Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Syria, Israel, and Pelosi

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Syrian President Bashir al-Assad is ready for renewed peace talks with Israel. Pelosi is currently visiting various Middle Eastern countries — including Israel, Lebanon, and Syria — at the condemnation of the White House. I fail to see how this is, as US President Bush put it, undermining US foreign policy, considering how America’s foreign policy lies in shambles from his war on terror policies. Just because Bush blocks out the vital entity of Syria from his diplomacy does not mean others have to.

Pelosi did express worries over Syrian support for Hamas, Hezbollah, and terrorist groups, but also said the Middle Eastern nation had a role in the Israel-Palestine peace negotiations. Syria is also blamed for allowing some terrorist fighters into Iraq, although it has sealed much of its border. It is home to many Iraqi and Palestinian refugees. Because of the Israeli occupation of Syria’s Golan Heights, they have their own interests with Israeli peace talks. Israel’s Prime Minister Olmert said he was ready to begin talks too.

Pelosi’s visit has contrasted with the Bush administration’s often hostile or meaningless foreign policies, though some see her as overstepping her bounds. Remember: the Baker-Hamilton ISG report strongly pushed for talks between the United States and Syria (and Iran) over Iraq.

There have been changes in the administration policy, albeit small ones, when talks that included Syria and Iran were announced in March. However, these talks are only indirect. A real step forward is needed for the sake of the horrendous situation in the Middle East, diplomacy is needed.

"The meeting with the president enabled us to communicate a message from Prime Minister Olmert that Israel was ready to engage in peace talks as well", Pelosi stated. The Bush administration has been trying its hardest to isolate the Syrian government, which is suspected of killing a Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri, in 2005. The assassination led to Syria leaving Lebanon and a new, more independent Lebanese government being set up. The assassination still remains shrouded in mystery; Syria has received much of the blame and international condemnation has been the norm.

However, diplomacy cannot work without isolation. If the US is able to make better ties with Syria, Syria may stray from Iran, whose influence has been a major issue. Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States — and many other Mid-East states — all share the common interest and worry: Iraq. Pelosi’s reception by the Arab press is quite interesting, and overall positive. Common themes include: this visit is a blow to the Bush administration in a domestic political and foreign policy sense; Pelosi is taking a step forward and opening up communication, which is needed; she is also recognizing Syria’s importance in the Middle East, including in Iraq and Israel-Palestine; she is seeing reality and hopes to work on the issues at hand.

See this post for background on Syria.

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