But Assad knows there are still two big uncertainties surrounding the prospects of a historic peace deal with the Israelis: the position of the next U.S. administration and the results of a possible Israeli election. While Assad is grateful for the role Turkey has played so far in hosting four rounds of negotiations (a fifth is scheduled for September 18-19, according to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan), and for France's pledge of help in any direct Syrian-Israeli talks, he is only interested in a peace agreement with Israel if it is mediated by the United States.

An agreement endorsed by Washington would not only guarantee the return of the Golan to Syria (in exchange for a long-term security deal with Israel), but also, and perhaps more significantly, end Syria's isolation in the world. The most important lesson Bashar Assad learned from his father is that good relations with Washington, more than any other foreign capital, serve Syria's strategic interests. But, until a new U.S. administration is in place, he knows there's little point in proceeding with the direct negotiations he's proposing. ……..