US inspects terrain for policing a Golan deal: UN peace-keepers set to hand over after Israeli withdrawal

AN AMERICAN rear-admiral from the Pentagon arrives in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights today. And next week, only hours after President Hafez al-Assad of Syria tells President Bill Clinton in Geneva that he still wants the return of all occupied Golan, the US Defense Department's Executive Agent for UN Operations, Major John Kintsev, will be turning up for his own briefing from the United Nations soldiers who have kept the peace in Golan for 19 long and freezing years. Everyone knows - but no one says - that the next 'buffer' force between the Israeli and Syrian armies is likely to be chiefly composed of US troops.

An Israeli withdrawal from Golan is a sine qua non in Damascus, whatever the conditions of that withdrawal may be. Months of negotiations are likely to follow Sunday's Assad-Clinton summit, but current thinking here suggests that a 16km-wide demilitarised buffer zone will be set up along the Israeli-Syrian frontier north of Lake Tiberias when - or if - Israel hands back all of Golan to Syria. One option would be to push the UN Area of Separation (AoS) - which runs along an 80km strip from Mount Hermon through Kuneitra to the Jordanian border - west to the internationally recognised Israeli frontier, before replacing UN troops with US peace-keepers.

Syria's determination to retrieve the Golan Heights should not obscure the complexity of the military talks which will have to precede any Israeli withdrawal. At present, the Israeli and Syrian armies are each limited to a total of 6,000 soldiers, 450 tanks and 162 artillery pieces within 25km of the UN's separation line, statistics which are bound to change - almost certainly in Israel's favour - if the Israelis pull back to their real frontier and revoke their annexation of the Syrian Golan.

But the Israeli officers in Golan are already trying to woo their Syrian opposite numbers. General Spiegle, the commander of Israeli troops on the Heights, and his colleagues have tried to send a wine and sweets to their Syrian opposite numbers in Damascus, an offer that was pointedly ignored by the potential recipients. No Syrian officer would accept a gift from an Israeli as long as Syria is technically at war with Israel - and certainly not while the Israelis continue to display the noticeboard which greets visitors to occupied Syrian land with the words: 'Welcome to Israel.'

Yet it is not difficult to see how quickly Israeli and Syrian personnel could be prepared for a redeployment. General Shafir, the Israeli officer who signed the original disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria after the 1973 war, is still a serving officer, while Major-General Tayara, the Syrian signatory to the disengagement documents, still holds the same post: Senior Syrian Arab Delegate for Golan. Israeli and Syrian officers have been liaising through UN officers along the frontlines since 1974, a system that could easily cover a redeployment.

Ever since they took up positions in Golan, the UN's Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) and Truce Supervisory Observers (UNTSO), have refused to accept Israel's territorial annexation. It is a policy that naturally finds favour with the Syrians.

UNDOF has a complement of 1,248 Polish, Canadian and Austrian soldiers with 225 UN observers. Even these small detachments, however, cost an annual dollars 35.46m ( pounds 23.7m) - a figure which is likely to be at least quadrupled if a US-led multi-national force of more than 10,000 men was to be inserted between Israelis and Syrians west of a liberated Golan. No one has calculated the cost of returning more than 100,000 Syrian refugees to the region to join around 45,000 Druze and Muslim villagers who still live there, let alone the cost of moving out an estimated 12,000 Israeli settlers.

Yet the Assad-Clinton summit is not going to be deflected by the cost of peace, even if it can draw some lessons from what must be the UN's most effective peace-keeping operation. Late last summer, it transpires, the UN ordered its observers to record only those Israeli aircraft ceasefire 'violations' above Golan which could be 'proved' to have passed over their lines - something almost impossible when a plane is at high altitude. The result was predictable: a sudden and dramatic fall in the number of provocations by the Israeli airforce - much to Syria's satisfaction. Which is presumably called 'bending the rules for peace'.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?