Monday, November 23, 2009

Iraq Confronts Syria over Terrorism as U.S. Dithers

From Pajamas Media
Iraq Confronts Syria over Terrorism as U.S. Dithers
November 23, 2009 - by Ryan Mauro

The Obama administration could learn a lesson in fortitude from the Maliki government.
Iraq has had enough. Faced with ongoing attacks from forces supported by Syria, the Iraqis are taking an increasingly hard line and are refusing to back down. They are fully aware that a confrontation brings the risk of further instability, but the Iraqis recognize that the only way to ultimately stop the violence is to stop those enabling it. Already, their new stance towards Syria is bringing results, while the U.S. keeps rewarding Syria through inaction — a silent way of confirming to the Syrians that we understand that our security is dependent upon them.

This assessment of the impression given to Syria is not speculation, but is a summary of a thinly veiled, successful Syrian strategy. Take a look at the following words of Ahmed Salkini, a political advisor to the ambassador to the United States, regarding the current state of relations: “A previous administration did not want to cooperate, even if it cost American lives. This administration is realizing you have to cooperate in order to save lives, in order to advance U.S. interests, and that’s what we’re looking forward into the future.”

In other words: you need us and if we’re not happy, you’ll suffer. Supporters of the Assad regime will claim that Salkini was stating a simple fact that international cooperation increases security, but Syria has been directly supporting the insurgents in order to achieve the U.S. policy shift they seek. This is blackmail, pure and simple. The Obama administration apparently recognizes this and has reversed its previous plans by deciding not to send an ambassador to Syria.

The Iraqis are to be admired for refusing to be bullied. State sponsors of terrorism engage in such activity because they believe their involvement can’t be proven and that the victim won’t punish them out of a fear of escalating the conflict and not having the smoking gun proof to back up their assertions. The Iraqis have wisely responded by making their complaints public, rather than confining them to behind-the-scenes talks. They continue to demand that the United Nations establish a tribunal to prosecute those in Syria involved in the violence. Al-Maliki even hinted at supporting Assad’s own dissident elements in retaliation, saying, “Neighboring countries should behave like good neighbors because it is not hard for us to do the same things they did.”

The former Iraqi national security advisor is saying that they have evidence that Syrian intelligence officers are providing logistical support to al-Qaeda in Iraq, and following the October 25 bombings of the Justice Ministry and Baghdad government buildings killing 160 people, the foreign minister said they had “strong and tangible evidence” that those behind the bombings had safe harbor in Syria. It is unknown if the Assad regime had a direct hand in the attacks, but it is obvious that they at least did not stop acting as a safe harbor with the full knowledge of what it would result in.

The Iraqis previously accused Syria of having responsibility for the twin bombings in Baghdad on August 19, which really escalated the crisis between the two countries and resulted in the recalling of ambassadors. The Iraqis say they have wiretaps, confessions from captured terrorists, and photos of terrorist training camps in Syria to prove the Assad regime’s role in facilitating the attacks. They also have documents outlining the routes used by the terrorists to reach Iraq from Syria. On August 30, the Iraqis released the videotaped confession of a captured al-Qaeda terrorist believed to have led operations in Diyala Province, saying that he was trained at an al-Qaeda camp in Syria that “was well known to Syrian intelligence.”

The U.S. has disgracefully reacted to the crisis with neutrality. On August 26, a spokesperson for the State Department was asked about the tension between Iraq and Syria. He responded with: “We consider that an internal matter. We believe that, as a general principle, diplomatic dialogue is the best means to address the concerns of both parties.”

An Iraqi official has said that his country is experiencing major resistance from the U.S. in its push for an international tribunal to be created to target those in Syria involved in the insurgency. By failing to act against Syria or even provide political support for this move, the U.S. is helping the Assad regime and failing to understand that by waging war on Iraq they are waging war on the U.S. and its interests.

Al-Maliki now has to make a move. Some Iraqi politicians are accusing him of pointing the finger at Syria in order to distract from his own failure to establish security ahead of the elections. His government’s statements are failing to capture the attention of the world or convince the U.S. to modify its “engagement” policy to account for these transgressions.

After the threat to push for a tribunal, terrorist activity in Iraq dropped by three-fourths according to one Foreign Ministry diplomat. The October bombings obviously alter that statistic, but it is clear that al-Maliki made the right move in trying to remove the incentive for Syria to engage in covert support of terrorism by exposing it. More evidence should be released in a dramatic fashion, similar to Colin Powell’s 2003 presentation, albeit with more solid information. This will force America’s hand — and the Obama administration can’t accuse the Iraqis of disloyalty if they do so, considering their reaction to the Iraq-Syria crisis. It will also prove the credibility of the accusations and make the Assad regime think twice about putting its fingerprints on such violence.

The U.S. has complained about Syria’s sponsorship of terrorism for years and years, but for whatever reason has failed to make public the evidence to demonstrate how serious and deadly it is. The Iraqis have shown the way forward, not only in handling Syria, but in helping to deter state sponsorship of terrorism as a whole.

Ryan Mauro is the founder of and the director of intelligence at the Asymmetrical Warfare and Intelligence Center (AWIC). He’s also the national security researcher for the Christian Action Network and a published author. He can be contacted at


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sarkozy tries his hand at reviving Mideast peace

Report from AFP by Carole Landry – Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009:
Sarkozy tries his hand at reviving Mideast peace
PARIS — President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday stepped up French diplomacy in the Middle East, holding talks with Palestinian and Israeli leaders ahead of an Elysee meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

With the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort in peril, Sarkozy spoke by phone with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas after meeting for nearly two hours with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris late Wednesday.

He "underscored the urgency of re-starting the Middle East peace process and discussed, in light of his recent international contacts, the conditions that would allow a rapid resumption of negotiations," said an Elysee statement.

While the French diplomatic efforts between Israel and the Palestinians yielded no concrete announcements, Sarkozy was also turning his attention to Syria after Israel said it was open to reviving talks with Damascus.

Sarkozy is to explore prospects for Israeli-Syrian talks during a luncheon meeting with Assad at the Elysee palace on Friday, the latest in a string of visits underpinning warmer ties between Paris and Damascus.

Facing a dead-end on the Palestinian track, an Israeli official travelling with Netanyahu held open a chance of progress on the Syrian track of the stalled regional peace plan.

"Mr Sarkozy raised the issue of the Syrian track," a senior aide traveling with Netanyahu said Wednesday.
"The prime minister said he is willing to meet with the Syrian president at any time and anywhere to move on the peace negotiations on the basis of no pre-conditions," he added.

Syria has repeatedly demanded the return of the strategic Golan Heights, which Israeli captured in the 1967 war and unilaterally annexed in 1981, as a non-negotiable condition for peace.

Assad on Wednesday told a meeting of Arab politicians that Syria would not "put forward conditions on making peace" but warned it had "rights that we will not renounce," according to the SANA news agency.

Turkish mediation between the foes broke off last year during Israel's offensive in Gaza, closing a promising diplomatic channel, but Ankara has said it was willing to resume its role.

The editor of Syria's ruling party newspaper Al Baath, Abdel-Latif Omran, told AFP that while Syria was sticking to its demands for the return of the Golan Heights, it was also ready to negotiate on parallel issues such as water, normalisation of ties and security arrangements.

"The Israeli side is trying to sabotage all international peace efforts," said Omran.

"We hope that the efforts put forward by the European Union and France will lead to true peace in the Middle East, but there is no Israeli willingness to make peace."

Relations between France and Syria have been warming since Assad paid a landmark visit to Paris last year for Bastille Day celebrations and Sarkozy visited Damascus two months later in September 2008.

The Syrian leader recently played a key role in convincing Iran to grant bail for French academic Clotilde Reiss on trial for "provoking rioters" after the June re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Keeping the pressure on Israel and the Palestinians, Sarkozy is dispatching Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to the region for talks next week.

Sarkozy outlined "important suggestions" aimed at restarting the comatose peace process during his talks with Abbas, according to a Palestinian aide.

A senior Palestinian official told AFP that Sarkozy's "suggestions" included holding a Middle East peace conference in Moscow, an idea Russia has been pushing for months.
- - -

From The Jerusalem Post Thur, Nov 12, 2009 21:27
Report: After meeting PM, Sarkozy calls Abbas to discuss renewal of talks
After discussing peace efforts with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Paris on Wednesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy phoned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in order to discuss conditions for the renewal of negotiations, according to an AFP report.

Quoting an Elysee statement, the report said that Sarkozy "underscored the urgency of re-starting the Middle East peace process."

Sarkozy - apparently wishing to assert his position as a Mideast mediator - is slated to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad on Friday.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Meme: Joe Trippi's Eleven-Eleven 1111Campaign - America's and Britain's Veterans have given so much. Now, you can give back.

Joe Trippi, one of America's greatest bloggers, has launched Eleven Eleven Campaign. The objective of the Eleven Eleven Campaign is simple: to get 11 million Americans to donate $11 to support America’s Veterans. Here is a copy of Joe's latest tweet on Twitter:
Tomorrow is Veterans Day, and now is our moment to encourage our friends, family members and colleagues to join us...
33 minutes ago from Facebook
Eleven Eleven
Hey Joe! Britain's Veterans have given so much too!

Stand with 11 million Brits and Give £11 to Support Britain’s Vets!

Take Action Today
Click here to support Britain's Veterans
November 11, 2009

Britain's Veterans have given so much.  Now, you can give back.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Turkey to host Sudan, Iran leaders at OIC meeting in Istanbul next week

* Bashir, Ahmadinejad to attend OIC meeting

* ICC arrest warrant, nuclear row could overshadow gathering

* Host Turkey's foreign policy fuels Western worries

From Reuters Friday 6 November 2009:
PREVIEW-Turkey to host Sudan, Iran leaders at summit
By Thomas Grove
(ISTANBUL) - A summit of Islamic countries in Istanbul next week will boost Turkey's quest to deepen ties with the Muslim world, but some of its new friends are not to the taste of its traditional ally, Washington.

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has an international arrest warrant against him for war crimes, and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, engaged in a standoff with the West over Tehran's nuclear programme, are among leaders who will attend an Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) meeting.

The one-day summit on Monday will add to growing concerns in some Western circles that Turkey, an OIC member which is seeking European Union membership, is shifting away from its pro-Western foreign policy and embracing countries such as Iran and Syria, while distancing itself from regional friend Israel.

"I think this summit will put Turkey again on the frontline, both in regards with Iran and Bashir," said Hugh Pope, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group.

"Engagement and cooperation can be a way to bring autocratic states into the international system, but the challenge for Turkey is that it needs to show results and that the behaviour of these states is changing," Pope said.

Although the 57-nation body's meeting has been billed as an economic summit to discuss trade and anti-poverty measures among members, the presence of Bashir and Ahmadinejad will likely overshadow its economic goals.

Western powers are seeking to exert pressure on Tehran for concessions on its nuclear programme, and Ahmadinejad could use the summit to undermine efforts to isolate the Islamic republic and to give one of his trademark anti-Western speeches.

The West fears Tehran's nuclear programme is a covert plan to develop nuclear weapons, but Iran has denied this and says it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity.

The visit by Sudan's Bashir, who has travelled to African countries since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued the arrest warrant against him in March for war crimes in Darfur, puts NATO member Turkey in an awkward position, but a Turkish Foreign Ministry official said there were no plans to arrest him.

"We have invited Bashir as one of the heads of state to the meeting and he will be treated as one," the official said.

Turkey, which has deepened commercial ties with Sudan, has not ratified the 2002 Rome Statute that established the ICC, but is under pressure to do so to meet European Union standards.


The attendance of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Syria's President Bashar al-Assad might also add weight to the summit of the OIC, which has little political power.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday he did not wish to run for re-election in January, voicing disappointment at Washington's "favouring" of Israel in arguments over re-launching peace talks.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in what would be his first trip abroad since his re-election was announced this week following a fraud-marred ballot, is also expected to attend.

Ahmadinejad's visit to Istanbul will follow a state visit last month by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to Tehran, in which the two countries signed trade and energy deals.

Ankara's growing attachment to Iran has fuelled worries that Turkey, a moderate Muslim democracy and a U.S. ally, is turning its back on Washington and the EU, something it denies.

"Policymakers in the West are getting worried that Turkey's growing ties with Iran -- by lessening that country's sense of isolation -- may frustrate diplomatic efforts to prevent Tehran from building a nuclear bomb," Katinka Barysch, of the Centre for European Reform thinktank, wrote this week.

Erdogan's AK Party government, which has roots in political Islam, has sought to expand Turkey's influence in the Middle East -- a process analysts say has run in parallel with Ankara's frustration at perceived EU misgivings over its membership bid.

During his warmly received trip to Tehran, Erdogan blasted Western powers for treating Iran "unfairly" and said the Islamic republic's nuclear programme was for humanitarian purposes.

Ian Lesser, from the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said that by inviting Ahmadinejad and Bashir, Turkey might deepen perceptions its foreign policy is ambiguous.

"It is an example of the risks that Turkey is running by trying to be too many things in too many places at the same time and without too much discrimination," Lesser said.

(Additional reporting by Zerin Elci and Ibon Villelabeitia in Ankara, Opheera McDoom in Khartoum and Peter Graff in Kabul) (Writing by Ibon Villelabeitia; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
Cross-posted to Sudan Watch and Tehran Watch

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