Category Archives: Economy

“US Economic Sanctions on Syria Have Failed,” by Joshua Landis

US Economic Sanctions on Syria Have Failed,” by Joshua Landis : see link

Contrary to what Andrew Tabler of WINEP, a right-wing think tank argues, US sanctions on Syria have failed. Tabler, in a Newsweek article copied below, recommends keeping sanctions on Syria.  He claims they are working. He is joined in his desire to keep sanctions on Syria by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She worries that Obama is going soft on Syria because it has returned its ambassador and is engaging. She said, “The administration is aiding an unrepentant regime and is sending a signal that the U.S. will make concessions and seek dialogue regardless of what the facts dictate.” She said this in a Feb. 12 statement after the U.S. let Chicago-based Boeing Co. sell aircraft parts for the repair of two 747 jets owned by Syrian Arab Airlines.

Tabler argues that US sanctions have worked and are forcing Syria into a corner where it must finally make important foreign policy concessions. I don’t know what cool-aid Tabler has been drinking, but it may well be from the same dispenser as Ros-Lehtinen’s. US sanction efforts have failed badly. Don’t take my word for it.  Here is what Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman said about Washington’s backfiring sanctions effort just the other day:

So you ended up at a point when we isolate – we were the ones isolated. It was no longer Syria being isolated. It was the United States that was being isolated. So I think this administration decided that engagement is not – engagement is something we need to try.

This contorted jumble of passive constructions by Feltman can be summed up to mean only one thing: sanctions failed. Over a year ago, France broke the isolation regime that Washington had established. Quickly other European countries followed suit. They invited Syria to join the Mediterranean Process, a free trade agreement linking Europe with Mediterranean countries. Western bankers and businessmen are streaming into Syria to sniff out the possibilities for investment. Abdullah Dardari, Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy, has been besieged with delegations of businessmen from American banks as well as European countries over the last few months. Big Western concerns may make only small investments in Syria for the time being because Syria’s financial infrastructure is primitive and new legal protections for foreign capital are untested. All the same, it is in Syria’s power to attract foreign money if it makes the desired reforms. US sanctions are no longer a major factor inhibiting investors.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillion is arriving in Damascus this Saturday flanked by over 30 French businessmen eager to have his support to clinch deals in Syria. If Americans don’t get into the act soon, they will find themselves at a serious disadvantage in an emerging market that has promise and where most assets are undervalued.  As Feltman explained, the US is only sanctioning its own businessmen in Syria. For someone who is in better touch with Syria read Chris Phillips of the BBC: Syria’s Assad: pariah to power-broker.


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Lebanon is taking off


With the crisis in Dubai and in the rest of the World, added to the surprising Lebanon’s economy bonanza, thousands of Lebanese are coming back to their country after a long economic exile. With peace and sort of stability since 2008, even the tourism is kicking off as never before…


Lebanon says 2009 was best on record for tourism BEIRUT, Lebanon – The Tourism Ministry says about 1.9 million tourists came to Lebanon in 2009, the highest number of visitors to come to the mountainous Arab nation ever. The new figure exceeds those from the time before Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war, when Beirut was dubbed the “Paris of the Middle East.” Figures released this week show that 1,851,081 tourists visited Lebanon in 2009, a 39 percent increase from the previous year. The 2009 number is the highest ever and broke the 1974 record of 1.4 million tourists, the ministry reported. Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud estimated the country’s annual income from tourism at up to $7 billion, or about 20 percent of gross domestic product. -AP

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Here you will find a serial of three reports -related to Turkey-Syrian relationship and Turkey-Iran relationship- from a Turkey based think-tank called The Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) at . It is the first time I read anything from this think-tank. Judge yourselves.





SETA Policy Report, No. 2, October 2009



The Israeli-Syrian track has been an important component of the Arab-Israeli peace talks due to its integral role in reaching comprehensive peace in the Middle East. The latest round of indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria was initiated under the sponsorship of Turkey on May 21, 2008, and by the end of 2008 both sides were ready to start the direct talks. However, in protest of Israeli aerial and ground offensive in Gaza in December 2008, Syria halted the indirect talks with Israel. Several factors, including the lack of American endorsement; Olmert’s weak prospect in Israel due to the ongoing corruption investigation; approaching early elections, and the rise of rightist parties in Israel, topped by the Israeli offensive in Gaza, rendered the conciliation efforts futile.




