April 1, 2010

Kerry in Syria - are you really that naive?

Syrian President Bashar al-Asad and Senator John Kerry

Over the past few months, President Barack Obama has attempted to engage Syria and improve America's relations with the country. Obama has appointed an ambassador to fill the post which has been vacant since 2005 when Syria was suspected (rightly, in my opinion) of complicity in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafqi al-Hariri in Beirut. I applaud the Administration's efforts to try and break Iran's diplomatic hold on Syria - that will be critical to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East (see my earlier article, Obama to "engage" Syria - why not?).

Unfortunately, John Kerry has decided to insert himself into the process. I hope he was not sent by the White House, but is merely attempting to make himself relevant in American politics. If the President did in fact dispatch Kerry to Damascus and is relying on the senator for advice about the Middle East, we are in trouble.

Let's look at the Senator's words, beyond the obvious, "Syria is an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region."

Here's a Kerry classic: "Both the United States and Syria have a very deep interest in having a very frank exchange on any differences (and) agreements that we have about the possibilities of peace in this region."


"There are things that the United States can do, there are things that Syria can do, there are things that Israel can do, Turkey can do, some are unilateral, some are multilateral. But all of us have to work together in order to seize real opportunities.

"We also remain deeply concerned about the flow of weapons in this area, through this area, to Hezbollah. That is something that must stop in order to promote regional stability and security."

This is not rocket science. If there is to be peace between Syria and Israel, Israel must return the Golan Heights which it has occupied since seizing the area in the Six Day War of 1967. For its part, Syria will have to stop the Iranian resupply flights into Damascus that are Hizballah's primary source of weapons used to threaten northern Israel.

How about just publicly demand those two things: Israel, commit to return the Golan. Syria, agree to stop Iranian resupply of Hizballah? It doesn't take an hours-long meeting at the Qasr al-Sha'ab that creates a bunch of words that mean nothing - I refer to your "Kerry classic" above.

Do you really think that you accomplish anything on these trips? Having served at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, I can tell you the answer is no.