Saturday, February 11, 2006

News Round Up: (Feb. 11, 2006)

Shara appointed Syria’s vice president:

President Asad has appointed Foreign Minister Farouq Al Shara Vice President of the Republic on Saturday. It is not yet clear whether the long expected government change is imminent.

“Mr Shara will be responsible for foreign and media policy under the directions of the president,” the SANA agency said. Shara, who has a degree in English literature from the University of Damascus, has been foreign minister since 1984. Syria has two vice president positions. Assad had left the two posts vacant since last year, when Abdel-Halim Khaddam resigned before defecting to Paris months later.

Even though this report claims that Sharaa will maintain authority over the Foreign Ministry, it is not clear yet how the Foreign Ministry will be re-arranged. It would surprise me, however, if Sharaa is being kicked upstairs to get him out of the Foreign Ministry. He and Asaf Shawkat were given responsibility for dealing with the UN investigation of the Hariri murder. So long as the investigation continues, I think Bashar will keep them in place to spearhead the resistance. He will not drop them in mid-stream. But he may make some re-arrangements in the foreign ministry to beef up his "good cop" forces. From the beginning, Asad has deployed a duel policy of "resistance" and "cooperation." He will keep both avenues open. Nevertheless, for the time being, the "resistance" policy is working from a Syrian perspective.

The sweeping victory of Hamas in Palestine vindicated Syria's loyalty to Hamas's leader, Khaled Meshaal. Asad's years of sticking by Meshaal, despite US pressure to have him evicted from Damascus, paid off. Undoubtedly there was hearty back-slapping in the presidential palace following Meshaal's electoral victory.

Anti US forces in the region are solidifying their ranks and taking courage from the Hamas victory. Muqtada al-Sadr is in Damascus and on his way to Lebanon. Hizbullah has just signed a deal with the main Christian force in Lebanon headed by Aoun. Hizbullah leader, Nasrallah claims that the new Shiite - Christian alliance gives his coalition the popular majority in Lebanon, despite the parliamentary majority of Hariri's Future Current. Iran is also on the warpath against Western pressure. None of this suggests that Bashar will be contemplating a change of course anytime soon. If anything, it will convince him and the confrontationalists in Damascus that public opinion is on their side and they should keep up the pressure and defiance. The cartoon affaire plays into their hands. Likewise, the Hamas success and Cartoon riots will cow pro-Western presidents and kings throughout the Middle East, who will not want to get on the wrong side of Islam.

Iraq Shiite cleric vows Syria support:

Muqtada Sadr will place his Shiite militia at Syria's disposal if Damascus was attacked by the West.

The head of Sadr's office in Syria, Sheikh Raed Kazimi, told United Press International that Syrian President Bashar Assad will confer with Sadr later in the day for the second time since the Shiite cleric started a visit to Syria earlier this week.

"The visit is a hundred percent successful and this is a victory for Syria because Sayyed Sadr defied U.S. and Israeli will by declaring that al-Mehdi Army will defend Syria in case it was attacked," Kazimi said, in reference to Sadr's militia.

He expressed appreciation for the warm and popular welcome that Sadr received in Syria. Kazimi said Sadr will visit Lebanon after Syria, but did not specify when.

Saad Hariri has accused Syria and

those who murdered his father of being behind Sunday's riots in Beirut's Christian neighborhoods of Ashrafiyeh and Gemmayzeh. "The rioters were instructed by the killers of Rafik Hariri to do what they've done," said the young Sunni leader. Hariri was referring to Syria.

Acting Interior Minister Ahmed Fatfat said that authorities had arrested 416 suspects including 223 Lebanese, 138 Syrians, 47 Palestinians, 7 Bedouins and one Sudanese. Fatfat said the large number of foreign nationals proved that there were political motives behind the attacks that took on a sectarian nature. Security sources were quoted in the Lebanese media as saying that many of the detainees belonged to radical Sunni Islamist groups.