The Syrian side has been consistently clear about their principal demands from their Israeli counterparts: “the line of 4 June 1967.” While security concerns have been shaping Israeli demands from Syria in the peace negotiations. Many in Israel consider the Golan Heights as Israel’s first line of defense against Syria and see retaining of the water sources in the Golan as strategic and existential.


The Iranian threat has been a crucial factor motivating Israel to reconsider the peace talks with Syria; on the other hand, Syrian determination to end their international isolation has made Syria a willing party for the peace talks. While Syria prefers a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace that include Israeli-Palestinian track side by side with the Israeli-Syrian track, Israel wants to deal with the Palestinian question and peace with Syria separately.


Israeli-Syrian peace has the potential to be a turning point in the history of the Middle East, on the condition that it produces a viable solution for the border disputes and security concerns and that both sides comply with implementation of the solution. While facilitating the end of decades-long hostilities between Arab states and Israel, it could also have a positive impact on Iranian-American and Iranian-Israeli relations. Consequently, it could prevent a serious armed conflict between Iran and Israel in the Middle East.


Third parties will have to play a more active role during all stages of the peace process: indirect talks, direct talks, and implementation of the agreement. While such countries as Turkey could bridge the gap between the two countries in earlier stages and lay the foundations of an agreement, the U.S. involvement into the process would be critical in later stages. Having Israel and Syria comply with the terms of the agreement would be as much important as bringing them to the table and having them sign the agreement.



Ufuk Ulutas is the Coordinator of the Middle East Program at SETA Washington D.C. He has taught classes on world history at Ohio State University, and worked as a Graduate Research Associate at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies. He previously held the Samuel M. Melton Fellowship in Jewish Studies, and is the current holder of the George M. & Renée K. Levine Fellowship by the Melton Center for Jewish Studies. He received his B.A. in Political Science and Public Administration from Bilkent University in Ankara, and his M.A. in modern Middle Eastern history from Ohio State University. He is a Ph.D. Candidate at Ohio State University and is finishing his dissertation on the immigration of Turkish Jews to Israel during the inter-war years.




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El régimen de Damasco exige, entre otras cosas, una reinserción económica plena a cambio de renunciar a la influencia política que le proporcionan sus vínculos con Hezbolá y Hamás. Sin embargo, Arabia Saudí, Egipto o Israel no tienen interés en una Siria fuerte que les haga competencia.

Parece que los dirigentes europeos empiezan a aceptar el antiguo dicho de “la paz pasa por Damasco”. Un ejemplo de ello es que el presidente español, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, eligiera Siria como primera parada de su reciente visita a Oriente Medio. Esto también deja entrever que Egipto ya no tiene el monopolio ni de ser el mejor amigo en la región ni de único mediador en el conflicto palestino-israelí o en los cismas palestinos. Hoy las fronteras entre países árabes considerados moderados (Egipto, Jordania y Saudí Arabia) y radicales (como Siria), bien claras y definidas durante la era de George W. Bush, se difuminan.

Si la paz pasa por Damasco: ¿qué quiere Bashar al Assad? Tras nueve años de embargo económico, aislamiento internacional y desprecio político, Siria está en su derecho de hacer esperar a los que antaño le negaban la palabra. O al menos así lo consideran algunos políticos del país. Puesto que Israel y el régimen sirio disfrutan desde hace más de treinta años de una paz virtual, el hipotético acuerdo de paz pondría fin a la guerra retórica que enfrenta a ambos países. Y recuperar el Golán es la condición mínima para un cambio radical en el discurso político de Siria hacia el Estado israelí.

Sin embargo, no es suficiente. En los regímenes autoritarios las crisis económicas representan uno de los mayores desafíos para la estabilidad del régimen. Damasco quiere una reinserción económica plena que le permita hacer frente a la demanda interna y crear puestos de trabajo. Además, está la parte política. Para renunciar a proxies en la región como Hezbolá o Hamás, Occidente tendrá que compensar esa pérdida de influencia política. Un mayor reconocimiento y peso de Siria en las instituciones regionales e internacionales sería un paso previo. Aunque aquí existe el problema de statu quo regional: países como Arabia Saudí, Egipto o Israel no están por la labor de aceptar al régimen de Bashar al Assad como un igual y menos como un nuevo competidor. Europa y EE UU tendrán que esforzarse en encontrar la fórmula que satisfaga los intereses de cada cual. Por el momento, tan sólo Arabia Saudí está acercándose a Siria mientras el proceso de negociación con Israel sigue estancado.


La oportunidad de España pasa por Damasco

El Gobierno español puede jugar un papel en Oriente Medio a través de Siria.

AFP/Getty Images
  El presidente español y el líder sirio en Damasco.

España mantiene excelentes relaciones con el régimen de Damasco desde hace años y disfruta de una imagen de neutralidad en Oriente Medio. Desde 2008 Siria está adquiriendo un protagonismo creciente como mediador en la región, y a través de ella, España puede adquirir un mayor peso en la zona. A parte de El Cairo, Madrid no dispone de aliados importantes en esta área. A medio plazo, Egipto promete convertirse en un foco de inestabilidad política en cuanto surja el dilema de la sucesión que derive en crisis política o en otra monarquía presidencial como la de Siria, pero menos popular. Por lo que diversificar las alianzas siempre es bueno, y sobre todo con aquellos países que son parte inalienable del eterno conflicto palestino-israelí.  

El ministro de Asuntos Exteriores, Miguel Ángel Moratinos,

subrayó en Damasco la desproporción existente entre las

excelentes relaciones políticas y los paupérrimos lazos económicos

entre ambos Estados. Anunció la inminente llegada de hombres de

negocios españoles a Siria. Aquí reside uno de los puntos clave en el

 acercamiento europeo hacia Siria y, por supuesto, del cambio radical

 que ha operado el pragmático Nicolás Sarkozy, frente al sentimentalismo

 de Jacques Chirac, hacia Bashar al Assad.

Si bien todo Oriente Medio está repartido desde hace tiempo en zonas de

 influencia política y económica entre las antiguas potencias colonas como

Reino Unido y Francia, y nuevas como Estados Unidos, Siria es uno de los

pocos países que debido al largo embargo y aislamiento político representa

 un campo más o menos virgen con un potencial mercado de consumidores,

 un terreno fértil para inversión económica y un aliado político por definir.

 Un lugar donde países como España, que tradicionalmente no tienen

 influencia en Oriente Medio, pueden encontrar un hueco. -N. S.


Ya en 2001, el régimen sirio inició un acercamiento político hacia Israel y la Administración Bush, colaborando con sus servicios secretos y proporcionando valiosa información. Esta actitud de buena voluntad no se vio recompensada y el lobby israelí (AIPAC) siguió presionando al Congreso estadounidense para retirar de la mesa cualquier acercamiento.

Hoy más allá de la cuestión de qué quiere Bashar al Assad, los dirigentes occidentales se preguntan con qué se conformaría el líder sirio. La dinámica del palo y la zanahoria empleada por la Unión Europea y EE UU, hace ya tiempo que no funciona y de ahí el declive de las políticas de democratización en el Magreb y Oriente Medio. Si no se ha logrado reinsertar todavía a Siria en un proceso de paz regional es debido a un desequilibrio entre lo que se le exige y lo que se le ofrece.

