was strategic in nature. It also covered Lebanon, Iraq, and mostly ways of avoiding conflicts with Iran. Very calm and wise speech.

March 7th, 2007, 5:28 pm

 

mo said:

Seems to me that Mr Askari has been out of the loop for a while. Hizbullah will have been fervently rearranging placements to keep the advantage in the next melee and have been “replensishing” stocks so what info he will have re. Hizbollah seems pretty limited to me.

I think the US will get more out of him in regards to the strength of the military and most importantly Irans air defenses.

March 7th, 2007, 5:37 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Yeh I know, but he said Syria is the Center, Palestine is the Corner and Jordan Has a share in it. So he left the roles of Lebanon and Iraq undefined.

March 7th, 2007, 5:39 pm

 

Atassi said:

Deal with Syria, but first impose Lebanese sovereignty
Michael Young
8 March 2007
Daily Star
Beirut — Add Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht to the list of dignitaries who have left Damascus biting their fists in frustration. After meeting with his Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Moallem, on Tuesday, de Gucht said he was “disappointed” that Syria would not surrender its nationals to a mixed tribunal being set up to try suspects in Rafik Hariri’s assassination. Moallem added: “If the United Nations wants anything of Syria, then it must talk to Syria and base the statutes of the tribunal on Syrian law.”

That’s revealing coming from a regime that supposedly had nothing to do with Hariri’s murder, and that often affirms its “non-involvement” in the resultant judicial process. Thanks to Syria’s continued refusal to concede anything on the tribunal, the Lebanese crisis continues. This coming weekend the Syrians will get a chance to practice more of their brand of diplomacy when Iraq’s neighbors meet in Baghdad to discuss the country’s future. The United States should not give Syria an opportunity there to break free from the tribunal, which provides the only real leverage over President Bashar Assad to change his regime’s behavior.

It is perhaps understandable that a number of policymakers and analysts in the US feel the Bush administration’s present policy of isolating Syria is going nowhere. Their framework for saying so is Iraq. My friend David Ignatius expressed this view in the commentary published above, pointing out that the “administration should also start a real dialogue with Syria – and in the process shelve any half-baked ideas about regime change that may be lurking in the Old Executive Office Building. The Syrians pose a deadly threat in Lebanon, which is all the more reason to be talking with them.” Isolation, the argument goes, also isolates the US. If Washington negotiates, it can use its weight to bring about desirable outcomes.

There are several problems with this

assumption when it comes to Syria. The first is that opening a new page with Syria is premature. If the aim of negotiations is to advance one’s aims, then Syria has shown no willingness to consider those of the US and the UN – who told Syria in late 2004 that it was time to end its interference in Lebanon’s affairs and recognize Lebanese sovereignty. To talk now, while the Syrians threaten Lebanon on a daily basis, would validate their claim that threats work, and that Syria can bring envoys to its door by spawning instability in Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories. That’s precisely the wrong message to send. The right message is that Syria can only put an end to its isolation once it accepts international law – which in Lebanon means accepting the tribunal and giving up on the dream of reimposing its hegemony over the country.

That’s why defending the Hariri tribunal is so essential. The body has international backing, which means that the credibility of the five permanent members of the Security Council is tied into its success. By initiating a dialogue with Syria, by therefore implying that the crime the tribunal is seeking to punish shouldn’t reflect badly on relations with Damascus, the US would empty the tribunal of its meaning. Why give up this weapon when it can make future negotiations more successful?

The quid pro quo demanded of Assad would be a simple one, and the Saudis and the Egyptians have already floated it in one way or another: Any effort to narrow the Hariri tribunal’s statutes, or even to improve relations between Saudi Arabia and Syria, requires that Syria first change its conduct in Lebanon. Nor is isolation of Syria necessarily failing. Even Syrian allies like Iran and Russia can see that Assad’s stance on the tribunal is untenable and might cost them politically. Iran is said to have agreed with Saudi Arabia on the principle of establishing the tribunal, even if it won’t take a position that might alienate Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin allegedly told the Saudis that if the tribunal were blocked in Lebanon, Russia might abstain in a Security Council vote to place it under the authority of Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

A second problem with the invitation to dialogue with Assad is that there is no evidence Syria will get the message and alter its behavior. Here is the Catch-22: If you engage Syria, Assad will assume this is due to his intransigence, which will encourage him to remain intransigent in the expectation that this will bring more rewards. The Saudis and Egyptians know the pitfalls of this logic, but also see the Syrians caught in a more sinister vicious circle: Because Assad is weak he must export instability, which is only isolating him further in the region, making him even weaker.

The Europeans, never shy about engaging Syria for the sake of engagement, particularly with so many troops deployed in South Lebanon, are also beginning to see the light. De Gucht’s regrets echoed those of the European Union’s representative in Beirut, Patrick Laurent. He recently admitted that the EU had “tried everything [with Syria], as did many others, employing both gentle means and pressure.” To no avail.

A third reason to be wary of engaging Syria is that Assad doesn’t have the confidence to carry through on many of the demands that would be made of him. The Syrian president can intimidate his domestic foes, but his authority rests on a narrower power base than his father’s. He can talk to the Israelis, but it’s doubtful that he can reach a final deal with them, since peace would mean substantially dismantling the security apparatus that keeps him in office. He can pretend to help stabilize Iraq, but knows that actually doing so would mean that Syria becomes less relevant. He can claim to have played a positive role in the Mecca accord between the Palestinian factions, but he knows that this only came after he failed to sponsor such an agreement himself. Today, Assad fears a Hamas exit from the Syrian orbit, which is one reason why he has been trying to place pro-Syrian groups in a Palestinian national unity government.

And, most important, Assad knows that if he were to give up on Lebanon finally and unconditionally, he might face the wrath of those within his own regime who silently blame him for the debacle of 2005. But this all begs the question: Why, therefore, should Syria abandon Lebanon at all, or capitulate in Iraq and in the Palestinian territories, if nothing is to be gained from these concessions?

The reason is that Assad, though weak, would thus be able to win his long-term political survival. Such steps would buy him Arab and international forbearance. A new attitude would mean less resistance to a narrowing of the Hariri tribunal’s statutes, more vital investment in Syria, a beneficial Syrian relationship with the US and the EU; and, once Assad can broaden his power base, peace with Israel. But building up Assad’s confidence and then expecting him to relinquish his cards makes no sense. If a power struggle with Syria is unavoidable, so be it. With major Arab states, the US, the UN and the Europeans on the same wavelength, it will be tough for Assad to impose his will – unless the bell of dialogue saves him first.

That’s why the US should remind Syria at the Baghdad conference that deeper contacts remain undesirable. Dealing with Iran on Iraq may be inevitable; dealing with Syria is not, particularly after Assad burned more bridges to the Sunnis by trying and failing to seize control of the Iraqi Baath Party. The Syrians have to be made to realize that their regime can only last if they make fundamental concessions in the region. Assad is too brittle to demand more than recognition of his survival.

March 7th, 2007, 9:02 pm

 

syrian said:

Michael Young is the king of circular reasoning.

He needs to ask himself, if he argues that Asad cannot deliver on demands placed on him through negotiations (where there are carrots that would help him convince others to comply) what makes Mr. Young believe that Assad can deliver on demands that are made in a void.

Don’t have time to go into it now in more details but will try later tonight

March 7th, 2007, 11:22 pm

 

Alex said:

Michael young is like Junblatt .. there is no way to re-examine their “strategy” of “let’s do anything, talk to anyone, flip 180 degrees, but we must have our revenge from the Syrians”

Two years ago, David Ignatius used to be convinced more easily after talking to his Lebanese frinds … thery are refined, sophisticated, and “intelligent” … they convinced him that there will be no solution in the Middle East until Junblatt’s dreams are realized.

But since Ignatius is not Junblatt, a year or two later he changed his mind … he now realizes that his intelligent Lebanese frinds are …simply wrong.

So … they will continue to lose freinds and to sound less and less convincing as they continue trying to convince the world that “if you want to have peace, freedom, or Democracy in the Middle East” …. Hariri’s investigation is the sure and only way.

March 7th, 2007, 11:47 pm

 

Gibran said:

Alex,
You say dismissively that people keep talking about “…Hariri’s investigation is the sure and only way” to have peace, freedom, or Democracy in the Middle East.
What do you think we should do with the investigation?
You know it has been going on for almost two years, it already cost millions of dollars, it is mandated by several UN Security Council resolutions and the people of Lebanon and perhaps beyond have been patiently waiting for its results.
Should Mr. Bramertz hand his results secretly to Mr. Mouallem and ask him to take over? Good idea, don’t you think?
I’d love to get your ideas about this thorny issue. It seems it has been causing loss of sleep for quite few people.

March 8th, 2007, 12:56 am

 

Gibran said:

The views of the spiritual leaders of Lebanon:

Lebanese Catholic cardinal: Presidential elections first step to fix crisis

By Michael Hirst
3/7/2007
Catholic News Service

BKERKE, Lebanon (CNS) – The patriarch of Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic Church said early presidential elections could be the first step in resolving the country’s ongoing political crisis.

“I’ve addressed a letter to (Lebanese President Emile Lahoud) to tell him that he is the judge of the situation and that he must step down … because the country will not support his position,” Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, Maronite patriarch, said March 5.

Cardinal Sfeir suggested that a “simple solution” to the dilemma would be to elect a new president now in preparation to replace Lahoud when his term expires in November.

The presidential election would be followed by the creation of a new Cabinet and parliamentary elections, and the examination of the country’s electoral law, which are all conditions stipulated by the Hezbollah-led government opposition.

However, Lahoud, a Maronite Catholic, has claimed he cannot hand over power to a government which he has been calling illegitimate since the resignation of all five Shiite Cabinet ministers in November.

Lebanon’s Constitution says the president must be Christian, and the prime minister and parliamentary speaker must be Sunni and Shiite, respectively. Members of all religious sects must be represented at the Cabinet level.

Cardinal Sfeir said that despite his best efforts to unite Christian factions, they have not budged in their positions because of external pressures.

“Unfortunately the Christians are divided because each party follows an (external) party,” he told CNS. “Some Christians are with Hezbollah and so definitely with Syria and Iran, and the others are with (government-coalition leader Saad) Hariri, who is close to Saudi Arabia and the United States.”

The cardinal said this pressure was particularly true for Lahoud, whose term in office was extended in 2004 while Lebanon was still under Syrian occupation.

“Here in Lebanon nobody is completely free in their actions. Mr. Lahoud is allied to Syria, and Syria can influence his position. If he makes something against Syria he will be threatened,” the cardinal said.

Since December, the Shiite militant group Hezbollah has led a campaign, backed by most Lebanese Shiites, the country’s largest Christian bloc and some Druze, to bring down a government they claim is corrupt, unrepresentative and subservient to the United States. The alliance has been demanding the government be replaced by a national unity Cabinet in which Hezbollah’s allies would wield veto power.

