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Italian Commentary on Kerry Rome Talks: Obama `First Big Loser` in Syria War
Il Giornale
Thursday,
May 9, 2013


 


Commentary by Gian Micalessin: “Obama`s Defeat: To Pacify Syria He Is in Cahoots With Putin -- the Spring Is Over: No War on Al-Asad”


The first big loser in the Syrian war is Barack Obama. A With a death toll of 70,000 and after two years of dithering, the White House is at a total loss as to what to do, so it is going into reverse gear and placing its fate in the hands of “enemy” (Russian President) Vladimir Putin.A Thus as the Pentagon sets aside both its plans to arm the rebels and its plans for a potential direct operation, the Democratic Administration is adopting a softer approach with Moscow and it is seeking Russia`s cooperation on getting negotiations going between the government in Damascus and the armed oppositionists.


Obama`s great surrender was sealed precisely in Moscow on Tuesday (7 May) night. A There, after a meeting with President Vladimir Putin preceded by a humiliating two-hour wait, Secretary of State John Kerry announced, in the company of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, that a decision has been reached to hastily organize a negotiating conference with the participation of both regime and rebel representatives. A “We wish to convene it as soon as possible, as early as the end of this month,” Kerry explained, making it clear that Russia will be doing everything in its power to persuade its Syrian ally to agree to dialogue, while Washington will take care of propelling the insurgents toward the negotiating table.


In short, in the space of a mere 24 hours, John Kerry has overturned the political stance that the White House has been pursuing for the past two years, even reneging on what seemed to be that position`s nonnegotiable “red line,” namely refusal to negotiate with a regime led by (Syrian President) Bashar al-Asad. A “The alternative is letting Syria head straight toward the abyss, or if not the abyss, then chaos,” the Secretary of State explained by way of a justification. A But justifications are not enough to conceal the weight of a diplomatic defeat without too many precedents -- a defeat triggered by the errors of judgment made by an administration which was convinced that it could trust Qatar, and which ended up finding itself treading the path mapped out by Doha and backing groups linked to the worst kind of Islamic radicalism.A


Thus in order to wriggle out of that insane alliance, Washington has shelved its Cold War tone with Moscow and is now seeking a compromise. A Vladimir Putin and his men are obviously very happy to be in a position to offer that.A After risking seeing itself coldshouldered out of all the games in the Middle East, Moscow is anxious to win back its influence of yore and it is even taking great care not to overdo things.A “I would like to stress that we are not interested in the fate of specific people; we are interested in the fate of the Syrian people as whole,” Lavrov explained, making it clear that he can even live with Bashar al-Asad`s quitting the scene if such is the decision agreed on in the context of a negotiating process.


Of course, Washington now has to reckon with the big absentees, in other words with the armed opposition groups to which it has so often promised that it would not come to terms with Al-Asad. A The representatives of the so-called National Opposition Coalition are maintaining an embarrassed silence for the time being, while Walid al-Safur, their spokesman in London, said that he is “skeptical” regarding the initiative. A But the heaviest stumbling block for Washington is now going to be weaning the armed groups away from the influence of Qatar, of Saudi Arabia, and of Turkey. A


Having changed its course, Washington now has to neutralize those of its “allies” that are putting their money on the Syrian armed opposition not in order to guarantee a democratic transition in Damascus but in order to exercise regional influence and to counter the Shiite axis comprising Syria and Iran. A Otherwise the United States is in danger of once again witnessing what happened in Afghanistan 30 years ago, when the influence of Saudia Arabia and of Pakistan, which had been delegated to arm the anti-Soviet groups, brought numerous mujahiddin flooding into Al-Qa`ida`s camps.


(Description of Source: Milan Il Giornale in Italian -- right-of-center daily owned by the Berlusconi family)


© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.


