News Round-Up

Posted by ALEX

Nir Rosen discussing the Iraqi Refugee crisis at length in the New York Times:

 "At a meeting in mid-April in Geneva, held by António Guterres, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, the numbers presented confirmed what had long been suspected: the collapse of Iraq had created a refugee crisis, and that crisis was threatening to precipitate the collapse of the region. The numbers dwarfed anything that the Middle East had seen since the dislocations brought on by the establishment of Israel in 1948. In Syria, there were estimated to be 1.2 million Iraqi refugees. There were another 750,000 in Jordan, 100,000 in Egypt, 54,000 in Iran, 40,000 in Lebanon and 10,000 in Turkey. The overall estimate for the number of Iraqis who had fled Iraq was put at two million by Guterres. The number of displaced Iraqis still inside Iraq’s borders was given as 1.9 million. This would mean about 15 percent of Iraqis have left their homes…

Many of Iraq’s neighbors initially welcomed the refugees. These countries were motivated by self-interest as well as by generosity. Certain political refugees, like Baathist officials, who were among the first to leave Iraq, had a political use in negotiations with the American-led occupation and the Iraqi government that succeeded it. And the well-to-do early refugees — those who could meet Jordan’s requirement of $100,000 in the bank to qualify for a residency permit, for example — brought much-needed capital. But the numbers and the welcome became unsustainable: Jordan and Egypt have made it very difficult for Iraqis to enter, and even Syria, with a long history of welcoming refugees, has passed regulations, like restrictions on the purchase of property and on access to free health care, that are intended to ensure that Iraqi refugees are only temporary residents. Iraq’s neighbors take the position that Iraqi refugees are not in fact refugees at all, because refugee status enables refugees to make claims on the host country."

George Ajjan, a Republican of Syrian origin, attacks the Bush Administration's Syria/Lebanon policy in his letter to Liz Cheney, published by antiwar.com, in response to a Washington Post oped from last month:

"I'd rather reflect on your advice, starting with the comprehensive list of actions you suggest should be taken against Syria, or How to try to beat Syria into submission, but fail miserably, in 7 easy stepsOne of these is for the US to "implement all remaining elements of the Syria Accountability Act and launch an aggressive effort to empower the Syrian opposition." I could insert a standard libertarian argument here to explain why the unilateral sanctions proposed by the Syria Accountability Act don't work, but I won't waste your time.

I also found your mention of the American Revolution quite bizarre in the context of Lebanese political assassinations…It is also a shame that you did not continue this curious analogy and bring more personalities into the mix, such as Michel Aoun, so adored by American "conservatives" like Joe Lieberman, Richard Perle, and Chuck Schumer – all Board Advisors for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies – that he was a invited to Washington in 2003 to deliver a lecture to that organization…Sadly, Aoun's tenure as the neoconservatives' "Maronite of the Month" has since expired, and now he is aligned with Hezbollah in a political opposition to the "Lebanese democrats" hailed in your article. I suppose that makes him Benedict Arnold in your 1776 analogy. Then there's Samir Geagea. I'm not sure which American revolutionary he would correspond to, but it would probably be someone from the colony of Georgia.
Furthermore, Liz, I question in general the historical validity of this analogy. In 1776, the United States of America, which had existed as a possession of a European power, asserted its independence and was born. Lebanon also did that, but it was not in 2005, it was in 1943, when Lebanon declared itself a Republic independent from France, for whom it was an intra-war mandate. Thus, to a true Lebanese patriot, your analogy would be exclusionary, revisionist, and downright insulting. What about the many "Lebanese democrats" who gave their lives not only in Lebanon's struggle for national independence over 60 years ago, but in its vicious 15 year civil war?

Your constituency consists of one very well placed person. Thus, these foreign agents, who care nothing for America and are only interested in grinding their own axes, view you as the cheapest date in Washington. They are your "allies." And by "allies," I mean the people who throw flowers upon you today but will stab you in the back as soon as you are no longer useful to their shortsighted, vengeance-driven worldview.  Thus, your proposals basically sound like a bad remix of an even worse one-hit wonder from the early eighties. Remember, Liz: politics in Lebanon are a lot like that country's infamous "Dog River" – the scum rises to the top. You may wish to take a swim there, but don't drag the rest of America with you."

Stephen Zunes says "U.S. Blocks Israel-Syria Talks", from Foreign Policy in Focus:

"Even as American officials reluctantly agreed last month to include Syrian representatives in multiparty talks on 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."

From Reuters:  Lebanon president warns U.N. over Hariri court
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanese President Emile Lahoud warned the United Nations on Tuesday against setting up a tribunal for suspects in the 2005 killing of former premier Rafik al-Hariri.

In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Lahoud said there could be renewed instability in Lebanon if the U.N. Security Council moved to set up the court as requested by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

Siniora wrote to Ban on Monday urging the United Nations to form the tribunal unilaterally because he said efforts to secure full Lebanese approval had hit a dead end.

Lahoud said any move by the Security Council to set up the tribunal unilaterally “would imply a full bypass of the constitutional mechanisms in Lebanon.”

That “would not only threaten Lebanon’s stability … but would as well hamper the court’s judicial capacities to hold an impartial trial,” wrote Lahoud, quoting from a letter he sent to Ban in February.

Siniora was “falsifying facts to drag the Security Council … into siding with one Lebanese party against the other,” he added.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has refused to convene parliament to approve the court plans because he, like Lahoud, considers Siniora’s government unconstitutional.

Both Berri and Lahoud are allies of Syria. Lebanese leaders who back Siniora’s government accuse them of acting on Syrian orders to derail the court. They accuse Damascus of the Hariri killing, which was followed by attacks on other anti-Syrian figures. Syria denies involvement.

The opposition, which also includes pro-Syria Hezbollah, have said they accept the idea of the court but fear it will be used as a political tool and want to discuss its mandate.

The United States, which backs Siniora, said last week it would push for the court’s creation.

Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs David Welch arrived in Beirut on Tuesday and is expected to discuss the tribunal with Lebanese leaders.

L'Orient le Jour:  A Resolution on the Tribunal is not imminent

De son côté, M. Karel de Gucht, ministre belge des Affaires étrangères, qui accompagne à New York le roi Albert II et la reine de Belgique, a indiqué à L’Orient-Le Jour, à l’issue de sa rencontre avec Ban Ki-moon et Zalmay Khalilzad, représentant permanent des États-Unis auprès de l’ONU, avoir « très brièvement parlé de l’éventualité d’une résolution portant notamment sur le tribunal Hariri ».
« En ce qui concerne, le recours au chapitre VII de la Charte de l’ONU, nous verrons dans les semaines à venir comment approcher cette question et comment y apporter la meilleure solution », a-t-il ajouté.
Par ailleurs, un diplomate de l’ONU a indiqué à L’Orient-Le Jour qu’« il est prématuré de parler d’une réunion du Conseil de sécurité sur la question du tribunal ». Selon lui, « la lettre de Siniora devra être étudiée par les différentes capitales ». « Nous sommes en consultations constantes avec certains membres du Conseil de sécurité et avec les autorités libanaises pour la mise en place d’une option possible dans le cadre d’une résolution sur la question du tribunal. Notre approche doit être prudente et bien étudiée avant de nous adresser à la Russie, la Chine, l’Afrique du Sud, l’Indonésie et le Qatar », a encore indiqué ce diplomate. « Rien n’est encore imminent, a-t-il poursuivi. Nous avons encore quelques jours avant de décider.
Mais en tout cas, pas cette semaine. »

The Daily Star covers Assistant Secretary of State David Welch in Lebanon, including a meeting with Maronite Patriarch Sfeir.

"BEIRUT: The US State Department's top official in the Middle East said Tuesday his government remained committed in its support for Premier Fouad Siniora's government and to what he described as Lebanon's advance toward "full democracy." "The United States' commitment to Lebanon remains firm, enduring and non-negotiable," Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch said following a meeting with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir at Bkirki.

Welch reiterated his government's support for timely presidential elections and for one government in Lebanon. He said that for members of Parliament to meet and elect a president without pressure would be a "significant step."

"There is only one government and there should only be one government," Welch said. Leaders from both of the country's main political camps have warned in recent weeks that a failure by Parliament to elect a new president as planned in September could give rise to a double government.

Welch arrived at Rafik Hariri International Airport Tuesday afternoon and was whisked away amid tight security to the US Embassy in Awkar, where he met with pro-government MPs.

Welch's visit came a day after Siniora sent a letter to the UN seeking help with the establishment of the international court to try suspects in the killing of former Premier Rafik Hariri.

Welch said he was confident the tribunal would "see the light of day," pointing to an earlier agreement on the issue between the current Cabinet and the UN.

Welch also met with parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri in Qoreitem on Tuesday, and was also scheduled to meet with Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Democratic Gathering leader MP Walid Jumblatt.

The Central News Agency (CNA) reported Tuesday that members of the parliamentary majority, in discussions with Welch, had stressed the need to expedite the Hariri tribunal.

Welch was scheduled to meet Wednesday with Speaker Nabih Berri, Siniora and former President Amin Gemayel.

