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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Process Improvement Analyst (Testing)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Service Delivery Manager - Derivatives, Support,

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Delivery Manager - (Derivatives, Support...

Technical Account Manager - Java, FIX Protocol, FIX 5.0, C++

£30000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Technical Account Manager - Java,...

WPF .NET Developer

£300 - £350 per day: Harrington Starr: WPF Analyst Programmer NET, WPF, C#, M...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform