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Cablegate: Syria/Gcc, Syria/Us, Syria/South Africa, Winograd Report,

VZCZCXYZ0001
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #0416/01 1231430
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 031430Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3409
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 6771
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 4500
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 3121
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 7645
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 1718
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 5054
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 1261
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL//CCPA//
INFO RUEHNC/AMEMBASSY NICOSIA 7386

UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000416

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR PA, NEA/ARN, INR/IC/CD, INR/R/MR:STHIBEAULT AND
JMCCARTER, VOA NEWS CA, NEA/PPD:CBOURGEOIS, AZAIBACK, AND
AFERNANDEZ, IIP/G/NEA-SA MDAVIDSON
WHITE HOUSE FOR NSC
CENTCOM FOR CCPA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KMDR PREL KPAO OPRC SY
SUBJECT: Syria/GCC, Syria/US, Syria/South Africa, Winograd Report,
Iraq, Lebanon, Palestinian Territories (5/3)

1. Summary: Syrian papers on May 3 reported President Asad's
meeting on May 2 with Abdul-Rahman Attiya, Secretary General of the
Gulf Cooperation Council(GCC). Talks focused on developments in
Iraq, the occupied territories, and Lebanon, and on bilateral
cooperation and means to activate Arab cooperation through the Arab
League and other Arab establishments, such as the GCC. The parties
agreed on the need to spee
d up agreement on the establishment of a
free trade zone between Syria and the GCC countries, and to
encourage the GCC countries to take advantage of the good investment
climate in Syria.

Papers also reported Assistant Foreign Minister Ahmad Arnus's
meeting David Satterfield, senior adviser to the US Secretary of
State and Coordinator of Iraq Affairs, in Sharm al-Sheikh on May 2
on the sidelines of the Iraq Neighboring Countries Conference.
Talks focused on bilateral relations between Syria and the US and
preparations for the expanded Conference of Iraq's Neighboring
Countries. Independent al Watan quoted an Iraqi source as saying
that this meeting prepared for Secretary Rice's meeting on May 3
with Syrian FM Walid Mouallem, the first at this level since
relations deteriorated after the killing of Former Lebanese PM Rafiq
Hariri.

All papers featured a statement in Sharm al-Sheikh on May 2 by
Italian Foreign Minister Massimo Dalima reiterating the importance
of Syrian and Iranian roles in the Middle East. "Participation of
Syria and Iran in the Sharm al-Sheikh conference on Iraq tomorrow is
a positive indication," Dalima said. He renewed his country's
assertion that it is important for the US to hold direct dialogue
with Syria and Iran.

On Syrian-South African relations, papers reported that VP Shara
received on May 2 a letter to President Asad from South African
President Thabo Mbeiki, in which he expressed his country's interest
in strengthening the existing friendly relations between the
countries and in boosting mutual cooperation. The letter was handed
to Shara by Assistant Secretary General of the African National
Congress, Sanki Mahanili. They talked about regional, African and
international developments.

Papers also reported the statement issued on May 2 at the conclusion
of the 'International Conference of Arab and Islamic Media to
Support the Palestinian People.' It stressed Syria's right to the
occupied Golan, renewed commitment to deepen the culture of
resistance in the face of the culture of hegemony, and called for
differentiating between the peoples' legitimate right to resist
occupation and all forms of terrorism. The final statement also
confirmed the Palestinian right of return and their right to
establish an independent state. It also expressed support for the
national Lebanese resistance and defended its right to possess arms.
The statement also called on Islamic and Arab media to refute and
dismiss the distorted image conveyed by Israeli, US and some Western
media, particularly with respect to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

End of summary.

2. Selected Headlines:

"President Asad discusses regional developments and Syrian-GCC
cooperation with Abdul-Rahman Attiya, Secretary General of the Gulf
Cooperation Council" (Government-owned Tishreen, 5/3)

"President Asad receives a message from South African President
Mbeiki. VP Shara confirms to Mahanili Syria's appreciation for
South African positions" (Government-owned TIshreen, 5/3)

"Assistant Foreign Minister Ahmad Arnus discusses bilateral
relations and preparations for the Sharm al-Sheikh conference
with David Satterfield" (Government-owned Tishreen, 5/3)

"The 'International Conference of Arab and Islamic Media to Support
the Palestinian People' concludes its deliberations at Quneitera and
expresses solidarity with the peoples of the Golan and Palestine"
(Government-owned Tishreen, 5/3)

"The storm of Winograd Report: Hizbollah SecGen: It

Admitted Israel's defeat. Israeli FM Livni calls on Olmert to
resign" (Government-owned Al-Thawra, 5/3)

"A new Egyptian proposal for prisoner swap between Israel and
Palestinians. A US plan to schedule peace talks between Israel and
Palestine" (Independent al-Watan, 5/3)

"Saudi Arabia refuses a meeting between the International Quartet
and some Arab countries to revive the peace process" (Independent
al-Watan, 5/3)

"Killing of three US soldiers in Baghdad" (Government-owned
Tishreen, 5/3)

3. Editorial Block Quotes:

-------------------------

"At the Moment of Truth"

-------------------------

Hanan Hamad, a commentator in government-owned Tishreen, wrote
(5/3): "It was not astonishing that the US president rushed to
support the head of the Israeli government after the strong tremor
that the Winograd Commission report caused. In tangible
documentation of the results of the July aggression on Lebanon, the
report used the words failure, inexperience, haste, and other
adjectives that could all be summed up in one expressive word:
failure. The American support for Olmert did not come as a
surprise, especially since the aggression was American-made and the
decision to continue it for over 30 days despite its failure was an
American decision. Add to this the fact that Olmert's fall at this
delicate juncture for the US administration would add to its
failures in the region and strengthen the possibilities of the fall
of those whom it supports, as they are the tools of its faltering
plan in the Middle East.

"Since the 'crutch' that President Bush rushed to offer to Olmert at
the moment of his possible fall was a description of the Israeli
prime minister as 'a key to the peace process,' it was meant to
encourage and urge those who hope to market the Arab peace plan in
Israel to contribute to the attempt to rescue Olmert....

"Will Arabs be swayed by this sweeping American desire to save
Olmert and the other tools of the American plan in the region, or
will the axis of resistance and opposition prevail after it has
competently proved that all the images painted of the invincible
Israeli military power were just an exaggeration that the will for
victory has dissipated and the adherence to rights and land has
obstructed? The answer to this question will come soon, especially
since the Winograd report, although comprehensive and thorough,
disregarded an important point. Its diagnosis of the flaws talked
only about the ways decisions were made, objectives were set, and
revisions were conducted during the battles, and about the army's
weak technological and creative abilities. It did not refer -- or
perhaps it did in its secret part -- to the exacerbating structural
flaws in Israeli society, which is built on racism, arrogance, and
the lack of incentive for sacrifice and initiative --
characteristics that make people doubt that Israel will be able to
continue and survive."

------------------------------

"Breaking the Silence Barrier"

------------------------------

Mihriz al-Ali, a commentator in government-owned
Al-Thawra, wrote (5/3): "Revelations by former CIA Director George
Tenet concerning the Iraq war prove that neoconservatives took the
war decision in advance and made the relevant military plans before
embarking on their campaign of lies to deceive the American people
into thinking that the war on Iraq was necessary....

"A tense debate is taking place in the United States over Iraq....

Bush's intransigent rejection of a timetable for the withdrawal of
the American forces and his insistence on continuing the war and
exhausting American and Iraqi human and material resources will
ultimately lead to the resounding fall of the US Administration,
given the ever increasing number of Iraq war opponents...."

Corbin

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