LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Christ is Risen-Alleluhia/Happy Easter From The LCCCالمسيح قام حقاً قام
Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 24,1-12. But at daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They said to them, "Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day." And they remembered his words. Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others. The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles, but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone; then he went home amazed at what had happened.
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous sources April 07/07
Independent Mission to Assess Syria-Lebanon Border Monitoring-Naharnet
U.N. Peacekeepers Discover 'Hard to Reach' Arms Depot in Lebanon-Naharnet
Spanish soldiers find arms depot in southern Lebanon-Monsters and Critics.com
France: Syria must stop arms smuggling-Jerusalem Post
Easter 'Cluster-Bomb' Hunt to be Staged near White House-Naharnet
Un May Probe Syria-lebanon Smuggling-Guardian Unlimited
Chieftain editorial asserted falsehoods about Pelosi trip to Syria ...Media Matters for America
US general: War infiltration from Syria slows -San Diego Union Tribune
Israeli bomb in Beirut suburb diffused-World Peace Herald
Pelosi insulting Ahwazi refugees in Syria-British Ahwazi Friendship Society
Washington Memo As One Syria Trip Draws Fire, Others Draw Silence-New York Times
Pelosi Defends Diplomatic Trip to Syria-Wyoming News
US holds key to Syria-Israel peace-Gulf News
UN may resort to its Charter for Hariri killing tribunal: Lebanese minister
Lebanese Justice Minister Charles Rizk said Friday that the United Nations might resort to its Charter to set up a tribunal to probe the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri if the Lebanese fail to reach a consensus on this issue.
Rizk made the remarks while addressing a gathering of university students, local ANB TV reported, without giving more details about the gathering.
The UN might ultimately intervene and resort to its Charter's Chapter Seven option in case the Lebanese leaders could not reach an agreement on the formation of the court, Rizk was quoted as saying. That means the international organization might to seek to organize prosecution without participation of the Lebanese authorities, said the report. "Resorting to the international legitimacy should not be viewed as seeking aid of a foreign country," Rizk said, responding to charges by the opposition Christian leader Michel Aoun that the "royalists" were plotting to internationalize the Lebanese issue.
Aoun made the charge after the majority of parliamentarians filed a petition to the UN requesting "proper measures" with regard to the formation of the tribunal after Lebanese parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, also a leading opposition figure, refused to call for a session on the issue.
But Rizk applauded a proposal by Berri to form a special legal committee to ponder the formation of the tribunal, with participation of a UN representative. Chapter Seven of the UN Charter is invoked to impose Security Council measures on cases of threats to international peace and security or aggression. Rafik Hariri and 22 others were killed in a massive bomb blast in February 2005 in Beirut. The United Nations has signed a deal with the Lebanese government to set up the tribunal, but it must be ratified by the country's divided parliament. Source: Xinhua :April 07, 2007
U.N. Peacekeepers Discover 'Hard to Reach' Arms Depot in Lebanon
Spanish troops serving with the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon have discovered a "hard to reach" arms depot near the southeastern town of Rachaya el-Foukhar, Spain's defense ministry said. The cache included 17 rocket launchers, said the ministry statement released on Friday.
It said Spanish soldiers also found a concrete setting which could be used to launch the Bulgarian-made rockets at the location near Rachaya el-Foukhar.
"The depot was camouflaged in a hard to reach area and the weapons were in a sealed barrel beside a small stream," it said.
The arms were handed over to the Lebanese army, the ministry said. Spain has deployed nearly 1,100 troops to south-eastern Lebanon near the border with Israel as part of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) which has a total of 12,700 soldiers from 30 countries.
UNIFIL first deployed in Lebanon in 1978 after an Israeli invasion but was expanded from some 2,000 members after the July-August war between Israel and Hizbullah.(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 07 Apr 07, 06:19
Easter 'Cluster-Bomb' Hunt to be Staged near White House
U.S. peace activists will stage an Easter "cluster-bomb" hunt outside the White House to demand that Washington implement a ban on the deadly munitions. "We are inviting families to search for replicas of these cluster bombs hidden in the park. It's a way to draw attention to these bombs which mutilate and kill children," Radia Dawissi of the peace movement Vineeta told AFP.
