Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Syria on his way to the United States Saturday, two days after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent U.S. envoy George Mitchell to Damascus and Beirut for peace talks. Both countries are declared enemies of Israel.
Continuing U.S. President Barack Obama’s policy of “engaging” enemies, Mitchell pushed the idea of expanding the proposed agreement with Israel for a new Arab country within Israel’s current borders, to be headed by the Palestinian Authority. The American strategy is to create “momentum” in the diplomatic process towards a regional peace.
However, previous efforts to win over Syria at Iran’s expense have failed. Syrian political commentator Ayman Abdel Nour noted, "The Syrians have assured the Iranians that any progress in ties with the United States or in peace with Israel will not come at the expense of Tehran."
The Obama administration’s attempts could boomerang, with the Iranian-Syrian-Hizbullah-Hamas axis insisting that a new Palestinian Authority country be dependent on further Israel concessions. Officials in Washington already have asked Arab world nations not to demand that Israel sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT)—at least until an agreement is reached with the Palestinian Authority.
Syrian President Bashar Assad, who often has said he would be willing to talk peace with Israel without pre-conditions, reiterated his position that Israel must surrender the strategic Golan Heights. The semantic tactic is similar to that of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who initially said he would talk with Israel without pre-conditions so long as it was clear that PA demands would not be negotiated.
Ahmadinejad’s two-hour visit with Syrian President Bashar Assad Saturday underlined the flexibility of the Obama administration to invite Syria, which the United States has designated as a state that supports terror, into peace talks.
Ahmadinejad told Assad that the American-sponsored direct talks between the PA and Israel would fail without the participation of the "true representatives of the Palestinian people,” meaning Hamas. He also said that Israel has no place in the future of the Middle East, a mild paraphrase of his warning two years ago that Israel should be "wiped off the map.”
The Islamic Republic leaders landed in New York Sunday in advance of his speech to the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly.