April 04, 2007

Pelosi's Message To Syria

All of the Republican and media concern trolls, who ignored the April 1st visit by a Republican delegation to visit President Bashar al-Assad, wondered what message Speaker Pelosi's visit would give to the Syrians. Well, as it happens, a message from the Israelis. They'd like to come in peace:

"(Our) meeting with the president enabled us to communicate a message from Prime Minister (Ehud) Olmert that Israel was ready to engage in peace talks as well," Pelosi told reporters in Damascus after talks with Assad.

"We were very pleased with the reassurances we received from the president that he was ready to resume the peace process. He was ready to engage in negotiations (for) peace with Israel," she added.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said that Syria was ready to resume talks with Israel based on an Arab peace plan calling for Israeli withdrawal from all Arab land for peace adopted at a summit last month.

"They said that Mr. Olmert is ready for peace with Syria. We replied that Syria is ready for peace according to the Arab initiative," he told reporters. ...

I'd note that while the above article mentions the White House objection to the Pelosi visit, it also entirely fails to mention the visit of the Republican House delegation to Syria.

Update: Oh, wait! How could I forget having read about this. I'm sure I linked to the story at some point when it came out, but darned if could find such a thing. Anyway. A message of peace from Israel may have been exactly the sort of mixed message Bush meant. Because in December of 2006, Bush pressured the Israelis not to negotiate with Syria, even though they started off their offer of talks with a major concession:

Israel’s worst-kept diplomatic secret became public knowledge this week when its prime minister, Ehud Olmert, told his Cabinet that he was against taking up a dramatic new Syrian offer for peace talks — because doing so would undermine President Bush.

... Olmert’s position is that Israel can’t talk to Syria until it stops playing host to Palestinian rejectionist groups and providing support to Hezbollah. Critics argue that those are precisely the behaviors Israel should be negotiating to have halted. “Israel is demanding, as a precondition, that Syria give all that it has to give — even before sitting down at the negotiating table,” celebrated Israeli writer Amos Oz wrote this week. “That is a ludicrous demand.”

It’s long been rumored that Olmert’s real motive is placating Bush. He’s consistently denied it — until now. This time, he put his cards on the table. What drove him to ’fess up was a new peace overture from Damascus, announced December 16 by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem. Speaking to a Lebanese newspaper, Moallem offered to open peace talks without any preconditions — dropping for the first time Syria’s longtime demand that Israel concede the Golan Heights in advance of talks. Moallem was following up on comments a day earlier by Assad, who urged Olmert to “take a chance” and “discover if we are bluffing or not.” Assad also offered to help America restore stability in Iraq.

Olmert replied, according to the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, by questioning Assad’s motives in reaching out just “after the Baker report was published in Washington” — calling for talks with Syria — and “after Bush made a strong statement,” rejecting it. In effect, Olmert was asking, how dare Assad offer to patch things up when that’s what James Baker and growing numbers of Americans want? Where would that leave Bush?

In case his meaning wasn’t clear, Olmert spelled it out bluntly: “At a time when the president of the United States, Israel’s most important ally, with whom we have a network of strategic relations — when he is fighting in every arena, both at home in America, in Iraq and in other places in the world, against all the elements that want to weaken him — is this the time for us to say the opposite?” ...

The article goes on to note that Syria usually honors its treaties and expressed hope that Olmert would do the reasonable, instead of the sycophantic, thing and talk with Assad. Clearly, he didn't. But now that the Democrats are in charge in Congress, maybe Israel sees enough of a change in the wind that they're willing to try reason instead of catering to a guy who seemed to oppose talks with Iran and Syria last December just for the sake of thumbing his nose at the Iraq Study Group:

... The ISG's assessment of the Bush administration's policy in Iraq is scathing, saying the situation there is "deteriorating" and warning that "time is running out".

"It's bad in Iraq," Mr Bush conceded to reporters.

But he said the violence was not a result of "faulty planning".

And he stressed an Iraq that could govern and sustain itself was a noble cause - which extremists inside and outside the country were trying to prevent.

The ISG urged talks with Iran and Syria on tackling the instability. ...

When that's the sort of message the rest of the world is getting from the Most Petulant President Ever, maybe mixing it up a little bit wouldn't be so bad. It certainly couldn't be more embarassing, or fail to come closer to reality. Indeed, no harm done.

Posted by natasha at April 4, 2007 08:59 AM | Mideast | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |