It looks like a peace deal has been cut with Syria
By Ted Belman
While media attention has been focused on the Palestinian track where no progress has been made and no real pressure applied, serious work has been going on with Syria.
You will recall that the Iraq Study Group under Baker recommended in November ’06, that the US should engage Syria and Iran about Iraq without preconditions. While Bash and Rice rejected the recommendations publicly, they went about following them.
The Annapolis Conference held one year later was part of that new dialogue. Syria was induced to attend because, there was added to the agenda, under the title “Comprehensive Peace”, the Syrian tract and the Lebanon tract. Syria left empty handed and began plotting moves to get satisfaction. In late January, Hezbollah started challenging the Siniora government in Lebanon. This culminated in a mini civil war followed by the Doha Compromise in the last week of May, which strengthened Hezbollah and installed General Sulieman as President. He is known as a Syrian ally.
Much to my surprise, the US backed the agreement and Israel used that as an occasion to announce peace talks with Syria under the auspices of Turkey. Evidently informal talks had been going on for some time. The timing of the announcement may have had more to do with Doha than with Talanski.
Just three weeks later Israel is conceding the Shebaa Farms. This can only signal a final deal with Syria is in the offing.
On Sunday two French emissaries visited Damascus with the offer of Shebaa farms. The next day, Condi Rice departed from her stated mission of moving the Palestinian tract forward to go to Beirut to cement the deal. Finally the EU announced an upgrading of ties to Israel with a perfunctory nod to the peace process.
The French are hoping to have both Syrian President Assad and PM Olmert attend their Conference of Mediterranean States on July 13 at which time the two would “meet”. Finally, without interminable negations for the release of Goldwasser and Regev, as is the case with Shalit, we hear that the two are expected to be released within weeks.
All these events are connected and suggest that a deal has been cut for he return of the Golan and final peace with Lebanon and Syria. It may be that the real reason for the “lull” with Hamas is to enable these events to play out. As I suggested in another article another reason for accepting the lull may be the belief that a future worse conflict can be avoided.
Bush gave a telling interview in Paris a few days ago in which he said
“When you go to the Middle East and you sit in my seat and listen, yes, there’s concern about the Palestinian state. But the dialogue has shifted dramatically from ’solve the Palestinian state and you’ve solved the problems in the Middle East’ to, now, ’solve the Iranian issue and you solve the problems in the Middle East’.”
And so it has.
The US strategy is to first get Syria sorted away and then work on Iran with the full cooperation of the EU.
If all this comes to pass as I have suggested, a peace deal will be forced on Israel and the PA, the terms of which may already have been agreed to between Israel and the US. Just today Condi Rice is interfering in negotiations between Israel and the PA by siding with the division of Jerusalem. So much for allowing the parties to negotiate final status issues.