Damascene Diversion

My last column of the year is [up at Spot-on now](http://www.spot-on.com/archives/allbritton/2007/11/going_long_on_the_golan_at_ann_1.html), looking at the dynamics of Syria’s participation in the Annapolis conference. An excerpt:

There’s a Middle Eastern proverb making the rounds these days: You can’t make war without Egypt and you can’t have peace without Syria. And if Syria’s sitting down at the table, as it’s indicated it will do at next week, it’s a safe bet that the fate of two key parts of the region — the Golan and Lebanon — are up for discussion.
In two of the most intractable problems of the region — Lebanon and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — the Syrian regime has been the immovable obstacle. Because outside the U.S., the Middle East isn’t just defined by the Israeli-Arab conflict. It’s a Gordian Knot of conflicts involving Israelis and Palestinians, Israel and Arabs, Arab Shi’ites and Arab Sunnis, Arabs and Iranians and the West and Iran. They’re all intertwined, but the common thread in this tangled skein is Syria and the regime of its President Bashar al-Assad.
And in the past 48 hours, there has been signs of movement that might, just might signal some kind of accord that the Syrians will accept. The Golan, the uplands seized by Israel from Syria in the 1967 war, is reportedly on the table at the Annapolis conference which begins Tuesday. This was the precondition for Syria to attend the conference, said its foreign minister, Walid Muallem.
That’s very good news for the Americans, the Israelis and possibly the Lebanese. Why? Because with Syria’s participation — along with Saudi Arabia and the other Arab states at the ministerial level — a success in Annapolis might mean the beginning of a real discussion of a Grand Bargain for the region, not just another fitful start to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The thinking is that if the Syrians are shown some flexibility on the Golan, they might also show some flexibility in Lebanon, which is in the midst of its worst political crisis since the end of the 1975-1990 Civil War — a political crisis stoked in large part by Syria and its allies in Lebanon.

You might be surprised at my conclusions.