debkafile Exclusive: Assad is willing to talk to Olmert without involving Washington – but not to abandon absolute commitment to Tehran

This double message was brought to Jerusalem last week by Edward P. Djerejian
from unpublicized meetings he held in Damascus with president Bashar Assad and Syrian military and intelligence chiefs. This former US ambassador to Israel and Syria reported that Assad is willing to drop his prior conditions for talks with Israel regarding parallel dialogue with Washington and US participation in the peace process. But the Syrian ruler is also utterly committed to the diplomatic and military policies of his senior partner, Tehran.
Damping down any optimism in Jerusalem, Djerejian, a co-author of the Baker Report on Iraq, warned Assad will not go back on his commitment to Tehran, even if a diplomatic breakthrough leads to improved relations with Washington and talks with Jerusalem.
The former diplomat and old friend of the Assad dynasty put it this way: President Hafez Assad, Bashar’s father, set the tone of the Syrian-Iranian alliance. Today, Damascus dances to the music written in Tehran.
The Syrian president sent a second message to Washington and Jerusalem via Djerejian: Damascus and the Lebanese Hizballah are not inseparable.
They coordinate political and military policies, but Assad is not bound by Hassan Nasrallah’s political and military decisions and is free to follow his own path.
In contrast, debkafile‘s sources stress, the Olmert government’s peace expectations of Syria must factor in Assad’s staunch dedication to Iran’s lead on Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq. His call for peace talks with Israel is well attuned to Tehran’s objective of engaging Washington in direct dialogue on its nuclear program and Iraq, provided that diplomacy does not shift the fundamental positions of either party.
Syrian rulers have not aped Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s calls for Israel’s annihilation. But neither have they take exception to this sentiment, whether publicly or in closed conversations with the US veteran diplomat this month. Djerjian was impressed by the pride Assad and his aides displayed in the robustness of their relationship with Tehran. They were completely confident they had opted for the winning side in the Middle East instead of the United States and Israel who they regard as the losing camp.

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