The Spectacle Blog

Obama and Damascus

By on 8.20.08 | 12:35PM

One of the key aspects of the Obama foreign policy agenda is to conduct unconditional talks with hostile regimes within the first year of his administration. But really, why wait?

Eli Lake has a disturbing report in the NY Sun about Obama middle east adviser Daniel Kurtzner visiting Damascus to attend a conference sponsored by the British Syrian Society (which, according to its website, "aims at strengthening relations at all levels between the United Kingdom and Syria").

Kurtzner also met with the Syrian foreign minister, and recounts, "I urged him to move ahead in the Israel-Syria negotiations as much as possible so that whoever is the next president would not start from too far down the track."

Speaking about the conference, Kurtzner said, "None of us thought we were being used or abused. But we will see over time."

This is quite a comforting attitude coming from a man who is advising Obama on the region, and who traveled with him in Israel last month. Of course, all the usual Obama disclaimers apply. This was not related to the Obama campaign, and he is not a paid staffer. Sort of like former Obama adviser Robert Malley's meeting with Hamas.

Tony Badran of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies notes that "it's not a secret that the Syrians are openly banking on Barack Obama. It's not surprising that they would build bridges in advance and do this through the window of the peace process."

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