“Syria eyes strategic gains after Gaza war,” by Khaled Oweis

Syria is being asked to get Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel as a test of its power and good will to the Obama administration, explains Khaled Oweis, who has spoken with diplomats in Damascus.

Aaron David Miller, says naming George J. Mitchell as the new special envoy for Arab-Israeli issues shows the Obama administration at this early stage is substituting ” process for substance.” He says the administration  has “no intention of making major changes in America’s approach to the Arab-Israeli issue, because right now, the prospects of any sort of conflict-ending agreement between Israelis and Palenstinians are slim to none.” … “the truth is, because you are on the eve of a new government in Israel–the Knesset elections take place on February 10–there probably will be no visit from the new Israeli prime minister, whoever he or she is, to Washington, which is customary and traditional, until April.”… “it’s safe to assume that there will be no change–none, absolutely none–in the administration’s approach to Hamas.

Elliott Abrams is being taken on by The Council on Foreign Relations. He was the architect of the Bush administration’s Syria policy, on several occasions that I know of, sounding out foreign diplomats and politicians on the possibility of stimulating a coup in Damascus. He also urged Israel to bomb Damascus during the summer of 2006. President Bush has also appointed Abrams to be member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council: a five-year term beginning 01/16/09.

ANALYSIS-Syria eyes strategic gains after Gaza war 26 Jan 2009 
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis, ReutersDAMASCUS,

Jan 26 (Reuters) – Syria is trying to capitalise on Israel’s failure to crush its Islamist ally Hamas to enhance its regional clout in peace talks with the Jewish state and forge good ties with the new U.S. administration.

The Syrian government, which has recently emerged from years of isolation, is now advocating a role for the Islamist group in Middle East peacemaking, Syrian officials and diplomats say.

But Damascus has to nudge the Palestinian Islamist group toward meeting international demands if it wants to further strengthen its international position as it faces risky challenges relating to two U.N. investigations, diplomats said.

“The stiff resistance in Gaza has proved that Hamas is a political force to be reckoned with. There is a new regional reality and more countries are supporting this view. Turkey is one important player,” a Syrian official said.

The official was referring to Turkey’s intervention with Hamas during the 22-day Israeli offensive on Gaza, during which 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. Syria, which hosts the exiled leadership of the Islamist group, was a centre of international efforts to end the war.

Hamas responded to a unilateral Israeli ceasefire by holding fire after intense meetings with Turkish officials in Damascus and Egyptian officials in Cairo, while briefing Syria throughout, Palestinians sources said.

“Syria did not pressure Hamas. The Syrian position on the need to end the aggression and lift the blockade on Gaza was consistent with Hamas throughout,” one of the sources said.

“Hamas felt it was exhausted and recognised that the Palestinians in Gaza needed a respite.”


Diplomats confirm that Syria mostly avoided pressuring Hamas while its survival was at stake in Gaza. But Damascus has exerted influence on the group in the past, including by hosting a meeting between Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and President Mahmoud Abbas that failed to halt Palestinian civil strife.

The war in Gaza raised calls in the West to engage Hamas, although the group refuses to abandon armed struggle and recognise Israel — demands placed by the four main Middle East brokers, including the United States and the European Union.

France, which played a role in halting the Gaza war, indicated last week that it might be prepared to hold talks with Hamas even if the group did not recognise Israel.

Syrian officials have indicated that the international community would need Syria’s help if it wished to engage rather than shun the group.

Damascus is also hoping for a thaw in relations with Washington, and sees President Barack Obama as more amenable to supporting Israeli-Syrian peacemaking than his predecessor George W. Bush, who imposed sanctions on Syria and expanded them during his last year in office.

Damascus suspended the indirect talks with Israel during the Gaza crisis. But neither side has ruled out a resumption of the talks which have focused on the occupied Golan Heights and Syria’s ties with Hamas, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran.

“Syria has benefited from the renewed international awareness that the Arab-Israeli conflict is crucial to any broader Middle East settlement. Obama will have to engage Syria if he wants to attenuate regional divisions and radicalism,” wrote Professor Joshua Landis on his Syria Comment Web site.

But Obama’s Middle East envoy’s first trip to the region will exclude Syria and recent statements by President Bashar al-Assad declaring a 2002 Arab peace initiative dead were unlikely to go down well with the new U.S. administration.

Continuing to be on the wrong side of Washington will not help Syria, with a tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri due to start work in March and the International Atomic Energy Agency probing an alleged nuclear site bombed by Israel, the diplomats said.

