Meanwhile, the Assad regime was striving mightily to reduce its international isolation by reaching a peace settlement with Israel. It began secret talks with Israel in 2004 in Turkey and by the following year “had reached a very advanced form and covered territorial, water, border and political questions,” according to historian Gabriel Kolko."The US Hand in the Syrian Mess." By Jonathan Marshall, Consortium News, 7/20/15.
A host of senior Israelis, including former heads of the IDF, Shin Beit, and Foreign Ministry, backed the talks. But the Bush administration nixed them, as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek confirmed in January 2007.
As Kolko noted, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz then “published a series of extremely detailed accounts, including the draft accord, confirming that Syria ‘offered a far reaching and equitable peace treaty that would provide for Israel’s security and is comprehensive’ — and divorce Syria from Iran and even create a crucial distance between it and Hezbollah and Hamas.
“The Bush Administration’s role in scuttling any peace accord was decisive. . . . The press has been full of details on how the American role was decisive, because it has war, not peace, at the top of its agenda.”
McClatchy broke a story that the Bush administration had “launched a campaign to isolate and embarrass Syrian President Bashar Assad. . . . [sic] The campaign, which some officials fear is aimed at destabilizing Syria, has been in the works for months. It involves escalating attacks on Syria’s human rights record. . . . [sic] The [destabilization] campaign [officials say] bears the imprint of Elliott Abrams, a conservative White House aide in charge of pushing Bush’s global democracy agenda.”
Not surprisingly, Vice President Cheney was also an implacable opponent of engagement with Syria.
Attempting once again to break the impasse, Syria’s ambassador to the United States called for talks to achieve a full peace agreement with Israel in late July 2008. “We desire to recognize each other and end the state of war,” Imad Mustafa said in remarks broadcast on Israeli army radio. “Here is then a grand thing on offer. Let us sit together, let us make peace, let us end once and for all the state of war.”
A top-secret summary by the National Security Agency called it the “first known instance of Israel targeting a legitimate government official.”
Just two months later, U.S. military forces launched a raid into Syria, ostensibly to kill an al-Qaeda operative, which resulted in the death of eight unarmed civilians. The Beirut Daily Star wrote, “The suspected involvement of some of the most vociferous anti-Syria hawks at the highest levels of the Bush administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney, have combined with US silence on the matter to fuel a guessing game as to just exactly who ordered or approved Sunday’s cross-border raid.”
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