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برنامج الأكاديمية 2015

US Delegation

Press Release 

1st US delegation representing Obama in Syria

To examine the Arabs' expectations from the new American President 

      The first American delegation representing newly elected American president Obama arrived in Syria on Tuesday, in a visit aiming at learning about Obama's election impact on the region, the Arab public's expectations from the new president's policy, and how possible it is to apply the "Change" slogan it hoists. On 12-11-2008, in a visit to the headquarters of Damascus-based Arab Institute for International & Diplomatic Sciences attached to the Syrian International Academy for Training & Development, the delegation comprised of intellectuals from various US states stressed that its tour included six Middle Eastern countries (Lebanon, Syria and Jordan), and aimed at transmitting Arabs' impressions and expectations from Obama's future policy in the region, in addition to examining opportunities of dialogue, peace and solving the region issues, to the American public, through direct contacts.


      The delegation outlined that its visit to Syria included the US Counsel in Damascus, Head of Political Office of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) Khaled Mish'aal, with a view to learn about challenges facing the American Administration on the level of its policy in the Middle East, and the Syrian vision of the US policies which can contribute to establishing a just and stable ME. The current phase, according to the delegation, represents a phase of challenges and opportunities for the new American Administration, calling upon the countries of this region – Syria mainly – not to waste dialogue opportunities. During the delegation visit to the Arab Institute for International & Political Sciences at the headquarters of the Syrian International Academy for Training & Development, delegation members inquired about the public's opinion regarding the Arab-Israeli peace conditions and terms, the phase reached by indirect Syrian-Israeli negotiations, circumstances of the American raid on Al Bukamal city and the Syrian retort to the operation, control of Syrian-Iraqi borders issue, in addition to other issues of interest to the new US Administration. 
 

 

New US Administration and how to deal with Syria:

      Chairman of Board of Directors of the Syrian International Academy Dr. Nezar Mihoub maintained that the Syrian public opinion shows a "cautious optimism" regarding Obama's policy in the region, outlining that the American president "is not the US real foreign-policy-maker", and that it is made on three levels: a level that really represents higher American interests (whether oil and arms companies or American citizen). Level 2 is de-facto prevailing conditions. Level 3 is new developments and changes. Dr. Mihoub pointed to the importance of American dialogue with Damascus and change in the European policy towards Syria during the past three months, referring it to Europe's persuasion that the region needs a regional power of balanced policies and impact on all levels. Obama's election, according to Dr. Mihoub, is in line with new developments and varied needs in the region, requiring a changed American policy, on the various levels internally and externally. 

Challenges facing the American Administration:

      In terms of the public opinion regarding challenges facing the new American Administration, Dr. Mihoub spoke of three points: "First, subsequent to the American occupation, Iraq has become an exporter of terrorists. Second, the war on terrorism was rendered by Bush's Administration a policy principle, throwing the latter in a set of mistakes that had their impact more than anything else on the above Administration itself". Mihoub explained that war on terrorism has negatively backfired on the last US Administration because it fought terrorism external forms without fighting the real reasons behind its generation, and adopted the methodology of mistaking national resistance movements for terrorism, placing terrorism in the same category as that of anti Bush policies countries. Mihoub underlined that "Arab and Islamic mindset rejects comparison between terrorists and resistant who fight to evict occupiers".

      The last challenge facing the new American Administration, according to Mihoub, is the Arab-Israeli peace; he considered that a Syrian-Israeli accord would constitute the onset of a comprehensive peace process in the region, considering that the main issue with Israelis for the time being is the Golan Heights; should it be solved, it would be easy to solve other issues. He stressed at the same time that peace will be effective ONLY IF comprehensive for the whole region ensuring the restitution of all occupied territories. 
 

 


Syrian-Israeli negotiations:

      On the level of indirect Syrian-Israeli negotiations mediated by Turkey, Mihoub emphasized the Syrian public positivism of Israel's conviction –militarily and security wise – that peace with Syria is a must (especially after July 2006 war). However, he pointed to the absence of a decisive decision in Tel Aviv political administration regarding peace with Damascus, and mentioned Israel's hardliners exerting violence and killings, refusing to restore territories in exchange for any peace accord. Mihoub also reminded that Israeli Defence Minister Barak "suddenly blew up all that had been reached with Syrians in negotiations during 2000 to conclude peace between the 2 countries when the Israeli government decided then to hold early elections". 

Control of Syrian-Iraqi borders:

      Syrian former Ambassador and Minister Dr. Issa Darweesh outlined that Syria had requested activation of the Tripartite Committee (Syria+ USA+ Iraq) to control infiltration operations through the borders, pointing to Washington's withdrawal from the said Committee without requesting any Syrian assistance in border control. Mihoub reminded of what Syrian officials had stressed in their statements to the press, about the US having precluded a certain European country from providing Syria with advanced surveillance equipment to assist it in controlling borders, pointing that Syrian-Iraqi borders are of 650 KM desert stretch and that it is impossible for any country to fully control them. 

American raid on Al Bukamal and the Syrian retort:

      In reply to the delegation's inquiries about the extent of truth in some American politicians' statements on Al Bukamal operation having assisted in taking out a given terrorist, Dr. Darweesh stressed that the raid victims were 8 Syrian civilian workers. Dr. Mihoub pointed that if a smuggler of terrorists had been one of the targeted victims, American forces would have kept him alive and detained him to corroborate their allegations. The Iraqi government, he stressed, did not have a prior knowledge of the American raid, and that Iraqi Foreign Minister Zibari visited Syria to express apologies to Syrian officials and undertake that Iraq will NOT be the springboard of aggressions against neighbouring countries. 


 
 

As for the Syrian retort to the raid, namely the closing off of the American Cultural School and Centre, Darweesh described it as a moral retort embodying a message conveyed to the American public: "Syria has received you on its soil; the American Administration returned the gesture by killing Syrian civilians on their soil". 

What is required from Obama?

      Rounding off, Dr. Darweesh stressed that a major part of the Change Policy proposed by Obama is linked to the ME, and outlined the Arab public's expectations from Obama:

1- to fulfil his promise in terms of withdrawing American forces from Iraq, allow Iraq to live in peace and independence, have the Iraqi people's will respected

2- to hold dialogue with Syria, cease pressure on it, appoint an American ambassador in Damascus.

He pointed that the Becker-Hamilton Committee report had emphasized Syria's pivotal role in the region. In this context, the Chairman of the delegation reminded what current Saudi Foreign Minister Al Faysal had said upon Camp David Agreement signature, that there will be NO peace in the ME without peace with Syria. 
 

Members of the American Delegation:  

1. Eugene Bird  
2. Barbara Rofkar 
3. Marck Aghnatios 
4. Walter & David Pistor 
5. Francis Sarguis & Darrell Weist 
6. Philip Smucker & Brad Bosserman 
7. PECK/Edward Mr. and Anne Mrs. 
8. Art & Melissa Bechhoefer 
9. Don & Marcia Liebich


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