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Saturday, May 26, 2007 

US ends committee aimed at pressuring Syria

Last year, Bush set up the Iran-Syria Policy and Operations Group. Its aim: to support Syrian opposition groups, like Frank Ghadry, to block Syria's access to money, and to send weapons to Syria's enemies.

Bush has now closed the committee down, in another sign of the thaw between the US and Syria. Last year, the group was meeting every week.

It was modelled on a similar Iraq committee set up before the US invaded that country. It was, essentially, a regime change committee.

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Link, please?

Certainly: here it is.

Thank you. This is great news =)


I thought u'd be interested.

The guy loves cameras, I wanna hear how much of the golan is he gonna promise the israelis.

Its a sham that news sources refer to him as an "Opposition Leader", and to people like Kilo as "activists".

Indeed it is a sham Yazan. Did you read the extracts I posted from his article praising Israel's political and economic system. The Israelis have done the Palestinians a favour, apparently.

Kilo is indeed a nationalist. Ghadry is no leader of any kind - he 'leads' a gang of about 1 Syrian and a bunch of Israelis and American neo-cons. You are more of an opposition leader than him!!

Yazan, it is not about how much of the Golan he will promise the Israelis - it is how much of Syria he will promise the Israelis.

I defy you to find one Syrian who takes him seriously. Just one.

According to articles before about 5 years ago, he was referred to as 'Lebanese'. So will the real Frank Ghadry please stand up.

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Israeli Eyes Turn to Damascus
Atef Safadi/European Pressphoto Agency
NOT ALONE On May 18, Israeli peace activists demanded: “Talk With Syria.” Some on Israel’s left and right also like the idea.

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Published: May 27, 2007

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Israelis Bomb Hamas Targets in Gaza, Killing 5 (May 27, 2007) WITH the Palestinians fighting among themselves, a new escalation in Gaza and Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, searching for an agenda, Israelis’ thoughts are turning toward — Syria.

Bashar al-Assad, the unpredictable son of a tough dictator, may not be anyone’s idea of a perfect partner for talking. But after last summer’s war, when Israel did not defeat his client Hezbollah in Lebanon, Mr. Assad seems to have repressed challenges to his rule and found new confidence.

More important, from the Israeli point of view, he actually runs a government, with an address — unlike Israel’s other adversaries, including Hezbollah and the various Palestinian gunmen of Islamic Jihad, Hamas and many more.

A real peace with Syria, the logic goes, could solve problems on three fronts, including a halt to Mr. Assad’s support for Palestinian extremists and Hezbollah.

It would be impossible for Israel to negotiate with Syria without close coordination with Washington, and the United States, which considers Syria a state-sponsor of terrorism, is hardly encouraging Mr. Olmert to break Mr. Assad’s isolation. But even Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had a meeting with the Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, on May 4, on the edges of a meeting in Egypt on Iraq. It lasted only 30 minutes, and American officials insist it was almost exclusively about Iraq and Syria’s alleged role in helping anti-government forces there. Still, Israel took notice.

Figures from Israel’s left and right, from former Foreign Ministry officials like Alon Liel to the former Likud cabinet minister Dan Meridor, suggest that talking to Syria could serve several purposes that are clearly in Israel’s interests, even if a full peace with Damascus is years away.

The Arab League has proposed normalizing relations with Israel after a return to pre-1967 lines and a “just” and “agreed-upon” resolution of the refugee issue. The terms are unacceptable to Israel, but talks with Syria might allow Mr. Olmert to make positive noises about his commitment to peace — particularly since progress on the Palestinian track is seemingly blocked by factional fighting and the weakness of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.

After all, Israel returned all Egyptian land it conquered in 1967 in return for peace, and the other non-Palestinian front taken in that war is the Golan Heights, which Israel later annexed.

Mr. Liel said he thought that talking to Syria was a great idea. He was engaged for nearly two years, until last July, in unofficial meetings with a Syrian businessman, Abe Suleiman, who was supposedly authorized by Damascus to talk. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the Foreign Ministry were briefed regularly, Mr. Liel says. The result was an unofficial paper about the “basics” for peace, but when Syria wanted more official talks, Israel pulled back.

