Lebanese Certain Chapter VII Tribunal Will Pass UN Vote End of May - Syria Comment

Lebanese Certain Chapter VII Tribunal Will Pass UN Vote End of May

An adviser to to Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora was in New York City on Thursday. A friend explains that according to this adviser, the White House is not happy with Siniora for refusing to sign the chapter VII request. The Lebanese held talks with South Africa, which is a temporary member of the security Council, but not with Qatar because the Lebanese believed it will not vote for a chapter VII resolution in any event. 

According to the advisor, behind the scene negotiations are almost concluded. Chapter VII will be signed by the end of May. Moreover, this adviser has made it clear that Brammertz is ready to divulge much more evidence in his report due in mid-June. The Lebanese government feels that Brammertz has been too stingy with his evidence, claiming that he has the goods on Syria but has chosen not to announce it.

In sum, according to the adviser NOTHING will stop chapter VII. The end of May is the likely date for the Security Council resolution.

Comments (58)


bilal said:

I don’t think anyone will be surprised if the next Brammertz report will point the finger to Syria more clearly. In his last report he was clear to almost accusing Syria by reading between the lines. I hope this nightmare will end soon and if the Syrian regime is guilty then to hell with it and let’s get a new one. Otherwise let’s focus on rebuilding Syria properly. The Syrian people has suffered more than enough.

May 6th, 2007, 5:17 am

 

why-discuss said:

Bilal, wishful thinking! The Syrian regime will not bow so easily, troubles in the area is only starting both for Lebanon and Syria if high rank syrians close to Bashar are indicted. The chapter 7 is another of the numerous mistakes by the US in the area and it may cause more disasters…

May 6th, 2007, 7:48 am

 

DJ said:

Are we sure it won’t be vetoed by the Russians?

May 6th, 2007, 11:11 am

 

ausamaa said:

One: If we beleive that the US Admin wants to enlist Syria’s help in Iraq which is Bush’s number one problem right now, then Bush has to be accomodating to Syria. If he wont, Syria will recoile. But is the 14 Feb crowd more important to Bush than the situation of the US military in Iraq?

Two: Supposing the UNSC has approved the tribunal under chapter 7 at the end of May. Then what?? Can the “prudent” and “wise” soles tell us what do they expect next? A white flag raised by Damascus? NATO planes will start bombing Syria on cue? A Nuremberg-like Tribunal held in Beirut to sentence Syria? And how will a cornered or wounded or a victimized Syria react “on the ground”? Stop cooperation with the US in Iraq only? Neglect the whole matter as if it does not mean a thing to it? What else? Lebanon? Any guesses? And who (besides the Syrian people) will pay the price for the consequent actions -silent or otherwise- and counter actions?

Vindictive people should sometimes be carefull what they wish for..

May 6th, 2007, 11:52 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

at the end of may,it is not far away, 3 1/2 weeks away, the tribunal is not going away,we have to wait and see what brammertz will say,who is going to be laughing at the end of the day

May 6th, 2007, 12:49 pm

 

ausamaa said:

MAJEDKHALDOUN, “Laughing” at what exactly? Am I missing something?

May 6th, 2007, 4:40 pm

 

Innocent_Criminal said:

Russia will not veto any resolution regarding the middle east. then again even if the tribunal goes through i doubt it will be more than a public attempt to shame Syria. no one is about to go forcefully into Syria and extract the suspects, at least not for the next 2 years when we have a new US administration and that is assuming that it will be more aggressive than the current one. that said, whatever happens, if Syria is fingered it will be vindication to many around the world. And it will make life for Syrians and their allies (especially HA) a lot more difficult.

On another and much more selfish note. I was on BBC World again today this time it was regarding Blair’s legacy. You can watch it here http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/default.stm click on watch have your say and forward to 5:30 I was the first caller.

May 6th, 2007, 4:48 pm

 

ausamaa said:

باريس تنتظر الانتخابات لبلورة سياستها تجاه دمشق

باريس ـ «السفير»
نفى المتحدث باسم الخارجية الفرنسية جان ـ باتيست ماتيي، أمس، حدوث أي اتصالات على المستوى الوزاري مع الوفد السوري في مؤتمر شرم الشيخ الذي اختتم أمس، لكنه اشار الى أن السياسة الجديدة تنتظر نتائج الانتخابات الرئاسية في فرنسا.
وقال ماتيي «إن الوضع الذي رست عليه العلاقات السورية ـ الفرنسية معروف، ولم تحصل أي اتصالات بين البلدين على المستوى الوزاري، وقد ظلت محصورة باتصالات من خلال سفارتنا في دمشــق… وزيارة قام بها أحد النواب»، في إشارة إلى زيارة عضو مجلس الشيوخ الفرنسي ورئيس مجموعة الصداقة السورية الفرنسية فيليب مارياني إلى دمشق، في مطلع الشهر الماضي.
وقال مارياني، المقرب من المرشح الرئاسي نيكولا ساركوزي، آنذاك إن الرسالة التي أراد نقلها هي «أنه يجب التوقف عن النظر إلى العلاقات مع سوريا فقط من منظار السياسة التي تقودها ـ أو التي ينبغي أن تقودها ـ تجاه لبنان، كما لا يجب اختصار سوريا بالنزاعات الدائرة بين الأطراف اللبنانية».
وكانت وزارة الخارجية الفرنسية دخلت حالة «خدر انتخابي» منذ أسبوعين، لانشغال الوزير فيليب دوست بلازي بالحملة الانتخابية لساركوزي، وفي انتظار تعديلات محتملة على بعض الملفات الأساسية كالملف الللبناني ـ السوري، والتي يتوقع أن تلعب دوائر الخارجية الفرنسية التقليدية دوراً أكبر فيها، بعدما كانت الكلمة الفصل فيها للإليزيه، في ظل الرئيس جاك شيراك.
وقال ماتيي «ما نزال ننتظر لمعرفة أي خط سياسي سيتم تبنيه تجاه سوريا، وغيرها من المسائل، من قبل السلطات الفرنسية الجديدة، التي ستنبثق من الانتخابات الرئاسية الأحد».

May 6th, 2007, 5:12 pm

 

Alex said:

More about Philippe Marini and “Le Groupe d’amitié France-Syrie” here.

May 6th, 2007, 6:27 pm

 

Alex said:

So if this much money is still finding its way comfortably into Syria, how serious of a threat can the international court be?

Syria & Qatar Sign Agreement to Establish Holding Company
Sunday, May 06, 2007 – 06:15 PM

Doha, (SANA) – Syria and Qatar signed on Sunday an agreement to establish a holding company under the name Syrian-Qatari Investment Company, , with a declared capital of five billion US dollars, beginning with a paid capital of 500 million US dollars.

The partnership, which was signed at Doha by Syrian Minister of Finance Mohammad al-Hussein and his Qatari counterpart Yousef Hussein Kamal, aims at investing in various economical fields and national sectors.

In both countries, the company will concentrate on tourism as the forefront of its projects and will include real-estate, banking, agriculture and livestock sectors.

May 6th, 2007, 6:36 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

bad luck comes in three,Sarkouzi victory,is the first, as we look at his background,especially his mother background, tells me there is going to be trouble,he is aris goddess of discord, he plan to prevent Turkey from entering the european union, he support Bush aggressions, and wants to improve relations between France and Isreal, I hope his policy will not hurt Syria, I know he can not, as far as lebanon(WPS),in the future things will be better, and Syria will be back in Lebanon,in a very friendly way, after the Hariri affair ends, and Syria return free democracy, and the stolen money come back to Syria.

May 6th, 2007, 7:06 pm

 

K said:

Majedkhaldoun,

Please explain: “Syria will be back in Lebanon,in a very friendly way”

May 6th, 2007, 7:14 pm

 

Alex said:

K

: )

Like … as tourists.

May 6th, 2007, 7:16 pm

 

Alex said:

Majed,

In regards to Syria, I don’t think Sarkozy can be more bad news than Chirac who wanted to convince Israel to attack Syria.

But I wanted Royal to win, too bad. I would have prefered her easy going style to Sarkozy’s agressive and confrontational style… we have enough of that in Washington for the next 17 months.

Also in Turkey, the foreign minister withdrew his name from the nomination for the presidency. I hope Turkey can remain stable and can continue to play the positive role it has been playeing int he Middle East the past few years.

The last thing we need now is another Lebanon in Turkey… the million-man demonstrations are not a good sign.

May 6th, 2007, 7:20 pm

 

ugarit said:

Michael Husayn Young, unplugged: A Liberal for Bush (and his wars).
http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2007/05/michael-husayn-young-unplugged-liberal.html

…First, Young has lived in Lebanon all his life and his Arabic is so weak (Alberto Fernandez speaks better Arabic than him–I kid you not)…

….That was the hilarious part of the program: Young’s constant reference to himself as an unofficial spokesperson of Arab liberals. You would think that Arab liberals would at least select a spokesperson who can write and speak in classical Arabic.

May 6th, 2007, 8:35 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

K
I think many projects can be done jointly like building highways,factories,corporations that has joint ownership syrian and lebanese, I like to go back and see one currency, banks that has branches in both areas, I do not like to see borders, where we stop for hours to get Visa, I want to abolish the 800 pound tax when you go from damascus to beirut, I like to drive straight, non stop, go have lunch or dinner in beirut ,come back to damascus in four hours, family visit family, I like to see one educational minister,one health minister,and so on.
Alex I agree with you, but when Sarkouzi says he wants to improve relations with Isreal,I ask: was the relations bad ?, or is it France has no right of protecting lebanion, what does he wants to do, go back and join England and Isreal in invading Egypt?
in turkey things are surprising, now I am not sure that Erdogan party may win the election, he did not know how much the turkish people like their secularism

May 6th, 2007, 9:00 pm

 

Alex said:

Sarkozy was most popular in … Lebanon. He got 72% of votes from French voters in Lebanon.

It seems M14’s will now be hopeful again.

May 6th, 2007, 10:23 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

some M14 people wish that Isreal hit Syria,in last july war, they are sick,they need to get rid of the evil inside them, I think Junblat and Ja’Ja’ in this category, those who voted for Sarkozy
بدء إنشاء جسر يربط مصر والسعودية الأسبوع المقبل
is it april first

May 6th, 2007, 11:06 pm

 

G said:

Yes and god forbid the Lebanese people feel hopeful eh Alex? It just bugs you way too much.

May 6th, 2007, 11:58 pm

 

Nur al-Cubicle said:

And who is Zalmay Khalilzad talking to at the UN, hmmm?

May 7th, 2007, 1:19 am

 

Alex said:

G,

I hope Lebanon will be the most impressive country in the Middle East and I hope the Lebanese people will be the happiest people in the Middle East. And I hope they stop looking for new allies in the west that will suposedly help them punish Syria.

You have been a curse on any idiot who made the mistake of supporting you in your long-term quest to take revenge from Syria. Startng from the 80’s (Reagan and Sharon) .. until today (Bush, Blair, Chirac, and Olmert) …

And everytime you try to punish Syia you end up punishing your own people.

May 7th, 2007, 1:27 am

 

G said:

Punish Syria!? Priceless. Get lost you regime tool.

May 7th, 2007, 1:34 am

 

norman said:

This is more interesting than Lebanon,

Published on Sunday, May 6, 2007 by Foreign Policy in Focus
Divide and Rule: U.S. Blocks Israel-Syria Talks

by Stephen Zunes

Even as American officials reluctantly agreed to meet with Syrian representatives regarding Iraqi security issues, the Bush administration continues to block Israel from resuming negotiations with Syria over its security concerns. In 2003, President Bashar al-Assad offered to resume peace talks with Israel where they had left off three years earlier, but Israel, backed by the Bush administration, refused. Assad eventually agreed to reenter peace negotiations without preconditions, but even these overtures were rejected.

Beginning in 2005, with the knowledge of their governments, private Israeli and Syrian negotiators began crafting a draft treaty to end the decades-long conflict between the two countries. The Bush administration, however, downplayed the talks’ significance.

Following last summer’s war in Lebanon, several prominent members of the Israeli cabinet – including Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Internal Security Minister Avid Dichter – called on their government to resume negotiations with Syria. Although Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni appointed a senior aide to prepare for possible talks, such initiatives did not get any support from Washington. According to the Jewish Daily Forward, it appeared that “Israel would be prepared to open a channel with Syria but does not want to upset the Bush administration.”

Indeed, when Israeli officials asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about pursuing exploratory talks with Syria, her answer, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz , was, “don’t even think about it.” Similarly, the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reports that Israeli government officials “understood from President Bush that the United States would not take kindly to reopening a dialogue between Israel and Syria.”

Such pressure appears to have worked. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly expressed concern that it would inappropriate to counter President Bush at a time when his policies are being seriously challenged at home, since he has such a “clear position on this issue” and he is “Israel’s most important ally.” Similarly, Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres was quoted as saying, “The worse thing we could do is contradict the United States, which opposes negotiating with Syria.” Interior Minister Ronni Baron told a television reporter, “When the question on the agenda is the political legacy of Israel’s greatest friend, President Bush, do we really need now to enter into negotiations with Syria?”

Hostility to Earlier Initiatives
Israel and Syria came very close to a peace agreement in early 2000. The Israeli government of Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed to withdraw from Syrian territory occupied since the June 1967 war in return for Syria agreeing to strict security guarantees, normalized relations, the demilitarization of the strategic Golan Heights and the cessation of support for radical anti-Israel groups. Only a dispute regarding the exact demarcation of the border, constituting no more than a few hundred yards, prevented a final settlement.

With the death of Syrian president Hafez al-Assad later that year and the coming to power of the right-wing Likud Bloc in the subsequent election, talks were indefinitely suspended. Assad’s son and successor, Bashar al-Assad, called for the resumption of talks where they left off, but both Israel and the United States rejected the proposal.

The Syria Accountability Act, passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the U.S. Congress in 2003, demands that “the Governments of Lebanon and Syria should enter into serious unconditional bilateral negotiations with the Government of Israel in order to realize a full and permanent peace.” Congress and the administration insisted that Syria enter new talks “unconditionally” rather than resume them from the two parties’ earlier negotiating positions – in which both sides made major concessions and came very close to success after several years. In so doing, the U.S. government effectively rejected the position of the more moderate Israeli government of former Prime Minister Barak and instead embraced the rejectionist position of the current right-wing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

As a result, it is unclear how the U.S. government’s demand that Syria enter into such negotiations with an occupying power that categorically refuses to withdraw from its conquered land will “realize a full and permanent peace.” Indeed, Congress and the administration appear to want to force Syria to capitulate entirely and accept Israel’s annexation of Syria’s Golan region. If so, this demand is unrealistic. The UN Charter expressly forbids any nation from expanding its territory by force, recognizing Israel’s annexation would violate a series of UN Security Council resolutions, and no Syrian government – even a hypothetically democratic one – could ever accept such a settlement.

It is also noteworthy that Congress and the administration insisted that both Syria and Lebanon enter into bilateral negotiations with Israel instead of multilateral negotiations. Such multilateral negotiations, called for by UN Security Council resolution 338, makes particular sense given the interrelated concerns of these three nations. In any case, prior to President Bush signed the Accountability Act into law, President Assad announced Syria’s willingness to accede to U.S. and Israeli demands and resume talks with Israel unconditionally.

In response to these initiatives, Israel announced at the end of 2003 that it would double the number of Jewish settlers in the occupied Golan region of Syria. According to Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz , who also chaired the government’s settlements committee, “The aim is to send an unequivocal message: the Golan is an integral part of Israel.” This renewed colonization drive is also a direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits any occupying power from transferring its civilian population onto territories seized by military force, and UN Security Council resolutions 446, 452, 465 and 471, which call on Israel to refrain from building additional settlements and withdraw from existing settlements.

Israeli Public Challenges Bush
Within Israel, however, there is also a growing awareness that returning the Golan Heights to Syria would not jeopardize Israeli security. While maintaining the high ground may have constituted a strategic advantage 40 years ago, it is far less important in an era when the principal threats to Israel’s security come in the form of suicide bombers and long-range missiles. Israeli army chief Lt. Gen Moshe Yaalon observed that, from a strategic perspective, Israel could cede the Golan Heights in return for peace and successfully defend Israel’s internationally-recognized border.

With Syria calling for a resumption of peace talks, pressure has been growing within Israel to resume negotiations, with polls showing that a majority of Israelis support such efforts. Alon Ben-Meir, a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University, argues for the need to engage with Syria, otherwise the Bush administration “will forfeit another historic opportunity to bring an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict, however remote that prospect may now seem.”

Many Israelis also recognize the broader implication of resuming dialogue with Damascus, in that it would likely reduce Iran’s regional influence, weaken the threat from Hezbollah, improve Israel’s relations with other Arab states, and encourage more pragmatic Palestinian voices while weakening extremists. “The moment there are negotiations with Syria, then everything changes in the Middle East,” says Danny Yatom, former head of the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, “and we can begin renewing ties with other Arab states.” Robert Malley, former special assistant to President Clinton for Arab-Israeli affairs, notes how “the mere sight of Israeli and Syrian official sitting side by side would carry dividends, producing ripple effects in a region where popular opinion in is moving away from acceptance of the Jewish state’s right to exist, an putting Syrian allies than oppose a negotiated settlement in an awkward position.”

As a result, the pressure from the Bush administration on Israel to reject Syria’s offer for negotiations and the Israeli government’s willingness to give in to such pressure has led to growing resentment in Israel. According to the normally hawkish Maariv columnist Ben-Dror Yemini, “We’ve always said that our arms are extended in peace. That is, unless the Americans twist them.” The eminent Israeli novelist Amos Oz asks, “Why should Israel suspend one of its paramount national interests – peace with its neighbors – for the sake of the pleasantness or unpleasantness of its relations with a foreign government?”

Debra DeLee, head of the liberal pro-Israel group Americans for Peace Now, says that “it takes a lot of chutzpah to tell Israel not to even talk about peace with its neighbor.” She goes on to assert that it was “outrageous…for the President to pressure Israel not to negotiate.”

Putting Syria into a Trap
Ironically, the Syria Accountability Act, passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of Congress in 2003, contains a provision prohibiting any U.S. assistance to Syria until the U.S. president “determines that substantial progress has been made . . . in negotiations aimed at achieving a peace agreement between Israel and Syria.” Given the administration’s repeated efforts to block such negotiations from taking place in the first place, it obviously makes it difficult for Syria to comply.

The primary motivation may be more sinister, however.

The Jerusalem Post reported on July 30 that President Bush pushed Israel to expand the war beyond Lebanon, with Israeli military officials “receiving indications from the US that America would be interested in seeing Israel attack Syria.” In the early days of the fighting, U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams reportedly met with a very senior Israeli official to underscore Washington’s support for extending the war to Syria, but Israeli officials described the idea as “nuts” and decided to limit their military operations to Lebanon. Haaretz noted that some in Washington were “disappointed by Israel’s decision not to attack Syria at the same time.” Meyrav Wurmser, head of the Center for Middle East Policy at the conservative Hudson Institute and wife of the principal Middle East advisor for Vice-President Cheney, went further, declaring that there was “a lot of anger” in Washington that Israel did not attack Syria, which she argued would have served “U.S. objectives.” U.S. officials also hoped that an Israeli invasion of Lebanon might lead Syrian troops to re-enter Lebanon to defend the country from the Israeli invasion, which could then be used as an excuse to expand the war to Syria itself.

Not everyone in Israel supports attacking Syria on behalf of the United States. As bad as the Assad regime may be, forcing its overthrow could result in a new regime that is far worse. Following a forced departure of the Baathists who have ruled for over 44 years, radical Sunni Islamists would be most likely poised to take advantage of the inevitable chaos.

However, the Bush administration appears quite willing to continue its divide-and-rule policies in the Middle East by preventing the resumption of talks that could end hostilities between Israel and its Arab neighbors. It is yet another reminder that the problem with U.S. policy is not that it is too “pro-Israel,” but that it is anti-peace.

Stephen Zunes ( http://www.stephenzunes.org), Middle East editor for Foreign Policy In Focus (www.fpif.org), is a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco.

——————————————————————————–
Article printed from http://www.CommonDreams.org

URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/05/06/1014/

Click here to print.

May 7th, 2007, 2:37 am

 

K said:

Majedkhaldoun,

Your proposals range from reasonable to kooky.

> I think many projects can be done jointly like building highways,factories,corporations that has joint ownership syrian and lebanese

Joint national projects are subject to agreements between the 2 sovereign countries. Free enterprise by citizens of any country is of course more than welcome.

> I like to go back and see one currency, banks that has branches in both areas

No thanks.

> I do not like to see borders, where we stop for hours to get Visa, I want to abolish the 800 pound tax when you go from damascus to beirut, I like to drive straight, non stop, go have lunch or dinner in beirut ,come back to damascus in four hours, family visit family,

Sure, subject to security concerns.

> I like to see one educational minister,one health minister,and so on.

Are you kidding me?

Your list is contemptuous of Lebanese apsirations for Syrian-Lebanese relations. Above everything else, Lebanese want to see Syrian respect for Lebanese sovereignty, including delineation of borders and normal diplomatic relations; an end to Syrian violence in Lebanon, including assassinations, smuggling arms to Syrian proxies, and infiltrating terrorists; accountability for Syrian crimes in Lebanon; release of all Lebanese prisoners in Syria.

Everything else comes far and away behind these concerns.

May 7th, 2007, 2:39 am

 

norman said:

Rusia Objected to chapter 7

Beirut – Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said late Sunday that a proposed international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri must first be ratified by the Lebanese Parliament.

The leader of the Lebanese Shiite movement said that Hezbollah rejects any imposed United Nations Security Council decision to form an international tribunal in the Hariri case without first receiving approval in the politically divided country.

Nasrallah meant that the UN should only approve the tribunal after parliament ratification, not just by agreement with the Western- backed Beirut government. For months, Hezbollah has calling for the Lebanese government to step down.

‘We consider any resolution issued by the Security Council (on the tribunal) illegitimate and illegal and without value because it violates the Lebanese national interest,’ he said in an interview with Iran’s Arabic-language al-Alam state television station.

‘We hope that things don’t get there.’

