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Obama Adviser Gives Advice to Syria

12:17 PM, Aug 20, 2008 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Eli Lake reports that Daniel Kurtzer, an unpaid foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama, took a little junket to Damascus last month:

The next president, whether Republican or Democrat, will make a Syrian-Israeli peace agreement a priority only if the two sides, meeting now in Turkey, make substantial progress before the inauguration.

That is what a foreign policy adviser to Senator Obama told Syria's foreign minister last month while on a visit to Damascus. While the trip was not connected to the Obama campaign, Daniel Kurtzer nonetheless provided Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem with some advice of his own.

"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," Mr. Kurtzer, a former American ambassador to Israel, said yesterday in a phone interview. "I did not say anything about Obama or McCain. I said whoever is the next president is not going to want to inherit a process that isn't going anywhere."

Mr. Kurtzer was in the Syrian capital for a conference co-sponsored by the Law Society of England and Wales and the American Bar Association and arranged by the British Syrian Society. That last group is chaired by Dr. Fawaz Akhras, a London-based cardiologist and the father of the Syrian president's wife, Asma al-Assad. The parley was underwritten by a number of Syrian corporations and also by Petro-Canada, a Canadian oil concern.

Wow. An Obama adviser in the pocket of Syrian corporations and big oil? But don't worry, the Obama campaign has drawn a line in the sand: It's okay for advisers to talk with Bashar al-Asad's regime but not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's:

The deputy communications director for the McCain campaign, Michael Goldfarb, quipped yesterday: "If one of Senator Obama's advisers has been to Damascus, we just wonder how many have been to Tehran."

[Obama spokeswoman Wendy] Morigi responded, "That's ridiculous. Of course no advisers have been to Tehran."

The Damascus/Tehran double-standard doesn't make any sense. In Obama's AIPAC speech in June, he said that "Syria continues its support for terror and meddling in Lebanon. And Syria has taken dangerous steps in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction". If Obama advisers shouldn't coddle an Iranian regime meddling in Iraq and pursuing nuclear weapons makes, then Syria should be off limits as well.