“The Gaza war lowered the standing of Syria’s regional rivals a notch, but the Syrians cannot continue to get away with playing the rejectionist card while pursuing peace with Israel,” one of the diplomats said in the Syrian capital.

“At one point Damascus has to show that it can cool its relations with Iran and deliver on Hamas.”

Syria has consolidated its alliance with Iran. The two countries are the main backers of both Hamas and Hezbollah.

“Hamas has not done enough. It has to show that it can offer something new after Gaza,” another diplomat said. “Syria also has to show that it is prepared to push Hamas. Most of what the officials who descended on Damascus during the crisis got was a repetition of the Hamas line.”

Comments (15)

AIG said:

If Syria is so important, why is Mitchell not going there?
Just asking.

January 27th, 2009, 1:05 am


Mark said:

Joshua, thanks so much for keeping us up to date.

To me at least it is time for Syria to not play the stereotype but start to engage America positively. Syria’s strategic interest are aligned with the US (except of course for the current Israeli state), specifically a need to reduce violent extremists, the need to increase the per capita income of the growing population (which will in turn decrease violent extremists), the need to sort out water access, the need to access natural resources, etc.

I think the Syrian can paint Israel as extremists and segregationists, which won’t go down well in the new United States Administration. Obama needs a few quick wins as the US economic in the toilet and the Syrians need to not be the blocker this time.

January 27th, 2009, 2:09 am


norman said:


I want to add that Syria’s friendship is of the US strategic interest and that Syria as the center of Arab-ism it can do a lot to advance the US interest in the region if the US moves to solve the Palestinian/ Israeli problem depending on international law ,

Syria as secular state can be a way for the US to advance Democracy as we have in the US , a Republic , and can help Syria move in that direction , the right way by maturing into it and showing Syria the way , advancing the Syrian economy and expanding the Middle class , that is the only way to have politecal freedom.

I hope that is what president Obama meant when he said that for the leaders who want to improve we offer a helping hand , doing that will advance America’s interest in all the Arab and Islamic world.

January 27th, 2009, 2:56 am


norman said:

الأسد: قمة الكويت الاقتصادية مجرد “كسر للجليد” بين الدول العربية الاخبار السياسية

“العلاقات العربية- العربية مرهونة بإيقاف العلاقة مع إسرائيل وليس مع إيران”

قال الرئيس بشار الأسد إن ما حصل في قمة الكويت الاقتصادية مجرد “كسر للجليد” بين الدول العربية، “ويعتمد نجاح هذه المصالحة على الحوار الذي سيجري بين الدول المعنية وعلى نية المسؤولين الذين سيكلفون بهذا الموضوع”.

وأضاف الأسد في مقابله على قناة “المنار” اللبنانية “الآن الأجواء هي أجواء تفاؤل لكن على ارض الواقع لم نبدأ الحوار بعد، لا بد من بدء الحوار قبل أن نحدد ما هي رؤيتنا لهذه الأجواء” مشيرا إلى انه لم يتم تحديد موعد للقاءات قريبة.

وحول إذا ما كان تلقى دعوة لزيارة السعودية قال الأسد “لم توجه أية دعوة وإنما الآن لا بد من التواصل بين المسؤولين، سنبحث كيف نبدأ هذه العملية بهدف الوصول إلى تحسين العلاقات العربية- العربية”، منوها أنه وجه دعوة للملك السعودي لزيارة سورية “وهو دعاني إلى الرياض”.

وأوضح الأسد أن سورية “تسعى وحتى في الأشهر التي سبقت قمة الكويت، وكان هناك عدد من المبادرات العربية والبعض منها غير عربية لتحسين أو لتنقية الأجواء، ونحن تفاعلنا وتجاوبنا مع كل هذه المبادرات، ولسنا بحاجة لوسطاء، وسنرى رد الفعل”.

وعن موقفه من كلام الملك عبد الله بن عبد العزيز حول ضرورة إنهاء الخلافات العربية وطي صفحة الماضي قال الأسد إن “المستفيد من هذا الخلاف هو العدو الإسرائيلي، وكنا متفقين على هذا الشيء والجميع مقتنع بذلك”.

ولدى سؤاله عن العلاقة مع مصر قال الأسد “هي على المستوى المؤسساتي تسير بالشكل الطبيعي، لكن طبعا على المستوى السياسي لا يوجد أي تعاون، أستطيع أن أصفها بالعلاقة الباردة، يعني لا توجد زيارات على المستوى السياسي بين سورية ومصر منذ عدة سنوات”.

العلاقات السورية الإيرانية

ووصف الرئيس بشار الأسد العلاقات السورية الإيرانية بأنها “ثابتة وتتطور باستمرار وهي علاقة إستراتيجية وأثبتت فاعليتها وأهميتها في كل القضايا التي مرت على منطقتنا”.

وحول ما يقال عن أن تحسن العلاقات العربية- العربية مرهون بافتراق بين سورية وإيران قال الأسد “البديهي أكثر أن نقول أن العلاقات العربية- العربية مرهونة بإيقاف العلاقة مع إسرائيل وليس مع إيران”.

وأضاف الأسد “يعتقدون بأن العلاقة مع إيران كأنها علاقة مع عدو، وهذا الكلام نحن لا نقبله في سورية، إيران بلد صديق ، بلد جار، بلد هام في هذه المنطقة حتى لو اختلفنا معه، فالأفضل أن نذهب لإيران ونقول لها أنت أخطأتِ، نحن نختلف معك”.

ونوه الأسد انه لا يوجد محور سوري إيراني تركي “هناك قضايا نلتقي حولها، وهو ليس محوراً موجهاً ضد أحد ولكن هو تعاون طبيعي بين دول إقليمية”.

العلاقات السورية الأمريكية في عهد أوباما

وتناول الرئيس الأسد التغيير الذي حدث بعد تولي اوباما للرئاسة بقوله “نريد أن نكون متفائلين، دون أن تكون لدينا توقعات أو آمال كبيرة، لدينا مؤشرات إيجابية ولكن تعلمنا أن نكون حذرين, أن لا نُخضع حساباتنا لهذه المؤشرات فطالما لا يوجد شيء ملموس، علينا أن نفترض أن الأمور لم تتغير بعد”.

وأوضح الأسد انه “طالما هناك شروط لن يكون هناك حوار, لكن أعتقد أن هذا الحوار بدأ كما قلت منذ أسابيع بشكل جدي من خلال شخصيات مقربة من الإدارة أرسلت من قبل الإدارة للحوار مع سورية، والتوصل إلى التقاء أو توافق من خلال هذا الحوار بالتأكيد له شروط والشرط الوحيد لدينا هو مراعاة المصالح السورية”.

وعن شروط أمريكية كوقف الدعم السوري للمقاومة في لبنان وفلسطين لبدء الحوار مع سورية تساءل الأسد “هل استجبنا في الماضي؟ لم نستجب في الماضي ولن نستجيب لهذه الشروط، أي فرض شروط على سورية لن نقبل به, في الماضي في أسوأ الظروف وأصعبها قلنا لهم كلا، وسنقول لهم كلا بكل بساطة”.

المحكمة الدولية والعلاقات مع لبنان

حول الموقف السوري من المحكمة الدولية قال الرئيس الأسد “موقفنا معلن، هذه المحكمة هي محكمة دولية ولكن المواطن السوري يخضع للقضاء السوري”.

وأشار الأسد إلى أنه لا توجد علاقة بين تحسن العلاقات مع الغرب والعلاقات العربية بموضوع تسييس المحكمة الدولية “إنما هذا أمر مرتبط باللعبة الدولية ككل, وإذا كانوا يريدون أن يضعوا هذا الموضوع جزءً منها, هذا أمر يخصهم وهم لديهم الكثير من المواضيع ليضعوها وليس فقط موضوع المحكمة”.

وأوضح الأسد أن موضوع المحكمة “لم يطرح مع فرنسا”، والعلاقات السورية- الفرنسية “لا يمكن أن تمر العلاقات الفرنسية -السورية عبر لبنان، وهو ما قلناه لإدارة شيراك في السابق، ولكن لا يوجد أحد مشرف على العلاقة السورية – اللبنانية”.

وعن انعكاس المصالحة التي جرت في الكويت في حال تطورت إلى حوار على علاقة سورية مع بعض القوى في لبنان وعلى ما يسمى ب”فريق 14 آذار” قال الأسد “إذا كانت هذه القوى تراهن دائما على التوازنات الخارجية والإقليمية, بكل تأكيد ستنعكس قبل كل شيء, أي ستكون لها انعكاسات مباشرة, أما القوى التي تراهن على لبنان الوطن المستقل القوي, فهي لا تتأثر بمثل هذا النوع من العلاقات”.

وتحدث الأسد عن فتح السفارة في لبنان وما يقال عن تأخر سوري في تعيين السفير بقوله “لاحقا سيتم تعيين سفير، وضمن عملية تعيين سفير وفتح سفارة، هي أسرع من أية عملية أخرى بالنسبة لنا في سورية، ولكن الشيء المؤكد هو أنه إذا لم يكن لدينا رغبة في إرسال سفير لما كنا فتحنا سفارة, ولما استطاع كل هذا العالم أن يجبرنا على إرسال سفير إلى لبنان”.

سورية والحرب على غزة

وحول اعتبار ما حدث في غزة نصرا أم لا قال الأسد “المعيار أولا هي الأهداف التي وضعها العدو، إذا كان الهدف هو تدمير البيوت أو قتل المدنيين في الحرب على لبنان أو غزة، بهذا المعيار العدو هو من انتصر، أما إذا كان المعيار هو إلغاء المقاومة وتحقيق أهداف أخرى على الأرض باستئصال المقاومة بنيوياً، فهو فشل في هذا”.

وأضاف الأسد أن “إسرائيل قامت على فكرة أو مقولة تقول، لا يهم إذا كانوا يحبونني المهم أن يخافوا مني، واليوم إسرائيل أمام مقولة أخرى، هم لا يحبونني ولكن في نفس الوقت لا يخافون مني، فهذه المعايير نستطيع أن نضعها لكي نقيم إذا كان هناك انتصار أم لا”.

وقال الأسد إن “أي احتلال تقابله مقاومة، وبشكل بديهي لا بد من الوقوف معها، وإلا فأنت تقف في الصف الآخر، هذه وجهة نظر سورية”.

المصالحة الفلسطينية الفلسطينية

وتحدث الأسد عن المصالحة الفلسطينية الفلسطينية والدور المصري فيها حيث قال الأسد “مصر موجودة جغرافيا على حدود مباشرة مع غزة، فهي دولة مؤثرة في هذا الإطار، ولكي تنجح كوسيط في أي قضية لا بد أن تكسب ثقة كل الأطراف من دون استثناء، هذا يعتمد على أداء المسؤولين المصريين”

وعن التأثير السوري على الفصائل الفلسطينية قال الأسد “أي دولة تريد أن تلعب دورا للمصالحة تستطيع ذلك، خاصة الدول العربية، ووجود الفصائل في سورية له دور في التواصل اليومي مع هذه الفصائل، لكن نحن نرفض سياسة الضغط والإملاء على الفلسطينيين وعلى غيرهم”.

وتناول الأسد المبادرة العربية بقوله إنها “مطوية من قبل، ولكن أعلنا كنوع من الرسالة للخارج بأنها معلقة، يعني كل عملية السلام معلقة وليس فقط المبادرة”.

وأشار إلى أنه “في إسرائيل بشكل عام لا يوجد رغبة بالسلام، على مستوى الشخص اولمرت لا استطيع أن احدد إذا كان يراوغ، ولكن انطباعا عن إسرائيل ككل هي غير قادرة وغير راغبة بالسلام”.

وأكد الأسد “نحن مواقفنا واضحة, نحن ندعم المقاومة, وكل الدول الأوروبية تأتي إلى سورية وتسمع كلاما واضحا, وتعلم الغرب أن المقاومة لديها دعم شعبي ولا يمكن استئصالها وبدأ بناءً على ذلك يغير من فكرة عزل المقاومة، وبعض المسؤولين الأوروبيين بدأوا يلتقون سرا بهم في سورية بمعرفتنا وبالتنسيق مع سورية”.


2009-01-26 23:00:24

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January 27th, 2009, 3:06 am


Alex said:

What exactly are they going to gain by hiring a promoter of violence like Elliott Abrams?

Do they need to sharpen their skills in destroying the Middle East? .. do they need to make more people hate the United States to undo any good work Obama might do?

This is the kind of signal that makes some people wonder if some Think Tanks are indeed working for “evil” objectives.

January 27th, 2009, 5:13 am


wadosy said:

Alex said: “This is the kind of signal that makes some people wonder if some Think Tanks are indeed working for “evil” objectives.”

PNAC said they needed a “new pearl harbor” just before the signatories got installed into positions from which they could make their “new pearl harbor” happen.

the PNAC/AEI/neocon project to achieve “benevolent global hegemony” has already caused the needless deaths of maybe a million people… wherever would you get the idea that some thinktanks are working for evil objectives?

maps of the PNAC/AEI project:



January 27th, 2009, 5:32 am


idaf said:

Good advice for the Obama administration..

It’s easier than Tom Friedman thinks: a realistic Middle East strategy
Stephen Walt
Foreign Policy Magazine

Tom Friedman almost gets it, but what he leaves out is at least as significant as what he puts in. In his column in Sunday’s New York Times, he informs us that we really are at a cross-roads in the Middle East, and that the two-state solution will fail if it isn’t achieved very, very soon. Glad he noticed!

Friedman says there are two big problems: extremist settlers in Israel and extremist groups like Hamas among the Palestinians. And for good measure, he tosses in the obstructionists in Syria and those dangerous mullahs in Tehran, whose opposition makes solving this problem nearly impossible. We also need help from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but it’s hard to count on them. His conclusion: “whoever lines up this diplomatic Rubik’s cube deserves two Nobel Prizes.”

Actually it’s not that hard, although I doubt the Obama administration will summon the political will and diplomatic stamina that will be necessary to pull it off. To see why, you need a fuller picture of the situation than Friedman provides.
To begin with, Friedman would have you believe that settlement expansion is just the work of some isolated religious extremists, and the only problem is that no Israeli government has “mustered the will” to face them down. In fact, settlement expansion has been the conscious policy of every Israeli government since 1967 — Labor, Likud, and Kadima alike. If you don’t believe me, just read Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar’s Lords of the Land; Gershom Gorenberg’s Accidental Empire, Neve Gordon’s Israel’s Occupation, or retired IDF general Shlomo Gazit’s Trapped Fools. Thus far, Ehud Barak is the only Israeli leader to make a serious effort to negotiate a two-state solution, and even his best offer at Camp David fell well short of a viable two-state proposal. And when Oslo collapsed, Friedman’s columns helped spread the false claim that PLO leader Yasser Arafat had turned down a great deal and was solely responsible for the failure, a myth that undermined the peace camp in Israel and reinforced the political dynamics that Friedman now blames for the current impasse.

Friedman also fails to mention the role that the United States has played in bringing this situation about. What was the United States doing while all those settlers were moving into the West Bank? The answer: we were helping pay for it, by continuing to give Israel billions of dollars of aid each year. Of course U.S. officials told the Israeli government that it couldn’t spend our aid in the West Bank, but money is fungible and generous U.S. support inevitably freed up resources that Israel could then spend spend on the settlements, on the land-grabbing separation fence, or on the IDF forces assigned to protect the settlers themselves.

Although it was the official policy of every President since Lyndon Johnson to oppose the construction of settlements, none of them put any serious pressure on Israel to stop. The first President Bush briefly withheld some loan guarantees in 1992 over this issue, but the guarantees were authorized a few months later and settlement construction continued apace. The number of settlers more than doubled during the Oslo period (1993-2001), yet former U.S. negotiator Aaron David Miller recently reported that:
In 25 years of working on this issue for six secretaries of state, I can’t recall one meeting where we had a serious discussion with an Israeli prime minister about the damage that settlement activity — including land confiscation, bypass roads and housing demolitions — does to the peacemaking process.”

Israel has added another 70,000 settlers since 2001, and the Bush administration never took any serious action to stop them. The question you might ask yourself is: why not?
Friedman is right that Palestinian rejectionists are a big problem too. The difference is that the United States has never hesitated to turn the screws on them. Persistent U.S. pressure helped persuade Arafat and the PLO to recognize Israel, which paved the way for the Oslo Accords in 1993. Back then, Hamas had only about 15 percent support in the Palestinian community. Unfortunately, the Oslo process failed to deliver a Palestinian state and the combination of Fatah’s corruption and Israel’s ever-expanding occupation made Hamas more and more popular over time. So when the United States insisted on elections in 2006, Hamas ended up winning. Then Washington refused to recognize their victory and Israel imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza. The United States actively worked to destroy the Palestinian unity government and foolishly tried to sponsor a Fatah coup in Gaza, only to have Hamas move first and rout the Fatah forces, thereby solidifying its position. The recent Israeli assault on Gaza — which the Bush administration backed and Congress voted overwhelmingly to endorse — has deepened these divisions even more. To a considerable extent, therefore, the situation that Friedman now deplores is of our own making.

Finally, Friedman’s suggestion that the involvement of Syria and Iran makes this problem nearly intractable misses the key point: it’s not their policies that make our problems more difficult, it is our policies that have helped drive some otherwise unlikely allies together and given them an issue they can exploit for their own reasons. Syria has no other way to pressure Israel, so it uses the Palestinian issue (and its support for Hamas and Hezbollah) as part of its long campaign to get back the Golan Heights, which Israel conquered in the Six Day War. Similarly, as Trita Parsi has shown, Iran supports Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian groups in part to pressure the United States to acknowledge its legitimate security interests in the Persian Gulf and partly to discredit conservative Arab states like Saudi Arabia and make it harder for them to form an anti-Iranian coalition in the Gulf. This situation explains why Saudi Arabia has been pushing its own peace plan since 2002 (a plan now formally adopted by the Arab League): they know that ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would strengthen their position and undermine Iran’s.
From a realist’s standpoint, therefore, the obvious strategy is one of “divide-and-rule” (except that we aren’t seeking to rule the region; we’re just trying to protect certain key strategic interests). Achieving a two-state solution would remove one of the issues that Iran is using to bolster its regional position. Encouraging Israel and Syria to finalize their peace treaty — an agreement whose main elements have been in place for nearly a decade — would end Syria’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas and drive a wedge between Syria and Iran. Serious diplomatic engagement with Iran and a genuine willingness to satisfy Tehran’s security concerns (especially its fear of U.S.-sponsored regime change) would reduce its incentive to play the spoiler’s role over Palestine and make it easier for Israel to make the concessions that are necessary for peace. Lastly, the prospect of diminishing Iranian and Syrian backing would force Hamas to confront some hard choices — i.e., on recognizing Israel’s right to exist — especially if a two-state solution begins to take shape and they are seen as the principal impediment to it.

So solving this Rubik’s cube may not be so difficult after all. If we understand how the different pieces of the puzzle fit together and we pursue the right strategy, progress on one front will facilitate progress on the others. The key step is to approach the problem from broader regional perspective and a realistic assessment of U.S. interests, and to be willing to act as an honest broker, using our influence to push all the parties in the right direction. Happily, acting in this way would not just be in the interests of the United States, it would also be in the interest of our other friends in the region, Israel included.
For an especially thoughtful set of reflections on this issue, see Bernard Avishai’s two-part essay here and here.

January 27th, 2009, 12:08 pm


Innocent Criminal said:

Al Arabiya have scored a big first official interview with President Obama


January 27th, 2009, 1:25 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Israeli style peace building

‘Israel warned Syria during Gaza op: If Hizbullah attacks we’ll attack you’

During Operation Cast Lead, Israel warned Syria that it would bomb sites and facilities in Damascus if Hizbullah fires rockets on Israeli towns and communities in the North, Egyptian paper Al Ahram reported Tuesday.

The report said Israel conveyed the warning to Syrian President Bashar Assad through a European interlocutor.

Israel warned Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah against entering a confrontation with the Jewish State and even demanded he make an official statement on the matter, according to Al Ahram.

The Jerusalem Post could not independently verify the report.

January 27th, 2009, 1:55 pm


Milli Schmitt said:

I’m no Obamamaniac, but the Al Arabiya interview brought tears of relief to my eyes…

here are they key extracts:

January 27th, 2009, 2:51 pm


Shami said:

Reports of more trouble at Syria jail-rights group
Tue Jan 27, 2009 12:56pm GMT

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LONDON, Jan 27 (Reuters) – The fate of inmates at a Syrian jail where guards used lethal force to quell unrest last year remains cloaked in secrecy and there have been reports of more violence at the prison, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.

The New York-based organisation cited reports of four incidents at the Sidnaya military prison, 30 km (20 miles) northwest of Damascus, in December. It said in a statement it could not independently confirm the accounts.

Syrian human rights groups have reported at least 25 deaths during unrest that erupted at the prison last July.

At the time of the riot, the Syrian authorities said that order was quickly restored and blamed the trouble on prisoners convicted of terrorism and religious extremism.

Sidnaya residents say mobile phone coverage around the prison has remained cut off since the initial unrest, Human Rights Watch said in its statement.

“Residents of the town reported hearing gunshots and seeing smoke emerge from the prison again last month,” it said. The authorities had banned all contact with inmates and imposed a complete information blackout, it added.

