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Cablegate: Syrian Army, Syria/Spain, Peace Process, Lebanon, Iraq,

VZCZCXYZ0013
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #0782/01 2131302
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 011302Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3959
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 7004
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 4688
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 3348
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 7817
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 1919
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 5246
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 1448
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL//CCPA//
INFO RUEHNC/AMEMBASSY NICOSIA 7558

UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000782

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: Syrian Army, Syria/Spain, Peace Process, Lebanon, Iraq,
Palestinian Territories (8/1)


1. Summary: Syrian papers on August 1 featured a speech by
President Asad marking the 62nd anniversary of the Syrian army's
creation published July 31 in the military journal "Army of the
People", in which he called for the return of the Golan Heights. He
said that the latest events in the region and their repercussions
have proven that Syria couldn't be intimidated by pressure and
threats, stressing that the homeland rights and peoples' interests
are of top priority. President Asad said "Syria insists on
returning to the borders it had before June 4, 1967, when Israel
occupied all of the Golan Heights during the Six Day War." The
Syrian president added that the liberation of our occupied land is a
sacred duty and a right guaranteed by international law. He added
that "Our desire for peace does not mean that we have given up our
rights." President Asad hailed the soldiers and officers of the
Syrian army who defend the homeland and sacrifice their lives for
the sake of the nation's dignity and liberation. He added that
"Syria now is stronger than at any time in the past."

Papers also reported that President Asad's meeting on July 31 with
Spanish FM Moratinos who conveyed a letter from Spanish King Juan
Carlos on relations between Spain and Syria. Moratinos discussed
the objectives of his current tour of the region. Moratinos
stressed Syria's important and vital role in the region and pointed
out that Syria is part of the solution. In a joint press conference
with Spanish Miguel Angel Moratinos on July 31, Syrian Foreign
Minister Walid Mouallem condemned as "dangerous" Washington's plan
to sell arms packages to Gulf countries. "He who wants to make
peace does not start out with an arms initiative which is dangerous
for the region," Mouallem said in reference to the US
administration. Mouallem also denounced the US decision to provide
Israel with 25% increase in military aid, affirming that this just
means that the US "is still building up its policy on the concept of
the constructive chaos." But he added that Syria still "seeks to
achieve security and stability in the region." Moratinos welcomed
Syria's support for efforts by Spain and France to resolve the
eight-month-old political crisis in Lebanon. "I am pleased to have
been informed of the very constructive position of the Syrian
authorities," Moratinos said following a meeting with Syrian
President Asad. He said it was "good news" that Damascus was
supporting efforts by the two European countries and the speaker of
Lebanon's parliament, Nabih Berri, to resolve the crisis sparked by
the resignation last November of six pro-Syrian ministers. "All the
political forces and parties in Lebanon are trying to find a way out
of the current impasse. Parliament speaker Nabih Berri is trying to
build a new platform for consensus in Lebanon," Moratinos said. He
added that he would continue to "coordinate" with his French
counterpart Bernard Kouchner to try to get a result before Lebanon's
parliament is due to elect a new president in September.

End of summary.

2. Selected Headlines:

"President Assad addresses the armed forces: You must be ready at
all times for every sacrifice until victory in achieved. Syria does
not succumb to pressures, cannot be intimidated by threats, and
cannot be lured by temptations. We are today stronger than any time
before. The door is open to all possibilities and this necessitates
alertness" (Government-owned Al-Thawra, 8/1)

"President Asad receives a letter from Spanish King. Moratinos:
Syria and Spain have always supported an international peace
conference. Mouallem: He who seeks peace does not initiate an arms
race" (Government-owned Al-Thawra, 8/1)

"Rice and Gates in the region with a crowded schedule: 'New Iraq',
anti-Syria/Iran Front, and a military-oriented peace conference"
(Independent al-Watan, 8/1)

"Damascus denounces and Iran criticizes US arms sales to Saudi
Arabia and the Gulf states; Berlin believes that these sales
contradict Washington's political rhetoric" (Independent al-Watan,
8/1)

"Abbas confirms to Putin his opposition to having dialogue with
Hamas unless it apologizes" (Independent al-Watan, 8/1)


"Russian efforts to unite Palestinians" (Government-owned Tishreen,
8/1)

"Iraqi President Talabani mediates efforts to reach government
reconciliation. A US marine was killed and an apache helicopter was
downed in Baghdad" (Government-owned Tishreen, 8/1)
"The governing team foils Nabih Berri's initiative to solve the
Lebanese crisis before the eyes of Kouchner and Moratinos"
(Independent al-Watan, 8/1)

3. Editorial Block Quotes:

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

"Rotten Goods"

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

Omar Jaftali, an editorialist in government-owned Tishreen, wrote
(8/1): "Once again the US Administration is trying to delude us
into thinking that it is working for peace in the region and that
the mission of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of
Defense Robert Gates in their current tour of the region falls
within the framework of President Bush's commitment to what he has
been promising since he came to office....

"...It is very obvious that they want the Arabs to fall into a new
trap under the guise of peace. The aim is to normalize relations
with Israel. This is what Israel clearly said when the Arab peace
plan was recently presented to it.

"From this premise, Rice and Gates will promote a normalization
meeting and a public relations parley, not an international peace
conference. They will seek to fulfill the Israeli wishes and
objectives before anything else. The region will then enter into
secondary and marginal debates without any headway on the most
important issue; namely, the Israeli occupation and the future of
the Palestinian people, and on the number of square meters that
Israel can 'give up' for the sake of 'peace'.

"It is really regrettable that some [Arabs] support this
American-Israeli inclination, justifying this by saying this is all
that can be done. They call for believing an administration that
has lost its political and ethical credibility, an administration
whose only concern is to achieve what makes Israel comfortable,
supports its arrogance and defiance of the international law and the
UN resolutions, perpetuates the current Palestinian divisions, and
drives the Arabs to give in and accept the Israeli status quo in
everything.

"In this new mission Rice and Gates will market nothing but the same
rotten goods that our region experienced over the past six years,
goods that are unmarketable and that find no one to buy or even to
take for free."

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

"Welcoming Illusions!"

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

As'ad Abbud, a commentator in government-owned Al-Thawra, wrote
(8/1): "Since President Bush announced that he would call for a
peace conference on the Middle East to be held in the fall this
year, many politicians and analysts have been raising more and more
questions. The announcement was not coupled with any step to make
people feel that the call was serious and that there was indeed an
intention to move toward peace. The announcement appeared
insignificant, without any momentum indicating an American desire
for peace that could reach the point of applying pressure on
Israel.

"The matter lacks much clarity and indeed requires waiting. It is
legitimate for every human to welcome peace, but the verbal welcome

might cause another harsh case of frustration if the American call
proves more of a futile public relations exercise.

"Moreover, President Bush's announcement might entail inclinations
that are not only without results but also with negative results,
such as the attempt to liquidate the Palestinian cause given the
inappropriate prevailing situation or to put the
cart before the
horse in search for normalization with Israel before peace or
without peace. Given the bitter experience of the Middle East peace
plan with American sponsorship, and given the strong bias toward
Israel by President Bush and his administration, it was natural for
this announcement, which came late -- in the seventh and penultimate
year of President Bush's presidency -- to be met with reservation.
Welcoming peace does not mean welcoming any talk about peace; it
means welcoming any words or deeds seeking a just and comprehensive
peace in the region based on the legitimacy of the land-for-peace
principle.

"What are they [Arab Foreign Ministers] welcoming: A new illusion,
or 'classified' ads? They do not know what they are welcoming! To
this date, at least, no one knows the truth, substance, and essence
of Bush's initiative, which the White House itself rushed, less than
24 hours after its announcement, to say that 'we must not count much
on it.'"

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

"Signals of Hot Seasons"

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

Ali Qasim, a commentator in government-owned Al-Thawra, wrote (8/1):
"When the United States sends its secretaries of state and defense
together to the region, it means that the American agenda goes
beyond the declared objectives, and the peace process alone cannot
be the driving force behind this sudden interest and on this
level....

"Both secretaries will work to redistribute the required roles based
on a new agenda since the old agenda that Rice used to distribute in
the past has failed. The fact that the defense secretary is
accompanying her necessarily means that the new agenda has a
military part that is no less important than the political part....

"The new agenda is linked with the announcement about new US
military supplies for some of countries in the region.... Americans
feel that time is running out and they, therefore, are playing their
last card in the region.... The next few months, therefore, appear
full of extremely dangerous developments...."

Corbin

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