The Nuclear Mess – Where Does it Leave Syria?

Washington Note: Bizarre Media Cycles for Bashar

Washington Note: Bizarre Media Cycles for Bashar

[Landis analysis] The UN nuclear investigation could be the new Hariri investigation for the “isolate-Syria” crowd. For several years the UN investigation into the Hariri murder gave neo-cons hope that they would be able to carry out regime-change in Syria on the cheap, by tripping up Syria’s leadership in a web of international sanctions, UN strictures, and legal snares. The Hariri investigation seems to have petered out and no longer inspires much enthusiasm, even in the most neo-con of circles. The American backed Israeli strike on the military plant on the Euphrates has opened up a new avenue for international probes. It is likely that Syria will reject further UN visits to Syria, which will leave the Security Council to decide whether to sanction Syria or not. The international community has lost its taste for hard ball, which the Bush administration used with such disastrous results.

All the same, the nuclear issue will give Obama’s new foreign policy team pause in re-engaging Syria. That may be all the anti-Syria crowd needs to trap the new administration in a cycle of confrontation. The first few months of the Obama presidency will be decisive in setting the agenda for the Arab-Israeli conflict. If Syria is ignored or if it senses that Obama may continue Bush hostility toward Syria, such as by pushing for a Lebanese confrontation with Hizbullah, blocking Iraqi rapprochement with Syria, teaming up with “moderate” against “trouble-making” Arabs, or by pampering Netanyahu obstructionism, Syria will consolidate its resistance alliances and become insensible to future backtracking by the West. Syrian distrust of the West’s intentions is so lively after eight years of Bush, that only a clean break from past policy will help lure it out of its defensive tuck.

It may turn out that the neo-conservatives have been successful at one thing, which is to push the center of US Middle East policy away from Israel and the traditional Arab-Israeli conflict toward the Gulf. With our troops on the ground, it may be too much to expect Obama to squander his domestic Jewish political capital, which he seems to have amassing with skill, on squeezing Israel. Perhaps the only hope is if Obama can get Hillary Clinton to accept the Secretary of State position so she spends her Jewish capital on a peace push.

The US will most likely continue to give international and political cover to Israel while settlers extend their grip on the West Bank. Hope for a two state solution is dwindling fast. Of course Obama will have to establish a mechanism to pretend to do something and perpetuate popular hopes that there is a solution, but I don’t suspect that the mechanism will mitigate Palestinian weakness. It may help bring the Saudis and “moderate” Arabs along on whatever course he decides on for security architecture in the Gulf. This is the direction indicated by the Saudi-Israeli dance over the “Arab” peace plan rather than pushing hard nosed negotiations directly between Syria and Israel.

U.N. Watchdog Finds Nuclear Threats in Syria and Iran
The Wall Street Journal, 20 November 2008

United Nations investigators found “significant” traces of uranium used in reactors at the wreckage of a Syrian facility that Israel bombed last year, and Iran is rampingup production of nuclear fuel while denying investigators access, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported Wednesday.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog’s findings about nuclear development in Iran and Syria underscore the proliferation threats President-elect Barack Obama will face upon taking office in January.

Tehran is running nearly 4,000 centrifuges and plans 3,000 more, despite U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for a suspension, the IAEA said, and inspectors aren’t being given access to sites or documents connected to possible military components of Tehran’s nuclear program.

The Syria discovery, which had leaked out last week, bolsters Bush administration claims that Damascus was covertly developing a nuclear reactor. European officials said their governments have begun briefing Mr. Obama’s advisers on how to jointly address the Iranian nuclear challenge. They expressed hope that the arrival of Mr. Obama, who has pledged to engage Tehran and Damascus more directly than his predecessor, could jump-start stalled diplomacy….

Iran, Syria Fail on UN Nuclear Cooperation, IAEA Says (Update1)
By Jonathan Tirone
Bloomberg, 20 November 2008

Iran and Syria have failed to provide sufficient assistance with two separate investigations into suspected clandestine nuclear work, the United Nations atomic agency said.

“Iran has not offered any cooperation with the agency” to clear up allegations that it has sought to develop a weapon, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report.

A Syrian site bombed by Israel in September 2007 on suspicion that it was an undeclared atomic reactor had “significant” quantities of uranium particles, and shared some characteristics of a reactor, the IAEA said. The UN agency said it hasn’t yet received documentation to support Syria’s stance that it was a conventional military facility.

Files on the two probes, transmitted to the IAEA’s 35-member board of governors, may increase pressure on the Middle Eastern countries to cooperate more extensively with the investigations. Iran has been under UN investigation since 2003 for allegedly seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a charge it denies.

AFP, 20 November 2008

“While it cannot be excluded that the building in question was intended for non-nuclear use, the features of the building … along with the connectivity of the site to adequate pumping capacity of cooling water are similar to what may be found in connection with a reactor site,” the IAEA said in a restricted report, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

Experts Urge Obama To Engage Early On Middle East
by Michele Kelemen
NPR, 19 November 2008

As President-elect Barack Obama’s transition staff looks at foreign policy, the Middle East and its many trouble spots will loom large. Some experts are advising Obama and his team to show early engagement in what they see as the region’s core issue: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

There are growing doubts that a viable Palestinian state could emerge to live side by side in peace with Israel. President Carter’s national security adviser, ZbigniewBrzezinski, told a group at the Aspen Institute that “the two-state solution is beginning to run out of room for implementation.” He added, “Presidentialinvolvement here is essential.”

European foreign policy officials have put the Middle East peace process at the top of their wish list for a new U.S. foreign policy approach. The European Union’s ambassador in Washington, John Bruton, has encouraged the Obama administration to take a hard look at Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank. He argues that as Israelis head to the polls in February, they “need to know that there is an administration in Washington that wants the two-state solution to work, not just in theory, but in practice and soon.”….

