Tuesday, April 19, 2005

News Round Up

Up Date (April 21): A well informed Washington-based Syria-analyst wrote me the following about the "Assad has been Written Off" article quoted below.

About your column of today, I can tell you, privately, that the view of Syria expressed in the news article you cite is not widely shared among US analysts of the ME. It may reflect a political decision by the administration to marginalize Bashar, but the idea that he is viewed as living on borrowed time is not held at the level of working analysts.

Ma'ariv by Ben Caspit
(Thanks to Timur Goksel of AUB for sending this to me. Anyone who thinks the Syrian regime is on the verge of collapse hasn't been in Syria for some time. Interesting for the spin though. There is no organized opposition in Syria. Notions that President Asad is not in the loop seem silly to me. Certainly, he is not the only power in Syria, to which he alludes when he claims not to be a dictator, but that is far from suggesting that he is not the principal power.)

The US administration believes that the Alawite regime in Syria is on the verge of collapse, and that SyrianPresident Bashar Assad will not survive for long after the pullout of Syrian forces from Lebanon is completed-this was indicated by talks held by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Washington this week.

This assessment, which was originally reached by the CIA, is sharedby all leading government officials, ranging from President George Bushand Vice President Dick Cheney, to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other officials.

The talks indicate that the Americans have written off President Assad; as far as they are concerned he does not exist, and they are already looking ahead and planning the day after the fall of the Syrian regime and the end of the Alawite minority rule in Damascus.

From the American viewpoint, Bashar Assad has in fact taken over the dubious position left open by Yasser Arafat, and is now disqualified andwritten off in precisely the manner that the Americans wrote off Arafat before him. The reasons for this are varied: the Syrian double game with regard to terrorism, the role that the Syrians are playing in Iraq, the Syrian conduct in Lebanon and the general Syrian functioning vis-a-vis the US administration.

In closed conversations, the Americans, including President Bush, say that Assad is a "peculiar fellow" who cannot be counted on, hopes cannot be pinned on him, and [the US] should wait until he disappears from the political scene. The administration believes that the Syrian people are ripe to begin a democratic process. "In Syria too, people are aware of what is happening around the world and in the region," say the Americans. On the other hand, officials in Washington express grave concern with regard to what is expected in Lebanon. It is feared that
following the Syrian pullout and the beginning of the democratic process, Lebanon will undergo an internal collapse due to the high level of internal ethnic tension in the country.

"The EU adds to Syria's international woes: Brussels links Euro-med accord with damascus' politics in lebanon," writes Will Rasmussen of the Daily Star, April 08, 2005.

The EU finally broke cover this week in announcing it will not sign a billion-dollar trade pact with Syria until key European demands on Lebanon are met. The EU has insisted on a full withdrawal from Lebanon and parliamentary elections without interference from Syria.

Without the deal, the Syrian economy will lose an important lifeline, but more importantly, the EU's decision signals that the international isolation of the Syrian government will increase.

Syria had hoped that signing the agreement, which gives Damascus greater access to EU markets, would drive a wedge between Europe and America.

Demanding that Syria tighten its borders with Iraq and stop supporting anti-Israel groups such as Hizbullah, the U.S. has imposed a raft of sanctions on Damascus, which does not mean much economically, but puts a political squeeze on Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Europe, though, continued to pursue a different strategy of engagement with Syria, even initialing the trade pact last October - a month after Resolution 1559 was passed. The association agreement involves billions of dollars of aid to Damascus as well as the creation of an EU-Syrian free trade zone.

But finally, the EU seems to have lost patience, as The Daily Star first predicted last month.

Frank Hesske, EU ambassador to Syria, said this week: "I don't see how we could consider a signature earlier than ... fulfillment of these two conditions: full, verifiable withdrawal of troops and intelligence services and the issue of what we really see on the ground, free, transparent elections or not."