Welch told reporters at Bkirki that his government "will continue to support and stand with the Lebanese people as they complete their historic transformation to full democracy."

"I shared with his eminence the belief of the US that the Lebanese have a unique opportunity at this time to take their future in their hands by electing a new president – on time, in accordance with the Constitution and free of outside interference," he said.

Welch also conveyed birthday greetings to Sfeir "from US President George W. Bush, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the American people."

According to the CNA report, Berri conveyed a desire to visit Bkirki through the head of the Phalange Party, Karim Pakradouni, who met Sfeir Monday.

Sfeir reportedly welcomed the visit, saying that "the doors of Bkirki are open to him and to all the Lebanese."

Sfeir hoped the meeting with Berri would be "preceded by adequate preparation and agreement over the desired results of the meeting" within the framework of a joint memorandum of understanding that covers the matter of presidential polls.

Parallel to American diplomatic activity in Lebanon, Iran's ambassador to the country, Mohammed Rida Shibani, met with Hariri for an hour and a half on Tuesday afternoon. Shibani declined to comment after the meeting."

SANAAl-Moallem meets European ministers in Brussels

Brussels, (SANA)- Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem discussed on Monday with British Foreign Minister Mrs. Margaret Beckett bilateral relations and the latest developments in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon .

The two sides stressed the importance of Iraq's territorial integrity and independence and realizing security and stability in the country, calling for encouraging the national reconciliation efforts and taking the required steps in this regard.

On the Arab-Israeli conflict and Arab peace initiative, they underlined the necessity of implementing UN relevant resolutions and to exerting efforts to achieve the just and comprehensive peace in the region.

Regarding the situation in Lebanon, talks concentrated on the need to intensify efforts to urge the Lebanese sides to concordance in order to overcome the current situation in Lebanon.

Foreign Minister al-Moallem also met his Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos and discussed with him latest developments in the region and steps taken in this regard to find a way out of the existing situation.

Both sides discussed bilateral relations and aspects of cooperation between Syria and Spain.

Comments (63)


Fares said:

Alex, it is so ironic that you forgot to mention the sentencing of your most admired oppostion. Michel Kilo for 3 years. How could you easily forget him?

This site should be renamed Baath Comment. Pretty disgusting

May 15th, 2007, 11:28 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Alex –

Your continual posting of Ha’aretz articles is certainly well-intentioned and thoughtful. However, I’m wondering if you can find some articles from other moderate ME sources. Have youu tried the Hamas, Hezbollah, or Fatah websites?

May 16th, 2007, 12:46 am

 

Alex said:

My Friend Akbar,

Try to change your focus to be able to look at the wider picture

May 16th, 2007, 12:52 am

 

norman said:

Alex, 325 Milion Arabs,WOW
I feel better about the Arab nation
AP , Please do not be a cause for the destruction of Israel because of your extreemist stand , How long do you think Israel will last after the Arabs find out that Israel is only six milions and will not last for along war,

You and others who do not have a forsight to see that that will be resposible for the destruction of Israel and the rise of the islamic extreemists ,
If there is no progress for a peacfull solution i expect the Christians to side with the Moslem brothers and Hizballa to push Israel.
I am one who beleive that all people should live in peace encluding jews or the Hebrews as i like to call them ,one of the semetic migrants from Arabia.

AP,Wake up before it is too late .

May 16th, 2007, 1:22 am

 

G said:

George Ajjan is a repulsive idiot.

May 16th, 2007, 2:36 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Alex stated:

Try to change your focus to be able to look at the wider picture.

Then why do you always cut & paste articles from Ha’aretz?

May 16th, 2007, 2:40 am

 

Souri said:

Alex

You should focus on Michel Kilo
coward

May 16th, 2007, 2:40 am

 

norman said:

AP , I am sad , I did not get any comment from you ,
I hope that means you agree.!.

May 16th, 2007, 2:44 am

 

K said:

Alex,

I do believe it would be appropriate to add something on Michel Kilo. Come on; it’s not too late for a Landis-style “addendum”.

May 16th, 2007, 2:46 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Stormin’ Norman warns:

AP , Please do not be a cause for the destruction of Israel because of your extreemist stand…

Dear Norman,

Your notion of the “destruction of Israel” is extremist in and of itself. I’m not going to destroy Israel; I love Israel. OTOH, there are nations like Iran, who have already been reprimanded by the UN for threatening the destruction of Israel.

I think you need to discuss this issue with Ahmadinejad, not me;)

…, How long do you think Israel will last after the Arabs find out that Israel is only six milions and will not last for along war

Israel will last much longer than you think. Perhaps longer than yourself. Perhaps forever. Here’s my question:

“Norman, how many years does Israel have to exist before your anger and frustration turns you into a human bomb?”

You and others who do not have a forsight to see that that will be resposible for the destruction of Israel and the rise of the islamic extreemists , If there is no progress for a peacfull solution i expect the Christians to side with the Moslem brothers and Hizballa to push Israel.

Norman,

I have lots of foresight and good insight too. The destruction of Israel you keep talking about was talked about since 2000 BCE.

In the US we have a saying, “Build a bridge and get over it.”

I am one who beleive that all people should live in peace encluding jews or the Hebrews as i like to call them ,one of the semetic migrants from Arabia.

Thank you Norman about the kind words you have about the Jews and Hebrews. I am sure your kindness will radiate toward your jihadist friends to the point where they can accept a Jewish state.

AP,Wake up before it is too late.

I’m wide-eyed and fully alert, thank you. Now that I am awake, I’m reading with concern about why Fatah and Hamas are killing each other in Palestine. I can only surmise that the Palestinians are killing each other because of their “extreme moderation and peaceful intentions” or because some Jew is orchaestrating this within the halls of the White House. It’s gotta be one or the other.

May 16th, 2007, 3:07 am

 

Alex said:

Akbar,

OK I got your point. But I can explain.

I read everything, not only Haaretz. I know that Haaratez writers represent about 30-50% of Israeli opinions, not more.

But I do pay more attention to Haaretz because many of those writers are email friends of mine for few years now and I am always encouraged to read their moderate opinions… and I know that I am doing a good thing when I share those thoughts with my Syrian friends, and with readers of Creative Syria or Syria Comment. And eventually it works to some small extent. I know some influential Syrians who became less negative towards Israel after few months of reading those Haaretz articles I have been publicizing.

But again, I have no illusions regarding the prospects for peace. You will find a very frank article that I am writing for next week on Creative Syria.

And regardless what someone called Alex likes to read, YOU will benefit your country more if you remind yourself of the other Arabs, not only the extremists who you see as a threat. There will always be bad news, but if we use them as excuses to act negatively, we will encourage more bad news in the future. You always wait to spot something bad on the Arab side and you use it to reinforce all your fears… do you see a way out of this routine?

K,

I don’ think I will do things merely to please those who insult me. I am not Joshua. He is a Vermont WASP with wonderful manners, I am originally from a small city in Syria, a bit more blunt.
You have a champion with the name “SOURI” calling me a coward while he is afraid to use his real name.

As for Michel Kilo and the other political prisoners who were recently sentenced to years in jail, Joshua will post his own proper opinion when he comes back in a couple of days. I am only trying to help while he is in Paris. If you notice, I mostly copied and pasted other stories, I did not write anything. Actually, a friend of mine helped me put this post together.

I really do not understand this automatic bullying that “democracy lovers” think is their natural right… they are among the rudest, least civilized, most suspicious, and least democratic bunch I even had the chance to engage in discussions with.

I am not automatically a supporter of political opponents of the regime. If someone is put in jail it does not mean I will automatically like his ideas. Some are communists, some are kurdish separatists, some are pro US military intervention, some are not opposed to civil wars if necessary in order to reach “democracy” in Syria.

Michel Kilo is probably my favorite, and I definitely am disappointed in his unfair treatment. In private, I did more than one thing to support his cause, much more than the loud ones who only know how to shout on the different forums but never do anything useful otherwise… if I knew there was any use, I would have spent even more time on it.

All they are interested in is any opportunity to express their anger at the Syrian regime. They have some legitimate grievances, and I am happy they feel better after they write something loud and angry. But I never liked loud political speeches when the Baathists gave those speeches, and I don’t like the loud and hollow lectures from Syrian opposition supporters who only talk about child rapists and murderers …

Really … they are doing all they can to be repulsive to those who are not as angry as they are.

May 16th, 2007, 3:29 am

 

Fares said:

Wow Saf’a Tala’e3iye llrafic Alex.

Is that all you can come up with!!!you get news from all the newspapers of the world including Israeli ones and you call it Syria news round up…all I was asking to include the story of Kilo being sentenced without any opinion since it was a news post. Then you get insulted when people ask you to correct your own “forgetting”

For your info the Baathist are still giving loud and angry speeches and you choose to fully support them and focus on people who are trying so hard to shake things up a bit instead of Having Syria stuck in the love fests of their leaders.

Good job, you are really serving your country…and stop talking about the little things that you do because it is all useless…Show me results!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

May 16th, 2007, 3:45 am

 

Alex said:

Fares, Try to read what I wrote,

“if I knew there was any use, I would have spent even more time on it.”

