Friday, 21 November 2008

Global goes local

Meanwhile the global credit crisis is washing ashore in Beirut. According to Reuters news agency:

Lebanese real estate developer Solidere said on Thursday that a fall in its share price was temporary, and maintained its 2008 profit outlook, which should remain at the 2007 level of about $130 million.

"The value of the assets of the company is definitely not reflected in this price," Mounir Douaidy, Solidere's general manager and Chief Financial Officer, told Reuters on the sidelines of a business conference in Beirut.

"I don't see the drops in the price really lasting for a long period."

Douaidy said profits for this year should, as forecast, remain near 2007 levels of $130 million.

Shares in Lebanon's largest developer hit a year-low on Thursday.

The A share fell 7.12 percent to $16.95 on the Beirut bourse and its B share shed 8.44 percent to end at $16.80. The share price hit $40 in July.

Picture: Samer Mohdad, Solidaire , Beirut City Center, Lebanon, 1997/2008, Silver print on original mount.

Be regional, demand the impossible

Sami Moubayed notes the warming of relations between Syria and the west led by France and Britain:

The fact that Syria was willing to enter into indirect talks with Israel - under the auspices of a world-recognized honest broker like Turkey - was proof that the Syrians were not as bad as the world had thought since 2003.

The turning point came when French President Nicolas Sarkozy began engaging both Damascus and Hezbollah, to find constructive solutions to the presidential crisis in Lebanon, in 2007.

When the Doha agreement - which had Syria's fingerprints all over it - was hammered out in May, Sarkozy invited Assad to Paris in July. In September, he went to Damascus - signaling a clear break from the policies of his predecessor Jacques Chirac - and met with Assad to discuss the indirect talks between Syria and Israel, via Turkish mediation.

Based on the above, Miliband arrived in Damascus on November 17 for talks with his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Moualem and Assad. His visit, the first for a senior British official since 2001, signals a new start in Syrian-British relations.

Speaking on his arrival in Damascus on Monday, shortly before visiting the historical Umayyad Mosque in the heart of the Old City, Miliband said that Syria had an "essential role" to play in securing Middle East peace.


This regional approach is part of the US rethinking its strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan. I wrote in Socialist Worker:

The US needs Iran's compliance, if not its direct cooperation, to wage its wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Iran shares a long and relatively quiet border with Afghanistan, and it enjoys some influence among sections of the Afghan insurgency.

The regional approach for the US would draw Iran into helping to pull the "moderate Taliban" away from the "hardliners" and into a compromise with the Afghan government.

Much of the chatter in the US media is that Iran and the US share a great deal in common. They both mistrust the Wahhabi Islamist ideology that underpins the Taliban and Al Qaida.

This is neat spin, but it hides another, more important problem. The Wahhabi Islamists have spread fear and death among Shia Muslims, but they cannot overrun Iran or annihilate its economy – only the US can do this. For Iran, the US remains a dangerous enemy camped on its borders.

Iran has emerged out of the US debacles in Afghanistan and Iraq greatly strengthened. So now the new US administration will have to balance its need for Iran's cooperation with unease over its drive to master nuclear technology.