The Smartest Observations on Pelosi and Syria – Malley and Lobe

The two best articles on the Pelosi visit are by Robert Malley and Jim Lobe (copied below).

Malley is fed up with the internal US bickering about the Pelosi visit with good reason. It diverts us from the main issue – Syria is prepared to play a constructive role in the region if the US and Israel are also willing to play constructive roles. For the US, constructive means backing international law and UN resolutions to encourage Israel to return the Golan Heights to its rightful owner. For Syria, constructive means stopping its support for resistance groups which attack Israel and thwart international laws and recognized government authority. Syria has turned a deaf ear to US and Israeli demands that it stop support for resistance groups such as Hizbullah and Hamas before achieving guarantees that the Golan will be returned. Syria understands that without an effective resistance it stands no chance of getting the Golan back. The US has no power to impose its demands on Syria. The demands have become pointless preconditions designed to thwart dialogue. It takes two to tango – that is the key.

Jim Lobe points out that Elliot Abrams and V.P. Cheney are behind the anti-Pelosi campaign. Their aim is ideological. It has nothing to do with realizable policy. Some want to explain that Abrams and Cheney, as well as Pelosi, are slaves of the pro-Israel lobby. While they may all find the pro-Israel lobby important instruments in their campaigns or in supporting their policies, the Lobe article reminds us that Abrams behaved exactly the same way toward Latin America in the 1980s, where Israel was not concerned, as he is behaving towards Syria today.

Another example of Abrams' ideological stubborness was toward Angola and Cuba in the 1980s. A former US ambassador to South Africa told me of how he had helped set up talks with Cubans and Angolans in order to get all foreign armies out of Namibia, including that of South African. Elliot Abrams tried to stop the talks with Cuba, claiming that "they are Communists. We do not talk to Communists." For an oblique reference to this episode, see: Edward J. Perkins, Mr. Ambassador: Warrior for Peace, University of Oklahoma Press, 2006, p. 416. Ambassador Perkins writes:

[The Cubans and the Angolans] were easier to deal with than the U.S. assistant secretary of Inter-American Affairs, then a hard-line right-winger. Until then, I thought he and I were friends, but he took a stand that branded Cuba as a country not worthy of relations with the United States.

Ambassador Perkins and Assistant Secretary Chet Crocker were able to overcome Abrams' objections and helped forge an end to the regional conflict between South Africa and Angola over Namibia, which had sucked in both the US and USSR and its surrogates. Ambassador Perkins writes:

"We were realists and that was what made this protracted but successful negotiation possible; we recognized that massive solutions could not be based on the concrete historical realities of a given situation. 'Just as man cannot eat slogans, neither can statesmen solve problems with rhetorical cliches and abstract formula.'" (p. 418.)

Forget Pelosi. What about Syria?
U.S. isolation of Damascus rests in a misunderstanding of Syria's position in the Mideast.

By Robert Malley, ROBERT MALLEY, former special assistant to President Clinton for Arab-Israeli affairs, is the International Crisis Group's Middle East program director.
April 11, 2007, LA Times

UNDERTAKING HER first major diplomatic foray, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got an earful. As she met with Syrian President Bashar Assad, she came under immediate, stinging attack. The White House condemned her encounter as counterproductive, asserting that it undermined U.S. policy aimed at marginalizing a so-called pariah regime.

The charge is, on its face, absurd. The European Union's top diplomatic envoy just visited Syria. Assad attended the recent Arab League summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Republican and Democratic officials have been traveling to Damascus for months. The Syrian regime is no more isolated in the world than the Bush administration is embraced by it. But the fuss about Pelosi's perfectly legitimate visit obscured a far more intriguing question: What should be done about Syria?

Over the last several years, the consistent response from Israel and the United States has been: Ignore it. It is difficult to recall the last time Israel rejected an Arab invitation to negotiate — let alone the last time the U.S. actively encouraged it to do so — but in this case that is exactly what it has done.

Israel spurns Assad's calls to renew unconditional peace talks, claiming that the Syrian regime has no intention of concluding a peace deal and is merely seeking to lessen international pressure and shift attention away from the investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria may wish to regain sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the argument goes, but it desperately wants to restore its hegemony over Lebanon. To engage Syria now would reward its support for groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, its attempts to destabilize Lebanon and its funneling of jihadists into Iraq. Seen in this light, a resumption of Israeli-Syrian negotiations is considered futile or, worse, damaging, an escape hatch for a regime that will respond only — if at all — to sustained pressure.

The arguments have merit, but the conclusion does not stand up to scrutiny. As any one visiting Damascus these days doubtless will notice, the regime is displaying a peculiar mix of supreme confidence and outright anxiety. Convinced that the regional tide is turning against the U.S. in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon, Syrian officials sense that any American attempt to destabilize their regime is a thing of the past.

Yet America's defeat is not necessarily Syria's victory. Sandwiched between civil strife in Iraq and Lebanon, facing increasing sectarian polarization throughout the region, losing political legitimacy at home and confronted with acute economic problems, the Syrian regime is eager for renewed domestic popularity and international investment. What better than a peace deal with Israel and recovery of the Golan Heights — with all the attendant diplomatic and economic benefits — most notably normalization with the West — to achieve those goals?

As for Syria's regional posture, this much can be said: Damascus will not cut ties with Hezbollah, break with Hamas or alienate Iran as the entry fare for peace negotiations. Syrian officials make clear that they will not forgo their few strategic cards ahead of a deal. But they are equally clear that a deal would change the entire regional picture — the country's alliances as well as its policies.

If, as Israeli and U.S. officials assert, the regime's priority is self-preservation, it is unlikely to sponsor militant groups, jeopardize its newfound status, destabilize the region or threaten nascent economic ties for the sake of ideological purity once an agreement has been reached. Israeli and U.S. demands will not be satisfied as preconditions to negotiations, but there is at the very least solid reason to believe that they would be satisfied as part of a final deal.

Even assuming that Washington and Jerusalem are right and that Syria is more interested in the process than in the outcome, what is the downside of testing the sincerity of its intentions? To the contrary, the mere sight of Israeli and Syrian officials sitting side by side would carry dividends, producing ripple effects in a region where popular opinion is moving away from acceptance of the Jewish state's right to exist, and putting Syrian allies that oppose a negotiated settlement in an awkward position. It has gone largely unnoticed, but Assad has been at pains to differentiate his position from that of his Iranian ally, emphasizing that Syria's goal is to live in peace with Israel, not to wipe it off the face of the Earth. That is a distinction worth exploiting, not ignoring.

Rigidly rebuffing Syria is a mistake fast on its way to becoming a missed opportunity. The U.S. says it wants to see real change from Damascus, and it takes pleasure in faulting visitors — Pelosi only the latest among them — for returning empty-handed. Syria's response is that it will continue to assist militant groups, maintain close ties to Iran and let the U.S. flounder in Iraq for as long as Washington maintains its hostile policy and blocks peace talks. It also could change all of the above should the U.S. change its stance. That's a message Pelosi can hear and one she can deliver, but not one she can do much about. Rather than engage in political theatrics, the president should listen.

Syria, Elliot Abrams, and the Contras All Over Again
by Jim Lobe  

It has an all-too-familiar ring to it.

A crisis area – in this case, the Middle East – finds itself in desperate need of a peace process capable of tamping down the forces of violence and destabilization which the United States itself has played a central role in unleashing.

Regional efforts at diplomacy – in this case, led by Saudi Arabia – gain some momentum but are frustrated by die-hard hawks in a U.S. administration. While increasingly on the defensive both at home and abroad, they are determined to carry through their strategy of isolating and destabilizing a hostile target – in this case, Syria – despite its oft-repeated eagerness to engage Washington and its regional allies.

Sensing an increasingly dangerous impasse, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives – in this case, Nancy Pelosi, backed by a growing bipartisan consensus that the administration's intransigence will further reduce already-waning U.S. influence in the region – tries to encourage regional peace efforts by engaging the target directly.

But, worried that her quest might actually gain momentum, administration hawks – in this case, led by Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams and Vice President Dick Cheney – accuse the speaker of undermining the president and, working through obliging editorial writers at the Washington Post, among other sympathetic media, including, of course, the Wall Street Journal, attack her for "substitut[ing] her own foreign policy for that of a sitting Republican president."

If that scenario sounds familiar, your foreign policy memory dates back at least to 1987, when, despite intensified regional peacemaking efforts for which Costa Rican President Oscar Arias won that year's Nobel Peace Prize, the Ronald Reagan administration was persisting in its efforts to isolate and overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

It was then-House Speaker Jim Wright who, with the quiet encouragement of Republican realists, notably Reagan's White House chief of staff, Howard Baker, Secretary of State George Shultz, and his special Central America envoy, Philip Habib, sought to promote Arias' plan.

Like today's Republican realists on the Iraq Study Group (ISG), who have urged the Bush administration to engage rather than continue to isolate Syria, they understood that popular and congressional support for a "regime change" policy in Nicaragua was not sustainable and Washington should seek a regional settlement on the most favorable terms available.

But Abrams, then assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, worked assiduously with fellow hard-liners in the White House and the Pentagon – just as he works today with Cheney's office – to torpedo both the Arias plan and Wright's efforts to advance it throughout the latter half of 1987.

As Abrams' assistant at the time, the future neoconservative heavy thinker, Robert Kagan, put it later, "Arias, more than any other Latin leader single-handedly undid U.S. policy in Nicaragua." And when he won the Nobel Prize, "all us of who thought it was important to get aid for the contras reacted with disgust, unbridled disgust."

As part of their strategy, hard-liners led by Abrams rejected appeals by Nicaragua for high-level talks, thus forcing Habib to resign by late summer and insisting – as they now do with Syria – that direct negotiations would serve only to legitimate Sandinistas and demoralize the contras.

