Does anyone know what’s really going on between Israel and Syria?
Keep in mind:
— that Israel recently bombed what is thought to have been a nuclear installation manned by North Korean technicians;
— that with Iranian aid, Syria has recently undergone a huge buildup of missile forces aimed at every part of Israel, some with chemical warheads;
— that both sides have recently increased military preparedness in border areas, with Syria moving large forces to the border.
Along with all of these disquieting indicators, we have this:
In an interview with the Qatari daily Al Watan the Syrian president claimed that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had informed him that Olmert had agreed to cede the Golan for peace…
“Olmert told the Turkish prime minister that he was willing to retreat from the Golan,” Assad said, claiming that Olmert’s willingness to cede the plateau was reiterated in interviews he gave before Pessah…
On Wednesday, western diplomatic officials, who confirmed that messages from Jerusalem to Damascus and vice versa have been going through Erdogan’s office for months, said Israel made clear that any peace agreement would necessitate Syria ending its support for Hamas and throwing Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal out of Damascus; ceasing support for Hizbullah; and distancing itself from Iran. — Jerusalem Post
Here are some questions that immediately come to mind:
Does Israel have enough confidence in Assad to withdraw from the very strategic Golan at a time when tensions with Syria are at their highest point in years?
The Syrian leadership has used the conflict with Israel as an excuse to suppress domestic demands for reform and economic liberalization for decades. Do they intend to give this up?
Syria has very little volition independent of Iran. It is also a critical part of Hizbullah and Hamas’ supply line from Iran. Will Iran sit quietly while Syria makes peace with its enemy, Israel, and isolates its proxies?
Control of Lebanon is one of Syria’s major foreign policy goals. It has been pursuing this by means of increasing Hizbullah’s influence (often by murdering its political opponenents). Will Assad disconnect from Hizbullah?
And finally, will Syria, which has been carrying the banner of implacable hostility to Israel for so long, isolate herself from the mainstream of the Arab world?
One explanation that perhaps partly makes sense is that it’s all a smokescreen to distract attention from whatever revelations will be made today in the US about the bombed nuclear installation. This presents its own set of mysteries, like why Israel was so closed-mouthed about the operation, and why the US is suddenly rolling out its version of the affair.
Another view is that Assad, with full backing from Iran, believes that Israel was sufficiently chastened by the Second Lebanon War that it will be prepared to give back the Golan and get essentially nothing in return.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has made it clear that he’s no fool, at least so he says. But it seems to me that if one knows in advance that the other party in a negotiation cannot possibly provide an acceptable deal, and indeed that his offer is dishonest, then best not begin negotiating at all.
Is the honeymoon over? I don’t think so (courtesy coxandforkum.com).