“It’s Time to Talk to Syria” by Kerry and Hagel

It's Time to Talk to Syria
By John Kerry and Chuck Hagel
Our policy has isolated us, not Damascus.
June 5, 2008; Page A19

After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1991, President George H.W. Bush did the improbable and convinced Syrian President Hafez Assad to join an American-led coalition against a fellow Baathist regime.

Today, these leaders' sons have another chance for a diplomatic breakthrough that could redefine the strategic landscape in the Middle East.

The recent announcement of peace negotiations between Israel and Syria through Turkey, and the agreement between the Lebanese factions in Qatar – both apparently without meaningful U.S. involvement – should serve as a wake-up call that our policy of nonengagement has isolated us more than the Syrians. These developments also help create new opportunities and increased leverage that we can only exploit through substantive dialogue with Syria.

Syria's leaders have always made cold calculations in the name of self-preservation, and history shows that intensive diplomacy can pay off. Secretary of State James Baker made more than a dozen trips to Syria before Operation Desert Storm, and remember President Assad's price: U.S. support for Syrian dialogue with Israel. The ultimate challenge – moving Syria away from its marriage of convenience with Iran – will certainly not happen overnight. But it's telling that Iran lobbied Syria not to negotiate with Israel and that Syria decided to proceed regardless.

To support Israel and isolate Iran, President George W. Bush should offer direct support for the Israeli-Syrian initiative. Promoting peace between our ally and its neighbors has always been a bipartisan cornerstone of our foreign policy. Syria views peace talks with Israel as part of a broader rapprochement with America, and its strong desire for U.S. involvement can work to our advantage. We know that high level, direct talks will require a sustained and credible American role, just as they did in 2000, when President Bill Clinton met repeatedly with Mr. Assad in bringing Syria and Israel to the brink of a deal. With so much at stake, it's in our interests to come to the table again.

The agreement by the Lebanese parties provides another opening. Syria must respect Lebanon's sovereignty and end its deadly meddling. But the fact that Syria's ally, Hezbollah, secured much of the political power it sought should remove Syria's excuse for failing to open an embassy, normalize relations, and finally demarcate the border with Lebanon. Hezbollah must eventually be disarmed, as United Nations Resolutions 1559 and 1701 require, but its agreement not to use force internally could be used to push Syria to shut off the supply of weapons.

Dialogue can open the door for greater cooperation on Iraq. Top Syrian officials have argued that Syria shares America's interest in a stable, secular Iraq and does not want a strongly pro-Iranian regime in Baghdad. Our partnership with Sunni tribes against al Qaeda may have further aligned our interests. As U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker has noted, Islamic extremists also threaten Syria.

While Syria must crack down on the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claims positive steps have not been rewarded. We should test whether offering tangible benefits brings better results, starting with providing more humanitarian assistance for the nearly 1.5 million Iraqi refugees Syria has absorbed.

The U.N. tribunal investigating the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which may soon issue indictments, is also creating pressure on the regime. If government officials are implicated, Syria could face increased international sanctions. The tribunal's pursuit of justice must never be a bargaining chip, but it adds an incentive to improve relations that we should capitalize on.

Tough economic times in Syria also create leverage. Although domestic oil production accounts for 60%-70% of the country's exports, Syria became a net oil importer in 2007. With a growing population, greater integration into the global economy and an easing of sanctions could be powerful incentives.

Make no mistake: Cooperation with Syria rests not on shared values, but on shared interests. Syria's pursuit of a suspected nuclear program underscores why any agreement must be verified. While many doubt Syria's intentions, we have real leverage and some inducements that have more value to Syria than cost to us. There is no guarantee of an agreement, but the potential payoff is huge, and our current policy is failing.

Israel's government has concluded that, rather than rewarding bad behavior, dialogue with Syria is the best hope for changing it. As Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, "the chance overrides the risk, and with this hope I am going for a new path." We should do the same before the opportunity slips away.