The deal is still in administrative limbo, awaiting translation of its 1,500 pages into EU languages. It must be unanimously passed by all 25 EU members and could be signed at the earliest by June. Syria has a positive trade balance with the EU of about $1 billion, largely due to its petroleum exports, but its economy is suffering from a negative growth rate and high unemployment.

When The Daily Star first queried European officials last month, they hinted that signing the agreement would be contingent on whether Syria withdraws its troops from Lebanon.

But the Europeans are expanding their scope and toughening their line against Damascus. Now, they're insisting on a second condition: that Syria respects free and transparent elections in Lebanon, which the Lebanese opposition is already accusing the Syrian-backed Karami government of delaying.

Last week, the EU enraged Damascus by inviting Syrian opposition leader Farid Ghadry, who recently met top U.S. State Department officials in Washington, to Brussels to argue his case for why the agreement should be delayed.

Ghadry, who heads the Reform Party of Syria, said the treaty shouldn't be ratified until Syria improves its human rights record and introduces democratic reforms.

According to Ghadry, the trade agreement is a key opportunity to pressure Damascus, which is the only country in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership - which brings together 25 EU countries and their 12 Mediterranean neighbors - not to sign an agreement.

"The regime of Assad is desperate to sign the agreement because it shows that it can isolate the Europeans from the Americans," Ghadry told The Daily Star.

Ghadry said: "Not only will it give Syria an economic boost that we think will again only benefit the elite but it will also give the regime a political boost, something the Reform Party of Syria does not want at this time.

"The EU trade with Syria represents approximately 40 percent of Syria's GDP, so it's very important for them."

Ghadry urged the EU to leverage the trade agreement not just to free Lebanon from Assad's grip but to improve its human rights record.

"The only reform possible is the lifting of the emergency laws, release of all prisoners, changing the Constitution to accept all political parties and dismantling the intelligence services," said Ghadry.

"If these are done, then we can start a meaningful dialogue to transition the country into a full-fledged democracy."

Ghadry's demands are further than the EU has signaled it is willing to push. It doesn't seem likely, though, that the agreement will be signed before June, when the EU presidency changes hands and new political priorities could come into play.

Until then, Syria's pariah status will continue, unless, of course, it shows a willingness to cooperate fully in Lebanon.

Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Director, Office of Press Relations
Washington, DC
April 15, 2005

* * *
QUESTION: Asharq al-Awsat newspaper said today that President Bush will not
deal with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the U.S. is not pleased at
all from the Syria's policies. How do you characterize the relations between
the U.S. and Syria?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think our relations with Syria right now are very much
focused on ensuring that Syria complies with all the terms and obligations
of Resolution 1559. Beyond that, we have made clear, very clear, some of our
other concerns about Syria, including its support for terrorism, including
its housing of those involved or associated with terrorist groups in
Damascus, including our concerns about what Syria is doing or, more
importantly, isn't doing to shut off the flow of potential insurgents across
the border with Iraq.

So, obviously, we have many, many concerns with Syria right now. The Syrians
certainly know what they are. We've spoken to them about it on a regular
basis and we're certainly looking for action not only on 1559 but on all
those other issues.


At 4/19/2005 07:14:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey joshua
i have probably checked ur site 60 times in last 10-12 days cuz was very curious to see what u found in ur trips to lebanon, suwaida and qamishli....hope u got a few things to say about ur trip
Syrian in canada

At 4/19/2005 07:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no organized opposition thanks to eradication policy against syrian political parties.
We can also say that there is no Baath party because it's not more a Mafia united in the name of economic privilege.
The true power in Syria is the security apparatus dominated by allawi clans linked to the Assad Family.
Because of the weakness of this regime i'm pessimistic about any radical reform in Syria led by the dictator Assad junior.

At 4/19/2005 08:15:00 PM, Anonymous Ghassan said...

I was looking forward to read your posting following your travel in Syria. I was disappointed when you posted news article that I have read days ago! I really like to hear what the PEOPLE IN SYRIA (government, politicians, economists and ordinary people) are thinking!

