U.S. entices Syria

July 29, 2009 - 0:0

In the last two parts of this paper the history of U.S.-Syrian ties and the possible economic incentives that the West can offer Syria have been examined. The concluding part of the series will examine the future scenarios taking into account today’s political realities.

Following the meeting between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell in Damascus, the U.S. State Department announced easing of sanctions on Syria.
“Senator Mitchell told President Assad that the U.S. would process all eligible applications for export licenses as quickly as possible,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said as Mr. Mitchell continued his regional tour.
During his visit on Sunday Mr. Mitchell assured Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that the U.S. will ease the export of spare aircraft parts, information-technology products and telecommunications equipment.
This is not a removal of sanctions imposed on Syria which was renewed for one year by U.S. President Barrack H. Obama in May. The formal lifting would require Congressional approval and would take some time.
Mr. Mitchell met Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president in Cairo on Monday. Talks are scheduled with senior Israeli officials in Jerusalem and with leaders of the western-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank city of Ramallah this week.
Meanwhile Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Friday that the U.S. has given $200 million to help operations of the cash-stripped Palestinian Authority.
Sounds like Uncle Sam is out shopping for peace.
The underlying assumption is that a better Syrian-Israeli relation would lead to a broader Arab-Israeli peace and help isolate Iran and reduce support for the Islamic resistance movements of Hezbollah and Hamas. However, there are some major flaws with this assumption.
First of all trust and brotherhood is not for sale and cannot be bought.
Just because the United States has changed its tone and diplomatic behavior due to the election of a new president does not mean imply a fundamental change in U.S. foreign policy. The Zionist lobby in the U.S. won’t allow such a change.
Analysts think that the cessation of settlement activities would strengthen the Western backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s position in relation to Hamas.
Presently Egypt is brokering between Fatah and Hamas. Without reconciliation between these two factions any future talks between Palestine and Israel will be futile. So far Egypt has been unable to overcome differences.
The differences between U.S. and Israel are also pending. Mr. Obama has repeatedly insisted Israel should freeze all construction in the territory viewed by Palestinians as part of their future state, including East Jerusalem and West Bank. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected Obama’s call, insisting that building must continue to accommodate growing families.
Mr. Abbas has been refusing to resume negotiations with Israel until it ceased all settlement activities in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, which Palestinians consider as part of their future state.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told visiting U.S. official Frederic Hof, Mr. Mitchell’s aid, on July 16 that Damascus wants the Golan Heights back as part of any Middle East peace deal.
Muallem stressed Syria's wish to “recover Golan as far as the border of June 4, 1967,” before Israel occupied the upland region in that year's six-day war, Syria’s Sana news agency reported.
Israel has repeatedly refused to halt construction on any of the above-mentioned occupied lands. The best compromise that Israel is offering is to complete the present construction projects and halt any future construction.
Mr. Netanyahu’s security adviser Uzi Arad has ruled out the possibility that Israel would return all of Golan Heights.
In general the Palestinians have to compromise on East Jerusalem and West Bank and Syria on Golan Heights.
Last but not the least is that the official Syrian position is that Mr. Netanyahu’s government which came to power earlier this year is “no partner for peace”. Mr. Netanyahu will not make any meaningful compromise with the Palestinians or Syrians. In fact it is to Israel’s benefit that the current deadlock continue.
Photo: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad shakes hand with U.S. special envoy George Mitchell on Sunday in Damascus.