But the serious players know that this is the ancien regime of Chirac again trying to belly up to the negotiating table when its credibility is nil. Hamas has its HQ in Damascus and Hezbollah also receives Syrian assistance and protection, so Syria must be regarded as suspect of employing Hamas as its cats-paw in advancing its own inscrutable agenda.
Or, more likely, Bashir Al-Assad simply does not control the five intelligence networks his father Hafez Al-Assad established to continue the miniscule 'Alawite [-- a Shia sect --] minority's control over the vast Sunni majority [a Syrian funhouse mirror image of Saddam's Iraq, with its Shi'ite majority under control of a 20% Sunni Arab minority for decades].
More serious players than the French insist Hamas return the captured soldier [the G-8 meeting in St. Petersburg, e.g.].
Hamastan poses problems both too large and too small for Israel to solve. The small problems, such as terrorists excavating the terror tunnel used to surprise Gilad Shalit's unit, can never be entirely prevented. The military strike into Gaza this week won't re-establish Israeli occupation, and it will from time to time be repeated. Bigger problems, such as the Hamas government and the support it gets from Israel's neighbors, won't, say some top Israelis, be solved by topping Hamas because there's no moderate Palestinians to take their place. That is another counsel of despair. Israel is stuck in a military cycle it thinks can't be broken. But it can, and it must, for our benefit as much as Israel's.
Israel can never settle the Palestinian problem by dealing only with the Palestinians just as we cannot ever settle Iraq's problems by dealing only with Iraqis. Because Israel's neighbors, and Iraq's, are the sources of their problems, so they must be the focus of the solutions. They are regional problems. If they are not solved throughout the region, they will not be solved at all.
Says former Undersecretary of Defense Jed Babbitt in RCP.
Babbitt advocates strong medicine for the exempt terrorist-infested enclave in Damascus:
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal - operating from his headquarters in Damascus -- ordered the raid in which Gilad Shalit was kidnapped. Meshaal, and pretty much every other terrorist leader other than Usama bin Laden, operate from Syria with impunity because Bashar Assad's Syria - the Syria he inherited from his father, and which has been on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1979 - is entirely stable. He has no fear that through American or Israeli action his support for terrorism will be interrupted. From Syria money, weapons and terrorists flowed into Iraq for months before and ever since the American invasion of 2003.
Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon said that Meshaal - even in Syria - was a target for Israeli action. We should encourage Israel to strike into Syria, and not just to capture or kill Meshaal. Destabilizing Syria, and thus destabilizing its support for terrorism in Israel and Iraq is the goal. If anyone chooses to equate "destabilization" with "regime change", we should do nothing to encourage or dissuade them. It's time to put the terrorist genie back in the bottle. If the genie won't comply, we may soon have to smash the bottle all to pieces.
The problem with this approach lies in what happens next? A Syria divided into its constituent parts [where the WMD were exported, according to Iraqi generals] would be another Iraq and eventually might fall under Hamas or Hezbollah control. One probable non-outcome would be the "democratic government" we fought for in Iraq.
It is important to realize that, until the Arab world experiences a western-style renaissance exalting human values, it will revert to its default position of low-grade anarchy punctuated by strongman-dictatorship. Syria's present problem is that Bashir Al-Assad is ineffective as a strongman, and the alternative would probably be some sort of Sunni autocracy---hardly likely given the domination of the military and spy services by 'Alawite clansmen.
Does this mean that French-style "diplomacy" is the least bad of all the bad alternatives? Now that Israel has a sizeable number of the elected Hamas leadership in custody, it would seem that the ball is back in the Hamas court. I do believe Israeli resolve in the face of Arab provocations will carry the day.
But given the murderous incompetence of that group [who inserted a suicide bomber into Israel a while back who killed nine bystanders and then called this atrocity "self-defense"---with no immediate Israeli reprisal] and the general fecklessness of the Palestinians in particular and the Arabs in general, more mayhem appears to be just around the corner.