“Will There Be a US Ambassador in Damascus by September?” By Landis

Will There Be a US Ambassador in Damascus by September?
By Joshua Landis
Syria Comment, June 3, 2009

The State Department has indicated it has no plans for now to return a U.S. ambassador to Damascus.

This bland denial cannot be true.

If “Syria has agreed to let a delegation of US military commanders visit Damascus in the coming weeks,” as Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post states in his article copied below, there must be plans afoot to return a US ambassador to Damascus.

Syria has long insisted that the US must treat Syria with a modicum of civility and respect if it expects to make progress on outstanding foreign policy issues. Syrians state that the US cannot expect to humiliate and insult Syria while at the same time demanding cooperation.

Under President Bush, Washington wanted it both ways. The neocons insisted that Syria was to get no rewards and no recognition for cooperation. The pragmatists, however, recognized that they needed Syria’s cooperation on intelligence and security arrangements if Washington hoped to tamp out Iraqi resistance and save the lives of US military in Iraq.

Secretary Rice met Walid Moualem twice – once at Sharm al-Shaykh and a second time in Istanbul. She asked to send two generals to Damascus to jump-start intelligence sharing and security cooperation on Iraq. Syria was eager to oblige, claiming that cutting down al-Qaida and stabilizing Iraq were both in Syria’s national interest. But Syria also insisted that if America truly wanted cooperation it should treat Syria as an ally and not a rogue state. Syrian officials asked Washington to return an Ambassador to Damascus as a token of cooperation and civil exchange. Rice refused. Having normal relations was seen as a sign of “rewarding” Syria. The Vice President’s office put the kibosh on this.

The bottom line for Syrian officials in recent discussions with Feltman and Shapiro is that Syria will not give to the new US administration what it would not give to Bush. Put in other terms, Syria continues to insist on a modicum of civility from the US if there is to be real cooperation. The US should not insult Syria or try to embarrass it publicly. Differences should be worked out in private through normal diplomatic channels and not in the press.

This is why the language of Obama’s extension of the sanctions on Syria a little over a week ago was so upsetting to Damascus. Syria was denounced as a terrorist state and threat to US national security. Leaks to the Washington Post by unnamed sources claiming that Syria was reopening the Ho Chi Min trail of suicide bombers into Iraq were only too reminiscent of Bush era diplomacy and its underhanded media methods, designed to demonize and intimidate. Syrian officials believed that Washington had fooled them. It was not going to engage on the basis of mutual respect, the avoidance of public insults, and civilized diplomacy.

Syria’s response to Washington’s insult was to cut off intelligence sharing that Damascus had already begun. The acting military attache at the US embassy in Damascus had been given full privileges to meet directly with Syrian intelligence. This access and gesture of good faith was promptly revoked by Damascus. The result was the intervention by Senator Kerry, as described by David Ignatius in the Post several days ago. Secretary of State Clinton then called Foreign Minister Walid Moualem and the misunderstandings seem to have been patched up.

Mitchell is coming and we are told that the military delegation is coming. At the same time, US diplomats deny that plans are afoot to return an Ambassador or to normalize diplomatic relations with Syria. Kessler quotes an unnamed US official to say: “But there has to be action on both sides. It is not simply that the Syrians get to sit there and wait for us.” This is disingenuous. The Syrians are the ones who are providing intelligence and responding to the US interests for better security arrangements on the border. The Syrians believe that the Americans are expecting cooperation for nothing – that it is Washington which gets to sit there and wait for Syria to act. Syria has insisted for four long years that the least Washington can do is send an Ambassador and be polite. Doing so doesn’t cost American anything but to get off its high horse.

That is why I don’t believe State Department officials when they say there are no plans to send an Ambassador to Damascus. Besides, I had lunch with an “unnamed” foreign diplomat today who bet me that there would be the announcement of a US ambassador in Damascus by September.


Syria to Allow Visit of U.S. Military Leaders
: Insurgency in Iraq Is Topic at Hand
By Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, Wednesday, June 3, 2009

After fits and starts, Syria and the United States have taken steps in recent days that could lay the groundwork for a greatly improved relationship, officials from both countries said yesterday.

Syria has agreed to let a delegation of U.S. military commanders visit Damascus in the coming weeks, when they will discuss joint efforts to stem the insurgency in Iraq. The Obama administration’s Middle East peace envoy, George J. Mitchell, is also planning a trip to Damascus this month. Mitchell, the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Syria in four years, will probe whether it is ready to engage in serious peace talks with Israel.

The visits were sealed in a phone call Sunday between Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, though Syria has not yet confirmed a date for the military visit. State Department spokesman Robert Wood said yesterday, “They agreed to have ongoing conversations about a full range of issues.”

U.S. officials said the administration was not committing to drafting a formal plan for improving relations, but the two visits could form the building blocks of a new relationship. Although officials from U.S. Central Command have met their Syrian counterparts at regional security meetings on Iraq, military officials have been unable for years to have a thorough, joint discussion on the situation in Iraq.

“If we can move on the Mitchell agenda and the Iraq agenda, that will have a positive effect on the bilateral relationship,” said a senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issues publicly. “But there has to be action on both sides. It is not simply that the Syrians get to sit there and wait for us.”

Central Command officials did not respond to a request for details on who would travel to Damascus, but other U.S. officials said the officers would not be high-ranking.

Still, Imad Moustapha, the Syrian ambassador to the United States, hailed the military visit as a potential breakthrough. “The Bush administration used to accuse us of aiding the insurgents, and we used to say it was untrue,” he said. “We said we needed to sit together and discuss the issue, but they would not do that.”

With the Obama administration, “we have a very different context,” Moustapha said. “This administration wants to address all issues. We believe this is a very strong opportunity to cooperate with this administration.”

Moustapha said helping bring peace to Iraq is in Syria’s interest because it is harboring 1.5 million Iraqi refugees. “They will not leave until they think it is safe,” he said.

The United States has not had an ambassador in Syria since 2005, when the Bush administration withdrew Margaret Scobey to protest the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, a former prime minister of Lebanon battling Syrian influence in that country. There are no signs that the Obama administration is close to sending an ambassador back to Damascus.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey D. Feltman has made two visits to Syria since President Obama took office, but until now there was little indication of a rapprochement between the two countries.

Indeed, Moustapha said the administration’s decision last month to renew sanctions under the Syrian Accountability Act was “very problematic” and shows that it still can be “captive to Israel’s interests.”

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, who first disclosed the military visit on The Post’s online feature PostPartisan late Monday, reported that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) played an important role in easing friction between the two countries after Obama renewed the sanctions.

