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November 20, 1987 - Image 34

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-11-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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FRIDAY, NOV. 20, 1987

Assad Was The Winner
At Recent Arab Summit

HOURS:

9-10 M-Sat,
10-6 Sun.

T

he embrace between
two old rivals at the
Arab Summit in Am-
man last week probably won't
be remembered as one of the
great romantic moments of
all time, but it was surely one
of the richest.
By making up with the em-
battled President Saddam
Hussein of Iraq, Syria's Presi-
dent Hafez Assad earned
himself a cool $2 billion in aid
from fellow Arab leaders
desperate to wean him away
from the side of Iran in the
Gulf War and to give their
summit a patina of unity.
It was a rich moment for
another reason: Despite the
massive reward (or, perhaps,
because of it), Assad has no
plans to abandon the mullahs
of Teheran. Not, at least, un-
til he has extracted the max-
imum mileage from his role
as the major Arab supporter
of non-Arab Iran.
This was emphasized by
Radio Damascus, which
quoted a senior government
official as insisting that the
Syrian and Iraqi leaders were
just good friends. The en-
counter, said the official em-
phatically, was "a handshake,
nothing more."
But it was also an elegant
display of tactical skill by the
Syrian leader, who must be
counted among the most
adroit political operators in
the Middle East.
Assad had dominated the
1980 Arab Summit in Am-
man by staying away and
massing his troops on the Jor-
danian border. He dominated
last week's summit by
demonstrating his key role in
the region.
Assad's economy is almost
bankrupt, his army is bogged
down in Lebanon, his coun-
trymen are deeply dissatis-
fied with the corruption and
inefficiency of his regime, and
he is on the "wrong" side in
the Gulf War. Yet, he emerg-
ed as the hero of the summit,
one of the truly authentic
Arab leaders.
The Amman summit was
convened primarily to discuss
the Gulf War. But while the
Arab leaders produced their
predictable condemnation of
Iran, Assad neutered the
resolution and prevented the
rhetoric from spilling over in-
to demands for real sanctions.
He also prevented the
return of Egypt, expelled
from the Arab League after
its 1979 peace treaty with

President Hafez Assad:
A rich moment.

Israel, to the heart of the
Arab world.
Moderate Arab states were
alarmed that the Gulf War
might involve other gulf
states. They were also pro-
foundly grateful for the
military aid Cairo has pro-
vided both Iraq and Kuwait.
The moderates were anxious
to express this appreciation
by rehabilitating the largest
and most powerful Arab state.
But while a number of such
leaders have announced they
are resuming relations with
Egypt, President Assad per-
suaded them to avoid a formal
gesture at the summit.

Assad, the realist, knows
that Egypt's eventual return
to the Arab fold is inevitable.
But, he urgently needs to
keep Egypt out of Arab
League councils and to delay
as long as possible the evil
day when Cairo will
challenge Syria's central role
in the Arab world.
"The whole thing was typi-
cal, clever Assad," said Pro-
fessor Moshe Maoz, an Orien-
talist at the Hebrew Univer-
sity and a leading expert on
Syria.
"He embraced Saddam
Hussein and got the money,"
said Maoz, "without cutting
his ties with Iran and losing
his supplies of free Iranian
oil. He reasserted his role as
middle man between the
Arabs and Iran. He watered
down the summit's resolu-
tions on the Gulf War and
kept Egypt out of the Arab
League. And he did it all
brilliantly."
Maoz, who recently com-
pleted a biography of Assad,
believes Assad's ability to
dominate the summit and
bend it to his will reflects his

Continued on Page 44

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