Mitchell on the March, Muslim Brothers in Egypt, Makhlouf Man of 2009

U.S. seeks progress on Syria-Israel deal: George Mitchell
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
Wednesday, January 20, 2010; 2:49 PM

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who said Israel had to “declare frankly” it wants peace. George Mitchell, President Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy, said the U.S. sought what he described as comprehensive Middle East peace that included a deal between Syria and Israel and the normalization of relations between the two foes.

“Syria, certainly, has an important role to play in all of these efforts… and that was the topic of our discussion today,” Mitchell said in a brief statement.

He said he looked “forward to making tangible progress on our efforts toward peace and on the bilateral relations between the United States and Syria”….

Damascus has not hidden its frustration with the pace of ties with Washington. Syrian officials have said Obama should lift sanctions first imposed in 2004 for its support of militant groups and exert pressure on Israel to renew the peace talks…..

The official Syrian news agency said Assad told Mitchell that Turkey had an “important role” to play in reviving the talks and Israel had to “declare frankly” that it wants peace……

Syria wants an Israeli commitment to withdraw from the whole of the Golan based on a U.N. resolution stating the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force. Israel said it was willing to resume the talks without preconditions.

Israel and its chief ally, the United States, want Syria to cool its ties with Iran as well as stop supporting the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, and help sideline them as armed players.

A Syrian source said Assad would continue to show flexibility with Washington but only up to a point.

“The late Hafez al-Assad used to say that the Americans want us to commit suicide. Bashar has limits to what he can give the United States,” the source said.

Israelis reject George Mitchell loan guarantee ‘threat’
BBC, Sunday, 10 January 2010

Israeli officials have shrugged off a suggestion that the US could withhold loan guarantees to pressure Israel over the Middle East peace process. The finance minister said Israel did not need the guarantees, while the prime minister accused the Palestinians of holding up peace negotiations.

US envoy George Mitchell said this week the US could withhold loan guarantees to extract concessions from Israel. The guarantees allow Israel to raise money cheaply overseas.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz reacted by saying the Israeli economy was doing well. “We don’t need to use these guarantees,” he was quoted by Israeli media as saying.

“We are doing just fine. But several months ago we agreed with the American treasury on guarantees for 2010 and 2011, and there were no conditions.”….

The Muslim Brotherhood: new leadership, old politics
By Fawaz Gerges, The Guardian, January 19, 2010

There is no better way to take the temperature of Arab politics than to examine the state of the Muslim Brotherhood, the most powerful religiously-organised opposition movement in Egypt and the Arab world. With branches in several Arab and Muslim countries, the Brotherhood portrays itself as a more authentic, viable alternative to secular authoritarian rulers and religious extremists of the al-Qaida variety.

The recent election of a new leader, however, has utterly discredited those claims and exposed a serious rift within the 81-year-old Islamic organisation. After weeks of internal turmoil and infighting, the Brotherhood announced that it has chosen Mohammed Badie, an ultra-conservative veterinarian, as its eighth supreme leader since its founding in 1928, along with 16 members of its highest executive policy-setting “guidance bureau”.

Members of the old guard like Mahmoud Izzat, secretary general and gatekeeper of the Brotherhood’s finances and secrets, and Mohammed Akif, former supreme leader, who oppose opening up the organisation and democratising its decision-making, gained the upper hand. Ignoring the wishes of many younger members who called for transparency and respect for electoral rules, Izzat, Arif and their cohorts shoved the secretly-arranged results down the throats of opposition….

Islam is not the answer …
By Marwan Bishara, January 18th, 2010, al-Jazeera

laden1.jpgYou have probably heard of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, but have you heard of Mohammed Badie and the Muslim Brotherhood?

If not, you should reconsider all of your assumptions about Islam and al-Qaeda’s terrorism and whether confronting or reforming Islam is the answer to the al-Qaeda challenge.

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood – which boasts an estimated half a million members and commands the support of about one third of the country’s population (there are no accurate public figures) – has over the weekend elected Badie, a 63-year-old scientist, as its leader or “guide”.

Imprisoned four times for a total of more than 13 years over the past four decades, the new leader belongs to the conservative wing of the movement and began his journey in prison with its hawkish leadership in the 1960s. However, pragmatic and disciplined, the movement’s reformists and conservatives have rallied around the new leader.

After his election, Badie spoke unequivocally about the Brotherhood’s peaceful pursuit of its social and political agenda and how under no circumstances would it seek power through violence.

Most of the other branches of the international Organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood adhere to the same principles as their Egyptian counterparts, except in cases of direct foreign military assault or occupation.

Two Interpretations of Jihad

For all practical purposes, al-Qaeda’s jihadi doctrine was established by disenfranchised members of the Muslim Brotherhood, such as Abdullah Azzam, the former head of the Jordanian Brotherhood who rejected the Brotherhood’s peaceful jihadi doctrine.

They abandoned the mother group after its leaders renounced revolutionary violence following painful confrontations against Arab regimes, and instead adopted religious, social and political preaching as a way to win hearts and minds in the Muslim world.

Many of these radical ‘brothers’ found their way to Afghanistan through the Brotherhood’s networks and later through their own ‘services bureau’ – all of which was supported by the CIA’s effort to reverse the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan at the height of the Cold War.

Once fully organised, al-Qaeda leaders like Ayman al-Zawahiri, formerly of the Egyptian Jihad, accused the Muslim Brotherhood of betraying the cause of Islam and abandoning their jihad in favour of forming political parties and supporting modern state institutions.

With the Soviet withdrawal at the end of the Cold War, al-Qaeda turned against secular or ”apostate” Arab regimes and against any form of Western presence (crusaders and Jewish) in the Muslim world, from Andalusia in Spain to Kashgar in China, in order to establish an Islamic caliphate.

On the opposite side, the Muslim Brotherhood maintains that Arab regimes are not their nemesis, even if they suppress and oppress the group all too frequently.

Instead, they seek constitutional reform and equality for all religions in rights and responsibilities…..

So what makes al-Qaeda so dangerous?

Clearly, Islam is not the answer.

Le Figaro: Lebanese Authorities Ban French Book on Hariri Murder from Entering Lebanon

The Lebanese authorities banned a French book titled La Liste Hariri from entering into Lebanon, the French daily Le Figaro revealed on Wednesday.
The book, written by French author Gérard de Villiers, included information hinting to the involvement of a top Shiite Lebanese leader in murdering the late premier Rafik Hariri in 2005.
The Lebanese General Security considered the information mentioned in the book as an accusation to Hizbullah with murdering Hariri, according to Le Figaro.

Rami Makhlouf Voted Business Man of 2009 in a “Syria Steps” poll.

لأنّه يستثمر أمواله في البلاد.. ويعطي موظفيه حقهم
رامي مخلوف.. الشخصية الاقتصادية الخاصة في عام 2009

دمشق – سيرياستيبس

حصل رجل الأعمال السوري رامي مخلوف على لقب شخصية العام 2009 الاقتصادية الخاصة في استبيان أجراه موقع سيرياستيبس وجاءت نتيجة الاستبيان متوافقة مع استبيان مشابه أجراه موقع “سيريا أوول”.. الذي اختار مخلوف شخصية العام 2009 الاقتصادية الخاصة.

وبحسب استبيان سيرياستيبس فقد حصل المهندس مخلوف على نسبة 51% من الذين شملهم الاستبيان وعددهم ألف شاب وشابة يتوزعون ما بين طلاب جامعات وموظفي بنوك وشركات تأمين واتفق كل من اختار مخلوف على أن استثمار أمواله في سورية وولادة مشاريعه سريعاً إلى جانب توظيفه لعدد كبير من الشباب السوري ومنحهم رواتب جيدة وضمان حقوقهم التأمينية هو السبب وراء أختيارهم لمخلوف ليكون شخصية العام 2009 الاقتصادية الخاصة.

أما سبب اختيار سيريا أوول لمخلوف وبنسبة 47.6% فجاء لأنه استثمر أمواله داخل القطر ولأنه فتح سقفاً جديداً للرواتب والأجور وامتص جزءاً من العمالة مما يعني تقارباً في أسباب الاختيار بين الذين شملهم استبيان سيرياستيبس ومن شملهم استطلاع سيريا أوول.

وكان استبيان سابق أجراه موقع سيرياستيبس بيّن أن مخلوف يشكل طموحاً لشريحة واسعة من طلاب كلية الاقتصاد في جامعات القطر للعمل لديه والحصول على وظيفة في أحد شركاته أو مشاريعه نظراً للسمعة التي يتمتع بها مخلوف في التعامل مع موظفيه.

Mathew Levitt on Syrian Terrorism and Sanctions in MEForum

There is evidence that the Syrian accountability act and subsequent financial sanctions have dissuaded U.S. and some other businesses from investing in Syria. According to one report, General Electric, Mitsubishi, and the French power company Alstom all declined to bid on a Syrian government contract for the construction of power plants.[27] Mobile telephone provider Turkcell withdrew its bid to purchase Syriatel in August 2008 after the United States sanctioned Syriatel’s primary stakeholder, Rami Makhluf.[28] Sanctions have also crippled Syria Air, the state airline, by preventing the company from purchasing parts or planes for its Boeing fleet.[29] Meanwhile, U.S. sanctions under the Patriot Act against the Commercial Bank of Syria have deterred private Western banks from opening branches in Syria.[30] As Syria’s energy production levels decline, sanctions have also prevented major Western energy companies from making new investments there although other foreign companies have supplanted U.S. firms. One company, Gulfsands Petroleum, reportedly moved its principal office to London in order to circumvent U.S. sanctions against its local partner, Makhluf.[31]

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