In November 1987, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega came to Washington with a proposal for a cease-fire with the contras. After the administration refused to receive him, Wright, seeing an opportunity to jump-start a stalled peace process, attended a meeting at the Vatican Embassy here at which Ortega asked his main domestic foe, Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, to mediate between the Sandinista government and the contras.

Wright's participation in the talks was seized by Abrams as the launching pad for a public – if barely concealed – attack on the speaker. Interviewed by the Post under the guise of an unnamed "senior administration official," Abrams charged Wright with engaging in "guerrilla theater" and "an unbelievable melodrama" that had dealt a "serious setback" to the administration's policy.

"This was not forward movement; this was screwing up the process," the "senior official" complained to the Post, which, as in its criticism Friday of Pelosi's meeting with Assad, obligingly followed up with its own editorial, entitled "What is Jim Wright Doing?," charging the speaker with having acted "as though the actual conduct of diplomacy in this delicate passage were his responsibility."

The Journal's neoconservative editorial writers swiftly joined in, accusing Wright of a "compulsion for running off-the-shelf foreign-policy operations," just as last week they charged Pelosi and Democrats of seeking "to conduct their own independent diplomacy."

Within just a few months of his meeting with Ortega, however, the Democratic-led Congress rejected Reagan's request to fund the contras, a step that Abrams incorrectly predicted at the time would result in "the dissolution of Central America."

According to Roy Gutman's aptly named 1988 book about Reagan's Central America policy, "Banana Diplomacy," Washington soon found itself "at the margins of the region's diplomacy."

Unlike his high-public profile as assistant secretary 20 years ago, Abrams, who now presides over Middle East policy at the National Security Council, is today far more discreet, no doubt in part because his conviction in 1991 for lying to Congress about his role in the Iran-contra scandal has made him an easy target for Democrats.

"He's very careful about not leaving fingerprints," one State Department official told IPS earlier this year.

But there is little doubt among Middle East analysts here that Abrams is playing a lead role in White House efforts to discredit Pelosi for meeting with Assad, just as he did with Wright for meeting Ortega in 1987.

And just as he worked with Reagan hard-liners to undermine the Arias Plan 20 years ago, so he appears to be doing what he can to undermine recent efforts by Saudi King Abdullah to initiate an Arab-Israeli peace process and, for that matter, by Republican realists, and even Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to push it forward. (Inter Press Service)

Comments (16)

Alex said:

Expect some interesting news in few days

Last update – 02:22 12/04/2007
Unofficial Syrian negotiator: Damascus interested in peace

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent

American-Syrian national Ibrahim Suleiman, who has been involved in unofficial peace talks between Israel and Syria, told Israeli sources that he intends to clarify to Israel’s government that Damascus is truly interested in peace negotiations with Israel.

Suleiman will appear before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Thursday, alongside Alon Liel, former director general of the Foreign Ministry. The two will brief the committee members on the secret, unofficial talks they conducted, and on the understandings they reached for a peace agreement between Israel and Syria.

Suleiman, who landed in Israel on Tuesday, will inform the committee of the extent of his connections with the Syrian regime. He will tell the MKs about the committee appointed by Syrian President Bashar Assad, which is headed by one of his army generals, to coordinate the talks with Israel. In addition, he will relay the messages he received from Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem.

In the hearing, Liel will disclose the content of the reports he allegedly gave to officials in the Foreign Ministry regarding his progress in the talks. Liel also reported to various parties in the Prime Minister’s Bureau when it was headed by former prime minister Ariel Sharon.

“There is a genuine willingness in Damascus to initiate peace talks with Israel, which at the very least requires Israel to test the waters,” Suleiman told Israeli sources during his stay.

Despite Suleiman’s interest to meet Israeli officials during his visit, the Foreign Ministry decided against such a move. The ministry’s director general, Aharon Abramowitz, explained that Suleiman’s request had been denied “to avoid giving a false impression, as though he were engaged in official talks with the State of Israel.” Abramowitz added that, “If Syria wanted to conduct official talks, it had other avenues available to it.”

The Prime Minister’s Bureau had similar reservations, as it did when Haaretz first exposed the existence of the talks in January. By contrast, MK Zahava Gal-On, who initiated the committee discussion, expressed her hope that after the MKs will hear what Suleiman has to say, they will realize his immediate connection to the Syrian leadership. “Some think he doesn’t enjoy any sort of valid status in Damascus. The hearing will give us a chance to examine just that,” she said.

On Wednesday Suleiman visited Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, in Jerusalem. Suleiman said he hoped “we will be able to live together in peace, and put all the killing and incitement behind us,” adding that “the peoples of the Middle East need to think of the future of their children and grandchildren.”

April 11th, 2007, 11:40 pm


Alex said:

And a related article from Hoda Husseini in Asharq Al-Awsat today

among other things, she claims that an informed source told her that AIPAC must have approved of Pelosi’s visit to Damascus in advance.

سوريا: ثلاثة أهداف لاستقرار المنطقة

اليوم الخميس الثاني عشر من نيسان (ابريل)، يقف الدكتور إبراهيم سليمان رجل الأعمال الاميركي ـ السوري الأصل ـ أمام لجنة العلاقات الخارجية والأمن في الكنيست الإسرائيلي، حيث تعقد اللجنة جلسة خاصة لمناقشة كيفية عقد مفاوضات سلام سورية ـ إسرائيلية ناجحة. ستخصص الساعة الأولى لمناقشة ما انجزته المفاوضات غير الرسمية التي شارك فيها الدكتور سليمان عن الجانب السوري، والدكتور آلون لييل عن الجانب الإسرائيلي، طوال السنوات القليلة الماضية، أما بقية الجلسة فستكون مغلقة لأعضاء اللجنة فقط.

هذا الأمر ليس بجديد، إذ أن الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد كان أكد في حديث إلى صحيفة «الجزيرة» السعودية في 19 من الشهر الماضي، أن بلاده دأبت طوال السنوات الماضية على إجراء مفاوضات سرية مع إسرائيل، «لكنها لم تؤد الى نتائج ملموسة بعد».

احداث كثيرة جرت خلال الأسابيع الماضية أوحت بأن وضع سوريا في الشرق الأوسط اختلف اليوم عما كان عليه العام الماضي.

قبل بيلوسي، قام منسق السياسة الخارجية الأوروبية خافيير سولانا بزيارة دمشق ولقاء الرئيس السوري. وخلال مؤتمر صحافي مشترك مع وزير الخارجية السوري وليد لمعلم سبق اللقاء، قال سولانا: «إن الاتحاد الأوروبي يرغب في مساعدة سوريا لاسترجاع هضبة لجولان»، ثم أضاف: «إن على سوريا أن تبذل جهداً اكبر لتخفيف تأزم الأوضاع في لبنان والعراق».

مصدر اميركي أكد لي، ان بيلوسي ما كان يمكن أن تقوم بزيارة دمشق من دون موافقة «ايباك»، وهي بعد لقائها الأسد قالت: «سعدنا بالتأكيدات التي حصلنا عليها من الرئيس السوري بأنه على استعداد لاستئناف عملية السلام، وانه مستعد للتفاوض حول السلام مع إسرائيل».

في ظل هذه التطورات، تعدل سوريا من سياساتها الخارجية كي تظهر أنها قادرة على لعب دور مهم يضمن الاستقرار في الشرق الأوسط. وقد تزامن إطلاق سراح البحارة البريطانيين الخمسة عشر، الذين اختطفتهم إيران من شمال الخليج اثناء زيارة بيلوسي. وقبل مغادرة بيلوسي لدمشق قال وليد المعلم في مؤتمر صحافي إن بلاده توسطت مع ايران لإطلاق سراح البحارة، وان المندوب الخاص لطوني بلير رئيس الوزراء البريطاني السير نيجل شينولد اتصل بالرئيس الأسد لهذا الهدف.

المعلم في تصريحاته، أراد إظهار مدى تأثير سوريا على إيران، لكنه لم ينتقد إيران التي خطفت البحارة من المياه الإقليمية العراقية في شط العرب.

من كل هذا، تأمل سوريا في أن تعترف الدول المعنية بمصالحها الحيوية في لبنان، كما في الصراع الإسرائيلي ـ الفلسطيني وفي العراق. فإذا فعلت، فان دمشق على استعداد للمساهمة في تحقيق الاستقرار في العراق. فهي تعرف، أن العراق يبقى في طليعة اهتمامات الرئيس بوش، فإذا نجحت الخطة الأمنية الأخيرة في العراق من الآن وحتى نهاية الصيف، يمكن ن تخف الضغوط عن الرئيس بوش، أما إذا فشلت، فان عدداً من المسؤولين الجمهوريين سيبدأون في القفز من السفينة.

يبقى لبنان هو عقدة العقد. إذ لم تغفر دمشق لنفسها الارتباك الذي أصابها اثر اغتيال رفيق الحريري، والانسحاب المذل لقواتها من كل لبنان، رغم أن عدداً من حلفائها الرئيسيين في لبنان، حاولوا ثنيها عن ذلك.

اللبنانيون حتى اتباع حلفائها، لا يريدون عودتها إلى لبنان. إذ لم ينس الذين كانوا ضدها ما فعله الوجود السوري في لبنان والذي طال ثلاثين سنة، أما الذين بقوا مخلصين لها، فإنهم يفضلون التنسيق معها والاستمتاع بالادعاء بأنهم «أسياد أنفسهم»، إن كان في توزيع الأموال، او في الاعتصام أو في الاستقالات المعلقة أو عدم فتح أبواب البرلمان لعقد الجلسات العادية المقررة، على أساس ان اتفاق الطائف، سلم «مفتاح البرلمان» لرئيسه فقط.

