“US Signals it plans to return an ambassador to Damascus,” says Assad

US plans to return an ambassador to Damascus UPI, Dec 3

Syrian President Bashar Assad stated that Washington has begun to send “clear signals” to Damascus with plans to return a U.S. ambassador to Syria in early 2009.

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s choice of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state should help build peace in the Middle East, an official Syrian source says.

Damascus: Ready for business. Photo by Ketan Gajria, 2008: Shopkeeper near Bab as-Sarouja market across from Madhat Basha

Damascus: Ready for business. Photo by Ketan Gajria, 2008: Shopkeeper near Bab Srijeh market across from Madhat Basha

Comments (29)

offended said:

As As’ad Abukhalil would say, this is Zionism:

“Niggers don’t expel Jews”

‘Border Guard officers of Ethiopian descent report rising number of racially motivated verbal attacks from Hebron youths; Druze officers also suffer racist remarks ‘


December 4th, 2008, 7:46 pm


Shai said:


These people, and those who support them, are the scum of the earth. Their place is on another planet – not ours.

December 4th, 2008, 8:35 pm


MSK* said:

Dear Josh, Alex and others,

What is your take on Hillary Clinton as SecState, especially in regard to the Middle East?



December 4th, 2008, 8:46 pm


Chris said:

The source for the article is Syrian President Bashar Assad. He says that the U.S. is sending clear signals that it is planning on returning the U.S. ambassador to Syria in the beginning of next year. Somehow I doubt that the incoming Obama administration is sending “signals,” before it has taken office, that it wishes to return the U.S. ambassador to Syria. Even so, that wouldn’t be “the U.S.” who is sending the signals, as the article mentions, it would be the Office of the President Elect. This is because the Bush administration really isn’t capable of sending credible signals as to what future U.S. foreign policy will be or what Obama’s going to do. So it appears that either Bashar is lying or he doesn’t understand the U.S. political system. In any case, its quite a bazarre quote. Perhaps its wishful thinking on Bashar’s part.

Ultimately, it looks like UPI had a slow news day.

December 4th, 2008, 9:04 pm


Alex said:


We will have to wait and see how the different figures in the new administration interact.

She might end up being a Colin Powell (a weak outsider), and she might end up being a Dick Cheney (the real boss)

December 4th, 2008, 9:31 pm


offended said:

idit, thanks for the link.

Many arabs and muslims are in denial of a whole set of problems. But you know what we say in arabic: “fakedo al she’i la yo’teeh” (the one who lacks something can’t impart it’. Arab citizens aren’t treated with fairness and dignity from their regimes, so I don’t expect them to be superhumans in return. I wholeheartedly believe in Gandhi’s quote: “society is measured by the way it treats its most vlunerable”. It’s clear that those who seek to be better human beings can do so regardless of the order of justice or the lack of it, but you can’t always rely on self scrutiny.

Have a nice day.

December 4th, 2008, 10:52 pm


MSK* said:


That’s an awfully diplomatic statement.

Are you at all worried that her previous stance – viz-a-viz the Iraq War, Israel/Palestine, Syria, the MidEast as a whole – will affect her performance as SecState?

Who would’ve been your favorite for the position?


December 4th, 2008, 11:11 pm


Alex said:


Two comments in one day!? : )

Seriously … I was not trying to avoid criticizing anyone!

In 2000 I liked Cheney and Powell equally … based on their previous positions in the early 90’s… later, we realized how each one changed.

And did I mention that I was one of the idiots who cheered for George Bush in 2000?

So, I am not sure I know the real Hillary Clinton … is it the one who angered the Israelis when she made some pro Palestinian statements in the company of the wife of the late Yasser Arafat? .. or is it the Senator from NYC who made sure the main power centers in NYC were happy with her as their senator? … or is it this Hillary who at 5:00 equated between Saudi Arabia and Iran (without blaming Syria) for violence in Iraq …

I think it will be some new Hillary … her overall output will be heavily influenced by the combined interaction effects she will have with each other relevant senior member of the administration.


Chuck Hagel and John Kerry were my favorites, but I knew they were not going to be selected… especially Hagel

Therefore, I was neutral regarding Hillary … as long as Dennis Ross is not the NSA. But with James L. Johns, I think there is a good balance.

And if you see my new profile photo on FB you will realize who is my pick for Middle East envoy 😉

December 4th, 2008, 11:48 pm


norman said:

This is interesting ,

Obama’s New Foreign Policy Team Looks Toward Syria
Peace Efforts Would Run Parallel To Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations

By Nathan Guttman
Thu. Dec 04, 2008

Washington — Breaking with the Bush administration, the incoming foreign policy team of President-elect Barack Obama is expected to embrace Israeli–Syrian peace talks and might actively take part in negotiations that until now the Americans have shunned.

This assessment is shared by Middle East experts trying to gauge the foreign policy priorities of the incoming administration based on statements from the transition team. The negotiations on an accord between Israel and Syria would run parallel to efforts to secure a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Obama himself indicated he would take on the Israeli–Palestinian peacemaking task, mentioning the conflict as one of four foreign policy goals when he introduced Hillary Rodham Clinton as his pick for Secretary of State.

“We were hoping to get an indication that he will do this and he gave us the signal in his speech,” said Ziad Asali, president of the American Task Force on Palestine, one of many Middle East players in Washington seeking the attention of the new administration.

Most Middle East experts and foreign diplomats are still unclear about Obama’s foreign policy plans. His transition team and advisers strictly refrain from engaging with foreign representatives, sticking to the principle set by Obama that “there is only one president in Washington.”

The transition team also adheres to the same tightly controlled practice, set during the campaign, to avoid leaks. “Those who know don’t talk and those who talk don’t know,” said a Middle East activist when describing his attempts to gain some insight into the next president’s moves.

Talks on the Israeli–Syrian track have been conducted for over a year under the auspices of the Turkish government. The Bush administration initially opposed the negotiations fearing they would provide Damascus with an excuse not to act on issues relating to its involvement in Iraq and its support for terror groups. The United States later withdrew its opposition, but Americans were never involved actively in the talks.

Obama has said during the campaign that he would support peace talks between the two countries, although it is still unclear what shape the American involvement will take.

The call for promoting the Israeli–Syrian track is among several key recommendations in an extensive report compiled by two leading think tanks in Washington. The report, “Restoring the Balance: A Middle East Strategy for the Next President” was prepared by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution and calls for a robust diplomatic effort by Obama to include three parallel tracks: talks with Iran; promoting Israeli–Palestinian peace, and supporting the Israeli–Syrian talks.

“The Syrian track represents an opportunity that the Obama administration should develop,” said Martin Indyk, director of the Saban Center. “We do not advocate a ‘Syria first’ approach, but a ‘Syria also’ approach.”

In the past, Palestinians have been concerned about promoting the Syria track, fearing it would distract Israelis and Americans from their issue, but this opposition has now weakened since reaching out to Syria is seen as beneficial to moderate Palestinians. “Peace with Syria can accelerate the Israeli–Palestinian peace track if it is done in the right way,” said Asali of the pro-Palestinian group. He stressed that if an agreement would include an end to Syrian support of the Hamas, it would strengthen the Palestinian leadership that is seeking a two-state solution.

Dealing with the Israeli–Palestinian front may turn out to be the most difficult challenge for Obama’s new team. Many believe that conditions are not ripe, with Israeli elections scheduled for February and continued Palestinian friction between Hamas-ruled Gaza and the West Bank, governed by Fatah. But Obama doesn’t seem to share this view. He he vowed during the campaign to take on Israeli–Palestinian peacemaking “from day one.”

“So far, all indications are that he is doing exactly what he said he promised,” said a Washington insider with close ties to Obama’s team.

One of the plans being revisited is the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 that calls on full normalization of ties between the Arab world and Israel in return for a two-state solution. An Arab diplomat told the Forward that Arab leaders are now preparing a letter to Obama in which they will urge him to adopt the plan and move promptly toward a final status solution to the conflict. The diplomat did not rule out the possibility that Arab states will agree to move faster toward normalizing ties with Israel if they feel the new administration in Washington is taking serious steps to solve the Palestinian problem.

