Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Obama may meet Assad in Istanbul to dramatize outreach to Muslims
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
Turkish prime minister Recip Tayyep Edrogan is leaning hard on the White House for US president Barack Obama to meet Syrian president Bashar Assad.Edrogan says this will dramatize the address Obama plans to deliver from Istanbul on April 7 extending America's hand of peace to Muslims worldwide. It will also telegraph a strong message to the new Netanyah-Barak-Lieberman government that the Obama administration wants Israel to go back to the Turkish-mediated peace talks with Syria begun by Ehud Olmert – this time with active US involvement.
According to DEBKAfile's Washington sources, which report this exclusively, the White House has neither accepted nor rejected the Turkish premier's initiative, but time for a negative is shrinking.
Obama's outreach to the Muslim world speech will be delivered the day before the start of Jewish Passover festival. Turkish premier maintains that Obama must underscore his message to the Muslim world with actions not just words; a meeting with the Syrian ruler would show he is in earnest.
While the US president's movements in the Turkish city are undisclosed for reasons of security, DEBKAfile's sources report that he has scheduled an appearance at the second forum of the Alliance of Civilizations in the first week of April in Istanbul. He will be joined on the platform by Erdogan, UN secretary Ban ki-moon, Spanish prime minister Louis Rodriguez Zapatero and one or two influential Muslim clerical figures.
To lend wings to Obama's outreach to the Muslims, White House circles Monday, March 30, leaked word that his team took a hand in persuading Israel to accept a ceasefire which cut short its anti-Hamas operation in Gaza in January. The radical Islamist terrorists had to be spared from total defeat by Israel and their leaders from capture otherwise Assad, as their backer, would be restrained from resuming peace talks with Israel for some time.
The ceasefire gave Assad enough political room to continue the negotiations without losing credibility in the Arab world.
Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker wrote in its coming issue: A major change in American policy toward Syria is clearly under way.
“The return of the Golan Heights is part of a broader strategy for peace in the Middle East that includes countering Iran’s influence… Syria is a strategic linchpin for dealing with Iran and the Palestinian issue."
According to this report, Cheney began getting messages from the Israelis about pressure from Obama when he was still President-elect. Cheney portrayed Obama to the Israelis as a “pro-Palestinian,” who would not support their efforts.