"This year, thousands of outstanding youth won't be able to join President (George W.) Bush as special guests at the White House Easter Egg Hunt," Vineeta said on its website. "Because these children had their lives blown apart by insidious unexploded American-made ordnance, in places like Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon."The protest, which is also being promoted by at least 12 other anti-war groups, will take place at the same time as the traditional Monday morning Easter egg hunt on the White House lawn.
A cluster bomb is a container holding dozens to hundreds of smaller bomblets. Dropped from aircraft or fired by artillery, they open mid-air and disperse the bomblets over a large area. Although designed to stop armored assaults, bomblets have fallen on civilian areas and littered fields long after the end of hostilities, most recently in Lebanon. Since they do not always explode on impact, they can continue to kill innocent civilians years later. The State Department in February rejected an international call to abandon the use of cluster bombs. Democratic senators have also introduced legislation that would bar US use of cluster bombs in or near civilian areas.(AFP) Beirut, 07 Apr 07, 07:09
Independent Mission to Assess Syria-Lebanon Border Monitoring
France circulated a draft Security Council statement that expresses "serious concern" at mounting reports of illegal arms transfers from Syria to Lebanon and authorizes an independent mission to assess how their border is being monitored. The proposed presidential statement, sent to council members late Thursday and obtained Friday, welcomes the Lebanese government's "determination" to prevent arms transfer, which are banned under U.N. resolution 1701 that ended last summer's war between Israel and Hizbullah. It reiterates the council's call on the Syrian government "to take further measures to reinforce controls at the border," and it urges all countries, especially Syria and Iran, to enforce the arms embargo.
The council is expected to discuss the draft statement, probably next week. The draft welcomes Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's intention to evaluate the situation along the border in cooperation with the Lebanese government "and invites him to dispatch at the earliest an independent mission to fully assess the monitoring of the border." Last Saturday, Ban warned during a visit to Lebanon that arms smuggling from Syria could threaten the cease-fire in Lebanon and urged full compliance with Resolution 1701.
"There are intelligence reports that arms are smuggled. I am concerned by that kind of arms smuggling, which will destabilize the situation in Lebanon," he said. An Nahar daily said Ban told Lebanese security chiefs that Israel had provided him with "evidence and pictures" of trucks crossing from Syria to Lebanon and unloading weapons. Ban expressed the need for "an enhanced monitoring capacity of the Lebanese armed forces to ensure that there will be no such smuggling activity."
Asked again Thursday about the arms smuggling allegations, Ban said, they "should independently be assessed." In the French draft, the Security Council would express "its serious concern at mounting reports of illegal movements of arms across the Lebanese-Syrian border in violation of resolution 1701."
When the council receives recommendations from the secretary-general, the draft says it will take further steps to achieve the goals of banning the sale or transfer of arms or technical assistance to any entity or individual not authorized by the Lebanese government. The council would also reiterate "its deep concern at the continuing Israeli violations of Lebanese air space" and appeal to all parties to respect the ceasefire and the U.N.-drawn boundary between Israel and Lebanon known as the Blue Line, and "refrain from any provocation."
Prime Minister Fouad Saniora said at a news conference with Ban that the government was trying to improve its monitoring capabilities but stressed that "not one single case of arms smuggling across the border" with Syria has been recorded.
In February, Hizbullah acknowledged that a truckload of ammunition seized by the government belonged to the group and demanded its release. It urged the government to abide by its own policy, proclaimed in 2005, to support the "resistance" in the south. The French draft expresses "deep concern" at statements by Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, notably about the February arms shipment, which "are an open admission of activities which would constitute a violation of resolution 1701." It again urges Israel to provide the U.N. with detailed data on its use of cluster bombs in southern Lebanon. The proposed statement notes "with profound concern" that there has been no progress on the issue of returning two Israeli soldiers abducted by Hizbullah, which triggered the war on July 12, and encourages efforts to urgently settle the issue of Lebanese prisoners detained in Israel.(AP-Naharnet) Beirut, 07 Apr 07, 13:08
France: Syria must stop arms smuggling
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
France circulated a draft Security Council statement that expresses "serious concern" at mounting reports of illegal arms transfers across the Lebanon-Syria border and authorizes an independent mission to assess how the frontier is being monitored. The proposed presidential statement, sent to council members late Thursday and obtained Friday, welcomes the Lebanese government's "determination" to prevent arms transfer, which are banned under a UN resolution that ended last summer's Second Lebanon War. It reiterates the council's call on the Syrian government "to take further measures to reinforce controls at the border," and it urges all countries, especially Syria and Iran, to enforce the arms embargo.
The council is expected to discuss the draft statement, probably next week. The draft statement welcomes Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's intention to evaluate the situation along the border in cooperation with the Lebanese government and others, "and invites him to dispatch at the earliest an independent mission to fully assess the monitoring of the border."
Last Saturday, Ban warned during a visit to Lebanon that arms smuggling from Syria could threaten the cease-fire in Lebanon and urged full compliance with UN resolution 1701 that ended the 34-day Second Lebanon War. "There are intelligence reports that arms are smuggled. I am concerned by that kind of arms smuggling, which will destabilize the situation in Lebanon," he said. The leading Lebanese daily An-Nahar reported that Ban told Lebanese security chiefs that Israel had provided him with "evidence and pictures" of trucks crossing from Syria to Lebanon and unloading weapons.
Ban expressed the need for "an enhanced monitoring capacity of the Lebanese armed forces to ensure that there will be no such smuggling activity."
Asked again Thursday about the arms smuggling allegations, Ban said, they "should independently be assessed." "Full compliance of 1701 is crucially important in maintaining peace and security there," he said. "Arms smuggling into Lebanon is a violation of 1701." In the French draft, the Security Council would express "its serious concern at mounting reports of illegal movements of arms across the Lebanese-Syrian border in violation of resolution 1701."
When the council receives recommendations from the secretary-general, the draft says it will "take further concrete steps to achieve the goals" of banning the sale or transfer of arms or technical assistance to any entity or individual not authorized by the Lebanese government.
The council would also reiterate "its deep concern at the continuing Israeli violations of Lebanese air space" and appeal to all parties to respect the cease-fire and the UN-drawn boundary between Israel and Lebanon known as the Blue Line, and "refrain from any provocation."
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, who is opposed to Hizbullah and Syrian influence, said at a news conference with Ban that the government was trying to improve its monitoring capabilities but stressed that "not one single case of arms smuggling across the border" with Syria has been recorded.
Hizbullah, however, has boasted that it replenished its stockpile of rockets after the war.
In February, Hizbullah acknowledged that a truckload of ammunition seized by the government belonged to the guerrilla group and demanded its release. It urged the government to abide by its own policy, proclaimed in 2005, to support the "resistance" in the south - which is Lebanese shorthand for Hizbullah - but the government refused.The French draft expresses "deep concern" at statements by Hizbullah's secretary general, notably about the February arms shipment, which "are an open admission of activities which would constitute a violation of resolution 1701."
It again urges Israel to provide the UN with detailed data on its use of cluster bombs in southern Lebanon. The proposed statement notes "with profound concern" that there has been no progress on the issue of returning captured IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.
Chieftain editorial asserted falsehoods about Pelosi trip to Syria, constitutional powers
Summary: An editorial in The Pueblo Chieftain parroted conservative talking points and made false statements in criticizing Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit with Syria's president, calling her talks with Bashar al-Assad "a disgrace." But the editorial did not mention that several congressional Republicans also met with Assad. Echoing conservative talking points and making false assertions, an April 6 editorial in The Pueblo Chieftain criticized U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) direct talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as "a disgrace" without noting that congressional Republicans met with Assad before and after Pelosi did. The editorial further claimed that Pelosi went to Syria "with her own foreign policy," but failed to note that the bipartisan Iraq Study Group recommended that the United States engage in direct talks with Syria and Iran in an effort to enlist those nations' help in stabilizing Iraq. In addition, the Chieftain falsely asserted that "[u]nder the constitution, foreign policy is to be the province of the executive branch, not Congress." In fact, while the executive branch has broad latitude in formulating foreign policy, the U.S. Constitution does not bar Congress from playing a role.