Government supporters – comprising most Sunnis, Druze and some Christian parties – argue the protest is merely a coup-attempt instigated by Hezbollah’s backers in Syria and Iran. Government supporters claim Hezbollah would use veto power to thwart the formation of an international investigation into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The political crisis in Lebanon has crippled an economy still reeling after Israeli bombardment last summer and has led to an exodus of young workers.

The anti-government protest has been based around an ongoing three-month sit-in outside the prime minister’s office in downtown Beirut and has sparked spates of sectarian street violence.

Cardinal Sfeir criticized the sit-in for forcing the closure of many businesses in the area. He said it exacerbated the exodus of young people from the country.

“The demonstration is useless and harmful and for three months has not given any result,” he said.

Cardinal Sfeir said that there was currently no political leader who could unite the country’s Christian factions.

However, he said plans were underfoot for a “third way,” possibly in the form of a new party that could bridge gaps between Lebanon’s widely divergent Christian factions. The cardinal did not elaborate.

“When we have faith we must be optimistic because our country has passed through many difficulties such as this which we are passing through now, and with God’s help we will find a way to get out of it.”

March 8th, 2007, 12:58 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

Apologies for posting the two stories below in their entirety.

March 7 (Bloomberg) — The Turkish government will buy
missile systems to defend the country in the event a U.S. attack
on Iran prompts an armed response from its eastern neighbor,
Aksam said.
NATO-member Turkey will buy four of the systems, which will
be deployed in the southeast part of the country, the Istanbul-
based newspaper said, citing the Defense Ministry. Companies
should submit details of prospective bids by March 30, it said.
The U.S. has not ruled out a military attack on Iran, which
it accuses of working toward nuclear-weapons capability. The
Islamic republic has repeatedly said its program is intended
only to produce electricity.
Turkey should be provided with a defensive capability
against Iranian missiles under the umbrella of the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization, Aksam said citing Victoria Nuland,
the U.S. ambassador to NATO.

By CLAUDE SALHANI
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., March 7 (UPI) — Al-Qaida has begun to infiltrate
fighters in parts of southern Lebanon, replacing Hezbollah militants who were
forced out of the area by Israel during last summer’s violent clashes, said a
well-informed Arab politician who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Still, the source said, this deployment of Islamist militants to south Lebanon
is being carried out “with the discreet approval of Iran and Syria.” Tehran and
Damascus hope this will give them greater bargaining power in negotiating with
the West over Iran’s nuclear dossier and the ongoing investigation and pending
trial into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, in
which Syrian officials are prime suspects.
He added that the situation in south Lebanon was very “concerning,” and was
worrying moderate Arab leaders in the region who fear that with al-Qaida
combatants now in striking distance of Israel, the situation in the Middle East
could take a turn for the worst at any moment.
This new development is also very worrisome to countries that have contributed
large number of troops to the upgraded UNIFIL, the United Nation Interim Force
in Lebanon, particularly Italy and France.
One major concern is that the UNIFIL troops could become targets of al-Qaida
should either Syria or Iran ever wish to pressure France or Italy or any other
contributing nation. France, for example, fears its contingent in southern
Lebanon could become the target of attacks as a result of Paris’ support for
the Lebanese government and the international community to have an
international tribunal examine the assassination of Hariri.
Syria is widely suspected of having had a hand in the killing of Hariri on Feb.
14, 2005, and some intelligence specialists believe the order to have the
former Lebanese prime minister killed came from “very high up.”
Hariri’s death triggered massive anti-Syrian demonstrations in Lebanon, which,
combined with strong political pressure from France and the United States,
eventually forced Damascus to withdraw its uniformed troops from Lebanon.
Western intelligence analysts, however, believe Syria maintained an important
intelligence contingent in Lebanon. Those, along with Hezbollah — which
receives much of its political, military and financial aid from Damascus and
Tehran — makes the Syrian-Iranian alliance a powerful force in Lebanon’s
political landscape. Now add in al-Qaida and the cocktail becomes all the more
potent.
Following last summer’s war in Lebanon, Rome and Paris had agreed to provide
several thousand additional troops to revitalize UNIFIL and help the Lebanese
army as it deployed in the southern part of the country for the first time in
more than 24 years, filling the void left by Hezbollah after their forced
departure from the area.
Indeed, if proven true — and other independent sources seem to confirm the
report of al-Qaida becoming more present in southern Lebanon — there are ample
reasons for concern.
Al-Qaida becoming operational in southern Lebanon greatly alters the geo-
political map of the area once again. Moving into what has long been regarded
as Hezbollah territory places the militant Islamist organization for the first
time since its inception within striking range of Israeli cities, towns and
settlements. Al-Qaida has repeatedly called for the destruction of the State of
Israel.
During the 34-day war that pitted the Lebanese Shiite organization Hezbollah
and Israel into a devastating conflict, hundreds of thousands of Israelis
living in northern Israel were forced to flee south to escape a deluge of
rockets fired into northern Israel by the Shiite guerillas.
Furthermore, this re-kindles the precarious situation in southern Lebanon,
making the Lebanese-Israeli frontier yet again a potential trigger point for a
new Middle East crisis.
Starting in the late 1960s, throughout the 1970s and up until 1982, when the
Palestine Liberation Organization and other Palestinian factions were expelled
from Lebanon, the presence of armed Palestinian groups in the Lebanese-Israeli
border region was the cause of numerous Israeli incursions into southern
Lebanon and air raids over the Lebanese capital, Beirut.
Within a short while the PLO and other Palestinian armed groups had become the
de facto authority, having taken control of large swaths of southern Lebanon
and in the process forcing out the Lebanese army, pushing it north of the
Litani River. With the Palestinians masters of most of the border area, Israel
began referring to the Palestinian-controlled parts of south Lebanon as
Fatahland — and Israeli raids became more frequent.
The departure of Hezbollah from the border area and its replacement by units of
the Lebanese army and UNIFIL was to herald a new era of tranquility to south
Lebanon. But the arrival of al-Qaida will once again invite Israeli military
intervention. If indeed Damascus and Tehran instigated al-Qaida’s introduction
to south Lebanon, they may have created a monster that will one day turn on
them.
The Sunni branch of Islam, to which al-Qaida belongs, has never been too fond
of the Alawites who rule Damascus or the Shiite clergy in Iran.

March 8th, 2007, 1:09 am

 

norman said:

this interesting about Syria’s confidence in it’s rule in the midleast , Gibran will be sad,

Headline: The time is ripe for the US to engage Syria on Mideast issues
Byline: Helena Cobban
Date: 03/08/2007
DAMASCUS, SYRIA – The evenings are still chilly as shoppers browse Damascus’s new
up-market shops for the latest European fashions. But in the side
streets, vendors are selling crunchy green almonds, and as the
seasons turn you can sense a new self- confidence in a regime here
that just a year ago was considered by many Middle East observers to
be close to collapse.

This self-confidence was evident in the 70-minute interview I
conducted with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem on Feb. 28. Mr.
Mouallem welcomed the fact that the Bush administration has said it
will participate in the meeting planned for March 10 in Baghdad,
where Washington will have its first direct, high-level contacts for
several years with representatives of Syria and Iran. (Iraq, its
other neighbors, and the other permanent members of the Security
Council will also all be there.)

Until recently, the Bush administration worked hard to isolate both
Iran and Syria. In December, President Bush curtly ignored the Iraq
Study Group’s advice that he engage these two politically significant
neighbors of Iraq in an energetic new diplomacy on both Iraq and
Arab-Israeli peace. Now, he has shifted toward following one part of
that recommendation.

Mouallem, a very experienced professional diplomat, portrayed Syria
as eager to be forthcoming regarding Iraq. He described Washington’s
decision to take part in the March 10 meeting as, “a partial step in
the correct direction.” But he said Syria still seeks the US’s help
in launching “a comprehensive dialogue on regional issues, starting
with the Arab-Israeli issue, which is the core issue in the region.”

Last November, he made an official visit to Baghdad, and in January,
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani made a state visit to Syria. (Mr.
Talabani is one of the many members of the present Iraqi government
who found refuge in Damascus during Saddam Hussein’s years in power.)

Mouallem said he judges that the first priority in Iraq should be for
the Iraqi and US governments to work out and announce a clear
timetable for a total withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. He declined
my invitation to specify or estimate the length of this timetable,
saying only that it should be linked to the rebuilding of Iraq’s own
security forces “on a truly national basis.”

He added, “No one is thinking about imposing defeat on the US forces.
On the contrary, we are trying to find an honorable withdrawal for
them.”

Mouallem said Syria fears the prolongation of Iraq’s current
instability for two main reasons. First, instability has sent “more
than a million” Iraqis fleeing into Syria, placing a heavy burden on
the country’s health and education systems. (Many Syrians say the
displaced Iraqis have sent rents and property prices skyrocketing,
and some resentment has started to build.)

Second, he warned of the risk that the lethal sectarianism that has
dogged Iraq might spread further afield. “Why are the Americans not
helping to lower the sectarianism in Iraq?” he asked. “We have an
enormous fear of sectarian fitna [social breakdown].” He did not
spell out that Syria might itself provide fertile ground for
sectarian agitators, since there have in the past been signs of
serious discontent from ethnic and religious groups that feel
excluded from governmental power. He said only, “We in Syria are
proud that we are a country of tolerance and coexistence without any
discrimination on a religious or ethnic basis.”

Mouallem also warned of the dire consequences â?” for the US and for
global stability â?” that would follow any military attack on Iran. He
expressed the hope that neighboring Lebanon could resolve its current
political crisis peacefully. And he described Syria as eager to
resume the peace process with Israel that was broken off in 2000. He
even indicated that, once “comprehensive” peace talks resume with
Israel, Syria would not necessarily wait for progress for the
Palestinians before moving forward in its own talks with Israel. (A
much fuller account of the interview is available at my “Just World
News” blog.)

After following Syrian and regional politics for 30-plus years, I
judge that the new Syrian self-confidence projected by Mouallem is
pretty well founded. In my few days in Damascus, I’ve also had good
discussions with independent analysts and veteran activists in the
country’s human rights movement and its tiny liberal political
opposition. From these people, I learned that the failure of the Bush
administration to remake Iraq and the fact that the US now seems so
bogged down there have sent a strong signal to all Syrians that their
country is no longer at risk of undergoing any American project for
coercive regime change. Indeed, it seems that Washington has come
close to concluding that it needs Damascus’s help if it is to
minimize the damage from the imbroglio in Iraq.

For both regime supporters and opponents here, the events in Iraq
over the past three years have provided a horrifying object lesson of
what can result from any too-rapid, coercive, and ill-studied a push
for “democratization” in the Middle East. The dissidents I talked
with stressed that the push for democracy must be gradual, and driven
by forces internal to the country.

With the Middle East poised on a knife-edge, it seems a good time for
Washington to engage seriously with Syria. Let’s hope the March 10
meeting leads to an intensification of such engagement.

â?¢ Helena Cobban is a Friend in Washington for the Friends Committee
on National Legislation. The views expressed here are her own.

By:
(c) Copyright 2007 The Christian Science Monitor. All rights reserved.

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March 8th, 2007, 1:37 am

 

Gibran said:

Norman,
That’s old news you’re posting. We already responded to this. It didn’t cause any anger on our side.

Please see below if you haven’t read it in a comment to a previous Landis post:

http://beirut2bayside.blogspot.com/

Then scroll down where the article starts with the title: The Cuteness of Walid Moallem

Good try Norman. Try harder next time.

March 8th, 2007, 1:44 am

 

norman said:

Gibran , I am impressed , You are allways there .

March 8th, 2007, 1:46 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

Inshallah Syria copies this one idea from Iran:

arch 7 (Bloomberg) — Iran will start selling shares of
Isfahan’s Mobarakeh Steel Complex to private investors next week
in the biggest state-asset sale in the Islamic Republic’s
history, Iran Daily reported.
Five percent of the steelmaker’s shares will be offered to
investors next week to “evaluate their price,” Iraj Akbarieh,
an adviser for public entities at the Industries and Mines
Ministry, said in the newspaper report.
Last month Iran sold shares in National Copper Industries
Co., the first major privatization since Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei asked the government to boost private
ownership in July. Mobarakeh Steel’s assets are three times
bigger than those of National Copper Industries, according to
Iran Daily.

March 8th, 2007, 3:14 am

 

Gibran said:

Political map in Iraq is being redrawn. Sectarianism may have finally consumed itself. Iraqis may be going back to their traditional character of tolerance. We may also be witnessing the long predicted birth of Democracy in the Middle out of chaos. This may herald the end of ideological despots. Now, there is an excellent chance despotic Syria will get sandwiched by multi-party Democratic regimes on almost all sides – North, East, West and South West. Obviously, Time marches forward only.

انسحاب الفضيلة وتوقعات بتغير الخريطة السياسية العراقية

قال نديم الجابري المسؤول في حزب الفضيلة الإسلامي الذي يشغل 15 مقعدا في البرلمان العراقي إن حزبه أعلن انسحابه من الائتلاف العراقي الموحد.

وأضاف الجابري أن العراق الجديد لا مجال فيه للطائفية وأن المصلحة الوطنية تقتضي ذلك. وقال إن حزبه يرى أن الخطوة الأولى لإنقاذ العراق هي تفكيك هذه التكتلات ومنعها من تشكيل قاعدة طائفية.

وأضاف أن قرار الانسحاب جاء بعد أن تيقن الحزب أن الوضع الراهن يحتاج إلى “إعادة بناء الحياة السياسية على أسس صحيحة, وأنه لا مجال للطائفية في العراق الجديد والمصلحة الوطنية تقتضي ذلك”.

وجاء موقف الفضيلة في وقت تسعى فيه الكتل السياسية العراقية لإعادة صياغة تحالفاتها داخل البرلمان. وفي هذا الصدد أعلنت كتلتا التوافق السنية والقائمة الوطنية العراقية عن وجود تحركات سياسية لتكوين تكتل سياسي جديد يبتعد عن الحصص الطائفية والعرقية.

The same news with more details from different source:

بغداد الحياة – 08/03/07//

شكل انسحاب حزب «الفضيلة» (15 مقعداً في البرلمان) من كتلة الائتلاف الشيعية وإعلانه إمكان الانضمام الى جبهة جديدة «على أسس غير طائفية» ضربة قوية للائتلاف الذي يتزعمه عبدالعزيز الحكيم، احراجاً لرئيس الوزراء نوري المالكي. وتلقت الأحزاب السنية وكتلة رئيس الحكومة السابق اياد علاوي نبأ الانسحاب بالترحيب، فيما أعرب مسؤولون في «الائتلاف» عن مخاوفهم من أن تؤدي خطوة «الفضيلة» الى انشقاقات أخرى في التكتل الشيعي.

على الصعيد الأمني، ارتفعت حصيلة ضحايا تفجير الحلة أول من أمس الى 117 قتيلاً، فيما قُتل أمس 15 عراقياً في هجمات جديدة على زوار كربلاء. وفجر انتحاري نفسه في مطعم في مدينة بلدروز في ديالى. واعلن الجيش الاميركي امس مقتل 5 من جنوده بانفجار عبوة شمال غربي بغداد.

وأكد حزب «الفضيلة» الاسلامي الشيعي أمس انسحابه من «الائتلاف العراقي الموحد»، وهو تكتل شيعي يهيمن على الساحة السياسية في العراق منذ انتخابات عام 2005، في خطوة قال مسؤولون إنها تمثل تحدياً للحكومة. وأكد «الفضيلة» أنه مستعد للانضمام الى كتل أخرى «ما دامت لم تتشكل على أساس طائفي». وأعرب مسؤولون في «الائتلاف» عن غضبهم وعن مخاوفهم من أن يكون انسحابه جزءاً من خطة أوسع لتشكيل كتلة منافسة في البرلمان لإطاحة حكومة المالكي.

وقال نديم الجابري، المسؤول الكبير في «الفضيلة»، إن كتلة الحزب البرلمانية «انسحبت من «الائتلاف» وستعمل في البرلمان ككتلة منفردة، في انتظار توفر القناعات الكاملة لدى الأحزاب والكيانات السياسية لاطلاق مشروع وطني على أساس وحدة العراق وسيادته واحترام المبادئ التي يؤمن بها الشعب». وأضاف في مؤتمر صحافي في المنطقة الخضراء المحصنة في بغداد «ان الخطوة الأولى على طريق انقاذ العراق من أزمته الخانقة هذه تبدأ من تفكيك هذه الكتل وعدم فسح المجال أمام تشكيل كتل على أساس طائفي او عرقي لأنه ادى الى تخندق الشعب العراقي وانقسامه على نفسه».

وأكد المسؤول الكبير في «الائتلاف» بهاء الأعرجي ان «هناك تحالفات جديدة يجري تشكيلها في محاولة لإضعاف الحكومة واطاحتها». غير أنه رأى أن تلك المحاولات ستبوء بالفشل فما يبنى على نيات سيئة لن يدوم».

March 8th, 2007, 4:35 am

 

Alex said:

يديعوت أحرونوت: سورية تسعى لامتلاك طائرات مقاتلة متطورة جداً..
الخميس 2007-03-08
يديعوت أحرونوت: سورية تسعى لامتلاك طائرات مقاتلة متطورة جداً..

في إطار التناقل الإعلامي الإسرائيلي المتواصل، وخاصة بعد انتهاء الحرب الأخيرة على لبنان، والذي يشهد تصاعداً في الفترة الأخيرة، لما تسميه التسلح المتسارع لحركة حماس وحزب الله وسورية، كتبت صحيفة “يديعوت أحرونوت”، الصادرة الأربعاء، أن موسكو تدرس طلباً سورياً لشراء طائرات روسية مقاتلة متطورة من طراز “سوخوي 30″، والإشارة هنا إلى طائرة قتالية موازية لأحدث الطائرات الأمريكية.

وجاء أن طائرة “سوخوي 30” قد تم إدخالها إلى دائرة الإستخدام في سنوات التسعينيات، وهي طائرة مقاتلة ذات محركين معدة للقتال الجوي ومهاجمة الأهداف على الأرض.

وبحسب الصحيفة فإن الجيش السوري يملك الآن طائرات من طراز “سوخوي 29” القديمة، ما يعني أن امتلاك سورية للطائرات الحديثة يشكل قفزة نوعية في القدرات القتالية الهجومية لسلاح الجو السوري في تنفيذ هجمات في داخل العمق الإسرائيلي، علاوة على تعزيز القدرات الدفاعية في صد هجمات جوية إسرائيلية.

كما أضافت الصحيفة، نقلاً عن خبراء أمنيين، أن الجهود السورية في تطوير السلاح الجوي تأتي بشكل مواز لقرار دمشق ببناء قوة صاروخية كبيرة لتعزيز قدراتها العسكرية مقابل إسرائيل، حيث طلبت سورية من موسكو تزويدها بكميات أخرى من الصواريخ علاوة على الصواريخ المضادة للدبابات.

وأشارت الصحيفة إلى تقديرات شعبة الإستخبارات في الجيش الإسرائيلي، في نهاية العام الماضي، بأن سورية تبذل جهوداً كبيرة من أجل تطوير قدراتها العسكرية في إطلاق صواريخ أرض- أرض. وبحسب المصادر ذاتها، فإن سورية حاولت إقناع موسكو ببيعها صواريخ أرض- أرض الأكثر تطوراً من طراز “اسكندر إي”، وفي المقابل قامت بتطوير صواريخ “سكاد” الموجودة بحوزتها.

وبحسب المصادر الأمنية الإسرائيلية فإن امتلاك هذا الصاروخ المتطور يتيح إمكانية إصابة الأهداف بدقة كبيرة، فضلاً عن أنه من الصعب اعتراض هذا الصاروخ.

وكانت قد تناقلت وسائل الإعلام الإسرائيلية في نهاية العام الماضي أن سورية تحاول الحصول على منظومة صواريخ روسية مضادة للطائرات من نوع “أس إي300″، الأمر الذي يعتبره الخبراء الأمنيون الإسرائيليون خطراً على إسرائيل.

وتابعت الصحيفة أن الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد قد قدم لنظيره الروسي فلاديمير بوتين، خلال زيارته لموسكو قبل بضعة شهور، قائمة بالأسلحة التي تسعى سورية لامتلاكها، من بينها منظومة الصواريخ المتطورة.

وبحسب “يديعوت أحرونوت” لا يزال الرد الروسي غير واضح، إلا أن نصب مثل هذه الصواريخ في سورية سوف “يصعب على سلاح الجو الإسرائيلي العمل حتى في سماء لبنان”

March 8th, 2007, 7:19 am

 

Rev. Michel Nahas Filho said:

Again, as a merely observer (since I am a Brazilian citizen [third generation Christian Syrian] working in Canada) which means I don’t really have a dog in this fight, just my passion for Syria:

I don’t understand the West. It would be so easy to solve all this. (yeah, I really think I’ll end up deserving the Nobel Peace). Just put into paper what the US and the West is willing to give to Syria, and what Syria is willing to give in exchange, so with Israel, so with the Saudis, so with the EU. Basically discuss final status, and forget the rest for the time being. Everybody will be negociating, and performing anyway.

When the deal is ready just apply it. Period! It is that simple. The masks would fall: Israel would show that it is indeed in the land grabbing business (why do you want “deffensible borders” if you have peace with your neighbours?). The US would show that war is of the interest of the weaponsry industry, and that AIPAC and followers don’t have any interest in real peace (would cripple their finances, jobs and above all power).

Saudis would show that they are not willing to put their pockets where their mouth is (if they were the social conditions in the kingdom would not be that catastrophic).

And concerning Syria, it would have at least freedom to decide what to do about its society, religiously speaking. In my opinion, as a Christian, nothing better could have happen (religiously speaking) to Syria than having an Allawite regime. Allawites are the most peaceful of the muslim denominations (I use this term because I find the word “sect” offensive). Ok… Sufis might be more Peaceful. They are the most ecumenical people, they indeed half Christians / half muslims. Because they know their minority status, they had to guarantee religious freedom, religious courts, and so on. There are at least 8 different Christian churches in Syria (Orthodox, Surianis, Armenians, Roman Catholics, Protestants, Melchites, Maronites, Jacobites,and now Assirian Christians from Iraq, etc) there are Druzes, Alawites, Ismailis, 12 shi’ia, Sunnis, and the secular ones. There might even still be some Jews, and probably some zoroastrians from Iran too.
So, why impose a Sunni way of life in all this folks? There are more religious freedom in Iran and Lebanon (and of course Syria) than in Israel or any other Sunni majority country! Why create a religious conflict, in exchange for what? A new Iraq? A new Lebanon? A new Saudi Arabia (w/o the money?)
The problem with Syria is (like my home country, Brazil) corruption; not religion, ideology or bad people.

I just thought you might be interested in hearing an opinion from someone who is economically and even geographically absolutely unbiased.

Rev. Michel Nahas

March 8th, 2007, 12:42 pm

 

Rev. Michel Nahas Filho said:

Before someone complais, the non captalized word Muslims on my text was merely a type error. Sorry!

Rev. Michel Nahas

March 8th, 2007, 12:53 pm

 

Gibran said:

Wow, you would indeed qualify for a noble prize, Rev. Michel Nahas Filho

March 8th, 2007, 1:22 pm

 

ausamaa said:

By Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 8, 2007; Page A16

A former Iranian deputy defense minister who once commanded the Revolutionary Guard has left his country and is cooperating with Western intelligence agencies, providing information on Hezbollah and Iran’s ties to the organization, according to a senior U.S. official.

Ali Rez Asgari disappeared last month during a visit to Turkey. Iranian officials suggested yesterday that he may have been kidnapped by Israel or the United States. The U.S. official said Asgari is willingly cooperating. He did not divulge Asgari’s whereabouts or specify who is questioning him, but made clear that the information Asgari is offering is fully available to U.S. intelligence.

March 8th, 2007, 2:45 pm

 

ausamaa said:

SO,,,,, and as the news is now semi-official based on the Washington Post story,

If Asghari has defected last month, then he must have been an “asset” for sometime, and would have been cooperating and spilling the beans for months, if not for years, before his defection. So, and whatever he is expected to “reveal” to his handlers must largely be “Old News”; already revealed and known. Of course, if the above information is correct, it would be a big blow to Iranian Intelligence, but not as bad as if he was “snatched” suddenly. In that case his “news” would have been of more “value”.

The problem now is this: based on accepting the fact that has Defected, the question which comes to mind is WHY would the “Western Intelligence” choose THIS critical moment (so close to the Baghdad conference)to pull such a stunt? ?

-To derail the conference?

-To really rescue the life of Sleeper who is about to be “blown” or who is becoming over-nervous?

-Is it that he is so needed publically “right now” to “validate” claims and charges relating to Iran’s weapons or Iranian designs – but now, if he is a willing accomplice to the West, his testemony would be somewhat disbuted in this case ( he is a traitor in that case, right?!)?

-To intimidate or antagonize Iran at this critical point?

Are those who do not want dialogue to succeed throwing Sticks in the wheels of those who do?

Did Israel “Dump” him in the lap of the West? Israel’s “itch” can be that bad, even if the itch to sting runs against its own best interests.

Again, and prersuming he was not kidnapped or did not have a sudden loss of memory and got lost somewhere in Istanbul souks, we should try to assess: Who is the Primary Benificiary of this operation?????? At this TIME!!!!! Who is acting suspicious?

March 8th, 2007, 3:19 pm

 

Atassi said:

Rev. Michel Nahas Filho,
Thank you for your input. IN TODAY Syria, We the “First” Generation Syrian struggling to change the misguided thinking of the political tolerance needed in Syria today. I strongly deplore your statement.
Your statement echoes the senses of Syrian Christians “as a Christian, nothing better could have happen (religiously speaking) to Syria than having an Allawite regime” to guarantee a life style for the Syrian Christian.
Please take a note, Christian need more than this type of Sectarian regime to guarantee religious freedom. They need to think as “Syrians” before being “Syrian Christian”

March 8th, 2007, 3:26 pm

 

Alex said:

It seems they are taking Prince Turki’s proposal for the new fertile crescent seriously.

Ali Jamalo, Baathist owner of Champress objected to this “Greater Syria” plan.

السعودية تتحدى امريكا وتدعم اقامة هلال خصي

March 8th, 2007, 4:51 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Rev. Michel Nahas Filho said:

“I don’t understand the West. It would be so easy to solve all this.”

Oh sure! At the cost of about 5 million Jews…

‘Turn Ashkelon into the next Sderot’

Abu Muhammad vowed to continue launching rockets deeper into Israel.

“In the coming period, the strategy of Islamic Jihad and other organizations is to turn Ashkelon into the next Sderot and keep bombarding towns regularly until reaching deeper and deeper,” said the terrorist.

Abu Muhammad claimed Israel would be “very surprised and astonished soon by our rocket capacities. We will not abide by any ceasefire.”

Abu Muhammad would not confirm if Iran assisted his group in developing its new purported rocket capabilities.

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3374195,00.html

March 8th, 2007, 4:53 pm

 

norman said:

Atassi, Christian Arabs living in Syria are just that Christian Arabs living in Syria, they have more loyalty to arabism than others as they have no other association ,Moslems have the Moslem nation and many preffer a moslem non Arab to a christian Arab If you look at the histery of the Christians in Syria you can see that they were the pioneer in Arab nationalis or Arabism during the early twenties century, so please do not think that you are more Arab or Syrian than the Christians in Syria ,
I have questions for you :
Do you think that Syria should be considered an Islamic state
Do you think that the President or anybody in Goverment should be restricted to specific religion or ethinc background .
Do you think that all Syrians should have the same obligations and priveleges and are equal under the law
Do you think that all Syrian have the right to believe in any religion they want and can change their religon any way and time they want.

March 8th, 2007, 4:56 pm

 

Atassi said:

US will not walk away from talks with Iran on Iraq
By Arshad Mohammed
8 March 2007
Reuters News
English
(c) 2007 Reuters Limited

WASHINGTON, March 8 (Reuters) – The United States sent on Thursday its clearest signal to date that it is open to bilateral talks with Iran and Syria, saying it will not “walk away” if either approaches to discuss stabilizing Iraq at a neighbors conference this weekend.

“If we are approached over orange juice by the Syrians or the Iranians to discuss an Iraq-related issue that is germane to this topic — stable, secure, peaceful, democratic Iraq — we are not going to turn and walk away,” David Satterfield, the State Department’s Iraq coordinator, told reporters.

However, he said whether or not such talks are held would depend in part on the Syrian and Iranian stance at the Saturday conference in Baghdad, which will gather Iraq’s neighbors as well as the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

The United States accuses both Iran and Syria of fomenting the insurgency in Iraq, where violence rages four years after U.S.-led forces invaded the country to topple former dictator Saddam Hussein. About 140,000 U.S. forces remain in Iraq seeking to defeat the insurgency and to restore stability.

The United States, which has no diplomatic relations with Iran, has had diplomatic contacts with Iran in multilateral discussions but it has resisted bilateral talks. The Saturday meeting will provide an occasion for such talks.

Satterfield, who will attend the conference along with outgoing U.S. ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, would not say definitively whether U.S. officials would engage with the Iranians or the Syrians in bilateral talks at the conference.

“It depends on how discussions evolve and we are not the only party in those discussions. What the Iranians and the Syrians choose to do is also part and parcel of this,” he told reporters.

The U.S. official, who serves as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s top adviser on Iraq, said the United States would make clear its desire that Iran and Syria act to quell the violence during the multilateral talks.

Asked what the United States wants the two countries to do, he said: “No arms crossings its border, no contributions to violence, whether that violence is directed against coalition forces or innocent Iraqis, a halt to the provision of training for elements in Iraq who are engaged in fomenting or conducting acts of violence.”

March 8th, 2007, 5:09 pm

 

Atassi said:

That exactly my point, Syrian Christians should be looked at as Syrian first.

–Do you think that Syria should be considered an Islamic State?
Yes, it’s an Arab Islamic state as set by the constitution
–Do you think that the President or anybody in Government should be restricted to specific religion or ethnic background.
Personally I don’t agree, but it should be part of the agreed constitution

Do you think that all Syrians should have the same obligations and privileges and are equal under the law
I strongly agree
do you think that all Syrian have the right to believe in any religion they want and can change their religion any way and time they want?
I Agree to the first part of your qustion, the other half is more of a religion qustion, I can’t answer it..

March 8th, 2007, 5:17 pm

 

norman said:

What does the US want to offer in return , That is the question.

March 8th, 2007, 5:19 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

The Good King wants to know:

“They want to know how it is, that ordinary Palestinians are still without rights and without a country.”

I’d be glad to tell him: Hamas doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist and therefore the Palestinians prefer their “right” of self defense over their “right to a country”. There is no way, dear King, to negotiate a border with someone you don’t recognize Habibi.

It’s not so complicated.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,257499,00.html

March 8th, 2007, 5:35 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

As I alluded to on more than one occasion, I find it incredible that the religious and civic leaders of the country’s Christians would accept to live under a constitution that excludes them from the Presidency of their country.

A Christian Syrian may never be elected to office but should the law exclude them?

If we are all Syrians, how can the country’s constitution be written in a way that implicitly treats a religious minority as third class citizens?

Rev. Michel Nahas Filho,

You claim that nothing better could have happened to Syria’s Christians than having an Alawi regime.

Since you are a Christian, please enlighten me as to how you feel about my question above. More specifically:

Are you comfortable in knowing that you can freely attend your church services without being prosecuted while the basic civil rights of your people are not granted to them?

I am aware that the late Hafez changed the country’s constitution to appease some of the fundamentalists. How do you feel about your people being used as pawns in this case?

The other Christians on this forum can jump in of course to offer their perspective on this question.

