The recent announcement of peace negotiations between Israel and Syria through Turkey, and the agreement between the Lebanese factions in Qatar – both apparently without meaningful U.S. involvement – should serve as a wake-up call that our policy of nonengagement has isolated us more than the Syrians. These developments also help create new opportunities and increased leverage that we can only exploit through substantive dialogue with Syria.
These so called peace negotiations are being directed by an Israeli PM that will soon be out of a job and frankly should have never had one. Furthermore, these so called negotiations come mere months after the Israelis blew up a covert nuclear program that Syria was working on with North Korea. It has also been reported that part of the negotiations include the Israelis giving up the Golan Heights. Of course, it is patently ridiculous for Israel to give up the strategic high ground for a worthless piece of paper. Does all of this provide the proper framework for negotiations that would benefit Israel?
The two continue.
The agreement by the Lebanese parties provides another opening. Syria must respect Lebanon's sovereignty and end its deadly meddling. But the fact that Syria's ally, Hezbollah, secured much of the political power it sought should remove Syria's excuse for failing to open an embassy, normalize relations, and finally demarcate the border with Lebanon. Hezbollah must eventually be disarmed, as United Nations Resolutions 1559 and 1701 require, but its agreement not to use force internally could be used to push Syria to shut off the supply of weapons.
Of course, these two are plain naive. This so called agreement was nothing more than a capitulation by the central government of Lebanon to the terrorist group Hezbollah. In fact, Hezbollah is now more powerful than ever and that's because the world insisted on a settled agreement rather than a military one in 2006. These two seem to argue that we want more involvement by Syria in Lebanon. This is of course the same Syria that supports and funds Hezbollah which is causing all the problems there. Then, they say their most foolish thing.
Dialogue can open the door for greater cooperation on Iraq. Top Syrian officials have argued that Syria shares America's interest in a stable, secular Iraq and does not want a strongly pro-Iranian regime in Baghdad. Our partnership with Sunni tribes against al Qaeda may have further aligned our interests. As U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker has noted, Islamic extremists also threaten Syria.
While Syria must crack down on the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claims positive steps have not been rewarded. We should test whether offering tangible benefits brings better results, starting with providing more humanitarian assistance for the nearly 1.5 million Iraqi refugees Syria has absorbed.
The only thing that Syria wants is for the U.S. to fail miserably in Iraq. A democracy on its border threatens the very fabric of their own dictatorship. The idea that Assad would ever willingly help us in Iraq is the height fo naivite. It simply boggles the mind that professional politicians think that evil folks should be given carrots in lieu of sticks. They seem to take Assad at his word that he has been more cooperative even though Syria continues to be second only to Iran as the biggest state menaces in Iraq.
What Assad desperately wants is the recognition and respect of the rest of the Middle East and the world. That's exactly what a high level meeting would bring him. Yet, that's exactly what these two are proposing.