Once upon a time there lived a legendary journalist named Sy Hersh, who wrote for The New Yorker, won five George Polk Awards and a Pulitzer Prize. His coverage of Lebanon, particularly in the period 2006-07, uncovered American complicity in Israel’s premeditated war on Hizbullah and American-Saudi-March 14 complicity in the Fatah al-Islam phenomenon. These were conclusions that many critics took issue with, lambasting Hersh for relying solely on opposition sources, while others applauded the veteran journo for speaking truth to power.
I have a feeling that Hersh’s latest piece is not going to have the same folks clapping. In a long article for The New Yorker entitled “Syria Calling“, Hersh makes the case that while the road ahead is difficult and there are several challenges facing all parties involved, there is absolutely no question about the seriousness of the Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations. You should read the entire article, but here are some select bits with comments:
“Nonetheless, a few days after the Israeli ceasefire in Gaza, Assad said in an e-mail to me that although Israel was “doing everything possible to undermine the prospects for peace,” he was still very interested in closing the deal.”
“A major change in American policy toward Syria is clearly under way. “The return of the Golan Heights is part of a broader strategy for peace in the Middle East that includes countering Iran’s influence,” Martin Indyk, a former American Ambassador to Israel, who is now the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, at the Brookings Institution, said. “Syria is a strategic linchpin for dealing with Iran and the Palestinian issue. Don’t forget, everything in the Middle East is connected, as Obama once said.””
A former American diplomat who has been involved in the Middle East peace process said, “There are a lot of people going back and forth to Damascus from Washington saying there is low-hanging fruit waiting for someone to harvest.” A treaty between Syria and Israel “would be the start of a wide-reaching peace-implementation process that will unfold over time.”
This is what is so brilliant about Bashar. When Bush was in office, Syria was regarded as a “low-hanging fruit” by the neocons and their democratization agenda. When that agenda crashed and burned, Syria came to be regarded as a “low-hanging fruit” by the Obama realists. Amazing brand marketing! Now that we know Syria is a low-hanging fruit to everyone at all times, all that’s left to ask is what kind of low-hanging fruit it is. My bet is on the Syrian prickly pear, a fruit so evocative that I was once moved to write an allegorical poem about it on Syria Comment (see caption).
Farouk al-Shara, the Vice-President of Syria, was, as Foreign Minister, his nation’s chief negotiator at Shepherdstown. When he was asked whether Syria’s relationship with Iran would change if the Golan Heights issue was resolved, he said, “Do you think a man only goes to bed with a woman he deeply loves?” Shara laughed, and added, “That’s my answer to your question about Iran.”
Indeed, indeed, ha ha, yes exactly… Actually, wait, I don’t get it. Can someone explain Farouk al-Shara’s point? Never mind, here’s my point: if Seymour Hersh, Martin Indyk, Itamar Rabinovich, Alistair Crooke, and of course Bashar al-Assad agree that Syria is serious about a deal, then how silly do the rest of you look when you say the opposite? (Sorry for my slightly combative tone… March Madness has turned to March Sadness for me, as of last Thursday).