At the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, scholar David Makovsky predicts that the incoming Obama administration will want to facilitate talks between Israel and Syria, now an ally of Iran. “I see the approach to be somewhat like Henry Kissinger did with the Egyptians in the 1970s,” Makovsky says. “Namely, Kissinger was very skillful in prying Egypt away from the Soviet orbit.”

The question for the next administration, he says, is whether it can do anything comparable with a “willing Israeli government in prying away Syria from an Iranian orbit?”

Iran Is ‘The Greatest Danger’

A former undersecretary of state for political affairs, R. Nicholas Burns, warns that Iran is a major threat — not just because of its nuclear ambitions, but also for its support of terrorist groups and its overall influence in the region. “Iran has influence in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sometimes uses it against American interests,” he says. Iran is “the greatest danger and the greatest problem for the new administration, and it is going to have to be dealt with in an early stage,” says Burns,…

The administration will be torn in many directions, but needs to focus on all of these issues, from negotiations with Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and a potential Israeli-Syrian track to helping Iraq as U.S. troops withdraw.

In the New York Observer, here (Via FLC)

“[Hillary’s] top, top, top advisers told me, ‘Steve, she will animate things in the Middle East—she will deliver a Palestinian state. Gold-plated,’” said Steven Clemons, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington.

Latest poll gives Likud big edge over Kadima
By Yossi Verter

Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud have had a good three weeks, with no major slips, with brand new faces and with a good press, while Kadima is bleeding and Labor is disintegrating.

The opinion polls are responding in kind: Likud opened a large, decisive lead of six MKs over Kadima. The right-wing bloc, led by Likud, is also firming up in comparison to previous polls, with 64 MKs versus 56 for the center-left. In effect, the right is much stronger than the center left, since its count also includes 11 MKs from the Arab parties: They will not be asked to join the governing coalition and in the current political climate their only use will be as part of a “preventive bloc” in the Knesset.

Secretary Condoleezza Rice Says it is all about Lebanon (Via to FLC)
Washington, DC November 18, 2008

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, Foreign Minister – British Foreign Minister Miliband has said today in Syria that Damascus has played a positive role in Lebanon and Iraq lately. What do you think?

SECRETARY RICE: I think we are all very much following what is going on in Lebanon, and I’m looking forward to listening to Mr. Jumblatt as he tells me about the preparations for the election. And we continue to support a democratic and sovereign and independent Lebanon, and everything that the United States is doing is to that cause. And anyone and any state that demonstrates its commitment to Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence should be welcomed to that cause. I just think it’s important to demonstrate it.

Dallying with Syria
Financial Times, 19 November 2008

First France, and now Britain. The courtship of Syria proceeds apace. There is, of course, nothing wrong with engagement, as the Bush years have taught us. Ideally, however, robust diplomacy should be harnessed to a coherent strategy. That is what is lacking in the cosying up to Bashar al-Assad and his regime.

Mr Assad owes his re-entry into polite geopolitical society in the first instance to Nicolas Sarkozy. ….

Report: Lebanese spy trained in Israel (Thanks Danilo)

….His mission in Syria also focused on scouting the city of Damascus, including Kfar Soussa where top Hizbullah commander Imad Mughniyeh was assassinated. Cities like Tartous, Hama, Allepo and Homs also were scouted….

Bilal Saab on Syria’s recent tactical readjustments in foreign policy, which appeared in the most recent issue of Jane’s Foreign Report.

Iran Has Enough Fuel to Make Atom Bomb, Experts Say: NYTimes, 2008-11-20

Iran aims for 2009 launch of nuclear plant
Reuters, 18 November 2008

Iran is aiming to commission its first nuclear power plant in 2009 after years of delays, the official IRNA news agency reported on Tuesday.

Russia has already delivered nuclear fuel under a $1 billion contract to build the Bushehr plant on the Gulf coast in southwest Iran. But the start-up timetable has frequently been put back because of issues such as a row over payments.

Russia agreed to build the plant in 1995 on the site of an earlier project begun in the 1970s by German firm Siemens. The Siemens’ project was disrupted by Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution and the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

“The commissioning stage of Bushehr nuclear power station has begun and we are hopeful the power station will be commissioned in 2009 as per the agreement we have had with the Russian party,” the spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Mohsen Delaviz, was quoted a saying.

He did not give a more precise date.

“There is a good environment prevailing in our relations with the Russians and we are hoping they will honor their commitments,” he added.

Atomstroyexport, the Russian firm building the plant, said in September the plant was nearing completion and that it would start “technological work” in December 2008 to February 2009 that would put the plant on an “irreversible final” course.

Analysts say Russia has used Bushehr as a lever in relations with Tehran. It had previously said it expected the plant to start up some time this year.

Iran is at loggerheads with the West over its nuclear program that Tehran says has only civilian aims but which the United States and its allies say is a smokescreen for building atomic weapons.

Peres: Turkey, Iran offer differing models
AP, November 18 2008

…. “Many Muslims will have to make their choice between the Iranian school of domination and the Turkish school of cooperation,” Peres said in a speech at Oxford University.

Peres ignored hecklers declaring their support for a Palestinian state and told an audience of around 1,000 university students that Israel was negotiating with Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon to find peace in the Middle East…..

Earlier in the day, Peres had spoken on Syria and said making peace with Syria depends on whether Damascus is prepared to rein in Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Peres said in a BBC radio interview Tuesday morning that Syria cannot expect Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights while Iran furthers its influence in Lebanon with the help of Syria. Israel is not prepared to tolerate an Iranian presence on its border, Peres said…

Berri urges Kuwait to mediate between Syria, Saudi Arabia
By Hussein Abdallah
The Daily Star, 19 November 2008

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri urged Kuwait’s emir on Tuesday to play a role in achieving a rapprochement between Syria and Saudi Arabia. Following talks with Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah in Kuwait City, Berri said that relations between Arab states should improve, stressing that a “Syrian-Saudi rapprochement is a must.”…

Kuwaiti Speaker Jassem al-Khorafi, who attended the meeting, praised Berri’s concern for Arab unity as well as the “resistance’s victory against Israel in the summer war of 2006.”

Late on Monday, Berri told members of the Lebanese community in Kuwait that he was confident that the situation in Lebanon would improve, adding that Lebanese parties were committed to forging political reconciliations…

Iraq: “Worse than the occupation itself!” – On the US-Iraqi security agreement (

On November 20, Syria’s state-controlled Teshreen daily ran a column by Ezz al-Din al-Darwich saying that whatever one chose to call the US-Iraqi security agreement, it “contradicts with the sovereignty of countries and does not conform to the provisions of international law”.

“In addition, it provokes the fears of the Iraqis, or at least most of them, and pushes Iraq’s neighbors to raise dozens of questions about the content, the timing, and the short and long term purposes of this agreement.”

Some say it is merely a gift to outgoing US President George Bush, who caused Iraq’s problems.

“Iraq’s neighboring countries have the right to express their fears and to take necessary cautionary steps and exercise vigilance, since their experiences with the Americans are very bitter,” al-Darwich wrote, in a reference to Syria.

“The US raid on the Boukamal area in Syria is still in the minds of the Iraqis, the Syrians and all the Iraqi neighboring countries. Thus, the Iraqis affirm that this agreement is worse than the occupation itself.”

Petition will urge Damascus to free imprisoned dissidents
By Dalila Mahdawi
The Daily Star, 19 November 2008

The Samir Kassir’sEyes (SK EYES) organization announced on Monday that it was launching a petition calling for the release of 12 Syrian dissidents jailed for having signed the Damascus Declaration. SK EYES, which is dedicated to defending cultural and media freedom in the Arab Levant, was initiated by the Samir Kassir Foundation but officially launched as an independent organization earlier this month. It collects and distributes information about attacks against writers and journalists in the region.

Speaking at a press conference, internationally acclaimed Lebanese novelist and journalist Elias Khoury, who heads the SK EYES coalition of journalists, activists and intellectuals, told reporters “the campaign also aimed to support Michel Kilo and Mahmoud Issa, detainees who have still not been released despite the decision of the Syrian Court of Cassation to overturn their sentences”.

Kilo and Issa are both signatories to the Damascus Declaration, issued in 2005 by a number of Syrian opposition parties and intellectual figures seeking to “establish a national democratic regime [for] … change and peaceful political reform based on dialogue.” Since then, many of the Declaration’s signatories have been imprisoned, put under house arrest or dismissed from their jobs. In October, 12 of its signatories were sentenced to 30 months imprisonment for “inciting sectarian strife” in Syria.

Speaking to The Daily Star on Tuesday, Khoury said that “the oppression of culture and media is a sign of the decadence in the Arab world.” He added, “Without freedom in the region, its societies are condemned to become prisons.”

Ammar Abdulhamid’s al-Tharwa organziation has put together a most useful and enlightening series of interviews with poor Syrians. Also see the interview with David Commins: Syrian Identity Through History

Comments (39)

Friend in America said:

The sentance in the IAEA Report stating there may be further information (evidence) demonstrating the site’s non-nuclear use has been interpreted by Syrian spokespersons and others as suggesting El Baradai admited the findings in the report are based on soft sand and not upon a complete inspection. That is a misunderstanding.

El Baradai has a practice of inserting in his reports a statement asking whether the subject country has more information (evidence) in support of its position. It is written in diplomatic and self-effacing language. It is a diplomatic message to the subject country that ‘if you have more information (evidence) in support of your position, now is the time to come forward with it; you will be given an open and fair hearing and if found persuasive, relevant findings may be amended or even deleted.’ That message should be taken seriously. The statement also protects IAEA from subsequent accusations of poor investigation and analysis or claims the IAEA was too prejudiced from the beginning to write a balanced report.

Contrary to the criticism of the IAEA that some, including the undersigned, have made in years past, credit should be given where credit is due. In the past 10 years IAEA has elevated the professionalism of the IAEA staff and the carefulness of its investigations and findings. This report will be very hard to criticise.

Also important to recognise is the members of the IAEA Council, who are nuclear experts and diplomats, understand the purpose of El Baradai’s message. A failure to respond will likley be interpreted as a validation of the Findings. Remember the addage: ‘when the words differ from the behavour, follow the behavour and you will not be fooled.’
The findings in the Report are counterproductive to the commendable effort Damascus and its supporters have been making in the past 6 months to bring Syria out of diplomatic isolation. If Syria is found to have been making or storing wmd contrary to the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to which Syria is a signing partner, a warm welcome by the family of nations is unlikely. Israel’s weaponry is not an excuse. Israel cannot create, or prevent, the welcome. All that is in question is Syria’s compliance to the terms it agreed to. A better choice would be for Syria to comply then ask all of the mid east to declare itself a nuclear free zone, including Israel.

It is my hope that the government leaders in Damascus will carefully consider the options and the consequences of each option and make a decision that is in concert with the effort to bring Syria back into the famility of nations.

November 20th, 2008, 7:34 pm


Akbar Palace said:

It may turn out that the neo-conservatives have been successful at one thing, which is to push the center of US Middle East policy away from Israel and the traditional Arab-Israeli conflict toward the Gulf.

What Gulf?

With our troops on the ground, it may be too much to expect Obama to squander his domestic Jewish political capital, which he seems to have amassing with skill, on squeezing Israel. Perhaps the only hope is if Obama can get Hillary Clinton to accept the Secretary of State position so she spends her Jewish capital on a peace push.

What “Jewish Capital”? Jerusalem?

Professor Josh,

Excellent analysis as usual. And all this time the Arabs were praying for an Obama win. Who knew?

BTW – What is a “peace push”? Please get as detailed as you can.

November 20th, 2008, 7:42 pm


AIG said:

The Tharwa site Landis recommends above is really eye opening. A picture is worth a thousand words. It is no wonder Asad is afraid of free journalism. Given the fact that economically things are getting worse, it is time that Syria assess realistically all its policies.

If people here believe that the Tharwa site is painting a wrong picture of Syria, please let me know. I am looking for good information, not propoganda.

November 20th, 2008, 8:28 pm


Nour said:

The IAEA is a joke of an organization, just like all those so-called “international” inspections regimes. They are only meant to target states that the powerful nations designate as “troublemakers”, “evil-doers”, rogue states or any of the other nonsensical labels attached to countries attempting to advance themselves. Let’s not forget that el-Baradei himself as well as Hans Blix never dared to give Iraq a clean report prior to the criminal US aggression against that country, even though they knew very well that Iraq’s WMD programs were nonexistent. As far as I’m concerned the IAEA and UNSCOM were equally responsible and culpable for the killing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. They are complicit in this crime and under a fair system would be tried as accomplices in a war crime.

November 20th, 2008, 9:23 pm


Akbar Palace said:

They are complicit in this crime and under a fair system would be tried as accomplices in a war crime.


In order for your “fair system” dream scenario to be complete, you forgot to add who the judges would be:

– Muqtada al-Sadr

– Osama bin Laden

– Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

– Saddam Hussein

– Arab jihadists and insurgents

– The Martyrs Brigade du jour

– Hassan Nasrallah

– Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

– Dr. Bashar Assad (need a suit and tie in there somewhere)

November 20th, 2008, 9:35 pm


Friend in America said:

You can be dismissive of the IAEA if you chose. But, becareful that the joke is not on IAEA but on Syria. We are not asking everyone agree with the Report. We are asking that its impact be carefully and thoughytfully considered before a response is made.

November 20th, 2008, 9:58 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Friend in America who is this WE in your last comment (number 5)?

IAEA is a “joke” as an organization because it has members who have not signed NTP agreements, have nukes and are extremely vocal about others “more or less imaginary” nuclear plans. Like Israel which has been a member of IAEA since the start (1957).

Israel’s statements to the IAEA yearly General Conferences are hilarious reading.

As you Friend in America perfectly well know Syria and all other Arab nations support nuclear free Middle East, Israel not. Because the international community including IAEA are doing nothing with the Israel problem, it “natural” that the power unbalance is balanced. Nukes are neutralized only with nukes.

By the way FIA Egypt is planing to buy a Dolphin class submarines from Germany. Israel is pressuring Germany not to sell them to Egypt, the excuse is that it will change the power balance. The amusing thing is that Israel has three of those same submarines (with nuclear missile capacity) operating and 2 ordered. Even friendly nations seem not to be allowed to increase their defence capacity. And Peres speaks how Iran is trying to dominate the region. Hmmmmm….

November 20th, 2008, 11:16 pm


jad said:

AP, are you looking to have a good debate or you just want to be a jerk?
You have to decide because everyday you have different face and different opinion and I’m kind of sick of your provocative nonsense BS you write without any obvious reason but to make a pure provocative comments.
Your mentality sounds like a teenage punk who doesn’t read or think or even debate well, you mix sarcasm with serious issues just to feel somehow good about yourself and making people get angry while in reality you are nothing but an ignorant American who is having a great opportunity to understand first hand what we Syrians think and debate about, what are our hopes and fear, but unfortunately you are blowing it away out of pure stupidity and irresponsibility.
After reading your last comments and the mix of names, I couldn’t think of a better says than Jesus about people like you who doesn’t appreciate what they have and people like us who literally through our best in front of someone like you.
“Don’t give holy things to dogs, and don’t throw your pearls before pigs”
I feel sorry for you and I do feel terrible writing this comment.
Have a good life.

November 20th, 2008, 11:53 pm


Saghir said:

The IAEA can do so much better if they ignore the Syrian desert and concentrate on Dimona instead.

It is highly likely that they would hit gold there than wasting their time looking under Syrian soil for uranium particles.

If it were for me, I would tear up the signed treaty with the organization and consider it null and void. After all, there is another country in the region who is not party to this international protocol and this way they will have neighborly company.

November 20th, 2008, 11:55 pm


norman said:


Well said, I want to add that with a position like this from the IAEA The Arabs and Muslims should understand that they will never have a fair deal from the West and the west controlled organizations ,

The question is , do they have the courage to say enough is enough or they are still halve men and servants to their western masters.

November 21st, 2008, 1:04 am


norman said:

Barack Obama’s election has raised hopes but the problems are still gigantic
Great things are expected of the President-elect far beyond the boundaries of his home country
Barack Obama, pictured at the Jerusalem Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in July, must overcome obstacles to peace in the Middle East that have defeated statesmen for the past 60 years

Richard Beeston in Washington
When Imad Moustapha, the Syrian Ambassador to Washington, talks about America’s President-elect, he can barely conceal his excitement at the prospect of an Obama administration closing the door on one of the most turbulent chapters in the Middle East’s rocky history.

During President Bush’s time, the region suffered wars in Iraq and Lebanon, a bloody terrorist campaign in Saudi Arabia, a failed experiment in democracy in Egypt, the rise of Iran as a potential nuclear power and a Middle East peace process that promised much but delivered little. Only the rehabilitation of Libya stands out as a diplomatic success.

Huge expectations have been raised by Barack Obama’s victory, among America’s allies and rivals alike, with hopes that fresh ideas, contagious optimism and less emphasis on the use of force may produce some tangible results in an area that has known only conflict for 60 years. American and Middle Eastern officials, along with regional analysts, believe that Mr Obama could restore full relations with Syria, begin to normalise US ties with Iran – suspended nearly 30 years ago – and breathe new life into the moribund peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

“This is a very opportune moment for Syria and the United States to reengage politically,” Mr Moustapha told The Times. “Barack Obama has said publicly, on the record, that he wants to reengage. Those who adhere to his cause are also proponents of reengagement with Syria. The Middle East has changed. It is time for America to reconsider its policies.”

The regime in Damascus is still subject to US sanctions imposed after the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, whose murder was blamed widely on the Syrians. Britain and France, however, have reengaged at a senior level with Damascus even as the investigation into the killing continues, smoothing the way for America.

Diplomats in Washington believe that Mr Obama is likely to restore full relations with Damascus and press for the resumption of direct talks between Israel and Syria, suspended more than eight years ago.

At the same time, experts predict an opportunity for dialogue between two of the most bitter foes on the planet, Iran and the “Great Satan” (America). Moves are already under way to reestablish diplomatic ties, with President Ahmadinejad of Iran sending a letter to Mr Obama congratulating him on his victory.

Relations were broken in 1979 when American diplomats were taken hostage in Tehran and held for more than a year. Washington has imposed and tightened sanctions against Iran and has vowed to use force if necessary to prevent the Islamic republic from building a nuclear bomb.

Vali Nasr, an expert on Iran at Tufts University, said that rebuilding a relationship would require skilful diplomacy and patience. “Success in Iran is going to be a long process,” he said. “A deal is possible but it will take time.”

Likewise, peace between Israel and the Palestinians seems as elusive as ever. Mr Obama has had talks with Ehud Olmert, the outgoing Israeli Prime Minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President. Progress is possible on the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority is in control, but Gaza, under the rule of the militant movement Hamas, could descend into war with Israel at any moment.

The Israelis go to the polls on February 10, with the right-wing Likud party of Binyamin Netanyahu well ahead of the centrist Kadima party, led by Tzipi Livni, the Foreign Minister.

Elections are also being held in Iran next year, with a weakened President Ahmedinejad fighting for his political life. America has to be careful that any olive branch it extends to Tehran does not benefit the incumbent over his more moderate rivals. Surprisingly, perhaps, the war in Iraq, which a few months ago looked to be unwinnable, is now set on a positive course, with an agreement reached with Baghdad for the withdrawal of US forces within the next three years.

Unfortunately, there remain problems closer to home. Hillary Clinton is the favourite to become secretary of state, with Dennis Ross, her husband’s former Middle East envoy, also tipped to return to government.

There are fears that unless a good working relationship can be established between Mr Obama and his former rival for the Democratic leadership, the tough diplomatic road ahead will suffer the same fate as that which befell the Bush Administration, with the State Department, particularly under Colin Powell, becoming the victim of interagency battles with the White House and the Pentagon.

November 21st, 2008, 1:31 am


why-discuss said:

Nour, I agree with you: IAEA is indirectly responsible for the disaster in Iraq and the thousands killed. The mere fact they allowed their doubts and speculations to be used by the Bush administration to engage in a monstrous war have tarnished forever their credibility.
They should have stand firmly and opposed to it, but Al Baradai is a weak person, very convenient for the neo-cons. He should have resigned after that disaster!
If the UN and IAEA are not able to pressure Israel, India and Pakistan to sign the NPT treaty, that treaty should be declared void by the signatories who instead of getting proactive help in nuclear development , are just getting harassed, suspected and vilified.
I wish the Arab countries as a whole and Iran reject that treaty and let that IAEA spend their time in more productive activities.
I also hope Al Baradei will be replaced.

November 21st, 2008, 1:48 am


Alia said:

Nour and Why Discuss,

Do you really think that, had the UNSCOM and the IAEA made more categorical statements of their negative findings, the Iraq war would have been avoided ?
I do not think so, as much as I agree with you that the Arab and Muslim countries should quit that circus promptly.

The decision to go to war in Iraq was already made; among the excuses that were invoqued were : Saddam Hussein is harboring and supporting Al-Qaeda, giving financial support to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, Iraqi government human rights abuses, spreading democracy, and Iraq’s oil reserves. Bush said that God inspired him to end the tyranny in Iraq and/ or to hit Saddam. I have also heard him state “Saddam wanted to kill my daddy”…

What is happening now is an orchestrated plan to put Syria under pressure…this started when Israel hit the so-called nuclear site. Does anybody believe that Israel would do that without consultation and preparation with the U.S. ? Now the scenario unfolds…it is not war, but veiled threats and demands for concessions. It is good that “uncooperative” Iran is around…It is time for Putin to move.

Ya, Sarkozy and Milliband are coming around that is nice too but who knows for how long…

November 21st, 2008, 2:17 am


Akbar Palace said:

JAD said:

AP, are you looking to have a good debate or you just want to be a jerk?


It depends on my mood. Of course a lot depends on what I read here on SC.

You have to decide because everyday you have different face and different opinion and I’m kind of sick of your provocative nonsense BS you write without any obvious reason but to make a pure provocative comments.


Sorry, I guess comments like “AS far as I’m concerned the IAEA and UNSCOM were equally responsible and culpable for the killing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis” to be more ridiculous, sick and provocative than anything I’ve posted.

JAD, IMO, there is a certain element here that talks only about the crimes of Bush, Israel, etc, but very little about the crimes of their own leaders and their own people. When the King has no Clothes it is my job to point this out. Who will?

Your mentality sounds like a teenage punk who doesn’t read or think or even debate well, you mix sarcasm with serious issues just to feel somehow good about yourself and making people get angry while in reality you are nothing but an ignorant American who is having a great opportunity to understand first hand what we Syrians think and debate about, what are our hopes and fear, but unfortunately you are blowing it away out of pure stupidity and irresponsibility.

It’s hard being perfect, especially if you are a Jewish-American and a Republican. My goal is to perfect myself and become an American and Israeli-hating Arab. At least I’d have more friends;)

After reading your last comments and the mix of names, I couldn’t think of a better says than Jesus about people like you who doesn’t appreciate what they have and people like us who literally through our best in front of someone like you.


I appreciate people who can see both sides of a story.

I feel sorry for you and I do feel terrible writing this comment.

Don’t feel bad. You’ve got something important off your chest….that’s why we’re here. It’s therapeutic.

Have a good life.

You as well.

November 21st, 2008, 2:22 am


why-discuss said:


You are right to say that the war in Iraq was planned long time before. But I believe the least Al Baradai should have done is to resign after the IAEA failures and the complacency it showed in accepting the circus that CIA and Collin Powell gave in the UN. IAEA and the pathetic Al Baradai just gave the pretext the neo-cons were waiting for.
It is time Syria and Iran withdraw from the treaty, nothing worse that what is happening now can happen to them since they are suspected anyway.

November 21st, 2008, 2:33 am


norman said:


I hate to say it but have seen any Arab take responsibility and feel guilt to the point of resignation, Abdonasser did that only to return.

November 21st, 2008, 2:40 am


Alia said:

Why Discuss,

Yes- they need to withdraw and forbid the ridiculous inspections from taking place.

November 21st, 2008, 2:49 am


jad said:

AP said
(It’s therapeutic.)

Akbar BS
Shut your hole

November 21st, 2008, 3:03 am


Brad said:

It is clear now that not only Iran but also Syria, a rogue state, are trying to acquire nuclear weapons. That basically sets the priorities for Obama’s middle east policy. Basically, Obama must prevent these two rogue states from achieving their goals. He should do whatever it takes to do that.
I feel that the choice of Mrs. Clinton as Secretary of State would signal a clear and wise direction for Obama’s foreign policy including the Middle East.

November 21st, 2008, 6:47 am


Saghir said:

“Basically, Obama must prevent these two rogue states from achieving their goals. He should do whatever it takes to do that.”

what is that “whatever it takes do that”?

Invading both countries?

Oh yes impose economic sanctions on them and when that does not work, then invade them.

Love these bravado one liners.

November 21st, 2008, 7:18 am


ausamaa said:

Syria is still in big, big, big trouble. Right??

On the eve of Bush’s Neo-Con crowd departure from the white house clade in an undisputed shrowd of defeat -thanks to Syria and its allies in large part-,and on the eve of the signature of a SOFA agreement that does not allow for a permenant US military presence in Iraq, and on the eve -or morning- of seeimg the anti-Syria Feb 14 crowd running for cover and threatened with loosing their grip on the Lebanese Parliment, and on the eve of Hamas and Jihad becoming a cornerstone of any future settlement in Palestine, and while Iran is becoming more powerfull by the day and the US military muscle in Afghanistan is suffering from unremidable overexhertion, on the eve on all those “writings on the wall”, we can still find “hopefull soles” who still count on and wish for a Syrian defeat or debacle. The IAEA says it has no conclusive evidence of anything, but some insist on interperting this as a “warning” signal to Syria. And they bring to mind the long lost Harriri Tribunal if only to “assure” themselves that Syria is still headed for a disaster of some sort or another and is definitly still under some sort of threat or another.

Can those Syria-haters not get it through their head that this Game is over and that Syria and its allies have not only survuived the neo-con typhoon, but have emerged more stronger than they were before the infamous “Shock and Awe” mother-of-all-strategis?

But as I have always maintained here, Hope Springs Eternal (despit all signs to the contrary) for the what is left of the anti-Syria crowd.

November 21st, 2008, 8:31 am


Shai said:


Yes, I also love those “do whatever it takes” one liners. They were fed slogans, they grew up on them, they bought them, and they sell them. This short-and-to-the-point belief in their mandate on the “hard truth”, got them in life about as far as the Greyhound bus station on the way to see Aunt Lilly each summer. But not much beyond.


I wrote about this in the past, so I don’t want to be overly repetitive, but I still wonder why Syria is trying to “play” according to everyone else’s rules when it comes to its existing or non-existing strategic nuclear program. Why can’t Syria adopt another strategy, one which has been, and still is exercised by her neighbor to the southwest, namely Israel, which is ambiguity. I know, everyone will say that Syria is a signatory member of the NPT. So what? If pushed to the corner, Syria should perhaps announce its withdrawal from the treaty. But until then, Syria should make the same statement Israel has made for decades: “(Syria) will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East.” That’s it, nothing more. No inspectors, no press conferences, no depleted uranium stories, nothing.

At the end of the day, what Syria seeks more than enriched uranium or SCUD missiles, is deterrence. And deterrence is a psychological thing, at times based on actual physical matter, and quite often not. For me, as an Israeli seeking peace with Syria, and recognizing that unfortunately perhaps 20% of my people will only switch over to the peace camp if they are fearful of Syria (as they were of Egypt in the 70’s), I find such deterrence also a positive factor, not only a negative one. Hence my suggestion. What do you think?

As for the world trying to create a storm of hoo-ha’s about Syria possibly having a nuclear program, I’d tell the first analyst that asked me (and each one afterwards), why on earth he/she might think Syria should NOT have a nuclear program. And if they’d point to the NPT, I’d remind him/her that none of the family of nuclear nations acquired military nuclear capabilities by doing it overtly. What we do in our back yards is always ok. But when a rival does the same (or better), we’re suddenly “shocked”…

November 21st, 2008, 9:19 am


offended said:

Why isn’t anybody discussing the possibility that these uranium traces could be the leftovers of the radioactive wastes the sons of Khaddam had buried in the Syrian desert long time ago in exchange for huge sums of money?

November 21st, 2008, 9:40 am


offended said:

Yeah, you’ve got to love those one-liners. One of my favs is
“you don’t have the required knowledge”.
“you should be ashamed of yourself”.
“collateral damage”
“surgical strikes”
“shots across the bow”
“grab your glocks when you see an arab”

Neocons arguments have been recycled so many times that talking to them has become like wading through sewer sludge.

