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Syria: Yet to Pay the Price - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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An interview with a well-informed Syrian source on the secret negotiations between Israel and Syria that was published recently in Asharq Al-Awsat was both interesting and perplexing to a large degree. The interview was full of contradictions and demonstrated that Damascus has a strong desire to reactivate its semi-suspended ties with Washington.

The contradictions in the interview with the Syrian source began with the issue of the Shebaa Farms, ownership of this land and Israeli withdrawal from it. The source’s comments implied that the Shebaa Farms belong to Syria and whenever this issue arises it quickly fades away; however, American comments on Israeli withdrawal from the Shebaa farms have pushed the Syrians to now break their silence on the topic.

The question is: if the Shebaa Farms really do belong to Syria then why did Lebanon have to bear the consequences of Hezbollah and Hassan Nasrallah’s actions? Why isn’t Hezbollah in Syria and why doesn’t Damascus bear the consequences of Hezbollah’s wars since they would be in defense of Syrian land especially that the Shebaa Farms are tiny in comparison to the Golan Heights, as I have previously stated.

If the Shebaa Farms, however, belong to Lebanon then why are the Syrians even discussing the issue and rejecting the demarcation of borders; what would Syria “gain in return,” asked the Syrian source. In the case that Israel does withdraw from the Shebaa Farms then wouldn’t that be interference in Lebanese affairs and continuation of disrupting Lebanon in contrast to Syria’s claims that it does not interfere in Lebanese matters?

It is odd that the Syrians considered Condoleezza Rice’s statements on Israeli withdrawal from the Shebaa Farms a disruption to the course of negotiations “and the inciting of some parties against others,” in the words of the Syrian source. But the question here is: Isn’t Syrian-Israeli negotiation a blow to talks on establishing a Palestinian state? Has it forced Palestinians into a vicious circle despite that Israel and Hamas have reached a truce which would not have been accomplished without Damascus’ blessing?

Syrian-Israeli negotiations can only be described as a life saver to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who has been rescued from American pressure for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The other puzzling point is that all of Syria’s allies and affiliates, whether in Damascus or Lebanon, continuously distract us with their attacks on America describing anyone who disagrees with them as Zionist/American agents. This is the case with Iranian-affiliated Hezbollah and its supporters, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and Tehran. The Arabs are divided into friends of Syria or Arab traitors who collaborate with America whilst Damascus, at the same time, appears to be activating its ties with Washington on all levels as it says that negotiations cannot take place without the United States.

Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas are negotiating with Israel with or without a mediator just as Iran is negotiating with the United States, either covertly or overtly, and Damascus is begging America to restore normal communication; all of that is taking place amidst the clamor of accusations of treachery in the region.

The problem with Damascus is that is has not paid the price for everything that it has done, whether in secret or in public, and has never faced the consequences of its actions. It has never been burnt since Damascus, in the words of the Syrian source, loves to “cook over a low fire”.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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