Michael Totten

Damascus Reverts to Form

Well, that didn’t last long. Last week, Syrian President Bashar Assad “announced he would resume peace negotiations with Israel”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/the-show-needn-t-go-on-15285 without preconditions, but now he suddenly says “it’s impossible”:http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArchiveDetails.aspx?ID=126250. “What we lack is an Israeli partner,” he said, “who is ready to go forward and ready to come to a result.”
As an absolute dictator and a state sponsor of terrorism, Assad is in no position to boohoo about how the region’s only mature liberal democracy supposedly isn’t a peace partner — but he wouldn’t do this if he didn’t think he could get away with it. If even the United States, of all countries, is behaving as though Israel were the problem, why shouldn’t he play along?
In a different historical context, it might be amusing, as Baghdad Bob’s alternate-universe pronouncements were, to listen to the tyrannical Assad talk as though he’s the Syrian equivalent of Israel’s dovish Shimon Peres, while the elected Israeli prime minister is a Jewish Yasir Arafat. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, though, is acting as though the first part were true.
Sarkozy is working hard to boost France’s influence in the Middle East by carving out a role for himself as a mediator between Israelis and Arabs. When Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced last week that they would hold talks, they did it through him. And this weekend Sarkozy offered to host Assad, Netanyahu, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “at a summit in Paris”:http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1128154.html. He can’t host any such thing, however, if the belligerents on the Arab side are shut out. So Assad has to be brought in from the cold, whether he’s earned it or not.
He hasn’t. And now that his reputation is getting an undeserved scrubbing, brace yourself for the worst sort of passive-aggressive Orwellian grandstanding.
“What Obama said about peace was a good thing,” “he said”:http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSLD669097. “We agree with him on the principles, but as I said, what’s the action plan? The sponsor has to draw up an action plan.”
Notice what he’s done here? He’s portraying himself as though not only Netanyahu but also Barack Obama were less interested in peace than he is. It should be obvious, though, that Assad isn’t serious. He supports terrorist organizations that kill Americans, Israelis, Iraqis, and Lebanese — not exactly the sort of behavior one associates with leaders who agree with Barack Obama “on the principles.” Yet he’s blaming the United States for his own roguish behavior, because the U.S. does not have an “action plan.”
“Read the rest in Commentary Magazine”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/totten/168291.