When I realized it was useless (long time ago) I stopped doing anything, including not losing any sleep because I forgot to include the Kilo arrest story…

For your information, this post was supposed to be focused on the changes on the international scene with Blair gone, Chirac gone, Sarkozy replacing him, the new names circulated for French foreign ministry, Russian American confrontation and how it could affect The Hariri tribunal details at the UNSC ….etc.

Then I realized I won’t have the time needed to write a proper post… and it ended up turning into a generic “news round-up”.

Nothing special, but better than nothing.

Now excuse me as I will go do some other little useless things for creative Syria.

May 16th, 2007, 3:57 am

 

Fares said:

Alex, I just sent you some mail to reply to your email that I just saw. Again the fundamental question who decides what is useless and what is useful and why do you only focus on what is usefull for the regime and you give them all what they want but you get nothing back???

May 16th, 2007, 4:14 am

 

Souri said:

Alex,
Yes, I am afraid to use my name.
but, I feel like a champion.

May 16th, 2007, 5:26 am

 

Nur al-Cubicle said:

If you read French, Jeanine JALKH at Beirut’s L’Orient-Le Jour has a great article on why Chapter VII will not be invoked….mostly because Lebanon is not a threat to _world peace_

http://www.lorient-lejour.com.lb/page.aspx?page=article&id=341940

I’ll translate it later this week.

May 16th, 2007, 7:42 am

 

why-discuss said:

The Security Council is in the middle of several pressures:
– The US with the infamous afghani Khalilzad trying to squeeze anyone allies to Iran (ask the Iranians what they think about him!)
but weaken as they yielded to talk to Iran after having repeatedly claimed they won’t.
– Russia who will not yield so easily to the US after having been rebuffed by Condie on the US planned anti-missile defense systems against Iran (?)
– Hariri (and his proxy Siniora and lebanese 14 marchers) using business and personal connections in the US and UN
– Lahoud and his official accusations to the UN of creatingthe path to a turmoil in Lebanon whose responsibiliies they’ll bear.
– Sarkozy just taking over.. would he jump on such a decision without taking more time to evaluate its long term impact on the relations with the arabs countries.
– Saudi Arabia and Iran taking a side position

I am not sure the Security Council is ready to vote anything spectacular soon

May 16th, 2007, 8:34 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

And regardless what someone called Alex likes to read, YOU will benefit your country more if you remind yourself of the other Arabs, not only the extremists who you see as a threat. There will always be bad news, but if we use them as excuses to act negatively, we will encourage more bad news in the future. You always wait to spot something bad on the Arab side and you use it to reinforce all your fears… do you see a way out of this routine?

Alex –

I think what you are doing is great. I like your attitude, and I hope more Arabs begin to take your approach. As you may have noticed, there are some here on this website that are still stuck in jihad-mode.

But as far as Ha’aretz is concerned and the “wider picture”, yes, I would like to read more English translations in addition to what I read from MEMRI. MEMRI will choose to pick the worst and the best from the Arab media. Perhaps you and Josh can post articles that are somewhere in between. I guess I’m too familiar and bored reading articles from Ha’aretz. I want the “wider picture”.;)

As an example, I am interested in the inter-Arab discussions like the one above between you and Fares. These discussions interest me because they allow me to see how other Arabs feel about the current situation in the ME. I still say democracy is the way to go. I don’t believe the Arab world should or wants to be governed by an endless cycle of thugs and tyrants.

May 16th, 2007, 10:56 am

 

Jamal said:

What a shame this site is losing its bite.

Alex is continuing a recent bad habit of Dr Landis. This is not a news round-up it’s a news dump, where any meaty bits are buried in deep mounds of cut and paste material that is bland, unoriginal or repetitive.

Alex wrote: “For your information, this post was supposed to be focused on the changes on the international scene with Blair gone, Chirac gone, Sarkozy replacing him, the new names circulated for French foreign ministry, Russian American confrontation and how it could affect The Hariri tribunal details at the UNSC ….etc.Then I realized I won’t have the time needed to write a proper post… and it ended up turning into a generic “news round-up”.

Well Alex, loyal followers of Syria Comment are busy too, and it’s punishingly mind-numbing to have to scroll through so much endless stuff that could be dealt with by a paragraph and link.

Give us back the old meal: summary, meaty bits and links. Seasoned with some wise commentary and sharp opinion.

May 16th, 2007, 11:26 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

Some commentary from the US for those interested:

Pray the US doesn’t choose a Republican president…

http://hotair.com/archives/2007/05/15/video-rudy-blasts-ron-pauls-apology-for-911/

Terrorists conducting Arab foreign policy…again…

http://www.expatica.com/actual/article.asp?subchannel_id=25&story_id=39829

May 16th, 2007, 12:03 pm

 

Atassi said:

UPDATE: US Won’t Use Lebanon As Bargaining Chip – Official

16 May 2007

Dow Jones International News

BEIRUT (AP)–A senior U.S. official pledged Wednesday the U.S. will not use Lebanon as a bargaining tool -an attempt to allay fears that Washington’s recent talks with Syria and Iran could weaken U.S. resolve here.
David Welch, assistant U.S. secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, also said he expects the U.N. Security Council will establish an international tribunal in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
He dismissed fears that creating the court, which is at the core of the political crisis here, without Lebanon’s parliamentary approval could lead to violence despite Hezbollah’s rejection of such a course.
Welch stressed that the U.S. will not abandon Lebanon.
“The future of Lebanon is not something that is negotiable against other interests the United States may have in the area. This won’t happen,” he told The Associated Press in an interview at the heavily fortified U.S. Embassy compound in a hilly suburb overlooking the Mediterranean north of Beirut. “President Bush has pledged to support the country of Lebanon. We will do so.”
There have been concerns that recent U.S. contacts with Syria and Iran over Iraq could result in a softening of U.S. support for the Lebanese government, which is facing an incessant campaign by the opposition led by Hezbollah, a Syria and Iran ally, to topple it.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem met an Egyptian resort during a conference on Iraq last month, breaking a high-level boycott for over two years. U.S. and Iran have said they will hold upcoming talks in Baghdad about Iraq’s security.
The recent diplomatic shifts have led to fears here that the Bush administration could trade with the Syrians and the Iranians over Lebanon in return for support for its policies in Iraq, where U.S. forces are coming under attack from insurgents and militants Washington accuses both Damascus and Tehran of supporting. Syria and Iran deny the accusations.
Welch played down the recent talks with Syria and Iran, saying they were “very limited.”
Welch’s two-day visit to Lebanon comes amid a political impasse over the Hariri tribunal. The tensions could only worsen Lebanese leaders’ have failed to agree on the presidential elections in November. The political crisis has taken on an increasingly sectarian tone and erupted into street battles, killing 11 people in recent months.
Welch met with Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and others including some opposition leaders -except Hezbollah, which the U.S. lists as a terrorist organization. He did not meet with President Emile Lahoud, a staunch Syria ally.
Hezbollah’s 11 lawmakers slammed the visit, accusing Welch of “flagrant interference … and provocative, subversive positions” that would complicate the crisis. The bloc said in a statement that inviting international intervention was “the greatest crime.”
The U.N. Security Council has authorized creation of the Hariri tribunal but its approval has been stuck in parliament, where the opposition-allied speaker refused to convene a session. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday said it has become necessary for the Security Council to act after receiving a letter from Saniora asking the council to impose the tribunal.
“That’s a very powerful recommendation,” Welch said of Ban’s statement. “I expect the council will act … in due course, this will pass,” he said of the tribunal.
Welch also was critical of Hezbollah for keeping their weapons. “We do not understand what is the purpose of the Hezbollah party having weapons,” he said. “What is the intent to use these weapons for? The conclusion that many have is that they want to be able to intimidate their way into politics. That’s the wrong basis for a political dialogue in result.”

May 16th, 2007, 1:38 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

to say USA is not going to use Lebanon as a bargaining tool, is very vague, Syria is not cooperating free, there is a price,USA knows this,I am sure there is a pledge by USA to Syria, may be Lebanon,or the Golan Heights, or preserving the regime.

May 16th, 2007, 4:07 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Mr. Welch is so confused that he had to say somthing like this:

“The conclusion that many have is that they (Hizballah) want to be able to intimidate their way into politics. That’s the wrong basis for a political dialogue in result.”

1- And what in God’s name has the Bush Administration been trying to do for the last six years in this area if it was not “to intimidate their way into politics”???

2- OK, we know Welch is cuddling up to his Siniora and to other similar Lebanese misfits, retards, and bums, but to dare to use such a “reasoning” in Public is very shamefull to say the least!

By God.. Lebanese “politicians”, we can put up with and even understand; but “dump” senior-level US “micro-envoys” is somthing else all together.

Talk about Winning the Hearts and Minds… with such clowns!!!!

May 16th, 2007, 7:20 pm

 

ausamaa said:

By the way, why is Mr Welch in Beirut now anyway? Isn’t all the “action” supposed to be at the UN Security Council to celebrate the birth of the International Tribunal under Chapter Seven ??? Something wrong there?? Last minute bargaining opportunities??
Just thinking out loud..

