Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Peace Process, Power Balance in Middle East

The action taken by the President of the United States Barack Obama to open the door of discussion between Washington and Damsyik can be deemed as a manifestation of his open attitude toward the Islamic world. This is what Obama promised when he spoke in Cairo on 4 June 2008. His Cairo speech is historical because it is considered as the starting point from which Washington opened up the room for negotiation to all Islamic countries, regardless they are friends of foes.

Restoration of Ties
The diplomatic ties between these two countries have broken since the assassination of the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri in 2005, which was allegedly masterminded by Syria. The restoration of the ties will culminate at the appointment of the new US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford. The appointment is only pending approval from the US Senate.

It is noteworthy that since the incident in 2005, Washington had recalled its ambassador in Damsyik, until today. Senator John Kerry, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations only visited to Syria last week and had an opportunity to discuss with President Bashar al-Assad about bilateral relations and peace process in Middle East. It is so evident that the relations between the US and Syria is moving toward a better path.

Objections Raised
Washington's implicit agenda to befriend Damsyik is used as a catalyst for stability in Middle East, especially in relation to issues involving Iran. The US hopes to isolate Teheran and in turn weaken Hamas fighters in Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Obama's strategy to be friendly to Damsyik received objections especially from the Republican Party and Israel. They object for the reason that Damsyik still provides assistance to Hezbollah group, which is defined by Washington as a terrorist group.

Groups doubtful of Damsyik got an opportunity they were waiting for when the President of Israel, Shimon Peres, accused Syria of having provided Scud missiles to Hezbollah. Peres made the accusation when he visited to Paris last week, though it could not be proved with solid evidence.

It is no longer a secret that Damsyik indeed sympathizes Hezbollah by providing weapons, but it has never provided Hezbollah long-range missiles. If the accusation is true, then the fact that Hezbollah possesses Scud missiles could alter the power balance, especially between Lebanon, Iran, Palestine and Israel.

Considering Hezbollah was capable to defeat the troops of the Israeli regime in 2006 without Scud, with the more accurate long-range missiles, Hezbollah would definitely be capable of giving an impact as terrific as the scenario wherein Iran presumably possesses nuclear arms.

Syria indeed has the North Korean-made missiles, Scud D, which can strike a target 700 km away. If it is launched from Lebanon, Scud D can strike Jerusalem as well as Tel Aviv. In addition to its accuracy in hitting the target, Scud D also has good precision. Therefore important targets such as Dimona nuclear plant which is said to be the pulse of Israel's nuclear arsenal can be easily destroyed. Similarly, other targets such as Ben-Gurion airport can also be struck easily with Scud D.

Insincere Israeli Attitude
Although Peres's allegation cannot be verified yet, the implication is already felt and the first will probably be that the Senate would not approve the appointment of new ambassador to Damsyik. If the accusation is true, then they obviously have violated the Resolution 1701 of the United Nations Security Council intended to end the war between Israel and Hezbollah.

However, if we examine carefully, to deliver Scud to Lebanon is a rather difficult task. The southern part of the country is a Hezbollah-influenced area monitored by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) also participates in the peacekeeping team through the Malaysian battalion (Malbatt).

Many analysts are of the view that the actual motive behind Tel Aviv's wild allegation was to fail the endeavor undertaken by Obama administration to start a new peace process in Middle East. It is not exaggerating if we say White House has started to get bored with Benjamin Netanyahu's insincere attitude in the efforts of seeking solution.

Netanyahu's recent announcement of constructing new illegal Jewish settlements in Jerusalem was akin to a slap to Obama's ongoing effort to assure the Islamic world that there would not be new illegal settlement during his tenure as the president.

There are rumors saying that White House has prepared a new plan for peace in Middle East, which clearly outlines the concept of two sovereign countries -- Palestine and Israel. To fail the latest effort, Tel Aviv has resorted to the factor of Hezbollah as a shortcut to undermine the authority of Obama administration when facing the issues of Middle East.

Tel Aviv dared to take such an approach as Washington itself refuses to acknowledge Hezbollah as a legitimate representative of the Lebanese people.

Presence of Hezbollah Parliamentarians
We should note that the presence of Hezbollah parliamentarians formed a main factor for the establishment of a Unity Government under Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Similar situation happens in Gaza Strip where Hamas is defined as a terrorist group while it is also a legitimate government.

But if Peres's allegation is true, for sure it would not only alter the political landscape in Middle East, it would also bring impacts to the region of Middle East. Hezbollah equiped with Scud would definitely countervail the arrogance of the Israeli regime.

Tel Aviv will be more careful in issuing threat to destroy Iran's nuclear plant like what it did on Syria in 2007. Likewise, it will be more restrained with its arbitrary actions against the Palestinians. It is not overboard to assume that Hezbollah equipped with Scud will actually speed up the peace process in Middle East, instead of retarding it as alleged by some quarters.

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