En las conversaciones para llegar a un acuerdo de asociación entre la UE y Siria, se le pide a Damasco que pierda poder político y económico a cambio de reconocimiento y unos 250 millones de euros en cinco años. Este se firmará como se han firmado tantos otros en el Magreb. Sin embargo, como en otros regímenes árabes autoritarios, el delicado equilibrio político reposa, entre otros, en un reparto de intereses económicos y políticos entre una burguesía adepta al régimen por un lado y una redistribución (por mínima que sea) entre las clases mas pobres. La apertura de la economía siria y su exposición a la competencia europea puede cortocircuitar el control del régimen sobre su economía y despojar a la oligarquía de sus privilegios. De ahí que una gran parte de la clase política de este país se oponga a la firma del acuerdo. A pesar de la oligarquía, parece que los suecos firmarán el acuerdo en su último mes de presidencia europea.

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Arab Human Development report 2009: Challenges to Human Security in the Arab Countries

I haven’t read it yet but here is the link: AHDR 2009

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Naher al-Bared people waiting for their houses since MAY 2007

Beirut, 12-Oct.09

Natalia Sancha

Today took place a demonstration organized by several Palestinians NGO, among them Nashdi. Te goal, to protest about the slowness of the reconstruction of Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli: Naher Al bared. The camp that was destroyed by Lebanese Army after four months of combats with Fatah al-Islam, haven’t being rebuild since then…this is one year and three month ago. A camp that was housing 30,000 Palestinians, which were relocated following their social networks in others camps as Badawi in the North, or Ein El Helwe in the South.

demonstration_forNaher Albared reconstruction_Martyr squares_121009-4

Today, the discovery of some ruins under the camp during the reconstruction work seems to be the reason of why the reconstruction have being paralyzed since  a couple of months. The general Aoun finds such ruins very interesting and has asked the government to take some more time in order to find out how to preserve them It is interesting to note that almost all Lebanon is on top of incredible historical ruins and that very often I pass by a new construction site where they find roman ruins. The last one was in Gemeyze where housing prices are raising up in this new fashionable neighborhood. They founded ruins when cleaning the space in order to build a new and surely economic fructiferous skyscraper. They clean the area, showed the ruins, took a photo and keep on building over the new discovery as nothing happened. This seems to be the normal procedure when they find a ruin here. But I guess the camps are to politicized territory as to let the ruins succumb to the normal and fatal burial that they would suffer if they where anywhere else in Lebanon.

So far today Palestinian showed up under a strong sun and several Palestinian representative read some speeches. It was sad to learn that nowadays, because of the reconstruction work,  the struggle for power and direction over the Palestinian movement in the Diaspora, is no more the monopole of political movements -Fatah and Hamas- but also among Palestinian NGOs in order to lead the reconstruction and of course gain some more power over Palestinians.

Finally, it was interesting  to note that the demonstration took place at the Martyr’s square, where all Lebanese acts, demonstration and protests normally take place and not in Riad Al Solh, where Palestinians protest normally or any protest against UN takes place.

Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinian are since may 2007 double refugees, having to run away  from their  camp and become guest in another camp.

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Lebanese ordered out of UAE stand at 300, says deportee in Lebanonwire

October 3, 2009 Lebanonwire

Lebanese ordered out of UAE stand at 300, says deportee

BEIRUT – Some 300 Lebanese, mostly Shiite Muslims, have been forced to leave the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over the past three months for political reasons, one of the deportees said Saturday. Hassan Alayan, a Lebanese Shiite businessman deported two months ago, said many of the 10,000 Shiite Lebanese living in the UAE faced being forcibly returned to Lebanon. He said most of those deported had been asked by UAE authorities to inform on fellow Shiite lebanese living in the country and on officials from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. “Some of the deportees were accused of sending funds to Hezbollah,” Alayan said. He insisted that the allegations were baseless against most of those who had been ordered out. The number of deportees has not been confirmed by authorities either in the UAE and in Lebanon. A committee set up to represent the deportees said the deportations may be the result of US pressure to stop funds being sent to Hezbollah, which the US has listed as a terrorist organzation. According to Alayan, some of those deported had been forced to leave even after Lebanese President Michel Suleiman intervened five weeks ago. Alayan said UAE authorities had also deported Palestinians who refused to spy on the militant Hamas group, which rules the Gaza Strip, before the issue started with the Lebanese. -DPA back.gif (883 bytes)

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