Lebanon’s parliamentary majority has demanded that the Security Council act to impose the tribunal for the February 2005 Hariri assassination, after accusing Hezbollah and the opposition of blocking formation of the tribunal through the parliament.

The Security Council on Wednesday heard from the UN’s top lawyer, Nicolas Michel, who said he failed to persuade the rival Lebanese factions to approve the international tribunal during a visit last month in Lebanon.

The US ambassador to the United Nations has warned that if Lebanese parties fail to agree, the Security Council could establish the tribunal under the Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which authorizes a range of measures from breaking diplomatic and trade relations to military intervention.

Russia has UN objected to the idea of a Chapter 7 resolution.

An ongoing probe has implicated Syria and its Lebanese allies in the assassination of Hariri. Syria denied any role in the bombing.

Protests in Lebanon following the Hariri assassination forced Damascus to withdraw its troops two months later, ending Syria’s 30- year military presence in Lebanon.

© 2007 dpa – Deutsche Presse-Agentur

May 7th, 2007, 2:45 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

K;
we had that discussion before, I do not want to waste your time

May 7th, 2007, 3:08 am

 

Alex said:

Here is an interesting one from Israel. While they are preparing for a Syrian attack this summer (supposedly), at the foreign ministry they are preparing for peace talks with Syria

Foreign Ministry conducting project to prepare to renew talks with Syria

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is currently conducting staff work to prepare for the possibility of a renewed peace process with Syria, sources in the Foreign Ministry told Haaretz.

No conclusions have yet been presented to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, as the project is not finished. However, a ministry source said, “If the prime minister decides that he wants to hear it, we have a prepared plan – from the operational aspect as well.”

The project has included a series of discussions between Livni and senior ministry staffers with the goal of mapping Israel’s vital interests in any such talks. The participating staffers are the same ones who formulated Israel’s diplomatic exit strategy for the Second Lebanon War.

Livni began the project shortly after the war ended last August, but it has intensified in recent months, due to the combination of Syria’s public calls for negotiations and intelligence information indicating that Damascus is preparing for a possible war.

According to the Foreign Ministry sources, Livni upgraded the Syrian issue immediately after the war, and did so again about two months ago. “The foreign minister understood that she had to study the Syrian issue in-depth,” explained one of the sources.
Livni asked the ministry’s Political Research Center to prepare a detailed intelligence survey of Syria’s demands, which she has since received.

She also asked ministry officials for a detailed map of the risks and opportunities entailed in talks with Syria. One of the key assessments she received was that Syria is not yet militarily ready for war with Israel and that its desire for negotiations is genuine.

Haaretz reported last August that Livni had appointed Yaki Dayan, the former head of her diplomatic bureau, to coordinate staff work on Syria. Dayan submitted his conclusions a few months ago, and ministry sources said that the current project is meant to update and expand Dayan’s work, inter alia in light of the war’s results.

Livni is very close to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Rice has recently promoted a change in American policy toward Syria, as evidenced by her meeting last week with her Syrian counterpart, Walid Moallem, during a regional conference on Iraq. However, Rice told Israel that this discussion dealt solely with Iraq.

The Foreign Ministry responded Sunday that it is currently conducting staff work “on several issues, among them the Syrian issue, as part of the ministry’s ongoing work. The foreign minister’s stance is that any public discussion of the matter can only hurt.” It added that Livni and Olmert discuss the Syrian issue from time to time and that “there is coordination on diplomatic issues.”

May 7th, 2007, 3:13 am

 

norman said:

Let us hope that Olmert has the guts to pursue peace.

May 7th, 2007, 3:25 am

 

majedkhaldoun said:

already demonstrations in France against Sarkozy

May 7th, 2007, 4:12 am

 

DJ said:

Lebanon is just a tiny little vulturous insect which needs to be swatted away from our backs…

May 7th, 2007, 4:35 am

 

Enlightened said:

I always wonder how a civilsed discussion can turn into petty remarks and name calling, and generally dissolves from there into a lack of manners and decorum????????

My first questions is to Josh, how credible is your source, I can see the emphasis on your words NOTHING can stop it? How accurate is the information. For me this is all a bit bizzare, what was the initial meeting with Rice and Moallem about? all smoke and mirrors?
This post has me a bit perplexed.

If this post is accurate, then lets assume that the Bush policy is to string the Syrian regime along and have the tribunal as a fall back position to get the regime to co operate on Iraq, but this is simply folly if this is the aim, and will ratchet up Syrian efforts to undermine the Ameriican Forces in Iraq even further to the point that a serious withdrawal is contemplated.

I wonder if anyone in The Bush regime has read Sun Tzyus “The Art of War”, because as strategists they make good clowns.

May 7th, 2007, 7:15 am

 

Nur al-Cubicle said:

While they are preparing for a Syrian attack this summer (supposedly), at the foreign ministry they are preparing for peace talks with Syria…

An olive branch in one claw, and arrows in the other. Seen it before.

May 7th, 2007, 4:23 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Norman,
It is not guts that Olmert lacks to pursue peace, it is leadership and courage. Remember how the Israelis used to say that they lack a strong Palestinian partner to negotiate peace with, it is the same now but turned around. There is no strong leader today in Israel who can negotiate peace with a Rabin-like courage on behalf of the Israeli people. Syrians have no one to talk to in Israel at the moment. Olmert’s approval ratings are lower than the margin of error.

May 7th, 2007, 6:17 pm

 

norman said:

FP , you said

negotiate peace with a Rabin-like courage on behalf of the Israeli people.

FP Isn’t that guts i was looking for in Olmert.

May 7th, 2007, 7:31 pm

 

Atassi said:

FP,
I guess we can safely conclude using the new set standers of “who is the man” that Olmert is a half-man too :-).

May 7th, 2007, 7:37 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

Norman, yes correct, but Olmert does not have the support of the Israeli public that Rabin had. Even if Olmert has the needed courage for peace, his own people do not trust him enought to believe him. He incompetence is troublsome.

Atassi, yup, they all belong in that illustrious club of 50%.

May 7th, 2007, 7:57 pm

 

Alex said:

Well, sicne we are populating the 50% men category with ease … more seriously, isn’t it scary how we do not seem to have may leaders in the other 100% men category?

Which leader(s) can we look up to today? on the world stage or in the Middle East ? who is universally respected and admired?

May 7th, 2007, 8:37 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Alex,

Well, you have Samir Jaja, Fouad Abdulbaset Al Senyorah, Ahmad Fatfat, Waleed Eido, George Adwan, and of course the miracle child, Saad El Din Al Harriri. There are many more…

Kidding aside, I think it will be good if Ehud Barak comes back, he is strong, can make decisions and seems to me as a straight man. He can lead Israel to something better…

May 7th, 2007, 9:34 pm

 

ausamaa said:

And I thought that they thought that Syria was preparing to ATTACK ISRAEL? This is from Haaretz:

NSC Chairman: Syrian call for peace talks with Israel ‘authentic’

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz Correspondent

National Security Council (NSC) Chairman Ilan Mizrahi said Monday that “Syria’s call for dialogue with Israel is authentic.”

Speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Mizrahi added that it is difficult to determine whether Syria is interested in peace, or just a peace process.

Mizrahi said Syrian President Bashar Assad believes that the strengthening of ties with Iran and Hezbollah has borne fruit, and that Syria is “being sought after by the international community and has emerged from the isolation.”

The NSC chairman also addressed Middle Eastern states’ acquisition of civilian nuclear reactors, saying the process could lead to a nuclear weapons program.

