6/30/2008

Upbeat in Syria

Why President Bashar Assad is feeling cock-a-hoop

Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, is reaping substantial benefits, both economic and political, from the Lebanese political deal agreed in Doha last month, for which he has modestly claimed much of the credit. The ruler of Qatar visited him in Damascus to thank him for his role in the Doha agreement, and Mr Assad followed this up with visits to the UAE and Kuwait, from which he obtained generous promises of aid, including 500,000 tonnes of wheat to be purchased on Syria's behalf by Abu Dhabi. The rehabilitation of his political reputation--which had been tarnished by association with brutal events in Lebanon and repression at home--is set to be completed by an appearance at the Mediterranean summit to be hosted by France's president Nicolas Sarkozy on July 13th.

What has Mr Assad done to deserve this unaccustomed adulation? By his own account, he has done no more than to remain consistent, waiting patiently for others to see sense. At a forum in Dubai Mr Assad said that when the Doha talks seemed to be on the brink of collapse, the ruler of Qatar called on Syria to provide some suggestions. "The ideas we provided were the exact same ideas we provided the French last year when they were mediating", Mr Assad said, according to a transcript provided on the Syria Comment blog. "However, the French then did not comprehend or did not implement the ideas correctly." He attributed this failing on the part of the French government to the mistaken assumption that Syria could speak and act on behalf of its allies in Lebanon, whereas in fact Syria was merely interested in furnishing practical solutions. ...



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