وما يثير السخرية، انه في الوقت الذي يبقى البرلمان اللبناني موصداً أبوابه في وجه النواب ويمنع عقد جلسات برلمانية، تستعد سوريا لإجراء انتخابات برلمانية في الثاني والعشرين من هذا الشهر!

والآن إذا لم يتم الاعتراف الدولي لسوريا بمصالحها، فإنها سوف تستأنف تفعيل اللااستقرار في المنطقة، ولا تتفق كافة الدول العربية على دعم من تدعمه سوريا في لبنان. فالمملكة السعودية ومصر مثلاً تدعمان حكومة فؤاد السنيورة التي تحاول المجموعات المدعومة من سوريا إسقاطها. والخطوات السورية في لبنان تتنقل على إيقاع التطورات الدولية، وبالذات الانتخابات الفرنسية. فالرئيس السوري يريد «إيقاف الزمن» وتأخير أي تصويت لبناني يرمي الى اقامة المحكمة الدولية لمحاكمة قتلة رفيق الحريري، بانتظار مغادرة الرئيس الفرنسي جاك شيراك قصر الاليزيه، وتأمل سوريا في أن يتخذ الرئيس الفرنسي المقبل سياسة أكثر مرونة تجاهها. لذلك ترغب دمشق، عبر وسائل ومواقف داخلية لبنانية إبقاء مسألة المحكمة الدولية في حالة مراوحة تضر بلبنان أيما ضرر.

يطمئن الفرقاء اللبنانيون بعضهم البعض، بأنهم لا يسعون إلى حرب أهلية، إنما فقط إلى تعميق حالة الشلل في البلد. هذه الحالة تشبه ناراً هادئة، إنما مستمرة في أكلها الأخضر واليابس، فتوفر بذلك لسوريا عودة سيطرتها على لبنان.

إن المصلحة السورية من استعادة السيطرة على لبنان تؤمن لدمشق الحفاظ على وضع إقليمي قوي خصوصاً داخل الدول العربية. لكن الدول العربية، رغم المصالحات الشكلية تتهم سوريا بأنها عنصر جيو ـ سياسي في الأيدي الإيرانية، في وقت صارت إيران مصدر قلق لدى الكثير من هذه الدول وبالذات الخليجية.

في المسألة الفلسطينية ترغب دمشق أيضا في التلاعب على الوقت. لقد لعبت دور الوسيط واستعملت نفوذها على الزعيم السياسي لـ«حماس» خالد مشعل المقيم لديها، من اجل التوصل إلى حل تشكيل حكومة وحدة وطنية. بقيامها بهذا الدور تجنبت سوريا أن تطالها تهمة زعزعة الاستقرار في المنطقة، لكن في الوقت نفسه، ظلت مصالحها ذاتها بالنسبة الى هذا الصراع. فهي ستظل تعمل لعدم توصل الفلسطينيين والإسرائيليين إلى حل، طالما انها لم توقع اتفاق سلام مع اسرائيل. ومع عدم وجود اتفاق بين اسرائيل والفلسطينيين تظل دمشق قادرة على استعمال الورقة الفلسطينية عندما تتفاوض مع اسرائيل على استرجاع الجولان.

ولسورية مصلحة في استغلال الفوضى في العراق للضغط على الولايات المتحدة خصوصاً في ما يتعلق بدعم التمرد السنّي فيه. وحسب الحسابات السورية فان طريقة توجهها هذه هي وسيلة لإقناع واشنطن بالاعتراف بمصالح سوريا في المنطقة، وأبرزها، أن توافق واشنطن على النفوذ السوري في لبنان، والضغط على إسرائيل لإعادة الجولان، والمحافظة على وحدة الأراضي العراقية وضمان ألا يكون العراق الجديد دولة معادية، وأخيرا أن تتخلى واشنطن عن تبني خطة تغيير النظام في سوريا.

ان هذه السياسة السورية مليئة بالمخاطر، فمساهمتها في زعزعة الاستقرار الأمني في العراق تزيد من تدفق اللاجئين العراقيين على أراضيها، إذ ليسوا جميعهم قادرين على إنفاق الأموال وتشجيع الاقتصاد السوري، رغم ان مجيئهم ضاعف من ثمن الشقق والمكاتب. ثم ان بقاءهم في سوريا سيكون مصدر قلق لدمشق، حتى يستقر الامن في العراق.

على كل، إن تفجر العراق وإمكانية تقسيمه خطر على وحدة الأراضي السورية واستقرارها الداخلي. ثم إن إقامة دولة سنّية وسط العراق يلتقي فيها الجهاديون، لا بد لاحقاً من ان تهدد وبشكل مباشر امن النظام السوري. يضاف إلى ذلك، إن كردستان مستقلة في شمال العراق ستشجع على حس الانفصال عند اكراد سوريا الذين يعانون من الاضطهاد منذ سنوات.