Mizrahi, a former deputy Mossad chief, said the Iranian nuclear weapons program has led other Middle Eastern states to seek civilian reactors. “There is certainly concern that those who talk about civilian nuclear capabilities, are thinking about future military capabilities,” he said.

He said those countries selling the reactors must ensure that the nuclear programs do not become military in nature.

Mizrahi stressed that the primary question regarding the Iranian nuclear is not when they will acquire the bomb, but rather when they will reach the point of no return – at which time they will have the ability to produce a nuclear weapon. “Once they have the ability, the rest is technical,” he said.

The NSC chairman briefed the committee on the process of the strengthening of Islamic extremism, saying Al-Qaida is establishing itself in Lebanon – among other reasons, in order to play a role in a potential future power struggle in the country. At the same time, the organization is active in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, and is trying to gain a foothold in Jordan, Mizrahi said.

May 7th, 2007, 9:39 pm

May 7th, 2007, 9:44 pm

 

ausamaa said:

I came across this in Asia Times,

Damascus moves to center stage
By Sami Mobayyed

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/IE08Ak03.html

May 7th, 2007, 9:58 pm

 
 

Nur al-Cubicle said:

Just reading over at L’Orient-Le Jour that the Aounistes are mobilizing to “Lebanize” the crisis. Nice public statement by Walid Khoury.

Condi goes to Moscow on May 15 to read the riot act, that is, telling the Russians that the US will pull out all the stops to implement Chapter VII. Apparently, this involves a possible partitioning of the country.

Very little reporting on the Lebanese crisis in Le Monde. L’Orient covers it fully, but in a low key. I have the impression that its tenor is completely different from the Daily Star.

I didn’t quite understand Terjé Roed-Larsen’s statement following the Vth Report on 1559.

May 8th, 2007, 2:24 am

 

trustquest said:

Michel Kilo letter, the Best.
http://www.michelkilo.com/art66.htm

May 8th, 2007, 2:56 am

 

SimoHurtta said:

UN Chief in Syria to ‘Post’: Assad not preparing for war
Says more military activity in Israel than in Syria; Israeli defense officials reject assessment; NSC head: Peace overtures genuine.

“Within my area of responsibility, there is no military buildup,” Jilke told the Post in his first interview since taking up the post in February. “From my point of view there is nothing on level of strategic interest that could or would lead to concern [for Israel].”

Jilke said Syria was repairing trenches and positions along the border with Israel, but that within the areas of limitation, Syria had only amassed 40 percent of the permitted forces. There was more military activity on the Israeli side of the border, he said.

“We are much below the allowed figures,” Jilke said. “There is a peaceful atmosphere and there is no intention to prepare for war.”

May 8th, 2007, 5:21 am

 

China Hand said:

The International Herald Tribune has an article http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/05/07/africa/ME-GEN-Lebanon-Sarkozy.php up stating that Hizbollah is hoping Sarkozy has a lesser pro-Siniora tilt than Chirac. I wonder if Sarkozy will have the same enthusiasm for Chapter VII that Chirac would have had. As far as I can see, the Lebanese government wants to place itself in international receivership–again–and lean on the UNSC to support it not only against Syria but also against a significant political movement inside its own country. That’s a big step with potentially big problems, and it will be interesting to see if Sarkozy is interested in trying to secure French influence in Lebanon by embarking on such a perilous path.

May 8th, 2007, 5:36 am

 

idaf said:

Compare this to the suffering of the Syrian, Egyptian and Tunisian opposition. Eventually, “democracies” (as Israel likes to call itself) and autocracies have the same methods of intimidation, manipulation of the law and violent measures. In addition the Israeli “democracy” has the extra license to use “ethnic cleansing” (something that no other “democracy” or autocracy has access to against its opposition figures):

Why Israel is after me
by Azmi Bishara
LA Times
3 May 2007

Amman, Jordan — I AM A PALESTINIAN from Nazareth, a citizen of Israel and was, until last month, a member of the Israeli parliament.

But now, in an ironic twist reminiscent of France’s Dreyfus affair — in which a French Jew was accused of disloyalty to the state — the government of Israel is accusing me of aiding the enemy during Israel’s failed war against Lebanon in July.

Israeli police apparently suspect me of passing information to a foreign agent and of receiving money in return. Under Israeli law, anyone — a journalist or a personal friend — can be defined as a “foreign agent” by the Israeli security apparatus. Such charges can lead to life imprisonment or even the death penalty.

The allegations are ridiculous. Needless to say, Hezbollah — Israel’s enemy in Lebanon — has independently gathered more security information about Israel than any Arab Knesset member could possibly provide. What’s more, unlike those in Israel’s parliament who have been involved in acts of violence, I have never used violence or participated in wars. My instruments of persuasion, in contrast, are simply words in books, articles and speeches.

These trumped-up charges, which I firmly reject and deny, are only the latest in a series of attempts to silence me and others involved in the struggle of the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel to live in a state of all its citizens, not one that grants rights and privileges to Jews that it denies to non-Jews.

When Israel was established in 1948, more than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled in fear. My family was among the minority that escaped that fate, remaining instead on the land where we had long lived. The Israeli state, established exclusively for Jews, embarked immediately on transforming us into foreigners in our own country.

For the first 18 years of Israeli statehood, we, as Israeli citizens, lived under military rule with pass laws that controlled our every movement. We watched Jewish Israeli towns spring up over destroyed Palestinian villages.

Today we make up 20% of Israel’s population. We do not drink at separate water fountains or sit at the back of the bus. We vote and can serve in the parliament. But we face legal, institutional and informal discrimination in all spheres of life.

More than 20 Israeli laws explicitly privilege Jews over non-Jews. The Law of Return, for example, grants automatic citizenship to Jews from anywhere in the world. Yet Palestinian refugees are denied the right to return to the country they were forced to leave in 1948. The Basic Law of Human Dignity and Liberty — Israel’s “Bill of Rights” — defines the state as “Jewish”
rather than a state for all its citizens. Thus Israel is more for Jews living in Los Angeles or Paris than it is for native Palestinians.

Israel acknowledges itself to be a state of one particular religious group. Anyone committed to democracy will readily admit that equal citizenship cannot exist under such conditions.

Most of our children attend schools that are separate but unequal. According to recent polls, two-thirds of Israeli Jews would refuse to live next to an Arab and nearly half would not allow a Palestinian into their home.

I have certainly ruffled feathers in Israel. In addition to speaking out on the subjects above, I have also asserted the right of the Lebanese people, and of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, to resist Israel’s illegal military occupation. I do not see those who fight for freedom as my enemies.

This may discomfort Jewish Israelis, but they cannot deny us our history and identity any more than we can negate the ties that bind them to world Jewry. After all, it is not we, but Israeli Jews who immigrated to this land. Immigrants might be asked to give up their former identity in exchange for equal citizenship, but we are not immigrants.

During my years in the Knesset, the attorney general indicted me for voicing my political opinions (the charges were dropped), lobbied to have my parliamentary immunity revoked and sought unsuccessfully to disqualify my political party from participating in elections — all because I believe Israel should be a state for all its citizens and because I have spoken out against Israeli military occupation. Last year, Cabinet member Avigdor
Lieberman — an immigrant from Moldova — declared that Palestinian citizens of Israel “have no place here,” that we should “take our bundles and get lost.” After I met with a leader of the Palestinian Authority from Hamas, Lieberman called for my execution.

The Israeli authorities are trying to intimidate not just me but all Palestinian citizens of Israel. But we will not be intimidated. We will not bow to permanent servitude in the land of our ancestors or to being severed from our natural connections to the Arab world. Our community leaders joined together recently to issue a blueprint for a state free of ethnic and religious discrimination in all spheres. If we turn back from our path to freedom now, we will consign future generations to the discrimination we have faced for six decades.

