Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Is Syria Ready for Peace? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Israel’s offer to withdraw from the Golan Heights and establish relations with Syria in return for Syria severing its ties with Iran is just another attempt to waste time. Any Israeli-Syrian peace and withdrawal from the Golan Heights, if any, would mean a complete separation between Damascus and Tehran without it being set as a precondition  bearing in mind that when it comes to America and Israel, Iran is more pragmatic than Syria.

The Syrians, as well as the Israelis, want peace, although there are differences between the two. The regime in Damascus is far from being a peace maker, and Israel is divided internally now more than ever; while the sponsors of peace nurse their wounds.

What is the point?

As far as this article is concerned, I’m going to talk about Syria.

The Syrian regime only talks of resistance, confrontation and Arabism. What about the Syrian economy? Education? Where are the political, economic and even cultural infrastructures of the state? Believe it or not, around two decades ago Syria had 120 movie theaters but now it only has six!

Unfortunately, today Syria is unfit and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. Both the regime’s internal and external enemies are on the rise, therefore, Syria would be in a real dilemma if it makes peace with Israel anytime soon.

It is true that Damascus is in the heart of the many crises in the Arab world, but it may also be the key to resolving issues in Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine. However, this is difficult for Syria, as history has shown us that those who continue to play a game of contradictions, placing them all together in one basket, cannot easily rid themselves of the consequences.

Syria, for example, differs vastly from China, which applied itself to building its infrastructure despite Hong Kong’s occupation, or from the progressive India, notwithstanding its crisis with Pakistan, the rise in population, or the levels of poverty and illiteracy.

Damascus decided to adopt a card reshuffling policy in Lebanon, obstructing in Iraq, complicating any Palestinian solutions and throwing itself into Iran’s arms  although one of Damascus’s regional strengths under the late Hafez al Assad was its relations with Tehran, which served both parties while Syria still maintained its independence.

Today the situation is totally different; Syria is locked in an embrace with Iran despite Damascus’s pure secularism and Tehran’s fundamentalist Islam.

The entire Syrian position is about the liberation of the Golan Heights, but what is meant to be a Syrian tool or tactic has turned into a strategy that controls Damascus rather that being controlled by it.

What distinguishes Damascus the most today is the size of mistakes made in succession and the misinterpretation of events in the region, even within Syria internally.

These words may sound harsh for the Syrians, although I say them as someone who feels regret over Damascus. Two months ago, I was on an evening flight from London to Amman. From the sky I watched the states bordering the Mediterranean as we flew above; they were beautiful and luminous. “We are currently flying over Damascus en route to Jordan,” the pilot announced. I felt sadness at his words since all I saw was darkness and a few lights scattered here and there. I felt sad pondering the beauty of the Turkey’s nights, while Damascus, the oldest inhabited capital city had the longest nights!