‘Syria on the web’ is the start of a new series of posts showing the best articles on Syria – from the blogs, and the international and local press.
We start with an article by Aaron Miller – a former advisor to President Clinton. He’s urging Barack Obama to follow a ‘Syria first’ policy. Dump Palestine-Israel talks in favour of supporting the Syria-Israel track. Obama has already professed his wish to talk to Bashar. Miller’s words will certainly be heard in the Obama White House.
Start with Syria, Aaron Miller, Washington Post
“Israeli settlement activity, which continues unabated, rounds out a nightmarish picture that ought to scare away any smart [Palestine-Israel] mediator. It would be folly to go for broke, given these conditions.
The more compelling argument is for a major push on another negotiation: between Israel and Syria. Here, there are two states at the table, rather than one state and a dysfunctional national movement. A quiet border, courtesy of Henry Kissinger’s 1974 disengagement diplomacy, prevails. And there are fewer settlers on the Golan Heights and no megaton issues such as the status of Jerusalem to blow up the talks. Indeed, the issues are straightforward — withdrawal, peace, security and water — and the gaps are clear and ready to be bridged.”
On dissidents: “We hope that once there is a new political context, once the U.S. occupation comes to an end, once our region moves forward to a more peaceful agenda, then the whole paradigm in our region will change, including the political status of those who oppose the Syrian government.”
On the border: “Are there al Qaeda operatives in Syria? Probably, but they are our sworn enemies. When we know about them, we will immediately attack them or arrest them. We have done everything possible to try to secure the Syrian-Iraqi border. We told the United States we cannot do this alone. We offered it security arrangements, cooperation, intelligence sharing. The U.S. categorically refused to engage with us, always saying, “It’s your responsibility.” ”
The Cassette Generation, Sami Moubayed, Forward Magazine
“Our Damascus had no mobile phones or Internet; no “tunnel” in the Umayyad Square, just orange and red lightbulbs for decoration, and a colorful variety of Mazdas and Lancers, driving around in circles. We played football in the streets and got a tremendous kick out of the first fast food joint to open in Damascus—Express Restaurant—at the Meridian Hotel.Our favorite location was a small, worn-out parlor called Uno—our Syrian version of McDonald’s in the 1980s and early 1990s. We frequented a ice-cream shop called Ramez. There were no ‘nightclubs’ in Damascus (back then they were called discotheques)…no Backdoor or Marmar, certainly no In-House, Segafredo, or Costa. The famous hang-out, Sahara Café, was a classy restaurant we would go to on Thursdays with family, and behave because of the ‘serious’ atmosphere.”
“The US must launch a widespread offensive against Syria to have any hope of taking control of al-Qaeda’s last bastion in Iraq, it has been claimed.
An intelligence officer in Mosul said leading lieutenants of the late dictator Saddam Hussein and Islamists were directing attacks in Mosul from Syria.
An American raid on a Syrian compound it believed was housing al-Qaeda operatives last month triggered calls for repeated sweeps beyond Iraq’s western borders.”
The Year in Review: Syrian Politics 2008, Obaida Hammad, Syria Today
“The ongoing war of words between Damascus and Riyadh waged in regional media outlets intensified in 2008 and resulted in the banning of the regional Arabic daily Al-Hayat, the last surviving Saudi daily on Syrian newsstands. Perhaps the lowest blow was dealt in September when Saudi Arabia failed to condemn or express sympathy over the massive car bombing which rocked Damascus on September 27, killing 17 people and wounding dozens of others. Claims that the anti-Syrian and Saudi-backed Future Movement in Lebanon provided funding to the group allegedly behind the attack have since surfaced.”
(Photo: Syria Today.)
Searching for the roots of a deep faith, Elisabetta Povoledo, photography by John Wreford, New York Times
“Pilgrimage destinations, even unconventional ones, are recognizing the potential for growth. Syria, not exactly a top-of-mind vacation destination for Western tourists (the American administration “hasn’t always represented us in a good way,” Syria’s tourism minister, Sadallah Agha al-Qala, said in a recent interview), has been making the most of the Pauline year celebrations. “We’re trying to give importance to the jubilee,” said Mr. Agha al-Qala. Both Muslim and Christian Syrians “are proud of the role Damascus played in the history of Christianity.”
A series of events — concerts, conferences — coordinated by the country’s multiple Christian communities and the government of this most secular of Arab states kicked off the Pauline year, which runs until June 29, 2009. “It was a unique experience,” watching Christian and Muslim leaders celebrate together, “speaking the same language and sharing the same emotions,” Mr. Agha al-Qala said. Another weeklong round of events, coordinated with ORP, is scheduled to end on Jan. 25, the date given for Paul’s conversion.”
Our meeting with the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, Dania, My Chaos blog
“He was interested in hearing from us as Syrian youth how we think the best way to develop relations between Syria and the UK; he was interested as well in hearing our thoughts about how we see development is going in Syria, the educational system that he said that it is “too French”, and we talked about local NGOs as well.The last two questions were:
– What would you think the British embassy and the British council can do to improve Britain’s image among Syrians youth?Most of the answers were far away from politics and included more support to Syrian NGOs and to programs that include exchanges between the two countries.”(Photo: Dania.)