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Seymour Hersh Writes Powerful Read In New Yorker Magazine

March 29, 2009

This is good stuff.  A snippet from a read well worth your time…..

President Assad was full of confidence and was impatiently anticipating the new Administration in Washington when I spoke to him late last year in Damascus. Trained as an ophthalmologist, partly in London, he took over the Presidency in 2000, after the death of his father, Hafez Assad, who amassed enormous personal power in thirty years of brutal rule. Bashar had not expected a life as the Syrian leader—his older brother, Basil, who was killed in an accident in 1994, had been groomed to replace their father. Bashar, thirty-four when he became President, was said to be a lesser figure than either of them. He has since consolidated his position—both by modernizing the economy and by suppressing domestic opposition—and, when we spoke, it was clear that he had come to relish the exercise of power.

Assad said that if America’s leaders “are seeking peace they have to deal with Syria and they have to deal with our rights, which is the Golan Heights.” In the Six-Day War, in 1967, Israel seized the Golan Heights, about four hundred and fifty square miles of territory that is rich in Biblical history and, crucially, in water. It includes part of the Jordan River Valley and a plateau overlooking the river which extends to Mt. Hermon, in the north. Syria was left with no access to the Sea of Galilee and the upper Jordan River. Roughly twenty thousand Israeli settlers live there, and they have built towns, vineyards, and boutique hotels in its valleys and strategic heights.

Assad said, “The land is not negotiable, and the Israelis know that we are not going to negotiate the line of 1967.” But he suggested that compromises were possible. “We only demarcate the line,” he said. “We negotiate the relations, the water, and everything else.” Many who are close to the process assume that an Israeli-Syrian settlement would include reparations for the Israelis in the Golan Heights, and, for a time, the right of access to the land. Assad said, “You discuss everything after the peace and getting your land. Not before.”

If Israel wants a settlement that goes beyond the Golan Heights, Assad said, it will have to “deal with the core issue”—the situation in the West Bank and Gaza—“and not waste time talking about who is going to send arms to Hezbollah or Hamas. Wherever you have resistance in the region, they will have armaments somehow. It is very simple.” He added, “Hezbollah is in Lebanon and Hamas is in Palestine. . . . If they want to solve the problem of Hezbollah, they have to deal with Lebanon. For Hamas, they have to deal with Gaza. For Iran, it is not part of the peace process anyway.” Assad went on, “This peace is about peace between Syria and Israel.”

In his e-mail after the Gaza war, Assad emphasized that it was more than ever “essential that the United States play a prominent and active role in the peace process.” What he needed, Assad said, was direct contact with Obama. A conference would not be enough: “It is most natural to want a meeting with President Obama.”

  1. Steve Wehrly permalink
    March 31, 2009 7:37 PM

    Will somebody tell Seymour Hirsh (or anybody concerned about the “staybehinds”) that he should check out Assistant Sec. of Defense for Special Operations Michael G. Vickers? Vickers was one of the CIA architects and managers of the original Afghan operations, and worked for Gates twenty-plus years ago. Vickers is mentioned in the book Charlie Wilson’s War, and is even a character with a speaking part in the movie. He is one of the architects of current US policy toward Afghanistan, especially about the semi-secret attempt to re-establish a relationship with the “good Taliban”. I don’t imagine he will stay after Gates leaves, but for now he is almost certainly one of Cheney’s contacts at Defense. This guy should be exposed, and Sy Hirsh is the guy to do it. Thanks.

  2. The Center Square permalink
    March 29, 2009 11:11 AM

    Good stuff, indeed. The daunting challenge of the Middle East is that every constituent has its non-negotiable elements, and the sum of those lists is irreconcilable.

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