Author: Bouthaina Shaaban

Book review by: Ziad Hafez (**)

Published by: Lynne Rienner, Boulder, CO.

Year of publication:  2013

Number of pages: 245

ISBN: 978-1-58826-863-1


This is a book about the peace process in contemporary Syrian history that has been overlooked by many scholars. This reviewer was fortunate enough to read the manuscript before publication and found it to be a narrative about a process where many scholars could not access its underlying documents. Anyone interested in the Arab world and particularly in the Arab Near East should read it and have it in his (or her) library.

The author is a major figure in Syrian diplomacy and has been privy to most international negotiations undertaken by the Syrian government, in particular the peace negotiations that started in Madrid in the early 1990s in the aftermath of the First Gulf War. It is a compelling account of the lack of seriousness on behalf of the Americans and the Israelis in reaching a comprehensive settlement in the region. The minutes of the meetings, to which the author had access, support the double standards in dealings. What American officials said behind closed doors was different from what they would say in public and definitely not followed by deeds that would have pushed forward peace negotiations. They were clearly not interested in striking a deal and hence the strategy of moving the goal posts. In this dance, the late President al-Assad was nobody’s fool, but played the part to demonstrate the duplicity of American officials to his entourage and to those in Syria as well as in the Arab homeland who believed that negotiations with the United States and/or Israel would amount to something tangible and beneficial to the Arabs.

Read full text here Damascus Diary: An Inside Account of Hafez al-Assad’s Peace Diplomacy, 1990–2000


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