I agree with “Anonymous At 7:29 PM” that due to the eradication and threat policy against Syrian politicians there is no organized opposition. Don't be deceived that there is no opposition. It smells like what happened to Saddam when he surrounded himself with “yes sir” men who lied to him just to either get rewarded with money and power or to be protected from his oppression. Assad, Jr. is surrounded by the same type men who are lying to him by telling him “every Syrian and Lebanese loves you!” It is typical of dictators to have that kind of people around them to make them feel good about themselves! My advice to Assad, Jr. is to do his best to allow the Syrians to express themselves freely. One more analogy, the Japanese car makers in the late 1970s allowed their employees to provide opinions and suggestions about how to design and build cars. In few years, they improved the quality of their cars and lowered its cost which led them to control the US auto market! The big three companies in Detroit refused to change and their share of the US auto market plummeted! Look around you, read history and learn from it Dr. Assad before YOU become history!

At 4/19/2005 10:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Josh,did you read my email of 6 april with 2 attachments,now once i recive ur acknowledgment i have the 3ed attach. to complete the the ring ,thus the expected metmorphises drift to save the present seen on a new politecal party look that may prolong the dynasty under an accepted nationalstic ideology,ur half way there,but ur missing the linck.

on the 6 april
I am not here for your or my politics ,I am here to tell you that I have send you an email to landis@ou.edu we have something in common ,our sincere love for Syria the land and the people un fragmented .
I hope this is the right email. meet you there ,safe trip back home , and hope you had a good time with your dad .

At 4/20/2005 12:15:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont think the syrians want to get rid of one dictator for another puppet. If Ghadry thinks hes the change syria needs, hes got bigger problems. He needs to shutup and continue living his suburban life in the USA. If he doesnt experience the suffering, then he has no legitimate claim to removing it.

At 4/20/2005 08:13:00 AM, Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

The French-US alliance on Lebanon is a very powerful one, americans bringing their influence and new Europe on the balance and France bringing old Europe.

This creates a transantlantic convergence that can be compared to a Bulldozer.

Even with chinese and russian support(which Syria does not have) Bashar would find it hard to resist international pressure.

At 4/20/2005 08:22:00 AM, Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

I don't think that Syria's regime could be overthrown on the short term, there is no opposition to organize a coup and a revolution.

The Syrian Lebanese fronteer is bound to remain open, especially if Syria wants to keep some influence in Lebanon. If the border is closed there will be an economical catastrophe on the two sides and nobody can affords this.

A more important middle-term threat to Bashar would be a liberal Lebanese government. Ideas tends to circulate easily between the two countries because of their deep relations. Most syrian are familiar with lebanese newspapers and reforms in Lebanon are likely to amplify the demand for reforms in Syria.

If a syrian opposition reorganize on lebanese soil, this could prove a real threat to Syria. The lebanese learned the palestinian lesson and are unlikely to allow a foreign opposition on their soil but you never know.

At 4/20/2005 01:01:00 PM, Anonymous kingcrane said...

The new Lebanese government, a Franco-Saudi concoction that is agreed upon by Syrian authorities, tells you that Syria is doing what it does best: work behind the scenes in order to survive. The next Lebanese elections (if they are held) will be "clean" and Assad will be off the hook. As to the US of A, they have conceded the ex-French-Protectorates to France, once and for all.
PS: "Syrian Opposition" and "Ghadry's reform Party: what a joke, a-la-Chalabi.

At 4/20/2005 03:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This Ghadry is nothing but a Zionist piece of garbage. It is easy for any traitor to plot against his country especially at a time of crisis. The Syrian regime most likely will become a hostage to France and the US, and will try to accommodate them for a while to insure its own safety. But it must be said that the regime still have many cards to play. It may bleed but it is not down and out. The President will take steps reform and become more democratic than most states in the region and he may have to take a lot of eternal pain to achieve that. When the Americans wont be satisfied as expected, then the Syrians can and will unleash hill on the head of the Americans in Iraq and may even open the Golan front which can attract plenty of Arab and Moslem help.

