WHEN MUBARAK TALKS AND ASSAD LISTENS
By Micah Halpern
Tuesday March 15, 2005
The question is: How do you navigate a minefield without getting yourself blown up?
Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak has just returned from a visit to Syria's president, Bashar Assad.
Mubarak is the dean of Middle Eastern Arab leaders. He is debonair, he is stately. He rose to power after the death by assassination of Anwar Sadat. He has experience with extremists.
Assad is a whippersnapper. He is British educated and an ophthalmologist by training. He inherited his position after the death of his father. He wasn't the first choice. First choice, his brother, was killed in racing accident. This Assad came to power through default.
What was the meeting between these two Arab leaders about? Sitting in luxurious surroundings, in an environment so opulent that it makes the West Wing look drab, the two discussed events of the day.
I'm not a fly on the wall, but I am an analyst. And I'll bet that, after the requisite exchange of common pleasantries, these are the topics the two men discussed:
When Mubarak comes to Damascus he comes as the leader of the moderate Arab world. He is one of the most significant friends of the US and of the West. Egypt is one of only two Arab countries to have signed a peace treaty with Israel.
Egypt is a symbol in the Arab world. When Mubarak comes calling, it is a significant and important step in regional diplomacy. Assad, I am sure, did not absorb a word Mubarak was saying. He heard the words. But he could not understand the implications. Assad has always been and still is, a skeptic.
So, what did Mubarak have to say? What did Assad actually hear?
on SYRIA IN LEBANON
on SYRIA AND IRAQ:
on THE UNITED STATES IN THE MIDDLE EAST:
on ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIANS:
on SYRIA AND ISRAEL:
In the end, despite the good will and best efforts of Hosni Mubarak, Bashar Assad is totally unaware of the realities around him. That is the only way to explain the assassination of Hariri, the Lebanon issue and the Iraqi border. He sees and he senses none of the dangers around him. Assad is being very poorly advised.
The information, the intel Assad is provided with by his own intelligence gatherers is skewed to mesh with their leader's own pre-conceived notions and inaccurate observations. And that, for the Middle East and for the rest of the world is not only troubling, it is dangerous.
Bashar Assad is leading his country through the mine field. The only question we are left with, is how many others will be hurt as the field explodes.