Syria Gets Leverage out of Netanyahu

The opinion-page article "Syria Tries to Shore Up Weak Position," June 7, begins to present one of the more interesting possible outcomes of Benjamin Netanyahu's election - a more favorable position for Israel's longtime rival Syria.

Syria is coming under increased pressure from external forces. The impending United States-Jordan-Israel military alliance will augment the tension in the region. However, Mr. Netanyahu's election has bought Syrian President Hafez al-Assad some time. Jordan, Egypt, and the US, which have strongly supported a peace agreement between Israel and Syria, can no longer bully Syria into accepting the negotiations, because Netanyahu has taken an uncompromising stance on the Golan Heights.

Assad can now insist that the Israelis are not interested in negotiating with him. Although he will be unable to get the Golan Heights back, with the failure of these negotiations Syria's dominance over Lebanon remains intact.

Now that Assad can place the responsibility for the failed peace talks on Netanyahu, he is in a position to encourage a more favorable relationship with the US. The US's vocal support for Shimon Peres might have created the wedge between the two countries for which Assad has been waiting. Perhaps Netanyahu's election will give Syria the velocity it needs to break free from isolation and get on the road to a more favorable position in the world community.

Laura Coates

Windsor, Conn.

Kurdish resistance

The opinion-page article "Syria Tries to Shore Up Weak Position" states: "[The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)] has a few thousand activists among the half-million Kurds living in Germany," and that when an assassination attempt was made on President Suleyman Demirel of Turkey a few weeks ago, "some wondered about a connection" to this organization.

The PKK, numbering 30,000 guerrilla fighters and millions of supporters and sympathizers, is engaged in a national liberation struggle, fighting primarily from bases within Turkey with a few rear-guard camps in northern Iraq. Its presence in Syria is quite limited. As for the perpetrator who attempted to assassinate President Demirel, he was a fundamentalist who objected to the recently initiated Turkish-Israeli agreement on joint military training and intelligence sharing. His sentiments are shared by many Turks.

Turkey has been facing the Kurdish problem since 1923. Its attempt to deny the existence of different linguistic and cultural groups has been resisted by Turkey's Kurds for decades. The PKK is the latest and the most successful political-military organization engaged in this resistance.

As long as the Turkish government fails to seek a political solution to its Kurdish problem, Turkey will remain beset by a costly internal war. Syria's role in this scenario is overshadowed by Turkey's other neighbors.

Aram Nigogosian


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