Friday, August 19, 2005

News Round Up: Aug. 26, 05

The Syrian government will apply press laws to the internet and blogging - a dangerous precident. It will mean prison time for anyone convicted of publishing "false" news on the web. So far there are no laws governing blogging in Syria, which means that bloggers have had it easty. One can only be prosecuted for endangering state security, a higher and more troublesome bar.

Syrian government plans to control electronic publishing

On August 18, the independent Al Wasat newspaper reported that Taleb Kadi Amin, assistant to the media minister, said: “Syrian authorities are planning to control electronic publishing, [because] the current mess that is happening now does not benefit anyone.” This statement comes as a result of Media Minister Mehdi Dakhlallah’s initiative to develop the media sector while upholding freedom of speech which the constitution guarantees. The issue of electronic publishing was raised by Syrian journalists who showed great concern over the possibility of being controlled by the government, given that Syrian authorities have been dealing very firmly with many news websites like “News from the East,” “Elaph,” “IslamOnLine,” and “Al Quds al-Arabi,” sometimes shutting them down or forbidding them from publishing altogether, Al Wasat reported.

Al Wasat stated that the electronic sites are the only free platform for Syrian journalists and writers who are not capable of publishing in the official newspapers. Hakam al-Baba, the journalist and webmaster of the website “Freedom” said: “The government’s inclination toward having a new law for publishing restrains the electronic publishing sector and sends Syria to the middle ages and to the days of inspection boards for the sake of having only one chain of thought.” - Al Wasat, Bahrain
The Mehlis Report is now the talk of the town in Lebanon. Everyone is speculating whether it will point the finger at Hizbullah and Syria or be contained to attacking the Lebanese state security system and Lahoud. The politicians at the UN and in Lebanon will have to decide ultimately if they want to take on Syria in a battle, which can probably not be won, and will surely complicate relations between the two countries for years to come. Perhaps they will content themselves with containing the direct allegations to the Lebanese security structure? This battle, which Jumblat and Hariri failed to accomplish at the election box, when they didn't get two thirds of the parliament, could be won through the Mehlis report. That is the hope of many. Its success will depend on whether the ambitions of the report are limited and directed at realistic political goals. Even then it will be a tough and difficult battle. It may derail the tough economic reforms that are pressing if Lebanon is to win continued backing from the US and Europe.

Lebanon`s as-Safir said it hoped the U.N. report into the slaying of the country`s premier would end some tensions in Lebanon.
(AMMAN, Jordan (UPI) -- Arab press roundup for Aug. 25:)
German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis was due Thursday to turn in the report on the Feb. 14 killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri to the U.N. Security Council.

The independent daily said the report was supposed to end rumors surrounding the international investigation over Hariri`s assassination, which it said had reached "serious limits on the verge of sectarian sedition between the Sunnis and Shiites." It commented many Lebanese had misread U.N. Security Council Resolution 1595 -- related to Lebanon in connection with Hariri`s assassination -- when they believed it expressed international concern for Lebanon or that it would reveal the truth over Hariri`s death.

It said these people missed the "more important background to this resolution, which is the international prejudgment and suspicion of Syria`s involvement in his assassination, and its aim is to provide evidence and testimonies contributing toward this accusation against Syria."

Therefore, it predicted, Thursday`s report to the U.N. will directly commit Syria in cooperating with the international investigation and that this cooperation will not be enough for the investigation commission.

"This will constitute a justification to seek an extension for the commission`s investigation for a few more weeks," the paper predicted.

It expected the next several weeks will likely be dedicated to force Syria to allow the investigators to question the Syrian intelligence officers who were in Lebanon during the time of Hariri`s assassination because the investigation and Resolution 1595 were targeted toward Damascus. It added Mehlis might give the international community the opportunity to "switch the decision of suspicion to one of accusation and trial, which is a decision for the Security Council if it wants to investigate into the assassination or to be a tool for blowing up or organizing international ties with Damascus."

Oman`s al-Watan commented Thursday was critical because the report into the killing of the former Lebanese premier was to be submitted to the Security Council.

The pro-government daily opined the Mehlis report, named for its author, German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, had become a curse and source of worry for the Lebanese if rumors were true that a booby-trapped truck that blew up former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri`s convoy had originated from the Shiite Hezbollah-controlled southern district in Beirut.

It warned this could ignite internal sedition and strife between the Shiites and Sunnis, as well as cause other problems if the report reveals a Syrian role in the assassination blast on Feb. 14. The paper warned despite assurances from the Lebanese government and U.N. spokesmen the report would calm the situation in the country, "the congested internal atmosphere in Lebanon cannot believe these assurances" except after Mehlis` report.

It said the explosions in the country and a lack of security causes one to wonder if Lebanon has reached a point where it cannot ensure security and whether France and the United States will decide to supply security assistance to Lebanon. The paper argued the conditions may lead to mass emigration from the country and enormous economic crises, prompting Paris and Washington either to dispatch an international force to Lebanon or declare that Lebanese security is the country`s responsibility alone.
The Arab press was also very critical of Iraq's draft constitution, which some decried as a victory for Israel and al-Qa`ida.
The London-based al-Hayat said issues still to be resolved in Iraq`s draft constitution were a fig leaf to cover a deal" between the Kurds and Shiites.

The Saudi-financed daily said the U.S. administration quickly welcomed the draft charter, saying the document "has an Israeli stench by choosing to divide Iraq."

It insisted Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari was not convinced when he declared the draft was finalized with two remaining differences. It opined that the word "federal" in the constitution was a "historic lie," saying no one can explain such a word to mean the unity of Iraq while the country was in such a state of chaos. While the paper, distributed in most Arab capitals, said the Kurds have the right to demand maximum assurances against their repression, they do not seem to be truly concerned with the unity of the country. It added Shiites also had the right to restructure the system based on their rights that have been absent in the past century, "but they also don`t seem to be concerned with the unity of the state."

In this manner, the paper argued, the two groups met to set a plan to "destroy the Iraqi fabric after they failed to find themselves in a unified Iraq." It said "this loaded constitution is not only a victory for American and Israeli desires, nor is it just a Shiite-Kurdish victory, but it is especially a victory for a forgotten party, which is Abu Musab al-Zarkawi."
Amer Mousa of the Arab League was horrified that Iraq would no longer be considered part of the "Arab nation."
"We demand an explanation from the Iraqi government on this document which left us deeply disturbed," Mussa was quoted as saying Thursday.

The contentious article of the draft constitution is one which states that " Iraq is part of the Muslim world and its Arab people are part of the Arab nation."

The Arab league is concerned that the document, over which Iraqi politicians have been fiercely haggling for weeks, does not simply refer to the whole of Iraq as being part of the Arab world.

Iraq is one of the pan-Arab body's 22 members, but the Kurds -- who have the second largest bloc in the national parliament -- had the distinction included in the draft.

Mussa said he had contacted several Arab leaders who shared his views. "This document is extremely dangerous because Iraq is one of the founders of the Arab League," he said.

"Does this text question the whole of Iraq's belonging to the Arab world?," he asked, adding that he had held talks with Baghdad's League representative Raed al-Alusi.

"Iraq's Kurds are an active part of Iraqi society... and Arabs consider them as brothers. The identity of Iraq cannot be defined in such terms," Mussa said.
Syria increasingly targeted by destabilizing strategy From Arabmonitor.inro
Damascus, 24 August - On the Syrian-Iraqi border of al-Tanf hundreds of Syrian trucks are anew held up by US occupation forces in Iraq, just one day after the Syrian and Iraqi ministers of transport announced to have finally settled a weeks-long crisis, during which hundreds of Syrian truck drivers had been prevented from returning to their country and were left stranded in the desert, with no reason given by the Iraqi authorities, who obviously were carrying out orders given by the occupation forces. The new blockade seems to regard this time trucks trying to deliver goods to Iraq. The fully loaded trucks and their helpless drivers are being left exposed to the danger of being robbed during the night or attacked by armed gangs.