May 16th, 2007, 7:29 pm

 

why-discuss said:

The US has changed their policy and dumped lots of people, remember the Kurds after the First Gulf war. They act according to their short term interests.
The most important of all is that Iran has finally agreed to talk to them about Iraq:
The US wants to talk to Iran in a position of strenght they tried to get unsuccesfully with the Lebanon war. Thus the rush on the international tribunal, seen as a defeat for their ally, Hezbollah, also the nuclear media hysteria about the new capabilities of Iran.
The key would be Iran’s attitude: How would they deal with a threat to their ally, Hezbollah in Lebanon if the International Tribunal is forced in their throat? Would they accept the tribunal to destroy it when a new president will be elected? Would they stick to their support and negotiate with the US a reduced International Tribunal in exchange for talks on Iraq. The visit of the iranian ambassador to Saad al Hariri may probably be an attempt to check if Hariri would buy a watered-down tribunal or if he’ll stick to a hardline.
Knowing Hariri’s stubborness and pressure from the US, I guess the iranians will announce very soon their reluctance to meet with the US.
Time is running out for the US.. Iraq is messier than ever. The lebanese card is played by the iranians, until now they have the upper hand, let’s see if it will continue.

May 16th, 2007, 8:30 pm

 
 

ausamaa said:

Fares,

What has your article really added ?? Those pictures have been around for years.

So..what’s new?

Can you guys become more “creative” ? Positively Creative, that is. For the sake of your “cause” at least..

May 17th, 2007, 3:36 am

 

Fares said:

Aussama, what is Creative for you? should I post pictures of myself everywhere in Syria!!!

or Say Bravo Assad is doing all he can to impose himself on the society or he really enjoys the support of the people that have no other choice?

What do you suggest I do for the sake of my cause??? I don’t have the keys to the doors of jail!

May 17th, 2007, 4:14 am

 

ausamaa said:

Fares, no, not at all. But to bring about a “change”, something more than “down with the regime” is surely needed. Bad mouthing the Regime can sustain any opposition for a while. It can also bring the opposition some attention, but then what? For how long you have been attacking the regime? What is the result? Compare the credibility of such opposition movements four or five years ago and now. Are they better? Is your position better? Have you gained more supporters? I do not think so. Then why? Is it perhapse because you are seen by many Syrians as playing into the hands of the anti-Syrian camp? Even if you do not want that. Is it because you have cornered yourself in a rigid anti-regime corner that the only viable course of action for you is to escape forward by becoming more vocal in attacking the regime? You can not stop the attacks, and you do not have any other viable course of action. Are such harsh attacks gaining you anything? Is there no other way of pursuing the change you seek? Learn from the MBs: they have attacking the regime for decades; where are they now? Look at all the support and publicity Khaddam received; did it gain him anything. Not to say that you are like him. He is a bankrupt croock of course, you are not. You beleive in something. But is your course of action gaining you, or your cause, anything? It is 7:30 AM in Syria, a lot earlier in the west, people are still asleep but you are -wherever you are-, awake and responding to comments. So you have a cause that you believe in and you are dedicated to it. But is your approach getting you anywhere? I, for one doubt it. I just do not see a Syrian opposition. I see few incoherent anti-regime vocalists, but not a serious and credible opposition. Are you going to spend the rest of your life out in the cold? While not achieving anything meaningful at the street level? Your aim is the Syrian “street” and the Syrian “people”, are you closer to those anymore than you were a few years back? Is a change in tactic, method or appraoch needed? You tell us, for the sake of yourself, for the sake of your cause and for Syria’s sake.

You tell us..

May 17th, 2007, 4:41 am

 

Fares said:

Nice emotional comment Aussama, I understand you are trying to help me and help Syria. Yes I do have a cause which is to try to make Syria break away from the oppressive culture and allow free thinking to emerge (not the usual standard anti coloniamlism thinking) and I tried all kind of strategies even being nice to the regime when Pelosi visited or Mr Suleiman visited Israel…the regime does not care about someone vocal like me and i am not going to just stay quite when I see a lot of wrongs that could be repaired. For example this maskhara of referendum fests that get overdone and the fact of sentencing people to jail terms just for the heck of it.

I know that all my efforts could be in vain and nothing emerged so far but one person can not change anything and I am too liberal for the hungry street, I have no tools or no means to reach the tamed frozen street. I represent with my behaviour and manners a certain class of Syrians that normally see the regime as a friendly one better than chaos (so I am swimming against the current). However that does not mean that I could do things much better, look at Alex or yourself you are talking like the regime wants it but you don’t have a following either because if you change your attitudes and deviate from the regime lines, people who support you will spit in your face.

We live in tough times and the dictators or extremist have been winning all the battles in the middle east, there won’t be any lech Valessa or anti dictator power emerging anytime soon but if I can reach few young souls and guide them to know that it is possible to say no then I am satisfied, and don’t worry I am very novice but I am very patient and I keep learning.

May 17th, 2007, 5:30 am

 

Alex said:

Fares,

Change will not be led by You, me, Ausamaa, Khaddam, or Ammar … it will happen in a more organic way … the people of Syria do not need our leadership, nor do they read our blogs or know that we exist.

The 18 million Syrians know what to do when they decide to do it. For now they do not want to start revolutions. They want to live their lives in a normal way. They have had enough conflict the past few years, from Iraq to Lebanon.

There is a lot to be done in small positive steps that each of us can contribute to.

Akbar,

Of course democracy is the way to go … I don’t think anyone here would argue otherwise. The difference is that some of us are not risk takers when it comes to that special part of the world. If democracy will come 5 years later, then we’ll wait.

I will take your advice and try to link to moderate Arab journalists.

Here is one, my good friend Egyptian Journalist Mona Eltahawy. I don’t agree with everything she writes, but you will definitely like her.

Jamal,

The idea of pasting all the relevant paragraphs instead of linking to the original article is that most of those online articles disappear at some point in the future. Many people use this blog as a reference and actually go back and read most articles from the past few year.

When it is a news round-up, I prefer to not inject my strong views in between those news items. I am not an authority and my opinions belong in the comments section.

When Joshua comes back, he will keep the “news dump” format, but will add his “wise commentary and sharp opinion”

May 17th, 2007, 8:02 am

 

norman said:

Is this man for real talking about the coruption in the last 7 years and forgeting what he did for 30 years.

Opposition leader blasts ‘mafia’ referendum in Syria
May 17, 2007

BEIRUT — Paris-based Syrian opposition leader Abdel Halim Khaddam has lashed out at Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad and the referendum due to renew his term in office later this month.

Assad “heads a mafia which has impoverished the country … What can we expect from a repressive and corrupt regime which denies civil liberties?” Khaddam told Lebanon’s Future TV channel from the French capital.

“We need democratic change … Bashar has planted fear, increased poverty and backwardness,” said Khaddam, who resigned as Syria’s vice-president in 2005 to join the opposition.

Khaddam, a powerful and wealthy figure of the Baathist regime, which has ruled with an iron fist for the past four decades, criticized the Assad family, which he said was “monopolizing” power in Syria.

The Syrian parliament has set May 27 as the date for a referendum on Assad’s candidacy for reelection to a new seven-year term.

“I am making an appeal to our Alawite [Muslim religious community] brothers, to all Baathists [ruling party], and to the army in order to tell them that our nation is in danger,” Khaddam said. “We ask them to take up their responsibility,” he said.

Khaddam and other opposition figures in exile have formed a group – the National Salvation Front – and said that they seek regime change in Syria by peaceful means.

Before his resignation, Khaddam was the most prominent Sunni in the regime dominated by the Alawite minority to which the Assad family belongs.

Assad succeeded his father, Hafez, on his death in June 2000 and official results showed that he won 97 percent of the vote in a referendum the following month.

Last year, a Syrian military court indicted Khaddam on seven charges, including conspiracy and attempts to usurp power and to stir hostility against Damascus. He is also being investigated for corruption.

Khaddam has in turn charged that Syrian intelligence agents implicated by a UN probe into the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri could not have acted without Assad’s approval.

May 17th, 2007, 1:18 pm

 

Atassi said:

Abandoning our democratic allies
David Schenker; David Schenker is a senior fellow at the Washington
17 May 2007
The Boston Globe

A FEW WEEKS ago, President George W. Bush called Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to congratulate him on the wedding of his son and political heir apparent, Gamal. Meanwhile, Mubarak’s pro- democracy opposition was protesting because it understood Gamal’s nuptials as yet another step in the 79-year-old president’s plan to transfer authority to his son. Adding insult to injury – based on the administration’s most recent policy turn on Egypt – the opposition saw President Bush’s phone call as Washington’s tacit blessing for Mubarak’s undemocratic transition plan.

Across the Middle East, Arab democrats are under siege by authoritarian governments and are increasingly discouraged by the apparent US move away from supporting democracy. The administration’s policy shift on Egypt is perhaps the best example of the departure from the six-year focus on democracy promotion in favor of a more pragmatic approach.

