Relations between Washington and Damascus have never been cordial, particularly after the creation of Israel in 1948 and Washington’s blanket support of the newly established state. With the election of Obama in 2008, there was a glimmer of hope for improved relations between the two capitals. Although the high expectations of improved Washington-Damascus relations did not materialize noticeably, the Obama period could be viewed as the ‘good old days’ compared to the Trump presidency. Unfortunately, the animosity in Washington towards Syria is not exclusive to the White House, but it includes Congress and Foggy Bottom, and it is counterproductive to the interests of both nations.
UK ambassador Sir Kim Darroch’s “clumsy and inept” characterization of Trump’s administration aside, it is sufficient to refer to Trump’s own characterization of Syria: “We’re not talking about vast wealth. We’re talking about sand and death”. It is beyond belief that a sitting US President labeled the home of the historic Fertile Crescent and Mesopotamia, a land very rich in soil, an abundance of rainfall and rivers including the Euphrates and Tigris, as “sand and death”. Syria is also the cradle of civilizations, the home of the three monotheistic religions and home of three of the five oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
Irrespective of Trump’s ignorant comments on Syria, his actions prove he is a dummy for ventriloquist Netanyahu. East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan were occupied in the ‘67 War. From 1967 to the Trump administration, the US went through nine administrations. Many of the presidential candidates publicly spoke of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but not once in the White House did any administration see the wisdom of doing so. Along came Trump and moved the American embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan.
Congress, the second center of power and decision making in Washington, has long been considered Israeli-occupied territory. In an article titled “The Only Strategic Rationale for America’s Involvement in Syria Finally Revealed,” I wrote that nearly four hundred congressmen; roughly seventy five percent of the total number of congressmen from both chambers and both parties, had written a letter to Trump. The irony, as I noted in the article, is the fact that “four hundred congressmen, who are elected by Americans to serve American interests, at a time when the US is bogged down in the Arab region, sign and submit a letter to the US President concerned almost exclusively with Israeli Security” I conclude noting: “These congressmen had an opportunity to make a coherent recommendation on US policy in the Arab region in the interest of American National Interest, but instead chose to make recommendations to safeguard the wellbeing and security of a foreign state: Israel.” More recently, also nearly four hundred House of Representatives members chose to violate the freedom of speech protected in the First Amendment of the US Constitution and vote for a resolution that rejects the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions- BDS- campaign against Israel. Thus, the notion that US Congress is Israeli occupied territory is no exaggeration.
In Foggy Bottom, a few decades ago, there was always a group of Arabists, mostly American diplomats who had served in Arab states. They had realized that Israel is a burden on American taxpayers and American excessive support of Israel is not in the best American interest, while American interest would be better served with friendly and improved relations with the Arab states. The Arabists are no more, only Zionists; if any are left, they are reluctant to be vocal out of fear of anti-Semitic charges. Not only the Arabists have disappeared, but to top it off, now there is Mike Pompeo, an Evangelical Christian Zionist, heading the State Department. Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador in Washington, in welcoming the guest of honor, Secretary Pompeo, during Israel’s 71st Independence Day celebrations, said: “I can honestly say that Israel has never had a better friend in Foggy Bottom than you.” On another occasion, Pompeo noted that “the work our administration’s done to make sure that this democracy in the Middle East, that this Jewish state remains. I am confident that the Lord is at work here.” So, God is at it again; having originally granted the land to the Jews, now he is guarding Israel. To top it off, in a speech at the most recent AIPAC annual conference, Pompeo said, “As Secretary of State and as a Christian, I am proud to lead American diplomacy to support Israel’s right to defend itself.” Israel, God’s gift to the Jewish people and her guardian, as per Pompeo, and the only regional nuclear superpower, which has boots on sovereign grounds but no foreign boots on its grounds and a very close ally of an international superpower, would need help defending itself.
I recall a conversation I had years ago with Dr. Dori Gold, who was a close associate of Netanyahu. During the conversation, he said we are afraid of you; referring to Syria. I said Dori, you are not serious, your Air Force roams all over Syria unhindered with impunity. He said thousands of Syrian tanks with mounted guns aimed at Israel, prevent us from sleeping restfully. On another occasion, Israelis expressed a desire to eat hummus, a traditional Syrian Lebanese chickpeas appetizer, in Damascus, a significant gesture; reflecting Israel’s schizophrenia towards Syria.
At present, a central issue is the safe zone in northern Syria and Turkish, Kurdish, Syrian and Israeli configuration regarding the zone. Israel, in particular, will covertly have an important role. The zone runs several hundred kilometers east of the Euphrates to the Iraqi border and south of the Turkish-Syrian Orient Express rail track border to a depth yet to be agreed on which could run between twenty to fourty kilometers. Israel has occupied and subsequently annexed the Golan and recently Trump recognized Israel’s sovereignty of the Golan. Israel will maintain a military presence in the Golan in southern Syria, not too far from Damascus, as it has for half a century, in violation of Syrian territorial integrity and a threat to its national security. As to Syrian northern border, a Turkish occupied zone in northern Syria, a la Northern Cyprus, would also be a violation of Syrian territorial integrity and a threat to its national security. Syria caught between the hammer and the anvil; a dream come true for Israel and it will do its best to see the dream is fullfilled. The sacrificial lamb will be the Kurds; but then who cares about the Kurds other than using them as pawns in great power conflicts when needed.
Syria, Israel’s archenemy, would be surrounded on its northern and southern borders by two hostile and powerful enemies occupying Syrian land and would consider further occupation, violating Syrian territorial integrity and permanently threatening Syrian national security. However, take heed, Syria is not a pushover, nor is it alone.