The leader of the Future Movement urged the youth to gather in large numbers on Feb. 14 to mark the anniversary of Hariri's assassination and to pay tribute to the other martyrs who fell on the road of freedom. According to al Mustaqbal newspaper, Syria's allies in Lebanon are attempting to reinstate its dominance over the country.

The newspaper said Thursday that Wiam Wahab, a former minister and staunch Syrian ally, warned of a "coup" over the next few months that would bring the fall of the parliamentary majority and restore relations between Lebanon and Syria to their former state.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has warned Iran and Syria against interfering in Iraq's affairs. He said the United States has taken a series of initiatives to try to show Iran and Syria that their actions are harmful to the new Iraqi government and the region. U.S. officials have previously accused Syria of allowing foreign fighters to travel into Iraq.

Nasrallah said Bush and Rice should 'shut up' : Nasrallah condemned Sunday's riots, and said everyone who took part in them "must be punished." Nasrallah also saluted residents of the Christian Achrafieh neighborhood, were the riots took place, "for restraining and not retaliating."

But he said that Sunday's riots should not be blamed on "outsiders."

"Not every time something like this happens do we blame someone from the outside," he said, referring to the March 14 forces' accusations against Syria. "Sunday's riots were demonstrations that went wrong, and those who did this wrong should be punished. No more, no less. Let the government take responsibility."

He also criticized March 14 Forces, and accused them of "placing the country on top of a volcano." "They are the ones in power, and still, they are the instigating panic in the country," he said. "They should be more accurate in their accusations and assumptions," Nasrallah added, in reference to a statement issued by the March 14 Forces last Monday in which they claimed Jordanian and Syrian extremists were infiltrating Lebanese borders to train in north Lebanon with the help of some pro-Syrian Lebanese figures. Investigations into the claims could not establish the presence of such radical groups, acting Interior Minister Ahmad Fatfat later declared.

The head of Hizbullah, which just signed a pact with MP Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement - forming the country's undeclared majority - also mocked the March 14 Forces, who form Parliament's majority, labeling it as "imaginary." "Lebanon is a country that cannot, and should not, be governed in the sense of majority and minority ... especially if its (parliamentary) majority is an imaginary and proportional one," Nasrallah said.

Danish Premier Faults Iran, Syria and pulls embassy staff from Syria while Norway and Syria try to mend fences.

Riad al-Turk retuned to Damascus this week. While in Paris, he was invited by Khaddam, who has recently signed an accord with the Muslim Brothers, to meet. Turk refused the meeting. Whether this was out of personal conviction or because he believed it would be impolitic on the eve of his return to Syria, is not clear. My hunch is that it was out of personal conviction. Turk, after all, has been meeting with the Muslim Brothers, which is reason enough for the authorities to put him back in jail. If that doesn't get him into trouble, it is hard to see how meeting with Khaddam would.


At 2/11/2006 10:16:00 AM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2/11/2006 10:20:00 AM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

One would have thought that most people would by now have the intelligence to conclude that this regime does not intend to either reform or change. Amazingly, after close to six years, the vast majority keeps clinging to such false and empty dreams.
This regime knows that any change in the status quo is going to be akin to walking into a slippery slope that would resemble a broken dam with all the unwanted consequences. Bashar is not running in a beauty contest. This is a contest of survival for him and his clan. To survive in the treacherous waters of the Middle East, having democratic and reform credentials is not exactly required material to survive.

Dr. Landis is absolutely correct in implying that Bashar and Iran have masterfully used the cartoon affairs to establish their Islamic credentials. Pro western Presidents are indeed being cowed while Bashar and his regime is now making us believe that he is suddenly one of the only protectors of the religion of Islam. This is a ploy to win the hearts of the Arab street. The west and its leaders know the game and called it from the start. The Arab populace is another matter. Bashar knows their DNA. So does Saddam incidentally. In the years leading to his downfall, he turned to Islam. Today, he reportedly spends his days in prison reading the Quran. Regrettably, the play act seems to work on the simple minds of their subjects.

At 2/11/2006 10:35:00 AM, Blogger t_desco said...

Walid al-Moualem is the new FM.

For the record: Ahmed Fatfat repeats the claims by Jumblatt and Young.

«Nous savons qu'Al-Qaeda essaie de s'installer au Liban»

"Y a-t-il beaucoup de groupes radicaux sunnites au Liban ?

Il y a une dizaine de groupuscules dans différentes régions du pays : au Nord, dans la plaine de la Bekaa et dans les camps de réfugiés palestiniens. Ils sont tous liés à la Syrie."

"Damas a-t-il des liens avec Al-Qaeda ?

Je pense qu'il y a plusieurs tendances au sein d'Al-Qaeda et que l'une d'elles pourrait être manipulée par les services de sécurité syriens. Leur objectif est de montrer que, sans eux, les Libanais ne sont pas capables de gérer la situation. Je pense qu'ils essaient aussi d'infiltrer la communauté sunnite pour la faire exploser de l'intérieur."

At 2/11/2006 10:35:00 AM, Blogger Innocent_Criminal said...

I personally don’t see the goodness of having someone like Walid Mua'alim as foreign minister. Does anyone even know if the man speaks English fluently? i would assume so but you never know with us Syrians.

Regarding this comment

“Anti US forces in the region are solidifying their ranks and taking courage from the Hamas victory. Muqtada al-Sadr is in Damascus and on his way to Lebanon. Hizbullah has just signed a deal with the main Christian force in Lebanon headed by Aoun. Hizbullah leader, Nasrallah claims that the new Shiite - Christian alliance gives his coalition the popular majority in Lebanon, despite the parliamentary majority of Hariri's Future Current. Iran is also on the warpath against Western pressure. None of this suggests that Bashar will be contemplating a change of course anytime soon. If anything, it will convince him and the confrontationalists in Damascus that public opinion is on their side and they should keep up the pressure and defiance. The cartoon affaire plays into their hands. Likewise, the Hamas success and Cartoon riots will cow pro-Western presidents and kings throughout the Middle East, who will not want to get on the wrong side of Islam”

I fully agree but these should only be temporary solutions. I believe Damascus is trying to show the west why the latter shouldn’t dare to underestimate Syria’s influence in the region and a reminder why Syria is still needed. But at the end of the day the leadership will need to avoid making Syria the new Iran. And that will mean engaging the west. Maybe not now when Washington and Paris are playing hard ball but ultimately, surviving without mending the relations with the west have extremely negative repercussions. And at this moment I don’t see a way to do this. I also heard the new party laws are coming out in 2 weeks, but with serious restrictions. I wonder how that will come out.


At 2/11/2006 11:15:00 AM, Blogger ahnad said...

{ personally don’t see the goodness of having someone like Walid Mua'alim as foreign minister. Does anyone even know if the man speaks English fluently? i would assume so but you never know with us Syrians}...

Yes, I know him bersonally. He sbeaks good english, just like me.

Sank you very much.

At 2/11/2006 12:39:00 PM, Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

Dear Josh,

I translated the story in Addiyar today and put it up on my blog. I think you'd find it interesting, and I wonder how you would respond to this new theory making the rounds that this particular Al-Qaeda cell was being indirectly manipulated by the Syrian regime. Do you think that is even possible? If so--that is if Syria is indeed striking out through Al-Qaeda networks--then isn't that enough of a casus belli for the Bush administration to launch a march into Damascus?

It would be helpful if you can delineate the possibilities for and against such a coordination between the Alawite regime and radical jihadist cells. I think what Addiyar published is going to be a major new angle to the Hariri inverstigation.

You can view the translation here:

As always, thanks for your insights.



At 2/11/2006 02:16:00 PM, Blogger Idaf said...

Quick facts and thoughts about the new ministers.

Sharaa: What a better scenario did you guys expect? Everybody wanted Shara'a out of the foreign ministry.. the Americans since 5 years, the Lebanese since 16 months (1559) and of course many Syrians since his latest show in the SC. So what would Bashar do? If he's Saddam, he would keep him. If he's Ghaddafi he would put him in jail to please the west.. I think he did the right thing.. he took the foreign policy out his hands, "demoted" him to a vice president.. this way he saved face, pleased the US and the many Syrians that blame him for the current foreign policy disasters... I can also imagine Khaddam's angry red face when he heard the news!

Al-Muallem: He is a good replacement in the current turmoil. he was the Syrian ambassador to the US. The Arab diplomats like him. He maintains very good connections with the foreign officials. He is not a revolutionist like Sharaa. Faisal Mikdad, Syria's UN ambassador is the new deputy. That's also good. I don't know but I feel that Imad Mustapha would replace him in the UN!

Bilal - the new Information minister (ex-ambassador to Spain) is a very good replacement as all Syrians in Spain I know said. He's outspoken and open-minded as it come to the media.

Agha - the new culture affairs minister (ex-ambassador to the UAE) is one of the few outspoken Syrian diplomats.. he's definitely one of the bravest. He often admits the many mistakes commited by the regime publicly in media outlets and propose really good solutions shaped as suggestions. He was definitely the first Syrian official to have a live debate on a talk show with a Syrian opposition figure (Al-Jazeera, 2003).

Amr Salem - the new ICT minister: He is a PhD and an ex-director in Microsoft in the US. He also established the Syrian Computer Society back in 1989. He came back from the US few month ago and became the ICT advisor to Bashar.. less than a week after that, internet video and voice chat was allowed in Syria for the first time and all the blocked internet protocols were permitted silently. The young and tech-savvy Syrians like him a lot.

More technocrats and diplomats in the government and less Baathi fossils... I don't know about you guys but I can only see good in that!

At 2/11/2006 02:35:00 PM, Blogger majedkhaldoon said...

Walid Al Muallem is an excellent choice, he is intelligent, lovable, he speak very good english, he was ambassador to US for sometime, excellent negotiator.

Zyad Ayoubi is the best choice, he is very powerful, he is behind the islamist rise in Syria, he control Religous affair, and has strong influence on T.V. and radio, he has always new ideas, very nice personality, and has strong connections with the wealthy damascus people, his base is a mosque in western abu rummaneh, Anas ibn Malik mosque.
this means that the prime minster has to be from Baath party, since Dardary was not appointed prime minister.
this also means that emergency rule will not be abolished.

the appointment of Farooq Al Shara, is directly against Abdulhalim Khaddam,it is not a promotion to Farooq.and I may say that his health is deteriorating.

At 2/11/2006 03:01:00 PM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...


It is good to see you back. It is also good to see you put a positive face on the new government. At the outset, anyone who knows anything about Syria is fully aware that all previous governments, this one and all the ones that are likely to come after it are essentially useless. They are there to give the appearance of a country with functioning governments, ministers and the like. In reality, however, not a single one of these ministers has the authority to carry out a single program unilaterally. Power in Syria had been restricted to the regional command of the Baath party for years. More recently, the power moved even more inward. Now it is only he Bashar/Asef/Maher team that runs the show.

You claim that Sharaa was demoted to save face and please the U.S. and the many Syrians that blame him for the current policy disasters. Khaddam may have been indeed been angry and this could well be Bashar’s objective. But did the President have the country’s affairs in mind when he made this decision? You demote someone by making him your Vice (Constitutionally next in line) and you specifically announce, “Mr. Sharaa will be responsible for executing foreign and media policy under the directions of the President”? Where does Al-Muallem fit into this exactly? Only Bashar and God know the division of labor here. I think this Sharaa appointment was an absolute public relations disaster. You may want to put a positive spin on this, but I beg to differ. If you want to demote someone, you ought to have the guts to remove him from any decision-making roles, if not punish him. This is not a face saving exercise here. This is a country with its back to the wall. It no longer has the luxury to play the old games.