According to the Chieftain editorial: We'd remind our readers that the Iranians are supplying the insurgents in Iraq with weapons, including many of the roadside bombs which have killed a substantial number of our troops. And we'd remind them that it is Syria that has turned a blind eye to the number of insurgents that have entered Iraq from that country, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went this week with her own foreign policy.
Under the constitution, foreign policy is to be the province of the executive branch, not Congress.
We are at war with a virulent religious fringe of Islamofascists who find aid and comfort from Iran and Syria. For Speaker Pelosi to be canoodling with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus is a disgrace.
In criticizing Pelosi, however, the Chieftain failed to note examples of Republican congressmen who met with Assad both before and after her visit to Syria. For example, a House Republican delegation, consisting of Reps. Frank Wolf (VA), Joe Pitts (PA), and Robert Aderholt (AL), met with Assad on April 1, three days before Pelosi spoke with the Syrian president. As the Associated Press reported, the delegation's statement declared, "We came because we believe there is an opportunity for dialogue ... We are following in the lead of Ronald Reagan, who reached out to the Soviets during the Cold War." The AP later quoted Wolf saying, "I don't care what the administration says on this. You gotta do what you think is in the best interest of your country." Furthermore, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (CA) met with Assad on April 5, a day after Pelosi's meeting. As the AP reported on April 5, Issa "said President Bush had failed to promote the dialogue that is necessary to resolve disagreements between the United States and Syria."
In addition to omitting mention of Republicans' trips to Syria, the Chieftain failed to note the Iraq Study Group recommendation that the United States "should try to engage [Iran and Syria] constructively." But as the April 5 AP article noted, "President Bush has rejected direct talks with Syria."
Finally, contrary to the Chieftain's claim that U.S. foreign policy under the Constitution "is to be the province of the executive branch, not Congress," Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution states: "The Congress shall have Power ... [t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations" and "[t]o declare War." Moreover, Article II, Section 2 articulates the president's powers regarding foreign policy, which include the participation of Congress:
He [the president] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United State, who Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be establish by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
The Chieftain's editorial echoed similar omissions about the Republican visits to Syria by KCNC CBS4, KMGH 7News, KDVR Fox 31, and The Gazette of Colorado Springs in their reporting of Pelosi's visit, as Colorado Media Matters noted (here, here, here, and here).
U.S. general: War infiltration from Syria slows – because terrorists need less help
By Robert Burns
ASSOCIATED PRESS. April 6, 2007
BORDER FORT 13, Iraq – Infiltration of arms and fighters from Syria into Iraq has slowed, but a major reason is that the terrorists of al-Qaeda in Iraq now need less foreign help, a senior U.S. general said Friday. Visiting this remote outpost, just a stone's throw from the border, Marine Maj. Gen. Walter E. Gaskin said the change has made persistent infiltration of men, weapons and money less of a concern to U.S. forces here. t However, it also suggests a troubling maturation of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the main terrorist organization targeted by American troops in the country.
“Al-Qaeda has become self-sufficient inside the country,” Gaskin said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The terrorists successfully target truck stops and other points along roadways leading east from the border area to hijack commercial vehicles and intimidate merchants, the general said. He estimated that a hijacked truck carrying fuel oil could yield $64,000.
“If you get a few of those a day, you can fund your enterprise,” he said of the terrorists.
The Bush administration has accused Syria's leaders of allowing terrorists to use their country as a staging area for sending fighters, weapons and other material into Iraq since the start of the war. Just this week, President Bush criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for visiting Syria, a trip Bush said could only encourage a state sponsor of terrorism.
From this small fort about 100 miles west of the town of Rutbah, signs of infiltrators are about as scarce as plant life. For as far the eye can see in any direction, there is almost nothing on the table-flat landscape but dirt, rocks, towering dust clouds and an earthen berm marking the border with Syria.
