What is Behind Israeli Offers of Peace Negotiations?

I recently received this question from an Israeli-based journalist:

Dear Joshua,

There's been quite a lot of chastisement of Syria recently (Merkel, as you note on your site, and others), along with Olmert's statements (twice in two weeks) about wanting talks with Syria. And quite a lot of diplomacy going on with the Rice and Cheney visits. Do you think this mix of threat and blandishment might signal a new effort to engage with Syria?

I responded as follows:

No, I do not. I believe there is a full court press to ratchet up the pressure on Syria, as you say. The whiff of Golan is tantalizing but I do not think that Syria takes it as a genuine offer. Probably, a sound bet.

I cannot figure out what the US is offering Syria in exchange for pressuring Syria's allies in Lebanon to give up their demand for a blocking third in cabinet. I don't believe Washington is offering anything. The only hint we have is a whiff of Israeli peace talks. Syria does not trust this sort of blandishment. During the 1990s, the US waved a peace deal with Israel and the return of the Golan in front of Syria's nose in exchange for good Syrian behavior in Palestine and Lebanon, which Syria, by and large, delivered.

In the end, it came to naught at the famous Geneva meeting of Clinton and Assad. Clinton blamed Barak for getting "cold feet" in his memoir. Of course, Syria could have accepted less than all the Golan, as Ross makes clear.

Syria is insisting on an open and public commitment from Israel. It does not want back channels that can later be denied. It is not getting this. Israel continues to demand an unequivocal "flip" from Syria before any negotiations begin. This suggests lack of seriousness.

The West and Saudi are also trying to use the success of the Arab League Summit as a stick against Syria, but Syria's Foreign Minister has made it clear that Syria will not trade its strategic interests in Lebanon for a summit, i.e. it will not sacrifice its relations with Hizbullah for good press from Saudi Arabia.

Syria is being asked to sacrifice its strategic relations with Hizbullah for what? This is what I cannot figure out. Your question to me begs an answer to this. You assume Syria is being offered a carrot to turn against Hizbullah.

I am not sure there is a carrot. Washington's plan is not to offer carrots, but to ratchet up the economic, diplomatic, and political pain on Syria. Syria has demonstrated over the last five years that its pain threshold is very high. Assad has made good on his statement that Syria is not a charity that gives without getting.

In short, I do not see a deal in the offing. There are no concrete signs of a deal. The language and diplomacy between Washington and Damascus has only become more strained and accusatory over the last months, with added layers of sanctions. Relations between Washington and Syria have never been more strained.

Israeli based journalist replied:

Thanks for that. The carrot would have to be a deal on the Golan, and the reason I asked the question was Israel's renewed statements about wanting talks. An optimistic mind could see the Israeli overtures and the international pressure as part of the same process. But it's just as likely that they're unrelated and this is, as usual, Israeli smoke and mirrors. Olmert may be feeling the Palestinian track slipping away from him and wanting, as is the usual manner here, to frighten the Palestinians by making them think Israel will abandon them for talks with Syria. Or he may be wanting to make the Israeli public think that he has a plan for when the Palestinian track goes down the drain.

Anyway, it's all Kremlinology. Thanks again.

I responded:

Israel made the same statements about peace before the peace conference in Virginia a few months ago. It was a small opening pushed by State to lure the Syrians in, but it evaporated soon after because the US tried to follow up with Syrian concessions in Lebanon without satisfaction for Syria or its allies.

The problem, I believe, is that president Bush and the NSC are convinced that Syria is a bad actor and should not be bought. They remain convinced that the best policy is one of pressure. The State Dept has been almost entirely cut out of Syria-Lebanon policy. Hadley and Abrams are running it. It is the last red meat for the "freedom agenda" crowd in the Republican Party. It keeps them close and loyal.

Olmert can play back up to Washington threatening war or peace in order to broaden the front, but the general policy is clear. If there were a real desire to come to terms with Syria, Olmert could make this clear.

