Israel's Syria Card

[Washington Post ] Editorial - The U.S. and its allies have repeatedly been tantalized by the possibility of driving a wedge between Tehran and its chief Arab ally, Syria. The problem is how to move the murderous and corrupt regime of Bashar al-Assad, which hosts Hamas' leadership and is under investigation by the UN for assassinating Lebanese politicians. Sanctions against Syria have been too weak to be effective, and most of the political bribes that might interest Assad would be self-defeating - such as allowing him to restore Syria's political hegemony over Lebanon. Israeli Prime Minister Olmert's decision to begin exploratory talks with Syria, using Turkey as an intermediary, was a logical one. What remains unclear is whether either side seeks more than short-term tactical gain from the talks. For Syria, the public announcement of the talks - which it pressed for - eases the isolation that the Bush administration has tried to impose on Assad and distracts attention from his continuing campaign of murder in Lebanon. For now, it's difficult to believe that either side is willing or able to strike a larger bargain. In the absence of a convincing demonstration of change in Syria's strategic orientation, most Israelis and their representatives in parliament will strongly oppose giving up the Golan. Assad has become so deeply enmeshed in his alliance with Iran and in criminality in Lebanon that he is almost certainly incapable of such a switch.

2008-06-10 01:00:00

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