Mr. Kerry, a Democrat, is a U.S. senator from Massachusetts. Mr. Hagel, a Republican, is a U.S. senator from Nebraska.

a Gallup panel survey conducted May 19-21 says large majorities of Democrats and independents  believe a President should engage in diplomacy with leaders of countries considered enemies of the U.S. Democrats believe that by a 79 percent to 19 percent margin, independents by 70 percent to 29 percent and 48 percent of Republicans support that view…"

Iran fumes as Syria nods to Arab world 
By Sami Moubayed
Asia Times, May 6, 2008

A closer look at Syria's rapprochement with "moderate" Arab states, that are pro-Western, is seen as a stepping stone for dialogue between Damascus and Washington. It comes after Syria announced in late May that it had started indirect talks with Israel, via Turkish mediation. Depending on how one wants to see it, it is also a step away from Tehran. The Iranians are not pleased at the Syrian-Israeli talks, fearing that if they materialize, they will lead to a break between Syria and Iran on one front, and Syria and Hezbollah on another.

The Syrians have repeatedly stressed that they will not abandon their allies if peace is signed with Israel, but in effect, if peace does materialize, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for the Syrians to continue supporting Hezbollah or Hamas. The Iranians know that well. In the mid-1990s, they were not impressed when Syria went into direct talks with Israel, under the auspices of the Bill Clinton White House. They were equally enraged in April 2007, when Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House, came to Damascus carrying a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert or when, one month later, Mouallem met with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Sharm al-Sheikh in Egypt.

They were enraged when Syria went to the Annapolis Middle East peace conference last year in the US, and Syria – despite its friendship with Tehran – made things loud and clear: in as much as we value the alliance, we do not take our orders from Tehran. We are allies, working together in a variety of political and economic issues, but Iran is not Syria's only ally.

The Syrians are making a point loud and clear: we have the Qataris. We have the Turks. And in a few months time, we will have the Americans as well, once the George W Bush team leaves the White House.   (Read the whole article.)

Syrian-American Jews Visit Syria and Meet with Assad

An American delegation that includes many Syrian Jews visited Aleppo and met with Syria’s grand Mufti and with a Syriac Bishop of Aleppo.

They visited many of Aleppo’s ancient synagogues as well as the homes and neighborhoods of their families.

President Assad will meet with them Thursday.

وفد أمريكي يضم يهوداً من أصل سوري يزور دمشق
- 03/06/2008

زار وفد أمريكي يضم يهوداً من أصل سوري الأراضي السورية أول أمس الأحد، وأجرى محادثات مع مفتي سوريا الشيخ الدكتور أحمد بدر الدين حسون في مدينة حلب، كما استقبلهم مطران طائفة السريان الأرثوذكس يوحنا إبراهيم في المدينة.
وتجول الوفد في الأماكن الأثرية والتاريخية وزار عدة كنِس يهودية، وتعرف إلى مناطق سكن آبائهم وأجدادهم في سوريا.
ويتوقع أن يلتقي الوفد عدة شخصيات على رأسها الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد.  

France and Britain both warming relations with Damascus: Assad prepares to visit Sarkozy

Les deux émissaires de SARKOZY se rendent à Damas pour préparer son entretien avec le Président ASSAD à Paris
04 juin 2008: La Syrienet

Des sources syriennes bien informées ont signalé hier à Al-Hayat que des contacts sont en cours pour préparer la visite des deux émissaires du Président français M. Claude GUEANT et David LEVIT à Damas, au cours des deux jours qui viennent, afin d’évoquer un certain nombre de question dont l’encouragement de la participation du Président Bachar EL- ASSAD au sommet méditerranéen, prévu le 13 juillet prochain et la préparation d’un entretien officiel entre ASSAD et le président SARKOZY, en marge du sommet….

le Secrétaire général du ministère britannique des Affaires étrangères avait entamé hier une visite à Damas….

Il est possible que SARKOZY fasse une escale à Damas lors de sa visite à Beyrouth, samedi prochain, mais les sources susmentionnées n’ont pas confirmé cette visite, sachant que le Président français retournera à Paris pour rencontrer le Président américain George W BUSH. 

Political Reforms

President Assad says he is not satisfied with political reforms in Syria. He has plans for a senate as well as plans to make it possible for “patriotic opposition” to participate…. opposition members who do not coordinate with outsides.

He explained that the difficult circumstances that Syria had to go through were mainly the reason for delaying political reforms.

الرئيس الأسد غير راض عن الإصلاح السياسي في سورية
- 03/06/2008

قال الرئيس بشار الأسد إنه غير راض عن الإصلاحات السياسية التي حدثت في بلاده وذلك كما نقلت عنه صحيفة الإمارات اليوم ،وبرر ذلك بما وصفه بالظروف التي تمر بها سورية، والتي عطلت المضي قدما في إحداث الإصلاح .
وكشف أثناء لقائه مع رؤساء تحرير الصحف في أبو ظبي حول الوضع الداخلي عن نيته إنشاء مجلس للشورى في سورية،مشيراً إلى أنه يتم الآن البحث في صيغته والاستفادة من تجارب دول عربية شقيقة في هذا الجانب
وأبدى ” الأسد ” استعداده لـ توسيع المشاركة السياسية، وضم «المعارضة الوطنية»، وقال “نعتبر المعارضة وطنية وايجابية ما لم ترتبط بالخارج” .
وأضاف إن سورية “حققت قفزات في النمو الاقتصادي بلغ 6,1 العام الماضي” ، وكشف النقاب عن وجود حزمة من القوانين الجديدة المتعلقة بالاستثمار وافتتاح عدد من البنوك الجديدة في سورية ، وقال نحن في طريقنا لافتتاح سوق للأسهم خلال عامين.
وأشار إلى أنه سيتم الإعلان عن إجراءات لدعم المؤسسات التشريعية والتنفيذية

Repression, the Arab state's foul habit
By Rami G. Khouri
Daily Star staff
Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Egyptian Parliament's decision last week to extend emergency rule for another two years, including sweeping powers to detain citizens indefinitely, reflects an exaggerated reliance on heavy-handed police methods to govern and keep the peace. Visiting Cairo this week, I became more convinced than ever that this is a counter-productive approach that Arab governments should quickly reconsider before they do irreparable damage to their societies. …

The political institutions that should provide a mechanism for resolving disputes, solving problems and agreeing on consensus policies are slowly degrading in most Arab countries. Parliaments, political parties, elections and most civil society and non-governmental organizations have all suffered from steadily eroding credibility and declining impact.

This is partly due to the phenomenon that is so visible in Egypt, where the state uses security measures to crush any potential opposition, and that includes jailing thousands of its opponents. The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition grouping, claims that 50,000 of its members have been repeatedly arrested, tried, jailed and released since the start of the emergency laws era in 1981.

The continued use of emergency laws for 27 years non-stop suggests that the basic institutions of Arab governance are decaying. …

Egypt is not an isolated case. Many top-heavy, security-focused Arab governance systems end up breeding increasing frustration at the community and household levels, instead of fostering order and stability. …

The lesson for all, however, should be that the gun does not produce security, stability or docility. It only turns once law-abiding citizens into numbed and angry people who feel they have little stake in a system that does not treat them like human beings. …

The Arab world is destroying itself from within by relying more and more on emergency laws, when it needs more rule of law and independent judiciaries.

Rami G. Khouri is published twice-weekly by THE DAILY STAR.

Syria says Israel terms signal not serious on peace: Reuters

President Bashar al-Assad said during a visit to Kuwait that the Israelis were insisting that negotiations restart from scratch and that the progress made in the earlier talks in the 1990s be cancelled.

"This signals that Israel does not desire peace and is not willing to reach it," he said in comments carried by Kuwait's state news agency KUNA.

"We are now testing the water… and this means regaining the occupied Golan… and if we reach a solution on this issue then what remains are other issues that are the second stage of talks."

Assad also dismissed Israeli demands that Syria give up its alliance with Iran as a condition for peace.

Syria says Israel terms signal not serious on peace: Reuters

Syria says Israel terms signal not serious on peace: Reuters

President Bashar al-Assad said during a visit to Kuwait that the Israelis were insisting that negotiations restart from scratch and that the progress made in the earlier talks in the 1990s be cancelled.

"This signals that Israel does not desire peace and is not willing to reach it," he said in comments carried by Kuwait's state news agency KUNA.

"We are now testing the water… and this means regaining the occupied Golan… and if we reach a solution on this issue then what remains are other issues that are the second stage of talks."

Assad also dismissed Israeli demands that Syria give up its alliance with Iran as a condition for peace.

Syria says Israel terms signal not serious on peace: Reuters

President Bashar al-Assad said during a visit to Kuwait that the Israelis were insisting that negotiations restart from scratch and that the progress made in the earlier talks in the 1990s be cancelled.

"This signals that Israel does not desire peace and is not willing to reach it," he said in comments carried by Kuwait's state news agency KUNA.

"We are now testing the water… and this means regaining the occupied Golan… and if we reach a solution on this issue then what remains are other issues that are the second stage of talks."

Assad also dismissed Israeli demands that Syria give up its alliance with Iran as a condition for peace….

"Should we establish relations with Israel and lose our relations with the world?"

"Syria invited the IAEA and will cooperate with it," Assad was quoted by the official SANA news agency as telling journalists during a visit to Kuwait this week.

AIPAC conference 'no arena for debate' on Israel – 04 Jun 08, Youtube by Clayton Swisher

Comments (31)


1. ugarit said:

Coming out tomorrow 2008-06-06
Syria Country Study Guide (World Country Study Guide)
http://www.amazon.com/Syria-Country-Study-Guide-World/dp/0739715623

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June 5th, 2008, 3:13 pm

 

2. majedkhaldoun said:

If Assad is not happy with political reform,then why he would not release the prisoners? is it that he is not in control?
Bashar reliance on small family circle, is getting smaller and smaller,this is not good for him.

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June 5th, 2008, 4:13 pm

 

3. Qifa Nabki said:

Bashar is gradually changing course, adopting the Qatari worldview which states that foreign relations are not a zero-sum game.

It seems he wants American hamburgers on his plate in addition to Persian kufteh Tabrizi, with plenty of room for Gulfi makboos. And, eventually, some Israeli hamantaschen for dessert.

Looks lovely in theory, but let’s hope he doesn’t get indigestion.

Lak sa7tayn 3a albak ya ra2ees!!!!! ;-)

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June 5th, 2008, 4:23 pm

 

4. Akbar Palace said:

To whoever created this link, here’s another website that you should include:

http://www.aipac.org/

http://www.aipac.org/Publications/SpeechesByPolicymakers/Obama_-_As_Prepared_for_Delivery.pdf

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June 5th, 2008, 4:27 pm

 

5. Alex said:

Qifa Nabki,

YES WE CAN.

: )

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June 5th, 2008, 4:41 pm

 

6. Nour said:

I wanted to know from anyone who lives in Syria whether Hotmail is still banned. I tried to send an email from my hotmail address the other day but it was never delivered. I was wondering if it was because of the ban. Thanks.

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June 5th, 2008, 4:57 pm

 

7. norman said:

وزارة الخارجية:سورية مستعدة للمساعدة في تحقيق الحوار الفلسطيني وانجاحه

Syria seems to be on a roll.

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June 5th, 2008, 5:17 pm

 

8. Naji said:

Nour,
I live in Syria and I just received an email, a few minutes ago, from a Hotmail address…!!

To tell you the truth, and I hesitate to say this, the whole “ban” and “censorship” thing in Syria is rather bogus…!! Or, which is more likely, the guys just do not have the technology to do it properly…!! At best (or worst!), it is very erratic and unpredictable…!

At least for the past six months, I have not experienced ANY restrictions…! NONE…!! Every time I hear about FaceBook, blogspot, or some other site being banned, I do not know what people are talking about…!! I also keep writing all kinds of unflattering crap about our bibo, and nothing has happened… yet…!? I hope I don’t live to regret this disclosure…, but if you guys stop hearing from me all of a sudden, please do worry …!

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June 5th, 2008, 5:48 pm

 
 

10. Naji said:

Marcel is leading a powerful, no holds barred, debate between Nawwaf Moussawi(HA) and Nuhad Mashnooq(credible “Sunni”) on LBC right now…! Worth checking out…!

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June 5th, 2008, 7:07 pm

 

11. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
When do you think I will be able to quote Syrian newspaper in English to make a point of mine? Really, 30 years or 40 years?

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June 5th, 2008, 7:13 pm

 

12. Nour said:

Thanks Naji. And hopefully we’ll continue hearing from you ;-).

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June 5th, 2008, 7:15 pm

 

13. Majhool said:

majedkhaldoun

Mr. Assad will continue to be “unhappy” -. I say what’s the harm of waiting YET another year? (Smile)

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June 5th, 2008, 7:28 pm

 

14. Majhool said:

Naji,

Be safe. What’s your favorite meal (Mehshi/Kebbeh/Shakrieh?) will make sure to pass you some goodies if something happens to you. (smile)

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June 5th, 2008, 7:31 pm

 

15. Naji said:

Nour,
Luckily, our censors and security goons come from the same school, apparently, as our majhool fool…! He has long classified me a Ba’athist and a “minority”, and has even seen fit to discuss my “army boots”…!!? I am probably quite safe… ;)

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June 5th, 2008, 7:40 pm

 

16. Alex said:

AIG,

Not at all .. i think in few years things can be better.

But complete freedom of the press will require major reduction in corruption first .. otherwise, journalists will be writing about nothing but corruption … and enough corrupt people will gang up on the “freedom of the press” experiment and it will be reversed.

I am hoping we are not that far from gradual improvements in this respect … For now there is one interesting English magazine.

Sami Moubayed’s FW:

http://www.fw-magazine.com/

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June 5th, 2008, 7:43 pm

 

17. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
We have been hearing that for 40 years. Since 2000 things have gotten worse, not better.

How will there be a reduction in corruption if there is no free press? That exactly is a way to reduce corruption. I love it how now corruption is an excuse for not having freedom of speech. I think this is your best excuse so far.

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June 5th, 2008, 7:51 pm

 

18. Alex said:

Excuse?

As in … silly excuse?

Imagine if you had in Israel 20 Olmert-like investigations going on simultaneously!

It would be a joke!

All the Arab countries are highly corrupt … you think the Saudis or Egyptians can discuss their own corruption?

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June 5th, 2008, 8:01 pm

 

19. Majhool said:

Naji,

Is that what I get for “Be safe”. No I did not classify you as a Baathist nor as a minority ( Although most are fine people)

Fool ma2boleh mennak. Again Be safe.

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June 5th, 2008, 8:03 pm

 

20. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,

So your point is that it is better to have corruption than investigations against corruption? Do you really mean that? So what if there are many investigations?

Why do you care about the Saudis and Egyptians? (Two wrongs make a right?)

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June 5th, 2008, 8:06 pm

 

21. Atassi said:

President Assad says he is not satisfied with political reforms in Syria !!!!. Wow!! he is finally on my side .. I knew he will eventually tilt !! :-) by the way.. Do you think he will be stopped and questioned by the Mokhbart in his way back to Damascus for this !!!

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June 5th, 2008, 8:07 pm

 

22. Alex said:

Naji

No “fool” here please : )

AIG .. I was not speaking about my preference … I was not justfying … I was suggesting about the main reason Arab regimes do not think freedom of press will be manageable.

Yo are smart enough to understand. i wonder why you keep asking such obvious questions.

Atassi

Were you arrested when you went last time? : )

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June 5th, 2008, 8:22 pm

 

23. Naji said:

Thanks, Majhool…, but you have jumped to conclusions (“baathist”, “minority”, and “army boots”, to be specific) about me, and others I am sure, rather too quickly…, too easily…, and even without real provocation…!!?? I often appreciate your perspective and opinion, but I would advise a little more deliberation before pronouncing on people and positions, my friend…!

I do appreciate your good wishes and your gracious response to my little snipe.

Peace…

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June 5th, 2008, 8:22 pm

 

24. Akbar Palace said:

Alex, Professor Josh,

Any idea why your thread:

“It’s Time to Talk to Syria” by Kerry and Hagel Thursday, June 5th, 2008

has the category: “Jews”?

Thanks,

AP

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June 5th, 2008, 8:24 pm

 

25. Alex said:

Akbar,

Because one of the main reasons to talk to Syria is to make peace between Syria and Israel .. where there are quite a few Jews living there.

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June 5th, 2008, 8:27 pm

 

26. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
I really didn’t understand because when you say: It will be a joke!
aren’t you justifying?

So you think Syria is wrong about that?

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June 5th, 2008, 8:43 pm

 

27. Atassi said:

Alex,..
No They did not. They only arrest unpatriotic individuals as you know..:-) Please remember the definition of “unpatriotic “ is being updated on the direction of the political ever changing views of the regime…. Until we see a real and a positive internal political changes and being felt by OUR patriotic citizens, I deem the present events as a white noise only…

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June 5th, 2008, 9:10 pm

 

28. Majhool said:

Naji,

I believe it’s a misunderstanding. The descriptions you mentioned relates to policies of the regime not to you for sure. I apologize for not being clearer.

I do like it “provocative” but that should not be mistaken for “personal”. I will take it upon my self to be clearer in the Future.

Is it true that internet censorship differs depending on the Service Provider?

Peace.

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June 5th, 2008, 9:38 pm

 

29. Atassi said:

An Israel-Syria deal is strategically vital for both
Shlomo Ben-Ami

6 June 2008
Daily Star
English
(c) 2008 THE DAILY STAR, BEIRUT, LEBANON.

Beirut — The resumption of peace talks between Israel and Syria after eight years of saber-rattling is not a diversion from the political troubles of Israel’s lame-duck prime minister. Nor are the talks a Syrian ploy to avoid facing a Lebanese-international tribunal on the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister, Rafik Hariri. An Israeli-Syrian peace deal is strategically vital for both sides, and both sides know it.

The two major formative experiences of Syria’s Baath regime have been Hafez Assad’s loss of the Golan Heights in the 1967 war with Israel, and the loss of Lebanon by his son, Bashar, who was forced to withdraw his army under irresistible American-led international pressure. Recovering the Golan and protecting Syria’s vital interests in Lebanon are not only major strategic concerns for Syria’s president; they are also crucial to the regime’s drive for national legitimacy, and to Assad’s assertion of his own leadership.

Peace with Israel is not Assad’s priority. Rather, it is the prerequisite without which superior goals – rapprochement with the United States, legitimization of Syria’s special status in Lebanon, and avoidance of a potentially devastating war with Israel if the Golan Heights are not recovered by peaceful means – cannot be attained. Indeed, the regime has hinted that it may be willing to compromise on the issue – the delineation of the 1967 border along a tiny piece of land on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee – that wrecked the negotiations eight years ago.

