Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Latest on the Hariri Investigation

Claud Salhani of UPI has a good piece laying out where we stand in the Hariri investigation. He suggests we should expect the President's brother, Maher, will be fingered, but it is too early to know anything for sure. Much speculation has already turned out to be false.

Arab diplomatic circles in Damascus are talking about a possible deal being brokered between the West and Damascus to protect the President's family from the investigation. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are said to be preparing a face-saving deal that would preclude an all out war between the President and the Western powers behind the Mehlis investigation. This is all speculation, but no one believes the US would be silly enough to want to destabilize Syria now. Perhaps in the future, but not now. What the US needs is greater Syrian cooperation on the border. This will mean keeping Maher or Asef out of Mehlis' direct line of fire. Perhaps smaller fish will be offered up to justice. Both French and US officials have said this will not happen and that justice will be pursued to Platonic perfection, whatever that means.

David Ingatius also has a good op-ed on the situation: "For Washington, fear is now in Bashar Assad's camp," Thursday, September 15, 2005.

Syria criticises threats AP[ WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2005]

DAMASCUS: A state-run Syrian newspaper on Tuesday criticised the US ambassador to Iraq for trying to intimidate Syria and said his “baseless” accusations of aid to foreign fighters are an attempt to detract from US failures. Tishrin’s front-page editorial referred to Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s statement that Syria has become a hub for terrorists who want to stop Iraq’s democratic progress and that US patience is “running out”.

“It is strange that the ambassador of a superpower uses the language of intimidation instead of being more committed to the traditions of international relations,” Tishrin said. “Threatening with aggression is a style that reminds us of colonisation and cold wars.”

The newspaper rejected the terrorism accusations as being baseless. “They are an expression of the same well known old policy of exporting crises and putting the blame on others to cover up failure in preserving security and stability in Iraq,” the editorial said. Tishrin reasserted that Damascus has exerted all efforts to safeguard the borders. On Sunday, Iraq closed a northern crossing point on Syrian-Iraq border.
In Paris, French L'Humanite Newspaper said that the escalation of US pressure and accusations against Syria are associated with the increasing number of public rejection of the US occupation of Iraq from one side and the deterioration of George W. Bush's popularity at home from the other side.

In Iraq, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the chief American military spokesman,
said the joint force killed 145 insurgents and captured 361 in the second operation in a year to rid Tal Afar of militants, including foreign fighters crossing from Syria.

Now, he said, U.S. forces along with the Iraqis were fighting to regain control of the Syrian border, near the western insurgent stronghold of Qaim well to the south of Tal Afar.

``The focus is ... to restore control of the border and in this particular case the border with Syria,'' he said. ``We believe that the terrorists and foreign fighters are entering Iraq across the Syrian border, down the Euphrates River Valley into Baghdad.'' ...

Iraqi authorities have taken pains in recent days to convince the population that the insurgency is overwhelmingly foreign, claiming, for example, that they arrested a Palestinian and a Libyan in the Kazimiyah attack. The bomber was a Syrian, the government said without detailing evidence.

The Americans have quietly contradicted that government line, saying the insurgency is only about 20 percent foreign.
Here is what President Bush said about Syria on September 13, 2005. President's Remarks
THE PRESIDENT: I'm not sure if I agree, or not, but
-- (laughter.) The Ambassador did speak strongly about Syria because he
understands that the Syrian government can do a lot more to prevent the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq. These people are coming from Syria into Iraq and killing a lot of innocent people. They're killing -- they're trying to kill our folks, as well. And so, of course, he's speaking strongly about that.

And the Syrian leader must understand we take his lack of action seriously. And the government is going to become more and more isolated as a result of two things: one, not being cooperative with the Iraqi government, in terms of securing Iraq; and two, not being fully transparent about what they did in Lebanon.

And so we're going to work with our friends. And this is a subject of conversation, of course, I'll have with allies in places like New York and other times I communicate with our allies, that Syria must be a focus of getting them to change their behavior, particularly as it regards to democracy and trying to prevent democracies from emerging.
Here is Secretary Condoleezza Rice's: Interview With the CBS News Editorial Board
September 12, 2005
SECRETARY RICE: The Syrians need to account for how it is that Lebanese -- high-ranking Lebanese security officials with well known ties and links to Syrian security officials got entangled in the murder of Prime Minister Hariri. And what does he think about that and do the Syrians really claim that they knew absolutely nothing about what was happening in Lebanon, given their extensive security networks and given their extensive ties to the Lebanese security people who are now being questioned by Mehlis?