November 21st, 2008, 9:49 am


norman said:

الكاتب والصحافي السوري الكبير جبران كورية… الى جوار ربه

بعد صراع طويل مع المرض غيب الموت صباح اليوم الجمعة الكاتب والصحافي السوري الكبير جبران كورية والذي يستحق وبجدارة لقب ضمير الصحافة السورية وبغيابه تفقد الاسرة الصحافية السورية والعربية علما بارزا من اعلامها الذين قدموا كل جهد ممكن ومزجوا الحبر بالعرق بالدم من اجل الدفاع عن قضايا الامة .. جبران كورية عمل ناطقا رسميا في قصر الرئاسة السورية ومستشارا سياسيا واعلاميا للرئيس الراحل حافظ الاسد في واحدة من اغنى المراحل السياسية السورية ..شام برس تتقدم من عقيلته وابنائه واحفاده واسرته واصدقائه والاسرة الاعلامية السورية باخلص التعازي وانا لله وان اليه راجعون

November 21st, 2008, 12:57 pm


Brad said:

You’re so smart Saghir. You also display impressive reasoning skills.
Keep it up.

November 21st, 2008, 2:06 pm


Akbar Palace said:

I feel that the choice of Mrs. Clinton as Secretary of State would signal a clear and wise direction for Obama’s foreign policy including the Middle East.


“Wise”? How so? The Clintons are only interested in being in the “lime light”, and judging from past history, they won’t confront enemies that pose a real threat. It will be a lot of hand shanking, a lot of talking, and a lot of terrorism.

November 21st, 2008, 3:26 pm


Alex said:

the Arabic piece above says that Jebean Couryieh passed away.

He was the perfect spoksman for President Hafez Assad’s style of communicating.

Shai, imagine if you were a peace activist at that time : )

Let’s say President Hafez would meet with the Saudi king Fahd. The only thing we were able to find out after that meeting was through a press release by the late Couryieh that always used one of very few templates. In this case it would have sounded like this:


That’s it.

I was wondering if the man can write anything beyond those generic statements. But when he retired, he wrote quite a few good articles that made me respect him as a decent and wise man.

November 21st, 2008, 3:28 pm


norman said:

Thank you , he was trying to keep things in secret as was the custom at that time , now they talk too much.

November 21st, 2008, 5:13 pm


Alex said:


I liked the way Hafez Assad rarely revealed what he was thinking. He was amazing.

But I did not understand why assign poor Jubran couryieh to that post … if he is not supposed to say anything, then don’t have him there… press secretary?!

But as I said, I was happily surprised to read his post-retirement articles. He was a very decent man indeed.

Now … toda we have a different type of communication, on Champress … their editor is defending his style of attacks on the Saudis.

I don’t mind criticizing the Saudis and exposing their lies and hypocrisy .. but not to “attack” them … and not the tabloids style that Champress follow.

ببساطة .. لن نسكت ! .. بقلم علي جمالو
ببساطة .. لن نسكت ! .. بقلم علي جمالو

أثارت الموضوعات التي نشرت في شام برس في الأيام القليلة الماضية حول المملكة العربية السعودية وملكها العجيب ردود فعل عديدة داخل البلاد وخارجها وتلقيت رسائل واتصالات من مهتمين وأصدقاء وأعدقاء وقراء استحسنوا ما فعلنا وآخرين استهجنوا ورأوا فيه سابقة قد تضر على المدى البعيد بالعلاقات بين سورية والسعودية (( المعطوبة بالأساس )) .
ومن جملة ما ورد أيضا ً شتائم وتهديدات وقحة من مجهولين (( معلومين ! )) مع هجوم عدد من المواقع الالكترونية السعودية ومن بينها الموقع الذي يديره المدعو عبد الحليم خدام الذي لم يعد يخجل كما يبدو من الدور الوضيع الذي يقوم به ضد مصالح بلاده خدمة ً لهؤلاء الأوباش السعوديين وأتباعهم صبيان السياسة اللبنانية .
وأنا لا أستغرب من هذا الفريق المأزوم ذا المستوى ( الواطي ) ما يرشق به البلاد ورموزها من شتائم و تركيبات رخيصة لا قيمة لها لأن هذه هي وظيفته التي من أجلها يستلم جعالاته المذلة من أموال مملكة الهباء والموت الأصفر والتمييز العنصري.
وبالنسبة لي فقد رأيت في هذه الحملة المسعورة من خدام وجماعته البرهان على أن ما نقوم به من فضح وتعرية سياسة العصابة التي تحكم جزيرة العرب إنما هو عين الصواب .. وأما الشتائم والأكاذيب والاتهامات الرخيصة فلا تستحق الرد … وحسبنا هنا أن نكرر ما قاله كبير شعراء العرب المتنبي :
إذا اعتاد الفتى خوض المنايا
فأهون ما يمر به … الوحول ُ
وبعد :
ثمة أسئلة أضعها أمام الجمهور الكريم الذي أحترم عقله وإرادته .
– لماذا علينا أن نسكت عندما تسمح الحكومة السعودية لوسائل إعلامها بالتعرض لرموزنا ولبلادنا ..
– لماذا علينا أن نسكت عندما تقوم العربية ..إيلاف .. الشرق الأوسط – الحياة – صحيفة بيت الحريري – تلفزيون بيت الحريري .. إلخ باختراع الأكاذيب والافتراءات والشتائم ولا ترد مؤسساتنا الإعلامية الرسمية النائمة في العسل والمشغولة كما يبدو بالهجمة الإمبريالية الشرسة ؟! . وأية هجمة إمبريالية شرسة أكبر من خلق الفتن وفبركة الأكاذيب واختراع الشهود والنيل من سمعة سوريا ورئيسها .
– لماذا علينا أن نسكت عندما تقوم حكومة خادم الحرمين الشريفين برعاية وتمويل اللصوص وشذاذ الآفاق المنتحلين صفة المعارضة السورية للعبث بالوضع الداخلي السوري وتعريض استقرار البلاد للاهتزاز بواسطة اشاعات طائفية مبتذلة أدار السوريون الظهر لها منذ اليوم الأول .
– لماذا علينا أن نسكت عندما يرسل خادم الحرمين الشريفين من يعاتب الرئيس الفرنسي نيكولاي ساركوزي لأنه استقبل الرئيس بشار الأسد (( يا للوقاحة!))
– لماذا نسكت عندما يمول جلالته عصابات الإرهاب السلفي شمال لبنان ويصدّر الموت إلى داخل الأراضي السورية .
– لماذا علينا أن نسكت عندما يشرب خادم الحرمين الشريفين نخب القاتل جورج بوش في البيت الأبيض .
– لماذا علينا أن نسكت وآل سعود يراقصون القاتل السفاح الذي دمر المنطقة وهتك الأعراض ورمّل النساء ويتّم الأطفال .
– لماذا نسكت عندما يعقد هذا الملك الضليل لقاءات باسم حوار الأديان مع الإرهابي بيريز وعميلة الموساد ليفني ويقوم بكسر الطوق عن إسرائيل التي ما تزال تحتل الأرض وتقتل الأبرياء و تعتقل الشرفاء وتمارس كل أصناف الإرهاب الدولي .
– لماذا نصمت وهذا (( الخرف )) يلعب باستقرار بلادنا .
أليس هذا تجاوز لكل الخطوط الحمر و السود و الصفر .. ؟
لماذا .. ؟ .. لماذا .. ؟ وألف ألف لماذا .
أليس الصمت هنا جريمة ؟ .
بالاتكاء على ما تقدم أعتقد جازما ً أن المصلحة العليا هي في فضح هؤلاء الأوباش السفلة .. ولذلك لدينا الكثير لنقوله .. وسنقول كل ما نعرف .. ويعرف حراس الجهل والتخلف في مملكة الموت والتمييز العنصري ماذا نقصد .

شام برس

November 21st, 2008, 5:26 pm


offended said:

The problem with such kinds of ‘tabloid’ attacks as Alex puts it, is that once the relationships improves with the party that’s being bashed, in this case Saudi Arabia, there will be no attacks (or no reasons for attacks) and the shabbab will be back to being samneh 3ala 3asal.

I think Syrian media should elevate itself from this level.

November 21st, 2008, 5:36 pm


Friend in America said:

Offended (#22)-
Interesting theory. Who might have been the people who got paid? If Saddam’s people buried a nuclear treasure there, who might have taken his nuclear treasure and to where was it taken? Where might it be now? What do you think?
It did not go back to Iraq, that is certain. But elsewhere?

November 21st, 2008, 5:50 pm


offended said:

Friend in America,
You made the wrong connection. I was referring to a rumour which circulated in Syria in the late nineties that khaddam’s sons have entered into contracts with european countries in to bury nuclear waste in the Syrian desert.

November 21st, 2008, 5:55 pm


Friend in America said:

Offended –
Thank you. I have not heard that rumor before.

There was a multi continent search in the ’80’s and ’90’s. Spend nuclear rods with high levels of radiation are being buried in the desert in Russia and elsewhere in the world, including the U.S. They are in containers whose “useful life” is 3 or 4 times the half life of the waste (half life means when the radiation is no longer a danger to humans). They are safely buried. Proper burial of nuclear wastes is safe for civilization. The problem is not what we do know, it is what we do not know and therefore public officials are very hesitant.

November 21st, 2008, 6:13 pm


Apollodorus said:

Also see the interview with David Commins: Syrian Identity Through History

To Syria comment Admins , the link is broken,plz check and solve it.

November 21st, 2008, 10:08 pm


why-discuss said:


“It is clear now that not only Iran but also Syria, a rogue state, are trying to acquire nuclear weapons.”

Do you have inside information to affirm that “it is clear”? In this case you should provide them as quickly as possible to IAEA so they don’t waste their time with these ‘rogue’ states and concentrate on the “friendly nuclear” state of Israel. After 6 years of monitoring of Iran, IAEA seems to still have fuzzy information! So you could really give them a hand!
By the way you sound like Condie Rice, who started most of her accusations, by “we all know that”, ” it is clear now”
Are you admirer or a copycat of Condie?

November 21st, 2008, 10:15 pm


norman said:

Syria has clear and comprehensive vision of Peace, Sha’aban Says
Presidential Political and Media Advisor Buthaina Sha’aban on Friday said Syria has clear and comprehensive vision of peace, but the political Will at other sides is absent, underlining that the solution lies in the other party’s recognition of the Arab rights and withdrawal from the occupied territories.

Sha’aban was speaking at a symposium titled “Syria is the key to solving Middle East problems”, organized by the Arab-Austrian Friendship Association and held at the building of the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna.

“The problem in the region is a political one, it is an outcome of the Israeli continued occupation of the Arab lands and its non abiding by international resolutions… the problem is not religious as some western media depict,” Sha’aban added.

She said that the suffering of the Palestinian and Iraqi refugees is a result of the Israeli and US occupation.

For his part, Austrian State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Hans Winkler underlined in an interposition at the Symposium the important role of Syria in the Middle East and the peace process, saying “it is not possible to achieve peace in the region without Syria.”

A number of Austrian political and media figures, Arab Ambassadors, intellectuals and members of the Syrian Community in Austria attended the Symposium.

view original source

November 21st, 2008, 11:39 pm


why-discuss said:

Norman, thanks, it is a fascinating article

November 22nd, 2008, 2:46 am


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