وقيام دولة شيعية في جنوب العراق يتغلغل فيها النفوذ الإيراني سيُنظر إليها على أنها تهدد التوازن الإقليمي وتنعكس سلباً على المصالح السورية.

من المؤكد، ورغم التحالف الاستراتيجي مع إيران، ان سوريا لا تريد نفوذاً إقليميا متزايداً لإيران. فبروز دولة كبرى وسيطرتها إقليميا ليس من مصلحة سوريا، ذلك أنها تفضل «توزيعاً إقليميا متساوياً» يضمن لها القيام بدور اكثر فعالية في المنطقة.

من هنا، فان التحالف السوري ـ الإيراني يبقى عند سوريا تحالفاً تكتيكياً، هذا إذا ما بقيت قادرة على التحكم به، كذلك الحال في علاقاتها مع الأحزاب الراديكالية في المنطقة مثل «حزب الله» في لبنان و«حماس» في فلسطين. ويرى بعض العارفين السوريين، إن الأسد عمّق من علاقات سوريا بهذه المجموعات بهدف مقاومة الضغوط التي تعرض لها اثر اغتيال رفيق الحريري، وهو على استعداد لإظهار بعض المرونة إذا خفت الضغوط الدولية عليه.

لكن في المحصلة، تبقى الأهداف السورية كما هي. وإذا عادت المحاولات لعزل سوريا فان دمشق مستعدة فوراً للقيام بدور «المزعزع»، كما تثبت الأزمة المستمرة في لبنان منذ العام الماضي، ويقول هؤلاء: «إذا استمرت الوفود في زيارة دمشق والحديث مع المسؤولين هناك، فمن المحتمل أن تخفف من علاقاتها مع إيران و«حماس» و«حزب الله» أيضا».

هناك عاملان أساسيان لا يتغيران في سوريا، مهما تغيرت أنظمتها او سياساتها: الأول: بسط نفوذها على لبنان والثاني: معرفة تحويل كل أزمات المنطقة إلى فرص للاستفادة.

فهل يتنبه اللبنانيون لهذا الواقع قبل أن يسأم من مشاكلهم العالم ويقول لهم، إنهم بحاجة إلى «حَكَم خارجي»، ويكون هذا الحَكَم… سوريا ما غيرها؟

April 11th, 2007, 11:50 pm


ausamaa said:

Abramowitz added that, “If Syria wanted to conduct official talks, it had other avenues available to it.”

Mr. Abramowitz means the Hizbollah and Hamas Avenues perhaps! A language Israel understands better than the mild tone of Mr. Sulieman!!

April 12th, 2007, 4:39 am


K said:

It’s happening again… my post doesn’t show up when I paste an article.

April 12th, 2007, 7:45 am


K said:

Saudi Arabia has told Iran not to count on the kingdom’s help if the international community imposes harsher measures on Tehran because of its refusal to abide by international requirements on the nuclear issue.

At a meeting in Riyadh last month, King Abdullah told visiting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Iran will have to “bear the consequences” of its actions, and should not underestimate the power, capabilities or will of the United States and the rest of the international community, according to a Saudi official.

“We told him, ‘Don’t come back to us and say you wish somebody had told you that,'” the official said. “Don’t come back and ask for help.”

The king was equally blunt with Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom he met in Riyadh on the sidelines of the Arab summit last month. Abdullah told Assad that if he wants to improve relations with Saudi Arabia — which are at an all-time low — he first has to prove his good intentions in Lebanon, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issues.

Abdullah’s words to the two close allies — Iran and Syria — come amid Saudi worries that the two countries’ defiance of the international community could plunge the region into larger chaos than the turmoil that resulted from Saddam Hussein’s refusal to come clean on his weapons of mass destruction program.

April 12th, 2007, 7:46 am


K said:

Saudis believe the U.S.-led 2003 war on Iraq has failed to stabilize that country, deepened Sunni-Shiite rifts in the region and allowed mostly Shiite Persian Iran to become the most influential power in Iraq.

At the same time, Iran has expanded its influence in Lebanon, among the Palestinians and in Gulf states such as Bahrain and Kuwait while improving its missiles and expanding a nuclear program that the West says aims to eventually produce bombs. Iran says the program is peaceful.

Tehran has also cemented its ties with longtime ally Syria, which is under pressure from the international community to stop its support for the Iranian-backed Hezbollah that is trying to topple the Lebanese government.

Damascus is also being pressured to cooperate with efforts to set up an international tribunal to prosecute suspects in the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri. Anti-Syrians blame Damascus for the murder but Syria has denied the accusations.

Last month, the U.N. Security Council voted to impose new sanctions on Iran — the second in three months — for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. On Monday, Ahmadinejad defied the U.N. demands, saying Iran has begun operating 3,000 centrifuges.

Iran’s rise has disturbed Saudi Arabia, which is ringed by Shiite populations in Kuwait, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen.

Some analysts say that if attacked, Iran would retaliate against U.S. interests in the region — and Saudi Arabia’s oil installations across the Gulf are the biggest and most important. The kingdom is the world’s largest oil producer and any disruption in its exports would seriously affect supplies to the United States and cause oil prices to soar.

In an effort to contain the situation, Saudi Arabia has launched an aggressive and public diplomatic push.

The kingdom is also trying to disengage Tehran from crises that the region’s Sunni Muslim leaders believe are none of Persian Iran’s business, such as the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, inter-Palestinian fighting and Lebanon’s simmering tensions.

Several weeks ago, the Saudis sponsored a meeting of feuding Palestinian factions in the holy city of Mecca that resulted in an agreement to form a national unity government.

But analysts say that although Abdullah will explore every diplomatic avenue to avoid war in the region, there’s only so much the kingdom can do.

“Saudi Arabia is not in a position to stop Iran from making a bomb or in a position to stop the Americans from bombing Iran,” said Jamal Khashoggi, who until recently was media adviser to Prince Turki, the former Saudi ambassador to Washington.

“The most it can do is give advice similar to that it gave the U.S. — not to launch the war on Iraq. But the Saudis couldn’t stop the Americans from doing it,” added Khashoggi, who is now editor of Al-Watan newspaper.

Asked if Saudi Arabia would act as a go-between if the situation between Iran and the international community came to a head, the Saudi official said: “If a decision is taken by the Security Council, what can we do? What do you think we are, Mother Teresa?”

Political analyst Dawood al-Shirian said Saudi Arabia’s tough words to Iran and Syria are significant.

“It’s as if Saudi Arabia feels that something is going to happen and it wants to show that it did not want — and has nothing to do with — whatever might happen,” said al-Shirian.

“It wants to absolve itself of any responsibility,” he added.

April 12th, 2007, 7:47 am


K said:

above article:

Saudi Arabia urging Iran and Syria to cooperate with international community

The Associated Press
Published: April 10, 2007

April 12th, 2007, 7:48 am


ausamaa said:

I do not see Saudi Arabia in a position to deliver any Blunt messages to either Syria or Iran at this time. The most Saudi Arabia can wish for is to be able to “solicit” Iran’s and Syria’s “goodwill” to calm down things.

When the Bush big “stick” could not get the job done, the Saudi can only and have only the “carrot” to offer.

So let us not get carried away by trying to position Saudi in the seat of the deal-maker when it actually is in the position of the deal-begger.

April 12th, 2007, 10:52 am


Innocent_Criminal said:


I think you are over dramatizing the situation in the other extreme now. Remember that countries like Saudi Arabia are one the first to receive information on American strategies in the region. and their warnings to Saddam did materlize. its true it doesn’t always work out the way they or the americans wanted to be, but that doesn’t mean they wont try again ASAP.

April 12th, 2007, 11:41 am


t_desco said:

German train-bombing suspects linked to Jund al-Sham?

Lebanon tries suspects in German bomb plot

The four men in the dock are suspected mastermind Jihad Hamad, 22, as well as Khaled al-Hajj Dib, 19, Ayman Hawwa, 22, and Khalil Bubu, 23, judicial sources said.

Bubu, who is also facing another trial for links in a bomb attack on a Lebanese army barracks in Beirut last year, is an electrician while the other three are university students, judicial sources told AFP.

(my emphasis)

“Bubu, der immer wieder triumphierend grinst, ist kein unbeschriebenes Blatt. Er sitzt bereits wegen Mordversuchs an einem libanesischen Soldaten und des Niederbrennens der dänischen Botschaft in Beirut während der Karikaturenkrise hinter Gittern und muss sich nun erneut verantworten, weil seine Telefonnummer in einem der Bombenkoffer gefunden wurde.”

– his telephone number was found in one of the suitcases containing the bombs which failed to go off
– he took part in the Danish consulate riots in Beirut
– he is also accused of attempted murder of a Lebanese soldier

The latter leads me to believe that this is the army barracks attack we are talking about:

Blast near Lebanese army post
By Nadim Ladki

BEIRUT (Reuters) – A bomb exploded near a Lebanese army barracks in Beirut early on Thursday, destroying a car and slightly wounding a soldier, security sources said.

The sources said a local newspaper had received a telephone call from someone claiming to speak on behalf of al Qaeda and declaring that a security target would be bombed in Beirut in retaliation for the arrest last month of 13 group members. …

Al-Balad newspaper reported in its morning edition that it had received a phone call in which a man claiming to be al Qaeda’s representative in Lebanon gave the authorities two weeks to release two women detainees.

”The caller threatened to launch three qualitative military operations simultaneously and clash with the security forces if the two women… are not freed,” al-Balad said in a report.

The women are the fiancée and mother of an al Qaeda member who was recently executed for murdering three military intelligence agents.”

Reuters, February 2, 2006, quoted by me here.

(my emphasis)

The “recently executed” al-Qa’ida member was Badieh Hamadeh, also known as Abu Obeida, though most probably not the “Abu Obeida” of the first Mehlis report (Jihâd Moustapha, according to Bernard Rougier). Yet it is also interesting to note that the caller did explicitly link the barracks bombing to the arrest of the 13 members of a terrorist cell allegedly headed by Khaled Taha, according to some reports (never officially confirmed).

April 12th, 2007, 12:24 pm


Observer said:

I do not think that the KSA has much room to wiggle with at this time. It has money and Bandar working behind the scenes to weaken Iran’s influence in the region. The KSA problem is that it can not deliver as long as GWB and Olmert are in power and they do need some cover on that front to allow for any significant action. After the failure of the war in Lebanon this last summer the region is in much more danger from subversive activities than ever before. The problem in this arena is that both sides can play rough without going to a full blown war.

April 12th, 2007, 1:08 pm


Joshua said:

Thanks t-desco. Nice work.

On the Saudi warning to Syria. I also take it with a grain of salt. I don’t doubt that Saudi Arabia said something to Asad along the lines of, “if you don’t call off the Lebanese opposition and help the March 14 coalition pass the bill to try you in an international tribunal, the US will be very angry and may try to hurt you – be warned.” In this case, however, context is everything. Saudi Arabia knows that Syria is not going to cooperate with the March 14 crowd on the International Tribunal. Syria’s stand is clear. Publicly, Saudi Arabia must continue to stand with Saad Hariri and America on the need for the tribunal’s smooth passage through the Lebanese parliament, but anyone who believes that Syria or the Lebanese opposition is going to facilitate this has not been reading the news.

On the tribunal, everyone is saying, “Yes, it must happen,” but few are willing to take responsibility for it. The UN head made it very clear during his most recent visit to Lebanon that establishing the legal framework for the tribunal was Lebanon’s duty. He demanded that Lebanon come to consensus. KSA said the same thing. Russia said it would not vote against it in the UN, but asked for time and said it was complicated. This also is saying “yes” and meaning “no.”

There is “public” agreement that the tribunal should be established, but no agreement on how. March 14 want the UN to vote a special Security Council law. The UN wants the Lebanese to pass it through parliament, which apparently will not happen. Not even March 14 members think they can force it through parliament any longer.

There is a pattern here. Everyone is saying “yes,” but meaning “no.”

There is no international will to tie Syria up in a complicated international court process, that most believe will ultimately be inconclusive.

Because of the success of the Bush administration in bringing “chaos” to the region and its failure to show any “creativity,” everyone is coming to the conclusion that Syria will be a key player in helping to advance stability in the future.

There is no desire in the international community to preclude the possibility of doing business with Syria in the future, by allowing the US and March 14 to tie their hands with an international tribunal.

Already, there are a hundred legal and economic restrictions on dealing with Syria, which will be very hard to undo. Why add the master lock – the international tribunal – which Cheney hopes to leave as his legacy to the Democrats.

This is, in part, why the Pelosi visit was explosive and why Cheney-Abrams launched the attack against her. Whatever hope remained to them of getting consensus for a Security Council resolution took a big hit with her visit.

The Democrats dealt the “get-Syria” campaign a kidney punch.

April 12th, 2007, 1:45 pm


Zenobia said:

Hail Nancy!

who knew that Syria will be defended a little by San Francisco. How ironic and amusing.

April 12th, 2007, 2:19 pm


SimoHurtta said:

500 Terror Attacks in EU in 2006 – But Only 1 by Islamists

Hmmm. Where is “the greatest danger of the 21 century”? Considering all our the investments made in terrorism hunting and the reduction of civil rights and loss of our privacy, it seems to be the “strangest” war in western history.

By the way who made the remaining 499 terrorist attacks? Christianists?

April 12th, 2007, 3:56 pm


ausamaa said:


“countries like Saudi Arabia are one of the first to receive information on American strategies in the region.”

But have you seen any “American Strategies” floating around recently?? I do not think GWB himself has seen any, let alone telling the Saudies about it!

That is why I think the Saudies, so much like many others, are just floating with the current and keeping their fingures crossed. They all have been reduced to “re-actors” rather than “pro-actors”!

April 12th, 2007, 4:30 pm


SyriaComment » Archives » The Truth about Syria: Will the UN vote for a Tribunal? said:

[…] Here is what I wrote about the likelihood of that happening in a comment on my last post. On the tribunal, everyone is saying, “Yes, it must happen,” but few are willing to take responsibility for it. The head of the UN made it clear during his most recent visit to Lebanon that establishing the legal framework for the tribunal was Lebanon’s duty. He demanded that Lebanon come to a consensus on the tribunal and pass the appropriate laws in the Lebanese parliament. Saudi Arabia said the same thing. Russia said it would not vote against the tribunal in the UN, but asked for time and said it was complicated. This is also a way of saying “yes” and meaning “no.” […]

April 12th, 2007, 4:34 pm


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