Saturday, April 29, 2006

Syria Eagerly Seeking to Improve Relations with Iraqi Leaders

The Council on Foreign Relation's Bernard Gwertzman published this interview with me two days ago. We know a bit more about the new Iraqi PM than we did two days ago, thanks to Sami Moubayed. (See quote at bottom)The Council also has other interesting articles on Syria by Council Staff Writer Esther Pan.

Landis: Syria Eagerly Seeking to Improve Relations with Iraqi Leaders
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor
Interviewee: Joshua Landis

April 26, 2006

Joshua M. Landis, a Syria expert who recently returned to the United States after spending a year in Damascus, says that Syrian leaders are seeking to establish good relations with all segments of Iraqi political life, including the Shiite leaders. He says the newly chosen prime minister of Iraq, Jawad al-Maliki, lived in exile in Syria for twenty-one years, but the current Syrian leadership, which had little direct contact with him then, is trying hard to curry favor now.

"The leadership doesn't know much about him, because most of the people he had been friendly with have retired," Landis says. "He was friendly with [former Syrian President] Hafez al-Assad's generation, not with the generation that has come into power under the son, Bashar. They don't really know who he is. So they're scrambling right now to figure out who has good relations with him, and obviously they're going to try to make that connection."

Landis, assistant professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oklahoma's School of International and Area Studies, says Syria and Iran are trying to take advantage of anti-Americanism in the Middle East to enhance their influence in the region.

In your most recent blog entry, you said that Syrian officials are striving to have good relations with all sectors of Iraqi society. Now this surprises me, because I always assumed the Syrians were very anti-Iraqi Shiite, and since the Shiites are the predominant force in the Iraqi government, there would be rather cool relations between Syria and Iraq. What explains this change?

Well, Syria did not traditionally have good relations with the Shiites in Iraq, largely because the Shiites were anti-Baathist [Saddam Hussein headed the Baath Party in Iraq]. And because Syria was also Baathist, [the Iraqi Shiites] distrusted Syria. That has changed a lot. What's happened is, as the Shiite [political figures] in Iraq have become more and more distrustful of the United States, and have divided amongst themselves, and so find themselves in competition with each other, they have been going to Syria to look for better relations. Also, the government in Syria is, in fact, Shiite. Bashar al-Assad is an Alawite. They are offshoots of Shiites. They claim to be "Twelver" Shiites, the largest of the Shiite factions.

But Syria, traditionally, had had almost no relations with people inside Iraq, because of the terrible relations between the two Baathist regimes. And when Hafez al-Assad and the Alawites took over in Syria, they kicked out the founding members of the Baathist Party -- many of whom fled to Iraq in the sixties and were given a home by the Baathist Party there, and later by Saddam Hussein. And so Saddam promoted the idea that these exiled Syrian Baathists might be used to undermine Syria. Saddam was the major funder and helper of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria [a Sunni Muslim group]. He helped sneak car bombs and weapons across that border, into places like Hama where they were used against the Syrian regime, provoking the slaughter of 1982 in that city by Assad's forces.

At this time, Saddam Hussein attacked the [Shiite] Dawa party in Iraq. [Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-]Jaafari and [incoming Prime Minister Jawad al-]Maliki are both members of that party. And the Dawa people claim that Saddam over the years killed 70,000 of their members. In 1982, Maliki fled Iraq during this crackdown, at the same time that Saddam was funding the Muslim Brotherhood in Hama. So he fled, first to Iran, where he was unhappy because he felt he didn't have enough independence, and then to Syria. And Syria helped these Shiite members of the Dawa party.

And he stayed in Syria a long time?

The whole time. In fact, until 2003. So he spent, essentially, two decades in Syria.

So he obviously is fairly well clued in to the leadership in Damascus, yes?

No, he's not. And this is the odd thing. In preparation for our interview I got in touch with some people in Damascus, and they said that, in fact, the leadership doesn't know much about him because most of the people he had been friendly with have retired. He was friendly with Hafez al-Assad's generation, not with the generation that has come into power under the son, Bashar. They don't really know who he is. So they're scrambling, right now, to figure out who has good relations with him, and obviously they're going to try to make that connection.

