US Blacklists Syria - But Will Send Mitchell Anyway
Two U.S. diplomats who were sent to Syria to see if direct diplomacy with the blacklisted country could get talks off the ground have returned with their answer: No. Still, special envoy George Mitchell will travel to Syria for another try very soon.
As a result of the diplomats' trip, President Barack Obama informed Congress that he was renewing sanctions on Syria. He explained that Syria was endangering American interests by “supporting terrorism, pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, and undermining U.S. and international efforts with respect to the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq."
The two diplomats, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and National Security Council Senior Director Daniel Shapiro, returned from Syria at the end of last week after their second visit to the country in two months. The two men had asked Syrian dictator Basher Assad to distance himself from Iran, Hizbullah and terrorist elements in Iraq.
Despite Syria’s negative response, Middle East envoy George Mitchell is planning to make his own trip to Syria in the very near future.
Syria and Iran reaffirmed their alliance during a visit to Damascus by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier this month. In addition, though the United States wants Syria to curb the traffic of foreign fighters to Iraq through its territory, the rate has actually been increasing of late, with some two dozen mercenaries entering each month.
Informal Messages to Israel
Israel's government has received informal messages from the U.S. that Damascus is far from willing to crack down on Hizbullah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists in its territory, and is even tightening its ties with these organizations. Peace talks with Israel are currently not on the Syrian table at all, Israel has learned.
Netanyahu: We're Staying on the Golan
Just a week ago, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told a group of Russian-language reporters that Israel would never withdraw from the Golan Heights.
"Remaining on the Golan will ensure that Israel has a strategic advantage in the event of military conflict with Syria," Netanyahu said.