Behind the Israel-Syria Talks

[New York Post] Amir Taheri - Why are Israel-Syria talks happening now? Syria's economy is in the doldrums. The threat of an international tribunal hangs over its leaders because of their alleged involvement in former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri's murder. A new peace process could divert international attention and persuade the major powers that making peace is more important than bringing Hariri's killers to justice. Plus, at least part of Syria's leadership also worries about the regime's increasing reliance on Iran, which has led to Syria's unprecedented isolation in the Arab world. Even in Lebanon, the cost for Syria is high. For decades, Syria was the main foreign influence in Lebanon. Now Iran has taken its place. During last week's Lebanese peace talks in Qatar, Hizbullah delegation leader Muhammad Hassan Raad left four times to "check things out" with Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Motakki. Iran wants to control Syria and Lebanon as advance posts in what it sees as its inevitable war against Israel. Its efforts in Syria include creating the largest Shiite theological seminary outside Iran, plus a massive campaign of "Shiificiation" via 14 Iranian "cultural centers" recently opened in Syrian provinces. The chances of peace breaking out remain low. Syria can't easily abandon Iran, something that Israel is demanding as a precondition. And Israel can't commit itself to handing back the Golan Heights, which Syria insists upon as a precondition.

2008-05-23 01:00:00

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