Now, the importance of having been in Syria, for Maliki, seems to be that he's quite a staunchly Arab nationalist, as opposed to being influenced by Iran. He has made it clear -- or at least he says -- that he wants to put aside any sectarian interests, and that he's interested in preserving a non-sectarian, Arab identity for Iraq. This is going to get him in trouble with the Kurds, but it's the kind of language that Sunnis in Iraq will like to hear. And it's the kind of language that Syria will like to hear.

Have the border incursions of insurgents from Syria into Iraq been stopped, more or less? Or is that still an issue?

It's not much of an issue. The head of American forces in Iraq has said the Syrians are doing a much better job and they're working together. The big change is the Iraqi and American troops have finally arrived at the border. For the first two and a half years, there were no Iraqi troops guarding that nearly 500-kilometer border. There were just Syrians on one side. But now, Americans and Iraqis have managed to put up a fairly effective border guard system. Right down the whole border there are outposts and guard houses. In this way they are managing to have some communication with the Syrians, and they seem quite satisfied. The commanders along the line say they have been able to stop whatever it is that's going on, and they've been able to stop smuggling, even. Now there are still some issues, but it doesn't seem to be infiltrators.

Now the other issue, of course, that was big news a year and a half ago, was the UN investigation into the assassination last year of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The latest news is that the chief U.N. investigator Serge Brammertz met with Bashar today. Where does that issue stand?

Well, Syria took some satisfaction in the collapse of the so-called "national dialogue" in Lebanon earlier this year. The Hariri and pro-American forces in Lebanon put all their money behind getting rid of the president of Lebanon, Emile Lahoud, who has been a major link between Syria and the Lebanese state. They believed that through this national dialogue, with all these national leaders coming together in March, they were going to be able to get progress on impeaching the president. His importance is that he sits over the whole security apparatus in Lebanon, and he's chief of staff of the military in Lebanon. He, of course, was the president who had his term extended, constitutionally, under great pressure from the Syrians. So he became the focal point for the anti-Syrian movement, which led eventually to Rafik Hariri's assassination. And Hariri's people put all their effort into getting rid of him, and they failed.

What was the reason for the failure, that Hezbollah was able to block it?

Yes. And the Christians. Michel Aoun, who is the most popular Christian for the next presidential seat [which has to be held by a Christian according to the Lebanese constitution] -- opinion polls put him at about 30 percent, and his closest competitor had about 10 percent -- has made an alliance with Hezbollah. So there's a Maronite-Shiite alliance that really frustrated the Sunnis. In a sense, America has thrown its money behind the Sunnis in Lebanon, who are one of the smaller groups, and this has caused the other groups to gang up against them. The Christians are divided, but the most popular presidential candidate, Aoun, wanted the Future Movement, the party of Hariri's people, to say that it would endorse his becoming president to replace Lahoud, before he would agree to sway his people behind the removal of Lahoud. But they refused to back Aoun.

So that took the whole steam out of the U.S. effort to bring about change in Lebanon?

It did, it took the wind out of the Lebanese anti-Syrian drive, and Washington had to feel as if it got some mud on its face, because Bush had been very dedicated to supporting Hariri's people in trying to get rid of Lahoud and put a dent in Syrian influence. So I have the feeling Syria won on that.

Now in your blog, you said that the Syrian leadership has more or less decided just to wait for a new president in the United States. There is more than two years to go. Is that really the policy?

The Syrians don't really have any choice. They would have preferred to create some dialogue with Washington, but they've failed at every turn to do so. They used to have intelligence-sharing on al-Qaeda matters. What happened, as we know, is that Syria came out vociferously against the American occupation of Iraq. It took a major stand against it. That was a big turning point, and it soured the relations that still existed. Then Syria realized that it had made a mistake and tried to calm relations with America by taking away the Iraq portfolio from Farouk al-Shara, the foreign minister and giving it to Abdul Halim Khaddam, who was vice president at the time. This was around November of 2003.

Khaddam began to organize all the tribal leaders, all the Sunnis, who were being pushed out of the Iraqi government at the time, and he brought them for a series of about ten meetings in Syria. What he was trying to do was unify the Sunni voice in Iraq, so he could trot over to the Americans in Iraq and say, "Look, I can help you, I can bring these people together to a negotiating table, and I can push them -- if you basically go soft on us in Lebanon and stop criticizing us." This is just what Washington did not want to hear at the time, because L. Paul (Jerry) Bremer III was in the process of moving the Shiites into power in Iraq, and disciplining the Sunnis, getting them out of the army, getting rid of the Baath Party. All these Sunnis who were circling around, trying to get a bargaining position, were cut out of the picture. And that meant Syria was cut out of the picture as well. Washington felt it didn't need to have dialogue with Syria because that would give Syria more leeway in Lebanon and other places.

This was a great miscalculation on Syria's part, believing that the Iraq card was a way to improve bilateral relations with the United States. It failed because America didn't want to hear about the Sunnis in Iraq, and it didn't want to hear about Syria. Secretary of State Colin Powell made some efforts in 2004, but by the end of 2004 you have the extension of Lahoud's government. Syria obviously realized this was not going to work, and decided to move against the United States and extend the presidency of Lahoud against America's and France's wishes. And then in February 2005, Hariri was killed. This was just a further step in Syria's crackdown on the Lebanese situation.

Is there any doubt in your mind that Bashar was instrumental in [the Hariri assassination]?

I have no reason to doubt the Lebanese and international investigations, which have all pointed their fingers at him. I don't see anyone else whom I could blame for it.

Washington is obviously looking for a political settlement in Iraq, and today we have the defense secretary and the secretary of state in Iraq at the same time, urging this on. Is there anything the Syrians can do? Is Washington considering anything with Syria to help this along?

They are not. The problem is that Washington has gotten itself into this terrible situation with Iran and Syria. Iran and Syria, sensing that Washington is floundering now in the Middle East, and wanting to profit from the widespread anger at the United States that spans from one end of the Islamic world to the next, are playing to the street. They're playing an anti-American policy by supporting Hamas and supporting other anti-American forces in the Middle East. And this has helped them a great deal. Bashar has never been more popular on the streets of Syria than he is today, even though he has not helped the economy, he has not reformed, he has failed to fulfill on a number of other important criteria. By playing this anti-American card, he is winning support.

Has Syria always been close to Iran?

Syria has been close to Iran since 1980, the year that Saddam Hussein invaded Iran. Saddam Hussein was the big enemy of Syria, and he invaded Iran. He was also supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, so immediately Hafez al-Assad reached out to Iran. They made what was clearly a strategic alliance that was based on the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

And then, of course, Syria sent troops to the first Gulf War.

Yes, and again it was an anti-Saddam move.

So why were they so angry at the United States for knocking off Saddam?

Because the United States was coming to the Middle East to change the whole balance of power, to occupy an Arab country, which of course is against the ideology, but also to possibly take Syria. The Syrians believed that if the Americans had a really easy time in Iraq that they might charge right down the Euphrates and overthrow the Baathist power in Syria. And that this would be part of the strategy of getting rid of dictators, of overthrowing the anti-Israel forces in the Middle East, and of getting rid of the Baath Party. So they believed that America was on an anti-Arab, as they called it, campaign.

Here is a bit more information on Maliki provided by Sami Moubayed's recent article:

The only contradictory statement, which shatters much of the flattering talk revolving around Maliki, was made by Khudayr Taher, a US-based Shi'ite writer who has known Maliki since their days in exile in Syria in the 1980s.

Taher wrote an editorial in Arabic saying that he used to meet Maliki at the local library in Syria, where he would be doing research for his master's degree in Arabic literature, pointing out: "I do not claim that we were friends." Taher said Maliki had "modest general knowledge ... he will be a puppet in the hands of Jaafari, Hakim, the Kurds and Sunnis". He added that Maliki "does not believe in democracy because of his ideological commitments" in al-Da'wa Party, claiming that political Islam and democracy do not meet for someone like Maliki.

In a private discussion held when both men were in Syria, Maliki told Taher: "We declare our acceptance of democracy, but in reality, we are tricking them [the Americans] in order to topple Saddam and come to power." Taher writes: "I swear to God that this is exactly what he said!"

Taher adds that Maliki does not believe in the equality of women and will refuse to give any cabinet posts to Iraqi women, unless those imposed by the Kurds. He wraps up by saying that Maliki is anti-American, and has expressed his anti-American views to friends and in private discourse. He predicts that if Maliki succeeds in creating a cabinet, "it will not last long and will collapse after a few months".

The Iraqi prime minister will have a difficult time indeed warding off the accusations of someone like Khudayr Taher, pleasing the Americans while courting the Iranians, and winning the confidence of the Sunnis.

For now, he is on good terms with Washington, but if he is unable to break with Muqtada, the Americans will quickly abandon him. His remarks about disarming the militias, which unless specified also include Sadr's Mehdi Army, mean that he is not too keen about maintaining his friendship with Muqtada. If he loses it, however, how strong will his influence remain within the leading Shi'ite bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA)?


At 4/29/2006 06:12:00 AM, Blogger SYRIA said...


I used to respect everything you said because when other people called you a Baathist, I assumed you were trying to be as objective as possible. When you said you pretty much blamed Bashar for the assassination, even though Mehlis and Brammertz haven't confirmed whether he played a role, all I see is a person who kissed the regime's backside in Syria and as soon as he left, he decided to say what he really thought. Shame on you. I am very disappointed in you.

At 4/29/2006 07:05:00 AM, Blogger Atassi said...

YOU should respect Joshua opinion please, You can't discredit someone because he\she don't agree with your views. by the WAY " Syria is for all Syrian" !!! Pro regime or against it.

At 4/29/2006 08:44:00 AM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

“I don’t see anyone else whom I could blame for it”

Dr. Landis hereby displays a sense of logic and commonsense that the so-called “Syria” above obviously refuses to do. Why not wait for the investigations to confirm whether he played a role he asks. I am willing to bet that there is nothing that these investigators would say that would be “sufficient” evidence for “Syria” that Bashar was personally responsible. As a Syrian, I take no joy in “predicting” that Bashar will be proven responsible. However, I resent “other Syrians” who think that they love their country more or that “they” are the true nationalists because they happen to ignore all common sense and refuse to see what many of us consider as the “obvious”.

In sum, it is time to stop the “Takhween” every time you hear and read something that is contrary to what you believe in.

At 4/29/2006 12:41:00 PM, Blogger Alex said...

1) Joshua: You know that your strong statement regarding Assad's direct role in the assassination will make news. I hope you will follow it with a piece illustrating and clarifying the foundations upon which you built your recent conclusions.

2) Ehsani2: This is one of the reasons I am not too eager for seeing a full exercise of "democracy" in Syria today ... you noticed how every time you say something that the "pro regime" readers do not like, they immediately start thinking of you as a "kha'en". And I will add to it that with my sometimes intentional "pro regime" sounding statements I am partially trying to test the other side. The reaction I often get is that the only explanation for my opinions is that I must be somehow benefiting from some type of connection to the regime.

This tendency of both sides to reduce their opponents to traitors or to corrupt regime sympathizers, is not encouraging at all. Remember that this is still about politics. In a real election, you will have candidates who will say things that are religion related, and there you will start having much more serious and dangerous accusations of blasphemy on the one side, and sectarian agendas on the other. Then you will get into the Kurdish/Arab sensitivities ... Arabs will hate the Kurdish candidates who will advocate what sounds like separatist positions, they will be the most popular traitors in an election campaign. In north eastern Syria, you will have heavy Assyrian Kurdish conflicts. I am hearing a lot of anger and intolerance from both sides already. For example, it seems the Kurds did not allow the Assyrian candidates in Northern Iraq to display their candidates' posters during the last election in Iraq.

So, in this forum of mostly western educated Syrians, things are borderline manageable, most of you still continue to talk despite the fact you are wasting half your comments accusing and defending against others' accusations. But when you go to the villages where everyone has a gun and baroudeh. I wonder if they know how to resolve their differences in a democratic way.

If you want to prove me wrong, try, all of you, to participate here for a month without any accusations.

3) Joshua again: If "they" tell you that they have no serious "friendship" with the new Iraqi prime minister, and that his friends in Damascus were more from the Hafez elAssad's generation, then you should probably conclude that the opposite is true.

At 4/29/2006 03:49:00 PM, Blogger Innocent_Criminal said...

Regarding the first comment.

You dont know what you are talking about. he said something similar before while he was still living in Damascus and i called it out since it was the first time he blamed the Syrian government.

At 4/29/2006 08:40:00 PM, Blogger norman said...

I have a question to all of you ,I need your openions,my daughter was axcepted to the math and sience program at University of miami with 10,000 dollar scholership and to Tulane university in new orleans with 18,000 dollar scolarship ,If money is not a majer concern deas anybody have an idea to where she should go?.

At 4/29/2006 10:00:00 PM, Blogger Nur-al-Cubicle said...

Thank you for publishing this, Joshua. The Q&A format was nice too.

I have been hanging out at Le Monde for analyses and moderated chats with experts on Iraq, Iran and Palestine/Israel and I was longing for a US expert to respond frankly on the situations in Baghdad and Damascus. This article was quite a treat---and there's been nothing on analyses regarding Syria!


At 4/30/2006 12:14:00 AM, Blogger majedkhaldoon said...

my son is 28 year old,wants to mary, he is studing medicine at the university of colorado.

At 4/30/2006 08:28:00 AM, Blogger Innocent_Criminal said...


are you actually pimping your son on Syriacomment?

At 4/30/2006 05:07:00 PM, Blogger Joseph ALi Mohammed said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 5/01/2006 12:03:00 AM, Blogger syrianb said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 5/01/2006 12:05:00 AM, Blogger syrianb said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 5/01/2006 12:12:00 AM, Blogger syrianb said...

Syrian people are the first victim of the state terrorism ,lot of syrian families have at least one of their relative killed or jailed or missing,even the so called baathists hate the regime and the regime is aware of this situation and trust nobody,this is why the power is in the hand of one family without sharing and the moukhabarat have free hand to exhaust the people.

I challenge the regime to allow not more than one independant newspaper as it exist in neighbor arab countries.
Even under the ottomans ,the syrian press was more prosperous what it will be if we compare with 1950 when there were 10's of daily newspapers.

At 5/01/2006 10:25:00 AM, Blogger t_desco said...

Regarding the question of Bashar al-Asad's possible involvement in any assassination plot, I still think that this is highly unlikely for several reasons:

He was warned personally by Richard Armitage not to harm Hariri:

"After the assassination attempt, Paris and Washington sent messages to Damascus warning the Syrians not to harm opposition leaders, specifically Mr Hariri and Mr Jumblatt. Richard Armitage, the US Deputy Secretary of State, reiterated that warning during a meeting with Mr Assad in Damascus on January 2."
The Times

You sometimes hear the argument that Asad believed the Americans were too occupied with Iraq and that they had given him a free reign in Lebanon. In my opinion, this claim never had much credibility in light of the Security Council resolution regarding Lebanon, but even if we assume for a moment that it is true, a direct intervention by the Deputy Secretary of State certainly would have sufficed to change such a wrong perception.

Secondly, I think that it is safe to assume that plotting is normally done in secret. Suppose that your enemy tells you to your face that he has become aware of your plot. What are you going to do? Continue with it regardless? How likely is that?

Khaddam argues that Asad is "impulsive" and that therefore his decisions are not fully rational:

"I am convinced that the order came from Assad. He is a highly impulsive man who often loses his temper."
Der Spiegel

It is well known that Khaddam wanted to become president himself and that he has now formed a coalition with the Muslim Brotherhood in order to topple Asad. Thus, anything he says about the Syrian president could be severely biased.

Khaddam's characterization of Asad is in direct contradiction to many other accounts, for example those quoted by David Lesch in his book on Asad:

"Bashar, on the other hand, is more of a cool person, maybe because of his medical background - he is very calm. In ten years I have never seen him lose his temper - I have seen him upset but he would never lose his temper. He has a very solid personality. He has a very solid mood and is not the kind of person who shows his ups and downs. He might be in a very serious matter but you cannot tell - he handles these situations in a very calm fashion - lots of equanimity." (David W. Lesch, The New Lion of Damascus, Yale University Press 2005, p.17)

In his television interviews he also comes across as a very calm person.

In the same sense, Edward Walker said that the killing of Hariri was "certainly not his style":

"Most agreed that the sensational attack did not suit the style of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

"Bashar? It's certainly not his style," said Edward Walker, president of the Middle East Institute in Washington. "I don't think it's something he would do." "
The Jerusalem Post, February 15, 2005

Khaddam's argument is in itself very silly, as he suggests a rush decision made in a fit of temper, but a plot takes months to prepare, plenty of time for cool-headedness and rational thought.

For all those reasons I don't believe that Asad had anything to do with the plot to kill Hariri.

At 5/01/2006 11:06:00 AM, Blogger Joseph ALi Mohammed said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 5/01/2006 12:14:00 PM, Blogger t_desco said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 5/01/2006 12:22:00 PM, Blogger t_desco said...

I didn't find anything interesting in Jürgen Cain Külbel's book "Mordakte Hariri" (apart from the fact that he - like Brammertz in his latest report - mentions the possibility of two separate blasts (p.32), though without naming any sources). As'ad AbuKhalil is absolutely correct in his assessment:

"Critics of Hariri and supporters of Syria are pushing and peddling a new book that appeared in German about Hariri assassination by some German journalist. New TV first reported about it, and then it was circulated on the "internet"--where Walid Jumblat finds his documents. But I have not commented on it because it has as much credibility as the kooky conspiracy-theory books on Sep. 11. The book contains not a shred of evidence, and even distorts some facts, and quotes some Lebanese who blamed the Mossad as "evidence."
April 26, 2006

Un auteur allemand pointe du doigt les USA et Israël
L', 28 avril 2006

Mehlis dismisses critical book as 'ridiculous'
The Daily Star, April 21, 2006

Journalist denies fingering Mossad in Hariri killing
The Daily Star, May 01, 2006

The whole Mossad argument is flawed. Külbel suggests that the jamming devices in Hariris convoy came from an Israeli firm. It is not true (Mehlis says that they were "imported from a Western European country"), but even if it were true that doesn't make an involvement of Mossad any more likely. In his first report Mehlis mentioned that there are several ways to "overcome" such devices (§150), and any intelligence service would have the knowledge to do that. Secondly, there was a suicide bomber anyway, so the whole debate is futile.

At 5/01/2006 05:42:00 PM, Blogger syrianb said...

good news...

وفد من لجنة العلاقات الخارجية في جماعة الإخوان المسلمين في سورية يزور جنبلاط

الاثنين 1 أيار/ مايو 2006

لندن - أخبار الشرق (خاص)

زار وفد من لجنة العلاقات الخارجية في جماعة الإخوان المسلمين في سورية (معارضة محظورة) وليد جنبلاط رئيس الحزب التقدمي الاشتراكي في مقره بالمختارة (لبنان)، لتقديم تهاني الجماعة بالذكرى الأولى لتحرر لبنان من الوجود العسكري للنظام السوري.

وذكر مصدر في المكتب السياسي في جماعة الإخوان المسلمين لأخبار الشرق؛ أن الوفد أكد على "موقف الجماعة الثابت من حرية لبنان وسيادته واستقلاله الكامل"، وأعلن رفضه "كل أشكال الوصاية الأمنية والسياسية لنظام بشار الأسد على شؤون لبنان الداخلية".

وقال المصدر إن زيارة الوفد السوري الأحد، جاءت في إطار جولة يقوم بها الوفد، الذي تُعلن زيارته إلى لبنان للمرة الأولى بعد عام من انسحاب القوات السورية من لبنان، إذ انسحب آخر جندي سوري في 26 نيسان/ أبريل 2005.

وأوضح أن الوفد يزور شخصيات سياسية ومرجعيات دينية مختلفة في لبنان، في إطار سياسة الجماعة "تعزيز العلاقات مع الإخوة اللبنانيين".

وحسب المصدر؛ فإن جنبلاط أجرى اتصالاً هاتفياً مع قيادات في جماعة الإخوان المسملين السورية، أثناء وجود الوفد الإخواني في مقره؛ فتحدث إلى كل من عدنان سعد الدين المراقب العام الأسبق للجماعة، ومحمد فاروق طيفور نائب المراقب العام الحالي ورئيس المكتب السياسي، وعبد القادر زهران مستشار العلاقات الخارجية في الجماعة.

وأكد قادة الجماعة في حديثهم الهاتفي "دعم موقف قوى 14 آذار"، ودعوا إلى "تكاتف الشعب اللبناني بكل أطيافه في السعي لاستعادة قراره الحر ووحدته الوطنية، وبناء أفضل العلاقات الأخوية بين الشعبين السوري واللبناني على قاعدة الاحترام والاعتراف الكامل بسيادة البلدين واستقلالهما".

كما شكر قادة الجماعة جنبلاط على ضمه توقيعه بصفته رئيساً للحزب التقدمي الاشتراكي على عريضة للإخوان السوريين أعدوها ضمن حملة عالمية لإسقاط القانون رقم 49 لعام 1980 الذي يحكم على أعضاء الجماعة في سورية بالإعدام.

اتصالات سابقة:

وكان المحامي علي صدر الدين البيانوني المراقب العام للجماعة اتصل هاتفياً بالنائب اللبناني وليد جنبلاط زعيم الحزب التقدمي الاشتراكي في 22 كانون الثاني/ يناير 2006، وشكره على مواقفه من المعارضة السورية.

وذكر مصدر في المكتب السياسي للجماعة آنذاك أن الاتصال أتى في سياق علاقات الجماعة الطبيعية مع الأطراف السورية والعربية المعنية، دون أن يعني بالضرورة الاتفاق مع كل آراء تلك الأطراف ومواقفها.

وأشار إلى أن البيانوني أجرى من لندن اتصالاً هاتفياً مع جنبلاط في مقره بالمختارة في لبنان؛ "وعبّر عن شكره لمواقفه الأخيرة المشيدة بالمعارضة السورية، وبجماعة الإخوان المسلمين في سورية". وكان جنبلاط، الذي عُرف عنه في الماضي انتقاد جماعة الإخوان المسلمين في سورية؛ عاد عن مواقفه القديمة، ووصف المعارضة السورية عموماً والإخوان خصوصاً بأنهم "معارضة وطنية"، وذلك في مقابلات عديدة مع الإعلام اللبناني والعربي. وكرر جنبلاط ثناءه على الإخوان المسلمين مراراً في الشهور القليلة الماضية، ولا سيما بعد تحالفهم مع نائب الرئيس السوري السابق عبد الحليم خدام، الذي أسسوا بالاشتراك معه ومع قوى سورية أخرى "جبهة الخلاص الوطني" في بروكسل في 17 آذار/ مارس 2006.

يُشار إلى أن الإخوان المسلمين رفضوا موقفاً عبر عنه جنبلاط في السابع من كانون الثاني/ يناير 2006 حين أثنى "إعلان دمشق للتغيير الوطني الديمقراطي"، ولكنه دعا المعارضة السورية إلى البحث عن دعم خارجي لإسقاط النظام السوري، لأن "الانظمة الديكتاتورية لا تلغى بالكلمات ولا بالعواطف، بل بدعم دولي من خلال المعارضة الداخلية والخارجية"، مضيفاً إن "نظام الاستبداد قوي، لكنه سيزول في يوم ما وعلينا ان نصبر وان نصمد"، على حد تعبيره.

ورد المراقب العام للإخوان السوريين على ذلك الموقف بتوضيح "أن المعارضة السورية تتفهم ما عانت منه أسرة جنبلاط ومعاناة الأشقاء اللبنانيين في ظل الوجود السوري العسكري في لبنان؛ ولكنه شدد على أن المعارضة السورية ترفض أي تدخل خارجي في شؤون سورية، وتؤكد سعيها للتغيير الديمقراطي من الداخل"، حسب مصادر الجماعة.

وكان الراحل كمال جنبلاط والد وليد جنبلاط اغتيل في لبنان 16 آذار/ مارس 1977، في عملية يقف النظام السوري خلفها.

ويدعو إعلان دمشق، الذي صدر في 16 تشرين الأول/ أكتوبر 2005 في دمشق ووقعته معظم أطراف المعارضة السورية في الداخل والخارج وبينها جماعة الإخوان المسلمين في سورية؛ إلى "تغيير جذري" و"ديمقراطي" في البلاد.

وتقول مصادر الإخوان المسلمين الذين يحتفظون بعلاقات جيدة مع أطراف لبنانية عديدة، إنهم قد لا يتفقون مع مواقف جنبلاط في ما يخص السياسة الداخلية اللبنانية، ولكن البيانوني في اتصاله السابق مع جنبلاط أكد أن العلاقات بين البلدين يجب أن تقوم على الاحترام المتبادل لاستقلال كل منهما وسيادته، وهو ما أيده جنبلاط بتأكيده أنه لا يريد التدخل في أمور سورية الداخلية.

ومعروف أن السلطات السورية بدأت ملاحقة قضائية بحق النائب اللبناني وليد جنبلاط ومروان حمادة (التقدمي الاشتراكي) وفارس خشان (مذيع يعمل في تلفزيون المستقبل)، الذين تُعرض ملفاتهم على القضاء العسكري السوري، رداً على مواقفهم السياسية المعارضة للنظام السوري.


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