Column views Italy`s role in Mideast peace process as USA`s Kerry visits
BBC Monitoring European
May 09, 2013


With the merry-go-round of high-level meetings and bilateral talks launched by US Secretary of State John Kerry`s arrival in Rome, Italy is once again at the heart of international politics, imparting a seriously fresh boost to its role in the peace process in the Middle East, ranging from the Israeli-Palestinian issue to Syria. Kerry today will be meeting with Prime Minister Enrico Letta, with Foreign Minister Emma Bonino, and with Quartet special envoy Tony Blair. [passage omitted]


The Italian Government is bent on turning Rome into a stable location for the peace process in Palestine, and that is why the meetings have been so carefully prepared, with the dispatch to Rome some days ago of US special envoy for the Middle East David Hale, and with the work being done by the Farnesina`s [Italian Foreign Ministry] Middle Eastern team. After meeting with [Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi] Livni, Minister Bonino said: “Italy will continue, also in a European context, to guarantee the activity that Kerry is conducting for a resumption of the peace process.” And this, because Rome, working in perfect harmony with Washington, intends to “protect” the sensitive path ahead: Sure enough, the United States hopes that Europe will back it up over the excellent ground work laid in an attempt to get negotiations going again - the Obama administration has been pulling out all the stops in that connection - and avoid any reasons for attrition: a precaution that is aimed at the General Affairs Council meeting in Brussels on 27 May, where rumours are going the rounds of an agenda that might include the Israeli-Palestinian issue. What we need to avoid, another diplomatic source explained, is precisely that “any nuanced distinctions or any imprudent rushing ahead may occur at that European forum.” The guidelines that Kerry discussed with Tzipi Livni are clear: special goals in a specific time frame. In other words, the hurdles in the dispute between the two sides must be resolved before summer`s end: The Palestinians are demanding a freeze on settlements (which were informally suspended by the Israeli prime minister on the eve of Kerry`s trip), an exchange of territory on the basis of the 1967 borders, and the release of prisoners; while the Israelis are demanding recognition of the state of Israel`s existence.


Kerry will be in Israel and in Palestine again on 21 and 22 May for further talks with [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu and with Abu-Mazin [Palestinian [National] Authority (PNA) President Mahmud Abbas], and to get negotiations that have now been broken off for fully three years going again. And a crucial issue, not to say a contingent reason for getting those talks off the ground again, is also to prevent the Syrian conflict from infecting the peace process.


Syria was in fact another of the issues on which Kerry`s bilateral talks in Rome focused. Flying in from Moscow where he met with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and with [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov, Kerry announced an international conference in Geneva, as well as the earmarking of some USD 100 million for the refugees. [passage omitted]


Emma Bonino reminded John Kerry that Italy has just increased its humanitarian aid and that it expects to host also the next meeting of the Friends of Syria group, after the one held in February this year. The solution being sought for Syria is a political one, and the precondition for its success is [Syrian President] Bashar al-Asad`s departure from the scene, as White House Spokesman Jay Carney stressed again in Washington last night and as the coalition of Syrian oppositionists repeated in Beirut.


Source: La Stampa, Turin, in Italian 9 May 13 p 17


© 2013 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


Italian foreign minister says immediate military solutions in Syria not possible
BBC Monitoring European
May 08, 2013


Report, with comment, by Maurizio Caprara: “Kerry: `An International Summit on Syria`”


Now approximately two years and two months - and a death toll estimated to lie somewhere between 70,000 and 80,000 - have gone by since [Syrian President] Bashar al-Asad first began to open fire on peaceful protests against his regime, the United States has won from Russia a pledge to work on preparing an international conference, to be held before the end of May, on the restoration of peace in Syria. It is too soon to tell whether that will mean a change of mood for the better between the White House and the Kremlin, which was not totally successfully achieved during President Barack Obama`s first mandate, yet the amenability not to impart permanence to the two countries` distance over Damascus which US Secretary of State John Kerry seems to have won in Moscow yesterday, before setting out for Rome today, was anything but a foregone conclusion.


“We have agreed that Russia and the United States will both encourage the Syrian Government and the opposition groups to find a political solution,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told journalists, discussing the conference under construction. With the arrival in Rome of Kerry, who was received also by Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday, the civil war in Syria will acquire a less marginal role than usual also on the Italian Government`s agenda. Indeed, it is one of the main issues that Prime Minister Enrico Letta and Foreign Minister Emma Bonino will be addressing in their talks with the Obama administration`s representative tomorrow.


Persuading Russia to put behind it its resistance to international measures against Damascus`s dictatorship, which has been useful to the Kremlin since the days when the Soviet Union backed Bashar`s father [former Syrian President] Hafiz al-Asad, was a priority for Washington. Yet the European allies continue to carry weight for the United States as it wonders how to reduce Bashar`s military potential. Italy has to fine-tune the position on the Syrian arms embargo that it will be adopting at an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting scheduled for the end of this month. The decisions that the EU has adopted against Al-Asad to date hamper the possibility of supplying weapons not only to the president but also to the rebels. The United Kingdom and France have insisted that the embargo be lifted and that the rebels be supplied with arms, but Germany is pulling on the handbrake.


Italy has adopted an intermediate position, stating also that it is necessary to prevent the humanitarian tragedy currently under way. Adjusting the guidelines may influence Europe`s decisions. Kerry yesterday argued that if the peace conference sees the light of day, his country can avoid arming the insurgents. That is a gesture of respect for Moscow. We shall have to wait and see whether the next few weeks confirm that gesture. “I do not think that military solutions are possible in Syria, at least not in the immediate term,” Emma Bonino said, speaking in London yesterday, “but pushing for a political solution also means acting in such a manner that the forces on the ground are more balanced in some way,” she added, voicing the hope for “a united stance not only within the Italian Government but also within Europe.”


Over a week since 29 April, the day on which [Turin daily] La Stampa publicly admitted that it had not heard from its Syria envoy Domenico Quirico for 20 days, the Italian foreign minister made a remark that was far from reassuring. “It is not a positive sign that nothing has happened, that there has been no reaction, no signal after the news was made public,” Emma Bonino said.


Source: Corriere della Sera, Milan, in Italian 8 May 13 p 20


© 2013 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


Turkish minister says Al-Asad “pressed button for Plan B”
BBC Monitoring European
May 08, 2013


Syria`s government has pressed the button to implement “Plan B” following the latest killings in Banias, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said, claiming that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is launching a fifth step to create a safety corridor for Nusayris between the central city of Homs and Lebanon.


During a telephone conversation with US counterpart John Kerry on May 6, Davutoglu conveyed his concerns about the latest alleged massacre by Damascus. Activists reported the bodies of at least 62 people had been found over the weekend in a Sunni district of the port city of Banias after an assault by the government.


The foreign minister told daily Hurriyet that the regime and Shabiha forces were trying to “cleanse” the corridor between Homs and Lebanon and likened this strategy to the ethnic cleansing of the 1990s in Srebrenica and eastern Bosnia that was conducted with the goal of creating a Serb-dominated area free of Bosniaks.


FIFTH STEP


“As I told Mr Kerry, the slaughter in Banias is a new stage. Until now, the regime has followed four stages. The first one was to direct snipers to peaceful protests. The second one was to `punish` the cities with artillery and tanks. Then cities began to resist, so he passed to the third stage: air bombardment. In the fourth stage, he began to use Scud missiles,” Davutoglu said. “Al-Assad has now shifted his strategy to ethnically cleanse a certain area of the country since he can not control everything. This is the strategy of what they call `Plan B` linked to sectarian clashes, aiming to create a corridor for a sect.”


The foreign minister also said Turkey would be a protector of Nusayris, also known as Alawites, if a similar atrocity were perpetrated against them.


Source: Hurriyet website, Istanbul, in English 8 May 13


© 2013 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


 



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