Meanwhile, Syria is also suffering dangerous developments at its eastern border to Lebanon, where four policemen had been killed last Friday in Madaya, in clashes with a group calling itself "Jund al-Sham Organization for Jihad wa al-Tawheed". Yesterday news leaked out that the four policemen had been killed by a rocket fired at them from a house in Madaya, as they were searching for a wanted man. While the man who had fired the rocket was subdued by the police, a group of men fled towards the Lebanese border.
General Douglas Lott accuses Damascus of terrorism in Iraq
“In the first explanation of how terrorists are crossing the Syrian-Iraqi borders, Major-General Douglas Lott talked exclusively to Al Hayat from the US Embassy in London about the issue of terrorism from Syria to Iraq,” Al Hayat, a pan-Arab newspaper, reported on August 25. “General Lott added that ‘foreign’ suicide bombers arrive to Damascus Airport, then melt inside the Syrian society until they get support to cross the borders to Iraq and execute suicide attacks,” Al Hayat reported.

“Syria is a transit area for fighters in which they come to Damascus and distribute themselves into small groups. They live in hotels and rented apartments until they get the needed support to cross the borders, which is 600 kilometers long and is not monitored properly,” Al Hayat quoted General Douglass Lott as saying. Lott went on to confirm that those suicide bombers receive support from former Baath leaders who live in Syria and have bank accounts in Syrian banks. He adds that those leaders are not controlling or leading the operations in Iraq but they support them with their money. “Lott said he believed that in a country like Syria it is impossible for the government not to know about all this, because the regime controls the country so completely,” Al Hayat reported.

On the other hand, in response to a question about the Iranian threats in Iraq, Major-General Douglas Lott said: “Badr Organization, the military wing of the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is highly trained and supported by Iran can be a problem for the United States if we end up clashing with them. However, the Iranian government knows our clear targets in Iraq and we don’t have evidence that the Iranians are protecting those targets,” Al Hayat concluded. - Al Hayat, United Kingdom
Syria approves large commercial centre
(AP)25 August 2005; DAMASCUS (Syria)

The government has approved a 6 billion Syrian pound ($120 million) project to build Syria''s largest commercial centre in the capital, Damascus, the government's Investment Bureau said yesterday.

An official at the bureau, who declined to be identified as he was unauthorised to speak to the media, said the project will include numerous office and residential towers and create an estimated 3,600 jobs. The project, called The Damascus World Commercial Centre, comprises a 50-storey hotel, a restaurant, a village, two 60-storey and two 40-storey office towers, two 40-storey apartment buildings, a shopping area, a theatre and a cinema.

The project will be implemented the Tigers Group, which is owned by Syrian expatriates in the United Arab Emirates. It will be open for investment by Syrian, Arab and other foreign investors.

Investment Bureau head Mustafa al-Kafri told the government's Al-Thawra newspaper that the project is the first approved in line with the 1991-issued Investment Law No. 10 to encourage foreign investment in Syria.

The law offers tax exemptions for up to 10 years and other facilities and incentives for Arab and foreign investors, like owning or leasing land and transferring capital money after five years of setting up their projects.
How the investors will complete such a grandiose project for only $120 million is anyone's guess. Where will it be built?

As Bashar al-Asad's original vision of growing the Syrian economy through trade, improved relations with Syria's neighbors, by using Syria's geographical asset as an entrepot goes down in smoke, he is turning to mega-building projects, financing from Arab Emirates, and personal guarantees. This is not a healthy shift, but it may be the only one available to the beleaguered President, who finds his country the target of US and French plans to strangle Syria's GDP growth and trade.

In a sense, Bashar is trying to do a Hariri - lift the nation's economy by personal will and deal making. The only problem is that Hariri had a stock market and many eager Lebanese investors, which turned his Solidaire into a national effort. Asad must use Emirate money because Saudi Arabia refuses to help him and little investors are scared to enter the dangerous Syrian environment. He must also become the guarantor of last resort to the new investors. This is dangerous because it will produce a brand of crony capitalism that is connected directly to the office of the president. His reputation will be directly linked to the success of "his" projects. If they go sour, he will be responsible in the end. It is an expedient measure to bypass the painful necessities of real economic reform and jumpstart economic growth, which may return to bite him.

Depending on large contractors to pull the train of economic reform through the legislative and administrative process is risky, particularly because most are not Syrians. All the same, without capital and large scale investment, the private sector will never develop the political muscle it needs to break through the archaic maze of socialist laws and interests which hamstring Syria as the Lilliputians bound up Gulliver.

In the next item from Jordan, one analyst argues that Jordan should downgrade its relations with the US now that Washington is failing in Iraq in order to innoculate itself from Jihadist blowback. This is just the sort of argument that makes it so hard for the US to pull its troops from Iraq. They are now the central tenpost for US influence in the region, should the war of ideas be lost.

Writer warns of "birth" of Jordanian jihadists
On August 21, a commentator in Al-Arab al-Yawm said: "In principle, we, in Jordan, absolutely reject all acts of violence, regardless of their political or ideological justifications. ... Nevertheless, more of this vocal condemnation and denunciation of the extraordinary incident that took place in Aqaba on Friday falls within the context of skimming the surface of this incident without digging into its solid shell. First of all, we must understand that regardless of their importance, security measures do not curb acts of violence of any kind or substance. The country's immunity towards the growing phenomena of violence and terrorism will remain linked to political immunity.

"I look to the near future with fear. New conditions, which will bring Jordanian jihadists back to their country from Iraq, will emerge. The Iraqi resistance will win and will impose on the US occupation and its allies to leave Iraq within months rather than years. The Iraqi resistance men have begun a political process that aims at setting up the conditions of liberation and unity. Therefore, they have actually started a clash that will escalate as the jihadists return to their countries in the end, bristling with jihadist ideology and combat experience.

"It would be wise to face this objectively arising issue, which cannot be controlled by security means, through introducing political measures in order to foresee and deal with developing events in advance. This is done first by reaching out to the Iraqi resistance and holding a comprehensive dialogue with its leaders; second, by announcing a Jordanian initiative on Iraq that is based on the constants of guaranteeing Iraq's independence and unity and helping it achieve advancement, and this of course requires keeping distance from US policy; and third, by taking a substantial step on the journey of democratic transformation. This should be a real step that is deep enough and effective enough to absorb the frustration of the youths; inflame their patriotic sentiment; and give them an open social, economic and political alternative, not only by guaranteeing these youth education and employment, but also by giving them the opportunity for political participation.

"Although Jordan is way too open, Iraqis, Egyptians and Syrians will not pose a threat to Jordan's security. The threat of the birth of the phenomenon of violence is being posed by Jordanian jihadists, whom we must be ready to embrace socially and politically. This must be done within the framework of a substantial change in the Jordanian foreign policy towards the Iraqi and Palestinian issues. We must come up with a new policy that takes into consideration the strategic interests of the Jordanian state and the citizens' sentiment, thus giving them a feeling of pride and rationality.

"The problem is not with the occurrence of a specific incident, which we hope is a one time incident. The problem is with the fact that a number of Jordanians support Al-Qa'idah and support suicide operations, and a large number of these Jordanians hate the United States, which is the Jordanian government's number one ally. Let the security people do their job in full regarding the Aqaba incident. Nevertheless, Jordanian politicians and intellectuals must also make arduous efforts in reviewing the entire situation." - Al-Arab al-Yawm, Jordan
Aqaba attack threatens to raise tensions between Damascus and Amman
Al Quds Al Arabi, a Palestinian-owned, independent pan-Arab newspaper, reported on August 24 that: “The Jordanian police set up three road blocks in Amman yesterday to check people’s IDs. This comes after the authorities announced the arrest of the main person in the group that carried out the rocket attack in Aqaba last Friday.”

People noticed that police in bullet-proof vests spread across Amman and checked people’s papers, especially truck and pickup drivers, which raised fears of new attacks in the kingdom. The roadblocks came less than 24 hours after a Syrian, who is considered the head of the group with two other Iraqis who fled, was captured.

The investigative report said that the brains behind the attack was a Syrian who was arrested, and two others who traveled using fake Iraqi passports, who fled to Iraq. Despite the fact that no official fingers were pointed at Syria, many figures have pointed to the fact that most of the terrorist activities targeting Jordan were originating from Syria, or were carried out by Syrian hands, even if Al-Qaeda is claiming responsibility for them. Jordan had previously accused a Syrian of being behind a plan to blow up the intelligence center in Amman. - Al Quds Al Arabi, United Kingdom


At 8/26/2005 11:14:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its fairly obvious that syrian extremestis prvodie the means to facilitate such haneous crimes as way to indirectly seek their means of control. Until the countries of the middleast that perpetuate these attacks are reduced to glass desserts will there be peace sex blog


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