tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Where in the world is Khaled Meshal (going)?

The Kuwaiti daily al-Rai al-Aam reported [ARABIC] last week that the Damascus-based politburo chief of Hamas, Khaled Meshal, is being relocated to Sudan. (Hamas then denied the report.)

[Meshal is pictured here with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad in 2006.]

Speculation is that:

A) Syria is tossing Meshal as a signal to Israelis that top-level peace talks should resume (Israelis and Syrians are still engaged in low-level peace talks via Turkey);
B) Syria is trying to disengage itself from the clutches of Iran (perhaps to advance said peace talks with Israel) and is sending a message to Hamas to get off Iran's teat or else;
C) Syria struck a deal with Meshal to lay low in Sudan for awhile while it makes a half-hearted effort to curry favour with Israel and the West.

While C seems all too predictable an answer for even casual observers of Middle East politics, consider this:

1. After Syrian President Bashar al-Assad participated in a summit last week in Qatar with leaders from France and Turkey to discuss advancing the peace process, Iranian state news exclaimed that "no effort can distance Syria from Iran." (A statement of fact that nicely doubles as a threat.)

2. At least some Israeli officials believe President al-Assad is genuinely interested in kick-starting serious peace talks again; and perhaps further that al-Assad really is fed up with Hamas.

3. And, a release by the US-based anti-Assad Syrian Reform Party alleged that Khaled Meshal's personal secretary in Syria, Hisham al-Labadani, was dragged from his car last week in the Syrian city of Homs and shot to death. While suspect as a news source, the SRP's claim is backed up by reports that Hamas is beefing up security around is Syria-based leaders for fear of assassination.

The SRP believes that moderate factions within al-Assad's regime are trying to strengthen ties with the West and sever the long-standing umbilical cord to Iran, and that al-Assad himself is playing both sides so as to not isolate his country from either Iran or the West until he can make the best move (for him).

So has Meshal packed his bags? Nobody knows for sure at the moment. The Hamas leader has lived in Damascus for more than 10 years, ever since Israel's Mossad tried and failed to assassinate him in Jordan. But with Hamas evermore dependent on Iranian funding, it is unlikely that Meshal's departure from Syria - if it happens - will be amicable.

For more analysis, read Ramzy Baroud's comment in al-Ahram [ENGLISH].

No comments: