Hamas, Hezbollah: A Change of Tone
Thanks to a Syrian tweet bot, I keep on top of everything that’s said about the country in the Twittersphere. And Today I came across a rather interesting AP article: Netanyahu: Israel open to peace talks with Syria. What caught my attention was not the doublespeak of an Israeli official about peace with Syria. Israelis have expressed no interested in returning the occupied Golan to Syria; To them, Syria has nothing to offer in return. Peace in their logic, is overrated. A simple search in prominent Israeli media shows how prevalent that opinion is.
I was especially interested in the particular use of words in the article. I quote:
It has been a quarter-century since Israel and Syria fought directly, but Syria backs anti-Israel forces like the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic organization Hamas. Israel’s sworn enemy Iran backs Hamas and Hezbollah.
In this article, Hamas and Hezbollah were not referred to as.. *gasp* “terrorist organizations.” Now I was not able to determine if this was an AP policy not to refer to them as such outside of a direct quote, or whether there’s more to the matter. I’m going to layout a few happenings, and let the readers come out with their own conspiracy theories.
Syria’s main beef with the U.S./Israel can be summed up to the following points and accusations: Supporting Hamas and Hezbollah, Interfering in Lebanon and Iraq, and strong ties with Iran. So what’s changed?
Hamas is being locked in Gaza with walls courtesy of the Israeli and Egyptian governments; They will be are being starved into irrelevancy. Hezbollah is no longer an upset in Lebanese politics since they failed to establish a majority in the last election and eventually all the creases were straightened out. Also, the 2006 war was a PR disaster for Israel and gave Hezbollah a stronghold in Lebanon, even though they weren’t able to translate it into votes a couple of years after that. To Israel, Hezbollah is a wasp hive best left alone. Also, the U.S. has been very successful in slyly translating the tensions in regards to Iraq into tensions between the Iraqi and Syrian governments as Washington works a slow withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
On the other hand, Syria and the U.S. seem to be achieving progress, be it painfully slow: A promise of a gradual lift of sanctions that is yet to materialize. Robert Ford, former deputy ambassador to Iraq, is a candidate for the vacant-for-five-years job of U.S. ambassador to Damascus. He is currently awaiting Syrian approval. Iran is now occupied with internal turmoil, and sanctions keep piling up. I would not be surprised if Syria starts to noticeably drift away from its current closest ally. Politics in essence is more interest than ideology.
Does all of the above mean that Syria is working its way out of the gutter? Are Hezbollah and Hamas going to be removed from US terrorist organization lists at some point in the near future?
I do not think that the correlation of these events implies causation. Maybe I’m reading too much into the choice of words in that AP report. Still, It’s certainly interesting to see how things are shaping up. Could we be witnessing the “birth pangs of a new Middle East?”
P.S. The following Time article also uses the term “militant groups” to refer to Hezbollah and Hamas: Why the U.S. is Back on the Road to Damascus.
P.P.S. It’s important to mention Twitter in anything you write to show that you are relevant and hip — sarcasm.