Tuesday, May 25, 2004

EU close to breakthrough on Syria accord

The EU seems to be pushing through its free trade agreement with Syria despite pressure from the US to make it contingent on Syria's compliance with the Syrian Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act. Paul Taylor writes:

BRUSSELS, May 25 (Reuters) - European Union countries are close to a deal that could unlock a stalled trade and aid pact with Syria, just two weeks after U.S. President George W. Bush imposed sanctions on Damascus, diplomats said on Tuesday. "...

The Commission rushed to tie up negotiations with Syria before Christmas in what critics said was a political gesture to counter the U.S. Congress' adoption of the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act.

The issue highlights transatlantic divergence over whether to engage with or isolate countries such as Syria and Iran.

EU officials say the association agreement provides a hook to get Syria to cooperate more against terrorism, as well as to prod political and economic reforms in Damascus.

Is Bashar Really a Ba'thi?
Bashar's openness with journalists is a breath of fresh air. In a recent interview with American journalists in Damascus he defended Syria's lack of democracy rather intelligently. Most striking was his insistence that he would eventually introduce elections, but explained that Syria was too "tribal" today.
"We are going to change," he said. "The first thing I proposed as president was change. But our political life is based on certain tribal and political customs.

"They don't go back just tens of years; they go back thousands of years. It's not so easy to change. ... We are still at the beginning of this process. We have a long road ahead of us."
This is truly new language for a Syrian President. For the past 40 years Syrians have categorically denied that tribalism or sectarianism is a part of their politics. This always created a surreal quality to Ba'thi explanations of their political structure, because the Syrian system is so clearly under-girded by sectarian and even tribal considerations. Now that the US is learning its own painful lessons about tribalism in Iraq and how difficult it is to build democracy in segmented societies, it should be more sympathetic to Syria's leaders. The US should note that in the last 20 years Syria has killed fewer of its subjects than any of its neighbors - that includes Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Israel. Jordan is the one exception - perhaps.

Prison Reform in Syria
Riad al-Turk states that Syrian prisons under Bashar are like "five star hotels" compared to what they were under his father. Evidently, the United States is not the only country undertaking prison reform. The US should be pushing for Red Cross visits not regime change.

Wedding Party Attack
The attack on the wedding party in Iraq near the Syrian border last week was really a wedding party. Gen. Kimmitt had claimed that the forty people killed were terrorists coming across from Syria. According to the wedding video of the events, ten children and a number of women were killed, as the original accounts claimed. See the AP article, which was given no coverage in the US press, leaving Americans with the false impression that terrorists are streaming into Iraq from Syria.

8 Comments:

At 5/26/2004 05:54:00 PM, Blogger Laura Gibbs said...

thank you so much for including the portion here about the wedding party bombing. I was dismayed to keep reading further information about that situation in the BBC World News, with much more limited information in the US Press.
BBC: 'Wedding video' clouds US denials

 
At 5/28/2004 12:15:00 PM, Blogger alphalobster said...

From the US:

I'm highly impressed with how the EU uses the prospect of full membership to help bring very positive change to an affiliated country. The EU sends teams of highly experienced ministers to help bring a better system of government, a proper system of laws and to reduce serious crime and especially terrorism. For the EU to bring Syria on board as an affiliated member would be a tremendous achievement that we should all cheer.

For the Bush administration to oppose this shows just how much the Bush administration has lost touch with reality. It's time for Britain and other EU countries to strongly support the EU on Syria and officially break with the Bush administration and their radical war-mongering "neo-conservatives".

 
At 8/17/2007 12:37:00 AM, Blogger Maldives Islands said...

US alone can not isolate Syria.

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