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The Damascus Summit: They’re in a Dilemma! - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Away from the diplomatic niceties that dominated the quadripartite Damascus summit, it was noticeable that the meeting revealed more dilemmas than it did solutions or parallel positions. The dilemma here lies in the nature of the continuous struggle in the Arab region and in what each party in the region wants.

After French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that he would require the assistance of his Syrian counterpart [President Bashar al Assad] to solve the Iranian nuclear file and to convince Iran of the necessity to cooperate with the international community, he made a statement in which he restricted all efforts of persuasion and mediation.

In this statement, which can only be described as dangerous, he said, “[Iran] is taking a major risk by continuing the process of seeking nuclear technology for military ends.” The French president continued further and warned Tehran directly by saying, “Whatever government is in power in Israel, we may wake up one morning and find that Israel has already struck,” and at that point there will be no discussions on the legitimacy, or lack of legitimacy, of Israel striking Iran, according to Sarkozy.

What is the significance of this statement? I believe that it has revealed two things; the first is that there is still a strong possibility that Iran could be subjected to a military strike because of its nuclear ambitions, and particularly at the hands of Israel. Even the French cannot guarantee how and when it could happen.

The second point is since Sarkozy delivered this statement in Damascus; this means that the French are making Syria’s mission difficult, or that they doubt Syria’s capabilities in communicating such a message, otherwise Sarkozy would have been convinced of what the Syrians will do. He should not have made such a risky statement; what kind of mediation can Syria embark upon now when Sarkozy has erased the term “mediation”?

From Sarkozy’s statement, it is apparent that the Syrians will find themselves in a real dilemma if Israel launches a military strike against Iran. In which direction would Syria turn? And what would it do about its negotiations with Israel?

Another important point is that it contradicts what France has said previously about Damascus’ positive position regarding Lebanon. The Syrian president spoke about Lebanon as if it is a Syrian province regarding the conflicts in Tripoli and spoke about the Lebanese president as if he is the head of the Syrian army.

This all took place in front of the French president, especially that the Syrian president spoke about “Salafist” extremism and said that there is a state that is officially sponsoring it and it is clear what the Syrian president is referring to here. So how will Sarkozy convince Washington or Riyadh or Cairo that trust can be built with Syria?

That’s not all; the Syrian president discussed stability and peace, in fact, he went even further and made a suggestion for solving the Darfur crisis in three points. What was noticeable in the proposal for solving the Sudanese crisis was the first item that suggested that the matter of [establishing] the court be postponed for one year, which of course means gaining access to the second stage at which point Washington will enter in the midst of the tumult of presidential elections.

However the vital question here is: what if the international tribunal to try the suspects of the Rafiq Hariri assassination were to get underway soon? What would happen and what would be the result?

Aren’t they in a dilemma?

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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