Saturday, June 10, 2006

Ghadry's Reform Party of Syria Slams Bayanouni and Khaddam

The meeting of the National Salvation Front in London last weekend has provoked a counter-attack from Farid Ghadry. It should be recalled that Ghadry's Syrian Reform Party, a Washington-based Syrian exile group, was excluded from the Damascus Declaration and its follow up conference in Washington DC. Both were precursors of the recently formed National Salvation Front, which threatens to push Ghadry’s group aside.

In a circular entitled: "Saudis behind efforts to install Islamist extremists and Ba'athists in Syria to serve as a proxy against Iraqi democracy," Ghadry's Syrian Reform Party has announced that the Saudis are "funding and sponsoring the National Salvation Front." Moreover, the SRP claims that it has "uncovered a pernicious link between the Saudi government and the Ba’athist friendly National Salvation Front" that is part of a "wider regional plan to undermine the young democracy in Iraq and to promote wider regional sectarian conflict”

The SRP insists that the reason Saudi is funding the "anti-democratic Syrian opposition" is because they have "seen the success of the alliance between Islamists and Baathists in Iraq" and hope to replicate this alliance in Syria in order to "install a government in Syria that they can control" and which will "serve their own agenda."

Just as interesting, as this broadside, for which no evidence is given, is the sharpening dispute within the Bush administration over which Syrian opposition wing to pay attention to - the more popular NSF or the pro-Bush administration SRP.

Ghadry supporters within the administration and on the far right asked him to testify to congress and give a talk in the wake of the NSF confab in London. Ghadry is clawing his way back on stage. Helping him to do this is the

The Congressional Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia, which is chaired by Congresswoman Ileana Ross-Lehtinen (R-FL)(See photo). She and Eliot Engel (D. NY) were the sponsors of the Syrian Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Act. They have spearheaded the anti-Syrian legislation in congress.

(Addendum: Ghadry and his immediate family have given $8,000 to Ross-Lehtinen and Engel over the last three years. See this. Also see the smart post by George Ajjan on the hearings.)

Ileana, asked five people to give testimony on Syria and "recommendations regarding the Syria Accountability Act and the state of human rights conditions inside Syria."
The official site of the hearing is here.

Panel I: included Congressman Eliot L. Engel, (see photo) who sponsored the Syria Accountability Act with Ross-Lehtinen.

Panel II was composed of Theodore Kattouf,(Former American Ambassador to Syria) and now President of Amideast, who is not inimical to the Syrian government; as well as three advocates of regime change) Mr. Farid Ghadry, Reform Party of Syria; Marius Deeb, a Lebanese Professor at SAIS, Johns Hopkins; Mr. David Schenker, Fellow at WINEP and ex-Rumsfeld aid.

The testimony given is summarized in a Voice of America article here. Theodore Kattouf said:

"Many if not most Syrians would welcome a much more open and democratic society, and a leadership that while nationalistic, was far less oppressive," said Theodore Kattouf. "But my strong sense is that they also want change to be brought about through their own efforts and managed in a way that prevents sectarian bloodletting and even civil war.”
Eliot Engels said that the Bush administration, which said it was waiting to gather support from other nations before implementing stronger measures, must act now.

"The delay I believe is no longer acceptable," said Eliot Engel. "The time has come to impose the full range of penalties envisioned in the act. And if we don’t do it in conjunction with other countries, we should absolutely do it alone, right now."
David Schenker went through the argument in his recent article linked to SC a few posts ago. He said efforts by Congress and the administration to turn up the heat [on Damascus] have been hampered by distractions, such as Iraq, but did not believe that the administration had the power "to pressure the Syrians to change their key problematic policies." He said: "Can we expect modifications at the margins? Possibly. Significant policy changes? Not likely."

Maurice Deeb emphasized the importance of working through the United Nations and pointed to the latest example of the impact of the Syria Accountability Act: the withdrawal of U.S. Marathon Oil Company from Syria.
Farid Ghadry said internal opposition to President Assad remains stifled, the exile opposition divided, and U.S. policies inconsistent. He advocated a stronger and highly visible stance by the Bush administration and Congress supporting democratic changes in Syria.