At 4/20/2005 04:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonymous@12.15.
The daughter of Cheney said that the USA dont ignore that Ghadry has no support in Syria and from Syrians outside Syria.
The regime know that the overwelming majority of the syrian people hate him,that's why the syrian regime is not able to permit any freedom.

At 4/20/2005 04:59:00 PM, Anonymous Mechul said...

Note that Hizbullah accepted the role played by France in Lebanon, as reflected in Nasrallah's open letter (published in Le Figaro and al-Safir). Apparently, Nasrallah strives to dissociate the French from the Americans, because he very rightly believes that it will be easier to cut deals with Paris.

He understands that a common American-French-Saudi front in Lebanon would be hard to confront, and thus in the interview clearly indicated that he is currently willing to do business with the French but not with the Americans.

At 4/20/2005 07:31:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it is no secret that syria helped one way oor another in the fight against terrorism by giving names and info and even people to the united states. it is true that syria is not controlling the iraq border as tight as it should, but hey, is the americans on the other side 100% securing it ??? they are not even securing the US -Mexico borders...
in my opinion, the US should had built on the young president Assad to modernize and bring Syria to their side, instead if trying toppling the Syrian regime. it will be a grave mistake to change the regime in Syria.it will be more benefitial and less dramatic to work with Dr. Bashar Assad-in person not the old guard-. if someone is saying that the Syrians are trying to have it both ways, well, can you explain why the US wants Syria to implement the UN resolutions 1559 regarding Lebanon, and not asking Israel to implement the resolutions regarding giving back the Golan heights back to Syria?? no real explanations here i guess. and when the Israelis say that the high view from the Golan averlooking northern Israel is safety issue, well that was in the past days, now someone in alaska can see what is happening in a square meter any place in the world, thanx to the new technologies, so what's the international saying about Israel and the Golan Heights??and is Bush going to say about that???
thank you all for your inputs.

At 4/20/2005 07:49:00 PM, Anonymous Haidar said...

Equitor, your view of the situation is slightly skewed. Although i agree with most of what you said, your equating the Palestinian and Syrian opposition to each other is stupid. The Syrian opposition wouldn't be trying to start a state within a state in Lebanon as the Palis did. Don't kid yourself, Syrians already have a much larger country than the Lebanese, they don't need a state in Lebanon. Not to mention Lebanon's population density is off the charts and the southern Lebanese are having more children every day.

At 4/20/2005 11:11:00 PM, Anonymous anon mother said...

Ghassan asked for input on how the ordinary people in Syria are thinking, what about dreaming? I had such a vivid dream and felt I had to tell it ..I could have told my husband but I dont want to upset him .. it would be like two drowning people holding on to each other...
Here is the dream .. I was in a Khaleej country standing outside an internet cafe, I was looking at a newspaper picture ..it was of young and older men all dead but with no sign of violence on them neatly placed in stacks as though getting ready to be crated up ready to be sent on an airplane. I was looking at it crying and searching for the faces of my sons, there were Syrian people behind me saying "how could they show this in a newspaper their mothers will be so upset" as though this was common knowledge but not usually seen. .. I,m crying as I write this.. then in my dream I look into the internet cafe and see little fat Khaleeji kids playing on the computers and a tv program is advising them on how to lose weight , oblivious to these Syrians outside looking at the newspaper.
I have three sons abroad that I,ve not seen for years, everyone I know has at least one of their children over there( choose whatever country you want) we live in a dream for the day when they,ll come home to us , but the fact is they will be chewed up and spat out by these places . We are raising our beautiful Syrian children to be so much chattle for the use of other countries while they should be here, we all want them home I want this beautiful; country to be the envy of those countries where our boys are and we wouldn,t have to say goodbye anymore the tears of all our mothers and fathers are too precious.
salam to everyone

At 4/20/2005 11:43:00 PM, Blogger annie said...

Things are moving aren't they ?

From the Syrian News Wire

Coup leader returns to Syria
Colonel Jasem Elwan, the man who led the 1963 coup against the newly established Ba'ath government, has returned to Syria.

