DE RUEHDM #0828 3251412
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 201412Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5597
INFO RUCNNAF/NORTH AF NEA AND SOUTH ASIAN COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000828
DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ELA, NEA/PPD, INR/NESA, IIP, PA, ECA, BEIRUT FOR
SISON, GRANT, LENZEN
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO PGOV PREL SY
SUBJECT: DAMASCUS MEDIA REACTION - THE U.S.-IRAQI SECURITY AGREEMENT
SPARKS A FEUD BETWEEN AN IRAQI AND SYRIAN OFFICIAL
1. (SBU) Summary and Comment: Syrian media reported extensively on
the argument between the Syrian and Iraqi Ministers of Information
at the November 17 Conference for Arab Ministers of Information and
Telecommunications in Damascus. Media reports stated that Syrian
Information Minister Bilal reiterated the SARG's concerns that the
U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement allows the U.S. to usurp Iraq's
sovereignty and threatens Syria. Iraqi Telecommunications Minister
Kader, who led the Iraqi delegation, stated that Syria must not
interfere in Iraq's internal politics. The press wrote that the
Secretary General of the Arab League intervened to quell the
dispute. This argument is the latest public dispute between Syria
and Iraq regarding matters of regional security. Syria has launched
a media campaign to paint the Iraqi government as succumbing to U.S.
demands. End Summary and Comment.
Feud on the Floor
2. (SBU) Al-Watan, a private Syrian newspaper with daily circulation
of 25,000, reported on the argument between the Syrian and Iraqi
ministers at the November 17 Conference of Arab Ministers of
Information and Telecommunications. Syria's Information Minister
Bilal said the U.S. is "trying to impose its conditions on Iraqis
and to legalize the arbitrary and usurping presence of their
[forces] on Iraqi territory with this accord."
3. (SBU) The Syrian Minister continued by stating the agreement
"rewards the American occupier and gives it rights at the expense of
the Iraqi people and their neighbors... The people in Iraq cannot
accept anything which damages their history, independence, dignity,
or anything that damages neighboring countries." Al-Watan noted
that the Iraqi Telecommunications Minister responded angrily,
accusing Syria of "interfering in Iraqi internal affairs" and
declaring that Iraqis would "not stand for such interference."
The Arab League Secretary General Plays Peacekeeper
4. (SBU) All4Syria, a popular moderately independent website, and
Al-Watan newspaper reported that Arab League Secretary General Amr
Moussa had to intervene to calm down the two Ministers. The Iraqi
minister told media outlets that the Secretary General eased the
dispute between them over a "cup of coffee."
5. (SBU) Comment: This argument on the conference floor is the
latest in an ongoing public spat between Syrian and Iraqi officials.
The SARG has launched an active media campaign using television,
radio, and print media to discredit the U.S.-Iraqi Security Pact.
FM Mouallem echoed this theme in his joint press conference with
visiting Iraqi FM Zebari last week. We will watch SARG rhetoric
carefully during the upcoming November 22-23 Border Security Working
Group to see if there is any softening of Syria's public line. End