Both the Israeli and Syrian governments have denied that the talks were sanctioned, but Mr. Liel is encouraged by a report in the newspaper Maariv that Mr. Olmert is now “leaning toward” talks with Syria after investigating Syrian intentions and finding that moderate Arab states would rather have Israel explore talks with Syria than do nothing at all.

“The internal mess between Hamas and Fatah paralyzes everyone,” Mr. Liel said. “But for any Israeli government to have a long period of nothing moving on the peace process, especially when there are signs of Arab moderation, is very difficult politically.”

Mr. Liel, like many other Israeli officials and analysts, sees great benefits for Israel if Mr. Assad is serious. Syria is a prime sponsor of Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon and the conduit of rockets and arms to them, many from Iran. Syria also is home to the headquarters of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, listed as terrorist groups by the United States and the European Union. It provides protection for men like Khaled Meshal, director of Hamas’s political bureau, and his deputy, Moussa Abu Marzook.

Syria, which is predominantly Sunni, is Shiite Iran’s only state ally; to pull Mr. Assad out of the Iranian orbit and return Syria to the more moderate Sunni world of Egypt, Jordan and even Saudi Arabia would be a major strategic victory.

A real peace treaty with Syria, then, would bring Israel huge advantages in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories and represent a major blow to Iran. Not least, it would remove the chance of war with a neighboring country with modern fighter jets and heavy, accurate missiles.

The question, of course, is whether Mr. Assad actually wants to make peace with Israel in return for the Golan Heights, or simply wants to start a “peace process” that would bring him in from the cold. One top aide said last week that Mr. Olmert, though weak politically, was not going to play the easy political card and get involved in an unserious negotiation with Damascus that could easily fail and end in war, not peace.

Mr. Assad has changed since Israel’s war with Hezbollah, the official said. “He thinks he won, and his self-confidence now is unbelievable.” Mr. Assad has said he’s ready for peace, but if peace fails, he’s ready for war.

“If Assad really wants to close a deal, the negotiation could be short,” the official said. “But we don’t believe he’s ready to do that.”

Itamar Rabinovich, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington, negotiated for a peace with Syria for four years in the 1990’s, but in vain. “The benefits of a peace with Syria are enormous, if it can be done, which is why four Israeli prime ministers explored it, all expressing conditional willingness to withdraw from the Golan,” he said.

Despite American unhappiness, he favors talking to Syria now — but, as he emphasizes, to explore intentions before negotiating; he would also do so discreetly and in full coordination with the United States.

“There are lots of serious questions about Bashar, his regime, his intentions and his capabilities, and to walk unprepared into a negotiation with an Arab leader can have disastrous results, as we saw at the second Camp David,” Mr. Rabinovich said.

“I can’t imagine a quick negotiation or an easy fix with Syria,” he said. “But if an Arab leader says he wants to make peace, any Israeli leadership must take advantage of the opportunity.”

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Sasa, how can you not report on the biggest event in Syria since 2000? the referendum!

Biggest event for who?! I would mention it if anything unexpected happened. Did you notice anything unexpected? I guess I could put the results down. Oh no, we could've guessed the results a week ago! Ok, ok, for your benefit only, I will do a post later with total number of yes, total no, turnout etc. Apart from that, there's not much to say.

True Sasa.
Didn't the baath speak of a multi-party system last year? what happened to that?


Yes, that was at the Conference. It was a promise, and we are still waiting. Since then we have been told economic liberalisation will come before political. A lot of people are quite tired of waiting.

But the economy is starting to open up, despite people's scepticism. So we still hope that the promised political liberalisation will eventually happen.

Honestly, I don't think that means we will suddenyl see Riad Seif and Michel Kilo competing in presidential elections. What i do think it means is that a lot of dead-wood Baath MPs will lose their seats, and opposing parties will compete for Parliamentary seats.

It has been said that the only red line is Bashar. We can criticise the MPs and even the government. So i can see a day when parliament is more freely contested. The argument will then be over what powers parliament has.

Sasa,for politecal reform to be posible Syria has to have a wide midle class , Improving the economy is very impotrant to prevent violent change of goverment , Looking at what is going on in Rusia and China we can see the diffrence between chaos in Rusia and economic prosperety inChina.

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