This week’s L’Espresso, one the most influential weekly publications in Italy, features an exclusive interview with Syrian dictator Bashar el Assad. Even as the interviewer makes his best effort to let Assad off the hook on just about every issue, Assad still manages to dismiss the assumption, made by many Westerners, that a wedge can be driven between Iran and Syria. Asked if Syria would renounce its alliance with Iran and its support for Hezbollah and Hamas in exchange for peace with Israel, Assad said that
It would be an absurd demand and there would be no more peace. How would Israel react if we demanded it breaks its relations with the United States? Negotiations must develop with regard to full reciprocity. Syria remains firmly persuaded that neither Hamas nor Hezbollah are terrorist organizations. For the simple reason that they do not kill civilians. They are movements that defend their own land. As for Iran, the answer is even more obvious. It is our old ally, there is no reason to turn our back to them.
Assad could not be clearer. In exchange for the Golan Heights, Israel would obtain a peace treaty that would add little to the present state of relations with Syria, without reducing the weight and clout of Iran and its proxies all around it. Not a deal worth pursuing.