Once the anchor of Washington’s Middle East initiatives, Egypt has lost much of its luster. In 2002, the administration threatened to withhold $130 million in assistance if Egypt did not release pro- democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim from prison. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cancelled a 2005 visit to Cairo after Ayman Nour – a rival candidate to Mubarak – was jailed prior to elections.

That was then. Concerned about Egypt’s diminished status in Arab politics – and by an apparent increase in the threat posed to Cairo by Islamists – Washington is taking steps to rehabilitate the bilateral relationship. The first step has been to shelve the democracy agenda.

For example, the administration only offered tepid criticism of Egypt’s arrest and conviction this spring of an Egyptian student blogger, and of the subsequent passage of new draconian security amendments to the Egyptian constitution. Morover, Francis Richardonne, the US ambassador to Egypt, described Ayman Nour’s fate “an Egyptian issue,” and seemingly legitimated Nour’s arrest by saying “this case is known in Egypt to have both political and criminal dimensions, predominately criminal.”

The administration shift on Egypt is the most pronounced, but the policy has changed dramatically throughout the Middle East and has had a pernicious affect on regional democrats. In May, the administration ended its policy of isolating the terrorist- supporting authoritarian Asad regime of Syria, which had been in place since the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, a crime for which Syria is largely believed to have been responsible.

At a conference in Egypt, Rice met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mualem to discuss Iraq. The next day, Syria sentenced leading democracy advocate Anwar Bunni to five years in prison. And this past week, Kamal Labwani, who was imprisoned nearly two years ago for traveling to the United States and meeting with senior administration officials, was sentenced to 12 years.

Next door in Lebanon, the pro-West, pro-democracy, anti-Syrian government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is understandably nervous. The concern in Beirut is that the United States may let Damascus off the hook for the Hariri killing in exchange for Syrian cooperation on Iraq. Even though the administration continues to assure Siniora that it will not make any deals sacrificing Lebanese democrats, given Washington’s recent track record of not standing by its liberal Arab allies, there is justifiably little faith.

Topping it off, Deputy of State John Negroponte recently traveled to Libya, the highest-ranking US visit in decades. At one time the administration considered Libya problematic in regard to its weapons of mass destruction, support for terrorism, and authoritarian system of government. But since Libya renounced its WMD in December 2003, the administration has pursued a normalization of relations without regard to governance.

Arab liberals recognize that Washington is backing away from its democracy agenda and understand the implications. While the administration cannot be faulted for looking for new remedies to the ills of the region, abandoning Middle East democrats – that small, persecuted minority of Arabs who actually share US values – is not a winning long-term strategy. Not only are these courageous individuals subject to government reprisals in the region, the US policy shift serves as confirmation that Washington is an unreliable ally. The result, of course, is that Arab democrats will be less likely to challenge their governments in the future.

While the administration’s policy of supporting democrats has not been as successful as had been hoped, US experience in the Middle East suggests that a return to the old policy of relying on autocrats is not the answer. A more pragmatic approach may be warranted, but Washington need not abandon its democratic allies in the process. The current policy serves neither US allies nor US interests in the region.

May 17th, 2007, 5:06 pm

 

Atassi said:

Syria’s opposition boycotts vote on Assad
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

17 May 2007
11:15
Reuters News
DAMASCUS, May 17 (Reuters) – Syria’s main domestic opposition alliance announced on Thursday it will boycott a referendum set to re-elect President Bashar al-Assad, saying another term offers little hope for democratic reforms.

“The president has hinted at change but this totalitarian system does not change in any way that could lead to political reform,” Hassan Abdel Azim, a leader of the Damascus Declaration group, told Reuters.

“It has been seven years with no serious action taken to put Syria on a democratic course. The Damascus Declaration condemns this policy and boycotts the referendum,” Abdel Azim said.

The declaration was signed two years ago by liberal parties who formed an alliance to unify their demands for a democratic constitution and the lifting of emergency law and curbs on public freedoms.

Assad was unanimously chosen last week by the Baathist dominated parliament for a second seven-year term. The 41-year president was the only candidate allowed to run.

Abdel Azim said the opposition, which is not recognised by the government, has tried to convince it to open the electoral system gradually.

Several figures in the Damascus Declaration have been jailed. The other main opposition group, the National Salvation Front, operates in exile and includes the Muslim Brotherhood, which waged a failed revolt against the government in the 1980s.

ONE CANDIDATE

“What we got was parliamentary elections of one colour and a presidential poll for the Baath Party’s candidate only. The authorities continue to ignore the social, cultural and political changes in Syria, the region and the world,” he said.

Parliament, called the “Council of the People”, was elected in a tightly controlled poll last month. It set May 27 as date for a presidential referendum.

Assad won 97.29 percent of the vote when he succeeded his late father, Hafez al-Assad, in 2000 and kept almost intact a system that bans opposition and gives the Baath Party, which has ruled Syria for four decades, a monopoly on power.

The Baath’s leadership discussed at an annual conference two years ago allowing other parties but the proposal was ignored at subsequent meetings.

Assad has made it clear that his priority was to enable Syria to withstand increasing pressure from the United States. Washington imposed sanctions on Syria in 2004, mainly for its support for the Lebanese movement Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas.

Abdel Azim said the way to counter Western attempts to isolate Syria was to change the political system and stop a campaign of arrests against dissidents that intensified last year.

“Syria has been always under foreign threats but you don’t confront them by clamping down,” he said. “You open up the system and win a real national unity

May 17th, 2007, 5:11 pm

 

majedkhaldoun said:

regarding Mr. Wolfowitz
I hope we hear the end of him today, he was not bamboozled or railroaded,he is a corrupt,conceited stupid,who thinks he can get away with anything,just because he is G. Bush friend

May 17th, 2007, 5:59 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Fares,

أرجو أن تعذرني لكن عندي سؤال مهم لك: اذا كان هدفك هو العمل من اجل نظام ديمقراطي في سورية, فلماذا موقعك يعتمد اللغة الأنجليزية. ياترى, كم من افراد الشعب السوري في الوطن يطلعون على موقعك و يزورونه. يعني بدنا نستهبل على بعض؟؟ اما اذا كان قصدك هو فضح النظام امام الناطقين بالأنجليزية, فهؤلاء لا يحتاجون الى جهودك البناءة و اغلبهم قادرين ان يزيدوك من الشعر بيت. اذا, فانني حين افكر في الخدمة الفعلية التي يقدمها موقعك فلست اجد من يستفيد منها الا الجهات المعادية لسورية. سورية سورية و ليس سورية النظام او سورية المعارضة. يا أخي اذا هدفك النضال من اجل شعبك , على عيني و راسي, اما اذا كانت النتيجة الكبرى لجهودك “الأنجليزية” هي “تسويد” صورة الأوضاع في سورية, فهذا للأسف لا يصب الا في مصلحة اعداء سوريا و يصبح موقعك دوره كمخلب القط فقط. واذا كنت فعلا تعتقد بأن “دعاة” دمقرطة سورية و العالم العربي صادقين في كلامهم و يبتغون فعلا مصلحتنا عندها سأقول لك الله يساعدك و انسى الموضوع. اما اذا كنت واعي لهذا الأمر “فناضل” بالعربي على الأقل ستكون مقنعا اكثر و مؤثرا اكثر في اعتقادي المتواضع.

May 17th, 2007, 6:12 pm

 

ausamaa said:

ATTASI,

Just for the record, this is WHO David Schencker is as listed in the Washington Institute website. Based on the below, he is one of the super-smart advisors who got America in this shitty situation. And they gave him a medal for doing so. Can you believe that!

“David Schenker is a senior fellow in Arab politics at The Washington Institute. Previously, he served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as Levant country director, the Pentagon’s top policy aide on the Arab countries of the Levant. In that capacity, he was responsible for advising the secretary and other senior Pentagon leadership on the military and political affairs of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories. He was awarded the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service in 2005.”

…in other words, he is one of the “core” zionist neo-conservative batch that would “never” have Syria’s intersts at heart or in mind. When we qout someone like him, we do it in the hope of showing HOW WRONG he is. But to accept his word on Syrian and Arab affairs would be like to trust Sharon with the task of protecting Palestinian civilians.

Judge for yourself by seeing more of his “consistant” writings at http://www.washingtoninstitute.org

May 17th, 2007, 6:28 pm

 

Alex said:

Fares, Atassi,

I know we discussed this a million times already, but I just want to support Ausamaa here: You will realize that most of those who strongly Syrian opposition are not looking for Syria’s interest at all. Start with Chirac who wanted Israel to invade Syria last summer and end up with Jumblatt who wanted the Untied States to invade Syria.

Frankly, I can’t think of many outsiders, besides Amnesty, that are truly for human rights and political rights in Syria.

Saudi journalists are criticizing Syria mostly out of their superiority complex, Lebanese journalists mostly out of hate.

So I go back to blaming this American administration (and Blair and Chirac) for the terrible blow they delivered to the reputation of western style democracy and to those who would have otherwise been more effective in calling for democracy in the Middle East.