Gaskin, who visited here with Gen. James T. Conway, the commandant of the Marine Corps, said he was pleased with the work of Iraqi border enforcement troops who run a network of forts along much of their country's western border. A U.S. team led by Lt. Col. Stefan Bien is training the Iraqis to eventually handle border security by themselves.
“They're pretty good,” Gaskin said of the Iraqis, whose commander, Brig. Gen. Sabeer Talab gave the generals a tour of the fort and played host for a lunch of mutton, rice and flatbread.
Gaskin is the commanding general of about 35,000 U.S. forces in Anbar province, which stretches west from Baghdad to the borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. In addition to struggling to secure the border with Syria, U.S. officials have complained that Iraq's neighbor to the east, Iran, has sponsored illicit shipments of arms, bomb-making materials and fighters into Iraq.
Gaskin said a certain amount of infiltration from Syria is unstoppable. That's because foreign fighters largely avoid Iraq's network of border forts, like this one near the point where the borders of Iraq, Jordan and Syria meet. Instead they slip through official entry points posing as legitimate traders.
“You have to understand that in the culture here, what we call infiltration is just normal economics for them,” Gaskin said in the interview. “The black market is a way of life,” and foreign supporters of al-Qaeda in Iraq have learned how to take advantage of that, he said.
“They don't come across ready to kill,” Gaskin added. “They may come across driving a truck. They may be trying to sell something and they may be hauling weapons in the back.” Border inspectors catch some, but others get through, sometimes to link up with a contact just beyond the border.
To illustrate his point about smuggling as a cultural tradition, Gaskin said he recently visited a sheik who introduced him to his three sons.
“One son is a doctor, one son is a lawyer and the one I'm most proud of is a smuggler,” he quoted the sheik as saying.
In fact, the general said, one reason that some of the sheiks have recently turned against al-Qaeda is that the terrorist group has disrupted their trading or smuggling business. Conway and Gaskin later flew by CH-53 helicopter north from here to Qaim, a border town on the Euphrates River in the northern region of Anbar province where U.S. forces have made strong progress against the insurgency. Conway was told that some areas around Qaim are nearly ready to be placed in full Iraqi control.
Israeli bomb in Beirut suburb diffused
By United Press International
BEIRUT, Lebanon -- The Lebanese army reported its personnel on Friday found an unexploded 2,000-pound Israeli bomb in Beirut's southern suburbs.
The military said in a statement an engineering unit discovered the munitions in al-Madi, which was severely damaged by Israeli airstrikes during last summer's war. The suburbs were strongholds of the Shiite Hezbollah organization, whose guerrillas fought Israeli ground offensives in southern Lebanon during the 34-day war. Hezbollah used the buildings in the region to launch missiles into Israel.
The army statement said the bomb, apparently dropped by an Israeli jet, was defused and taken to a distant site to be dismantled.
Thousands of unexploded bombs littered the southern suburbs and the predominantly Shiite South Lebanon, an area bordering Israel. Dozens of Lebanese have been killed or injured by the explosives since the war ended.
As One Syria Trip Draws Fire, Others Draw Silence
By HELENE COOPER and CARL HULSE
Published: April 7, 2007
WASHINGTON, April 6 — Ever since 1952, when a Republican senator, Arthur H. Vandenberg, coined the phrase, it has been said that in American foreign affairs, politics should stop at the water’s edge. Now, with President Bush confronting an opposition party in control of Congress, that fiction is becoming harder to maintain. With a final stop in Lisbon on Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi headed home to a Washington that is still ringing with complaints from senior Bush officials that her stop in Damascus to visit with Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, bolstered the image of Syria at a time when United States policy is to isolate it.
The tone of the complaints — particularly Vice President Dick Cheney’s public characterization of her visit as “bad behavior” — contrasts sharply with the administration’s silence about a similar trip to Damascus a week ago by Republican lawmakers, Representatives Frank R. Wolf of Virginia, Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania and Robert B. Aderholt of Alabama.
Nor was there much heard from the White House about a meeting that Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican, had with Mr. Assad on Thursday, a day after Ms. Pelosi met with the Syrian president.
Ms. Pelosi, in a telephone interview from Lisbon on Friday, said she could not account for the Bush administration’s assault, which she at one point equated to a tantrum. (She said her children were teasing her about Mr. Cheney’s accusation of bad behavior.) Defending her trip, Ms. Pelosi said that members of Congress had a responsibility to play a role in national security issues and that they needed to be able to gather information on their own, and not be dependent on the White House.“I am used to the administration; nothing surprises me,” she said. “Having said that, I hope we can have the opportunity to convey to the president what we saw.”
Ms. Pelosi, as House speaker, outranks her other touring Congressional colleagues, and is the highest-ranking United States official to visit Damascus in years. Still, the criticism from Bush officials was sharp, particularly about Ms. Pelosi’s delivery of a message to Mr. Assad that Israel was ready for peace talks. The office of the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, later issued a statement saying that such talks could take place only if Syria stopped assisting terrorist groups.
“Don’t you get enraged when this kind of thing happens?” Rush Limbaugh asked Mr. Cheney during a radio interview on Thursday.
“I think it is, in fact, bad behavior on her part,” the vice president replied. “She doesn’t represent the administration. The president is the one who conducts foreign policy, not the speaker of the House.”Democrats say the complaints have a certain political expediency to them, and note that many of the same people criticizing Ms. Pelosi’s decision to delve into foreign policy were fine when Newt Gingrich, then the Republican speaker of the House, made his own foray into foreign policy back in 1997. The Republican House leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, criticized Ms. Pelosi’s trip, telling reporters that she was in Syria “for one reason, and that is to embarrass the president.” In 1997, Mr. Boehner accompanied Mr. Gingrich to China, and called the trip “very educational.”
Ms. Pelosi, during the telephone interview, spoke at length about the value of the trip, the ecumenical makeup of the her delegation, the seriousness of their conversations with Middle Eastern leaders and the fact that most members of the delegation were steeped in these foreign policy issues. Ms. Pelosi also spoke of the Democrats’ determination to hold to the Bush administration line on issues they discussed.
Among those on the trip were two other California Democrats, Representatives Tom Lantos, a Holocaust survivor, and Henry A. Waxman, an advocate of Israel; as well as Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, a Democrat who is the first Muslim elected to Congress. During the interview, Ms. Pelosi said that while Congress was breaking with the president on Iraq, there was no distance between her delegation and the White House on support for Israel and on the need for Syria to stop supporting terrorist groups and allowing infiltration into Iraq.
“We understand our responsibilities when we leave the country,” Ms. Pelosi said. “On all the issues, it was a very direct message, very consistent with the Bush administration’s message.” She said her message “was not always the one everyone wanted to hear.”
“I come back thinking, all right, we will get through their tantrum,” Ms. Pelosi said, in a reference to the administration, “but the fact is, we accomplished what we set out to do. I think we improved the understanding among the different parties.”
In Syria, she said Mr. Waxman made a case-by-case appeal to Mr. Assad on the behalf of Syrian dissidents. She said they met for more than an hour with Mr. Assad and more than three hours with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
Edward P. Djerejian, the former American ambassador to Israel and Syria who helped draft the Iraq Study Group report that recommended that the United States open a diplomatic initiative towards Syria, noted that Ms. Pelosi’s visit, in many ways, followed the recommendations of the bipartisan group. But, he added, Senator Vandenberg’s 1952 adage about politics stopping at the water’s edge “was probably a high point,” in bipartisan support for foreign policy.
US holds key to Syria-Israel peace
By As'ad Abdul Rahman, Special to Gulf News
Why should Israel defer her own lofty national interest, ie peace with its neighbours, for its relations with a foreign country?" asks Amos Uz in Yediot Aharnot, summing up the position of the Israeli government on the present relations between Damascus and Washington.
And unlike the stance of the Ehud Olmert government, Israeli newspapers are replete with articles positively responding to repeated Syrian calls for the resumption of negotiations with Israel. Their authors emphatically blame their government, and the prime minister in particular.