Because I think the issue of what Syria did or did not know about the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri is probably the most important issue right now.

QUESTION: Why is it?

SECRETARY RICE: Because the Resolution 1559 insists that the Syrians be completely out of Lebanon. We know their military forces are out of Lebanon. A lot of people suspect that they maintain intelligence presence there. And we need to know that Syria is carrying through on its obligations to get out of there and stay out of there. And it shouldn't be that an external power somehow was involved in the assassination of the prime minister of another country -- of the former prime minister, then a candidate for prime minister. So I think this whole Mehlis investigation is extremely important, extremely important.

QUESTION: Do you think that the Syrian Government falls apart if the security system falls apart and what are the consequences?

SECRETARY RICE: I don't know because, you know, it is a very opaque system in Syria. I do know that Syria should be fully and completely out of Lebanon, that they ought to recognize Lebanon as an independent state. For instance, it would be very good if they actually had an embassy and an ambassador in Lebanon, which would be a signal that they don't think of Lebanon as some kind of Syrian --

QUESTION: Outpost.

SECRETARY RICE: Outpost. Exactly. And then we'll see. But the Syrians need to cooperate with this investigation because there are a lot of questions about what Syria did and did not know.

QUESTION: We're satisfied with what they're doing so far?

SECRETARY RICE: We have not been and the UN had not been satisfied. We'll see. They've said now they're going to offer cooperation. I don't know what Mehlis has been able to get.

Elaph Press, claims to have discovered the truth of Shawkat Asef's visit to Paris. He is there for a short visit to discuss the Hariri murder with the French foreign ministry, which wouldn't give any information on the visit. He wants to make sure the Mehlis investigation will not be used for political ends and to straighten out false accusations.

An-Nahar says Assef Shawkat is Handling Inheritance Affair in Paris.

The Washington Post explains that the U.S. Agenda on Iran is Lacking Key Support.
Russia, China and India either publicly or privately turned down U.S. requests to help report Iran's case next week to the U.N. Security Council, which has the authority to impose economic sanctions or an oil embargo.

The administration has the reluctant support of the European Union for the first time in more than two years, but that will not be enough. Without backing from one of the three others, U.S. officials indicated they were preparing to abandon, for now, a quest to move the matter into the council.
It will be interesting to see if one of these three will support an European-US attempt to report the Syrian case to the Security Council should the Hariri investigation lead to a serious wrangle between Damascus and the Western capitals. Iran, with all its oil, is much more important than Syria. This could mean that one of the three would compromise by throwing Syria to the Security Council as red meat. On the other hand, none of the three will want to allow the US to extend its destabilizing policies further. Even the Europeans did not want to take the Iran question to the Security Council, the Post wrote. "Our aim all the way through in this when we started these negotiations was to keep the matter out of the Security Council," British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told reporters.

I spent a delightful evening a few nights ago at a reception for some Indian ministers who were visiting Damascus. One Indian businessman who runs a company dealing in oil equipment explained to me how Chinese firms are moving into the oil market like gang busters. They are replacing the America firms which are refusing to market their goods to Syria through Dubai and Abu Dhabi and underselling them by 30%, he said. Even European firms are ordering special parts from China manufacturers, which can mill them with great precision in little time. It was quite clear that India looks at this Chinese prowess with jealousy and hopes to be able to compete in these high-tech markets soon. Several people spoke about the outside possibility of India getting the contract for the Damascus subway. They believed they could do a good job and for much less than a French or European firm. Another official spoke about a recent visit to a town mosque with a Syrian friend. He said how much fun it was and how the Imam and villagers all came up to him at the end of the sermon to welcome him and ask questions. "The friendly atmosphere was like it was in India when I was a child," he said. "Today it is not like that. There is so much destruct between the religions in India. In the old days everyone in the villages used to look out for each other and have close relations regardless of religion. It would be a shame if that is destroyed," he added. We had been talking about the possibility of further American sanctions and possible regime-change.

“Lebanon: a US priority”
In the September 15 edition of An Nahar, a privately-owned newspaper, Sarkis Naoum said that Lebanon is now a priority for the United States, but that such US concern should be accompanied by a Lebanese readiness to face their internal problems and deal with outside threats.

"Some analysts [believe] that what happened in Lebanon, rather its sudden 'salvation' from Syrian control..., was perhaps the result of an accumulation of many Lebanese, regional and international conditions, most notably Syrian incompetence. But this 'salvation' continues [to be]. And Lebanon has become... a US priority. And that's why it [the US] helps Lebanon and will keep on helping it. But despite the importance of [such help]... this is not enough. For the Lebanese should, in parallel, help themselves to allow their country to stand up again and confront the internal challenges which the Syrians had previously benefited from to implement their plots in Lebanon...

"However, if Syria tries to 'mess things up' again in Lebanon and … if it continues to 'mess things up' with the United States, then the United States and its regional and international allies will deal with [Damascus] in an organized manner by using a ‘policy of [the] hammer.’”

Naoum said that the US experts also believe that “Syria is not able to offer anything to the United States," whether on the Palestinian level, the Iraqi level or the Lebanese level. He said: “Those same experts are currently saying that Syria is facing two choices, no more, no less. The first is by becoming a ‘failed state,’ isolated from the international community and subject to economic and non-economic sanctions. The second is to stop being a state and to become a scene for chaos, strife or civil wars … All this will pave the way to the fall of the Syrian regime.”

Naoum said that in this case “the United States would not be responsible for the fall of the Syrian regime and will not push it to fall; but it will not prevent it from falling.” - An Nahar, Lebanon
“The pressure is in Washington and Paris and not in Beirut”
As Safir, a privately owned newspaper, said on September 15 that “the bitter truth is that the future of Lebanon is being decided in Paris, New York and Washington… and not in Beirut and therefore, the forces that were created after the parliamentary elections do not form any strength in the Lebanese decision-making.” As Safir added that what concerns the forces now is not to know who designed, performed and financed the assassination of Rafik Hariri, but to know how to deal with the repercussions of the assassination, or even how to invest those repercussions to serve political interests related to the future of the country.”

The newspaper said that the invitation of Saadeddine Harriri to New York aims to “draw the new map of Lebanon” that should be implemented after the end of the investigation. As Safir said that an Arab ambassador in New York asks: “Where are the other Lebanese forces in the Paris meetings? Is the United States starting to implement the Iraqi model in Lebanon by limiting the decision-making in the hands of a section of Lebanese and removing it from others under the slogan of democracy? Where is the place of Hizbullah and Amal from all that is happening?...” The ambassador said that “when questions increase and when answers start to decrease, it means that the decision-making is in external hands, the reason why Lebanese- or most of them- are rushing abroad.” - As Safir, Lebanon
“Bush’s threats to Syria”
Al Quds Al Arabi, a Palestinian-owned, independent pan-Arab newspaper, reported on September 14 that: “Syria, and not just its regime, is being subjected to an intensive American terrorizing campaign for not cooperating with the American project in Iraq. It reached its peak yesterday [Tuesday] when President George Bush threatened in a press release that Syria may expose itself to more isolation because of its incapability to control its borders to stop extremist insurgents from infiltrating into Iraq.”

“One day before President Bush’s statements which he made while hosting Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, the American Ambassador in Baghdad Zalmay Khalil did not dispute the possibility of using force against Syria for the same reason saying that the US’s patience has run out. The Syrian Government denied the accusations officially by its information minister saying that it exerted huge efforts to prevent the insurgents from infiltrating into its borders, and has cooperated fully in this regard with the Iraqi Government because the stability of Iraq is in the interest in Syria. But these declarations found no interest at the US administration.”

“The American threats aim at exerting pressure on the Syrian Government to fully and effectively cooperate, militarily and intelligence wise, with the American forces and their allies to end the national resistance in Iraq by all means, just like what neighboring countries ... are doing. The American plans in Iraq entered the level of total collapse. The political process, which was supposed to achieve Washington’s goals of pulling out of the Iraq’s bloody swamps, has reached a dead end after the failure of the battles of the constitution and after the inability of the government in Baghdad of achieving security, stability and winning the confidence of the Iraqis.

"Because of these failures which is the subject of unanimity of Western analysts, especially Americans, the US administration began looking for excuses and scapegoats and found no one but Syria to throw its blame and threats at including giving it the biggest responsibility of its failure.

“The new Iraq did not turn into an oasis of democracy and stability, like Bush promised more than once. It also did not provide the model of peace, liberty, and respect for human rights which can be exported to neighboring countries. What happened was the complete opposite. Iraq became a breakdown and a safe haven to all extremists wishing to resist the American domination, and seeking revenge against its unjust policies against the Arabs and Muslims.

“The new Iraq did not export democracy, but exported violence and terror and instability to its neighbors and the reason for that is the American occupation and its negativities and massacres which led to the killing of at least 100,000 Iraqis. Syria cannot protect the Iraqi borders which are over 800 kilometers long. And thus it cannot stop insurgency. And by the way why can’t the American forces and its allied Iraqi forces take this duty on their side of the border? There are always two sides to every border, and each country is responsible for its side. It is illogical to throw this large responsibility on the Syrian government alone when it does not possess the financial, military or technological means for this mission.

“Even if Syria had these means, it is not its duty to provide protection to the America’s loser, bloody project in Iraq. The American administration did not consult Syria before it sent its troops and bombers and soldiers to occupy Iraq, so it cannot blame it for not cooperating with it to face the resistance. Syria cooperated with Bush’s administration in the war against terror, and protected the lives of Americans, as admitted by this administration. But cooperating with the war on terror is one thing, and cooperating to stop a legitimate resistance against an illegitimate and immoral occupation is another thing.” - Al Quds Al Arabi, United Kingdom
“Mehlis watch out: you are in Syria,” by Iman Abbas
On September 15, Al Wasat newspaper carried an opinion piece that stated: “It can be concluded that the Syrian delay in cooperating with the investigation committee in the assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri was not a result of the slow decision making process in Syria, but due to the fact that Syria wanted to have a special kind of understanding with the president of the committee, Detlev Mehlis. This is an indicator that Mehlis's mission in Syria is not going to be easy….

"When the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, came in an unofficial visit to Damascus, President Bashar Assad told him that yielding to American demands did not benefit Egypt, and the Egyptian system is still facing lots of pressures. Therefore, Assad is fully aware that the pressure that his country is facing will not go away by yielding,” Al Wasat reported.


At 9/16/2005 11:20:00 AM, Blogger Innocent_Criminal said...

Whatever happens, the US is not stupid enough for an all out military confrontation. Nobody would support such a move in or outside of America.

Isolating Syria in the long-term wont hurt the leadership but it sure will sting the hell out of the mass public. Destabilizing Syria by using local groups who are willing to employ violence will meet the same fate as the one the MB met in the early 80’s. But don’t tell that to any “revolutionary”/”terrorist” groups they will be ready to die for their “cause”/”pay-check”. So the government needs to act and act NOW, Syria is DEFINETLY going to be isolated politically and best defense in this case is an attack. Instead of closing in on its self and playing defense they should loosen up a bit. This can be done; by relaxing the freedom of speech and economic laws right away. For one, it would neutralize any local support for such groups and shut some external critics as well. Economic carrots need to be created to any and all investors willing to enter the scary Syrian market, this would buy Damascus much needed time. Because only time will heal the wounds of the Lebanon, Iraq and US dilemma.

I really doubt that there is any long term steam in Europe for pressuring Syria and if major mistakes can be avoided Syria should not turn into another Iran.

At 9/16/2005 11:41:00 AM, Blogger Syrian Republican Party said...

We rely on the ignorance of the regime and its supporters to keep the ball of slow slide to military action on track. Bush lost more than 10,000 American and seriously injured and disabled for life more than 20,000 American.
He will be a fool to walk out of the White House leaving the Baathist regime in Syria. He will be remembered as the worst President in History and Republican will never have another chance at the Presidency for another 40 years.

Bad news for the regime supporters, we will get you, your day is coming, feel no comfort. feel no peace, judgment day is coming. Time on the free Syrian people side. There are way too much time between now and Bush departure out of the White House and neither him nor the Europeans or the Bedouin tribes have an initiative or say in the future of Syria. Only the opposition have that control and one day they will realize the power they poses.

Your days are numbered. Only a fool will not understand what is said above.

At 9/16/2005 07:42:00 PM, Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

Yes, I don't think that the US can have a conflict in Iraq, Syria and handle the Iranian nuclear problem at the same time. No US attack for now, a deal will be made.

About l'humanité, it's such a stupid communist newspaper that it would have bankrupted if French businessman Arnaud Lagardère didn't (officially) give them financial help (for unknown reasons). Please don't quote it!

At 9/16/2005 07:56:00 PM, Blogger Nur-al-Cubicle said...

I can only see pressure on Syria through the Israel-Palestine lens. Sharon is going to annex the West Bank and Arab dissent must be muffled and Arab claims on Jerusalem neutralized.


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