I was in Egypt when President Carter managed the Egyptian Israeli peace process. Carter’s personality made a huge difference in helping Sadat sell the controversial agreement to his people. When Carter was gone and president Reagan replaced him, there was depression among most Egyptians … they knew that Reagan is not interested or knowledgeable in Arab issues. Carter’s respectability was a key factor.

I hope the American people will elect a decent respectable leader who will re-establish America’s moral role in the minds of people in the Middle East so that America can help, in a calmer way, the nations of the Middle East towards any political system that better suits their needs.

Until then, Fares, I agree with Ausamaa that you should consider either switching to Arabic or understand that you have almost zero readers in Syria… and even if you had more readers, it would have been more constructive to focus on smaller issues … shed light on what is wrong in Syria in general (not only the regime’s corruption) and suggest your creative solutions.

That’s the only way you can help, instead of simply writing in your blog about revolutionary regime change hopes. Take interest in smaller, but more achievable, solutions.

May 17th, 2007, 7:03 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Alex,

Is this not “takhween”?

So if you write unflattering commentary about the Damascus leadership in Engligh, you are a traitor to your country?

I fail to see the logic of this argument.

What happened to freedom of speech? or more like the freedom to write from afar in this case? Surely, your suggestion defeats the whole idea of freedom of expression, no?

May 17th, 2007, 7:41 pm

 

Fares said:

Aussama, your criticism of me not writing in arabic is well taken, but there are a lot of journalists and opinion writers who have a much better command of the arabic language than myself but still don’t create an impact or may be they do and that is great. If you happen to want to write for me in Arabic about things to change in Syria then I’ll be very happy to post you (provided we agree on common grounds), and I do post in arabic whenever I can.

I can’t type in arabic and that is personal deficit. I am not giving any ammunity to Syria’s enemies (may be regime enemies yes, there is a difference between the 2 in my mind), do you see neo cons posting left and right on my blog like they do on sandmonkey or other people? no.

If you are accusing me of being neo con for demanding freedom of speech in Syria then why is not the US fighting Syria on that ground? they don’t give a shit.

Why is Landis writing in English and why do other blogs write in English too? yes my audience is Syrian and International for people to understand the misery that happens in Syria because of the Regime and not because Syria the people. The regime presents Syria to the world in a certain way that I don’t agree with and I try to correct this image.

Alex I was focusing on small things like Kilo’s freedom which is nothing but the regime made him a reason for all our weakness in “Shou3ourna Al Kawmie”. afterall it is my blog and I decide what to write in it, if you want to debate me or offer suggestions, you can do it on my blog and ahlan wa sahlan.

You guys don’t distinguish between criticism and revolutions, it is not like I have a secret army somewhere. I said it multiple times I don’t mind if the regime stays (even though my preference if he goes) as long as they change their mentalities and their methods for ruling Syria for the benefit of the people and their advancement.

May 17th, 2007, 7:53 pm

 

Atassi said:

Alex and Aussama,
I have the right and moral obligation to post articles and write comments which in my honest opinion will tell the truth and expose the perpetrators committing the crimes against my fellow “freedom seeking” Syrians.
I ALSO, hope Mr. Alex the Syrian people will one day elect a decent respectable leader who will re-establish Syria’s moral role in the minds of WORLD.

May 17th, 2007, 7:56 pm

 

Alex said:

Ehsani,

Is your suggestion not character assassination?

What does takhween have to do with what I said?

I did not tell him he is a traitor, did I? I was asking him to note (simply note) that outside support for Syrian reforms the past few years was mostly not coming from friends of Syria. It is a clear fact. Are you suggestign that those of us who are not anti regime are not allowed to observe facts for fear that some of the regime critics will accuse us of acting like Baathists?

I was discussing strategies for those who are disappointed that the regime is not really going away anytime soon. Fares, Ammar, and others are now in a period of re-evaluating their strategies which were based on working on the assumption that the regime will fall soon.

If you have not noticed it yet, i believe that many in the Syrian opposition are good and talented people who made the wrong assumption that total and instant change is actually feasible. I always communicate with them with the hope of convincing them to work on smaller changes that are more feasible instead of being bitter and angry… would you advise them to follow different strategies?

May 17th, 2007, 7:57 pm

 

Alex said:

Atassi,

You have every right to do, say, or link to whatever you believe is useful : )

We covered that part yesterday.

May 17th, 2007, 8:08 pm

 

ausamaa said:

OK…forget it.

May 17th, 2007, 8:51 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

اما اذا كانت النتيجة الكبرى لجهودك “الأنجليزية” هي “تسويد” صورة الأوضا
ع في سورية, فهذا للأسف لا يصب الا في مصلحة اعداء سوريا و يصبح موقعك دوره كمخلب القط فقط.

This is what Ausamaa wrote. I thought that you said that you “just want to support Ausamaa here”.

Alex,

Did I misunderstand something?

May 17th, 2007, 9:02 pm

 

Alex said:

My friend Ehsani,

Yes you missed a lot.

1) You know my position by now … you and I agree on few things and disagree on others. Did I ever accuse you of being a traitor? after we exchanged a 1000 emails, how could you interpret my comments to Fares as accusations of being a traitor?

2) When I “support Ausamaa” it does not mean I support everything Ausamaa says. He would tell you that I often disagree with him.

If you notice which part I emphasized in my comment, it was really about the fact that Syrian opposition trusted the wrong people (the outsiders) and had unrealistic hopes.

And the reason I am often discussing Syrian opposition is because I want them to not give up completely and instead to play a role … Murhaf Jouejati and rime Allaf type… balanced (not maximized, supercharged, theatrical) opposition.

I do not want the regime to act like a monopoly. We need the opposition to be there .. but to be more in-tune with what is possible and what is constructive. Unknowingly, they have adopted the Bush administration’s style of Good and Evil, with us or against us … and it took them nowhere… the Syrian regime, despite everything, took a much more balanced and calculated approach to their problems.

The Syrian opposition needs to work harder to improve their skills and approach before they hope to provide a more attractive option to the Syrian people… I hope you encourage them to improve instead of supporting their mistakes.

May 17th, 2007, 9:21 pm

 

souri said:

الى الشريف فارس
ان ما تكتبه كل يوم انما يدل على مدىالنضج الفكري الذي تتمتع به ويجب ان تعلم بان معظم المواطنين السوريين واللبنانيين يؤيدونك في كل كلمة تكتبها طبعا عدا الذين يريدونك ان تكون كاذب مخادع جبان مثلهم
الى التقدم والنجاح

May 17th, 2007, 9:51 pm

 

Alex said:

الى البطل الشجاع سوري

ان ما تكتبه كل يوم انما يدل على مدىالنضج الفكري الذي تتمتع به

الى المزيد من التقدم يا بطل سوريا

May 17th, 2007, 9:57 pm

 

Fares said:

Ehsani thanks for your help. People who are afraid of “Tasweed Wij Souria” should stop causing the actions behind that “tasweed” like making a president almost a god for couple of weeks or sentencing people arbitrarely.

Alex I used to listen to your advise with more attention but you just repeat the same thing over and over and you are not in a neutral position to distribute advise, you belong to one camp and you don’t hide that fact.

Again you keep attacking people “mistakes” but you avoid the elephant in the room which is the regime, and we are trying to change Syria for the sake of Syrians and not the Americans or the outside parties that you think we are using.

May 17th, 2007, 9:59 pm

 

Alex said:

Fares,

If I can not carry the big elephant outside the room, then I will ignore it instead of trying to get on its nerve.

And the regime is not the only elephant in the room.

I am in the center, but you would not be able to see it because I am not “with you” .. and therefore I must be “against you”

Sounds familiar?

May 17th, 2007, 10:11 pm

 

souri said:

شكرا اليكس
تمنياتي بان الشجاعة والبطولة تهز احا سيسك عن قريب لتشعر بالفخر وانا متاكد بان هذا اليوم سيكون قريبا لا نك انسان
اعتقد انك شخص طيب ومثقف وبالنهايةفالحق هوالذي سينتصر
اقرا ما كتبه باتريك سيل

May 17th, 2007, 10:16 pm

 

habib said:

Anyone have the draft that AFP says it obtained of the resolution???

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – Three key Western members of the UN Security Council on Thursday circulated a draft resolution aiming to help set up a proposed international court to try suspects in the murder of Lebanese ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.
(Advertisement)

The text, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, is sponsored by the United States, France and Britain, which along with Russia and China make up the five veto-wielding members of the 15-member Council.

The draft, which invokes Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, “decides” that provisions of an agreement between Lebanon and the United Nations on the establishment of the court “shall enter into force upon adoption of the present resolution.”

A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he expected the text to be approved by the full 15-member council in the coming weeks.

The ambassadors from the five permanent member states met behind closed doors Thursday to have a first discussion on the text, which is being transmitted to the 10 non-permanent council members.

The Western diplomat said the aim of the draft was to help Lebanon break the current deadlock, with Lebanon’s pro-Syrian opposition blocking parliamentary ratification of the tribunal plan because it claims the Security Council would use it for political ends.

Hariri and 22 other people were killed in a massive bomb blast in February 2005, widely blamed on Syria, which was then forced to end nearly 30 years of military and political domination in Lebanon.

US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad said Tuesday the draft would be introduced at the request from the “legitimate government” of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

On Monday, Siniora sent a letter to UN chief Ban Ki-moon asking him “as a matter of urgency to put before the Security Council our request that the special tribunal be put into effect”.

May 17th, 2007, 10:31 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

My very good friend Alex,

ha-ak a-lai

May 17th, 2007, 10:37 pm

 

Fares said:

Alex, it is you who says you are in the center (that is pretty subjective if you ask me). Who decides what the center is: if you are claiming you are half way between oppostion and regime then it does not show, you are certainly much closer to the elephant (or lion) that you decided to ignore.

I would not call you a bridge between Regime and Oppostion and if you are then prove it and give us the freedom of all the prisoners that you admire: Kilo, Dalila, Bunni (oh no he is now a traitor in your eye), Labwani (not supposed to be 2.4 angry for 12 years).

May 17th, 2007, 10:41 pm

 

Alex said:

Thanks Ehsani bek : )

Fares,

If you are referring to who I want to govern Syria for now, you are right .. I am not “half way” … I don’t think the Syrian opposition has what it takes… the regime, with all its faults, is still clearly “better” .. or more experienced (in my humble opinion).

But I will be happy to be closer to an improved Syrian opposition in the future.

And please forget about me and think about what I am suggesting. I am simply suggesting that the Syrian opposition can, and should, take a good look at its performance and keep an open mind about all the criticism it receives… and I am not suggesting at all to stop criticizing the regime… but to be smarter about how to criticize.

Here is a challenging question for the immediate future:

If we can expect a chapter 7 type UNSC resolution along with re-energized American/M14/French (and maybe saudi) pressure on Syria (or “the Syrian regime”)… How do you suggest the Syrian opposition should react:

1) Play along and raise the volume? (like Khaddam already did on Hariri’s Future TV yesterday)

2) Stay neutral, supporting a fair, non politicized legal process.

May 17th, 2007, 11:11 pm

 

trustquest said:

Alex, even if you reduce the struggle of the opposition to a mere competition like democrat and republican, still each side should not back down on ideas, believe and accountability for decisions. The opposition to have moral standing has to fight at least worldly the regime since the regime is not allowing anyone to exist on the scene or accepting even someone to saying I disagree. Oppositions are either traitors or cooperators with the traitors. The people who are allowed to talk are not you or open minded people like you, only closed minded who would clap and blindly stamp for them. It seems to me that oppositions and dissents are not choosing their stands against the regime but the regime is forcing their stand. A lot of them like Riad Saif has served in the parliament, and he was not attacking the regime but criticizing it. Most of opposition’s figures deny and refused to work with any outsiders, however, the regime kept twist their positions to accuse them of being traitors for talking to outsiders. The oppositions are really in dilemma and if you like to help give me couple of examples of people from inside who could function as oppositions without being shut up or imprisoned.

The answer to your question: to stay neutral. I did disagree with them on their standing against HA last summer war, also letting Khadam in and their rigid structure. I do not like their poor media, I think they are not doing enough; they should have their TV station running by now, and a lot of other thing.

On the other hand, you can not applaud to the regime that is destroying the people lives and playing the waiting game, who all studies say are not reform able and sacrificing a whole country for the few. All intelligent and educated people should stand together and keep pushing and exposing the regime, continuous pressure will work, ask the Romanian.

May 18th, 2007, 12:28 am

 

norman said:

I have a question to all of you ,
Is it posible that the opposition people were sent to jail in a hurry so president Asad can grant them amnesty after the election as it is costimmery.?.

May 18th, 2007, 1:25 am

 

Fares said:

Norman, if he does that he will be the most stupid person ever, why play so hard then all the sudden change 180 degrees from there…but you know him better since he is your hero so why don’t you take the people to the street and ask for amnesty for the prisoners.

But judging from the comedy celebrations and how people are talking about his “achievments” no change will happen, indeed he succeeded of reminding us of his beloved dad “Allah La Yirhamo”

Alex, about Lebanon I would like things normalized with Syria recognizing the independance of Lebanon and all lebanese parties come and sit down to talk like last year before the war. But I am not optimistic about a solution and best thing is for the UN to protect Lebanon.

May 18th, 2007, 1:44 am

 

norman said:

Fares,
Lebanon is like a family where there is a mother and a father ,government and opposition
When the disagreements between the mother and the father are known and influenced by the neighbors and the not so neighbours ,even by the in laws then Lebanon like the family will break and the two sides will go their own ways , I hope the Lebanese will figure their way before it is too late.

May 18th, 2007, 2:08 am

 

ausamaa said:

Aint this a happy get together?

A Syrian breaching freedom to twenty million Syrians in English. Another contesting the right and moral obligation to post whatever he sees fit. Another fiercly defending the freedom of speech when no one tried to stiffle that right. A fourth cheering up his admired Freedom Heros of both Syria and Lebanon, but in Arabic this time. And all doing so very hecticaly because they “encountered” an opinion they do not like and they do not agree with.

By comparison, I think that with the current “regime” in power, Syrians do stand a better chance of acheiving democracy than with such vigilant supporters of Democracy. Viva Syria Libre…

May 18th, 2007, 11:16 am

 

bilal said:

To Alex.

Wow you always amaze me how you would know exactly what the whole 18 millions Syrian want. You even have passed your friend Bashar in getting 100% and not 99.99% of what the Syrian wants.
Be serious, you are talking about people and not just muttons as Bashar is making them. As I have repeatedly told you Inshallah Hafez the third will introduce true democracy as per your suggestion of “There is a lot to be done in small positive steps that each of us can contribute to.” No Mr. Alex but the Syrian cannot and actually are not sitting quite anymore. We have seen the boycott of the recent legislative elections (less than 5%) and we expect the see the same next Sunday but the regime will use all force available to impose a fabricated big turnout.

To ALL,

Can anyone tell me why Bashar has moved the referendum that early? It is a record as never the referendum was done that early. It is even 2 weeks before the 7th anniversary of his father death. This proves that his position is very weak as he would like to do the referendum before the introduction of the International Tribunal and the Brammertz report. Also he knows that the opposition is preparing major events to show how corrupt and incompetent Bashar is so by making it that early will give them much less time to organize. I think the end is become closer and closer.

May 19th, 2007, 5:29 am

 

bilal said:

I salute Mr. Seal courage:

رسالة مفتوحة الى بشار الأسد

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أصيب أصدقاء سورية – وأعتبر نفسي واحداً منهم – بالحيرة والأسى، بعد صدور أحكام طويلة بالسجن بحق المعتقلين السياسيين، والناشطين من أجل حقوق الإنسان

