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Cablegate: Syrian Presidential Advisor Shaaban Denounces U.S.

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RR RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHMD #1134/01 3051206
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 311206Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5497
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHLA/AMCONSUL BARCELONA 3626
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MADRID 001134

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/WE, NEA/ELA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PINR SP SY
SUBJECT: SYRIAN PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR SHAABAN DENOUNCES U.S.
ATTACKS TO SPANISH POLICY MAKERS

MADRID 00001134 001.2 OF 002


1. SUMMARY. Syrian Presidential Advisor and former Emigration
Minister Bouthaina Shaaban addressed a receptive audience of
approximately 200 policy makers, diplomats, academics, and
students of Arab politics and culture at the
Spanish-government sponsored "Casa Arabe" cultural exchange
institute the evening of October 28. Describing the U.S. as,
"a slave to its failed policies," Shaaban claimed that the
attack on Syrian territory was a clear violation of all
international agreements and human rights principles. Asked
about the Syrian response to the attacks, Shaaban said she
couldn't explain why the Government of Syria chose to close a
school and cultural center. She centered her 90-minute
presentation on the theme that Syria consistently supported
peace and stability, despite stereotyping by Western nations
and misinformation. Asked about whether the disputed She'baa
Farms area was Syrian or Lebanese territory, Shaaban said,
"Syria has always agreed it is Lebanese territory, the
problem is that the Israelis are occupying the land."
Spanish reaction to the attack has been measured. The Spanish
MFA released an official communique October 27 expressing its
concern for the October 26 military operation in Syrian
territory. Spain hoped the events will be clarified soon and
called for continued dialogue as the only way to solve the
problems of the region. During a press gaggle on October 28
in Peru, Foreign Minister Moratinos said that he had
expressed his concern to the Syrian authorities, asked for
clarification about the incident, and supported full respect
for Syrian territory. END SUMMARY.

2. Syrian Presidential Advisor and former Emigration
Minister Bouthaina Shaaban addressed a receptive audience of
approximately 200 policy makers, diplomats, academics, and
students of Arab politics and culture at the
Spanish-government sponsored "Casa Arabe" cultural exchange
institute the evening of October 28. Secretary General of
the Spanish Presidency and key Zapatero advisor, Bernardino
Leon, introduced Shaaban as one of Syrian President
al-Assad's most influential counselors. He gave a glowing
tribute to Shaaban's contributions promoting Middle East
peace, mentioning that she had mentored him when he first
started attending MEPP negotiations early in his career.
Citing Shaaban's courage to, "speak freely and tell the
truth," Bernardino Leon told the audience that Syria was a
key player in regional dynamics and that attempts to isolate
it had failed, proving the effectiveness of Spain's vision of
consensus and accord through dialogue.

3. Shaaban first noted that despite intense interest
regarding the October 26 attack on Syrian territory, she
would save her remarks on the incident until the end (note:
Shaaban's visit and Casa Arabe presentation were planned well
in advance; she did not conduct meetings at the MFA). She
centered her 90-minute presentation on the theme that Syria
consistently supported peace and stability, despite
stereotyping by Western nations and misinformation. She
emphasized that President al-Assad wanted to sign a peace
accord, but one that would actually bring peace to people.
Syria also sought a return of the Golan to its rightful
owners, as well as the right of return for refugees and the
restoration of properties confiscated from Palestinians. She
noted that Palestinian refugees resident in Syria continued
educating their children about their rights, inheritance, and
true home to maintain their Palestinian identity even if they
were born in Syria.

4. With a nod to Spain's interest in having Barcelona
designated as the headquarters of the Union for the
Mediterranean, Shaaban said Syria supported the Union as it
had the precursor Barcelona Process. She credited Syria with
playing an important role facilitating the Arab peace plan
developed during the Beirut Conference. Asked about whether
the disputed She'baa Farms area was Syrian or Lebanese
territory, Shaaban said, "Syria has always agreed it is
Lebanese territory, the problem is that the Israelis are
occupying the land." Recapping her peace
negotiationexperience, she claimed that the Oslo Accords and
other agreements were simply stalling tactics to allow
Israelis to build more settlements, "creating facts on the
ground," and expelling Palestinians from their lands. She
described the Israeli security wall as, "not for security,
but for cutting apart Palestine and marginalizing its
people," adding, "if there can't be peace and security for
all, there can't be behind the wall." Claiming that the
U.S. spread many lies about Syria, Shaaban emphasized that

MADRID 00001134 002.4 OF 002


Syria had supported Iran against the Saddam regime in Iraq
and also supported Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion.
Describing 2003, when Syria held a UNSC seat, and 2004-5 as
particularly difficult times, she attributed Damascus'
troubles to U.S.-spread lies about Syria's military
capabilities and intentions.

5. Characterizing the image of an extreme and violent Syria
in the Western media as wrong, Shaaban argued that the U.S.
was violent and extreme as evidenced by the war in Iraq,
which she described as a, "mountain of crimes committed under
the pretext of bringing freedom to Iraq. Instead, the women
and children of Iraq have suffered unimaginably, with over 4
million people displaced and over 2.5 million of those
refugees in Syria." She also said that the relatively small
number of Iraqi refugees in the U.S. was proof that the U.S.
administration had a lack of commitment and offered only
false promises. According to Shaaban, after the 9/11
attacks, the U.S. divided the world into "us versus them" and
spread the false message that Arabs are responsible for
terrorism. Shaaban also told the audience that the U.S. used
Lebanon as a pretext for denigrating Syria. Shaaban claimed
that Syria and Lebanon are, "family; we have close, friendly
relations and we don't interfere in Lebanese internal
affairs." As an example, she claimed the President al-Assad
had reached out to March 14 movement members to foster close
ties." Note: The Lebanese Ambassador to Spain did not
attend the presentation.

6. "The press doesn't reflect what is really happening,"
Shaaban said, and since the U.S. started its War on Terror,
terrorism had actually become more widespread than ever
before. The U.S. fomented extremism and ignored the opinions
of the "Arab Street", the majority who want the U.S. to
respect their unique culture and value system. Describing
the U.S. as, "a slave to its failed policies," Shaaban
claimed that the attack on Syrian territory was a clear
violation of all international agreements and human rights
principles and that despite some attempts to justify it as
"small", that the death of even one person was the same as
killing a society. Claiming that the U.S. had killed
innocent villagers (implying women and children), Shaaban
said that her only explanation was that President Bush wanted
to show he still had the power to strike out despite his lame
duck status. Asked about the Syrian response to the attacks,
Shaaban said she couldn't explain why the Government of Syria
chose to close a school and cultural center.

7. "Democracy is a means, but not an end; it is only an
instrument, not the only answer," Shaaban continued, arguing
that a democracy should not use aggression to promote its
interests. She said that Syria looked forward to increased
engagement with Spain as the U.S. role in global affairs had
been diminished, adding that the U.S. had lost its
credibility and now the rest of the world must re-energize
their involvement.

8. The format of the program did not provide an opportunity
to counter any of Shaaban's statements. Spanish reaction to
the attack has been measured. The Spanish MFA released an
official communique October 27 expressing its concern for the
October 26 military operation in Syrian territory. Spain
hoped the events will be clarified soon and called for
continued dialogue as the only way to solve the problems of
the region. During a press gaggle on October 28 in Peru,
Foreign Minister Moratinos said that he had expressed his
concern to the Syrian authorities, asked for clarification
about the incident, and supported full respect for Syrian
territory. Newspaper El Pais, a left-of-center daily, opined
that despite Syrian outrage over the "hazy" attack, it was
unlikely that there would be any long-term impact on
US-Syrian relations. Another publication, El Mundo,
described the attack as the bloody work of American cowboys
and that in the "official silence of Washington," the focus
was on the loss of innocent life. Conservative paper ABC
described the attack as exemplifying a "Bush doctrine" that
the U.S. will use military force to defend its interest apart
from a declaration of war. ABC also speculated that as
General Odierno increased pressure on the insurgency, more
attacks in Syria were possible.

AGUIRRE

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