Sharaa on Turkey, the US, Lebanon; Diplomats on Bus Explosion; Turkey’s Leadership

Turkey’s move to create a Northern Alliance is the biggest thing to happen in the Middle East since the US invasion of Iraq created a power vacuum in the region. President Bush spent eight years trying to build up a coalition around Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and Iraq to counter Iran and Syria. What a singular failure that effort was.

Turkey is trying to clean up the mess Bush created on its border. Making sure that the US does no further damage to the neighborhood is Turkey’s first concern. Should the US allow Israel to bomb Iran or be successful in strangling it economically, Turkey and its neighbors would be adversely impacted. China, Russia, India and Turkey are unlikely to allow the US to lead a catatonic world into further deadly sanctions. There seems to be enough alternative leadership to stop such a unconstructive move. Turkey is at the forefront of the effort.

As Israel, the US and EU ramp up threats to hurt Iran, the Norther Alliance — Turkey, Iran and Syria — have been doing some pushing back of their own.

Erdogan: Israel should expect a Turkish “Earthquake” if it ever tried to violate Turkey’s airspace to attack another country (J Post)

Iran will attack Israeli nuclear installations in response to any Israeli attack on its territories (Fox news)

Syria: We’ll revert to resistance to regain the Golan, as Israel closes the door on peaceful solution (Syria News)

Diplomats in Damascus Divided on Cause of Bus Explosion: I asked a diplomat in Damascus how fellow diplomats were breaking on the bus explosion. Did they believe Syrian authorities claims that it was an accident and not terrorism? Here is the response I got.

Dear Joshua,

Not surprisingly, the diplomatic community in Damascus is split over the bus explosion. Most western diplomats with whom I talked about the tire explosion believe the government’s explanation. Here are some indicators in support of their acceptance that it was an accident:

  1. – first, the Syrian authorities allowed free access in the area of the incident; this means no sealing of the site, as usually :)…
  2. – from a purely techincal perspective, the bus didn’t look as damaged as it would have had the explosion resulted from a bomb. (not shattered into pieces).

By and large, the Arab members of the diplomatic community, as is often the case with these things, looked at the situation differently.

Sharaa pointed out that Syria has worked to fill the “strategic vacuum” after the war on Iraq by strengthening ties with Iran and establishing a strategic relationship with Turkey. (Naharnet)

Sharaa: Accusations against Syria of Hariri Crime Backfired on Them (Assafir)

–Syrian VP Says Damascus Overcame All External Efforts to Undermine It
–Hopes Formation of Lebanese Govt. Will Open Horizons for Lebanese-Syrian Ties
(Translation/summary from Middle East Reporter)

Syria’s Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa confirmed Wednesday that Syria overcame all external efforts to undermine its unity since 2003, stressing that the US-Israeli scheme in the Middle is destined to fail, the Beirut leftist daily AS SAFIR reported Thursday. “The claims of the enemies of Syria have failed in justifying the war on Iraq, and their fabrications against and accusations of Syria in the Feb. 14, 2005 crime have backfired,” Sharaa said. This is a reference to the assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in 2005, a crime that Lebanese anti-Syrian parties and the West had accused Damascus of involvement in. A United Nations probe linked Syria to the crime, a claim Damascus denied. Syria was internationally isolated since 2004, until a rapprochement with France in May 2008 led the way for a warming of tied with other countries.

Syria’s enemies also “failed in destroying the resistance (Lebanon’s Syria-backed guerrilla group Hizbullah) and humiliating Lebanon and Syria in the July 2006 war. And they will not succeed in inciting against Syria,” Sharaa added. Syria backed Hizbullah during its war with Israel in 2006, which was sharply criticized by anti-Syrian Lebanese groups. The main aim behind “the campaign against Syria was to make the Syrian citizen lose faith in himself first and in his leadership second. Therefore, saboteurs tried to split Syria up as a nation and oust the regime. But they failed in both goals and the choice of the Syrian people prevailed,” according to the Syrian official.

“The prevalent situation (in Syria) is better than that of the past six years. This is due to the high spirits of the Syrian people who preserved their Arab identity, unnerved by traitors here and there,” Sharaa went on to say. He added that Damascus proved that “betting on the national resistance cannot lose.” He said, “The US-Israeli scheme in the Middle East is not destined to succeed.”

