Syrian Newspapers on Obama’s Arab Tour (OSC)

The USG Open Source Center translates and analyzes Syrian Press reports on Obama’s visit to the Arab world

Syrian Papers Discuss Obama’s Arab Tour, Statements; Urge US Pressure on Israel
Syria — OSC Summary
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Document Type: OSC Summary

Syrian newspapers on 4 June discuss US President Barack Obama’s tour of the region and the speech he is scheduled to deliver in Cairo on the same day. The papers welcome Obama’s pre-tour statements and approaches regarding the Middle East peace process but suggest that the United States needs to take actions to pressure Israel into changing its positions.

Damascus Tishrin in Arabic, a government-owned newspaper, says it is “unrealistic” to expect too much from President Obama’s visit “and say that it will change the reality, address the files, and lay the foundations of new relations between the United States and the Arab and Islamic world.”

But the paper describes the visit as “an American step that might be advanced,” and it notes in a 400-word editorial by Izz-al-Din al-Darwish that the visit “was preceded by a series of reassuring statements, especially on the level of serious work to resolve the Arab Israeli conflict and establish peace in the region.”
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The paper adds: “President Obama, who showed some good intentions toward the region and its issues, was eager to make this Arab visit to address the Arabs and Muslims from the heart of their world and to tell them: The American policy of change takes into consideration the American relations with the Arabs and Muslims and that the time has come to work for peace in the region.”

The paper notes Israel’s rejection of President Obama’s positions and statements, which, “the Arabs view as an effort to remove the aftermath or some of the aftermath of the policy that the administration of Bush Junior pursued, a policy that brought real tragedies upon the Arabs and pushed Israel toward the intransigence and aggressiveness it is displaying today.”

Reiterating that Obama’s tour of the Arab region is “just a step,” the paper calls on the US Administration to “make a real effort to correct things, repair what was politically damaged, and make Israel understand that peace serves the interests of all parties and that the international resolutions and the Arab peace plan represent the only way to achieve this peace.”

The paper concludes by saying: “Through what he actually announced and what he is expected to announce today, President Obama suggests that he will not go back on his peaceful promises regarding the region. The Netanyahu-Lieberman government says and does the opposite every day. The Zionist pressure groups are lying in wait. The next days will show who will prevail.”

Damascus Al-Thawrah in Arabic, another government-owned newspaper, says “the US President came to the region at a time the US policy saw as a dividing line between two eras or perhaps as an end to an era that was the most dramatic in the history of this policy toward the region and, indeed, the worst in many of its manifestations.”

In a 300-word front-page article by Ali Qasim, the paper says that Obama isvisiting at a time of “Israeli extremism fever” pushing the region toward “further political tension.” It adds: “While President Obama’s speech to the Islamic world today is expected to determine many of the headlines of the confused relationship between the United States and the region, between the United States and the world, and even between the United States and the United States, the Israelis have already judged the speech. Consequently, the presumed new shape of the relationship has become the test for the limits and scope of what the Americans can do outside the logic of the Israeli acceptance.”

Thepaper says that while many hastened to speculate on the direction that the new US policy will take, President Obama’s characterization of the history of the USrelations with Israel “deserves much contemplation.”

Damascus Al-Ba’th in Arabic, newspaper of the ruling Ba’th Party, stresses that what solves the problems of the region is American action, not words, as the United States is “the only country that can apply pressure on the Zionist entity, which went too far in its aggression and rejection of peace.”

Ina 500-word article by Muhammad Kanaysi, the paper says: “Obama is undoubtedly trying hard to improve the American image, which was tarnished by the policies of his predecessor, especially with regard to the position on the Arab-Israeli conflict. He realizes that the tarnished image greatly harms the interests of his country.”

The paper expects US pressure on Israel within the effort to advance a two-state solution and halt the Israeli settlement activity. But the “problem”, it adds, is that Washington, in return, “will ask the Arabs to make new concessions.”

It explains: “The freeze of the settlement activity and the acceptance of atwo-state solution (and by the way, there is no clear US vision on the proposed Palestinian state) will be presented as a painful Israeli concession the achievement of which requires active American intervention! The Arabs, in return, will have to pay new heavy prices to be added to the prices they have already paid: dropping the right of return, normalizing relations with Israel,and giving up Jerusalem. According to this scenario, the Zionist entity will once again be exempted from paying the dues of the just peace, and the way toward the liquidation of the Palestinian question will be completely paved.”

The paper asks: “Why don’t the Arabs find in America’s pressing need to improve its image among the Arabs and the Muslims in general (in addition to its need for their oil, money, and political support) an opportunity to breathe life into the just and comprehensive solution? For, neither the halt to the settlement activity nor the two-state solution can end the conflict and bring about security and stability in the absence of the other elements of peace and its Arab conditions.”

Thepaper concludes by saying: “The problem of the Arabs lies in their fragmentation and, consequently, in the shortsightedness of some of them and the mortgage of their will at a crucial time when the Palestinian question requires raising the ceiling of Arab demands from President Obama, not offering more fatal concessions.”

Ina 400-word article in Al-Thawrah, Husayn Saqr says the Middle East is “impatiently waiting” the American peace plan that President Obama is expected to reveal in Cairo today.

The writer says: “All indications are that the relations between the United States and Israel might see tensions and bickering, but this will not be enough without public and direct pressure from Washington” on Tel Aviv. If there is no such pressure, the writer says, Israel will remain the obstacle in the way of the United States as it seeks to improve its relations with the Arab and Muslims worlds.

The writer says it is “inconceivable” that Obama’s administration allow the Israeli government to “impose new conditions on the Palestinians and hinder the peace that it seeks to achieve.” The Israeli policy, he adds,needs to be confronted by “a firm position if the United States is serious about regaining the confidence of Arabs and Muslims in it and in its role as aneutral and acceptable mediator.”

Ina 500-word article in Tishrin, Rasha Isa notes that President Obama,before coming to the region, “tried to woo the Arabs with statements that observers unanimously saw as exceptional and remarkable.” The writer says Obama’s statements “created optimism” in the Arab region.

The writer says Obama’s visit to the region also has a “personal dimension”.She notes the president’s “speech ability” and “skillful adoption of what is called ‘personal diplomacy’.” She concludes by saying:”If Obama is serious about offering visions for peace and bridging the gap with our region, he needs to expand the circle of the American vision to include wider dimensions in the issues of the region and then return to theroots of the long and complicated crisis, the essence of which is the occupation. Any solution should end the nightmare of the occupation and returnrights to their owners. Otherwise, we will be moving in a vicious circle.”

In a 500-word article in Al-Thawrah, Muhammad Ali Buzah says Israel’s rejection of Washington’s demand to halt the settlement activity constitutes a”flagrant circumvention” of President Obama’s visit to the region and “a blow to the American effort” to improve the US image in the Arab and Muslims world. Noting that this Israeli position “embarrasses the United States” and “torpedoes the credibility of its president,”the writer calls for “some firmness” in the US position toward Israel.

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