Syria’s Advice to Obama

Sami Moubayed parses Assad’s Der Spiegel interview:’Peace without Syria Is Unthinkable,‘ on 01/19/2009 in his Gulf News article: US and Syria should meet halfway. His main points are:

  • The Bush team wrongly believed that the Syrians were more interested in returning to Lebanon, than in restoring the Golan. That was untrue and unfair to Syria.
  • The only chances for resuming Syrian-Israeli talks would be for an international conference to be held to discuss the Middle East peace process, similar to the one that took place in Annapolis, only with a more serious US Administration.
  • Since Syria and Qatar announced that the Abdullah Initiative, agreed upon at the Beirut Summit of 2002, was now dead, a new formula would have to be reached, by consensus in the Arab League that is acceptable to the Syrians.
  • When confronted with the old saying, “no war without Egypt, no peace without Syria” the Syrian leader said that more than ever, that argument still stands.
  • What is required today is a series of confidence building measures – and symbolic gestures between Damascus and Washington DC. One gesture would be sending a US ambassador to Damascus. Syria would reciprocate by opening the American school and the American culture centre. Progress would logically end there, however, … until the Golan Heights are returned to their rightful owners. In this respect, Syria has a major role to play in bringing about regional peace.
  • Need for a de facto recognition of Hamas, similar to how Israel and the United States recognized Hezbollah through the April Understanding of 2006.
  • Egypt, however, is currently trying to take credit for the ceasefire in Gaza, while noticeably; Hamas announced its acceptance of the ceasefire, neither from Gaza, nor from Cairo, but from Damascus.

Comments (8)

Off the Wall said:

One more issue Sami forgot to mention

To maintain intellectual honesty and freedom of action, Keep Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk as far a way as you can from the negotiation and from any decision regarding the middle east.

This can be both an advise and a gentle reminder of those who doomed all previous efforts to failure.

January 21st, 2009, 6:24 pm


Ghat Albird said:

Several “in the know” bloggers and websites have been mentioning retired Senator George Mitchell as the point man for the ME.

Indyk and Ross have had their days in the sun. Anymore days and they both would in my op. begin to smell to high heaven.

January 21st, 2009, 7:20 pm


Alex said:

OTW, Ghat Albird

I think you will find that Obama will hire almost everyone one way or another … assistant secretary of state, Hillary’s mideast advisor, the President’s special envoy to the Palestinian Israeli conflict, the President special envoy to Syria Israel discussions … Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India …

It is a good time for Midest specialists.

January 21st, 2009, 7:40 pm


Marc Gopin said:

I wonder if Sami and others could comment on what exactly is dead about the Abdullah Initiative? And also, what would de facto recognition of Hamas look like exactly? I have been trying to figure out a workable formula to propose. In addition, I am still not hearing a resounding willingness of the Palestinian international community to pronounce Fatah dead, and accept Palestinian leadership as a theocratic leadership. Am I wrong here? What are the alternatives? Elections in six months, and let the people make that choice? So democracy will yield Hamas/Palestine Netanyahu/Israel and Obama/America. Astonishing.

January 22nd, 2009, 1:35 pm


Elie Elhadj said:

A comment on the statement:
“the Syrians were more interested in returning to Lebanon, than in restoring the Golan”.

It may be predicted that even if Syria reaches its own peace agreement with Israel in the future, Damascus would continue to strive to keep Lebanon free of Wahhabi control. The extremism and intolerance of Saudi Islam towards other Islamic sects and religions is a threat to Syria’s age-old religious and ethnic harmony. Wahhabi belief that the Alawites, indeed all Shiites, are heretics could endanger the very existence of the Alawites and their regime. The Wahhabi way of life is anathema to Syria’s moderate Hanafi Sunnis, let alone Syria’s other religions and sects. As such, Syria will not allow a Trojan horse loaded with Saudi money called Al-Hariri to turn Lebanon into a gateway to Damascus. That certain factions amongst Lebanon’s Maronites and moderate Sunnis, let alone the Druzes, have of late found it politically convenient to ally themselves with the Wahhabis is like the lamb befriending the wolf.

Elie Elhadj

January 22nd, 2009, 6:52 pm


Chris said:


Where can I found out more about the Saudi relationship with Wahhabis or Salafists in Lebanon?

January 22nd, 2009, 7:09 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

I would love to share a bottle of scotch with this guy. He’d probably advocate the complete opposite idea by the end of it.

The New York Times
The One State Solution

Published: January 21, 2009

Tripoli, Libya

THE shocking level of the last wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence, which ended with this weekend’s cease-fire, reminds us why a final resolution to the so-called Middle East crisis is so important. It is vital not just to break this cycle of destruction and injustice, but also to deny the religious extremists in the region who feed on the conflict an excuse to advance their own causes.

But everywhere one looks, among the speeches and the desperate diplomacy, there is no real way forward. A just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians is possible, but it lies in the history of the people of this conflicted land, and not in the tired rhetoric of partition and two-state solutions.

Although it’s hard to realize after the horrors we’ve just witnessed, the state of war between the Jews and Palestinians has not always existed. In fact, many of the divisions between Jews and Palestinians are recent ones. The very name “Palestine” was commonly used to describe the whole area, even by the Jews who lived there, until 1948, when the name “Israel” came into use.

Jews and Muslims are cousins descended from Abraham. Throughout the centuries both faced cruel persecution and often found refuge with one another. Arabs sheltered Jews and protected them after maltreatment at the hands of the Romans and their expulsion from Spain in the Middle Ages.

The history of Israel/Palestine is not remarkable by regional standards — a country inhabited by different peoples, with rule passing among many tribes, nations and ethnic groups; a country that has withstood many wars and waves of peoples from all directions. This is why it gets so complicated when members of either party claims the right to assert that it is their land.

The basis for the modern State of Israel is the persecution of the Jewish people, which is undeniable. The Jews have been held captive, massacred, disadvantaged in every possible fashion by the Egyptians, the Romans, the English, the Russians, the Babylonians, the Canaanites and, most recently, the Germans under Hitler. The Jewish people want and deserve their homeland.

But the Palestinians too have a history of persecution, and they view the coastal towns of Haifa, Acre, Jaffa and others as the land of their forefathers, passed from generation to generation, until only a short time ago.

Thus the Palestinians believe that what is now called Israel forms part of their nation, even were they to secure the West Bank and Gaza. And the Jews believe that the West Bank is Samaria and Judea, part of their homeland, even if a Palestinian state were established there. Now, as Gaza still smolders, calls for a two-state solution or partition persist. But neither will work.

A two-state solution will create an unacceptable security threat to Israel. An armed Arab state, presumably in the West Bank, would give Israel less than 10 miles of strategic depth at its narrowest point. Further, a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would do little to resolve the problem of refugees. Any situation that keeps the majority of Palestinians in refugee camps and does not offer a solution within the historical borders of Israel/Palestine is not a solution at all.

For the same reasons, the older idea of partition of the West Bank into Jewish and Arab areas, with buffer zones between them, won’t work. The Palestinian-held areas could not accommodate all of the refugees, and buffer zones symbolize exclusion and breed tension. Israelis and Palestinians have also become increasingly intertwined, economically and politically.

In absolute terms, the two movements must remain in perpetual war or a compromise must be reached. The compromise is one state for all, an “Isratine” that would allow the people in each party to feel that they live in all of the disputed land and they are not deprived of any one part of it.

A key prerequisite for peace is the right of return for Palestinian refugees to the homes their families left behind in 1948. It is an injustice that Jews who were not originally inhabitants of Palestine, nor were their ancestors, can move in from abroad while Palestinians who were displaced only a relatively short time ago should not be so permitted.

It is a fact that Palestinians inhabited the land and owned farms and homes there until recently, fleeing in fear of violence at the hands of Jews after 1948 — violence that did not occur, but rumors of which led to a mass exodus. It is important to note that the Jews did not forcibly expel Palestinians. They were never “un-welcomed.” Yet only the full territories of Isratine can accommodate all the refugees and bring about the justice that is key to peace.

Assimilation is already a fact of life in Israel. There are more than one million Muslim Arabs in Israel; they possess Israeli nationality and take part in political life with the Jews, forming political parties. On the other side, there are Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Israeli factories depend on Palestinian labor, and goods and services are exchanged. This successful assimilation can be a model for Isratine.

If the present interdependence and the historical fact of Jewish-Palestinian coexistence guide their leaders, and if they can see beyond the horizon of the recent violence and thirst for revenge toward a long-term solution, then these two peoples will come to realize, I hope sooner rather than later, that living under one roof is the only option for a lasting peace.

Muammar Qaddafi is the leader of Libya.

January 22nd, 2009, 7:21 pm


Elie Elhadj said:

Wahhabi designs over Syria, and Lebanon, go back to the early days of independence from the French Mandate. In the early 1950s, until the fall of the Baghdad monarchy, the Hashemite kings in Iraq and Jordan were in the way of Wahhabi ambitions. In the late 1950s, Nasser’s Egypt was in the way.
Recent Wahhabi encroachment on Lebanon, and Syria, has been spearheaded by the Hariris.
In 1965, at age 21, Rafiq Al-Hariri left for Saudi Arabia, working as an accountant in a construction company. Fifteen years later, He was on the Forbes top 100. After his assassination in 2005, his family members featured in Forbes’ list of billionaires in 2006. In 1978, Rafiq Al-Hariri and family were made citizens of Saudi Arabia. He returned to Lebanon in the early 1980’s; implanted by the Saudi ruling family in response to the absence of a viable Sunni leadership in the country and the rising power of the Shiite population since the early 1960s under the leadership of the cleric Musa Al-Sadr (disappeared in 1978 while on a visit to Libya).
In Lebanon, Rafiq Al-Hariri started to establish his power base through making large donations and contributions to various groups and causes. He laid the groundwork for the 1989 Taif Accord, which Saudi Arabia organized. Taif ended the fifteen-year civil war (1975-1990) and paved the way in 1992 for Al-Hariri to become prime minister. He was prime minister from 1992 to 1998 and again from 2000 until his resignation on 20 October 2004. Hariri was assassinated on 14 February 2005.
For more on the Hariri story, you might wish to look-up “The Battle for Lebanon” in my website.


January 22nd, 2009, 8:57 pm


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