My understanding from various Israeli Defense department people i have talked to is that they see Syria as being too weak and to unwilling to make a big flip to give back the Golan.

As you can see, I do not hold out hope of any movement during the next 10 months.

The Lebanon issue has become very personal for the Syrian leadership — as it has for the Saudis and for the NSC.

My sense is that it can continue this way because, in the end, the stakes are very small for America. Lebanon is not of great importance. Neither is Syria. A small group in Washington can busy themselves with this trench warfare and turn it into a intense and personal battle, but ultimately, the American public doesn't understand the issues and doesn't really how they end up.

For Olmert, the US-Syrian contretemps are convenient because, as you explain, he can blame the lack of progress on Washington. He can also play Syria off against the Palestinians.

No one has enough cards to force a change in regional policy. My hunch is that almost everyone knows this in Washington but, as in Iraq, they are now concerned with getting to the finish line with an attitude of righteousness. They will turn over a loosing hand to the next administration and pursue the blame game, when it switches course at great expense.

Best, Joshua

EU's Solana urges pressure on Syria over Lebanon
Sun Mar 16, 2008
By Paul Taylor

BRUSSELS, March 16 (Reuters) – The European Union's foreign policy chief called on Sunday for greater pressure on Syria to allow the election of a president in Lebanon, warning of a "dramatic" crisis unless that happens this month.

In unusually blunt criticism, Javier Solana said Damascus was using proxies in Lebanon to prevent the election of armed forces chief Michel Suleiman, while the pro-Western majority in parliament was whittled away as lawmakers were killed.

The best chance to solve the issue was before a planned Arab summit in Damascus on March 29-30, because key leaders would not attend unless a new Lebanese head of state was present, he said.

"The pressure on Syria has to grow in order to solve the situation in Lebanon. I think the opportunity is there, before this summit which will take place in Damascus," Solana told the Brussels Forum on transatlantic relations.

"To tell you the truth, I'm not pretty sure that will be done. If that is not, then we get into a very serious crisis. This crisis is very dramatic," he said.

Olmert: Israel wants talks with Syria (17-03-2008)

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, addressing a joint German – Israeli cabinet session, on Monday said that Israel is interested in talking with Syria, talks which he said will lead Damascus to break with the “Axis of Evil.”

The session marked the first time cabinets from Germany and Israel have met for joint consultations, and the first time the German government held a joint cabinet session with a country outside Europe. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Olmert chaired this historic joint session.

According to Olmert, Israel has no interest in confrontation on its northern border with Lebanon. As for the Gaza Strip, Olmert said, according to Haaretz, “The government must do everything in order to defend its citizens, and it will do so.” “At the same time,” added Olmert, “it will act to advance the peace process. Negotiations are not a default option for us, we are conducting them because we believe that there is a chance to reach an agreement.”

© 2008 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

Iran will be at Syria summit but Lebanon may not
Sunday, 16 March, 2008

Beirut – Syria has invited its regional ally Iran to the Arab summit in Damascus and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki will represent Iran, Tehran officially announced today

"The Iranian Foreign Ministry is please to confirm that Iran was invited by Syria will be represented at the summit by Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki" said Mouhammad Ali Husseini, spokesman of the ministry

Reports circulated last week that the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will represent Iran as a guest of honor and will be seated next to Syrian president Bashar al Assad. It is not clear why Iran has decided to send a lower level representative.


McCain Slams 'Tyrants' Syria, Iran for Paralyzing Lebanese Government.
U.S. Republican Presidential Hopeful John McCain has accused Syria and Iran of paralyzing Premier Fouad Saniora's government and lauded all Lebanese who reject the terrorism of Damascus and Tehran. "Those who are systematically killing Lebanese patriots and denying the Lebanese people their democracy must be brought to justice. I commend Lebanese of all religions and sects who reject Syrian and Iranian terror and tyranny and embrace the great principles of the Cedar Revolution," McCain said in a statement on the occasion of the third anniversary of the Cedar Revolution.

Robert Fisk: The cult of the suicide bomber

… A month-long investigation by The Independent, culling four Arabic-language newspapers, official Iraqi statistics, two Beirut news agencies and Western reports, shows that an incredible 1,121 Muslim suicide bombers have blown themselves up in Iraq. This is a very conservative figure. … This is perhaps the most frightening and ghoulish legacy of George Bush's invasion of Iraq five years ago. Suicide bombers in Iraq have killed at least 13,000 men, women and children – our most conservative estimate gives a total figure of 13,132 – and wounded a minimum of 16,112 people.

Only about 10 of the suicide bombers have been identified. One of them, who attacked an Iraqi police unit in June 2005, turned out to be a former police commando called Abu Mohamed al-Dulaimi, but the Americans and the Iraqi authorities appear to have little intelligence on the provenance of these killers. On at least 27 occasions, Iraqi officials have claimed to know the identity of the killers – saying that they had recovered passports and identity papers that proved their "foreign" origin – but they have never produced these documents for public inspection. There is even doubt that the two suicide bombers who blew themselves up in a bird market earlier this year were in fact mentally retarded young women, as the government was to allege.

Indeed, nothing could better illustrate the lack of knowledge of the authorities than the two contradictory statements made by the Americans and their Iraqi protégés in March of last year. Just as David Satterfield, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's adviser on Iraq, was claiming that "90 per cent" of suicide bombers were crossing the border from Syria, Iraq's Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, was announcing that "most" of the suiciders came from Saudi Arabia – which shares a long, common border with Iraq. Saudis would hardly waste their time travelling to Damascus to cross a border that their own country shared with Iraq. Many in Baghdad, including some government ministers, believe that the nationality of the bombers is much closer to home – that they are, in fact, Iraqis….

The trajectory of the suicide bombers shows a clear preference for military targets throughout the insurgency, with attacks on Americans gradually decreasing from 2006 and individual attacks on Iraqi police patrols and police recruits increasing over the past two years, especially in the 100 miles north of Baghdad.

Death sentence: gay Syrian teenager facing deportation

Jojo Yakob, who has asked us not to reveal his identity, is fearful of the authorities in his native Syria.
By Kurt Bayer

HIS only crime was to be gay. For that he was half-drowned, brutally beaten and then fell into a coma. He survived, escaped from jail, fled his country and eventually arrived, exhausted and bedraggled, here in Scotland. And now the Government wants to send him back.

Syrian Jojo Jako Yakob last night pleaded with the Home Office to reverse a deportation order and spare him the certain death he believes he will face if he returns to his country. "I wish to claim asylum and I wish to stay here in Scotland," he said.

Gay rights activists demanded that homosexuals, such as Yakob, who were facing clear persecution in their homeland, should be granted asylum. But a spokesman for the Syrian Embassy responded by describing homosexuality as a "disease", which the country sought to "treat".

The 19-year-old is now to embark on a landmark legal challenge in order to reverse the deportation order so he can spend the rest of his life in Scotland.

Yakob fled his homeland two years ago after managing to survive a harrowing ordeal at the hands of Syrian police and prison guards, when he was arrested for distributing anti-government leaflets.

Following his transfer from police interrogation, prison guards soon discovered that Yakob, a member of the repressed Kurdish minority in the Arab state, was homosexual. He then suffered horrific beatings and was assaulted so badly that he fell into a coma. After being transferred to hospital, he managed to flee to Lebanon making for London, holed up in a lorry.

He applied for asylum and was granted extended leave by the Home Office, but was then arrested in Aberdeen last April after being found in possession of a fake Belgian passport. He was handed a 12-month sentence and sent to Polmont Young Offenders Unit in Falkirk.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has warned that the unchecked increase of population is wiping out the returns of the country's economic growth. Mubarak was meeting with cabinet ministers Monday to discuss how to solve the ongoing bread crisis affecting millions of the nation's poor. Presidential spokesman Suleiman Awwad says Mubarak believes more needs to be done to drop the nation's birthrate. Egypt's Health Minister reports that the country's population of 76 million has increased by more than 300% since 1952 when it was only 22 million.  (END) Dow Jones Newswires 03-17-08 1105ET
Syria imposes military service on Christian clerics. خاص (كلنا شركاء) Iraq, 5 Years on, a Nation of Refugees 
Iraq, 5 Years On, A Nation of Refugees
By GINA CHON, Wall Street Journal,
March 17, 2008; Page A1

….Return to Baghdad

After hearing rumors that security had improved back home, Mr. Jihad returned to Baghdad last December, moving in with family in a Shiite part of town. But he still didn't feel safe and says he felt like he was a prisoner, unable to go out at night or return to college. After two weeks, Mr. Jihad decided to return to Syria with his family. Working at a construction site, he earns just enough to cover his family's living expenses in Damascus.

Still, "the blessing of security in Syria is enough for me," Mr. Jihad says…..

An estimated four million Iraqis — over 14% of the country's population — have been displaced inside Iraq or to neighboring countries, largely due to the chaotic aftermath of the American-led invasion that began on March 19, 2003. (Complete coverage)

Comments (22)

Innocent_Criminal said:

The following might be surprising to some but I do not think it’s fair to say that the 1,121 Muslim suicide bombers are Bush’s invasion legacy.

Because the major factor in this horrific number is not the invasion, but the ignorance of many many many muslims through out the world and in this region in particular. IMHO the biggest flaw that is affecting muslim & arab societies is their retarded refusal to self criticize. It’s this apathy toward each other and deflection of guilt toward “westerners” that has been a major factor in their failing.

March 17th, 2008, 7:07 pm


Shai said:


I agree. There’s no reason whatsoever to believe Olmert is truly interested in talking to the Syrians. Although rumors have it that Track I has restarted with Olmert-style messages to Damascus via Turkey, the public statements made by the PM’s office suggest he (and his advisors) still lack the most basic understanding of Syria’s role in the region. If Olmert continues to insist on “flipping” Syria, and certainly if his messages continue to place preconditions to that effect, then of course nothing will move forward. Funny, but in a way I’m suspicious of Olmert almost like others are of Bashar, in that the timing for this sudden urge to talk to one another, comes “by chance” when personal investigations are still conducted against him, and when the realization is finally sinking in that the chance for a conclusion to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unlikely to take place this year (God knows why anyone thought it would). Those who suspect Bashar, of course, attribute this to the Tribunal.

Either way, there’s a reason Syria wants to continue Track II, and it is likely because it does read the map correctly, and does see how the Washington and Jerusalem administrations have boxed themselves into such a corner of GWAT-style principles, that the chance for progress this year is basically nil. Olmert and Barak are so low in public opinion polls, that one is almost tempted to suspect moves are being orchestrated based on personal interests no less than national ones. Barak surely had his own image and popularity in mind when approving the recent Gaza operation, just as Olmert had his when repeating his “Let’s talk to Syria, so that it will leave the Axis of Evil” mantra, this time next to his latest buddy, Merkel.

Having said all this, I do remain optimistic, because Track II is continuing, because some in Washington (not linked to the administration) are expressing a renewed interest in the region, and because Syria is remaining patient. From our end, there are lots of Israelis who are more than ready to make peace with Syria, but as the silent majority is still against withdrawing from the Golan, now is the time to help their Rabin-ideology of the 1990’s thaw once more, just enough to influence our decision-makers into doing what is necessary for Israel’s strategic interests, and not only Washington’s.

March 17th, 2008, 7:39 pm


Friend in America said:

My appraisal of the situation in Washington matches Joshua’s. There is a strong difference of opinion between the State Department (which pushed for Annapolis as a genuine start to negotiations) and those in the White House who believe no negotiations is the preferred strategy. If Condellesa Rice had more authority to develop policy, I believe negotiations would move more rapidly.