The Syrian government should make public the fate of prisoners, said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“Syria’s long blackout on the fate of at least 1,500 detainees is nothing less than scandalous,” she said in the statement. “The families of these detainees have an absolute right to know what happened to their loved ones,” she said. (Editing by Dominic Evans)

January 27th, 2009, 5:19 pm


KHA said:

I can’t believe that this has not come to a resolution yet. What are they waiting for?

January 27th, 2009, 7:53 pm


ugarit said:

A critique of Obama’s interview on AlArabiyya and the choice of being interviewed on AlArabiyya (paragraph breaks are mine)


There are several things to be said about this interview, and I don’t believe that there is anything new in it whatsoever. I mean, CNN is lauding it as an example of how Obama (or Bushama) is willing to reach out to the Muslim world. I listened to it on my way from SF last night and CNN aired it in full.

First, if the Bushama really wants to be different from Bush he would have selected AlJazeera and not al-Arabiyya. I mean, CNN does not know that Bush spoke to Arabic TV stations regularly, and Rice was a fixture on Al-Arabiyya TV. And they selected Al-Arabiyya because it is “friendly” to US interests and because on Al-Arabiyya TV US officials get softball questions. If Obama wanted to be different he would have chosen Al-Jazeera because it is the Arabs’ favorite channel. Al-Arabiyya is the US government’s favorite channel, and the US under Obama does not seem to want to respect the choices and preference of the Arab population.

Secondly, Obama chose this station because he wanted to appease the Saudi royal family especially after the moping remarks of Prince Turki–the midwife of Al-Qa`idah and a key ally of the US. This president is signaling that he will be no different than Bush in coddling the Saudi Wahhabi dictatorship–a key ally of Israel today. Do you notice that Israel does not even make token noise about Saudi arms sales? It used to prod its lobby here in the US to put stiff resistance to any arms sale to Saudi Arabia, and then they deny the existence of a Saudi-Israeli conspiracy. Apparently, the Saudi King was not pleased that Obama or Bushama called Abu Mazen (the usurping president of the puppet PA) and Mubarak–and of course Olmert–on his first day on the job but not the Saudi autocrat. The president then called him the next day and the Saudi news agency reported that they discussed ways to even “strengthen and expand” the Saudi-American relations. Don’t ever believe the promises of any presidential candidate regarding human rights or democracy when it comes to the Middle East: look at the example of the disgraced and failed president, Jimmy Carter who can’t stop producing boring and insignificant books on the Middle East.

Thirdly, there is nothing that Bushama said that was not said by Bush. The CNN guest, Aslan something who always impresses me with his lack of knowledge on the Middle East when he speaks on the Middle East, kept saying in awe that the president spoke respectfully about respect in his address to Muslims and Arabs. But so did Bush, and Bush went to a mosque in Washington, DC–in order to prepare for the bombs and missiles to fall on Muslim and Arab heads.

Fourthly, Obama in talking about the Middle East–the Palestine question and beyond–suffers from an acute case of “economism” or economic reductionism. He has the tendency to reduce all Arab and Muslim issues to job and medical care. It is NOT only the economy–stupid. It is also about pride and dignity and Palestine AND about freedom from the severe oppression that people suffer under governments that are coddled and armed by the very same US of A. So the words fall hollow here.

Fifthly, Obama as a representative of the White Man (and he can also be referred to as the White Man, analytically speaking just as Margaret Thatcher was a representative of the White Man) did not deviate from the deep racism that characterizes US foreign policy to the Arab-Israeli conflict. I mean when he refers to Israel’s security as “paramount” he is basically saying (like previous US president) that the security of the Palestinians is inferior because they are seen as inferior people. There is no question about that. It means that and the racism is reflected clearly in the disregard of Israeli WMDs. It never comes up in any interview with US officials on Al-Arabiyya (it is featured regularly in AlJazeera as yesterday’s interview with Brent Scowcroft showed). Karl Marx wrote somewhere about the danger of covering up the chain with flowers. Obama is no different than Bush but American bombs and missiles under his administration will be decorated and covered with flowers. If that is a reason to celebrate, please open the champagne bottles NOW.

January 27th, 2009, 11:09 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Sim said:

Israeli style peace building

‘Israel warned Syria during Gaza op: If Hizbullah attacks we’ll attack you’


Feel free to discuss Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas “peace building”.

Please try and keep it under 50 words or less.


January 28th, 2009, 12:57 pm


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