Confidence building with new dialogue

Syria's government-controlled Al Thawrah newspaper carried an editorial by As'ad Aboud saying one of the main reasons for the tension between Syria and the Bush administration was the US occupation of Iraq. "We do not know how far American intentions with regard to Syria went during that stage of tension. But we know that Syria continued to show good intentions about establishing good relations with the superpower, the United States," he wrote.

"Syria rejected the occupation of Iraq, and it still believes that the occupation was a catastrophe. The United States has recently acknowledged that what happened was serious and that it led to a big tragedy." Washington's new desire to end the occupation has brought it closer to Syria. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman described his meetings in Damascus this weekend as a "thorough and very constructive dialogue". "We are watching with optimism the developments of the dialogue, and we will create all the opportunities so that the dialogue will not be an objective in and of itself," Aboud wrote.

The crisis between Morocco and Iran is not new," wrote Khairallah Khairallah, a regular columnist for Kuwait's independent newspaper Al Rai al Aam. "It is a crisis between a country that is open to the world and calls for modernity and believes in the culture of life, ie Morocco, and an Iranian regime that believes in expansion, domination, and exporting the culture of death."

But what pushed the Morocco to sever diplomatic relations with Iran at this juncture? he asked. The two factors seem to be the Iranian attitude towards the Kingdom of Bahrain, and Iranian political and security activities, under a sectarian cover, in Morocco. "What Morocco did is something that many other countries do not dare to do. What is important now is that the Moroccan step must not remain an orphan," Khairallah wrote.

"What is needed now is a united Arab stance to tell the Iranians that their ploys are not deceiving anyone and that the Iranian projects, especially in inciting sectarian strife, only serve, in the end, a state called Israel."

Jordan's independent newspaper Al Arab al Yawm ran an opinion article by Fahed al Khitan saying the ongoing Palestinian divisions render the task of training the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' police a Jordanian service to one faction against the other. "The role of the Palestinian police has been associated lately with curbing the Hamas Movement and weakening its capability in the West Bank cities, according to an agenda in which the Israeli interests converge with the interests of Abbas' authority," he wrote. "It is not in Jordan's interest to continue training the Palestinian police whose name is linked to Jordan among the inhabitants of the West Bank, especially since the job of these forces has changed and become at the service of Israel's security."

Israel is employing the force as a cover-up to implement its settlement-building project. "We have to pause a little bit and reassess the case in what serves our interests. The task did not fulfil its purposes and the presence of qualified Palestinian forces did not eliminate the threats posed to Jordan," al Khitan wrote.

Through the developments in the Syrian capital Damascus, one could conclude that Obama's "change" slogans are being translated at the level of American-Syrian relations," the Chief Editor Taher al Adwan wrote in Jordan's independent Al Arab al Yawm daily newspaper. While assistant secretary of state Jeffrey Feltman was holding talks with Walid al Muallem in Damascus, Hillary Clinton was in Ankara praising Turkey's role in the Syrian-Israeli negotiations. "Dialogue has thus replaced confrontation and diplomacy has replaced coldness between Washington and Damascus," he wrote. However, all these positive developments might face a major setback if Israel's hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu were to form an extremist government.

"There is a great chance of seeing the moderate and rejectionist Arab countries coming together during the upcoming Arab summit and rallying around a unified and efficient strategy to blockade Netanyahu's government." * Digest compiled by

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