March 17th, 2008, 9:53 pm


offended said:

FIA, then why Condi doesn’t visit Damascus on her tours in the ME?

March 17th, 2008, 10:37 pm


Majhool said:

Damascus Declaration: Syria involved in Mughniyeh’s murder
Monday, 17 March, 2008 @ 10:01 PM

Beirut – The General Secretariat of the Damascus Declaration accused Monday the Syrian regime of involvement in the assassination of Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh who was killed last month in Damascus.

A statement issued by the Damascus Declaration headed by former MP Maamun al-Homsi stated: “It is our duty to expose the crimes of the Syrian regime and specifically the killing of Imad Mughniyah and the deception that accompanied this crime.”

Mughniyeh was killed on February 12. Hezbollah has accused Israel of being behind this crime, but this was denied by Tel Aviv.

The Damascus Declaration opposition group said all facts point to the Syrian regime involvement on behalf of Israel. It has been over a month since Mughniyehn was assassinated in the most exclusive district in Syria where homes cost an average of one million US dollars and the area is full of Syrian intelligence personnel.”

The statement added the “Syrian intelligence removed the car in which Mughniyeh was assassinated and cleaned completely the scene of the murder to remove all the evidence.”

Homsi was arrested in 2001. He was released in 2006. Homsi is currently residing in Lebanon.

Mughniyeh’s widow, an Iranian national, who was in Damascus at the time her husband was assassinated also accused the Syrian regime of involvement in the murder. She said “This is why the Syrian regime has refused the help of Iran and Hezbollah in the investigation of the murder.”

“The Syrian traitors assisted in my husband’s murder,” said Mughniyeh’s widow.

Syria’s Foreign Minister stated after the assassination that “only Syria will investigate the murder and it will be a very simple and straight forward investigation and we will find the perpetrators within days.”

According to intelligence reports Assef Shawkat, Syria’s top intelligence chief and the brother-in-law of Syrian president Bashar al Assad is behind the assassination. Shawkat is married to Basha’s sister Bushra. Bushra has left Syria and is now living in Paris.

Now aside from being mere propaganda with questionable resources and ill logic, this article just reminded with bits of rumors I recently heard from some well connected damascenes.. Basically the word is that Asef is under house arrest in Damascus. Did anyone hear about this?

March 17th, 2008, 11:08 pm


LingoChecker said:

IC, isn’t what you’re saying the same as what TheOtherPointOfVieW was saying?

March 18th, 2008, 1:16 am


norman said:

Do you think that war on the Golan will change the opinion of the silent majority in Israel and convince them that leaving the Golan is more profitable than keeping it , Sometimes i think that Israel will respond only to pressure as it did in Lebanon and Gaza.

So , What do you think.

March 18th, 2008, 1:35 am


Observer said:

Interesting analysis. Last time Israel talked peace they bombed a building in the North. I think this is just throwing sand in the eyes of the Syrians. The Olmerts and Baraks talk nice and hit below the belt be it Mughnyia or a square building on the river. Israel has no intention of making peace or returning the Golan heights for since 67 it became self sufficient in food. It also keeps Damascus a mere 45 km away from the front.
I am intrigued by the administration’s policy towards Syria in particular and the region in general. It appears that Mubarak is being shuned at the moment for reasons that are not clear. The departure of Fallon has gone off the radar screen. His replacement is not announced. Iran is attending the Arab Summit and Syria is lowering expectations for the summit essentially showing that it those that are boycotting that are losers. It has allied itself with those forces that are actively pursuing an action plan in contrast to those that are reacting to events and awaiting instructions from the Potomac. The regime has had a good teacher in the late Assad’s extreme patience with his foes positioning Syria exactly where he wants it to be and waiting for the accumulated mistakes of the other side to help this happen.
Foggy is the spring that is coming

March 18th, 2008, 2:01 am


ghassan said:

If you think that Israel responds only to pressure, why Syria does not act and opens up the Golan Heights front?
I think it is a smart idea!!!