Americans know from their own history of institutional discrimination the tactics that have been used against civil rights leaders. These include telephone bugging, police surveillance, political delegitimization and criminalization of dissent through false accusations. Israel is continuing to use these tactics at a time when the world no longer tolerates such practices as compatible with democracy.

Why then does the U.S. government continue to fully support a country whose very identity and institutions are based on ethnic and religious discrimination that victimize its own citizens?
_______________________________________________________________
Azmi Bishara was a member of the Knesset until his resignation in April.

May 8th, 2007, 9:26 am

 

idaf said:

Sami Moubayed’s article linked to by Ausamaa above has excellent analysis of the Saudi-Syrian-American triangle. His grasp of the historical context of this relationship is enlightening. I think the article is worth posting here in full:

Damascus moves to center stage
By Sami Moubayed

DAMASCUS – Fifty years ago, alarmed that Syria was becoming dangerously close to the Soviet Union, US president Dwight Eisenhower authorized a series of operations aimed at isolating, weakening and eventually overthrowing the regime of president Shukri al-Quwatli.

The Central Intelligence Agency tried to pull off two coups in Damascus. Both of them failed. The US then pursued a policy of

funding the Syrian opposition. US intelligence reports on Syria during the years 1956-58 are hauntingly similar to press reports coming out of Washington in 2005-07 – only the word “Soviet” is replaced by “Iranian”.

When its efforts failed, the Eisenhower administration called on Syria’s neighbors to isolate it and, if possible, change its government, claiming that they would support any anti-Syrian activity under the United Nations umbrella of “self-defense”. Syria, as far as the US was concerned, was “threatening the stability” of the Arab neighborhood.

At the time, the man to obstruct the US campaign against Syria was King Saud of Saudi Arabia. The monarch went to Damascus, embraced president Quwatli (who was an old family friend of the House of Saud) and said that destabilizing Syria was an option that simply did not exist.

Instead, said Saud, Syria should be embraced and welcomed into the Arab community. Only that, he said, would weaken its reliance on the Soviet Union. When visiting the US shortly afterward, many senior officials said they refused to meet with Saud, shedding doubt on his friendship with the United States. That scenario looks strikingly similar to the one of today.

The administration US President George W Bush has authorized a series of operations aimed at weakening, and eventually toppling the Syrian regime. The Soviet threat is now an Iranian threat, with the US afraid that Syria is becoming dangerously too close to the mullahs of Tehran. This time another monarch – Saud’s brother King Abdullah – has stood up in favor of Syria. He too has declared that isolating Damascus is no longer an option, and welcomed President Bashar al-Assad (also a family friend of the House of Saud) with festivity at the latest Arab summit in Riyadh.

Only that, Abdullah believes, will decrease Syria’s dependence on the Iranians. This time it was he who snubbed the Americans, refusing to attend a reception in Washington and referring to the occupation of Iraq as “illegal”. Isolating Syria, King Abdullah said, is no longer an option.

The Saudi king is at the apex of his career, enjoying streetwide support in the Arab world as in no time before. Time magazine recently said he is one of the most influential people in the world. Bringing the Palestinians together this year in Mecca, challenging the Americans in Iraq and embracing the Syrians in Riyadh, King Abdullah certainly is using his political weight to get things done in the Middle East. And it is working.

In 2006, veteran American journalist Seymour Hersh wrote an article for The New Yorker saying that Saudi Arabia was involved in secret talks with Israel aimed at bringing down the Iranian regime. The article, apparently, was not 100% correct. It was the Saudi national security adviser, Bandar bin Sultan, and the not the kingdom itself, who was involved in the new US approach toward Tehran. Bandar, alarmed at Iran’s increased influence in the Arab world and its support for Iraqi Shi’ites against their Sunni counterparts, wanted to bring the threat to a halt once and for all.

King Abdullah, who is a traditional ally of the Americans, apparently vetoed Bandar’s proposal for a Saudi-Israeli meeting to discuss Iran. Bandar promised the Americans to open talks under the umbrella of the Abdullah plan, which was adopted by the Arab League twice, in 2002 and 2007, calling for collective peace between Arabs and Israel.

Former US ambassador to Tel Aviv Martin Indyk wrote an article for the Washington Post saying that Bandar wanted a “peace conference at which the Saudi foreign minister would announce this plan, with Israeli Prime Minister Edud Olmert in attendance. But Abdullah wasn’t buying it.” The article added that the Saudi king, angered at an attempt to dictate foreign policy on him through Prince Bandar, “wouldn’t be doing Washington any more favors”. It also said Washington made a big mistake in relying on Bandar, who is a friend of the Bush family, because it was Abdullah, rather than the former ambassador, who was calling the shots in Riyadh. And “the king’s world view differs from Bandar’s”.

Bandar and King Abdullah are both alarmed by the so-called “Shi’itification” in the Arab region and the growing strength of Iran, especially in Iraq, where Saudi Arabia has been the traditional patron of the country’s Sunnis. While Bandar prefers confrontation with Iran, aimed at curbing its power, King Abdullah favors engagement to get the Iranian regime to change its behavior, with as much silent diplomacy and minimal damage as possible.

British journalist Patrick Seale, in an article on May 3, said a security deal should be made between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis would use their influence to prevent any Persian Gulf state from letting the Americans use their bases to attack Iran and, in return, Iran would stop meddling in Iraqi politics and supporting Shi’ite militias against the Sunni community.

Here is where Syria comes into play. The Syrians can be used to moderate Iranian behavior. That’s what King Saud thought in 1957 with regard to the radical pan-Arab policies of Egyptian president Gamal Abdul Nasser, who was a Soviet ally in the Arab world. Damascus could “moderate” Nasser, it was believed. King Abdullah noted Syria’s performance during the hostage crisis of 15 British sailors and marines in Iran, and the fact that Assad intervened with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, to secure their release.

This is how King Abdullah thinks problems should be solved. He has also realized that using Lebanon to isolate Syria was a strategic mistake. While he remains committed to the Hariri family and the international tribunal investigating the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, he is becoming increasingly critical of the March 14 Coalition in Lebanon that is headed by Hariri’s son Saad.

The March 14 Coalition recently called for resorting to Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter to impose the tribunal on Lebanon through the Security Council. The Hezbollah-led opposition, which is backed by Syria and Iran, does not reject the tribunal in principle and nor does Syria, but is opposed to the current draft of the tribunal, based on the grounds that the text is ambiguous on a time frame over which the tribunal will have jurisdiction.

The cabinet of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and its international backers in Washington and France want the tribunal to have jurisdiction not only on the Hariri affair, but also on other

political assassinations and crimes (such as the bombing of the US marines in Beirut in 1983). The opposition, however, want it to include guarantees of non-politicization, and to be limited to the 2005 murder of Hariri.

They claim that the current cabinet, deprived of its opposition deputies, cannot sign off on the current draft of the tribunal. If the bid under Chapter VII passes, which King Abdullah opposes, this would mean that the tribunal becomes obligatory to states (such as Syria) and individuals (such as senior members of Hezbollah). By virtue of its obligatory nature under Article VII, any non-compliance to the tribunal’s verdicts would invite compulsory enforcement – even possibly by military means.

