Assad Doesn't Want a Peace Treaty with Israel

[Commentary] Michael J. Totten - Syria's Bashar Assad couldn't sign a peace treaty with Israel even if he wanted to - and he doesn't want to. Assad and his late father Hafez Assad have justified the dictatorial "emergency rule," on the books since 1963, by pointing to the never-ending war with Israel. Assad would face more pressure to loosen up his Soviet-style system without it. An official state of war costs him very little. His army does not have to fight; he can fight Israel through proxies like Hamas and Hizbullah. No Arab government is as stridently anti-Israel as Assad's. There is no better way for a detested Alawite regime to curry favor with Sunnis in Syria and the Arab world as a whole than by adopting the anti-Zionist cause as its own. Earlier this year, I met with Lebanon's Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who asserted that the Alawite regime is actually afraid of signing a peace treaty with Israel. "Suppose we go ultimately to the so-called peace. Then later on, what is the purpose of the Syrian regime? What is Assad going to tell his people? Especially, mind you, he is a member of the Alawite minority. This minority could be accused of treason. It's not like Egypt or Jordan whereby the government has some legitimacy." Syria's Alawite elites understand this very well, even if Western diplomats do not.

2009-09-04 08:00:00

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