March 18th, 2008, 4:02 am


Shai said:


I think that if the Syrian leadership thought war on the Golan can bring about its return, they wouldn’t have waited for you and I to talk about it. They know that the next war, in terms of its effect on their own survival as a regime, could be far worse than the last one (1973). Bashar is not as strong as his father was, he doesn’t have a Nasser or a Sadat attacking on another major front, and his army cannot be compared to that of the 1970’s. What is true, is that Syria has missiles that can seriously disrupt Israeli life for some time, and if Iran joined in, then many Israelis would be living under ground for a month or two. But, Syria knows that since it is a nation, unlike Hezbollah, it cannot assume that war on the Golan will remain limited only to the Golan. In fact, it safely assumes the opposite. The only way I believe Bashar will order his troops to start such a war, is if he felt very strong internal pressure (massive public demonstrations) to do so. If Israel continues to place ridiculous preconditions for restarting talks, and if it continues to dream of “flipping” Syria, then we may well see a situation where such pressure could begin to form inside Syria, and then Bashar may be willing to risk war.

Unfortunately, Israel knows everything I just said, and all too often takes advantage of Bashar’s weaknesses, instead of taking advantage of his strengths. But, let me assure you that Israel is NOT interested in war. War could serve only George W. Bush and his administration’s interests, not Israel’s, and Olmert, Barak, and the like, know this. We are not trying to retrieve land somewhere, we are not attempting to expand into Syria, Lebanon, or even Palestine, so war would serve only contrary to our interests. While many claim that Israel IS interested in a regime-change in Syria (those who, like AIG, have an unexplainable infatuation with democracy in Syria), it is highly doubtful that Olmert, Barak, or Netanyahu for that matter, would be willing to drag Israel into a major regional war for that. Plus, aside from knowing that many Israelis will die in such a war, there’s no guarantee that in the end, a regime change really will occur. So I’m pretty doubtful that either Israel, or Syria, will initiate war anytime soon.

However, war CAN occur at almost anytime I believe. I’ve used the term “TNT barrel waiting to explode” to describe the current situation here, because I believe the ones controlling the show are more Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran, than Israel or Syria. Any of those three can decide, at any moment, to begin a process which will force Israel (and therefore Syria) into war. Say Hamas launches another major rocket attack on Israel, this time killing not one or two Israeli civilians, but twenty, or thirty. There will be such public pressure in Israel, that the government will almost certainly order a massive ground operation into Gaza. That means many innocent Palestinians will again lose their lives (probably many more than 120, like the previous 4-day operation), which could easily lead Hezbollah to respond by shelling Israel with hundreds, if not thousands of rockets in show of support. When that happens, Israel will essentially be at war, having to fight two militias on two fronts. Internal pressure will probably lead Israeli leaders to “punish” Syria this time, for enabling Hezbollah to become as strong as it is, so attacks into Syria (perhaps only by air) will also take place. Syria will have to respond, and now we’re officially at a new, 21st century, regional war. If Iran joins in, then it could truly become a catastrophe, because Israel will behave as if under existential threat, will perhaps use all its might, and will also drag other major world players into the conflict (U.S., France, etc.)

Sorry for the “gloomy” analysis. I still hope I’m wrong. We are desperate to find “cooler minds” in the region, and outside it, who can influence the course of our future. They need to be found, and they need to act, quickly.

March 18th, 2008, 5:50 am


wha2eva said:

Joshua et al, my two cents on the ‘gay’ thing.

If this teenager is sent back to Syria, he wouldn’t be handed a death sentence because of his sexual orientation/identity/sexuality. There are genuine (if occasionally negotiated) spaces of tolerance and acceptance in Syrian society. But if the authorities or even own family members choose to give him a hard time, they will, and nobody (as far as documented evidence shows) will stand-up and stop them from doing so.

