Sunday, August 3, 2008

Syria comes bearing gift of Lebanon breakthrough

"The aircraft of Syrian President Bashar Assad is constantly in the air. Two weeks ago it was in Paris. On Saturday, it was in Tehran. Assad presented each of his hosts with the same gift: a breakthrough in Lebanon. To Nicolas Sarkozy, who opened before him an official and respected channel to the West, he came after having achieved a deal on an acceptable Lebanese government, as Michel Suleiman was selected the new Lebanese president in Doha. To Tehran, he arrived with the agreed-upon basic policies of the Lebanese government.

These gifts have many facets, and each host can claim to have received the better present. France is pleased that the Lebanese government was finally formed and that the talks with Israel are progressing; and Iran received a Lebanese government policy that safeguards Hezbollah's standing and, more importantly, its arsenal.......

That is why Iran can rest assured about Hezbollah. But Assad also came to Tehran to explain his talks with Israel - not to excuse them. This is the most troubling bone of contention between the two allies, and Iran has yet to comment officially on it. Assad does not seem to be put off by unofficial Iranian warnings that peace between Damascus and Jerusalem will irrevocably alter relations between Tehran and Damascus. The Syrian president will explain to his hosts that the alliance with them is strategic and that he does not intend to sever that relationship. Nonetheless, this visit will force Iran to adopt a new public stance and strategy on the peace talks between Syria and Israel. "

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