وسجناء الرأي في سورية. لقد أثارت هذه الأحكام القاسية اهتمام العالم بأسره، وألحقت الكثير من الأذى بسمعة بلادكم. انني أناشدكم بكل احترام أن تعيدوا النظر في هذه القضايا، وأن تصدروا عفواً سريعاً عن هؤلاء السجناء.
إن أنور البني هو من أهم المدافعين عن المعتقلين السياسيين وسجناء الرأي في سورية. لقد أنشأ في شهر آذار (مارس) 2006 مركز حقوق الإنسان في سورية، بتمويل وتشجيع من الاتحاد الأوروبي، ولكن قوات الأمن لديكم أغلقته بعد افتتاحه.
لقد ألقي القبض على أنور البني في 17 أيار (مايو) 2006 وأودع السجن مع مرتكبي الجرائم في سجن عدرا بالقرب من دمشق، حيث تعرض للضرب وللمعاملة السيئة، حسب رواية لجنة العفو الدولية، ولم يسمح له أن يجتمع على انفراد مع محاميه، وقد علمت انه كتب إليكم، ليلفت انتباهكم إلى أن ما يقارب من ستة آلاف معتقل سياسي في سجن عدرا، يتعرضون للضرب، بشكل روتيني، وللإهانات، وللإرهاب، ويمنعون من الخروج من زنزاناتهم أو من مشاهدة التلفزيون، أو الاستماع إلى محطات الإذاعة. لقد التمس منكم أن تحققوا في أوضاع السجون، وأملي أن تستجيبوا لطلبه ايجابيا.
وفي 31 كانون الأول (ديسمبر) تعرض أنور البني لهجوم من قبل أحد المجرمين في السجن، ودفعه على الدرج، ثم ضربه على رأسه بحضور حراس السجن الذين استنكفوا عن التدخل لإنقاذه. وفي 25 كانون الثاني (يناير) 2007 اعتدى عليه حراس السجن بالضرب بقسوة، وحلقوا له شعر رأسه بالقوة. أنا متأكد من أنكم على علم بأن البني هو من سجناء الرأي، وانه معتقل لسبب واحد هو المجاهرة بآرائه التي لا تدعو إلى العنف.
وفي 24 نيسان (نيسان) حكمت عليه محكمة الجنايات بدمشق بالسجن لمدة خمس سنوات بتهمة «نشر أخبار كاذبة تضر بالدولة» (المادة 286 من قانون العقوبات). وقد دهش الدبلوماسيون الذين حضروا المحاكمة من قسوة الحكم، واعتبروا المحاكمة غير عادلة، والحقيقة أن مثل هذه المحاكمات السياسية أمام المحاكم الجنائية أو العسكرية أو محاكم أمن الدولة، تواجه بانتقادات دولية قاسية بسبب هيمنة أجهزة الأمن الفجة على كل إجراءاتها.
إنني مقتنع أن بقاء سجين مثل أنور البني – وهو محام محترم – في السجن، أكثر أذى بسمعة سورية مما لو أطلق سراحه واستعاد حريته. فـ «الجريمة» التي ارتكبها البني – حسب لجنة العفو الدولية – هي إثارته لموضوع وفاة سجين، في الرابعة والعشرين من العمر، يدعى محمد شاهر عيسى، بسبب إخضاعه لمعاملة غير إنسانية، قد ترقى إلى التعذيب. وحينما سلمت جثة هذا الشاب إلى ذويه، قيل إن آثار التعذيب كانت واضحة عليها. وتقول لجنة العفو الدولية ان التعذيب وسوء المعاملة ما زالا منتشرين، وعلى نطاق واسع، في السجون السورية، وانه لم يجر أي تحقيق مستقل في حوادث التعذيب والوفيات المشكوك في أمرها، خلال سنوات طويلة.
أنا واثق أنكم تتفقون معي بأنه من الضروري جدا أن ينصاع حراس السجون السورية لمواثيق الأمم المتحدة التي وقعت عليها سورية والتي تمنع التعذيب، وسوء المعاملة غير الإنسانية.
وهناك حالات أخرى حديثة جداً، كما جرى للكاتب والصحافي المعروف ميشال كيلو، وأستاذ اللغة الانكليزية محمود عيسى، اللذين حكم عليهما، بعد اعتقالهما لمدة طويلة في سجن عدرا، بالسجن لمدة ثلاث سنوات، في 4 أيار الجاري، من قبل محكمة الجنايات بدمشق، وقد اتهما بـ «إضعاف الشعور الوطني» (المادة 285 من قانون العقوبات) وبـ «التحريض على إثارة النعرات الطائفية» (المادة 307 من قانون العقوبات) وبـ «نشر المقالات وإلقاء الخطب، بهدف الدعاية لحزب سياسي، أو جمعية، أو تجمع سياسي محظور، غير مرخص» (المادة 150 من قانون المحاكمات العسكرية)، كما أن محمود عيسى اتهم بـ «تعريض سورية للأعمال العدوانية» (المادة 278 من قانون العقوبات).
ولكن «الجريمة» الحقيقية التي «تورط» بها الاثنان هي التوقيع على ما يسمى «إعلان دمشق – بيروت» الذي وقع عليه 300 مثقف سوري ولبناني ونشر في 12 ايار 2006، ويطالب بتطبيع العلاقات بين سورية ولبنان، وتبادل السفراء، وترسيم الحدود المشتركة.
وهناك شخصية معارضة أخرى، هي كمال اللبواني، مؤسس التجمع الديمقراطي الليبرالي، وقد تعرض لمصير أسوأ بكثير، اذ قبض عليه في مطار دمشق عام 2005، بعد عودته من الولايات المتحدة، حيث كان يشارك في مؤتمر، واجتمع ببعض المسؤولين في البيت الأبيض، وقد حكم عليه، هذا الشهر، بالسجن لمدة 12 سنة، بتهمة «الاتصال بدولة أجنبية، وبتحريضها على الاعتداء على سورية…».
طبعاً، سورية ليست الدولة الوحيدة، أو الدولة الأسوأ، التي تنتهك حقوق الانسان في الشرق الأوسط، فاوضاع السجون في كثير من الدول العربية ليست أقل سوءا. وقد قدمت الولايات المتحدة نموذجاً رهيباً بممارستها التعذيب في سجن أبو غريب، وبتبنيها سياسة ما يسمى «بالتسليم الاستثنائي»، أي تسليم السجناء الى بلدان معروفة بممارستها التعذيب لاستجوابهم.
كما اتهمت اسرائيل بدورها، بتعذيب السجناء الفلسطينيين الذين يربو عددهم على 10 آلاف، بشكل منهجي منتظم. ومن الأساليب الاسرائيلية المعروفة في التعذيب هي الاستمرار في ضرب السجين حتى الموت احياناً. ويشير تقرير أعدته منظمتان اسرائيليتان للدفاع عن حقوق الانسان، ونشر حديثا في 6 أيار الجاري، ان معظم السجناء الفلسطينيين يحرمون من النوم، ويتعرضون للضرب المبرح، بعد أن توثق أياديهم بشدة الى ان تسيل الدماء منها، وتثبيتهم في أوضاع مؤلمة غير طبيعية، كي تنهار معنوياتهم قبل القيام باستجوابهم.
ويجمع معظم الخبراء أن التعذيب يؤدي الى نتائج معكوسة، ولا يحقق الأغراض المنشودة، والمعلومات التي يتم الحصول عليها تحت التعذيب هي معلومات مغلوطة لا يمكن الركون اليها، على الأغلب. ان التعذيب يحرض على الكراهية، وعلى الرغبة الجامحة في الانتقام.
وفي سورية لا يساهم التعذيب في دعم السلم الاجتماعي، وسوء معاملة السجناء يشجع على اثارة العداوة بين فئات المجتمع وطوائفه، وهو أبعد ما يكون عن حماية البلد ضد أعدائه الخارجيين، بل على العكس تماما فانه يزود هؤلاء الأعداء بذرائع للمضي في دعاياتهم العدوانية وتهجمهم. ان الأحكام الجائرة بحق سجناء الرأي، والانتهاكات الأخرى لحقوق الانسان تدمر أهداف السياسة الخارجية لبلد مثل سورية.
وفي قناعتي، ان أحد أهم أهداف بلدكم هو اكتساب احترام وتقدير المجتمع الدولي، دعماً لموقف سورية في المفاوضات، وتشجيعا للاستثمارات الأجنبية المباشرة، وترحيبا بالسياح الذين سيتدفقون على بلدكم بأعداد كبيرة لزيارة المواقع الأثرية الفريدة، وإسهاما في تطوير المشاريع الاجتماعية والاقتصادية بشكل عام.
هناك هدف آخر هو استعادة هضبة الجولان عن طريق تسوية سلمية عربية شاملة مع اسرائيل، بالاضافة الى هدف ثالث هو التصديق على اتفاقية الشراكة بين سورية و27 دولة من الاتحاد الأوروبي التي لم توضع موضع التنفيذ الفعلي حتى الآن.
اما الهدف الرابع فهو ارساء علاقات سورية مع لبنان على أسس صحية سليمة، بعد سنوات طويلة من التوترات والمشاحنات. ان البلدين مقتطعان من جسم واحد، ولا غنى لأحدهما عن الآخر، ولا مجال لحدوث طلاق دائم بينهما.
لسورية مصالح حيوية في لبنان، ولا يمكن أن تتسامح أو أن تقبل بقيام حكومة معادية لها في بيروت، ولا أن يكون النفوذ المهيمن على لبنان لدولة أو قوة معادية، فهذا يشكل تهديدا لسلامتها وأمنها القومي. ولبنان بدوره، حريص على اعتراف سورية باستقلاله وسيادته. ومن المؤكد ان صيغة للتفاهم بين البلدين يمكن تحقيقها على أسس ترضي الطرفين.
لقد أخضعت سورية لضغوط مرهقة من قبل الولايات المتحدة بعد غزو العراق سنة 2003، وتعرضت لمخاطر جسيمة في الصيف المنصرم، حينما كانت اسرائيل على وشك أن توسع عدوانها ليشمل سورية بعد عدوانها على لبنان، ولم تكن عداوة فرنسا لها أقل خطراً أيضاً.
ولكن هذه الضغوط تراجعت الآن، وبدأ العالم يعترف بالدور الكبير الذي يمكن أن تلعبه سورية في تسوية صراعات المنطقة، اذا ما روعيت مصالحها الأساسية.
أليست هذه هي اللحظة المناسبة، يا سيادة الرئيس، لاظهار الوجه الانساني الكريم لسورية، وكسب التأييد الدولي لها، والالتفات الى محنة سجناء الرأي الذين عوقبوا بشكل غير عادل في محاكمكم؟
باتريك سيل
كاتب بريطاني متخصص في شؤون الشرق الاوسط.

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باتريك سيل

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May 19th, 2007, 5:33 am

 

Alex said:

Bilal,

You insist on seeig me as a baathist.

Have you heard what the democrats said when they won a tiny majority in the senate?

“the American people have spoken and they told us that they want change”

Similarly, when I said that the Syrian people do not want to overthrow Bashar, I meant that .. who knows, maybe 60 to 80% do not want to change the regime.

As for your predictions that the end is near for the regime … I will again say: “I will believe it when the Syrian people go for it” … because no one else will succeed in forcing that dramatic outcome. They have been trying since 1976 …

May 19th, 2007, 7:45 am