Building on my post below about the new Obama national security team, Aaron David Miller has a smart column in the Washington Post today about another area in which the Obama foreign policy is likely to differ from that of Bush–and also from what McCain was proposing. He believes that the first step toward a middle east peace is for the U.S. to support the negotiations between Israel and Syria, which the Bush Administration tried to thwart for the past two years in deference to the neoconservative radicals.
I’m not sure that Syria can be brought fully into the community of sane nations, but Bashar Assad–an Alawite who presides over a predominantly Shi’ite (Ooops, I meant Sunni) country–certainly can’t feel too comfortable in his current alliance with Iran. Assad once told me that his father, Hafez Assad, came very close to making peace with Yitzhak Rabin and that he’d be willing to pick up where they left off. We’ll see. Certainly, this is a more promising track than attempting a deal with the divided, dazed and confused Palestinians at this point (although every effort should be made to move that along).
And the first step Obama should take is to send our Ambassador, Margaret Scobie–or another foreign service professional–back to Damascus. Pulling Scobie out after the assassination of Rafik Hariri was the sort of witless, petulant thing action that made Bush such a weak diplomatic President.