Whether the new administration should push for a truce among Palestinians also was debated this week in Washington. Middle East scholar Shibley Telhami argued that it should be a priority. “You cannot move forward as long as the Palestinians remain divided and there is violence,” said Telhami, the Anwar Sadat chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland. Telhami was one of the contributors to the report dealing with recommendations for the next administration.

In the meantime, Maen Areikat, a senior Palestinian negotiator, said that Fatah is prepared to establish an independent state in the West Bank instead of waiting for moderates to retake control in Gaza. While visiting the capital, Areikat told the Washington Times that while his group prefers reaching an agreement with Hamas, “the PLO is mandated to continue negotiations” on its own.

The future of American involvement in the process will also be affected by Obama’s nominations to the remaining top foreign policy posts, including the special envoy to the region. Speculation is abundant. Dennis Ross, the veteran peace negotiator and an early Obama backer, was seen as the leading candidate for the post, although now his chances seem to have dimmed since he is seeking a broader Middle East portfolio. Another front-runner is former ambassador Dan Kurtzer, who has taken a critical view of peacemaking efforts by Ross in a book he published last year. Washington sources also said Martin Indyk has a chance of filling the post of a senior envoy and that his close ties to the Clintons might improve his chances with the new secretary of state.


Thu. Dec 04, 2008

December 5th, 2008, 2:26 am


MSK* said:


Fair enough. Let’s minshuuf, then …

Re: Two comments in one day — I had leased my comments allowance to AkbarPalace & SimoHurtta, but they’re late with payments this month.


PS: Love today’s anti-spam word.

December 5th, 2008, 2:50 pm


MSK* said:


Fair enough. Let’s minshuuf, then …

Re: Two comments in one day — I had leased my comments allowance to AkbarPalace & SimoHurtta, but they’re late with payments this month.


PS: Something’s wrong with SC & the anti-spam word. Slow or non-loading. Why did “IKEA” not work? ‘Cause there isn’t a store yet in Syria, but there’s one in KSA? Is that another result of the Saudi-Syrian “cold war”?

December 5th, 2008, 4:33 pm


offended said:

I dont know about you, but these photos made me quite angry

photo 1.

photo 2.

December 5th, 2008, 5:57 pm


AIG said:

If you are angry about such things, you should do something about it. For example, why don’t you lead by example and eradicate racism in the Arab world? Then others will follow.

Do you really not see that complaining about other societies while doing nothing to make yours better makes your position very suspect? Are you against racism, or are you just against racist Jews? Why is it that you always find excuses for how Arabs act and don’t feel a need to improve that? Do you realize how anti-Jewish the Arab world is? What are you doing about that?

December 6th, 2008, 12:00 am


Nafdik said:


Your argument is cop-out.

How do you know that Offended is not angry at the sight of Arab racism?

If every time Nelson Mandela complained about apartheid in SA he was told about African atrocities in Nigeria we would never move ahead.

I personally find these images very sad, AND I am against Arab racism against Jews. But I will not say that we need to stop fighting one problem until the other is solved.

December 6th, 2008, 9:53 pm


offended said:


As you well know, and since I live in cluster of dectatorships and under the behest of vicious tyrants, I can’t do anything about racism in the arab world.

Now let’s see what are YOU doing about racism in the democratic state of Israel?

December 6th, 2008, 10:07 pm


offended said:

And AIG, are you trying to say that those bunch of racist settlers are doing what they are doing as a reaction to racism toward jews in the arab world?

are you saying that they are not at all driven by a fanatical religious agenda?

December 6th, 2008, 10:09 pm


norman said:

about the questions on the left ,

syria should lead and reach an agreement between Israel on one side and Syria, the Palestinians, the Lebanese and the Iranians on the other side , That is the only way for Israel to have a full peace which i think it should have , any thing less is just a Band aide to a bleeding wound and a drain of the economic potential in that region.

I want to add that anything less will waist Israel resources and lead to the rise of the extremists and the destruction of that area.

December 6th, 2008, 10:25 pm


trustquest said:

I admire your commitment to human rights, but that should mean you are a harder defender of human rights in your place of living. I have mentioned before that when a student Jew in Damascus UN, subjected to racist discrimination I stood up for him against the fanatic haters. You should manifest the same or you fall into hypocrisy.

December 6th, 2008, 10:33 pm


alurduni Alhurr said:

I want to ask you this ,if the situation was reversed ,just imagine Joshua Landis ,if Syria bombed United States what will be the reaction of the government of United States,I think ,the Syrian government is incompetent to do anything legally meaningful, This is naked aggression by US ,and Syrian leadership are for some unfounded reason is afraid to even take US to world court or at least to general Assembly OF United Nation, Syria couldn\’t afford to treat this naked aggression lightly,it must formulate a policy and strategy to show the world that this naked aggression doesn\’t happen again.

December 6th, 2008, 10:44 pm


AIG said:

What some settlers do is despicable and I fight them within the rules of Israeli democracy. Furthermore, I am an atheist (but a Jew nevertheless). I do not believe in God or any rules coming from him. I believe in democracy.

I also firmly believe each person should clean his own back yard. Why is offended not angry at the horrendous poverty in Syria and gives the regime a pass and always finds excuses for it? Why is he only angry at what some Israelis do? Why is he trying to change Israel instead of changing Syria which is 10 times worse by almost all measures????????

It just seems so weird to me that Arab societies have gotten worse over 60 years but this the Arabs accept and think it will take decades to change, but when it comes to Israel, it has to become a perfect country overnight. The Arab world including Syria has grown much more religious than Israel, yet Israel is the only country complained about. Why??? Let’s face the truth. Israel has many faults, but it was able to remain a democracy while fighting many wars and it has also been able to develop economically.

I just wish that Arabs would spend 20% of the energy that they use to criticize and educate Israel to change their own societies for the better. I find it very strange that the issue of the Golan is discussed on this blog about 100 times more often than the issues of poverty and education in Syria. Is it only me, or does anyone else see the same tendency of escapism and really bad priorities?

December 7th, 2008, 1:40 am


Nafdik said:


While I am the first one to agree with you that the murderous regimes of the Arab world have done far more harm to their people than Israel ever did, and that Arab Israelis have much more political rights than Arab Syrians, Egyptians, Saudis, ….

I still think that Israel should be held to a much higher moral standards if it wants to receive the support it has been getting from the West, since much of this support is coming from moral grounds and not from strategic interest.

Israel is an imperfect democracy in spite having a very large number of secular democrats like you. The reason is that Israel is founded on principles that are inconsistent with democracy, namely a national identity that excludes a large segment of its population and denies the recent history of the country. Until you abandon these principles or wipe out the Palestinians completely you will be a schizophrenic state. Which course will you choose?

Why do Arabs care so much about the plight of Palestinians, while genocidal or near-genocidal murders happen in their own lands: Darfur, Kurds, Hama, Lebanon, Iraq, etc???

For the same reason Americans care disproportionally about Israel.
Israel and Palestine are part of our mythology and occupy a huge chunk of our collective brain. This applies to all those raised in Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths, even if they are secular.

If you live by the myth, you die by the myth (metaphorically speaking I hope)

December 7th, 2008, 5:17 pm


AIG said:


We agree on all facts except the following. During the cold war, even Walt and Mearsheimer agreed that Israel was an important strategic asset for the US. They argue against the post 90 support for Israel. Also, Israel fought the 67 war without American support. In 56 it was Eisenhower that kicked Israel out of the Sinai.

Of course Israel is an imperfect democracy. So what? So was the US and every European country when they were founded. The American founding fathers accepted slavery and practiced ethnic cleansing on continental scales. The French in Algeria, the Belgians in Congo, the Italians in Ethiopia just to name a few all acted in much much worse ways than Israel. Again, everything has to be seen in perspective. What the US and Europe see in Israel, is a new country forged in war but still trying and even in many cases succeeding in being a democracy under the harshest of conditions. All this while not ONE Arab country is even near being a modern democracy. So why wouldn’t the Europeans and Americans morally support Israel?

