Syria and the illusion of pursuing
by Daily Star
To understand why there is so much Syrian skepticism regarding the Annapolis meeting it may be useful to analyze the differences between the current and former presidents George Bush.
The 1991 Madrid peace conference was held under the joint sponsorship of the United States and the Soviet Union. The US was then seen as a savior in the Middle East after it succeeded in pushing Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait while refusing to invade Baghdad despite the overwhelming support that George H. W. Bush enjoyed. At the same time, Washington forced then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to participate in the Madrid conference. The two sponsors created some kind of a balance, all major issues were on the agenda and Spain was a third country outside the circle of conflict.
All that has changed in the past few years. America is no longer seen as a savior. On the contrary, it has become the Middle East troublemaker. George W. Bush has entered into a series of wars that have brought horrendous disasters and are threatening ever worse consequences. He insisted on invading Baghdad and staying there despite the opposition of the United Nations. Today, and for the first time in decades, we hear renewed talk about a world war.
He made enemies of several regimes and countries that had until then enjoyed reasonable relations with the US.
Now we see him now announce a peace conference that shows no single component of success. George W. Bush does not to any degree enjoy the credibility that his father did. He never fails to repeat the message that the success of his peace program does not depend on Syria, Lebanon, Iran or Hamas and insists on excluding these parties while at the same time claiming he is bent on achieving peace.
What is the nature of the peace he wants when he insists on excluding the major parties and even prevents the adversaries from resuming contact? How can we envision peace when Washington says it will not, even before invitations are sent out, discuss the issue of the Golan Heights, as if the Golan is a deserted farm and not home to more than 600,000 human beings who have been dispersed for the past 40 years?
The American position during the war in Lebanon last summer may be the most illustrative in explaining Syrian suspicions. When Israel invaded South Lebanon, we felt perplexed. How could Israel invade a country where friends of America are in charge and guide the country according to American wishes? We thought it would be a matter of hours during which Israel would launch a strike against the resistance and then withdraw. But instead the Israeli Air Force struck at everything: It shelled the North, the South, the east and the west from Ras al-Naqoura and Al-Masnaa to Raouche, Nabatieh and Achrafieh, even the area of Koreitem Palace. There was no safe haven in Lebanon and Israel announced its intention to exact revenge from the soil and land of Lebanon.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora sent several appeals to the US and even shed tears before the television cameras at an international conference.
But the answer from Washington was not comforting. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice simply said that Israel needed some time to fight "terrorism." This "some time" was 33 days in which Israel shelled the people and the country with around 100,000 rockets that destroyed entire neighborhoods and killed thousands of people, left 1 million Lebanese citizens homeless and destroyed more than 30 towns and villages.