An Event and a Regional Trend

For the first time in 30 years, Damascus receives the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki on the head of a governmental delegation which includes 35 Iraqi officials from the oil, commercial, economic, and political sectors, while informed Iraqi sources stressed that the two sides look forward to an important shift in bilateral relations.
This visit takes place within a tour in Iraq’s neighboring states that covered Iran and Turkey, but the timing of al-Maleki’s arrival in Damascus has a number of meanings in the aftermath of Damascus’s meeting on Iraq’s security which was recently held in the presence of US and British representatives and in the light of the accelerated developments related to the US failure with the approach of mid-September and the British decision concerning withdrawal from Iraq.
The agenda of the bilateral relations is long and ramified due to the popular and economic entwining between the two countries, and the big file of the Iraqi refugees in Syria, where al-Maleki himself spent many years of political asylum. As for the security and political issue, the Iraqi team which cooperates with the Americans started to feel the need to activate the Iraqi internal dialogue and that Syria has a network of connections and influences inside Iraq, and represents an important weight in Iraq’s surroundings, especially in security calculations on the two sides of the borders.

An Event and a Lebanese Trend

Distinguished sources in Lebanese opposition retaliated against the campaign launched by the loyalists against some of the opponents who dealt with the recent Saudi stands, saying the statements of the opposition precede in their timing the statement of the Syrian vice-president Farouk Chareh and the exchanged statements between Damascus and Riyadh. The sources referred to al-Jazeera satellite station’s interview with one of the opposition’s symbols who talked about the Saudi officials’ interventions in Lebanese reality and Bandar’s group’s sponsorship of the schism plan that targets Lebanese national unity.
The opposition sources added that the US exerted pressures on the government of Qatar and al-Jazeera administration due to this interview with the Lebanese opponent which had interactions inside the Saudi kingdom. The sources pointed out that the the Saudi performance in Lebanon is biased to March 14 alliance and serves the US agenda in Lebanon. The sources brought to mind in this respect the continuous Saudi stand towards the set-in and the topic of al-Siniora government and this negatively affected the honesty of the Saudi mediation. Even the movements of the Saudi ambassador in Beirut reflect this bias according to circles in the Sunni and Druze sects in Lebanon. The sources went on to say that this bias corresponds with the US policy in Lebanon, and the experience of the Israeli war was an evidence on this when the Saudi government gave up its condemnation of the resistance after defeating Israel, but it did not interfere to oblige Fouad Siniora to release the detained financial aids to its owners despite the positive relations between Saudi Arabia and house speaker Nabih Berri, and the continuous dialogue between Saudi Arabia and the leadership of Hezbollah since the end of the Israel-US war and the flexibility expressed by the party.
Some opponents fear the reflections of this Saudi new transformation, under US pressure, especially if Saudi Arabia attends the international conference and recognizes Israel and enters a public alliance with it against the opponents of the Israeli domination in the area. This will mean using the Saudi weight in Lebanon to market options like settling, normalization and this will explode a number of the national safety equations in Lebanon.

Arab and International Press

The Israeli researcher Guy Bakhour said in an article published in the Israeli paper Yedioth Ahronoth that the US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice came to the Middle East with a basket of gifts that raise concern, pointing out that this US generosity in the Middle East aims at building a military belt and a diplomatic belt against Iran.
The New York Times said president Bush’s administration’s engineer Karl Rove decided to leave office in order to avoid the Congress’s investigators due to his involvement in many wrong issues.
Miguel Angel %oratinos said in an article published in the Spanish paper El Pais that solving the Arab Israeli conflict is a necessary step for a constitutional structure which is crucial for Europe to face the security and political challenges, pointing out that Europe should also enhance economic development in the area.
The Emirate paper Al-Khaleej said in its editorial that the bloody condition in Iraq is resulted from marginalizing the role of some sects and may lead to the division of the state.
The Egyptian paper aAl-Ahram said in its editorial that the explosive conditions in Iraq requires, on the part of all the crisis’s sides, to be very attentive, pointing out that the US military operations kill many civilians.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat paper quoted the leader of the Iranian republic Ali Khamenei as saying that the US is caught in a whirlpool in the area and it will sink more in it in the future, and lose in the end.
Agence France Presse quoted the naval leader of the Iranian revolutionary Guards as saying that the Gulf will change into a hell for Iran’s enemies if they attack his country.

Lebanese press

Al-Akhbar said house speaker Nabih Berri will pose 3 questions on the US secretary of state Rice:
- 1. What is Washington’s stand towards the constitutional quorum, or will it support the option of the half plus one?
- 2. What is Washington’s stand towards the modification of the item 49 in the constitution?
- 3. Will Washington support a conciliatory president or a president that represents one team?
An-Nahar said Hezbollah proposes either a unity government or there will be no presidential merit.
As-Safir said Washington does not mind the modification of the constitution.

Arab Satellite Stations’ Interviews

News Report
The US president George Bush said the Iraqi government should reform some laws related to organizing regional elections and the distribution of oil.

Lebanese Television Stations’ News

The NBN said the French Foreign minister Bernard Kouchner found the fire of Iraq more easier than deciphering the mysteries of the Lebanese crisis.
The OTV said nothing is new under the Lebanese sun today except the anticipation of the presidential merit, and everything is quiet except Nahr al-Bared camp.
The NBN said the ruling team always threatens that it will elect a president with the present representatives, while the LBC said the Christian forces in March 14 alliance will meet to select its presidential candidate.
The Future said internal political movements will be activated after the return of the prime minister from his visit to Spain.

Television Stations’ Interviews in Lebanon

Program: The Week in an Hour
Representative Hussein Hajj Hassan said all the options are proposed if the presidential merit does not happen, including forming a military government.
Representative Antoine Zahra said the opposition forces want president Emile Lahoud to stay in office.

Tendencies is a daily political watch newsletter about the Near East, issued by New Orient News agency in Beirut, Lebanon. It is available on in Arabic, English and French languages. Also worth a read is Indicators, the daily Near East economic watch newsletter, available in Arabic and English.