Joined: 09 Sep 2006
|Posted: Fri Mar 13, 2009 11:31 am Post subject: Excerpts:: Syria re Lebanon.'Arab Quartet' common enemy Liku
|Excerpts:: Syria re Lebanon.'Arab Quartet' common enemy Likud.
Egyptian forced early marriages March 12, 2009
+++THE DAILY STAR (Lebanon) 12 March '09:"Syria prepares for a Lebanese
vacation"By Michael Young, Opinion editor
QUOTES"[Syria's] Assad is looking for a mechanism to dominate Lebanon
from across the border"; "when the Syrian regime offers
they are usually the kind one doesn't come back from"
FULL TEXT:You have to wonder if, during their talks last week in Damascus,
acting US assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, Jeffrey
the Syrian foreign minister, Walid Moallem, mentioned Hawaii. Why Hawaii?
Because in April 2007, at another meeting in Damascus, this one between the
Syrian president, Bashar Assad, and the secretary general of the United
Nations, Ban Ki-moon, Moallem accused the United States and France of
playing a "destructive" role in Lebanon. He said he wanted Feltman (who was
then the US ambassador in Beirut) out of the country, and he offered to pay
for a vacation in Hawaii.
That meeting was more sinister for being the venue in which Assad threatened
to destabilize Lebanon if the Hariri tribunal were passed under Chapter VII
authority by the UN. The president told Ban that Lebanon's "most peaceful
years were when Syrian forces were present. From 1976 to 2005 Lebanon was
stable, whereas now there is great instability." The exchange was later
leaked to the French daily Le Monde, perhaps because Assad's reaction to the
tribunal made rather less convincing his assurances that Syria was innocent
in Rafik Hariri's assassination.
When the Syrian regime offers vacations, they usually are the kind that one
doesn't come back from. However, Feltman, in his final days as ambassador to
Lebanon, also earned a goodbye present from Syria and its local allies. In
January 2008, a US Embassy vehicle was damaged in a bomb attack that killed
three people, on the same day that the ambassador was to hold a going-away
reception at the Phoenicia Hotel.
In politics, such pages are made to be turned. However, the decision of the
Obama administration to start a dialogue with the Assad regime by sending
Feltman to Syria, along with Daniel Shapiro of the National Security
Council, seems neither a page turned nor one unturned - at least not yet. If
anyone must deal with Syria on Washington's behalf, then Feltman is the man,
and it must have irritated the Syrians to no end that his being handed their
portfolio probably means he will officially be confirmed in the assistant
secretary post. Feltman is cynical, or the operative word these days is
"realistic", about Syria, and he really is persuaded that turning Lebanon
into a Syrian meal is not the way to move ahead with Assad. However, with
the containment of Iran now the name of the game in the Arab world, Syria
sees new possibilities looming ahead.
It wasn't surprising, in that case, to hear what Assad had to say to the
Al-Khaleej newspaper several days ago. The president is unable to utter a
phrase on Lebanon without decorating it with words of intimidation, and this
was no exception. He echoed, sort of, what he had told Ban two years ago,
namely that if the Hariri tribunal were politicized, "Lebanon would be the
first to pay the price." When Assad uses the word "politicized," he means
that the tribunal should not accuse Syrians - a promise he hopes to elicit
from the US in exchange for a better relationship. And if the Americans
don't go along with this, then the Lebanese may feel the rod.
However, Arab containment of Iran adds a dimension to the current diplomacy
that didn't exist a few years ago. Yesterday, Assad was received in Riyadh
by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, and there he was "reconciled" with Egypt's
president, Hosni Mubarak. The Syrians still very much view an improvement of
ties with the Arab states and the West as a chance to reimpose their writ in
Lebanon. They understand that it is more difficult to drive their tanks into
Beirut than it used to be (though they haven't lost hope), but Assad is
looking for a mechanism allowing him to dominate Lebanon from across the
border, through which his local allies, notably Hizbullah, can be called
upon to maintain order when needed.
There are two variables here, though, that the Syrians will need to
consider. The first is that the Saudis, and now the Egyptians, in exchange
for patching things up with Syria, will demand that Assad take a clearer
position with regard to Iran, as well as to Hizbullah and Hamas. The Syrian
intention, however, is to maintain thorough ambiguity on this front. Assad
has no desire to distance himself from Tehran, because that would mean
surrendering a very good reason for why everyone is talking to Syria. On the
other hand, if he simply does nothing, that may jeopardize Syria's
normalization process with the Saudis and Egyptians, which risks
marginalizing Syrian regional influence down the road.
One way out of this dilemma for Assad may be a second variable, which he
will have to be careful in manipulating: a reshaping of the nature of
Syria's connection with Hizbullah. There should be no illusions about what
this means. The Syrians will not disarm Hizbullah, nor are they capable of
doing so; and they see no advantages whatsoever in a decisive break with the
party. After all, Hizbullah plays the role of Syrian enforcer in Lebanon.
But where the Syrians very probably do want to adjust things is in forcing
Hizbullah once again to take on Syria's agenda as its priority, just as it
was in the days when Syrian soldiers were still deployed in Lebanon. Since
their withdrawal in April 2005, with Hizbullah having gained wider latitude
to act on the ground and Syria more dependent than ever on the party to
defend its Lebanese stakes, it has become increasingly apparent that Iran is
the one primarily calling Hizbullah's shots.
This bothers Assad, but it also provides him with an opportunity. If
containment of Iran is everyone's chief concern, the Arab states' and the
Obama administration's above all, then any Syrian effort to raise the heat
on Hizbullah could serve three simultaneous purposes: it could force the
party to embrace Syrian interests more heartily; it could bring Syria
plaudits from all those states delighted to see an Iranian surrogate put
under pressure; and it could permit Assad to reimpose a measure of the
hegemony over Lebanon that he lost in 2005. The end result would be a
compromise. As Syrian power in Lebanon increases, Iran, and with it
Hizbullah, would have no choice but to bend to Assad's conditions, as that
would at least guarantee Hizbullah's political and military survival.
However, are things likely to be as clear-cut? Would Hizbullah go along so
quietly, and would Iran sign off on this? Would the United States and the
Arabs be so easily gulled? And would the Lebanese agree, years after
managing to get out from under Syria's thumb? The Syrians sometimes presume
too much of their capacities, imagining that a bomb can substitute for a
vacation. They might remember that a particularly large bomb on February 14,
2005, is what ended their long Lebanese interregnum.
+++SAUDI GAZETTE 12 March '09:"Rise of the 'Arab Quartet',By Faheem Al-Hamid
RIYADH - A summit here Wednesday(11 March) by the leaders of Saudi Arabia,
Syria and Kuwait saw the emergence of a new "Arab Quartet" that pledged the
beginning of "a unified approach in Arab politics."
King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, hosted the summit with
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and
Kuwaiti Emir Shiekh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jabir Al-Sabah "to implement a
collective will" of the four leaders "to clear the air between Arab
countries and achieve reconciliation" in furtherance of King Abdullah's call
made at the Jan. 20 Arab Summit in Kuwait for overcoming past differences in
the interests of Arabs.
It was Bashar's first visit to Riyadh in four years. statement reported by
SPA said "the leaders consider their meeting the beginning of a new phase of
relationships in which the four countries will serve Arab causes through
cooperation and serious, continuous work for the welfare of Arab countries,
and through a unified approach in Arab politics on essential causes, topped
by the Palestinian issue.".... The mini-summit was called by King
Abdullah to further the cause of Arab reconciliation ahead of an Arab summit
set for March 29 and 30 in Doha, Qatar.
...."This Arab Quartet summit not only gives a push to resolving Arab
differences but also to enhancing the ongoing dialogue between
Palestinians," said Nabil Shaath, special envoy to Egypt of Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas."All Arabs must now end their differences in order
to face the common enemy - the new Likud-led gobvernment of Benjamin
Shaat told Saudi Gazette by telephone. . .
+++Egyptian Gazette 12 March '09:"'No more sugar daddies'
QUOTE: " 'Girls from poor (Egyptian) families are treated as commodities
to be bought and sold' "
EXCERPTS:Statistics from the state-run National Centre for Criminological
Sociological Research has shown that the marriage of underage girls is on
the rise. [IMRA: Now some 24% of all marriages]. . ."The number of spinsters
and late marriages among the middle classes has increased dramatically,
but early marriage is still common in the poorer classes,"(Sociology
Abdel-Wahab said. "Girls from poor families are treated as commodities to be
bought and sold. They force them to marry old men, especially from the Gulf
countries, so that they can get lots of money from their husbands," . . .
the marriage nearly always ends in failure. It's not just the husband who
his wife, but often her family too. Then, she's in really hot water, with
turn to. . . In most cases, poor families sell off their daughters to
men in the hope of resolving their financial difficulties."
Sue Lerner - Associate, IMRA
IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis
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