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Cablegate: Damascus Media Reaction, November 9, 2008: Confessors Of

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #0790/01 3141253
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 091253Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5546
INFO RUCNNAF/NORTH AF NEA AND SOUTH ASIAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000790

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/PPD, NEA/ELA, INR/NESA, IIP, PA, ECA; BEIRUT FOR
SISSON, GRANT, LENZEN

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KPAO SY
SUBJECT: DAMASCUS MEDIA REACTION, NOVEMBER 9, 2008: CONFESSORS OF
SEPTEMBER 27 ATTACK AND OBAMA'S VICTORY

------------
News Reports
------------

1. Syrian papers reported on the broadcast confessions by the
alleged perpetrators of the explosion in the al-Qazza area of
Damascus on September 27. Syrian state TV on Thursday, November 7,
showed 12 individuals (mostly Syrians) claiming membership in Fateh
al-Islam and confessing to planning the September 27 attack on an
intelligence complex in Damascus. The confessions featured Wafa

al-Absi, daughter of Fateh al-Islam's leader Shaker al-Absi.
Al-Absi's Syrian spouse was also among those who confessed publicly.
A number of the confessors made claims of a direct connection
between Fateh al-Islam and Saad Hariri's Future Movement (Mustaqbal)
in Lebanon. Al-Absi said that Fateh al-Islam received money from
Salafist groups, including Saudi supporters, and she accused
Mustaqbal and some of its banks of involvement in financing the
group. Private Syrian daily Al-Watan reported that the confessions
have shaken Mustaqbal, leading to a campaign of arrests in Lebanon.
Al Watan also wrote about calls in Lebanon and in Syria to open an
investigation into the linkage between Mustaqbal and Fateh al-Islam
and Al-Qaeda, and to bring to trial those who caused the Nahr
al-Bared tragedy.

2. Syrian papers reported on President Asad's congratulatory
message to U.S. President-elect Barack Obama. The message expressed
hope that dialogue would conquer the obstacles blocking progress
towards peace in the region.

------------------
Selected Headlines
------------------

3. Tishreen (SARG-owned newspaper, circ, 20,000)

-- "Lebanese MP Lahhoud Calls for Pursuing Financers of 'Fateh
Al-Islam' ... Sheikh Hammoud, Imam of the Jerusalem Mosque in Sidon:
The Confessions are True; the Future Block Cannot Deny its Link"

-- "President Asad Congratulates U.S. President-Elect Obama on his
Victory: By Dialogue We Conquer Hardships that Block Progress
Towards Peace"

4. Al-Thawra (SARG-owned newspaper, circ. 70,000)

-- "Perpetrators of the Terrorist Operation in Al-Qazza Quarter
Acknowledge Sneaking into Syria From Tripoli ... A 'Fateh Al-Islam'
Gang ... The Suicide Bomber is Saudi ... The Future Block is
Involved in Financing The Gang"

5. Al-Watan (Private newspaper, circ. 25,000)

-- "The 40-Minute Tape Shakes the Future Block ... A Campaign of
Arrests in Lebanon ... Calls to Expand Investigation into the Future
Block's Affiliation with Fateh Al-Islam and Al-Qaeda, and Bring it
to Trial for the Nahr Al-Bared Tragedy"

--------------
Key Editorials
--------------

6. "Tishreen", "Seizure of the Terrorist Group Proves that Syria is
a Country of Security and Safety"

An unsigned commentary in SARG-owned Tishreen on November 8, says:
"Syria proved that it is a country of security, safety, assurance,
brotherhood, and common existence where there is no place for
terrorists and enemies of religion and the homeland ....

"But dangers still exist ... the terrorist group, by virtue of its
affiliation with Fateh al-Islam and Al-Qaeda, and given the
nationalities of its members, and the Arab support the group
received ... this means that future criminal and terrorist acts are
still possible. This is not a time for spite, gloat, or nonsensical
comments showing no national and pan-Arab sense of responsibility.
This is a time for serious work, caution, and vigilance against this
expanding terrorism on Arab land ....

"Syria will remain alert and impregnable, but the others, near and
far, must learn from what happened and from what the terrorists
disclosed on the Syrian television on Thursday."

7. "Tishreen", "Mere Wishes"

Isam Dari, Tishreen Chief Editor, wrote on November 8: "We advise
U.S. President-elect Barack Obama not to listen to U.S. President
George Bush's advice or adopt the reports that the current
administration will present to him .... Obama needs not only to
change the policy that the administration of Bush and the

neoconservatives drew up, but to demolish the roots of this policy
politically, economically, militarily, and socially if he wants to
regain the world's confidence in the United States and its
international role."

"We believe that issues ranging from the fight against terror and
the crises of food, climate, and credit, to the minutest details of
American life need to be radically reconsidered so that change can
happen and the worldwide joy over Obama's win can be justified."

"Peoples, who were burned for eight years by the fires of Bush's
administration, have the right to hope for real change in the U.S.
policy .... We Arabs are interested in seeing the United States
once again play its full and effective role as a fair and neutral
partner in peacemaking, taking the side of justice, not the side of
either party, and acting as a superpower with the responsibility of
maintaining world security and peace."

"Obama's mission is not going to be easy in light of the very heavy
legacy the Bush administration is leaving behind .... Syria and the
whole world are ready to wage war against 'real terror', but not to
use the 'bogeyman' of terror to excuse actions hostile to nations,
occupy countries, bring down regimes, and violate international laws
and norms ....

"Obama promised change ... but we do not wager on illusions.
Realism is necessary here ... we know the limits and the
inclinations of U.S. policy and the forces and pressure groups that
draw up these policies and impose them on nations."

"The policy of subjugating peoples, violating the sovereignty of
states, looting resources, and waging wars must end. Otherwise,
there will be no change."

8. "Al-Thawra", "For all These Reasons"

Ahmad Hamadah, a commentator in SARG-owned Al-Thawra, wrote November
7: "Obama indeed has a big chance to bring change, not because the
world is looking forward to such change, but because the United
States itself needs change.

"No matter what the inclinations of the Pentagon, Congress, and the
giant companies ... the United States now needs radical change in
its domestic and foreign policies. The deep financial crisis hit
the heart of its capitalist makeup. The ethical crisis caused by
U.S. administration's unjust war against Iraq and Afghanistan and
its killing of millions of people around the world, brought
tragedies upon it. The American citizens no longer tolerate
policies that do not express their dreams and interests."

9. "Al-Thawra", "Arab and the Newcomer"

Mundhir Id, a commentator in SARG-owned Al-Thawra, wrote November 7:
"Arabs applaud Obama's win for one reason: The departure of George
Bush and his Republican team ....

"We wonder what Obama means by change. As for the Palestinian
cause, which is the primary Arab cause, Obama is not much different
from the previous presidents ....

"The U.S. commitment toward Israel is not debatable. As for Iraq,
he will keep an American force to carry out the missions of what he
called 'fighting armed men and protecting Americans there', which
raises questions as to whether he went back on an earlier promise of
a full withdrawal ....

"It might be premature for Arabs to count on Obama's change,
although it is necessary to be optimistic. The interests of the
United States and Israel will govern any position toward the Arab
region or the Middle East."


CONNELLY

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