Syria Could Have Had Peace with Israel. Instead, Its Rulers Chose Slaughter and Impoverishment

March 1 2021

Exactly ten years ago yesterday, the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad made a stunning offer to American negotiators: he would cut ties with Iran, cease support for Hizballah and Hamas, and stop threatening Israel—in exchange for the Golan Heights. But a mere two weeks later, his troops started shooting peaceful protestors in the city of Daraa, and Assad launched a bloody war against his own people that has not yet come to an end. Frederic Hof, who was an America mediator between Damascus and Jerusalem at the time, reflects:

The destruction of Syria has been senseless. A Syrian president seemingly committed to retrieving [lost] territory in exchange for Syria’s strategic reorientation threw it all away. And for what? . . . One possibility is that Assad deliberately used violence to cancel his conditional peace commitments and escape U.S. mediation. No one forced him to make those commitments; he offered them all during a 50-minute meeting. One wonders, however, if in the weeks following his promise of full strategic reorientation, Assad had second thoughts about Iran’s likely reaction and the domestic political implications of peace. In any event he has all but deeded to Israel the land he said he wanted returned to Syria.

Ten years on, Assad hopes the U.S. will reengage him diplomatically and lavish reconstruction funds on him and his entourage. The view here is that such hopes are illusory.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have died. Countless Syrians have been maimed and traumatized, both physically and psychologically. Tens of thousands remain in regime torture chambers. All this to preserve a family business; a business that might have thrived and evolved politically into something more inclusive and representative if it had made pragmatic and humane choices a decade ago. But was it ever capable of doing so? Syria’s condition in 2021 suggests the answer: no.

Read more at Asharq al-Awsat

More about: Bashar al-Assad, Golan Heights, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy