Morning Report: April 11, 2005

Bolton to face confirmation fight. John Bolton is expected to face a tough confirmation hearing as President Bush's nominee for the post of US Ambassador to the United Nations, according to news reports. (CNN)

Syria: Top-down regime change? A recent article at Debka suggests that Syria's Bashar Assad may be trying to forestall an overthrow of his government with a "a secret crash reform program – although one that is careful not to put the presidency on the block." The three-month program calls for local elections, district appointments of officials, and approval of sweeping reforms. 'According to our Middle East sources, Assad’s plan to jettison the old political structures and with them the old guard he inherited from his father exposes him to a fight to the death from such formidable figures as Abdullah al Ahmed, acting general secretary of the Syrian Baath, who took over on Hafez Assad’s death and all three vice presidents Zuheir Masharka, Khalim Haddam and Muhammed Jaber Jabjush. They are all warning Assad that if he goes through with his plan he will be riding for a fall and risk the eclipse of the Assad dynasty in Syria.' The Debka report also examines the possibility that the program is a smokescreen designed to divert Washington's attention. (Debka)

Iraqi bloggers welcome Talabani. Omar at Iraq the Model: 'This new formation of presidency in Iraq will certainly strengthen the unity of this nation and it prove again that Iraq is a home for all Iraqis; not only the Arabs, not only the She'at or any other single race or sect. I would be just as happy if the president was Turkmen or Assyrian or from any other segment of the wide social spectrum of Iraq. It doesn't matter where you come from or what your religion is, if you're good and if the people think you're good, then you can reach the position you deserve. This is the new Iraq and this is how it's going to be from now on, whether the terror-tyranny alliance likes it or not.' Alaa at The Mesopotamian: 'I think it is well that the Kurds have insisted on the selection of Jallal Talabani to the post of president. To start with, it is a very good antidote to emotional separatist sentiments amongst the Kurds; although I am convinced that those sentiments are of impulsive rather than serious nature. It has been extremely wise that the Iraqi Alliance insisted on reaching agreement with the Kurdish faction rather than any other. Numerically, it would have been possible to get the required majority by different alignments. Any alliance against the wishes of our Iraqi Kurds would have had disastrous consequences. I suspect the wisdom of Sistani behind this. Besides, Talabani or Mam Talabani (Uncle Talabani) as he is called in Iraqi Kurdistan, is an old veteran politician of high degree of political skill and famous maneuvering ability. And, above all he has his heart absolutely in the right place. Symbolically, it is very valuable. It signals equality between all Iraqis and that any Iraqi can reach the highest office regardless of creed or race. Therefore, overall we are very pleased with this outcome and hoping that the new government (the first democratically elected one in our history) will achieve success.' From London, Ahmad of Iraqi Expat writes: 'I know some people have criticized the National Assembly sessions as being choatic; but I loved it, members are criticizing the government, asking questions, debating, etc. What is not to love? It's called democracy and they are learning it, like we are. I don't want to see any council were everybody agrees on what the leader says, what's the point of such useless council of parrots? I am not worried - and you shouldn't be - that Al Jaafari might turn Iraq into Iran, since he only has executive powers but no legislative powers; also his cabinet will have many seculars, Kurds and other minorities. '(ITM, The Mesopotamian, Iraqi Expat)