March 8th, 2007, 5:48 pm

 

norman said:

Atassi, Syria is an Arab State and the constitution does not say anything about Syria being an Islamic state as Syria is for all Syrians not only for Moslems
Any Syrian should be able to hold office if he is elected without discremination or set aside.
all peole especialy Syrian should pray and seek god in any way they want nobody should be able to think that his way is the only way and if anybody wants to change his religon , that is between him and God , so if you think that your religon is the right way then he will not go to heaven ,but that should be his choice , As long as he does not violate the law which should gaurantee this freedom .so people could beleive out of conviction no inheretence or fear.

March 8th, 2007, 5:50 pm

 

Atassi said:

Norman,
Syria is a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)
Please see the link for more information
http://www.oic-oci.org
The Islamic law “sharia” must be respected. At the same time we should respect other religions in Syria. I am not going to engage with you on religious debate since this is not my area , I don’t think anyone will be able to convince the others, just try being tolerant person and stay-out of the Hamidia mentally 

March 8th, 2007, 6:17 pm

 

norman said:

Atassi, i do not want to tell you to get out of BAB DRAIB mentality , But Christians just want Syria to be religon Blind country, Like the US.no special rights equal rights to all.

March 8th, 2007, 6:48 pm

 

Atassi said:

Good.. We are on the same channel wave then.

March 8th, 2007, 7:13 pm

 

Gibran said:

Syrian opposition to boycot bogus elections:

المعارضة السورية تقاطع الانتخابات التشريعية المقبلة

موعد الانتخابات يوم 22 من الشهر المقبل بموجب مرسوم رئاسي (الفرنسية-أرشيف)

أعلنت أحزاب سورية معارضة مقاطعتها الانتخابات التشريعية المقرر إجراؤها يوم 22 أبريل/ نيسان المقبل.

وقال تجمع “إعلان دمشق” الذي تنضوي تحته عدد من الأحزاب إن سبب المقاطعة يأتي احتجاجا على عدم صدور قانون جديد للانتخابات.

ومن جهته أكد التجمع الوطني الديمقراطي عزوفه عن المشاركة نتيجة ما قال إنه تدخل من قبل النظام في العملية الانتخابية.

كما أعلن حزب الاتحاد الاشتراكي العربي الديمقراطي مقاطعته الانتخابات لاستمرار ما وصفه بالمناخات القمعية وحظر النشاط السياسي في سوريا.

They talk about what religion to rule in Syria. A good exercise in futile debate. Can you have a different party to rule in Syria? And why discuss it. Bashar is in for life and then Bashar Jr. for another life term. It is already decided for you. Does it matter what the constitution says? Does it make a difference to change it? Come on guys, show some less infatuation with despots and then start thinking about these deeper issues.

March 8th, 2007, 8:06 pm

 

simohurtta said:

Akbar any comments?

AMY GOODMAN: In 2006, you write that George W. Bush said to his father, “What’s a neocon?”

ANDREW COCKBURN: That’s right. One of the rare moments of sort of communication between the two. Bush said to — they were out at Kennebunkport, and Bush Jr. says, “Can I ask you a question? What’s a neocon?” And the father says, “Do you want names or a description?” The President says, “I’ll take a description.” He says, “I’ll give it to you in one word: Israel,” which is interesting on all sorts of levels, including the confirmation that our president doesn’t really read the newspapers.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean when you say that. And how do you know that this conversation took place at their vacation home?

ANDREW COCKBURN: Well, I can’t really say who told me, but it’s someone who was — I have absolute confidence in both in their — that they’re telling the truth and also in their position to be aware of this conversation.

Source + video + audio

March 8th, 2007, 8:58 pm

 

Gibran said:

استقبل في البنتاغون بـ19 طلقة مدفعية

المرّ بحث مع غيتس دعم الجيش

في خطوة نادرة هي الاولى من نوعها لوزير دفاع لبناني، أقام البنتاغون حفل استقبال عسكري رسمي لنائب رئيس مجلس الوزراء وزير الدفاع الياس المر الذي يواصل زيارته الى الولايات المتحدة الاميركية، وبحث، أمس، مع وزير الدفاع الاميركي روبرت غيتس وكبار معاونيه وقادة الاركان المساعدات الاميركية للجيش اللبناني ودعمه وتجهيزه. وبعدما أطلقت المدفعية 19 طلقة ترحيبا بوصول المر واستعراضه مع غيتس ثلة من قوى البر والبحر والجو في الجيش الاميركي، عقد الوزيران محادثات مغلقة، استكملت على غداء عمل في مبنى البنتاغون تكريما للمر والوفد الرسمي المرافق.

March 9th, 2007, 12:54 am

 

ausamaa said:

A Royal reception ny Gates for a little nobody. Al Murr Jonior. With this young and willing doll, flattery will get you Everywhere. Gates is sure fattening him up for whatever challenging stuff they slated him to do in the future. If Al Murr acts in the the same way his father did with the Israelies and Bashir Gemmayel years back, doing what Gates wants should not be any problem.
Gates may well have to get over General Michel Suliman though, and the unique compostion of the Lebanese Army. Good try, Mr. Gates.

March 9th, 2007, 2:03 am

 

ausamaa said:

w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m

——————————————————————————–

Last update – 22:50 08/03/2007
Quiet, they’re talking with Syria
By Akiva Eldar

Two weeks ago, Haaretz reported that during her visit to Jerusalem last January, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked that Israel desist from any contact with Syria – even exploratory contacts of the sort that would test whether Damascus is serious in its declared intentions to hold peace talks with Israel.

The truth of the matter is that in this case, Rice burst through a wide open door in the Prime Minister’s Office. Ehud Olmert has enough problems already – even without opening talks with Syria and drawing fire from the Golan Heights communities. But it turns out that in Jerusalem as well, in his home court, there are some who are adamant about finding a way to establish contacts with Syria. The truth is that in Washington, too, in Rice’s home court, there are ongoing inquiries to determine whether Syria could leave the “Axis of Evil.”

On the day Ze’ev Schiff’s report appeared in Haaretz, MK Zahava Gal-On received a brief letter from the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Tzachi Hanegbi informed the head of the Knesset’s Meretz faction that following her request, he had decided that the committee would hold a special April 12 session on the chances of a peace process between Israel and Syria. Hanegbi, a senior Kadima member, added in his letter: “In the framework of the discussion, we will be happy to receive an update on the contacts made, with the participation of Dr. Alon Liel and Mr. Abe Suleiman.” Hanegbi asked Gal-On to confirm the participation of Liel, the man who initiated the talks via the “Swiss channel,” and of Suleiman, who represented Syria.

Liel and Suleiman informed Gal-On that they would be happy to report to the committee on the understandings reached in those talks. It is difficult to imagine that an experienced politician like Hanegbi was not aware that there is no precedent for inviting a foreigner, who represents an enemy country, to testify before a Knesset committee. It is also likely that the Kadima MK is aware of Olmert’s position on contacts with Syria, and heard the prime minister referring to Suleiman as a “dreamer.” This incident enables one to learn one more thing about fraternity and friendship among the ruling party’s leadership. But the Swiss channel also affords an infinitely more important distinction regarding the Israel-Syria-United States triangle: If there was an American ban against responding to the courtship of Bashar Assad, this ban is no longer sacred.

Not long after the first Haaretz report about the Swiss channel, Liel was invited to the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to report on his contacts with the Syrians. The meeting was attended by the embassy’s entire political staff, apart from the ambassador. But that was just the beginning. Nicholas Lang, the Swiss diplomat who acted as the contact between the Israeli participants and the Syrian regime, was summoned to Washington and updated senior State Department and National Security Council officials on the details of the talks and their results. He arrived in the U.S. shortly after a farewell visit to Damascus, and prior to taking up his new posting as the Swiss ambassador to several African countries.

Another sign that the Syrian-American rift has been mended can be seen in Damascus’ receipt of an invitation to send a representative to the conference to resolve the Iraq crisis. And finally, a further indication is the dispatch of Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey for a working visit to the Syrian capital. The State Department spokesman did take the trouble to clarify that this is not a “bilateral visit” and noted that the senior official was “only” accompanying the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in order to discuss the fate of the 600,000 Iraqi refugees who have found refuge in Syria. Nevertheless, it is hard to ignore the fact that Sauerbrey will be the most senior American official to have visited Syria in the last two years.

The U.S. already surprised Israel recently when Jerusalem received news of the conciliation between the U.S. and Gadhafi’s Libya. An Israeli official who recently visited Washington relates that his counterparts in the American administration joked with him that the U.S. is talking with Syria, but asked him “not to tell anyone.”

” …………
………….,

March 9th, 2007, 3:23 am

 

Habib said:

I think the US should be uber wary of Askar. He may be a mis/disinformant. In all reasonable sense, he could prove to be the diametric opposite of Saddamite defectors to Jordan. Iran figures if the coalition military wishes to detain Iranian agents, then why not have one of their own guys in the mix.

March 9th, 2007, 4:06 am

 

Ammad said:

There are countries in middle east, who are willing to cooperate with usa against iran, but they seems to have facing a problem, the problem does not lie in internal situation but it lies in american congress, they are not sure about the new policy of 2008 elected president, they fear that their reward will be limited for a few time only, there are senators in the democratic party who have proved to be very powerful, the senators wo they fear a lot is john kerry, chriss todd and biden or josph biden, who is also responsible for the senate foreign policy.

March 9th, 2007, 6:12 am

 

ugarit said:

Atassi said: “–Do you think that Syria should be considered an Islamic State?
Yes, it’s an Arab Islamic state as set by the constitution”

You’re mistaken, the Syrian constitution does not say that Syria is an Islamic state!

March 9th, 2007, 11:56 am

 
 
 

Atassi said:

UGARIT,
Article 3 [Islam]

(1) The religion of the President of the Republic has to be Islam.

(2) Islamic jurisprudence is a main source of legislation.

Now.. What do you make of that!!!

March 9th, 2007, 3:13 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Hi All,

Yesterday I went through all past articles articles written by Seymour Hersh and which have appeared in the New Yorker since 2003. Going through them again now gives one a true prespective of what has been going on inside the Bush Administration as regards the War on Terror cum Axis of Evil quagmire. They are trully descreptive of how this misadventure have started and developed into the lose-lose mess the Bush Administration have found itself in ever since.
They include among others:
The Syrian Bet, July 2003
Plan B, June 2004
The Coming Wars, Jan 2005
Last Stand, July 2006
Watching Lebanon, Aug 2006
The Next Act, Nov 2006

What they trully show, best when read together, is how REALITY frustrated, contained and restrained the neo-cons’ strive to implement their Agenda.

The articles can be found at http://www.newyorker.com, followed by a search ‘Seymour Hersh’.

God, you gotta give to the neo-cons; the crazy bunch must have been frustrated as hell throughout the last few years, yet they never seemed ready to give up on a an act that was apparently doomed to failure from its early days.

March 9th, 2007, 3:13 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Norman,

Ron Bousso article in the Sunday Times seems to me fall in the context of a current “scare campgaine” to “highlight” the developing “bad” situation in the area and the “growing strenght” of the bad guys.

Nothing in the article is new, actually a lot of the contents are erronuos. Especially if Ron needs to remind readers at the end of the article where and what the Golan Hights are.

I would link this to another “scary” story, appearing today among many others, at the bogous Israeli site http://www.debka.com titled : “Diplomatic minefields await Bush in his five-nation Latin America Tour – laid jointly by Iran, Venzuela and Hamas”.

In a way, they are saying: Look, this is how bad things are getting since Bush and Israel have lost their grip on the situation in the area. Inflate the size of the “bad guys”, scare people of what will come next, if we do not deal with them soon, type of approach.

March 9th, 2007, 3:43 pm

 

Atassi said:

U.S. Slams Syrian Parliamentary Polls
Anoushka Marashlian
9 March 2007
Global Insight Daily Analysis
English
Copyright 2007, Global Insight Limited. All Rights Reserved.

Syria’s announcement that it will hold parliamentary elections on April 22 was yesterday slammed by the United States, which described the polls as window dressing aimed at reasserting Syria’s one-party system. Hopes that Syrian President Bashar al-Asad would spearhead political reforms and democratisation in Syria floundered under the weight of a renewed crackdown against democracy activists and government critics, most recently the human rights lawyer, Anwar Bunni, and the political writer, Michel Kilo. Both men were jailed after signing the Damascus-Beirut Declaration, which called for a normalisation of relations between the two countries.

Although the Syrian Baath party periodically introduces electoral laws and reforms to its party system, such measures are usually confined to paper, with the party maintaining its traditional grip on the levers of power.Significance: Predictions that the April 2007 polls will simply reinforce the Ba’ath party’s dominance are justified, with President Asad failing to grasp the importance of genuine democratisation for his country. Instead, the country’s leader seems to prefer the current status quo, which will continue to stifle Syria’s development.

March 9th, 2007, 4:01 pm

 

Alex said:

Funny. For the first time, this year Bashar did not make a March 8th speech, but Khaddam …

وقال خدام للجزيرة نت تعليقا على رسالة وجهها أمس إلى مناضلي البعث في ذكرى تقلده السلطة إن الحزب ذو “تاريخ في العمل الوطني والدفاع عن حقوق جموع الشعب، والبعثيون اليوم في جزء من قياداتهم وفي قواعد الحزب هم أكثر الناس شعورا بالخطر خصوصا مع قضايا الاستبداد السياسي والفساد والوضع الاقتصادي والفقر، ورغم أن هناك البعض داخل الحزب أصبح جزءا من أدوات النظام، لكني أقول بكل وضوح إن قواعد الحزب وجزءا من قياداته تقف إلى جانب التغيير وستعمل وفق ظروفها للوصول إلى هذا التغيير”.

March 9th, 2007, 4:30 pm

 

Alex said:

سولانا يزور سوريا الاسبوع القادم

يقوم منسق السياسة الخارجية في الاتحاد الاوروبي خافيير سولانا بزيارة سوريا الاسبوع القادم لاجراء محادثات بشأن لبنان والسلام في الشرق الاوسط.

وقد اعلن عن هذه الزيارة وزير خارجية ايرلندا ديرموت اهيرن ورحب بقيام سولانا بها، واضاف ان هناك ادراكا متزايدا باهمية مواصلة الاتصالات مع سوريا بسبب دورها المحوري في المنطقة.

وقال اهيرن ” اننا ندرك من خبرتنا أن علينا استخدام الوسائل الدبلوماسية بدلا من ادارة ظهورنا للاخرين”.

وتمثل هذه الزيارة نهاية حظر من جانب الاتحاد الاوروبي على اجراء اتصالات على مستوى رفيع مع دمشق منذ اغتيال رئيس وزراء لبنان الراحل رفيق الحريري عام 2005.

وكانت فرنسا من اشد الدول الاوروبية المعارضة لاجراء اتصالات بين الاتحاد الاوروبي وسورية لعدة أسباب، من بينها العلاقة الوثيقة بين رفيق الحريري والرئيس الفرنسي جاك شيراك.

وتمثل هذه الزيارة تحولا في الموقف الاوربي حيث اكد الناطق باسم الرئيس الفرنسي جاك شيراك على هامش قمة الاتحاد الاوروبي في بروكسيل الجمعة قيام سولانا بزيارة سوريا مضيفا انه “جرى الاتفاق على اهداف زيارة سولانا الى سوريا باسم الاتحاد الاوروبي”.

وكان سولانا قد اعلن في وقت سابق عن عزمه زيارة كل السعودية ولبنان الاسبوع القادم دون الاشارة الى احتمال زيارة سوريا.

March 9th, 2007, 4:32 pm

 

Alex said:

Chirac just announced that he supports without any hesitation Solana’s talks in Damascus.

Not bad … better than his previous position on talking to Syria (that it is completely useless).

So Bashar outlasted Chirac.

Also,

Syria’s envoy at secret talks to speak before Knesset committee

By Akiva Eldar

Dr. Ibrahim Suleiman, the man who represented Syria during the secret unofficial discussions held under the auspices of the Swiss government, has agreed to appear before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Suleiman, an American of Syrian descent, informed his Israeli counterpart in the talks in Switzerland, Dr. Alon Liel, of his decision to appear before to the Knesset committee. Liel, in turn, told the Meretz faction chairman, MK Zahava Gal-On, who initiated the invitation.

Both the committee’s chairman, MK Tzahi Hanegbi, and Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik agreed to the unusual decision of officially inviting a foreign national who has represented the positions of an Arab country that is still in a state of war with Israel.

In a telephone conversation with Haaretz from his home near Washington D.C., Suleiman said he will use his visit to Israel to hold a dialogue with the public to clarify that Syria is committed to peace, which it considers to be the key to regional stability, security and prosperity.

He added that he is “completely convinced that President Bashar Assad means every word when he calls on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to begin peace talks without preconditions.”

Suleiman said it is possible that before his arrival in Israel he will carry out a short visit to Damascus to meet with the leadership there.

The 72-year-old has been a lecturer in the sciences at a number of American universities, and since the early 1990s he has dedicated most of his time to secret talks that would further peace between Israel and Syria.

March 9th, 2007, 5:09 pm

 

Alex said:

Just a reminder (with bold and repetition) for some of you who still insist that Syria is weak and isolated because Bashar is producing nothing but mistakes in his regional policies…

“The intention is that Javier Solana will go to Damascus and I very much welcome that,” Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern told Reuters on Friday after EU foreign ministers discussed Lebanon and the Middle East on the margins of a summit.

“We want to engage with them [Syria] as a regional partner. They are very important with huge influence. As we know from our own experience, rather than turning our back on people, diplomacy is what is required.”

“Very important, with HUGE influence” … ok??

: )

March 9th, 2007, 5:17 pm

 

ausamaa said:

The dam IS really breaking…

That is perhaps why we saw loooooong faces of the Siniora Government ministers during their last meeting as they appeared on TV today.

Or maybe its just jetlag from recent trips to Washington..!!

March 9th, 2007, 5:20 pm

 

Atassi said:

O.K Alex. We got your Message loud and clear, Bashar is a very strong and syria is not isolated. I hope this will make your day and your weekend!!:-)

March 9th, 2007, 5:23 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

It is that new Sham car that convinced the world that Damascus cannot be ignored.

March 9th, 2007, 5:30 pm

 

Atassi said:

EU unfreezes Syria contacts after French U-turn
By Mark John
540 words
9 March 2007
03:15
Reuters News
English
(c) 2007 Reuters Limited

(Releads with Chirac comments, Solana confirmation)

BRUSSELS, March 9 (Reuters) – The European Union agreed on Friday to relaunch contacts with Syria next week in a bid to win its help in securing peace in Lebanon.

President Jacques Chirac had blocked EU contacts with Syria for two years over its alleged role in the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

Chirac said after an EU summit he had agreed to a trip to Syria next week by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana as a way of ensuring the 27 member states spoke with one voice.

“I wholeheartedly approve the initiative of Mr Solana, who will head off with a clearly defined message which has the backing of all,” the French leader told a news conference after a two-day summit focusing on tackling climate change.

Chirac said he had been worried individual states would send national envoys to Damascus with different messages.

“That would have had negative consequences. Europe will speak with a single voice through Mr Solana,” he said.

European states provide the bulk of an augmented U.N. peace force deployed in southern Lebanon last year after fighting between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas in which more than 1,000 people died.

Diplomats say efforts to convert a tense ceasefire into a more stable peace have been stymied by Western moves to isolate Syria and Iran, Hezbollah’s main backers.

Solana told a separate news conference after the summit he would travel next week to Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

“The EU Council has mandated me to undertake this trip … to tell the Syrians what the situation is, that we want to work with them particularly on the Lebanon issue,” Solana said.

“TINDER BOX”

The Lebanese opposition, including Syrian allies Hezbollah and Amal, is locked in a struggle for power with the anti-Syrian governing coalition. There have been recent signs from both sides of a desire to end the deadlock.

Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern, whose country has 160 troops in southern Lebanon, said the bloc realised it needed to re-engage with Damascus due to its central role in the region.

“We want to engage with them (Syria) as a regional partner. They are very important with huge influence,” he told Reuters in an interview. “Rather than turning our back on people, diplomacy is what is required.”

Ahern, who recently visited the Irish contingent, said there was relative calm in southern Lebanon but that could be jeopardised at any moment.

“It’s a tinder box. What we have to do is to engage all parties to prevent it from re-igniting,” he said.

The EU has signed association agreements with states across the region but a similar pact with Damascus has been on ice for over two years.

Final approval of the accord is conditional on Syria cooperating with efforts to bring to justice al-Hariri’s killers. A U.N. inquiry has implicated Syrian and Lebanese security officials, though Syria denies involvement.

March 9th, 2007, 5:32 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

simohurtta said: (March 8th, 2007, 8:58 pm / #)

“Akbar any comments?”

AMY GOODMAN: In 2006, you write that George W. Bush said to his father, “What’s a neocon?”

Simohurtta,

A neocon is an evil, Jewish, satanic sect that wants to kill Christian babies in order to make passover matzohs. Or was it Purim cookies? I forget…

I hope that helps you.

March 9th, 2007, 5:43 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Love him or hate him, Bashar and Co. have proved that they have balls to play this high-stakes game.

Were the tides to shift conclusively in his favor (all recent signs are slowly and steadily moving in that direction), the young man would end up proving many of his skeptics wrong.

March 9th, 2007, 5:56 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Ehsani 2

Are you saying what you are saying? or is it because you are enthrilled by the test drive of the new Cham car?

By God, this is good, we are out of the woods finally.

March 9th, 2007, 6:04 pm

 

Alex said:

Not completely there yet Ausamaa : )

Still a lot of resistance and competition.

We need to look at facial expressions in the many conferences and meetings and summits that will take place the next few weeks. here is a new one announced

القاهرة/سانا أعلنت وزارة الخارجية المصرية اليوم ان وزراء خارجية دول جوار العراق ومصر سيعقدون اجتماعا فى القاهرة فى مطلع نيسان القادم. ونقلت ا ف ب عن الوزارة قولها انه سيتم تقرير موعد الاجتماع خلال المؤتمر الدولي حول العراق الذى سيعقد غدا السبت في بغداد. وأوضحت ان هذا اللقاء الذى لن تشارك فيه الدول الخمس دائمة العضوية فى مجلس الامن سيعقد فى القاهرة بعد ايام معدودة من القمة العربية بالرياض المقررة 28 و 29 اذار. ولم تقدم الوزارة المزيد من التوضيحات حول القضايا التى ستطرح على جدول اعمال هذا الاجتماع.

March 9th, 2007, 6:40 pm

 

Atassi said:

Iraq Summit Offers U.S., Iran Icebreaker
By BRIAN MURPHY
Associated Press Writer

9 March 2007

BAGHDAD (AP) – Washington is sending a veteran Middle East hand. Tehran’s envoy is a British-educated diplomat considered one of Iran’s leading Western analysts. Combine that with a flexible agenda and a matchmaking Iraqi host — and the international gathering Saturday to help steer Iraq’s future also appears as a prime opportunity for some icebreaking overtures between Iran and the United States.

But any outreach — no matter how limited — would be shadowed by deep suspicions and grievances from both sides in their odd-couple roles: old foes yet also Iraq’s two most influential allies.

“Don’t expect any miracles,” said Hamid Reza Jalaipour, a professor of political affairs at Tehran University.

In fact, expectations have been kept very modest before the conference — which includes delegates from Iraq’s six neighbors, the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and several Arab representatives.

In Washington, the U.S. chief delegate, David Satterfield, said “we are not going to turn and walk away” if approached by Iran or Syria to discuss Iraq. But Satterfield, the top State Department adviser on Iraq, added Thursday that the United States plans to use the meeting to reinforce its accusations against both nations.

They include U.S. claims that Syria allows foreign jihadists and Sunni insurgents to cross its border into Iraq, and that weapon shipments from Iran reach Shiite militias. Both nations deny the allegations.

Iran’s chief envoy, Abbas Araghchi, left Tehran without directly mentioning the United States, but said Iran “hopes to take more steps” to support the U.S.-backed government — which is led by a Shiite prime minister with close ties to Shiite heavyweight Iran.

Iran, however, has strongly denounced the U.S. military presence. The complaints grew more pointed in December after American forces detained two Iranian security agents at the compound of a major Shiite political bloc in Baghdad.

Six other Iranians were arrested Jan. 11 at an Iranian liaison office in northern Iraq. The U.S. military said they were members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard — a charge Tehran rejects.

The showdown over Iran’s nuclear program also lurks behind any attempt to ease the nearly 28-year diplomatic freeze with Washington.

“But both Iran and the United States realize they are stuck together on Iraq,” said Alireza Nourizadeh, chief researcher at the London-based Center for Arab-Iranian Studies. “So perhaps they see this meeting as a way to open some doors for bilateral talks.”

For Iran, opening more direct contacts with Washington could help promote their shared interests in Iraq, including trying to stamp out Sunni-led insurgents. U.S. officials, meanwhile, need the support of Iranian-allied political groups in Iraq to keep a lid on Shiite militias.

There have been other chances in the past for one-one-one dialogue, but rarely with such promise.

In September, the United States joined Iran and Syria in talks on Iraq — although Washington ruled out direct talks with Iran in advance. This time, however, there is an open invitation to Iran.

And both sides have dispatched well-suited diplomats.

Satterfield has served in posts in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Lebanon and Syria, as well as Washington positions including the National Security Council staff. Araghchi did postgraduate studies in England and served as ambassador to Finland. He’s regarded as one of Iran’s leading diplomatic strategists on relations with the West.

The host, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, juggles close ties with Iran and the United States and has left ample room for closed-door discussions and possible bilateral exchanges. Washington broke ties with Iran after militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in the wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The one-day session in Baghdad also carries little pressure on the delegates. It’s designed only to pave the way for a high-level gathering possibly in April.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said he would not necessarily object to meeting with the Iranians. “But, the first point to make to them is that they need to stop arms, Iranian arms, coming across the border,” he told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

The meeting also is the first time in nearly two years that Washington is willing to discuss security issues with Iran — at a time when the Pentagon is pumping more than 20,000 troops into a Baghdad crackdown and boosting forces to strongholds of Sunni insurgents northeast of the capital.

The head of Iraq’s largest Shiite political bloc, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, endorsed the gathering in an address in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, where millions of pilgrims have gathered for an important Shiite religious commemoration.

“It is necessary to pay attention to the sacrifices of Iraqis over the past four years,” said al-Hakim, who leads the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is strongly linked to Iran.

Al-Hakim also took a swipe at the Arab League — pointing to likely tensions at the meeting.

The Cairo-based group said this week that it would urge changes in Iraq’s constitution to give more political power to Sunnis, who are outnumbered nearly 3-to-1 by Shiites. Many Shiites in Iraq saw the statement as a challenge to the legitimacy of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government.

Other potential friction at the meeting could come from Turkey, which opposes plans to hold a referendum sometime this year on whether the northern oil hub of Kirkuk will remain in Arab-dominated territory or shift to the semiautonomous Kurdish zone.

Turkish officials fear that oil riches for the Kurds could stir separatist sentiments and spill over into Kurdish areas in Turkey.

One of the main extremist factions, the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq, posted a statement on an Islamic Web site denouncing “the meeting of the hypocrites and the agents” and said it seeks to “extinguish the flame of the blessed jihad.”

“All the delegates are united by one thing: the fear of a prolonged civil war in Iraq. It would hurt them each in different ways,” said Abdel-Moneim Said, director of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “Fear is the one thing bringing them all together.”

March 9th, 2007, 7:13 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Yeh Alex,

I bet the Syrian and Iranian delegates in Baghdad will resemble what we call “Emm el Sabbi”.

No seriously, I believe the whole show is over, it just remains to see not “if”, but “how” something resembling “normality” or just “low profile” tensions can be arrived at. Come to think about it, Bush is not a total loser, he has got the Iraqi Oil and Three or so US Bases in Iraq , and, the war has been kind to American Big business while it lasted. What more does he want? Win some ,lose some. And the TRUE Peace Prommoter for now is the EU. Lets enjoy the new show.

Can the Arabs NOW arrive at a common vision for their future? I do not know. But knowing US, that is ourselves, I do not have high hopes. Maybe..
Hell, our salvation will come only through the active clean assistance of the West, but the West did not seem very interested in that so far. Could they be more interested now after they have had a chance to see how dangerous and dreary this unstable Midle East can be???

March 9th, 2007, 7:44 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Yeh, one can guess! Egypt sure wants to get a seat on the Train. It feels bad enough being margenalized, or cut to real size by some, in Lebanon and Palestine. So maybe we are going to look at better Egyptian – Syrian cooperation in the future?? Untill Egypt finds better suiters.

March 9th, 2007, 8:16 pm

 

ausamaa said:

And this is from the Washington Institiute for Near Eastern Policy. Obviously not having big expectations. But what can you expect from Seth who once had an article titled “The Golan Heights and Syrian-Israeli Relations: What does Assad Want?”

Apparently, the editor in-chief-chief of the Olive Branch magazine out of Jerusalem, seems NOT TO KNOW WHAT Assad wants where Golan is concerned, but he sure DOES KNOW enough to write an article with the Predictions he makes now!

PolicyWatch #1208
Can Syria Come in from the Cold?

By Seth Wikas
March 9, 2007

In the coming weeks, Syria will participate in two important regional conferences. On March 10, it will join Iraq’s other neighbors and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council in Baghdad. On March 28-29, it will participate in the Arab League summit in Riyadh. Syria’s detractors continue to criticize Damascus for failing to seal the border with Iraq and for meddling in Lebanese internal affairs in violation of UN Security Resolution 1701. Of equal importance is the downturn in Syria’s relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran. Last week’s Saudi-Iranian summit has Damascus worried about its role in Lebanon and the possibility of an international tribunal on the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, a crime for which Syria is widely believed to be responsible. Will the upcoming conferences give Syria a chance to improve its regional standing, or will its isolation continue?
The Baghdad Conference

The March 10 meeting in Baghdad is aimed at curbing violence and promoting reconstruction and national reconciliation within Iraq. Syrian leaders are greeting the conference with cautious optimism and as a partial step toward diplomacy. They want to see full adoption of the Iraq Study Group (a.k.a. Baker-Hamilton) report’s recommendation of direct American dialogue with Syria and Iran. Meanwhile, Washington appears committed to its policy of isolating the two nations, and President Bush has stated that the Baghdad conference will be a test of Syria and Iran’s readiness to reduce sectarian violence in Iraq. Washington is not blind to the results of the Iraq war, however — Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Ellen Sauerbrey is currently awaiting a visa to travel to Damascus, where she has been authorized to discuss only the status of Iraqi refugees in Syria. On the Syrian side, the editor-in-chief of the government daily al-Baath, Ilyas Murad, stated the need for Washington to admit its failure in Iraq at the conference, and also wondered how the United States could refuse to talk to other conference participants.

One constructive step Damascus has recently taken is to allow Iraqi refugees to renew their three-month residency permits. Yet official Iraqi sources point to Syria’s continued role in undermining stability in Iraq. Last week, Iraq’s UN ambassador, Hamid al-Bayati, called on Syria to control its border, as it is the entry point for most foreign fighters. He dismissed Syria’s claims that it cannot adequately patrol its border until it receives the necessary surveillance equipment.

Saudi Arabia and the Arab Summit

Syria’s relationship with Saudi Arabia has been strained at best since Syrian president Bashar al-Asad’s August 15, 2006, speech in which he railed against Arab leaders who did not support Hizballah in the war against Israel — notably Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt. Asad described such leaders as “half men.” The deterioration in their relations has been compounded by Syria’s suspected involvement in the killing of Hariri, a Saudi citizen, and by Syria’s implication of Saudi Arabia in the September 2006 attack on the U.S. embassy in Damascus. In December, Syrian vice president Farouk al-Shara attributed the strain to personal reasons: “We Arabs become angry and calm down quickly.” In Saudi eyes, his statement trivialized the depth of the problems between the two states.

Most recently, the relationship suffered a flare-up after a caustic op-ed appeared in the Saudi-owned London daily al-Sharq al-Awsat. Although the newspaper consistently reflects the Saudi position on issues, and is notoriously anti-Syrian, Abdul Rahman al-Rashid’s March 4 article pushed the envelope. A former editor of the paper, he outlined Saudi grievances — including Asad’s August speech and Syrian attempts to bring down the Lebanese government — and claimed Syria had lost nearly everything in the Middle East as a result of its leadership’s inexperience and miscalculations. He added that Syria was even risking its alliance with Iran and predicted the upcoming Arab Summit could not save Syria from a dark future.

For its part, Damascus has sought to project a very different image. According to Syrian sources, Saudi King Abdullah sent Asad a personal invitation to the Arab Summit via an emissary in February. Asad assured the emissary that he would attend and conveyed his personal respect for the king and the importance of the Saudi-Syrian relationship. The summit will include separate bilateral talks between Abdullah and Asad. In the wake of the invitation, the Syrian media has shown a noticeably more positive tone toward Saudi Arabia.

The media messages on both sides are important in light of recent talks between Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad and King Abdullah. Saudi Arabia is seeking Iranian support for the Hariri tribunal, and this worries Syria. It is unclear whether Tehran and Riyadh can find a solution to the Lebanese political crisis, and what pressure — if any — will be put on Syria to discontinue its interference in Lebanese affairs.

Syria’s Relationship with Iran

The Syrian-Iranian relationship is under a great deal of pressure. Former Syrian president Hafiz al-Asad skillfully developed and nurtured alliances with both Saudi Arabia and Iran, helping to make Syria a key regional player. The alliance with Tehran worked well when Damascus saw Iran as an ally in the struggle against its old nemesis, Iraq, and as a source of inexpensive oil. In turn, Iran viewed Syria as a base for exporting the Islamic Revolution to Lebanese Shiites via Hizballah. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia benefited from the protection that both nations provided from Iraq. Bashar al-Asad, however, has turned Syria into a political liability for its allies and neighbors. He has angered the Saudis by meddling in Lebanese political affairs — notably in the assassination of Hariri — and has turned his country from a partner into a client of Iran. Asad has also voiced his open support and respect for Hizballah — something his father never did — and Damascus has lost the power it once had over the group. The result is that Syria’s fortunes in Lebanon are now dependent on Hizballah’s success, making Hizballah a partner, not a dependent.

In sum, Syria’s new position in relation to both Iran and Hizballah has weakened its political clout. Asad also fears that the recent Iranian-Saudi summit yielded Tehran’s assent to the international tribunal on Hariri, which would further debilitate the Syrian regime. Neither the Saudis nor the Iranians want to see Asad fall, but an international tribunal and a settling of the Lebanese political crisis (to Syria’s disadvantage) would strip Damascus of many of its political cards.

Conclusion

The upcoming Baghdad conference and Arab Summit highlight the various challenges facing Syria. Given its record, Syria is unlikely to play a constructive role in Iraq — but this does not interest Damascus. Instead, its primary goals are to block the international tribunal on the Hariri assassination and ensure that Hizballah gains more power in the Lebanese parliament. Even if it achieves its objectives, however, Damascus has badly damaged its relations with allies and regional neighbors, and these will take time to heal. Internationally, Syria is hoping to bypass continued U.S. opposition to direct diplomacy by strengthening its military and economic ties with Russia. Regionally, neither of the upcoming meetings are likely to reduce Syria’s isolation, improve its image, or change its leadership’s demonstrated inability to balance competing political interests.

Seth Wikas is a visiting fellow at The Washington Institute, focusing on Syria’s domestic politics and foreign policy.

March 9th, 2007, 9:06 pm

 

simohurtta said:

A neocon is an evil, Jewish, satanic sect that wants to kill Christian babies in order to make passover matzohs. Or was it Purim cookies? I forget…

Really Akbar? Well as a Jew you know better your religion and tribesmen as me. I must believe what you say.

March 9th, 2007, 10:17 pm

 

Gibran said:

The silence of Bashar:

“صمت” الأسد
هذا الاستبشار بسحب فتيل التوتر من الشارع، تمهيداً لسحبه من ثنايا المرجعيات السياسية اللبنانية في الفترة الفاصلة عن موعد القمة العربية المقررة في الثامن والعشرين من آذار الحالي، بفعل ما يسبقها من لقاءات اقليمية كثيرة، يبقى عرضة لمحاولات العرقلة السورية التي يعرف اللبنانيون أنها طرق متشعبة تنتقل من سيناريو جاهز ومكشوف الى سيناريو آخر هو بدوره جاهز ومكشوف.
هل يقدم الأسد على العرقلة؟ تاريخه يسمح بالاجابة بنعم، ولكن الأسد موضوع تحت رقابة المجتمع الدولي، ومن ضمنه المجتمع العربي، تمهيداً لحسم التعاطي معه. ولأن المسألة كذلك، إمتنع الأسد من دون تقديم أي مبررات عن إلقاء كلمته في ذكرى الثامن من آذار، تاريخ تولي حزب البعث للحكم في سوريا. هو لا يريد ان يتراجع علناً عن الاهانات التي كالها للزعماء العرب بعيد انتهاء حرب تموز الاسرائيلية على لبنان، ولكنه لا يستطيع الا ان يتراجع في حال تكلم، فاختار الصمت لئلا يجنح لسانه الى النطق بما يعتمل في صدره من عقدة نقص، تجاه كل من يتمتع بعقل وازن في هذا العالم العربي.
الأسد تحت الرقابة
كما ان الأسد، مضطر الى اعادة حساباته في مسألة المحكمة ذات الطابع الدولي، إدراكاً منه ان “خلاص رأسه” من محكمة بمواصفات تلك التي تقدمها الاتفاقية المعقودة بين لبنان والامم المتحدة لن يتوافر له في حال جاءت المحكمة تحت أحكام الفصل السابع من ميثاق الامم المتحدة، ولذلك هو يفضل أن يُنسي الجميع ما قاله منفعلاً وزير خارجيته وليد المعلم ضد المحكمة ذات الطابع الدولي، في محاولة جديدة منه ليأخذ “بالتمسكن” روح المحكمة التي لم يتمكن منها بالاغتيال وزعزعة استقرار لبنان والزحف امام ايهود اولمرت والتعهد بوقف بؤرة الجحيم في العراق.
والرسائل القاسية وصلت كلها الى الأسد. الولايات المتحدة الاميركية، بجناحيها الجمهوري والديموقراطي، تحفظ لبنان المستقل المحصن بالعدالة الدولية المرجوة، من أي صفقة على اعتبار ان الاسد مدعو الى تلبية المطالب وليس الى أخذ ثمن “الاجرام”. الاتحاد الاوروبي في قمته التي انعقدت في اليومين الاخيرين في بروكسيل اعتنق مبدأ شيراك من المسألة السورية، على اعتبار ان دولا اوروبية كانت مقتنعة بالحوار مع نظام الأسد وجدت نفسها مصدومة بالحقائق. وزير خارجية بلجيكا كاريل دو غوت كان آخر العنقود، قبله “بردت همّة” نظيره الالماني فرانك فالتر شتاينمر، وغاب عن الصورة السورية صديقها الاسباني ميغل انخل موراتينوس. الاوروبيون قرروا وقف محاولاتهم الافرادية، أوكلوا المهمة، من الآن فصاعداً الى شخصية واحدة لا غير، شخصية معروفة ثوابتها، ومعنية حصراً بتنفيذ المقررات الاوروبية: خافيير سولانا.

March 10th, 2007, 12:20 am

 

Alex said:

Gibran

Who knows … maybe Abdel Rahman el-Rashed can be credited with the non-speech.

It is natural.

March 10th, 2007, 12:28 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

simohurtta said:

“Well as a Jew you know better your religion and tribesmen as me. I must believe what you say.”

Simohurtta,

It’s funny, you only believe what I say when it’s critical of Jews. Why am I not surprised?

http://www.memri.org/antisemitism.html

http://www.nationalreview.com/goldberg/goldberg052103.asp

March 10th, 2007, 2:16 am

 

simohurtta said:

It’s funny, you only believe what I say when it’s critical of Jews. Why am I not surprised?

Why do you think like that Akbar? By the way if you criticize Jews is it Anti-Semitic behaviour? Or is anti-Semitism only reserved for non-Jews?

Is the following news anti-Semitic?
Ma’ariv Daily has reported that an Israeli retired officer sells weapons to terrorist groups in Iraq.

Shmoel Avivi, an Israeli retired officer, had established a firm in Iraq 2 years ago, which secretly sold arms to terrorist groups in Iraq, Ma’ariv reported.

Amnesty International reported that Avivi was one of the biggest weapon dealers in the Middle East.

Hmmmmm…

March 10th, 2007, 7:23 am

 

Rev. Michel Nahas Filho said:

Dear Ehsani,

Those regulations exist everywhere. In the US an immigrant cannot be president (e.g. Arnold Swarzenegger’s and Henry Kissinger’s cases). In the US also, one cannot be a senator if s/he is under 35. In Brazil, my home country, you cannot be elected for anything, if you are illiterate (which is a problem on some remote Amazonic regions). Indians in Brazil, are treated as minors, with not all the rights, but with extra protection under the law. There are lots of cases like that. I am sure that Christians can never be president in Syria (as if matters) because the Sunnis would never accept this (nor the rest of the Sunni states around). The way they see it (probably it was the original intent) Lebanon is (was)the Christian Syria. If a Muslim cannot be president in Lebanon, why should it be different in Syria?

Just a thought, but thanks anyway for your input.

Rev. Michel Nahas
Canada

March 10th, 2007, 10:32 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Simohurtta asks innocently:

“By the way if you criticize Jews is it Anti-Semitic behaviour? Or is anti-Semitism only reserved for non-Jews?”

Criticizing “Jews”, like critcizing “Muslims” are both anti-semitic and anti-Islamic, respectively.

As if you didn’t know.

Being anti-semitic is a phenomenom, just like being anti-Islamic is a phenomenon.

With one caveat:

Anti-semitism is, IMHO, what is “fueling” Islamic terrorism in the Middle East to this very day. Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and most Arab and Muslim states are virulently anti-semitic in their organizations, policy statements, government controlled press, newpapers and media.

Being anti-Islamic is also a recent phenomenon probably attributed to years of Islamic terror felt throughout the world and the frustration of not being able to stop it.

Anti-semitism, as you may know, is not a recent phenomenon. I was mostly prevalent in Europe, and since Israel’s creation in 1948, it is mostly prevalent in the Middle East.

“Is the following news anti-Semitic?”

I looked at your links and I saw nothing anti-semitic about them. I hope that answers your question.

Here are some examples of what I DO believe is anti-semitic? Do you agree with me?:

http://www.memri.org/antisemitism.html

March 11th, 2007, 4:13 pm

 

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