Monday, July 10, 2006

The Syrian deal

From a recent interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (originally published here; my emphasis in red):

“Al-Hayat: If we return to the topic of Syrian-American relations, Washington says that it doesn't want to change the regime in Syria, but wants a change in behavior; in your opinion, where is the problem? Is it Iraq, or Lebanon, relations with Hamas or Islamic Jihad? Where is the problem?

President al-Assad: I prefer to discuss a fact, and not an opinion. An opinion might involve analysis, but a there actual things being asked of Syria. First, we were asked to participate in the Iraq war, and we refused. Then, we were asked to disarm the Palestinians in Lebanon and Hizbullah, especially during the period between the issuing of UN Security Council Resolution 1559 and the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. This phase involved bargaining, so that Syria could remain in Lebanon, but it would have to do this and that.

Al-Hayat: Who requested this? The Americans?

President al-Assad: The Americans, of course. (UN Envoy Terje-Roed) Larsen. Some Europeans, in the form of mediation, would relay American messages to us.

Al-Hayat: So that Syria could remain in Lebanon?

President al-Assad: This was the meaning of the proposal, also during a later phase. After the war, Syria was requested to promote the Road Map. Syria didn't oppose it, but didn't agree to it either. They wanted Syria to give them the cover, to say that the process was good, and that the proposal was good. We weren't mistaken. At the least, in terms of Syria the proposal wasn't good. We were asked to lay siege to Hamas, strike at Hamas, this was the change in behavior requested of Syria.

In other words, the piously stated American concern for Lebanese sovereignty could be thrown out in a minute if Syria would agree to arrange for more pressing Israeli concerns.  Can there be any doubt who is really pulling the American strings?

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