"To actually call for democracy and freedom for the Syrian people, to actually call [for] rescinding some of the laws, to lifting the emergency laws in Syria," said Farid Ghadry. "Then you would bring the Syrian people to your side. Once you do that, the pressure will be tremendously immense on the system."
So what do we learn from this? The US is unwilling and incapable at this time to pressure Syria effectively. First, the mass of Syrians are not sympathetic to American efforts, according to Kattouf. America does not have the power to significantly hurt Syria, according to Schenker. Europe and Washington are busy putting out fires in Iran and Iraq and will not pour oil on the Syrian embers in the meantime. Although the UN and Europe could hurt Syria, they will not do it. The only way to change Syria, according to Ghadry, is if the US commits itself to regime-change in Syria by throwing itself openly and emphatically behind the goal of bringing democracy to Syria, something Schenker, who should know, explained the USG cannot do and Kattouf explained it should not do. By holding the hearings, the two congress members have sewn up the votes and donations of their respective Lebanese and Jewish constituents. They also help put Farid Ghadry back in the limelight. Ghadry was also given the chance to insist on the record that the US support his group and not the "repackaged Baathist-Muslim Brother" alternative. In further support of Ghadry, a gaggle of neocon supporters led by Frank J. Gaffney invited Ghadry to speak at the Stanton Group Meeting on 26 May 2006 along with a member of the Heritage Foundation. Ghadry may be down after recent defections and expulsions from his Party, but he certainly isn't out.

State Department spokespeople have recently said that they are open to all sections of the Syrian opposition and are eager to hear what the National Salvation Front has to say and offer. This news was a direct challenge to Ghadry and his supporters within the government. They have fought back this week, helping to provide Farid Ghadry with a forum to trumpet his claim that the NSF is neither democratic nor pro-American, whereas, his SRP is both, according to Ghadry.


At 6/10/2006 02:55:00 PM, Blogger HARBOOK said...

Ghadry may be the most inarticulate spokesman I have yet seen. He is the greatest "nassab" to forge his name on the mantle of this administration. And by the way, Ross-Lehtinen seems kin to a belief in the outrightly evidenced by her scientology background. Ghadry is our Tom Cruise, just not as good looking.

At 6/10/2006 03:08:00 PM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

During the meeting, Ross-Lehtinen supposedly complained that a large part of the Syria Accountability Act was not being followed properly. She cited the example of the Syrian Ambassador in Washington who is supposed to adhere to strict travel restrictions. She promised to urge the Administration to do that and more.

At 6/10/2006 04:21:00 PM, Blogger Innocent_Criminal said...

To me the whole lot are a bunch of monkies. and the more we discuss them the more we give them undeserved attention.

Anyways the Brammertz report is out. NOTHING NEW and there will be another year extension.

At 6/10/2006 05:22:00 PM, Blogger Joe M said...

I watched the hearing on C-Span and it was a total disgrace. Ileana Ross-Lehtinen is absolutely the most bigoted and irrational person in congress. She is the author of the recent house bill H.R. 4681: Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 which tries to classify all lands occupied by Israel to be a "terrorist sanctuary", thus banning all American individuals and companies from have any relationship to anyone in those lands. It would even ban selling them medicine or food if they are starving or dying. Even the Israeli government thought it was harsh.

The only good thing that can be said about this hearing is that no one was in attendance. The only congress people there were the typical gaggle of the most racist and anti-Arab Jews, like Engel, Berkley and Ackerman. No one took it seriously. I personally would have liked to have seen at least one sympathetic congress person come and grill these fools on their complete stupidity. Really, the whole thing was a total disgrace. It made me ashamed to have American citizenship.

At 6/10/2006 05:54:00 PM, Blogger Yabroud said...

"""It made me ashamed to have American citizenship."""

No problem. Ask Bashar Assad to give you the Syrian Citizenship. Marrying a Syrian woman will not grant you that wonderful citizenship, but if you would marry a man, perhaps, they would allow you to get it. ask landis who married a Syrian woman. Not even their son may be granted citizenship.

Then, pass your US citizenship to a Syrian freedom thirsty young man or woman.

At 6/10/2006 06:13:00 PM, Blogger Alex said...

The report did not find anything against Syria... they even noted the "generally satisfactory" cooperation from Syria.

