Syria’s Place at the Table


President G W Bush with Imad Mustafa.jpg
(Syrian Ambassador to the US Imad Moustapha and President George W. Bush)
New York University professor Alon Ben-Meir has written an eloquent and compelling essay on why Syria’s role in any Israel-Palestine negotiation is central, not peripheral, to a serious Middle East peace negotiation.
He writes:

Regardless of the reality or the merits of American grievances against Syria, none can be settled by public recriminations and accusations. The agreement with North Korea regarding its nuclear weapons program should be a telling lesson to the administration. Only when it conceded to the North Korean demand for face-to-face negotiations was an agreement finally hammered out with Pyongyang, an agreement which could have been achieved five years ago and certainly before North Korea got to the point of conducting an actual nuclear test.
Inviting Syria to the peace conference is not a reward to Damascus for its alleged mischievous behavior; it is a matter of real necessity dictated by the prevailing turmoil in the Middle East to which the Bush administration has contributed so largely. The Middle- East conference offers the Bush administration an opportunity to change course toward Syria without loosing face not to speak of preventing a colossal failure.

Today, a group of bipartisan foreign policy heavyweights — Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee Hamilton, Nancy Kassebaum Baker, Theodore Sorensen, Paul Volcker, Thomas Pickering and Carla Hills — sent President Bush a letter calling for serious engagement with Syria in the Israel-Palestine peace process and an end to the isolation of Hamas.
In the letter sent to Bush today by this roster of luminaries, however, they “welcome” the administration’s overtures toward Syria.
But these overtures, as far as Syria is concerned are insubstantial and largely fake.
Syria has NOT been formally invited to the Annapolis meetings in a direct sense. Syria has been invited as a member of the Arab League. And this sleight-of-hand, sloppy manner of inviting Syria to the table is not inspiring serious consideration.
Neither is the absence of coordination between the US government and other stakeholder governments — like the Russian Federation.
— Steve Clemons


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