This explains why at the Arab summit, King Abdullah stood at arm’s length from Siniora and invited Lebanese President Emile Lahoud to attend. The Lebanese issue received minimal attention in Riyadh. King Abdullah was sending the Lebanese a message that the anti-Syrian approach was no longer going to work for Saudi Arabia – at least not in its present form.

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal declared that the Lebanese had to solve their problems among themselves, without expecting help from anybody. The Saudis declared that Syria would no longer be isolated from its Arab neighborhood, agreeing to hold the next Arab summit in Damascus, thereby giving much homage to the Syrians.

King Abdullah realizes that the March 14 Coalition has its own agenda, which sometimes contradicts with the Saudi one, and believes it is too pro-American. While the Saudis would like to see their Lebanese friends in a strong position with regard to Iran and Hezbollah, they nevertheless do not wish to go full-board and change the entire rules of the game in the Middle East.

The March 14 Coalition has, contrary to Saudi desires and stated wishes, escalated the situation to reach a complete deadlock to justify imposing the tribunal under Article VII. Siniora has refused to step down, and refused to cooperate with Hezbollah on an expanded government. Going by Article VII means a de facto internationalization of the Lebanese conflict at a time when King Abdullah is trying to localize it.

When violence erupted in Beirut, the Saudis were furious that their allies emerged with arms and used them against Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement of General Michel Aoun. They do not want chaos in Beirut. Too much is at stake for the Saudis, in terms of political and economic investment, to accept that, and this explains why they hurried to calm the situation with Iran.

The Saudis are also not pleased at March 14’s attitude toward the upcoming Lebanese president, who is expected to take office when Lahoud’s term expires in November. The Lebanese constitution states that two-thirds are needed to elect a new president, without specifying whether this means two-thirds of the assembled deputies at the voting session or two-thirds of the entire 128-seat Parliament.

March 14 claims that it can vote for a new president with its 70 deputies. The Hezbollah-led opposition says 70 votes do not secure a two-thirds majority, insisting that the constitution calls for two-thirds of Parliament, and not of the voting session. They are saying that if March 14 goes ahead and votes for its own candidate with 70 deputies, then they can also vote for another president with their 57 candidates, leaving Lebanon with two presidents, something that could further ignite sectarian violence and chaos.

The Saudis believe that along with Syria, they can calm the situation not only in Lebanon but in Iraq as well. The Sunni street in Baghdad is divided between Syria and Saudi Arabia. As long as the two countries remain divided over Lebanon, then the problems in Iraq will continue, because the Sunni community will also remain divided.

Now that the source of friction – Lebanon – has been defused, Riyadh believes that much can be done within Iraq to help stabilize the war-torn country, especially with the Iraqi Sunnis leading the insurgency and having no real leader to follow or inspire them.

Saudi Arabia has control of the tribes and Syria has control over former Ba’athists and prominent Sunni community leaders. Combined, they could produce results when it comes to the insurgency, or the stability of Iraq.

Saudi Arabia realizes that Syria does not have an identical agenda when it comes to Iran. Syria is not in favor of creating a theocracy, nor does it support an autonomous Shi’ite district in southern Iraq, as called for by Iran’s No 1 ally in Baghdad, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

While Saudi Arabia abhors Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, Syria has relations with him and can put them into use into moderating his behavior, along with that of his patron and boss, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. If the Syrians and Saudis sit together and brainstorm, they can come up with creative ways to change things in Iraq. This naturally would please the United States, which is becoming more and more in need of help in Baghdad.

Sharm al-Sheikh
Last week’s meeting at the Sharm al-Sheikh resort in Egypt to discuss Iraq was a turning point in Syrian-US relations, described by Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal as “a new thing that we welcome”.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem met with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last Thursday. It was the first encounter of a US and a Syrian foreign minister since Colin Powell went to Damascus in 2003, and Rice’s first encounter with the Syrians since the Bush team came into office in 2001.

Moualem said the 30-minute meeting was “frank and constructive”; Rice proposed that the Americans join the Syrian-Iraqi security committees that have been at work on border security since 2003. Moualem agreed, stressing, however, the need to strengthen political and diplomatic ties between Damascus and Washington, and in restoring a US ambassador to Syria.

His tone echoed that of Rice on several issues, mainly, implementing Maliki’s Baghdad security plan, disarming the militias, amending the constitution, and revisiting the de-Ba’athification laws.

Syria proposed a timetable for withdrawal of US troops, but only Iran supported this suggestion, and the final resolution of the conference came out instead with a vague statement saying that withdrawal is conditional on the training of Iraqi troops.

At her press conference, Rice steered clear of any anti-Syrian rhetoric, stressing that the US still has diplomatic ties with Damascus. All press reports confirm that the issue of Lebanon, which aggravates Syrian-US relations at this stage, was not raised by Moualem and Rice.

Last month, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, was in Damascus, ostensibly enraging the Bush White House, which insisted that her visit did not reflect the United States’ official stance toward Syria.

She said that the “road to Damascus is the road of peace”. In March, European Union foreign-policy chief Javier Solana went to Syria, embraced the Syrians and offered a set of incentives to bring Damascus back into the international community, on the condition that it cooperates with Europe on Lebanon. Many diplomats and people in the Arab world laugh when the international tribunal is mentioned, saying that it most certainly will – when created – be hollowed out from any anti-Syrian material.

Interestingly, there is a lot of talk in Damascus that US presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton will be stopping by in Syria. This speculation was heightened when Clinton defended Pelosi’s visit to Syria in a radio interview. Clinton said the Speaker had done “the right thing”, adding, “We have to engage these countries.”

Bush, however, said meetings like those of Solana and Pelosi simply “do not work” because they have been tried in the past by US officials. Yet last week it was not the Democrat Pelosi meeting with Assad, it was none other than Rice meeting with Syria’s minister of foreign affairs.

And Rice means Bush. Something must have changed in Damascus – and Washington. The answers can be found in Baghdad, and almost equally in Riyadh. The more Syria can offer in Iraq – and cooperate with Saudi Arabia – the more its isolation will come to a grinding halt.

Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst.

May 8th, 2007, 9:36 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

BEIRUT (AP)–U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has urged the
establishment of an international criminal tribunal to bring to trial those
responsible for the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
In a front-page editorial published in the leading Arabic-language newspaper
An-Nahar, Rice warned the U.N. would act on its own if the Lebanese parliament
failed to give the go-ahead for the establishment of such a court.
Lebanon’s parliament must approve its establishment, but the process has been
deadlocked amid deep political divisions. Although it is supported by the
U.S.-backed government, the opposition led by the pro-Syrian and pro-Iranian
Hezbollah has balked at supporting its establishment.
The editorial was apparently aimed at assuring the U.S.’s allies in Lebanon
that there was no change in policy after Rice’s meeting with Syria’s foreign
minister last week.
Many people in Lebanon blame Syria for the February 2005 assassination of
Hariri in a suicide truck bombing, a charge Damascus and its allies deny. Many
also blame Damascus for a recent series of attacks against its critics in
Lebanon.
The parliamentary impasse prompted the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority to
demand that the U.N. Security Council impose the tribunal on Lebanon, but the
Security Council has so far refrained from taking such a decision.
“The special tribunal for Lebanon will help end this sad era of impunity,”
Rice wrote in the editorial, titled ‘A tribunal for Lebanon: time to end
impunity for murder.’
Although Rice’s position wasn’t new, its publication in a leading Lebanese
daily ensures widespread dissemination of the U.S. view.
Rice wrote the tribunal wouldn’t only help uncover those responsible for the
killing, but help strengthen security and stability in the country. She added
the U.S. believes the “best option” would be for the tribunal to be approved by
the Lebanese parliament.
If that proves impossible, then the international community “consistent with
its pledge to help the Lebanese people achieve their vision of a free and
democratic Lebanon will use every means at its disposal to further the pursuit
of justice and to put an end to the current campaign of assassinations.”
Rice added the “enemies of truth have resorted to subterfuge and intimidation
to prevent the establishment of the tribunal” to deprive the Lebanese of
justice.
She also criticized the opposition’s campaign to unseat the government of
Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. Hezbollah is on the U.S. list of the terrorist
organizations.

May 8th, 2007, 10:56 am

 

EHSANI2 said:

Dr. Landis,

Yesterday, Mr. Assad downplayed the significance of the Rice-Mouallem meeting. As the story above shows, Secretary Rice has chosen the An-Nahar to give a very clear signal about her country’s intentions. This sure sounds consistent with what your friend told you in the post above. There are also reports that Brammertz has already started sending some of his investigators home as his report is almost complete.

May 8th, 2007, 11:44 am

 

MSK said:

Dear all,

Sami Mubayed’s paragraphs on Iraq are some of the silliest nonsense I’ve read in a long time on that issue. Maybe he really should stick to Syrian affairs.

“Saudi Arabia has control of the tribes and Syria has control over former Ba’athists and prominent Sunni community leaders. Combined, they could produce results when it comes to the insurgency, or the stability of Iraq.

Saudi Arabia realizes that Syria does not have an identical agenda when it comes to Iran. Syria is not in favor of creating a theocracy, nor does it support an autonomous Shi’ite district in southern Iraq, as called for by Iran’s No 1 ally in Baghdad, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

While Saudi Arabia abhors Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, Syria has relations with him and can put them into use into moderating his behavior, along with that of his patron and boss, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.”

– KSA does NOT have control over the Iraqi tribes (EVERY Iraqi has a tribal affiliation of some sorts, including all Shi’tie Iraqis)

– Syria does NOT have control over ex-Ba’thists & Sunni community leaders

– Muqtada al-Sadr doesn’t have any patrons or bosses and ESPECIALLY not Nuri al-Maliki

Particularly the last gaffe invalidates anything Sami Mubayed ever wrote or will write about Iraq, since he doesn’t even know the most basic facts about contemporary Iraqi politics. I’d be laughing out loud if it wasn’t so sad.

–MSK

May 8th, 2007, 1:56 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

MSK,
Don’t overlook the Saudi connection to the Sunni tribes in Iraq. They have existed as far as history can show. These are strong ties – including blood (family) ties. Also, many Sunnis in Iraq today are finding solice in the anti-Shi3a Salafi/Wahabbi activism (also a look at a map might be helpful).

Further, there are Ba’athists ties to Syria regardless of the ideological differences. This is also a demonstrable and proven fact.

I agree with you on the Sadr and his relative position to Malaki.

All in all, Moubayed’s article was excellent – a far cry from being laughable or sad.

What is truly sad is what Condi Rice is pursuing.

May 8th, 2007, 3:11 pm

 

MSK said:

FP,

I am well aware of the Saudi/Jordanian/Syrian connections to tribes in Iraq. But to write “Saudi Arabia has control of THE tribes” (my emphasis) is plain wrong & Sami Mubayed should know better.

Ditto for the relationship between the Syrian regime & the ex-Ba’thists & Sunni community leaders. Of course there are ties. But to state “Syria has control” is as idiotic as the statement about KSA and the tribes.

Both imply a “control” situation that is simply not there.

And the gaffe about Muqtada al-Sadr & Nuri al-Maliki is one a pre-schooler would make, but not a seasoned MidEast analyst.

All in all – those major mistakes mean that he has no clue about Iraq.

I didn’t criticize anything he wrote about Syria in this article and never called the article as a whole “laughable or sad”. But the part on Iraq is just embarrassingly wrong. HENCE I surmised that maybe SM should stick to Syrian affairs.

And I truly wish you guys would stop trying to drag the US or the Izzies into everything, whether it’s related or not. I don’t think there’s much disagreement about their policies in this group.

May 8th, 2007, 3:24 pm

 

idaf said:

MSK,

Iraq aside, I take it that you agree with the rest of Moubayed’s analysis about Syria and Lebanon (which is the main focus of the article)!

Btw, in my opinion, the truth about Syria’s influence in Iraq is somewhere in-between what Sami wrote and your remarks above. Both of you seem to insist on fixed dichotomies of Iraqis in terms of who has influences on tribes, baathis and Sunni community leaders. The truth is that alliances and influence of all players on the Iraqi stage (Sunni, Shiaa, Kurds, Bathis..etc) are divided between Syria, Iran, Saudi, Al-Qaida and the US administration. Syria for example, has considerable influence on MANY tribes, religious figures, baathis, Sunni leaders, Kurds..etc (including Iraq’s president and PM for example). The same is true for Saudi, Iran and the US; each has considerable influence on many others tribes, religious figures, Sunni leaders ..etc. Much of Iraq’s Shiaa community and leaders are closer to Syria than to Iran (as they have the dual identity of being Arab and Shiia, with more emphasis on the former).
Nothing in the Middle East politics is black or white. Alliances are always more complicated than the common dichotomies used by the media, politicians and western academia and of course blogers such as you MSK 🙂

May 8th, 2007, 3:25 pm

 

MSK said:

IDAF,

I don’t “do” dichotomies or neo-manichean analyses – fixed or otherwise. So, I’m afraid you’ve misread what I wrote. I’ve learned that life is complicated early on & also in regard to the MidEast.

I do disagree with your assertion that the Syrian regime has considerable influence over the Kurds. Yes, Jalal Talabani used to have a Syrian passport. Big deal … The Kurds are playing their own game & anyone thinking that any outside power has true influence over them is going to have a rude waking up.

As for SM’s analysis of the Syria/Lebanon issue re: Sharm el-Sheikh – no, I don’t think he’s right at all. SM seems to perceive everything in such a way that it looks good for the Syrian regime. I happen to disagree. I think most of SM’s writing is better filed under “wishful thinking”. But I also think that he is not particularly relevant to the situation & thus I just ignore him. 😉

I only made that one remark about his Iraq gaffes because they were just too outrageous.

May 8th, 2007, 3:33 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

MSK, if the issue is the use of the word “control” as in being in command of, then I agree with you. No entity – not even Iran – has control of one group or another in Iraq. What we are observing now in Iraq is total anarchy and the bahavior of complex system producing random results. Seems that the only people that are happpy with this kind of results are the neocon nerds and Likud/Kadima.

I would also extend your argument to the relationship between Syria and HA.

May 8th, 2007, 3:48 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Let us suppose that Damascus does have the influence that Sami painted. What is the implication? Is it that the U.S. would be willing to give up its goals in Lebanon to gain favor with Syria over Iraq? Is the suggestion that a quid pro quo deal is in the works here? While this may look good on paper, nothing that I read suggests that this is going to take place.

May 8th, 2007, 3:53 pm

 

K said:

MSK, IDAF,

The stupidest part of Moubayed’s worthless article is the part on Lebanon. His portrayal of March 14, the movement’s intentions, methods, and goals, is a pure regurgitation of regime propaganda.

May 8th, 2007, 6:06 pm

 

Ford Prefect said:

K, is the word “regurgitation” taught at the March 14th International School for the Advanced Studies of Syrian Animalistic Orientation (M14-ISASAO)?

It was previously used, exclusively, by another March 14th supporter (where in the world is Gibran?) to a point that it lost its meaning.

May 8th, 2007, 7:13 pm

 

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