The Road to Damascus, brought to Obama adviser by: Big Oil!

For the second time today, a Barack Obama foreign-policy adviser has shown ties to the oil industry that Democrats insist on demonizing.  Former Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer traveled to Syria as part of the First International Lawyers Conference in Damascus, and while there, advised the Bashar Assad government to get cracking on the peace process with Israel. Kurtzer is one of the 300 foreign-policy advisers to Obama for his presidential campaign and is senior enough to have accompanied Obama on his world tour, and served both Clinton and Bush administrations:

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.

In this case, the actual advice Kurtzer delivered was sound and strong.  In telling the Syrians that they shouldn’t wait for the American election to determine how the wind will blow in Washington, they presented a united front on American policy to the Syrians.  Kurtzer should be congratulated for sending a consistent signal to the Assad regime.

Unfortunately, the Syrians didn’t buy it:

“But 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.”

The Obama campaign insisted that Kurtzer had no portfolio to talk with other governments as a member of Obama’s expansive advisory council.  Kurtzer insists that he didn’t contact the Syrians as a representative of Obama.  It seems clear, though, that the Syrians can put two and two together rather easily and understand that Kurtzer has a lot of influence on the Democratic candidate.  That impression got further confirmation when Kurtzer joined Obama for his world tour shortly after his tete-a-tete with the Assad regime.

And once again, we see that Obama’s advisers have no trouble accepting financing from the same oil industry that Democrats love to demonize.  Petro Canada’s underwriting of the event may be a lesser concern, though, than the official hosts of the conference.  The British Syrian Society arranged the event along with the American Bar Association, but the BSS has connections to Assad through his father-in-law, according to one expert (Tony Badran) at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Did Kurtzer get used by the Assad regime?

“None of us thought we were being used or abused,” he added. “But we will see over time.”

We will if Obama gets elected. Clearly, the Syrians want to build bridges with that in mind.  Maybe if Obama and the Democrats took the threat of Assad anywhere near as seriously as the specious threats they imagine coming from “Big Oil”, they wouldn’t have to worry about being unwitting pawns of the regime.