Tarek Barakat | Fashion Industry Dubai
May 29th, 2008

Re: ‘Syrian Israeli Peace Process

Unfortunately, I am a firm believer that the Israeli governments’ strategic policy has been and continues to be one of maintaining controllable conflict in the region. Because they feel that if peace and prosperity should ever reign across the region for a long period of time. Israel would lose its primary justification in requesting US political, financial and military aid. To put it simply, as long as there is a threat of war the money will keep flowing in and Israel will maintain their edge.

For the above dynamics to seem less appealing, one of two things need to occur:

– A massive shift in regional power where the Syrians and/or their allies attain military forces to counter the Israeli one. And a genuine threat to Israel’s existence will force it to compromise.
– A shift in American or Israeli strategic interest toward peace with Syria through social or political means.

Both scenarios seem unlikely to me at the moment. But the first scenario is only likely if Iran develops a sophisticated nuclear arsenal and passes some of these weapons to Syria. Needless to say, this is extremely dangerous since another more devastating scenario can develop through such a move.

The second is slightly more likely. But many factors need to change from the current state of affairs. First a change of leadership is necessary in the US and Israel since the current American leadership is uninterested in a peace legacy while Olmert & Co. are simply too weak and don’t’ have the authority to push their citizens through tough compromises. But even if the next US administration is peace-friendly (i.e. Obama) they will only be able to push Israel to give up the Golan in exchange for larger gains such as delaying the Palestinian peace track indefinitely. As Sami Moubayed reminds us in his latest piece in The Washington Post “[Begin] was not flirting with Sadat because he wanted peace. On the contrary, he wanted to drown the efforts of the then recently elected US president Jimmy Carter to broker peace between Israel and Yasser Arafat.” We should also factor in that the Syrian government will have something to lose from a peace deal. The Emergency Laws which have been key to the regime’s security will need to be halted. That said the pros in form of legacy, economic incentives in the form of massive foreign investments should outweigh the cons.

On the other hand, if we are to assume that peace will only be attainable if all of the Golan is returned to Syria. Then Syria will need to sacrifice the following.

– Detach itself from the Palestinian track. This is a highly unpopular move among Arab nationalists in Syria and the Arab world, and there are many of them. Syria prides itself as the last “Arab Fort”. But this Arab fort will have to crumble to its own self interests since the first option above is less than likely. Criticism can be blunted by the Syrian government reminding people that it was the Egyptians, Jordanians and Palestinians (PLO) who broke away individually first. Easier said than done but certainly not impossible.

– Neutralize Hizbullah. This I believe will be easier than many would think. If all Lebanese & Syrian land is returned, there won’t be a justification for HA presence. A symbolic “resistance” might remain to (morally) support the Palestinians but it will be toothless. But I doubt HA would be interested in fully integrating into the Lebanese Army. Instead they will wane over time without intense Syrian & Iranian support.

– A key requirement by Israel in any peace deal and the most difficult juggling act will be Syria’s relationship with Iran. Since both countries have strong strategic partnership that will not be easily dismantled. But over time a shift to a more balanced Syrian relationship with other key nations in the region (Israel, KSA, etc.) should soften the Iranian stance over Israel and in turn put the latter in relative ease.

I might be contradicting what I said in the first paragraph when I say that I believe Israel knows peace is eventually in its best interest. It knows that it cannot exist indefinitely within a sea of hostile nations. It just doesn’t feel it is in its best interest for the short to mid term. We also should remember that even strong nations such as Israel & Iran are ultimately part of a greater game between greater powers (i.e. US vs. Europe) where both parties will continue to push for peace when war is in the other party’s interest and vice versa. While I might be stating the obvious here, but the struggle for peace in the Middle East will remain a swim against the current for all groups and individuals who are pursing it.

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8 Responses to the Article

Alex Says:


What do you think Iran will do if Syria (and Lebanon) settle with Israel? … will they respect Syria’s (and Lebanon’s) wish to convert HA into a political organization?

i’m asking you because compared to me, you are much closer (geographically) to Iran : )

Tarek Says:

geography has nothing to do with it. i can be living in Tehran and you in Canada and still know a lot more than me 😉

I believe that HA eventually owes Syria a lot more than it owes Iran. Yes Tehran supports it spiritually and financially but its existence is much more linked with Syria. This is why when Nasrallah thanks friendly nations he always starts with Syria first then Iran. Obviously it will be a tough juggling act on Syria’s part but Iran learned that hard way in the 80s that Lebanon is in Syria’s realm.

ayman hakki Says:


I don’t know about HA being managable by Syria. I don’t think Brand Syria would allow the regime to abandon Hezbollah or Hamas (but that’s a whole other topic that Sami Moubayed and I aggree on.)

Aaron Miller in his new book (The Much Too Promised Land) says that all great powers become small in the Middle East, and he’s right. The tails often wag the dog in the Levant. I believe Hezbollah dictates to Syria not vice versa, just as Israel dictates to America not vice versa, as I aggree that Iran has little say in what Syria’s going to do despite being Syria’s main financer.

Alex Says:

Ayman, Iran in not Syria’s main financier.

But I support your opinion to a large extent… except that relationship between Syria, Iran, Hizbollah, and Hamas is unique … or at least it has one unique attribute … an attribute that stems from Middle Eastern mentality … loyalty.

All four sides were offered incentives that were conditional on stabing one or more of their coalition parers in the back.

So far, none of those four got seduced by sweeteners.

ayman hakki Says:

Loyalty may be an issue but in the Levant it can be bought. The price just has not been right, once it is we’ll see how loyal these players are. And sweetners sure won’t do it, what will be needed is pure sugar syrup. I’m not being hatefull, I love the Levant warts and all.

Tarek Says:


I agree with you that loyalty can be bought especially in the case of governments/countries. I am sure Syria would sell its relationship with Iran and vice versa if the price was right. But both know that the price is so ridiculously high that it’s nearly impossible for anyone to pay it. Therefore they can afford to seem “loyal”. But i hope that you also agrees that HA (as it is today at least) cannot be bought by anyone other than Syria & Iran. And I am not talking about money here.

I also disagree with your statement on how HA & Israel dictate to Syria & US. I would say that dictation goes both ways when possible. But at the end of the day Syria is a nation that can depend on many external and internal sources. HA is a radical party with few non shia’a Lebanese supporters and is solely dependant on Syria first & foremost for its existence in Lebanon and on Iran for spiritual & financial guidance. But please remember what I said about HA is over simplified to make a point. The more likely scenario of HA’s sun setting due to a peace deal would take a long time and will be more dignified.

ayman hakki Says:


Somewhere between Hezblollah dictating to Syria, and Syria telling Hezbollah what to do, is the reality of that relationship, as is the case between Israel and the US. But, the point Aaron Miller made very clear in his book is that the powerful dictate to the weak everywhere
…except in the Middle East, and he’s right.

Imad Mustapha told me recently that the University of Maryland did a survey in five moderate Arab States and the most popular Arab leader was; Nassrallah, followed by Assad, followed by Ahmadinajad! (how odd is that; an Iranian listed as more popular than almost all other Arab leaders in Egypt, Saudi, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia!)

Also worth noting is Nassralah’s recent call for a “Liberation Strategy.” It’s a reaching out to a platform much broader than the Shiaa of Southern Lebanon (and the few other non-Shiaa Lebanese). This would be empty rhetoric if it were not supported by his popularity amongst people who one would guess would be weary of all Shia!

Things are just not clear, and that’s the way it has always been in the Middle East: HA’s sun may not set.

Tarek Says:

I’ve read about that survey and I’m sure it’s accurate. While many might look at it and say look at those crazy A-raaabs, they love supporting radicals (i.e. Nassralah & Ahmadinajad and to some even Assad) I would say that these leaders are popular because they have the “balls” to give it to the Americans every once and a while. While the rest of the Arab leaders are seen as boneless cowards (and rightly so in most cases). It’s a shame really because if those other leaders would have the courage to genuinely stand up to some of the American/Israeli policies in the region it would go a long way in pressing their other policies among the middle eastern population. By streamlining it as an effective regional strategy it would blunt some of the more radical rhetoric coming out of HA & Tehran.

As for HA’s sun setting I agree but for a different reason than you stated. As mentioned in my post, only genuine peace treaty would diminish HA’s clout and that IMHO is not gonna happen anytime soon.

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