At this stage, the talks can be seen from different angles. From the Saudi point of view, or that of the March 14 Coalition, these talks are a threat that the Syrians are back on their way to re-establishing themselves in the Middle East. Many in Lebanon are not comfortable with that, thinking that any peace deal with the Israelis would also mean eventual normalization with the US as well. This normalization, they believe, would be at the expense of Lebanon, the Harriri Tribunal and the Syrian Accountability Act. But except for the lip service offered by Condoleezza Rice to Foreign Minister Mouallem, the United States has offered little interest in the talks. This plays nicely into the hands of the Saudis and Lebanese who do not want Bush on board in the talks; because as long as the Americans do not support the talks, they will never materialize.
From the Syrian perspective gain is there whether or not a treaty comes out of these talks. If a treaty does arise, the Syrians will have gotten back the Golan. If it doesn't, Syria's chance to re-establish its voice in regional affairs will itself arise, by showing how willing they were, and how unwilling Israel was at achieving peace. There is a lot of talk about Iran being unhappy about the talks taking place indirectly through Turkey. Additionally there is speculation that the Iranians believe that these talks would be at the expense of Iran, or Hizbullah. So long as the United States remains ambivalent about these talks, nothing more will come from them and Iran has no need to worry. What is taking place in Turkey is a demo for what can lead to a serious peace, once Bush leaves the White House and once Ehud Barak assumes the Syrian-Israeli talks himself, as condition for joining the Livni cabinet.
I agree with Professor Oren that a land-for-peace deal, as with the Egyptians would both restructure the Middle East and have its impact on the region's nonstate actors. But I wouldn't bet on the deal going through. The Syrians will not cut their relationship with either Hizbollah or Hamas prior to the signing of a treaty. And even after, I don't think it is in anyone's interests that backdoors are closed with Hamas or Hizbullah; although the relationship, and its nature, will change with Damascus.
Syria was able to moderate the behavior of these groups and curb radicalization, when needed. The West needs backchannels open with these groups because they are not going to disappear. There are several theories floating in this regard. One says that a deal has been struck between the Syrians and Iran, for Iran to accept and not veto the peace talks, when they reach a serious face-to-face level, in exchange for Syria using its influence in the international community to negotiate on the issue of Iran's nuclear file. This theory writes off the expected break between Syria and Iran if/when peace is signed. Another theory says that Iran is very worried and will work to drown the talks, thinking that they will be at their own expense.
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