Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Obama…The Lost Treasure is in Syria | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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In a previous article, I argued that Syria should be the first country to be dealt with in the peace process that America is striving towards in our region. I will revisit the same topic in this article as there are still a number of facts that support this idea.

The Israelis are procrastinating when it comes to peace claiming that action must first be taken regarding the Iranian nuclear file. Meanwhile, the Iranians are trying to buy time without having to put a stop to their project. As a result, both sides are benefiting whilst the region is truly suffering. The recent comments made by the Jordanian monarch, King Abdullah II, further highlighted this as he warned of a new war as long as there is no peace in the region. This war will either come as a result of frustration or in the service of other agendas, (which was the case in the 2006 war in Lebanon and the war on the Gaza Strip earlier this year), which will only complicate matters further.

Therefore, the least complicated issue today regarding peace is Syrian-Israeli peace. It is the least complicated in the sense that the Syrians have repeatedly shown that they want to resume the peace process. Moreover, there are no complications that the Netanyahu government could use as an excuse, and both parties have made real progress in negotiations.

What Washington must be aware of and must interpret carefully is the confusion that has afflicted Iran and Syria’s allies due to US-Syrian dialogue, even though we are yet to see any practical results.

Hamas stated that no other party but Syria is allowed to take part in negotiations, and Iran has demanded that Damascus shows patience because victory is on its way to both Iran and Syria. It is worth mentioning here that the Syrians did not come out with any emotional language regarding the recent renewal of US sanctions against them.

Syrian-Israeli peace is just as important to Washington and to the entire region as US withdrawal from Iraq is. If Washington wants to deliver a master stroke, as they say, then it must begin with this issue immediately. Restoring the occupied Golan Heights to Syria would mean that the security of the borders of this plateau, which are already secure, will be sustainable and legitimate in accordance with the peace agreement. This will take away Syria’s embarrassment and a lot will result from it. Syrian-Israeli peace will have an effect upon the Shebaa Farms and the Ghajar village and will determine the rightful owner of these areas. Accordingly, this will invalidate Hezbollah’s pretext for armament in Lebanon and it might even attract Lebanon to the negotiation table as well.

Peace between Syria and Israel will also produce an effect upon the Syrian-Iraqi borders. This does not mean that Damascus has the right to blackmail America with Baghdad but rather that it will force Syria to safeguard all of its borders whether the Syrian-Lebanese borders or the Syrian-Iraqi borders because at that point Damascus will be under threat from its former friends who are subservient to Iran. Consequently, this will push Damascus towards moderation and protecting an agenda of moderation, which is to support stability and Arab solidarity because Damascus will then have something that it could potentially lose in the future whereas today it has nothing that it fears it could lose.

If Washington is aware of this and strives towards Syrian-Israeli peace, it will see that the lost treasure lies in Syria and not in dialogue with Iran or in wasting time wooing Khaled Mishaal who, at that point, will find himself facing two options; either to reside in Tehran or to return once again under the Palestinian umbrella and this of course is the pursued goal.

Will Washington seize the opportunity?