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BorderWatch:Syria
Diplomatic Buzz
Paper Claims Victory in Pelosi Visit
Syrian Ambassador Warns Against Expecting Too Much
04/03/2007 4:21 PM ET
Al-Thawra
Al-Thawra
Syria’s state-run al-Thawra claims a small victory in Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Damascus today, welcoming the visit as a change of tone, while at the same time lowering expectations for what the visit will mean in the greater picture.

“Al-Sayyida Nancy Pelosi is in Damacsus, not concerned about the protestations of the neoconservatives,” al-Thawra writes, using a common honorific title for the Speaker.

Pelosi seeks to “correct United States foreign policy,” the paper continues, describing previous US policy in the region as a series of failures that have destroyed America’s moral standing, a policy that “knows no policy except war, siege, extortion of its friends, and the development of the enemy camp.”

The paper notes that Pelosi’s visit comes at a time when the Democratic majority is beginning to its attack on the White House over Iraq, in the midst of a struggle between the two over funding, conditional on a timetable for military withdrawal from Iraq.

Pelosi’s visit “profits from the repeated defeats of the administration in Iraq” and “is nourished by the deterioration in George Bush’s popularity in public opinion.”

Al-Thawra notes that the visit builds on the precedent of talking to Syria and Iran, breaking the White House’s boycott.

“Pelosi’s visit is not a minor detail in the American political diary” the paper writes, noting that the US had boycotted Syria since 2003.

Speaker Pelosi tours the Old City of Damascus on Tuesday.
Photo by Louai Beshara/AFP.
Speaker Pelosi tours the Old City of Damascus on Tuesday.
“Pelosi’s visit irritates not only the neoconservatives,” but cuts against the whole policy of confrontation with Syria, and of “putting it on lists of accusations such as support for terrorism (meaning the Palestinian resistance and Hizbullah) and of facilitating the flow of arms to Iraq across the borders, and of undermining the political stability of Lebanon.”

“If Pelosi’s visit is not a denial” of these accusations, it is at least an admission that “dialogue with Syria is necessary and vital, even with the presence of differences and “accusations.”

At the same time, al-Thawra ratchets down expectations with a companion article based on a telephone interview with Syria’s ambassador in Washington, 'Imad Mustafa.

The ambassador said that Pelosi’s visit is “a positive step,” but also adds “that this does not mean at all that the American administration will suddenly change its position.”

The paper also sketches a brief bio of Pelosi, outlining her beginnings in California politics, her transition to the national level, and her rise to the position of the first woman speaker of the House.

Al-Jazeera Net, in its coverage, notes that the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, banned in Syria, addressed a letter to Pelosi expressing “disappointment” with the decision to come to Syria for talks. The letter, signed by the group’s “general observer,” Ali Sadr al-Din al-Bayanouni, called the Syrian regime “One of the few remaining worst regimes of repression in our world today.” Bayanouni said that he would like to direct Pelosi’s attention to what he called the suffering of the Syrian people, deprived of political rights, including the application of the death penalty for anyone belonging to the Brotherhood.

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