“Bring it Aoun” By Elias Muhanna – SC’s own Qifa Nabki in The National is a must read.

Michel Aoun’s supporters revere him as a reforming hero, the only man able to repair a nation’s woes – and he agrees. Elias Muhanna on the overlooked core of Lebanon’s opposition.

Hezbollah No. 2 wants Lebanon unity government” By SAM F. GHATTAS

BEIRUT (AP) — Hezbollah’s No. 2 leader, confident of victory in Lebanese weekend elections, said Tuesday the Iranian-backed group would invite its pro-Western opponents to join a national unity government if it wins.

Sheik Naim Kassem rejected accusations that a government of Hezbollah and its allies would try to implement an Iranian-style Islamic state. In an interview with The Associated Press, he shrugged off warnings about boycotts and insisted Western nations are willing to talk to the new government irrespective of who wins.

But the unity government proposal shows Shiite Hezbollah’s concern that if it tries to govern Lebanon outright, it could risk international isolation and possibly another war with Israel, much like the Iranian-backed Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza….

“After June 7, there will be a new scene,” said Kassem, who leads Hezbollah’s election campaign. He said Hezbollah and its allies “will work to form a national unity government. How much we will succeed is up to the other side.”

Nicholas Noe in the Palestine Chronicle Thanks to FLC

“Over the last decade and a half, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Lebanon’s militant Shiite movement Hezbollah, has steadily moved front and center in the often vitriolic (and regularly under-informed) Western debate over the threat that ‘radical Islam’ is said to pose to the world at large.

Now, as Nasrallah appears ready to lead what could be a new majority in the Lebanese Parliament, the steady stream of accusations and threats have, somewhat predictably, turned into a deluge – with Arab states, Arab media and prosecutorial offices far and wide at the forefront of efforts to paint him as public enemy Number One.

A central reason for all the attention in the past, of course, has been that Nasrallah and Hezbollah have managed – for better or worse, depending on your perspective – to inflict a series of increasingly significant setbacks for US and especially Israeli interests: the ignominious, unilateral withdrawal from South Lebanon by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in May 2000, the failure of the Bush administration to vanquish Hezbollah and Syria in one go following the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri, and, of course, the July 2006 war – vigorously encouraged by the Americans and lost by the Israelis.

But Nasrallah has also become an object of particular focus and concern because, unlike many other Islamists, he has successfully staked a great deal of his power and prestige on a sustained appeal to reason in the all important battle for “hearts and minds.”

I also include this older article by the Leverett’s, which I had failed to publish last week. It is important.

Have We Already Lost Iran?” via FLC

“PRESIDENT OBAMA’S Iran policy has, in all likelihood, already failed. On its present course, the White House’s approach will not stop Tehran’s development of a nuclear fuel program — or, as Iran’s successful test of a medium-range, solid-fuel missile last week underscored, military capacities of other sorts. It will also not provide an alternative to continued antagonism between the United States and Iran — a posture that for 30 years has proved increasingly damaging to the interests of the United States and its allies in the Middle East.

This judgment may seem both premature and overly severe. We do not make it happily. We voted for Barack Obama in 2008, and we still want him to succeed in reversing the deterioration in America’s strategic position. But we also believe that successful diplomacy with Iran is essential to that end. Unless President Obama and his national security team take a fundamentally different approach to Tehran, they will not achieve a breakthrough.

This is a genuine shame, for President Obama had the potential to do so much better for America’s position in the Middle East. In his greeting to “the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” on the Persian New Year in March, Mr. Obama included language meant to assuage Iranian skepticism about America’s willingness to end efforts to topple the regime and pursue comprehensive diplomacy.

Iranian diplomats have told us that the president’s professed willingness to deal with Iran on the “basis of mutual interest” in an atmosphere of “mutual respect” was particularly well received in Tehran. They say that the quick response of the nation’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — which included the unprecedented statement that “should you change, our behavior will change, too” — was a sincere signal of Iran’s openness to substantive diplomatic proposals from the new American administration.

Unfortunately, Mr. Obama is backing away from the bold steps required to achieve strategic, Nixon-to-China-type rapprochement with Tehran. Administration officials have professed disappointment that Iranian leaders have not responded more warmly to Mr. Obama’s rhetoric. Many say that the detention of the Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi (who was released this month) and Ayatollah Khamenei’s claim last week that America is “fomenting terrorism” inside Iran show that trying to engage Tehran is a fool’s errand.

But this ignores the real reason Iranian leaders have not responded to the new president more enthusiastically: the Obama administration has done nothing to cancel or repudiate an ostensibly covert but well-publicized program, begun in President George W. Bush’s second term, to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to destabilize the Islamic Republic. Under these circumstances, the Iranian government — regardless of who wins the presidential elections on June 12 — will continue to suspect that American intentions toward the Islamic Republic remain, ultimately, hostile.

In this context, the Saberi case should be interpreted not as the work of unspecified “hard-liners” in Tehran out to destroy prospects for improved relations with Washington, but rather as part of the Iranian leadership’s misguided but fundamentally defensive reaction to an American government campaign to bring about regime change. Similarly, Ayatollah Khamenei’s charge that “money, arms and organizations are being used by the Americans directly across our western border to fight the Islamic Republic’s system” reflects legitimate concern about American intentions. Mr. Obama has reinforced this concern by refusing to pursue an American-Iranian “grand bargain” — a comprehensive framework for resolving major bilateral differences and fundamentally realigning relations.

More broadly, President Obama has made several policy and personnel decisions that have undermined the promise of his encouraging rhetoric about Iran. On the personnel front, the problem begins at the top, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. As a presidential candidate, then-Senator Clinton ran well to the right of Mr. Obama on Iran, even saying she would “totally obliterate” Iran if it attacked Israel. Since becoming secretary of state, Clinton has told a number of allies in Europe and the Persian Gulf that she is skeptical that diplomacy with Iran will prove fruitful and testified to Congress that negotiations are primarily useful to garner support for “crippling” multilateral sanctions against Iran.

First of all, this posture is feckless, as Secretary Clinton does not have broad international support for sanctions that would come anywhere close to being crippling. More significantly, this posture is cynically counterproductive, for it eviscerates the credibility of any American diplomatic overtures in the eyes of Iranian leaders across the Islamic Republic’s political spectrum.

Even more disturbing is President Obama’s willingness to have Dennis Ross become the point person for Iran policy at the State Department. Mr. Ross has long been an advocate of what he describes as an “engagement with pressure” strategy toward Tehran, meaning that the United States should project a willingness to negotiate with Iran largely to elicit broader regional and international support for intensifying economic pressure on the Islamic Republic.

