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bigtree Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-10-06 12:00 PM
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Will Syria Talk to Hizbollah? At What Price?
Edited on Thu Aug-10-06 12:07 PM by bigtree
August 10, 2006


Syria's Price for Peace

By Gabriela Keller in Damascus


Syria is also not in the mood to accept any mediators -- neither from Arab nor from European states -- the foreign ministry expert said. "If the Americans want something from us," he said, "let them come and ask us directly." Until the United States demonstrates their willingness to compromise, Syria will continue to build its "front of obstruction," he said. In other words, Syria will work to unite the enemies of the United States and Israel, sabotage US policy in the region and strengthen local resistance -- be it in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories or Iraq. But if the Americans are genuinely accommodating, Syria will react positively. "In the end," he said, "Syria wants to be in contact with the West again."

"The government is under enormous pressure."

And if the talks don't lead to the restitution of the Golan Heights becoming a realistic prospect for Syria, the regime could even resort to one last measure: allowing armed militants to cross the cease-fire line into territories occupied by Israel. Politicians and prominent spiritual leaders are already calling for a militant Syrian movement on the model of Hezbollah. Even the fact that such a discussion is taking place is a clear warning in a totalitarian state like Syria, where the authorities check every Friday prayer in the mosques for possible subversive content. "It's a possibility that's being considered," Georges Jabbour confirms.

That, of course, would be an act of desperation and would force Israel to attack immediately. And yet the moment might come when Assad is left with no other choice. "The government is under enormous pressure," Baath party member Ayman Abdel Nour explains. "If they relinquish the Golan Heights now, they run the risk of losing all legitimacy with the people."

Even now the rage on the streets can hardly be controlled, the Muslim preacher Muhammad al-Habash has observed. "The people believe it's their religious duty to resist the occupiers," he says and begins telling stories about families he's acquainted with whose sons have recently left home and vowed to wage jihad. They've probably left for Lebanon, since Syria doesn't offer a vent for their frustration yet. Al-Habash is a preacher known for his cosmopolitanism and tolerance. "But every time the people here become victims of Israel, the voice of the moderates becomes quieter. We're losing credibility," he complains. "If the war continues to escalate, nothing will stop our people."

full article (very comprehensive):
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bigtree Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-10-06 12:53 PM
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sooner or later . . .
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