As to the other ministers that you mentioned, does it really matter? Information minister? If they would rename the ministry to Misinformation ministry, may be one would start to take notice. You seem to believe that we now have a new minister that would bring in new Internet video and chat? How about a minister in charge of putting some bread on the table first?


While it is admirable to see you put a positive spin on this government, I wish I were as optimistic as you. I am in the camp that sees this government as all the ones, which have preceded and will follow it. Useless, inept, lacking of authority to articulate, execute and deliver is what this disappointed and dejected citizen sees.

At 2/11/2006 03:03:00 PM, Blogger adonis syria said...

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At 2/11/2006 03:14:00 PM, Blogger adonis syria said...

it's not the first farce from this familly,the real power in syria is assad's familly and their cronies...these puppet ministers are powerless in front of this mafia who are the absolute power in Syria.

Remember when the most prominent syrian economist Dr Ghassan al Rifai abandoned his post as Senior Economist at the world bank and joined the cabinet of Miro and at the end was wickedly ejected without any consideration.

Syria is a farmhouse and nothing else.

At 2/11/2006 05:15:00 PM, Blogger DamasceneBlood said...

Although some of the new ministers are great and knowledgeable, that doesn't mean squat.

I agree with Ehsani here, ministers in Syria are as effective as Tylenol is in curing cancer, and the pre-existing mafia will find a way to smear them if they don't fall in line.

At 2/11/2006 06:08:00 PM, Blogger t_desco said...


one member of the al-Qa'ida cell is directly associated with the killing of the leader of al-Ahbash, according to this report:

"Among the Lebanese were Khader and Malek Nab'a, who are relatives of the suspects in the Dinnieh incidents of 2000 (see the indictment in Lebanon-based al-Nahar newspaper, July 11, 2000).

In addition, Khader Nab'a is associated with the appearance of the Salafi-Jihadist movement in Lebanon, when the leader of the al-Ahbash religious sect, Nizar Halabi, was assassinated in 1995."

Al-Qaeda's Presence in Lebanon
Murad Al-Shishani

As al-Ahbash was the main tool for Syrian intelligence to spy on the Sunni fundamentalists, I would say that any open collaboration between the two groups is rather unlikely.

The wording "pourrait être" in Ahmed Fatfat's interview with Libération also seems to indicate that he does not possess any concrete evidence and that he is just speculating.

At 2/11/2006 07:49:00 PM, Blogger ahnad said...

hehehehe, this is the curriculum vitae in Arabic of Dardari. Just imagine how he jumped from nothingness to his post, and at the same time he is being portrayed as a genius, and as the miracle maker. What a bunch of fools those who raised him and thought they could pass their newer corruption, in his name:

من مواليد محافظة دمشق /1964/ .‏‏

يحمل ماجستير في العلاقات الدولية من مدرسة لندن للعلوم الاقتصادية والسياسية ومن جامعة كاليفورنيا الجنوبية .‏‏

عمل رئيساً لهيئة تخطيط الدولة منذ كانون الاول عام /2003/ .‏‏

شغل منصب مساعد الممثل المقيم لبرنامج الامم المتحدة الانمائي في سورية .‏‏

متزوج وله ثلاثة أولاد‏‏

At 2/12/2006 04:45:00 AM, Blogger Innocent_Criminal said...

London school of economics, and University of Souther California are one of the best schools.

At 2/12/2006 07:46:00 AM, Blogger t_desco said...

Syrian regime is near collapse, says ex-vice president

Syria's former vice-president said in comments published yesterday that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which he is trying to topple, will collapse this year.

"The current regime will fall because of the blunders it has committed both in domestic and and international politics," Dubai's Gulf News daily quoted Abdul Halim Khaddam as saying in an exclusive telephone interview from his self-imposed exile in the Belgian capital Brussels.

"It will definitely happen in 2006," Khaddam told the English-language paper, without saying why he was certain the regime would be ousted so soon.

Could it have something to do with this:

US prepares military blitz against Iran's nuclear sites
Sunday Telegraph

At 2/12/2006 09:48:00 AM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

Let us set the record straight.

Dardari did attend neither the London School Of Economics (LSE) nor the University of Southern California.

His Education is:

Ms in International Relations – University of South COLUMBIA
High Education in London INSTITUTE for Economy and political Sciences

Having graduated from such obscure institutions, his occupations were:

1988-1989 worked for Al Hayat (UK)
1989-1993 Al Hayat newspaper correspondent in Damascus
1993-1997 UNDP advisor in Syria
1989-201 Arab Monetary Fund (UAE)
2001-2003 UNDP Advisor in Syria
2004 Director of State Planning commission
2005 Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs

Anyone who is interested in reading the CV’s of the new Syrian cabinet can have this pleasure by visiting:

On second thought, you probably don’t want to depress yourself. Please look up Dardari’s university of south Columbia as an example. Please do not confuse the great LSE with a high degree from some institute that no one has ever heard of. Do you think an LSE graduate would join Al Hayat with a title of “worked for ...Al Hayat”? This is the person entrusted with the economic affairs of 20 million people. He is not alone. I encourage you all to click on every single person’s name in my link above. A large number do not have any education to list. What is that of Al Mualem? Our Brilliant Minister of Finance has a fine PhD in economics from the superb schools of Romania.

Depressing & demoralizing

At 2/12/2006 09:53:00 AM, Blogger danablue said...

‘A BLESSING from God”: So have Iran’s leaders, starting with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, described the controversy over the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed.

A closer look at the row, however, shows that the whole rigmarole was launched by Sunni-Salafi groups in Europe and Asia, with Ahmadinejad and his Syrian vassal, President Bashar al-Assad, belatedly playing catch-up. God had nothing to do with it.


In Cairo, the Muslim Brotherhood told the Danish group that this was not the time to kick a fuss over the cartoons. The brotherhood was busy plotting its election strategy and pretending to be a “moderate” political party. The last thing it wanted was to be branded as a rabid anti-West force. The brotherhood leaders suggested that the matter be put on ice until January.

The Danish militants also received a negative reply from Hamas, the Palestinian radical movement. Hamas was busy trying to win a general election and needed to reassure at least part of the Palestinian middle classes. The Hamas advice was: Wait until after we have won.


For Denmark is set to assume the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council — at the very time that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to refer Iran to the Security Council and demand sanctions. What better, for Tehran’s purposes, than to portray Denmark as “an enemy of Islam” and mobilize Muslim sympathy against the Security Council?

To regain the initiative from the Sunni-Salafi groups, Ahmadinejad quickly ordered a severing of commercial ties with Denmark, thus portraying the Islamic Republic as the Muslim world’s leader in the anti-Danish campaign.

Syria was next to jump on the bandwagon, again for mercenary reasons. The United Nations wants Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and five of his relatives and aides, including his younger brother, for questioning in the murder of Lebanon’s former premier, Rafiq al-Hariri. (Assad has tried to negotiate immunity for himself and his brother in exchange for handing over the others — but the U.N. wouldn’t play.) As with Iran’s nuclear program, the Syrian dossier will reach the Security Council under Danish presidency. To portray Denmark as “an enemy of the Prophet” would not be such a bad thing when the council, as expected, points the finger at Assad and his regime as responsible for a series of political murders, including that of Hariri.

The Danish-cartoons cow will also be milked in another way: Tehran and Damascus have launched a diplomatic campaign to put the issue of “protecting religions against blasphemy” on the Security Council agenda. If that were to happen, issues such as Iran’s quest for the atomic bomb and Syria’s murder machine in Lebanon might be pushed aside, at least as far as world public opinion is concerned.


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