In conversations with Mr. Ross before Mr. Obama’s election, we asked him if he really believed that engage-with-pressure would bring concessions from Iran. He forthrightly acknowledged that this was unlikely. Why, then, was he advocating a diplomatic course that, in his judgment, would probably fail? Because, he told us, if Iran continued to expand its nuclear fuel program, at some point in the next couple of years President Bush’s successor would need to order military strikes against Iranian nuclear targets. Citing past “diplomacy” would be necessary for that president to claim any military action was legitimate.

Iranian officials are fully aware of Mr. Ross’s views — and are increasingly suspicious that he is determined that the Obama administration make, as one senior Iranian diplomat said to us, “an offer we can’t accept,” simply to gain international support for coercive action.

Understandably, given that much of Mr. Obama’s national security team doesn’t share his vision of rapprochement with Iran, America’s overall policy is incoherent. …. Administration officials argue, with what seem to be straight faces, that the Iranian leadership should be impressed simply because American representatives will now show up for any nuclear negotiations with Iran that might take place.

Similarly, some officials suggest that the administration might be prepared to accept limited uranium enrichment on Iranian soil as part of a settlement — effectively asking to be given “credit” merely for acknowledging a well-established reality. …… we think that it will take a lot more to persuade Tehran of America’s new seriousness.

Tehran will certainly not be persuaded of American seriousness if Washington acquiesces to Israeli insistence on a deadline …. President Obama himself said, .. that he wants to see “progress” in nuclear negotiations before the end of the year. More specifically, Secretary Clinton and Mr. Ross have been pushing the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany to intensify multilateral sanctions against Iran if Tehran has not agreed to limit the expansion of its nuclear-fuel cycle program by the time the United Nations General Assembly convenes in New York at the end of September.

This diplomatic approach is guaranteed to fail. Having a deadline for successful negotiations will undercut the perceived credibility of American diplomacy in Tehran and serve only to prepare the way for more coercive measures. Mr. Obama’s justification for a deadline — that previous American-Iranian negotiations produced “a lot of talk but not always action and follow-through” — is incorrect as far as Iranian behavior was concerned. For example, during talks over Afghanistan after 9/11 in which one of us (Hillary) took part, Tehran deported hundreds of Qaeda and Taliban operatives who had sought sanctuary in Iran, and also helped establish the new Afghan government. It was Washington, not Tehran, that arbitrarily ended these productive talks.

Beyond the nuclear issue, the administration’s approach to Iran degenerates into an only slightly prettified version of George W. Bush’s approach — that is, an effort to contain a perceived Iranian threat without actually trying to resolve underlying political conflicts. Obama administration officials are buying into a Bush-era delusion: that concern about a rising Iranian threat could unite Israel and moderate Arab states in a grand alliance under Washington’s leadership.

President Obama and his team should not be excused for their failure to learn the lessons of recent history in the Middle East — that the prospect of strategic cooperation with Israel is profoundly unpopular with Arab publics and that even moderate Arab regimes cannot sustain such cooperation. The notion of an Israeli-moderate Arab coalition united to contain Iran is not only delusional, it would leave the Palestinian and Syrian-Lebanese tracks of the Arab-Israeli conflict unresolved and prospects for their resolution in free fall. These tracks cannot be resolved without meaningful American interaction with Iran and its regional allies, Hamas and Hezbollah…..

To fix our Iran policy, the president would have to commit not to use force to change the borders or the form of government of the Islamic Republic. He would also have to accept that Iran will continue enriching uranium, and that the only realistic potential resolution to the nuclear issue would leave Iran in effect like Japan … Additionally, the president would have to accept that Iran’s relationships with Hamas and Hezbollah will continue, and be willing to work with Tehran to integrate these groups into lasting settlements of the Middle East’s core political conflicts…”

Comments (24)

EHSANI2 said:

President Obama is on the cusp of making what the White House has described as a “historic speech” to the Moslem world. Speculation is rife about what Mr. Obama should or should not say. Lots of “experts” on the region have offered the President suggestions about what he should say to the Moslem and Arab world.

This Arab citizen has his own simple suggestion. All President Obama needs to do is repeat what one of his predecessors said some 213 years ago:

“The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a
habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its
animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it
astray from its duty and its interest.”

“A passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of
evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of
an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest
exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the
former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter
without adequate inducement or justification.”

George Washington’s Farewell Address 1796

June 4th, 2009, 1:18 am


majedkhaldoun said:

Suppose 8 of march wins in Lebanon,president Obama now, visit Saudia Arabia,which is not very friendly to Syria,and asking their suggestions,and visiting Egypt,where Mubarak is not friend of Assad,how can we expect the American Syrian relations to improve,Israel is strongly against improving this relation(remember 1954,and general Bizri coup,whose mother was a jew),Syria will never cut its alliance with Iran,all these factors make it almost impossible for improving relations between Syria and USA

June 4th, 2009, 2:05 am


norman said:


That is a very good suggestion but I think that president Obama should say that in Congress as many of our leaders forgot that ,

In the Mideast he should say ,

In our world ,International law should apply to every country, and Nation , poor or rich , black or wight , Christian or Muslim and the United state will be the leader in that direction.

June 4th, 2009, 2:11 am


Akbar Palace said:

From Barack Obama’s speech:

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.


June 4th, 2009, 11:26 am


norman said:

Kerry making mark
Friendship with Assad aids U.S.- Syria ties

By David Ignatius | Thursday, June 4, 2009 | http://www.bostonherald.com | Op-Ed
WASHINGTON – The long-stalled U.S. diplomatic engagement with Syria is moving forward – thanks to an unusual bit of mediation by Sen. John Kerry.

A mini-breakthrough in U.S.-Syria relations came Sunday in a telephone conversation between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, sources said. Moallem said that Syria would welcome a visit by U.S. Central Command officers to Damascus this month to discuss joint efforts to stabilize Iraq. In return, Clinton promised to develop a joint “road map” for improving bilateral relations between Damascas and Washington.

Kerry reportedly played a key role in breaking the logjam between the two countries, which had worsened after the Obama administration announced last month that it was renewing sanctions against Damascus under the Syria Accountability Act. The Syrians had been expecting that move, but they were upset by a presidential statement accompanying the renewal, which repeated harsh Bush administration language that said Syria posed an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.” The Syrians said that unless this sharp language was withdrawn and the bilateral relationship improved, they wouldn’t provide the security assistance that Centcom wanted.

Enter the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

According to Syrian sources, Kerry and Syrian President Bashar Assad have been developing a relationship of “respect and friendship,” including a private dinner between the two men and their wives in the old city of Damascus in March.

