Across the Bay

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Visit Assad, Get Egg on Your Face

As though the visiting Congressmen needed any more embarrassment and more proof that Assad's word is worth less than an old onion peel, comes the following news item:

Syrian official media poured scorn late on Tuesday on comments by a visiting US Congressman that he had secured an undertaking from President Bashar al-Assad to free seven jailed dissidents.

Syria "denies the statement by House of Represenatives member Patrick Kennedy that he raised the issue of certain detainees during his meetings with Syrian officials," the state SANA news agency cited an "official source" as saying.

"Syria refuses categorically to discuss its internal affairs with any foreign official. All that a foreign official can do is to be briefed about the situation in Syria in general and to listen to answers.

"No one has the right to interfere in Syria's internal affairs," the official source said.

After talks with Assad on Sunday, Kennedy told a news conference that he had secured an undertaking that Syria would free the seven dissidents, whose arrest last month drew strong criticism from the White House.

"The president said that they would be released," Kennedy told reporters.

The regime didn't stop there. It made sure to sentence dissident Faeq al-Mir to three years in jail the day after the US Congressmen left (this is a pattern. Remember the Pelosi visit?). His crime? He offered condolences to the secretary general of the Lebanese Democratic Left for the murder of George Hawi.

And just for good measure, it made sure to arrest another member of the Damascus Declaration today.

In other words, not a single statement about Syria made by either Congressman during their visit held up. Specter's clueless assertion regarding a French-Syrian document was already proven false even as he made it, when Sarkozy announced the end of his contact with Syria, and the existence of such a document (still peddled to this day by Asef Shawkat's errand boy in al-Hayat, Ibrahim Hamidi) was denied by the French later on. Kennedy's claims were shot down the following day.

This is what you get when you talk to Assad and make ill-advised statements afterwards, like the ones made by Kennedy and Specter. The sad thing is that this is an established pattern. This is what always happens... every single time.