Sentencing is arbitrary. For ‘habitual debauchery’ you can spend 3 hours, three years, or three lifetimes locked-up. There is no procedural coherence. And, for want of a better term, homophobia (or some form thereof) has its place in police behaviour and practice. So if they’re after you for political reasons, and they also know of/suspect you have a “luti” sex-life, it is likely to rub the salt into an already sore wound.

And I’m astonished by the level of ignorance in the comments on the Scotsman article (cf. the website), 3an jad… you’ve got to see it to believe it.

March 18th, 2008, 12:14 pm


LingoChecker said:

The end of this week and Sunday is a concordance of holidays:
– Thursday: Mawlid an Nabi
– Friday: Purim
– Friday: Hindu Festival of Colors. Celebrates the destruction of evil. Signifies the renewal of life
– Sunday: Easter

I don’t believe there are Hindu contributors on SyriaComment.com
For the others, best wishes for inspiration, peace, and joy. Happy Holidays. We all do have Abraham in common. May we find more that lead us to real peace in the ME.

For Moslems: http://www.123greetings.com/view/MU40318054707251
For Jews: http://www.123greetings.com/view/MU10318054901677
For Christians: http://www.123greetings.com/view/MU10318055358580



March 18th, 2008, 1:22 pm


Friend in America said:

Offended –
I do not know why Condi did not visit Damascus…I am not privy to such internal decisions. So, we both will have to ask her.

March 18th, 2008, 1:33 pm


Norman said:

Syria and Israel should run toward peace , otherwise , war will be the only option,israel tried war meny times , that did not bring peace to the Jewish people , it is time to try peace offensive,

Syrian FM: War with Israel possible

JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST Mar. 16, 2008


A war between Syria and Israel is certainly a possibility, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem was quoted as saying Sunday.

In an interview with the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Anba, Moallem was asked if he believed that Israel was preparing for war against Lebanon or Syria in order to avoid addressing internal issues. “Everything is possible”, he answered, adding that “every rational person should prepare for every eventuality in the wake of the crazy policies advocated by the US, whose goals are certainly not achieving stability and security in the region.”

Moallem went on to call Hizbullah a friend of Syria. “Hizbullah is not a proxy of Syria but a friend. Hizbullah is a part of Lebanon and the difficulties Lebanon faces.”

Regarding Israel’s possible involvement in the assassination of Hizbullah terror chief Imad Mughniyeh, the Syrian foreign minister stated, “The investigation is ongoing. I do not wish to jump to the concluding part of the investigation.” However, he said that every time a great crime is committed, the question of who stands to benefit from it must be asked, adding that “Israel holds a top spot on that list.”

Moallem denied reports that Syria was itself involved in the assassination. “Whoever makes this assertion is not familiar with the details of the investigation.”

He also rejected the claim that the assassination constituted a security breach. “Crimes such as this take place in many capital cities around the world and I cannot classify it as a security breach. Furthermore, Mughniyeh habitually entered Damascus under aliases and he lived in a community in which the neighbors believed he worked as a driver. He did not have bodyguards and did not take security precautions,” said Moallem.

The Syrian foreign minister noted that the country’s security services were entrusted with the investigation into Mughniyeh’s assassination. “We are undertaking significant efforts in order to complete the investigation. We will announce the results at its conclusion,” he added.



