Syria Defies American Demands
Hala Jaber, writing for the Times of London from Damascus explains:
Syria rejects US call for Lebanon pulloutI don't know how far this is going to get Syria? There is not much the US can do right away, but if the EU joins sanctions, it will be another story. Most European diplomats in Syria believe Syria should get the Golan, which may impede the US's attempt to railroad for sanctions.
SYRIA has defied American demands to withdraw its forces from Lebanon and to disarm Hezbollah militants, insisting that Israel must first pull out of the Golan Heights.
The government in Damascus has been under growing pressure from Washington since last week’s assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister and forthright critic of Syria’s military presence in his country. President George W Bush recalled the US ambassador to Syria and demanded an international investigation of the killing.
Ayman Abdel Nour, a leading Syrian analyst, said yesterday that Damascus had now told senior American officials that a unilateral withdrawal of its 15,000 troops was out of the question until Israel ended its occupation of the Golan Heights, which it seized from Syria in 1967 and annexed 14 years later.
“Syria has national interests which must be fulfilled before it can withdraw from Lebanon and this has been relayed to American members of Congress, the Senate and the State Department,” Nour said. “If the United States uses its leverage and pressures Israel fully to return the Golan Heights, only then can Syria fully withdraw from Lebanon.”
Nour also said Syria was concerned that if its forces were driven out of Lebanon in a humiliating manner, it could lead to a rift between the peoples of the two countries which would “last for generations”... (more)
Hizbollah cools down anti-Syria rhetoric: Al-Jazeera reports that the leader of Hizbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, issued a stark warning on Saturday saying the popular agitation against Syria following the assassination of former prime minister is not helpful....
Bashar does some house cleaning:
Syria replaces intelligence chief: Shawkat is in charge of intelligence at home and abroad Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has appointed his brother-in-law as head of military intelligence, reports say.
Brig Gen Asef Shawkat replaced Gen Hassan Khalil, who at 65 had surpassed retirement age.
Syrian sources say the appointment could suggest Mr Assad is consolidating his hold over the security services.
As head of military intelligence, Gen Shawkat will oversee Syria's domestic and foreign intelligence operations, including in Lebanon. Gen Shawkat, 54, was previously deputy military intelligence chief and is married to President Assad's sister, Bushra.
General Ghazaleh, Syria's top ranking security officer in Lebanon, has also been sacked. I am not sure who will take his place.