Pry Syria Away from Iran
By David Kimche*
August 4, 2006
Israel - Original
I forget who, once said that crises give birth to new opportunities. If that is
so, then the megacrisis we are living through should give birth to a
mega-opportunity. The New Middle East of Condoleezza Rice may yet prove to be
more real than the New Middle East of Shimon Peres. For this to happen, our
leaders will have to think big, and go for the whole kitty. And the
international community, with the United States in the lead, will have to give
them their full backing.
starters, we should be demanding a second international "Madrid"
peace conference to regulate our relations with our northern neighbors and to
reactivate the multi-national groupings created after the first
in the Middle Eastern pack of cards is Syria - negative, autocratic,
dictatorial Syria, ally of Iran, supporter of Hezbullah, seemingly the last
country in the world to deal with, except perhaps through the barrel of a gun.
President Bashar Assad is a dictator, yet for us in Israel a secular dictator
is preferable to a democratically elected fundamentalist Muslim fanatic. He is
one of the three ultra-weak leaders who are impinging on our present strategic
situation - Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas, Lebanese Fuad Saniora and Bashar Assad.
In the past few years, his weakness was considered sufficient reason not to
deal with him. "Why should we negotiate with the Syrians and give up
territory when they are too weak to threaten us?" was the understandable
reasoning behind our refusal to answer Bashar's repeated offers to sit down
with us and negotiate peace.
an integral part of our present problem in the North, but it could become part
of the solution to that problem. It is the weak link in the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbullah
axis. Without Syria, the Iranians would find it vastly more difficult to
support its surrogate army in Lebanon. With Syria firmly in the axis, they can,
through the Syrians, go a long way to undermining any agreement reached
replacing the old order in south Lebanon with a multinational force. The
international community will find it very difficult to establish such a force
without at least the tacit agreement of Hezbullah, and its attitude will depend
to a large extent on the stand taken by the Syrians. Weak as it is, Syria still
has the capacity to throw a spanner in the works and make the aftermath to the
fighting much more difficult for us.
refusal to have anything to do with the Syrians is, to a large extent, an extension
of American policy toward Damascus. President Bush has, time and again, made it
very clear that the Syrian regime is not his preferred flavor of the month. In
his eyes, the Syrians aid and abet terror, and for him, very correctly so,
there is no worse crime than that. Yet not so long ago the Libyans were in exactly
the same situation, and today the Stars and Stripes fly proudly and defiantly
over the newly reopened American Embassy in the Libyan capital.
Syrians would dearly like to mend their fences with the Americans and emerge
from their present isolation. They would have to pay a heavy price - close
their frontier with Iraq, eject the Iraqi insurgents harboring inside Syria,
expel Khaled Mashal and his cronies from Damascus, stop arming Hezbullah and
cut their links with Teheran. A tall order? Not necessarily, especially not if
it would help them to extricate themselves from the ongoing investigation into
the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri. Their preferred route for
reengaging the US is to start talking with Israel.
Israeli soldiers wait to be transported
to the front in Lebanon, July 29.
we? Can we pick up the Syrian gauntlet? Only within a package deal involving
the United States, and Lebanon. The Americans must first be persuaded that
prying Syria away from the clutches of Iran is an objective worth pursuing. The
advantages for us are manifest: defusing the dangerous Iranian-led axis in the
North, expelling the Hamas and Jihad extremists from Damascus, paving the way
for relations with the rest of the Arab world. There is, of course, the Golan.
Successive prime ministers, including Binyamin Netanyahu, had been willing to
compromise our position on the Golan for the sake of peace with Syria. Future
negotiations with the weak Assad could probably produce better results for us
than previous efforts.
enter the last stages of this present war, we must face the challenge of the
political and diplomatic aftermath and make sure that we are not, yet once
more, in a situation where we win military battles but lose the political ones
coming in their wake. The fighting that Hezbullah provoked is creating an
opportunity for change, providing we think big and know what to demand. Let us
not miss this opportunity.
writer is a former director-general of the Foreign Ministry.
VIDEO FROM U.A.E.: 'IF AL-QAEDA WANTS TO
AL-ARABIYA TV, Dubai: Excerpts from an interview with Muhammad Nazzal, member of the Hamas Political Bureau,' July 28, 00:01:16, MEMRI
THE ISRAELIS, THEY ARE WELCOME TO PALESTINE
"If Al-Qaeda or any Palestinian, Arab, or Islamic faction wants to come to Palestine to fight the Israelis, we welcome this."
Muhammad Nazzal, of the Hamas Political Bureau