An Israeli-Syrian peace is a weighty strategic necessity for Israel, too. The complexities of the threats to Israel are such that a possible confrontation with Hamas in Gaza might trigger a flare-up with Hizbullah in Lebanon. Such a war could be won only by the total destruction of Lebanon by Israel’s air force. In that case, Syria would likely seize the opportunity to break the deadlock over the Golan Heights through a military move that could develop into a massive war of missiles targeting Israel’s vulnerable home front. And Iran, in its drive to protect its nuclear program from an Israeli-American attack, might be very active in supporting this ominous scenario.

Admittedly, the strategic conditions in the region are far more complex today than they were eight years ago, when Israel’s requirements for a deal with Syria focused mainly on security arrangements on the Golan Heights, and on Syria using its leverage in Lebanon to permit an Israeli settlement with that country. Syria’s alliance with Iran was not a major issue.

Syria’s subsequent forced withdrawal from Lebanon was not good news for Israel. In the last round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks eight years ago, it was clear that a deal with Syria would automatically pave the way to a settlement with Lebanon, and an end to Hizbullah’s threat to Israel’s northern border. Today, peace with Syria might facilitate an Israeli peace with Lebanon down the road, but that will not be an automatic outcome. Indeed, while Hizbullah prospered under Syrian occupation, it never reached the extraordinary political power that it has today.

Nevertheless, peace with Syria could be a major building block in a wider Israeli-Arab settlement, and consequently of a more stable Middle East, though it is unrealistic to expect that Syria would automatically sever its special relationship with Iran in exchange for the Golan Heights. These are peace talks, not a defense treaty, and Syria would not abruptly disengage from its Iranian friends. But good relations between an Arab state at peace with Israel and Iran are not necessarily a bad thing. Syria’s stance might limit, rather than extend, the reach of Iran’s strategy of regional destabilization.

As always, much will depend on America’s readiness to move away from military solutions and rigid ideological imperatives and instead embrace the pragmatic culture of conflict resolution. A US-backed Israeli-Syrian peace could transform the strategic environment, potentially drawing other Middle East spoilers into a system of regional cooperation and security.

Shlomo Ben-Ami is a former Israeli foreign minister who now serves as the vice president of the Toledo International Center for Peace. He is the author of “Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy.” THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with Project Syndica

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June 5th, 2008, 10:09 pm

 

30. Observer said:

This is a very delicate time for the administration in Syria.

The levers of power are ever more concentrated in a few key people, so the base of the establishment is rather narrow. While the regime has the support of the majority of the people for standing up to pressures and keeping the country secure from civil strife and major dislocations, it remains fragile

The overture to the Arab countries will strengthen the regime on several fronts: it will allow better freedom of action as the country will not rely solely on Iranian alliance. It will help isolate Saudi Arabia and Egypt from the Gulf countries. It will strengthen its alliance with the other non pliant powers in the region including Sudan. It will bring investments in.

The jewel of all of this is a new understanding and a new relation with the next US administration if possible. The Syrians have long known not to trust the US in carrying out a firm and long lasting commitment and therefore they will require guarantees.

Establishing direct hegemony or control over Lebanon is no longer possible nor more importantly desirable. They can insure that they have a veto and paralyzing power over the political process and that is sufficient. The Syrians do not wish to humiliate Saudi Arabia to such an extent that it will seek revenge on them.

Abbas saw what happened to Hariri and to Siniora and concluded that he cannot rely on the US to continue to isolate Hamas. His calling for a negotiations is a step in that reality. Now he may be preparing his public opinion for a role of innocent bystander should Israel attack Gaza, but that is not clear at this time.

Iran is somewhat in a tight spot now. Leverage it had seems to be a little less secure, alliances may be shifting, status of forces agreement in Iraq may leave US forces indefinitely there.
All of these news are just positioning for the next administration to play it out.

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June 5th, 2008, 11:14 pm

 

31. Akbar Palace said:

Because one of the main reasons to talk to Syria is to make peace between Syria and Israel .. where there are quite a few Jews living there.

Alex -

So why don’t you use the category “Muslims”? There are quite a few Muslims living in Syria.

Just curious.

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June 6th, 2008, 2:24 am

 

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