It took the US 150+ years to abolish discrimnation against blacks. We are doing much better. The Europeans just 60 years ago killed most of their Jews. We are doing much better in a shorter time. Let’s see in 100 years what the state of Jewish democracy is. So far, we are exceeding expectations by far. You agree that Arab Israelis have more rights than Arabs in Arab countries. Why wouldn’t we have moral supprot from Europe and the US?

As for the myth, I disagree about the analogy to Americans. They care much much more about the US than about any issue of Israel. But it seems Arabs care about their own countries less than they care about Israel and the Palestinians. And if you realize it is a myth, why not do something about it?

December 7th, 2008, 6:13 pm


Shai said:


“Israel and Palestine are part of our mythology and occupy a huge chunk of our collective brain.”

This is a very important comment, that needs to be heard by all Israelis. Indeed often Israelis think that the link to the Palestinians is always an excuse to not make peace directly with Israel. Not many Israelis understand, for instance, the true reason why most Egyptians and Jordanians hate Israel. To Israelis (most on the Right, but also many on the Left), the fact that we do not enjoy “real” peace with Egypt and Jordan is “proof” that the Arabs aren’t interested in peace with us.

And that is why your statement is so important. We must come to understand that the Arab world cannot make peace with an Israel that is acting as an Apartheid over its Palestinian brethren. The question, of course, is which will come first – artificial peace with most individual states (such as Syria) followed by external and internal pressure upon the Palestinians, or the other way around… I believe the former should.

December 7th, 2008, 7:12 pm


trustquest said:

I did not exactly understand your statemet:
“artificial peace with most individual states (such as Syria) followed by external and internal pressure upon the Palestinians, or the other way around… I believe the former should.”
could you elaborate please!

December 7th, 2008, 7:48 pm


Shai said:


Yes, sorry, I see how that statement could have been confusing. I meant, that while many believe that Syria should wait for Israel to first reach an agreement with the Palestinians, before signing any peace agreement, I think it should be the other way around. At the moment, there is no one to talk to on the Palestinian side. Abu Mazen is our puppet, and cannot deliver. Hamas and Fatah aren’t talking, so neither is representative of the Palestinian people. And Hamas refuses to recognize Israel, at least enough to talk to her. So the question is, do we wait for something to occur between Israel and the Palestinians, or do we move along other tracks as well? I believe there is a real potential in reach a peace agreement with Syria, which will de facto be an “artificial peace” between Israelis and Syrians, until the Palestinian issue is resolved. But, if Syria and Israel sign an agreement, Syria can help us with the Palestinians. It can help Hamas and Fatah work out their differences, and then, it can help broker an agreement between Israel and Palestine. Syria is the best candidate for this job (Egypt in my mind failed quite miserably), and since it is offering to make peace with us, we really can’t and shouldn’t wait.

December 7th, 2008, 8:03 pm


trustquest said:

Tell you the truth Shai, I like my first glimmer of understanding you statement. I understood your statement as making artificial peace with individual states as the continuation of peace agreement like Egypt and Jordan, which has the hall mark of individual dealing with neighbors and it does not care about the feeling of the whole Arab Population. The case where you reach a bargain through dealing with individual state which, was all along the Israel policy which based on the infinite distrust of enemies. I think a peace with all at the same time will save Israel the grumble of others and a peace based on value principal of peaceful coexistence reaching the populace as Arab as a whole will give the lasting peace of mind from dissent and fanatics. But alas, who is me to suggest, lets wait and see how those politician play the game, they always thought of people as stupid do not know what is best for them.

December 8th, 2008, 2:31 am


Shai said:


I also wish we could have a true comprehensive peace right now. But I don’t see it happening while Fatah and Hamas aren’t talking, and while Abu Mazen can’t deliver an agreement. So we can either sit and wait, or move along whatever tracks are available. The only one that seems to have a real potential, is the Syrian one.

December 8th, 2008, 5:55 am


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