Syria is being courted by the West, after many years of isolation. The EU sent Javier Solana to Damascus with a package of goodies, and US, Iraqi, Syrian and Iranian representatives met in Baghdad to discuss the stabilization of Iraq, with another, higher level meeting, reportedly planned soon. Solana is offering the Golan Heights in return for Syrian concessions in Lebanon. Perhaps Israel should offer the Basque territories or Toledo in return for peace. That will give the Arabs a foothold in al Andalus
(Spain used to be Arab and Muslim, until it was ethnically cleansed, remember?) and make Assad the hero of the Arab world no doubt.
Apart from Israeli concessions, what Syria would get is an end to the isolation. US Ambassador Jones has now declared that the US is not stopping Israel from engaging in negotiations with Syria
, which may or may not be true. So another concession to Syria is that the US declares that it is not dictating Israeli foreign policy.
Syria is expected to shape up and be a good neighbor. It should, according to the optimistic appraisal, cool its relations with Iran, keep its nose out of Iraq, stop blowing people up in Lebanon, and stop supporting Palestinian terror.Dina Ezzat explored
the prospects, which are less than encouraging apparently, in Al Ahram. According to Ezzat, Syrians feel that they have managed to tire the US out in the Middle East and has won its point. However, many Syrians are uncomfortable about moving too close to Iran and isolating themselves from the Arab world. Accordingly, one might expect some true Syrian moves for rapprochement.Syrian cooperation in Iraq, for example, would extend to arresting terrorists and supplying intelligence information. That is not quite the case, but Syria is cooperating, according to Ezzat:
According to informed Syrian officials, Damascus has been cooperating a great deal on Iraq.... Limitations, sources say, are being gradually imposed on the activities of Iraqi leaders who can orchestrate militant attacks in Iraq. Moreover, senior Iraqi officials say, "Syrian generals who used to operate in Iraq undercover to orchestrate militant attacks against the US are now reducing their attacks."
. Syrian generals reducing attacks is considered "cooperating a great deal." This was not meant humorously, it seems.
And what "cooperation" can Israel expect in return for withdrawing from the Golan heights and surrendering the Sea of Galilee as well (Syria considers this to be part of the deal)? Ezzat tells us:
Syrian sources say it is the stability of the regime, the liberation of the Golan Heights occupied by Israel in 1967, and some say in Lebanese politics that Damascus would accept in return for curtailing its facilitation of the arming of Hizbullah, decreasing its assistance and accommodation of Palestinian and Iraqi militant resistance groups, and reducing its intelligence cooperation with Iran.
. In return for complete Israeli withdrawal from the Golan, Syria may slightly reduce its support and initiation of terror both in Lebanon and in Israel. "Give us the Golan and we will blow up only small-fry Lebanese." This is not necessarily an appetizing prospect. What Syria really doesn't want, Ezzat notes, is the investigation of the Hariri murder. I wonder why.
Salim Nazal echoes Dina Ezzat's analysis, that Syrians believe they have won the war of nerves with the USA:
The Syrian media has extensively reflected on the recent shift in European and American policy towards Syria, considering this to be proof of the wisdom of its steadfast policy, which has ensured that Syria has not changed its anti-American/Israeli positions in regard to any of the three main issues in the Middle East.
. In other words, the Syrians have interpreted the recent thaw as an unconditional surrender.
Not surprisingly, Javier Solana's mission to Damascus was apparently rebuffed. Solana offered more or less, to force Israel to return the Golan, to restore full economic and diplomatic cooperation with Syria, aid for refugees from Iraq and a package of economic incentives. But the Syrians were not buying. Solana is reportedly surprised.
The Assad winds blow hot and they blow cold. The Syrians continue to prepare for war, to interfere in Lebanon, to interfere in Iraq and to discourage any progress for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Yet they insist on 'negotiations,' demanding complete capitulation to their terms: they want the murderers of Hariri (themselves) to get off without a trial, they want to continue supporting terror (at a lower level) in Iraq and Israel and Lebanon, and they will not give up their alliance with Iran.
The method of alternatively pleading for negotiations and then, when the other side agrees to engage, declaring victory and presenting impossible conditions, is familiar from dictatorial regimes of past history. Both Mr. Hitler and Mr. Stalin were masters of this technique. Bashar Assad's ambivalent policy shifts are illustrated in the made-in-Syria animation below.
As long as it appeared that international and Arab opinion was holding to its principles, and that Syria had no recourse other than to accede to international opinion, Assad regaled us with Friedensreden - peace speeches. However, as soon as the US announced that it needs help in Iraq, and the EU chimed in that is ready to give up Israeli territory in exchange for influence in Lebanon and trade advantages, Assad understood that intransigence and support for terror have their reward. If there is the tiniest chance that negotiations with Syria might bring peace, nobody, including Israel, can afford to ignore that chance. However, those negotiations must be conducted from a perceived and actual position of strength and unity of purpose. Syria will not stop its mischief if Assad sees that it yields dividends in the form of Javier Solana offering to dismember Israel for the convenience of Europe, or the US offering to abandon Lebanon in return for some compromise in Iraq.
A similar article appeared as Syria: Which Way at MidEastWeb Middle East Web log.
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