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The Concerns of Damascus’s Allies - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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If there was anything striking about the joint press conference held by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Hamas supremo Khaled Mishal, it would be what they didn’t say publicly about Syrian-Israeli negotiations.

Mottaki and Mishal are questioning Israel’s intentions for returning the Golan Heights, and are thereby skeptical about the outcome of the Syrian-Israel negotiations.

“Israel must return the Golan Heights to Syria without setting any conditions, ” Mottaki stated. Meanwhile, Mishal said, “We regard [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert to be too weak to take the necessary steps to achieve peace with Syria.”

Both statements come as a warning to Damascus to not get dragged too deep into negotiations. Mottaki is talking about rejecting the conditions, and it is common knowledge that any negotiations entail conditions and concessions from both sides, while Mishal has doubts about Olmert’s ability to deliver.

Mottaki and Mishal have tried, using the language of diplomacy, to send a message to Damascus; however, that rhetoric does not conceal their deep concern about their Syrian ally’s negotiations with Israel.

So, can one say that a crack has appeared between the allies in Damascus, Tehran, and loyalist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas? I believe is the answer is ‘yes’.

Following his meeting with the Syrian Defense Minister [Hassan Turkmani], Ahmadinejad confirmed that he was sure that the Syrian leadership “will not abandon the front lines until all threats from the Zionist entity have disappeared,” he stated.

But these are aspirations and not the words of an ally in the know.

Here we must juxtapose separate geographical details side-by-side so that the observer may be able to see the larger picture of the region. First; there is Imad Mughniyeh’s assassination in Damascus, then the crushing of Moqtada al Sadr in Iraq, followed by Hezbollah’s coup on Beirut, and the official admission by all parties that there are Syrian-Israeli negotiations taking place.

It is also important to recall the circulating reports that say that Syria has firmly sealed the Syrian-Iraqi borders a few days ago. Today, Syria is hinting at diplomatic exchange with Lebanon, while Israel is talking about a new understanding of the peace process. Instead of the concept of land for peace, Tel Aviv is talking about security for land. This means that the Golan Heights will be returned at the expense of relations with Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas.

The Israelis have publicly announced this and no matter how much the Syrians say that they reject the preconditions; it is impossible to imagine that negotiations over a year and a half between Damascus and Tel Aviv would not touched upon these topics – in fact, they are likely to be the basis for negotiations [the preconditions]

The Syrian rejection of the conditions is questionable; the Israelis are publicly stating that Damascus has been seeking to initiate peace negotiations with Israel for the past four years. Syria knows that it does not have an Arab cover and that it is isolated internationally, and it is also aware that the region is headed for stormy seas following the Arab regional maneuvers to counteract the Iranian pursuit to dominate over the Arab world. And Syria is the weakest link in the bone crushing arena.

The concern felt by Syria’s allies is evident and it is noticeable that they are the ones talking while Syria remains silent. Likewise, the shock of those who were driven behind pompous slogans has come into sharper focus – whether the Syrian negotiations with Israel have tangible results or not.

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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