Exclusive: Serious falling-out with Washington over Olmert’s Syria talks
debkafile‘s Washington sources report that the Bush administration is “reassessing” its relations with Jerusalem over Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s decision to embark on peace talks with Syria through Turkish mediators. One US official called the move a “slap in the face” two weeks after President George Bush declared that America stood by Israel in opposing negotiations with “terrorists and radicals.”
Our sources report fears that Israel may find some of the benefits of America’s closest regional ally withheld for the remainder of Bush’s term in office – direct dialogue between the White House and prime minister’s office, intelligence-sharing, diplomatic coordination on Middle East strategy and other urgent business. Israel’s defense establishment and military high command are concerned about possible delays in the flow of essential supplies of equipment. Olmert’s close aides, especially those involved in the peace talks with Syria, may no longer enjoy a warm top-level welcome in Washington.
According to a US official, who asked to remain unnamed, the decision to cool ties with Jerusalem followed the discovery by American agents in Turkey that Olmert’s senior advisers, Yoram Turbovich and Shalom Turjeman, and a Syrian delegation arrived in Istanbul for indirect peace talks. The two delegations stayed at the same hotel for three days and a Turkish go-between shuttled between their rooms.
Since 2003, it has been administration policy to isolate Syria and boycott its top officials for facilitating the flow of terrorists into Iraq, its efforts to destabilize the pro-Western Lebanese government and its close ties with Iran.
The Americans were particularly displeased when they discovered the identity of the Syrian negotiators: Riyad Dadawi, legal adviser to the foreign ministry and president Bashar Assad’s strategist for the UN-sponsored probe and future trial in the 2005 murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri; and the colonel who liaises for the Syrian army with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the Lebanese Hizballah terrorists.
Three days after Jerusalem, Damascus and Ankara announced that peace talks had begun, the Syrian defense minister Hassan Turkmani landed in Tehran to boost military ties with Iran.
The American official commented dryly that if the Olmert government is prepared to consort with such characters, it should not be surprised by the administration’s