After the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Damascus boosted its ties with Tehran and Ankara to overcome the strategic void, Sharaa pointed out. Syria “worked on filling the strategic void by cementing its ties with Iran and establishing strategic relations with Turkey without ruling out a role further than the region.”

Meanwhile, Sharaa hoped the recently formed government in Lebanon would lead to positive bilateral ties. “We hope the formation of a national unity government will open the way to positive horizons for the Lebanese people and excellent Syrian-Lebanese relations,” Sharaa added. Lebanon and Syria established last year diplomatic relations for the first time since their independence from France in the 1940s.

A New Ambassador: From the Cable at Foreign Policy

“It’s been half a year since the Obama administration pledged to send an ambassador to Damascus after four years’ absence and now we are seeing movement. The State Department has reportedly sent its recommendation to the White House for approval and final deliberations are said to be underway.

The two names leading the rumor mill in Washington as of now are Jacob Walles, the immediate past consul general in Jerusalem, and Nabil Khury, a veteran Foreign Service officer of Lebanese descent…..

Sources close to the discussions also say that the job was offered and declined at some point by both Fred Hof, a Syria expert and deputy to Middle East Special Envoy George Mitchell, and Daniel Kurtzer, who was U.S. ambassador to Israel from 2001 to 2005 but is not currently in government.

At the start of the Obama administration, there was some talk and expectation that things with Syria could move relatively quickly, not necessarily toward a huge breakthrough but at least toward a warming of the relationship in some sense. But public examples of such a warming are hard to find and the lack of progress has had an effect of its own.

“The decision was expected a while ago, so even though it’s significant, part of its significance has been eroded simply by the virtue of how much time has elapsed,” said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator now with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, “There’s been frustration, disappointment, and some misunderstanding on both sides.”

Underlying the dynamic is the disparity between the two sides over what the reinstatement of a U.S. ambassador means. The Syrians view it as a return to normalcy while the U.S. side sees it more as of a reward. “Whatever bang one would expect to get from the naming of an ambassador has been diluted because the Syrians feel like they’ve been unfairly punished and have had to wait too long,” Miller said.

There were both bureaucratic and political reasons for the delay, ……….. On the political side, the question was how to calibrate the speed at which the U.S. moves to normalize relations with Syria and how that decision factors into other regional issues that are moving on parallel tracks. Also, the U.S. still feels Syria is engaged in activities seen as counter to U.S. interests in the region….

U.S. officials are said to have different takes on Syria. More senior officials, such as Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and Deputy National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, are seen as skeptics, feeling that Syria has to prove itself and demonstrate more constructive behavior before getting rapprochement with the U.S. The office of Vice President Joseph Biden is also said to be cautious about advancing relations with Syria, but that could be out of concern for maintaining delicate but good relations with Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki. Biden is the White House’s point man on dealing with Maliki’s government, which accuses Syria of fomenting chaos in Iraq.

One level down the State Department hierarchy, officials for whom Syria is a larger and more specific part of their portfolio want to see diplomacy with Damascus move more quickly. Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman is one who is said to want more movement, but the Syrians might not view him that way based on his past reputation as a Syria critic during his tenure as the U.S. ambassador in Beirut, sources said.

State Department advocates for moving forward are allied with some in the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command, who are in favor of more interaction with the Syrians, although the military is by no means monolithic on this issue.

President Obama is also said to favor movement, but the top White House leadership is simply unable to devote a lot of attention to Syria right now….. “It’s not among the 10 most important issues for the administration, so it’s one where the power of inertia is more significant than whatever forward movement advocates are pushing,” another Middle East expert said…”

RABIYA, Iraq — Iraq’s border with Syria runs for hundreds of miles through barren land patrolled by a relative scattering of security forces. But despite claims about exiled Saddam Hussein loyalists sneaking across to disrupt Iraq’s upcoming elections, the only evidence around one key outpost is faded slogans of Saddam’s banned Baath Party painted on the wall of a decaying grain elevator.

Cigarette smugglers? Certainly. Foreign fighters? Sometimes.

But Iraqi and American security forces alike around the border town of Rabiya say they’ve neither seen nor heard of Baathists illegally crossing the border in recent months.

The claim has been raised with increasing force recently by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has blamed horrific bombings in Baghdad — including the ones Tuesday that killed at least 127 people — on an alliance of Sunni insurgents and Baathist loyalists who want to derail Iraq’s elections planned for March.

On Thursday, al-Qaida’s umbrella group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, posted a statement claiming responsibility for the attacks this week.

“Nothing’s been communicated to me about Baathists,” Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, commander of U.S. forces in northern Iraq, said in an Associated Press interview this week. He added he has been informed “about foreign fighters and insurgents.”

“What we’re seeing is some illegal smuggling, some contraband, smuggling of cigarettes — things like that,” Cucolo said.

To be sure, it is hardly likely that Baathists would identify themselves if captured. Former Baath Party members could also try regular border crossings with their Iraqi passports, but many of the Baath leaders still at large are on an Iraqi watch list and could need to rely on illegal crossings.

Though the number of arrests of obvious insurgents or foreign fighters crossing the border is relatively small, Cucolo said the Americans just don’t know what their presence here has deterred…..

DAMASCUS — Syria warned Israel on Thursday it risked closing the door to renewed peace talks, a day after the Israeli parliament agreed to consider a bill that would make it far more difficult to return the occupied Golan.

“The current Israeli government of (Benjamin) Netanyahu is perfectly aware that Syria will not resume indirect talks brokered by Turkey unless this prime minister commits himself to a full withdrawal from the Golan,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“Syria’s recovery of its occupied territory is non-negotiable as it is a right recognised by UN resolutions.”

Israel seized the Golan Heights in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in 1981, in a move never recognised by the international community….

Syria hit out at Netanyahu for giving his government’s support to the bill’s passage through parliament, saying he was going back on the policy of previous Israeli governments over nearly two decades.

“Since the launch of peace negotiations at the Madrid conference (in 1991), every Israeli prime minister has committed to a full withdrawal from the Golan to the June 4, 1967 line,” according to the ministry statement.

“Through this action, Israel is once again defying the desire of the international community to achieve a comprehensive peace in the region in accordance with international resolutions and the principle of the exchange of land for peace.

“Israel is defying the whole world with its rejection of peace and it is proving that its goverment’s stated wish to make peace is nothing but a political manoeuvre.”….

Iran, Syria call for expansion of defense ties
Tehran Times Political Desk

TEHRAN – Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi and his Syrian counterpart Ali Mohammad Habib have called for the expansion of defense ties between the two counties.

Vahidi met with Habib during the first session of the Iran-Syria joint defense commission, which was held in Damascus on Wednesday.

I can’t figure out if they are going to connect it to the airport. It’s a shame if they will not.

The latest feasibility study (15-Nov) decided to that the design would be similar to Dubai’s metro (overground in most areas).

If Dubai is an indication, Damascus should embrace for a long period of street diversions and major congestion once construction starts. I hope this will not drag on for decades to complete the announced Green line.

Syria should shape up, scholar says
Published: Dec. 10, 2009, (UPI)

David Schenker, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, writes the emergence of Hezbollah as a political force indicates Damascus
has “regained the upper hand in Lebanon.”

Schenker accuses U.S. President Barack Obama, who on Thursday accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, of negligence in the rise of Hezbollah.

“To date, the Obama administration appears to have done little to stem the tide, but given the stakes, Washington should act quickly to reverse the trend,” he says.

Comments (4)

jad said:

Very disturbing news:
For those who ask why Syrians are suspicious of political Kurdish party should rest assure that we are not hallucinating about the scary hidden agenda for some of the Kurds in northern Syria:
“Sovereignty of Syrian Kurdistan”!!!!!??????

“ومن ابرز هذه القرارات تبني حل القضية الكردية في سوريا عبرالحكم الذاتي لكردستان سوريا”

December 11th, 2009, 6:11 pm


jad said:

Good environment friendly project in Syria. There are not a lot of details but it sounds promising

مشروع يتحالف مع البيئة.. “سكنى الغد” رسالة سورية إلى قمة كوبنهاكن
(دي برس – زاهر جغل ) | |
لم تكتف سورية هذه المرة بالتمثيل الرسمي في قمة كوبنهاكن المنعقدة بمشاركة 160 دولة، فسورية التي شهدت أول استقرار حضري تحتضن اليوم مشروع سكني رائد صديق للبيئة يمكن اعتباره رسالة بليغة منها وجهت من دمشق إلى مكان انعقاد المؤتمر.

ومن يقرأ وبتمعن المعطيات البيئية السائدة عالمياً، وما ينادي به المدافعون عن سلامتها سيجد أن سورية امتلكت زمام الأمور بيئياً، وأعلنت نمط حياة جديد لا مكان فيه لأي عوائق بيئية أو اقتصادية، فمشروع “سكنى الغد” يحمل عنوان صفر طاقة مقابل إنتاج للطاقة النظيفة والغذاء.
والأهم أن سورية عرفت تماماً كيف تفلت من الحظر التكنولوجي المفروض عليها من قبل بعض الدول الغربية، حيث استطاعت وعبر هذا المشروع مواجهة التحديات التنموية العالمية العشر والتي تتمثل بكل من (الماء، الطاقة، الغذاء، السكن العشوائي، الدعم الحكومي، التغيير المناخي، الصحة، التعليم، التمويل، انحسار الطبقة الوسطى)، ذلك من خلال إنجازها لمشروع (واحات سكنى الغد) المطبق نموذجياً لاستدامة كل العناصر التنموية أنفة الذكر ضمن مركز بحثها على طريق ريف دمشق.

مشروع “سكنى الغد” ابتكار سوري متكامل حظي برعاية خاصة من الرئيس الدكتور بشار الأسد، وانطلاقاً من مقولته:”لنبدأ من حيث انتهوا لا من حيث انتهينا” أثبت هذا النهج مدى قدرة الكفاءات السورية في إنتاج وتكريس أسلوب حياة اجتماعية جديدة مبني على إنتاج أضعاف ما يستهلك من طاقة نظيفة وغذاء آمن باكتفاء ذاتي لتأمين صفر مياه جوفية وصفر وقود أحفوري وصفر دعم حكومي للطاقة والمياه والطبابة، وصفر نفايات، وكل ذلك بالتكلفة التقليدية وضمن المواصفات القياسية الألمانية.

مشروع سوري متميز
يتيح المشروع للأسرة الواحدة الحصول على وفورات عديدة وميزات عملية وعلمية ضمن أنظمة متطورة، فيؤمن سلة غذائية طبيعية وآمنة، كما يؤمن بيئة حاضنة للإبداع والتعلم المستمر.
كذلك يوفر المشروع من خلال نظام إنتاج الطاقة من إنفاقات خزينة الدولة على المياه والكهرباء، حيث تلغى كامل أعباء سلة دعم الكهرباء والمازوت والمياه والطبابة والتي تتجاوز 150 ألف ليرة سنوياً للأسرة الواحدة، وتلغى أيضاً 300 متر مكعب من هدر المياه للأسرة الواحدة سنوياً بالاستخدام المنزلي، إضافة إلى 300 متر مكعب سنوياً للأسرة الواحدة لإنتاج سلة غذاء منتخبة، وتنتج كامل الطاقة اللازمة للكهرباء والتدفئة من مصادر نظيفة غير ملوثة مع فائض يتم ضخه بالشبكة العامة للكهرباء، ومعالجة مياه البحر ضمن محطة ترتبط بالمشروع لتأمين الاكتفاء الذاتي اللازم للاستخدام المنزلي والإنتاجي الزراعي والحيوي مع منظومة لنقل المياه المعالجة سككياً من الساحل إلى ريف دمشق، تأمين محطة معالجة النفايات الصلبة مع منظومة الفرز والنقل ومحطة أخرى لمعالجة المياه الرمادية والسوداء وإعادة استخدامها ضمن منظومة المراحيض والزراعة والشطف وغيره، إضافة لتدعيم الأنظمة التي تمكن الأسرة المنتجة والمبدعة ضمن مشروع المدينة.

رسالة لكوبنهاكن
مشروع “سكنى الغد” وبما يقدمه من خدمات جليلة هو حل ابتكر في سورية للقول وبصوت عال نحن أكبر من كل القيود المفروضة لحرماننا من التكنولوجيا، فسورية أوجدت لنفسها مخرجاً على حين يشغل الآخرين أنفسهم بحروب ظالمة تنفق فيها مبالغ طائلة كان يمكن أن تخصص لمشاريع رائدة كتلك التي نفذت في سوريا.

“سكنى الغد” رسالة واضحة جسدت رسالة السيد الرئيس بشار الأسد بقوله:”أربعة أطنان من الذهب أقل أهمية من أربعة أفكار قيمة” إلى المؤتمر ولدول العالم الغربي الملوث للبيئة، لتفيد بأن سورية التي منع تصدير العلوم والتكنولوجيا إليها، هاهي تنجز وببراءة اختراع سورية بامتياز المركز الأول والوحيد عالمياً بالمواصفات القياسية الألمانية وبالتكلفة التقليدية، لتبرهن على إمكانية تقديم حلاً واحداً لكل مشكلات البيئة التي سيتطرق المؤتمر إلى بحثها.

December 11th, 2009, 6:16 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

The only ones who have to worry about the so called ‘Northern Alliance’
are the poor, unlucky and tormented Kurds.
The Kurdish people are the real victims in our troubled ME, and not
the “Palestinians”.

December 12th, 2009, 7:47 pm


SimoHurtta said:

A stronger Turkey means more rivals in the region

Israel an architect of the spat

Always attempting to be a dominant power in the Middle East, Israel is also uneasy with the growing Turkish power in the region. Turkey is building close relations with Iran and Syria, two countries that Israel cannot get along with as they strongly support the end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. As a result, Israel has loudly criticized Turkey and claimed that Turkey’s growing relations with countries in the Middle East have caused it to slowly drift away from the West. The Israeli media have worked tooth and nail to issue the West a “wake-up call” and to lead it to question Turkey’s foreign policy initiatives.

Turkey was mediating peace talks between Israel and Syria for more than a year until Israel announced it will no longer accept Turkey as honest broker subsequent to Prime Minister Erdoğan’s remarks on Israel’s Gaza offensive on various occasions. After all this, media reports labeling Foreign Minister Davutoğlu a neo-Ottoman and Turkey an anti-Western country appeared in the Western and Israeli media. “Israel does not want Turkey as a mediator because of the behavior of Erdoğan,” Shlomo Brom, an expert at the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies, told Sunday’s Zaman. Commenting on Israel’s uncertain stance on Turkey, I think there is some disagreement inside Israel as to whether or not Turkey should remain as a mediator — with some arguing that it is not impartial (and widening the rift between Turkey and Israel), and others seeing the need to continue working with Turkey,” Ellen Lust-Okar, a political science professor at Yale University, told Sunday’s Zaman.

France, a country that has always tried to lead the peace processes in the Middle East, pushed both Syria and Israel to accept it as a mediator. “Today, Israel is saying that it can no longer accept Turkey as a mediator, since the Turks have clearly taken sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict. And basically what Syria is saying: No talks without Turkey,” Sami Moubayed, a Syrian historian, political analyst and university professor based in Damascus, told Sunday’s Zaman.

Observers, however, also believe that Turkey is on the right track and should only be careful with its rhetoric and make sure that its relations with Israel are fine. “If Turkey wants to contribute towards a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, she will have to be more even-handed and improve her relations with Israel,” David Phillips, an American expert on Turkey at the Atlantic Council think tank, said to Sunday’s Zaman.

Pope, however, believes that every country is “happy” with Turkey’s relations with its neighbors. “No country is trying to undermine Turkey in the region,” Pope claimed. “Justice and Development Party [AK Party] leaders have spoken about the relations with its neighbors and Israel. It is more a problem of the rhetoric. It may be a problem of taking the words out of the context in far away capitals, too. The AK Party can make it easier for themselves if they use more measured terms,” Pope told Sunday’s Zaman. “The problem is not the fact that he [Erdoğan] criticizes Israel. … France and the US also criticize Israel on different occasions. The problem is language and style,” Brom noted.

December 13th, 2009, 1:15 pm


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