Is the U.S. now ready for talks with Syria? | csmonitor.com
A few months ago, high administration officials in Washington still clung to the notion that a new Lebanese president could be elected without a consensus between the opposition and the Beirut government. While the arrangements still face a few procedural snags, it is now likely that the army commander, Michel Suleiman, will be Lebanon's next president. Recall that Suleiman was unacceptable to U.S. officials not so long ago. Not only did the Lebanese army under General Suleiman sustain a measured neutral stance on the domestic political stage, but he also maintained good relations with Syria.
Meantime, the U.S. has had to come to terms with Iran's deep influence in Iraq as well as in Lebanon. In both cases, Iran's influence has grown due to U.S. actions: the invasion of Iraq and the chaos that ensued; and stubborn U.S. support for Israel in the 34-day 2006 Lebanon war.
The Bushies' approach has long been to ostracize Iran, and its Syrian ally. Bing! A light has gone on and a more subtle policy is being pursued. After considerable prevarication, Syria was invited to attend the Annapolis meeting in late November. Now there is talk that an Israeli-Syrian track might open up, perhaps with Russian encouragement.
As it has in the past, Israel will try to leverage negotiations with Syria to its advantage vis-a-vis the Palestinians.