So what are they planning to do for the next year in Lebanon? will Michael Young continue to analyze every "failure" on the Syrians' side? will Annahar writers continue to shake their heads in disappointment as they continue to be sure that they KNOW the Syrians did it? ... From day one they KNEW beyond any doubt that the Syrians did all the killings in Lebanon... two years later the specialized UN team can not find ANYTHING .. yet those professional journalists, and even the majority of regular people smoking argeeleh were much more successful finding more than one smoking gun to prove the Syrian president did it .. remember

the 007 Spy pen that supposedly Chirac gave the late Hariri that recorded the conversation where Bashar supposedly threatened Hariri and Hariri went back to Lebanon shaken? … where is that pen now?

Remember the Ottoman era mass graves ... can someone go back to the date when they found the graves and read Annahar's coverage of the savagery of the Syrians?

of Lynn Maalouf was equally sure the Syrians did it, and she was more sure they will dig many more mass graves that no one else in Lebanon could have possibly done it during the civil war years .. only the Savage Syrians.

Did anyone bother to wait to see who did it?

Remember how they all believed and widely reported the story that the Lebanese heads of security organizations who were arrested last year already admitted from day one their role and Syrians’ roles in the killing? … really?

They always ridicule the pathetic Syrian press ... and they are right there at least. But I wish they can also look at their side as well ... their freedom of speech in Lebanon is a good thing if it is restrained by "responsibility and accountability" ... if they would like to see them selves as "western-class" journalists ... they need to learn a bit more about responsibility.

The above sounds like Anti-Lebanese, I know. But it is only an example of what I want to say to many others who look at the situation in the Middle East in Black and White, good and bad guys, democracy lovers and dictators … you are causing considerable damage to everything and to everybody .. your interests and the other side’s interests.

And another clarification .. I am not saying that the Syrians are surely innocent, everything is possible. But, given that at this point it really does not seem to be very likely that “Bashar killed Hariri” or that “the Syrians are so stupid” … can we for now, 18 months later, get moving with improving Syrian Lebanese relations? … you can and should always insist on the many legitimate Lebanese issues, but please drop the stupidity and criminality charges … for now at least. You can always go back to them when you have a proof.

At 6/10/2006 06:36:00 PM, Blogger Joshua Landis said...

Dear Joe, Ileana Ross-Lehtinen may me bigoted, but she isn't irrational. She has crafted a very successful career in public office, serving in the US congress since 1989 - more than 25 years. She knows what she is doing. Part of her secret is that she has advocated for scads of single issue interest groups very effectively. As you mention, the Jewish lobby is one of them. By sponsoring legislation against the Palestinians far harsher than any Likud government would propose, she makes it very clear which side she is on and sets herself apart from the crowd that is competing for donations from Jewish hardliners.

She has done this with scores of groups besides the Jewish lobby. I am not sure we should chalk this up to personal conviction, but rather to smart politics. Although her mother was Jewish, she converted to Catholicism on marrying Ileana's father. Ileana used to include her Catholicism in her official bio, but she no longer does. Some suggest this is because she has sponsored legislation for the Church of Scientology, goes to their functions, and won big donations from leading Scientologists.

Here is what one author writes of her connection to Scientology:

I have never seen this many campaign donations from Scientologists to a political campaign in recent history, nor have I seen such obvious quid pro quo in return for these donations.

She is effusively praised by Scientology in a recent issue of International Scientology news.

That's not all. She has now drafted a bill to be introduced into the United States Congress known as the "Trans-Atlantic Religious Protection Act." This will penalize European governments that discriminate against US-based institutions and companies and give real teeth to the United States' commitment to religious freedom across Europe.

Why does she do this? Well, she does it for money, mainly.

She learnt her modus operandi from the Cuban community. She was born in Cuba in 1953 but came to the States as a child when Castro took over. She has sponsored lots of good anti-Castro Cuba legislation.

Although most of her registered donations come from Miami, the biggest three metro areas from which her donations came outside of the state were LA, Washington, and Detroit - Yes, Detroit. That would be Lebanese.

She has also slammed Pakistan with legislation in order to court the Indian-American lobby. She slammed Turkey over the Cyprus issue to get Greek money, and on and on.

This helped her to get the Chairmanship of the House Foreign Relations Committee and keep her campaign chest full. She may be unscrupulous, but not irrational.

At 6/10/2006 09:15:00 PM, Blogger Joe M said...

sorry, i did not mean that it was irrational for her, but for the world at large. The additional information on Ross-Lehtinen is important to know though.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home