By Aaron Klein
...Damascus gets crucial deal without promising to drop alliance with Iran
TEL AVIV – The Obama administration was instrumental in facilitating a partnership deal that will see billions of dollars in trade flow between the European Union and Syria that may revitalize Damascus' stagnant economy, Egyptian and other Palestinian diplomatic sources told WND.
U.S. opposition was a main factor in the deal being delayed since it was drawn up as a draft pact in 2004. The deal is worth an estimated $7 billion a year for the Syrian economy. The Bush administration was particularly opposed to Syria's interference in Lebanese affairs and Damascus' military alliance with Iran.
According to the Egyptian and Palestinian diplomatic sources, the Obama administration dropped American opposition to the deal without first extracting a concession from Syria to end its alliance with Iran.
The sources told WND the White House received pledges from Syria to collaborate with the West in Lebanon and Iraq and to play a more constructive role in the Middle East.
"Syria was clear there was no promise to end its ties to Iran," said a diplomatic source.Yesterday, diplomats told the AFP and Al Jazeera the EU will sign the partnership deal with Syria later this month.
"The deal is due to be signed with Syria on October 26 in Luxembourg," said the diplomat, at a meeting of EU foreign ministers.The Egyptian and Palestinian officials speaking to WND confirmed the deal.
WND first quoted a Syrian official in 2008 stating that if the U.S. dropped its opposition to the EU trade deal and built up Damascus as the primary American ally in the Arab world in place of Saudi Arabia, the Syrians would be willing to discuss scaling back alliances with Iran and making peace with Israel.
Apparently, however, Syria bargained with the Obama administration without having to affect its Iran ties.
"Syria is the key to the Arab world. We have influence with Hezbollah and Lebanon and hold many cards in the Palestinian and Iraqi arenas. The U.S. needs to rethink the value of the investment it places in Saudi Arabia," said the official, who spoke in 2008 by phone from Damascus on condition his name be withheld.He said Syria is willing to sign a treaty with Israel and come to some sort of accommodation regarding the strategic Golan Heights, mountainous territory looking down on Israeli population centers that Syria used twice to launch ground invasions into the Jewish state.
The official claimed the Golan was not "the biggest obstacle" in preventing a Syrian-American-Israeli agreement.
He claimed Syria would "not categorically reject the idea of leasing some sections of the Golan to Israel for up to 99 years."
He said in 2008 that Damascus would discuss severing "many ties" with Iran, but he would not specify which ties and whether Syria is willing to cut off all coordination with the Iranians.
"We are ready to significantly and deeply reduce relations with our Iranian brothers if conditions are met," the official said.
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