This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1205420698432&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

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Copyright 1995- 2008 The Jerusalem Post – http://www.jpost.com/

March 18th, 2008, 3:08 pm


Welcome | Project on Middle East Democracy said:

[…] Joshua Landis at SyriaComment discusses the latest in U.S. policy towards Syria, arguing that he doesn’t believe the U.S. plans to engage Syria by pressuring Syria’s allies in Lebanon to give up their demand for a blocking third in cabinet. […]

March 18th, 2008, 3:43 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

I am reminded of Israel’s Barak offering the moon to Arafat, but when they went to Camp David, Barak had pared away all the carrots leaving only shavings, followed up by Sharon’s subsequent immoral siege of Ramallah (and robbing of banks, and the destruction of Orient House, etc.) Obviously, Syria does not wish to accept front door or back door offerings while Kadima or right-wing Labor is in power. Rabin was the last chance, unless the people or Israel are willing to recreate the mood for negotiation lost with the assassination (coordinated) of Rabin.

March 18th, 2008, 3:52 pm


Karim said:

Mughniyeh habitually entered Damascus under aliases and he lived in a community in which the neighbors believed he worked as a driver.

how can that be true? taxi drivers in kafr susa in which the average price of an appartment is around 500 000 US dollars ,a residencial quarter of regime s officers .

March 18th, 2008, 4:54 pm


offended said:

Now that the great intelligence apparatus of Damascus Declaration has unraveled the Mughneya mystery, we can all go home.

March 18th, 2008, 5:20 pm


Observer said:

In the meantime the lone superpower continues to bluff its way around. As usual the Arabs are the last to realize that their great ally is no more.

March 18th, 2008, 5:27 pm


Asim said:

israel wants to negotiate peace??!!! What madness is this? There is nothing to negotiate-the Palestinians have lost evry thing:the rcaist apartehid jewish theocracy occupied 78% of Arab historic Palestine in 1947/8 and the rest of it-22%-in 1967;since this latter date israel devoured 60% of the 22%(west bank,GAza but esepcially Jerusalem-which means less than 10% of historic Palestine is left for a “Palestinian State” OF mutilated bantustans with no water resouces or agricultural land.

So What is there to negotiate-it a silly game to grab more land-whatever is left.

Solution:set up secular democratic PAlestine for all Arabs(Muslims and Christians)and jews who lived in Palestine on or befroe 1914.jews who illegally immigrated to Palestine,that is all who came after 1914 should simply pack up and go back to where they come from especially to Germany which is obliged to accomodate them as a compensation for the holocaust.

That will allow the return of six million Palestinian refugees who were ethnically cleanesed by jewish terrorist gangs such as Hagana,Pamach, Shtern and Irgun in 1947.

No other solution will ever work-Apartehid south africa had nuclear weapons and it vanished-all the same.

For more info on Palestine,see the London based http://WWW.PALNDS.ORG

March 22nd, 2008, 9:11 am


SyriaComment - Syrian politics, history, and religion » Archives » Summitry 3: Can the Effort to Isolate Syria Hold? said:

[…] I am not sure I believe the news that Israel is seriously seeking to resume peace talks with Syria, as I have explained recently, but it is possible. […]

March 28th, 2008, 4:26 pm


wizart said:

“There’s no reason whatsoever to believe Olmert is truly interested in talking to the Syrians.”

“I am reminded of Israel’s Barak offering the moon to Arafat, but when they went to Camp David, Barak had pared away all the carrots leaving only shavings, followed up by Sharon’s subsequent immoral siege of Ramallah (and robbing of banks, and the destruction of Orient House, etc.) Obviously, Syria does not wish to accept front door or back door offerings while Kadima or right-wing Labor is in power. Rabin was the last chance, unless the people or Israel are willing to recreate the mood for negotiation lost with the assassination (coordinated) of Rabin.”

“israel wants to negotiate peace??!!! What madness is this? There is nothing to negotiate-the Palestinians have lost every thing:the racist apartehid jewish theocracy occupied 78% of Arab historic Palestine in 1947/8 and the rest of it-22%-in 1967; since this latter date israel devoured 60% of the 22%(west bank,GAza but esepcially Jerusalem-which means less than 10% of historic Palestine is left for a “Palestinian State” OF mutilated bantustans with no water resouces or agricultural land.”

April 15th, 2008, 6:07 pm


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