The Ba'ath party took power after a troublesome and short-lived union with Jamal Abdel Nasser's Egypt. They reasserted Syria's independence and took control of Syria away from Cairo.

But Elwan was one of the Syrian officers still loyal to Nasser. Unhappy with the rejection of Egyptian rule, he attempted to overthrow the Damascus government.

He failed, and fled to Egypt. He was sentenced to death in absentia.

But moderate young leader Bashar Al-Assad is trying to rewrite his father's history by encouraging the return of political refugees. Elwan was issued with a Syrian passport, and returned home. He was met at Damascus Airport by Human Rights Lawyer and opposition activist Hassan Abdel-Azim.

Ammar recently wrote that all exiles have a duty to return and reshape Syria, and play an active part in the politics of their country.

Abdel-Azim is now calling for all political prisoners to be released. Last month the Syrian Ambassador to the US said that by the summer Syria's prisons would not house a single political prisoner. At the same time the President released 312 Kurdish political detainees. Estimates put the number of political prisoners at between zero and six hundred.

from the Syrian news wire:

At 4/21/2005 04:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes well every country experiences a migration of minds. Its a shame however that your sons will probably go work in the gulf as waiters or salespeople on the floor. Now thats a waste of a mind that could have been used to benefit all the arab states. Engineer, business person, economist, mathematician? Simply a salesman in the gulf. What a pity...

At 4/21/2005 10:38:00 PM, Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

my previous post is ambiguous I did not express myself properly. It is certain that there will not be a PLO-style syrian opposition in Lebanon, but there could be a democratic opposition enjoying freedom of expression in Lebanon.

Unlike the palestinian example, the threat would not come from the Syrian opposition itself but rather from the Syrian government reaction to it. I doubt that Bashar will appreciate to see a Syrian opposition a few kilometers away from Damascus.

I don't think anyone in Lebanon wants to have tensions with the syrian government. So I doubt that the syrian opposition will be allowed to operate from Lebanon.

At 4/22/2005 06:05:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your Washington friend said:"About your column of today, I can tell you, privately, that the view of Syria expressed in the news article you cite is not widely shared among US analysts of the ME."

I, for one, am very heartened to hear that. These guys, the mainstream herd of ME analysts and CIA types, have been soooo right on so many things. (har har)

It is a miracle that Bush is able to do anything, with the State dept. the CIA, etc.. trying to sabotage him

At 4/22/2005 12:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We in Lebanon are very disappointed that the EU did not include a conditional clause concerning human rights and the fate of the Lebanese detainees in syria in particular, for the conclusion of the syrian EU agreement. The EU constitution blabs endlessly about human rights and yet, when it comes to practice, it is conveniently oblivious to the atrocities committed by many middle eastern regimes, assad's being on top of the list. Sadly, this matter often finds little support about the people of the middle east themselves, either out of ignorance or out of plain indifference to a phenomenon they have come to view as collateral damage to the regimes in power. I would like to turn the attention of syrian citizens to the plight of teh lEbanese mothers and spouses whose sons have been the victim of forced disappearance by the assad regime for the last 25 years or so. The lucky ones get to see their sons once in a blue moon after significant bribes are paid to various syrian officers. Others cannot even find out if their sons are still alive. Of course we are aware that syrian citizens themselves are also victimized by the assad regime but we rarely hear a voice of support or concern..

At 4/22/2005 08:14:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Syrian in Canada,

It is "your" on "ur".
It is "because" not "cuz".
It is "you" not "u".
It is "I" not "i".

Another Syrian in Canada

At 4/24/2005 04:25:00 AM, Anonymous The only real syrian in Canada said...

There's one syrian in Canada and it's me. U r all traitors

At 4/25/2005 03:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a miracle that Bush is able to do anything, with the State dept. the CIA, etc.. trying to sabotage him

Yeah, they really stopped him from telling the truth about WMDs in iraq and Iraqi ties 911, now didnt' they ?


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