Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Key is To Defeat Terrorism

Jihad Khazen

Al-Hayat 25/09/2005

While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made no mention of Syria in her speech to the U.N. General Assembly, she warned and threatened in her meetings with the various Arab delegations so I chose to talk about Syria with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiar Zibari before continuing with Iraq.
I noted that President Jalal Talbani, in view of his old relations with Syria, believes that any problem with the Syrian "brothers" (they are always referred to as brothers) can and will be solved. Hoshiar takes a more reserved line and readily admits that relations with the Syrians are difficult. He said that he found Dr. Rice very critical of Syrian policies, accusing the regime of fomenting trouble for neighbors in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
President Bush said his administration was after a change of attitude not a change of regime in Syria. The Arabs who met Dr. Rice came out with the impression that American patience is running thin. The Iraqi foreign minister said the Iraqis were pained by the Syrian position vis-à-vis their country. President Hafez Assad, he added, had built huge credit with the opposition now in power in Baghdad, but instead of utilizing this credit Damascus chose to ignore or squander it.
Hoshiar said he could not understand why Damascus is not exploiting its credit with its allies who have now assumed office in Baghdad.
I told Hoshiar, an old and trusted friend, that maybe the Syrians are like me and do not trust a regime installed by American military power and whose very survival is dependent on this power. I must add here that the danger to Syria of the tension with the U.S. and Iraq remains less important than the findings of the investigation into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri of Lebanon. The
German investigator Detlev Mehlis is expected to hand his report to the Security Council by mid-October and everyone is awaiting to see the names of the suspects and how high up they go in Lebanon and Syria.
Syria was absent from the U.N. summit and this year's General Assembly debate. It was the first time I did not see Foreign Minister Farouk el Shara'. Syria was represented by head of mission Feisal Miqdad who had an extremely difficult task on his hands.
The trouble with the Syrian position is that the truth is hidden behind a cloud of sinister rumors, many of which must be outright fabrications. But there is no smoke without fire and alleged leaks from the Mehlis report should make the Syrian leadership very worried.
Hoshiar Zibari told me that Syria has the ability to help improve the Iraqi security situation but asked if Syria had the will or desire to help. He said, "We are telling our Syrian brothers come over and talk to us. We don't need an American interlocutor between us."
Among steps considered by the Americans to exert pressure on Syria is closing its border with Jordan and Turkey as well as Iraq. They accuse Syria of hosting former Saddam Baathists and of financial dealings and bribes. They cite how the Syrians denied knowing the whereabouts of five Saddam officials, but under pressure staged the arrest of Sab'awi, Saddam's half brother, in Lebanon. The Americans claim that they know exactly how he was transferred to Lebanon and his arrest staged.
The foreign Minister insisted that it was far more beneficial to the Syrians to deal with an Iraqi leadership well known to them and promises that the Iraqi government would never allow the Americans to attack Syria from Iraqi territory.
I believe Hoshiar but would the Americans ask permission if they decide to attack Syria from Iraqi territory?
On Iraq and the constitution, the Foreign Minister expected a strong turnout in the referendum and opposition from nay Sunnis who will not boycott the political process this time, but he said the constitution will be approved in the referendum next month to allow for parliamentary elections two months later.
He saw four main groups will fight the elections: the Iraqi National Coalition of Shiite parties which may not hold together to the end, the Kurdish coalition, Sunni Arabs of a fundamentalist hue, a centrist liberal national grouping of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, Adnan Pachachi and leftist parties.
If elections are fought according to this scenario, the Foreign Minister expects a far more representative parliament than the present assembly. The elections will be fought in governorates and not under a national slate as the last elections. Forty five seats are reserved for minorities in accordance with their showing nation-wide and women's share is guaranteed.
Finally, I asked Hoshiar about persistent rumors of disagreement between President Talbani and Prime Minister Jaafari. He said there is rivalry but no big disagreement, and blamed this on overlapping responsibilities under the present rules and regulations which put power in the hands of the presidency, the prime minister's office, parliament and the Supreme Judicial Council, with each side interpreting the law as befits its own interests.
He hoped that the picture will become clearer after the elections. My hope is to see an end to terrorism in Iraq. It is terrorism not resistance.


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