Kerry is said to have called Assad twice over the past two weeks to explore ways to improve relations; at the same time, he was talking to the Obama White House and State Department. Apparently, the gap between the two countries was narrowed.

The result of this mediation was Sunday’s scripted conversation between Clinton and Moallem. Clinton told her Syrian counterpart, “We will be prepared to discuss with you all issues related to Syrian-American relations,” according to a transcript. And the U.S. pledged to “focus our efforts on forming a new sort of relationship.” There was no pledge about when the U.S. will send an ambassador back to Damascus; the ambassador was withdrawn after the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, an attack for which many Lebanese blamed Syria.

The road map toward better relations will be discussed when George Mitchell, the U.S. special envoy for the Middle East, visits Damascus soon. He will be the most senior U.S. official to visit Syria in several years.

The Syria opening is part of a larger effort toward engagement by the Obama administration in the Middle East. President Obama will take that message to the heart of the Arab world today in a Cairo speech that likely will discuss America’s desire for better relations, including contact with longtime adversaries such as Syria and Iran.

Kerry’s role is intriguing for two reasons: First, it shows that the former presidential candidate is carving out a role for himself as a foreign-policy player – courageously taking on sensitive issues. Second, it shows a fluid and creative foreign-policy process in the Obama administration, in which people outside the inner circle are able to get the president’s attention and push the envelope.

Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/opinion/op_ed/view.bg?articleid=1176659

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June 4th, 2009, 11:29 am


Off the Wall said:

I watched the speech in its entirety, It was excellent speech throughout. He was true to his country, true to those who elected him. I loved and appreciated his candor.

June 4th, 2009, 11:58 am


Nour said:

I thought it was a hideous, deeply offensive speech.

June 4th, 2009, 12:05 pm


EHSANI2 said:


What did you love exactly?

That he is calling for the Palestinians to drop their arms and the resistence and declare Israel’s right to exist?

That he is calling for Iran to stop its pursuit of nuclear weapons to avoid an arms race in the region that would be “very dangerous”?

That he fails to mention Syria’s occupied land?

What does he ask of Israel?

Stop the settlements.

And oh…he reminds us that 6 million jews were killed by Europeans and hence we must all be nice to them now, roll over and hand them the land. He also makes sure to remind us that the US bond with Israel is “unbreakbale”. I guess he never bothered to read George Washington’s farewell address from 1796.

He sure made some nice and dandy remarks about religious interfaith and women’s rights. Regrettably, this will be the end of this joyful moment as we wake up to reality tomorrow.

June 4th, 2009, 12:10 pm


norman said:

Now he talked the talk , let us see if he can walk the walk , president Bush promised a Palestinian state 8 year ago to be done in his first term , Nothing happened .

Tangible changes in policy are needed .Starting with Syria.

June 4th, 2009, 12:19 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Here is the talk:

“America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.”

“Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed.”

“At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements”.

June 4th, 2009, 12:31 pm


norman said:

Ok Ehsani, I got it ,

I hope the walk is better than the talk,

June 4th, 2009, 2:05 pm


Akbar Palace said:

President-for-life Bashar makes changes:


Always important to keep them guessing…

June 4th, 2009, 2:30 pm


EHSANI2 said:


Sorry to dissapoint you or your source. The President’s brother-in-law did not get the post. Daoud Rajha is the new chief of general staff.

June 4th, 2009, 2:43 pm


Observer said:

The speech is aimed at the AIPAC and the genuflexing members of Congress that continue to support the Zionist project with fanatic zeal. It is a speech to the so called moderates that your “ancien regimes” are truly ancient. It is a speech to prepare for an accomodation with Iran on regional security that is not 100% dependent on Israeli superiority. It is a speech that military adventurism is over.
In private I can imagine that the use of the US dollar for oil exchange has been reassured. That the protection of the house of Saud remains while opening up to Syria and Iran. That Iraq will not become a bastion of anti Saudi action.

This is damage repair, but the domestic centers of power in the US in favor of empire and in favor of Israel are too strong to ignore and limit the ability of the president to be more candid.

Brazil, Malaysia and China are signing agreements to forgo the dollar as the basis of their economic exchanges.

It is only a matter of time before the cows come home and it is dethroned which will mean at least a 30% reduction in the standard of living of the US.

The empire project is over. It really came to the beginning of the end on 9/11 and was mightily accelerated in its demise by the last 8 years of follies and pipe dreams.

I had said before that one of the major tasks of Obama is to truly prepare the ground for the downsizing of the empire while keeping the public and the country stable for a soft landing.

He is taking a huge gamble and I fear that the Zionist-genuflexing crowd in DC will start to derail his administration soon.

Today I went over the WSJ and there was not a comment or an opinion on the trip to the ME.
This is the most serious comment about this speech for it is defeaning in its silence

June 4th, 2009, 4:04 pm


majid said:

I found Mr. Obama’s speech to be very reasonable and it expresses a genuine and deep desire for a new beginning. I disagree with OBSERVER about it being a damage repair to America’s perceived downfall, or that it is a message to moderate regimes in the area the way OBSERVER portrayed it. I believe his portrayal reflects a lack of understanding of America itself as well the traditional anti-Americanisms that some Muslims and/or some Arabs who don’t seem to be able to live without.

First of all, the USA has always proven to have the unique capability of reinventing and renewing itself unlike those countries which OBSERVER cited as a possible replacement to US leadership of the world. The world needs the US more than it likes to admit and that was made evident in the most recent G20 summit, at least at the economic level. This trip of an American President to the Middle East comes at a crucial time in history that could be compared to the end of the WWII era and particularly to the period after the end of the Yalta summit when another equally popular US President felt it extremely important to visit the Middle East and met the predecessors of the current leaders. That meeting resulted in the appearance of the US as a dominant world power and particularly in the Middle East despite attempts of the old colonial and imperial powers such as Britain and Russia to shape the world according to their own ideas based upon their previous dominions.

I believe that this trip will eventually result in a very fruitful partnership that will also dominate the world as the previous trip dominated the world. This time, however, it will be a broad-based partnership which will result in unprecedented development not only in the economic arena but also in the cultural and geopolitical arenas. In fact, this will make the USA to come out of age and fulfill its mandate of freedom, liberty and justice, since it has now acknowledged by the words of its most eloquent President the central role of Islam in the world.

The zionists, on the other hand, will find this new beginning to be in conflict with their designs. The Americans will also conclude that the zionists’ ideas are in opposition to American ideals and interests. The zionist will eventually have to make a choice either to give in to American and Muslim demands, i.e. relinquish their evil designs once and for all, or search for a new benefactor some where else. However, there are no obvious candidates at the moment that can be a substitute to the most generous of all benefactors these zionist have come to rely upon. ON the other hand, Europe and the so-called rejectionists in the region may find such partnership unpalatable. But Europe has very little choices considering its proximity to the Muslim World and the fast-growing Muslim population within its territory. It’ll soon look to the USA for guidance and it will have no choice but to become a partner. There is no need to worry about the rejectionists because they have no positive platform or ideas. They can hardly deal with domestic problems. So they too will either perish or fall in line. China and Russia are only interested in business and they have no real vision of what the world should look like aside from their narrow National interests. So they will always be dependent on the entrepreneurship of the USA.

June 4th, 2009, 5:36 pm


Nour said:

Well basically his message was if you recognize “Israel” and do what we tell you, then we won’t kill you. It was completely offensive. He gave a lecture about the holocaust and Jewish suffering, as if that has anything to do with us, and implied that because Jews suffered in Europe, Palestinians should allow them to take their land and kill their people.

He then mentioned Palestinian suffering in such a general, abstract manner, that you would think Palestinians have been suffering from some mysterious phenomenon. He said “Palestinians have suffered greatly in their pursuit of a homeland.” So basically the Palestinians have suffered because they’ve been pursuing a homeland, and if they stop pursuing a homeland then the suffering would stop. Of course he doesn’t mention that the Palestinians have NOT been pursuing a homeland. They HAVE a homeland that was stolen from them by Jewish Zionists through massacres and ethnic cleansing.

This is Obama’s idea of “truth-telling” when it comes to the middle-east. He then went on to lecture the Palestinians about violent resistance, and told them that it’s not courageous to fire rockets on civilians or to blow up old and innocent people on buses. Yet, no mention was made of “Israeli” violence. “Israel” I guess can go on killing, maiming, torturing, and raping Palestinians with no accountability.

He made no mention of the latest Gaza attack in which over 1400 Palestinians were massacred by “Israel.” He rather pledged to continue aiding “Israel” no matter what it does. He said that the US and Israel have a special relationship that is “unbreakable.” I guess “Israel” will continue to be rewarded for killing Palestinians, humiliating them and destroying their lives, while the Palestinians will be scolded and lectured for daring to resist “Israeli” murderous aggression with arms. There are of course many more things that were so bad with this speech, but I’ll stop here for now.

June 4th, 2009, 5:45 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

For those who expected President Obama to make 180 degree,must understand that he has to face the congress and american people,and the evil Israeli lobby,when he talk about the holocaust, it is to put pressure on Israel,and when he stand firm against the settlements this is truely remarkable, it will save ALKUDS from the teeth of Israel,and will save the rest of palastine from israel occupation,when he talk about the bond between Israel and USA it is the fact of today,it will change in the future,as our number increase,he stands against several problems, he will save ALKUDS from Israel,and he has to pull out of Iraq, which will be considered a defeat, Iran may get nuclear weapons,there is no doubt that american Israeli relation is at a turning point this is a great oppurtunity to grasp the moment and support Obama,help him, waiting for better time in the future.

June 4th, 2009, 5:51 pm


Shai said:


I also thought Obama was not balanced towards the Palestinians and their suffering. And linking too closely the Jewish people’s Holocaust and the mere “stopping of settlements” was indeed terrible injustice towards those who are, as he spoke, still under occupation, subjugation and suffocation by the descendants of those same Jews that suffered so greatly some 70 years ago. It could almost be interpreted as an excuse. And that, as an Israeli who lost 95% of my family to the Holocaust, I find difficult to accept. If anything, I’ve always felt that especially because my people suffered so much, they should understand better than anyone what we are doing to the Palestinians all these years, and put a stop to it.

But you also said something that I humbly disagree with. You said: “And oh…he reminds us that 6 million jews were killed by Europeans and hence we must all be nice to them now, roll over and hand them the land.”

I believe Obama’s description of the Holocaust were intended not for the Palestinians or even the Arab world, but rather for Iranian and Israeli ears. I don’t think Obama meant for the Arabs to now “… all be nice to (Israel), roll over and hand them the land.” I think he meant to deliver a stern message to any Holocaust-denier out there (Ahmedinejad, others) that the U.S. will not be patient enough to discuss such ridiculous notions, and at the same time, he was sending a message to Israelis that fear he (and his administration) are not as concerned with Iran’s belligerent stance towards Israel (especially when Ahmedinejad used certain phrases relating to Israel’s destruction, cancer that must be removed, etc.)

But again, I do think Obama should have also mentioned the Naqba, and made the Palestinians understand and believe that their suffering does not come second to the historic Jewish suffering, or anyone else’s.

By the way, in Israel, the fact that he mentioned the Holocaust almost in the same breath as stopping-settlements, made certain Israelis feel as if he was chipping away from our “special case” status. As I’ve written here before, that is certainly part of our psychosis.

One of the things I took away from his speech, which deeply touched me, was his message to us all to finally begin searching for our similarities, rather than our differences. We have all done the latter for too long.

June 4th, 2009, 5:56 pm


Alex said:

I am not disappointed because I did not have high expectations.

But I wish he limited the speech to Amerca’s relations with Islam .. because I agree with Ehsani, Observer, and Nour … criticizing Palestinian violence and ignoring the much bloodier Israeli (state) violence was simply the kind of signal to the Arab world that Obama is a hostage to Israel’s lobby in Washington, just like all his predecessors.

He could not even state his support for a Middle East that is nuclear free (implying Israel, and not only Iran, have to give up nuclear weapons) … instead he said (in a shy voice that showed he is aware of what he was not allowed to say) that he would like us to live in a world free of nuclear weapons.

The bottom line is … Until that big day comes, Israel can keep its hundreds of nuclear bombs.

He spoke of how America and Islam value fairness … but he proved through the same speech that there is no fairness in America’s position on the Middle East …

I am not giving up on him … he does want to try and his cautious approach might be the right one… we will know within very few months.

But if at the end, arrogant Israel and brainwashed old Washington do not learn to allow him to lead the world in the right direction … There will be another war within two years max and no one will be a winner.

June 4th, 2009, 6:45 pm


why-discuss said:

Spies, electiondogs millionaires, voter id cards for rent, rumors..
An American in Beirut reports on Lebanese pre elections atmosphere.

Coming Down to the Wire in Lebanon
By Franklin Lamb

95 hours and the Polls will open

As election volunteers in Lebanon work this morning to spruce up its hundreds of Polling Place for Sundays’ election, Minister of Education Bahia Hariri, sister of the murdered Rafiq, canceled school for Saturday and Monday as a precaution, and the US Embassy just an hour ago issued an advisory for Americans to avoid public places and “reminds American citizens in Lebanon that even peaceful gatherings and demonstrations can turn violent unexpectedly ” As for the voters, they are preparing to elect 128 Parliamentary Delegates from more than 550 candidates who theoretically will chart this country’s course over the next four years.

Beirut’s airport is jammed with thousands of Lebanese, often given free tickets, arriving to vote from all over the World, but most heavily from the US, Canada, and Europe.

Drop-outs can be succeed

More than two dozen candidates have dropped out of the race (and may now be millionaires if they were not already). This electoral phenomenon regularly happens just before the voting in Lebanon. One drop-out candidate confided to a Carter Center STO (short term observer) that he put two kids through college in France with what he earned by abandoning his candidacy.

It works as follows: A would be Parliamentary announces a candidacy, sometimes with great fanfare and appropriate solemnity perhaps giving speeches about the need for Lebanon to be a beacon of democracy which elects Deputies based on merit and who are immune from corruption etc. They campaign furiously for several weeks gathering as much media and credibility as they can. Then they quietly approach their relevant Zaiim (chief or power broker) and begin their real project which is to sell their withdrawal for as much cash as they can get in exchange. One could ‘earn’a cool million cash or more depending on the electoral district and how much voter appeal the candidate can demonstrate. A final press conference is then called to announce gravely that for the greater good of the Republic of Lebanon, national unity, the Church or Umma, that the candidate is reluctantly ending his campaign, making a personal sacrifice, and, incidentally is endorsing his ‘opponent.’

Watching the Lebanese vote

More than a dozen foreign organizations are in Lebanon monitoring the voting including on the European Union, and the Atlanta based Carter Center which launched its election observation mission to Lebanon in early February 2009. It now has 50 short term observers, after receiving formal accreditation from Lebanon’s Ministry of the Interior and Municipalities in March. It has also dispatched six long-term observers to monitor the electoral process in all 26 electoral districts. They plan to stay in Lebanon until the end of July to monitor the post-election environment, including the complaints process while it assesses the electoral process in Lebanon against the relevant legal framework, including Lebanese election laws, the Constitution of Lebanon, and Lebanon’s international commitments. So far they have found some ‘irregularities’ but have not yet issued a formal report.

The Spy Hunt

In the Burj Abu Haider section of Beirut this morning (pro March 14th neighborhood) this observer found two main subjects being discussed by pro-Hariri poll workers. One is the concept of “Hasana Niyabya” or Parliamentary Immunity. This is important because in addition to the 38 alleged spies arrested (made possible by Hezbollah intelligence and technology working with Lebanon’s Internal Security Force (ISF) it is rumored that no fewer than four current members of Parliament allied with the US Team are going to be arrested for spying for Israel following Sunday’s voting. The post election arrest of two Cabinet Ministers and “a higher political figure” are also hinted at. They are safe until they lose their Parliamentary immunity when the votes are counted creating a new Parliament or unless the new Parliament passes a third Immunity Law very fast to shield wrongdoers (two earlier “let the past be the past and we can move forward” amnesties were enacted in 1992 and 2005). It was the fear of “Israeli spy outings” that dominated Joe Biden agenda when he met with the US Team last month. The Majority wanted US help in postponing the election, and thereby retaining Parliamentary immunity, but Joe said no. This issue is just one reason that observers here are predicting fireworks after the votes are counted.

“Is he/she an Israeli spy?” is a question being asked a lot this week. If someone ‘high up’ does not show up for work at a government ministry the whispers flow.

At 9:00 am. This morning, President Michel Suleiman visited the headquarters of the General Directorate of the internal security forces in Ashrafiyeh (East Beirut) to be briefed on achievements made in the arrests of Israeli spy cells. Police chief Gen. Ashraf Rifi on Tuesday expected more arrests in the investigation into spying for Israel that has already led to dozens of people being arrested.

“We have not completed the mission,” Rifi said. “We have files that are still being prepared for arrests.”

The wave of arrests began in April with the detention of former ISF Brig. Gen. Adib al-Alam and has now included two serving colonels in the Lebanese army as well as at least five members of the security forces. “Most played central spying roles and confessed to falling into the snares of the Israeli enemy,” Rifi to the media, citing sex, money and politics as possible motives behind the detainees’ decision to spy for the Israeli secret service, Mossad.

What is making some politicians nervous is Salesman’s pledge to hold those responsible for any security breach during and following (emphasis mine) the elections accountable.

Fake Voter ID’s

Another new issue being discussed by poll workers is Minister Fouad Siniora announcement this morning of the existence of “information and reports whereby cases of ID forgery have been recorded.”

Why this observer took special notice of the announcement by Siniora is because of what has been happening in some villages. It relates to what this observer calls the “Rent Voter’s ID Initiative”. It is practiced mainly in the South and works as follows: Longtime Hezbollah Shia nemesis, Ahmad al-As’ad has set up an anti-Hezbollah Shia organization called the Lebanese Option Gathering and has fielded 19 candidates against Hezbollah. He openly admits getting large amounts of Saudi cash to complete against Hezbollah in the South and the Bekaa and is thought to be allied with the pro-US Hariri team. As’ad knows his group cannot win and that the overwhelming number of Shia will vote for Hezbollah. His goal is not so much to get voters to vote against Hezbollah, but to keep them from voting for Hezbollah. Then when the votes are counted, Israel and the anti-Hezbollah centers can declare that “Hezbollah is losing support among its base, because it got fewer votes than in 2005 etc.”

To make this happen, As’ad operatives having been “renting” Voter ID Cards for up to $ 1000 each. The cards are turned over in exchange for $ 1,000 and are to be returned on Monday July 8 after the votes are counted. One Shia fellow from Bint Jbeil claims to have ‘rented’ 20 family Voter ID cards to As’ad operatives and was paid $ 20,000 plus a new car for the family and new Nokia phones for the teenagers. After the election it can be determined how well this Campaign tactic worked. But Sinioria’s announcement confirms what this and other observers predicted. That shrewd voters might just print up forged Voter ID’s to increase income and still be able to use their originals for vote for Hezbollah. As’ad operatives seem at the moment to be holding quite a number of forged ID’s. Fireworks are expected following the vote count.

Speaking of fireworks, the recent State Department announcement that for the first time since the 1979 Iranian revolution, Americans can invite Iranians to our July 4th Independence Day celebrations may have landed this observer in hot water again with his beautiful Ambassador, Michele Sison,.

A Dahiyeh friend reminded me that last year on July 4th I joined other Americans at the Cemetery in Beirut to honor those who died for their country. The Ambassador was critical of my visit to the hallowed ground where Hadi Nassarah, son of Hezbollah’s Secretary General and Hezbollah Military Commander Imad Mugneighe are buried among hundreds of their compatriots. She took exception to remarks regarding the right and responsibility to resist occupation whether British in 1776 or Zionist today, and she saw no similarities at all between Tom Payne, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry or George Mason and Palestinian and Lebanese Resistance writers like Makmoud Darwish, Edward Said, Sayeed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, Imam Musa Sadr and others. When she asked on Lebanese TV “Why I was he there?” and I replied ‘Why was she not there?” our relationship suffered and has had its ups and down since.

Hopefully I have not gone too far this year but by pure coincidence, it was no sooner than last Friday’s State Department announcement was released than I received an invitation to attend the Iranian Embassy organized 20th Anniversary Tribute to the late Imam r. Khomeini at UNESCO Palace (The Spiritual Leader of Iran, who led the Iranian Revolution passed away on June 3, 1989).

Well, it was a solemn, dignified and also celebrative and accepting, quite friendly, atmosphere and event.

When asked to speak I made clear that I was a private citizen but as an American, I hoped for improved relations between our countries based on mutual respect and common long tern interests which included in my view, the return of Palestine to its rightful owners. And then for some reason, no doubt related to the warm atmosphere, I ended my remarks with an invitation to the whole audience of hundreds, to next month’s American July4th celebration. Those included Iranians, Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians, and many others from Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and scores of other organizations.

I have yet not heard whether Michele will allow us to use our Embassy but usually the July 4th party has really good hamburgers, hot dogs and potato salad, none of which are easy to find here in Lebanon.

About the author: Franklin Lamb works with the Sabra Shatila Foundation in Beirut. He is reachable at: fplamb@sabrashatila.org.

June 4th, 2009, 7:08 pm


Alex said:

Sami Moubayed on the speech

CBS News


When asked to mention their favorite US presidents, three names usually come to the mind of ordinary Syrians: John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. As far as the Syrians are concerned, these three presidents were the ones to have pursued relative justice, in the Arab-Israeli Conflict.

That list is likely to expand after today, to include Barack Obama, who seemingly, has surpassed the popularity of both Kennedy and Clinton-but remains one step behind Carter. Never had young Syrians gathered in coffee shops to anxiously listen to a foreign leader speak-certainly not an American president. That was usually reserved for popular figures like Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah. They now seemed pleased by what Obama was saying, especially when he made reference-twice-to the Holy Quran, and spoke about women’s rights, education, democracy, and bringing more Arabs to the US, and more Americans to the Muslim World.

The Syrians were particularly impressed when Obama spoke about Palestinian rights to statehood, “It is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. They endure the daily humiliations — large and small — that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.” He then added, “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements!” There was relief, accompanied by caution, nevertheless, inherited from eight years of mistrust, brought about from the era of former US President, George W. Bush.

Obama did not mention Syria in his speech, which was dubbed into Arabic and broadcasted live on private Syrian media. Having said that, the Syrians have no illusions, realizing that putting action to words won’t be easy for the US president, especially when it comes to freezing Israeli settlements, a call that is being received with a cold shoulder, in the US Congress. They nevertheless appreciate symbolic US gestures coming out of the White House since Obama came to office last January. One was turning a blind eye to sanctions, and allowing Boeing to sell spare parts to Syrian Airways to upgrade its fleet.

Another was sending two senior officials, Jeffrey Feltman and Dan Shapiro, to Damascus-twice-for talks with President Bashar al-Assad. Last week, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem even spoke on the telephone with his US counterpart Hillary Clinton, discussing stability in Iraq. In exchange, Clinton said that she would work on a ‘roadmap’ to normalize Syrian-US relations, which hit rock-bottom under Bush in 2003-2008. Some Syrians were worried in mid-May, when Obama renewed sanctions on Damascus, imposed by the Bush White House, back in 2004. Although they realized that once embedded into US law, it becomes very difficult to lift sanctions with no reason, they nevertheless complained that Obama had used words, pulled right out of the Bush dictionary.

Although many ordinary Syrians are willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt after hearing his speech in Cairo, since he sounded sincere when talking about the Palestinians, they wanted to hear something about the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, which were seized by Israel during the Arab-Israeli War of 1967. They are still seeking more from the US president-possibly, lifting Syria from the State Department list of states that sponsor terrorism, or sending an ambassador to Syria, to fill a post that has been vacant since 2005.

They would also welcome a gradual reduction of sanctions, in anticipation of lifting them altogether, in exchange for Syrian support in Iraq. The Syrians have said that they don’t want to see the American troops humiliated in Iraq and would help them secure an honorable exit in 2009-2012, without giving details. Primarily, what the Syrians-government and public alike-were looking for was a public statement on the Golan. They wanted Obama to commit himself, as an honest broker, to regional peace, while acknowledging that no peace can brought to the region, unless the Syrian Golan is given high priority on Obama’s Middle East agenda.

June 4th, 2009, 7:22 pm


Ford Prefect said:

One can argue the merits or the shortcomings of the Obama’s speech in Cairo endlessly. However, we need to also underscore the gesture of this speech in parallel to its content. The fact that an American president chose an Islamic capital to address the Muslim world is, in and of itself, a significant fact – one that underscores this administration’s boldness and innovative thinking.
Having said that, however, I wish he has used his speech to signify the importance of the Arab Israeli conflict and how this conflict is pitting two great civilizations against one another.
Abstracting the conflict into fun-sized components of “settlements” vs. “violence” is naïve at best. As most in the West believe, if Hamas and HA would just stop their armed resistance, and if Israel would just stop its ever-expanding settlements, peace in the Middle East will suddenly happen by default. I wish it was that simple. And conveniently forgetting to mention Syria, god, bad, or indifferent shows that Foggy Bottom still doesn’t get it.
And one final observation: The hand-picked, by-invitation-only Mubarak cronies applauded heavily when Obama justly renounced torture and the closing of Guantanamo prison. How funny!

June 4th, 2009, 8:04 pm


norman said:


Arabs see positive shift in Obama speech

Mideast Muslims hope president will now turn his words into action
msnbc.com news services
updated 12:51 p.m. ET, Thurs., June 4, 2009
CAIRO – Muslim shopkeepers, students and even radical groups such as Hamas praised President Barack Obama’s address Thursday as a positive shift in U.S. attitude and tone. But Arabs and Muslims of all political stripes said they want him to turn his words into action — particularly in standing up to Israel.

Obama impressed Muslims with his humility and respect and they were thrilled by his citing of Quranic verses. Aiming to repair ties with the Muslim world that had been strained under his predecessor George W. Bush, he opened with the traditional greeting in Arabic “Assalamu Aleikum,” which drew applause from his audience at Cairo University.

His address from Cairo touched on many themes Muslims wanted to hear in the highly anticipated speech broadcast live across much of the Middle East and elsewhere in the Muslim world. He insisted Palestinians must have a state and said continued building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank is not legitimate. He assured them the U.S. would pull all it troops out of Iraq by 2012 and promised no permanent U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

“He spoke about the issues I wanted to hear about — the Palestinians, Iraq and Islam. I think he was very good,” said Hisham Deeb who spoke with Tom Aspell, an NBC News correspondent, in Cairo.

Deeb and other men gathered inside the Wadi Nile Cafe, as they quietly watched the speech that was translated simultaneously into Arabic. Men nodded their heads of approval when Obama said, “I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect.”

When the speech ended there was no applause or overt celebration inside the cafe, yet each man returned to their daily life with his own Obama impression.

“One feels hope in the new American administration,” said Mohammed Mahrous, another Wadi customer.

Battle against militants
But at the top of his priorities, Obama put the battle against violent extremism. And he was faulted for not apologizing for U.S. wars in Muslim countries.

Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said there was change in tone. But he complained that Obama did not specifically note the suffering in Gaza following the three-week Israeli incursion earlier this year that killed more than 1,000 Palestinians.

“There is a change between the language of President Obama and previous speeches made by George Bush,” he said. “So all we can say is that there is a difference in the statements, and the statements of today did not include a mechanism that can translate his wishes and views into actions,” said Barhoum, whose group the U.S. considers a terrorist organization.

A joint statement by eight Syrian-based radical Palestinian factions, including Hamas, was harsher in its assessment.

“Obama’s speech is an attempt to mislead people and create more illusions to improve America’s aggressive image in the Arab and Islamic world,” it said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate who rivals Hamas for leadership of the Palestinians, welcomed Obama’s words.

“The part of Obama’s speech regarding the Palestinian issue is an important step under new beginnings,” his spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh said. “It shows there is a new and different American policy toward the Palestinian issue.”

Before the speech, many Muslims said one of the things they wanted to hear most from Obama was respect for Islam. And many said he delivered that in his speech.

“It was very good of him to address Muslims by quoting from holy Quran, something I did not expect in his speech,” said Osama Ahmed Sameh, a 45-year-old Iraqi government employee at the Ministry of Higher Education.

‘A partnership’
In Egypt, Shahinda al-Bahgouri, a 20-year-old student at Cairo University, where Obama spoke, was also impressed.

“All we want as Muslims is for there to be a partnership,” she said. “And he was seriously humble. humility is important for us.”

Arab satellite stations Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera as well as Egyptian TV broadcast the speech live, with a voice-over Arabic translation.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah leaders said they didn’t see the speech and could not comment. But the militant group’s TV station Al-Manar broadcast it live, with an Arabic voice-over translation. Syrian state TV did not air the speech but the mobile text messaging service of the official Syrian news agency SANA sent four headlines on it as Obama spoke.

In Israel, the speech was broadcast live on all TV and radio stations. TV stations ran subtitles or provided Hebrew voiceovers, while radio stations provided simultaneous translations.

In the non-Arab Muslim world, Afghanistan’s state television broadcast the speech live, but without translation so few could understand it.

Iranian television did not air Obama and there were no reports on it. But Iranian radio reported that Obama gave a speech in Egypt — in a single sentence report without giving details. Most Iranians who own satellite dishes could not watch it as their reception was jammed.

In Iran, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a cleric who was vice president under reformist President Mohammad Khatami, called the speech “compensation to hostile environment which was created during President Bush.”

“This can be an initial step for removing misconceptions between world of Islam and the West,” he said.

NBC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© 2009 msnbc.com
URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31105705/

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© 2009 MSNBC.com

June 4th, 2009, 8:05 pm


majid said:

إيرانيون وعرب ويهود شاركوا بكتابة خطاب أوباما في مصر

كشفت صحيفة “نيويورك تايمز” الأمريكية أن خطاب الرئيس باراك أوباما الذي ألقاه الخميس 4-6-2009 في جامعة القاهرة، كان حصيلة جهد استمر لأشهر تخللته استشارات لعدد من الخبراء والباحثين المسلمين من إيران ودول عربية إضافة إلى أكاديميين يهود.

وقالت إنه أثناء وجود أوباما في السعودية، في مزرعة الجنادرية، أخبر مستشاريه بأنه سيعمل على تجهيز النسخة النهائية من الخطاب مع بزوغ الفجر.

وقبل قيام رحلته إلى الشرق الأوسط عكف على استشارة عدد من مديري الشركات المسلمين، واطلع على مقالات عديدة أرسلت للبيت الأبيض، كما استشار بعض اليهود أيضاً من العاملين في الحقل الأكاديمي.
وفي الاسابيع الأخيرة، ولدى تقديم مساعديه نسخاً عديدة من الخطاب، تساءل أوباما “هل أنتم متأكدون أننا نسمع صوتاً مسلماً منها؟”.

ومن بين رجال الاعمال المسلمين الذي استشارهم أوباما خلال إعداد الخطاب: س. إي. ابراهيم (شركة ريديان غروب)، طارق مالهنس رئيس (يو آي بي كابيتال)، هلتام أوليان (مؤسسة أوليان أمريكان)، نوشين هاشمي (نائب الرئيس السابق لشركة أوراكل).

وقبل الرحلة إلى المنطقة، استقبل البيت الأبيض بعد ظهر الجمعة مجموعة من الباحثين المسلمين، وآخرين في شؤون السياسة الخارجية، لمناقشة أهم النقاط التي يمكن أن يركز عليها الرئيس. ونظم اللقاء من قبل مايكل ماكفول مستشار البيت الأبيض للشؤون الروسية.

وكان من بين المسؤولين الآخرين من البيت الأبيض، الذين حضروا اللقاء الذي استمر 90 دقيقة، بعض مسؤولي مجلس الأمن القومي مثل مارا رودمان، دان شابيرو، بين رودس، دينيس ماكدونف.

وعلى الجانب الآخر من الطاولة كان: كريم صادق بور، خبير أمريكي إيراني من مؤسسة كارنيجي، غيث العمري مفاوض فلسطيني سابق، فالي نصر خبير إيراني سينضم قريباً للإدارة، شبلي تلحمي الباحث في مركز سابان.

وذكرت الصحيفة أنه لدى إقلاع طائرة الرئاسة نحو السعودية وبينما كان مساعدو أوباما نائمين كان يمسك هو بقلم ويعدّل في الخطاب صفحة تلو الأخرى.

June 4th, 2009, 8:41 pm


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