Yariel Marcus, Ha'aretz's chief commentator, wrote that "in no phase should Israel put herself in a position of rejecting negotiation offered by any Arab state, neither should she be passive in her attitude towards peace, and should say yes even if the offer came from her archenemy".
He added that "Olmert's firm opposition to Syria's initiative is imprudent ... President [George W.] Bush will go back to his ranch, but we will stay here. If our government lacks an agenda, then the Syrian challenge is the kind that requires courage and reason which Olmert disdains".
Both Uz and Marcus warned against Israel's rejection of the Syrian proposal. They even put President Bashar Al Assad's recent proposal to resume negotiations on the same level as that of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's initiative.
However, peace with Syria continues to ebb and flow in Israel, with contradictory views among the military and politicians.
The Mossad chief, for example, views Bashar's proposal as a mere trick, and a manoeuvre aimed at getting Syria out of its political hardship inflicted by the United States. But the military intelligence chief thinks that Bashar is really willing to conclude peace with Israel.
According to their statements, many protagonists of reviving negotiations with Syria argue that it is time for Israel to decisively give priority to the Syrian track over the Palestinian one, as that would break up the alliance between Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran on the one hand, and Syria on the other.
Thus Iran would be weakened and further isolated. The failed war against Lebanon last summer bolstered this notion.
Hence these protagonists see the resumption of negotiations with Syria without preconditions as incentive for achieving actual political gains which Israel didn't manage to realise through its aggressive war against Lebanon.
Syrian-Israeli peace talks came to a halt in Wye River in 2000. US neo-conservatives gained control over the White House then, and furthered their disasters in the Middle East. In spite of that, Syria persisted in its calls for peace, most outstanding of which was Bashar's statement to the New York Times in late 2003, in which he said for the first time that Syria didn't have preconditions for restarting talks with Israel.
By contrast, the incumbent Israeli government didn't stop labelling Syria as "a terrorist state not wanting peace, and strengthening its army with Iranian financing".Apart from this, the Israeli government reiterated its intentions to intensify construction of colonies in the occupied Golan Heights.
Still, divergence in the stance of Israeli officials continues to manifest itself. Defence minister Amir Peretz said: "We hear cries from Syria for peace, but [they] meanwhile prepare for war. We should carefully examine each step, prepare ourselves for a possible confrontation, while keeping the door open for negotiations".
Minister of Strategic Affairs Avidgor Liberman pointed out that "all options with Syria" remain open, underlying that "it is a hostile country and part of the axis of evil". This is indicative of a problem on the Israeli side - if the Israelis are not prepared for peace with the Palestinians, how can they be prepared for peace with Syria? Washington seems to be Israel's "dilemma", when it comes to reviving the Syrian peace track. All concerned have predicted a real relaxation in the peace process between Syria and Israel in 2007.
It is evident now that Israel does not want to annoy the United States for the sake of Syria, especially as US-Israeli bilateral talks on US military assistance for the next decade have started. Moreover, for Israel it has become unthinkable, under the prevailing regional and international situation, to start peace talks with Syria, as the Jewish state has realised that Washington has willingly eschewed its role as the "sponsor of the peace process", and has in fact become an obstacle to peace. The issue was revealed by Ha'aretz when it reported that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked Israeli officials not to respond to Syrian calls for the resumption of peace talks.
The paper's military commentator Zev Sheev wrote that when Israeli officials asked Rice (during her recent visit to Israel) about how serious the Syrians were on reviving peace negotiations, she resolutely said, "Don't even think of it". The paper also reminded us all of the Bush administration's pressure on Olmert to go ahead with its aggression against Lebanon, irrespective of world community's appeals to stop it.
Indeed, the hostile US stance against the resumption of talks that might bring peace between Syria and Israel will not help move this track.
Much of the future development depends on the ultimate outcome of the "conference of neighbouring countries on Iraq" (due to be held in Turkey) where both Iran and Syria will be participating. We need to wait and see!
Professor As'ad Abdul Rahman is the Chairman of the Palestinian Encyclopedia.