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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Across the Bay: Not Welcome

Across the Bay: Not Welcome

Lebanese blogger Across the Bay describes Syria's isolation among the Arab countries before yesterday's meeting in Beirut and Foreign Minister Walid Moallem's temper tantrum. Then why do some Israeli pundits think Syria can be helpful in bringing Hezbullah into line? They seem to be ignoring Syria's isolation in the Arab world.

Boaz Ganor (whose article I linked) thinks that the US and Israel can pry Syria away from Iran, and that Syria will be satisfied with its economic interests in Lebanon being recognized (and protected how?) without bringing its army back in.

Here's Ganor's analysis:
THE CURRENT situation with Syria calls for quiet diplomatic action led by the Americans and moderate Arab countries. Assad should be presented with two clear alternatives.

On the one hand, if he continues his alliance with Iran and support for Hizbullah, it will lead to the imposition of severe international sanctions on Syria, as well as the threat of Israeli, and perhaps even US, military action.

On the other hand, if he cuts his ties with Iran, blocks the Iranians' channels for supplying Hizbullah with arms and assists the Lebanese army in gaining control of southern Lebanon (and seals his own border with Iraq as well), then Syria will be granted international legitimacy and even financial assistance.

In that case, it is likely that the special relationship between Syria and Lebanon would be recognized, including Syria's economic interests in Lebanon (though the Syrian army's return to Lebanon would not be accepted). This could end the current crisis in Lebanon and perhaps even revive the peace process between Israel and Syria.

However, such a process requires an 180-degree turn in American-Israeli policy and, more problematically, is liable to be interpreted as contravening America's almost obsessive aspiration to bring democracy to the Muslim world and the Middle East.

Israel also would need to overcome its natural inclination not to grant legitimacy of any sort to Assad's regime. Adopting my suggested policy would be possible only if the Israeli government changed the rationale it is following in the current crisis, which has led the government to make some very questionable decisions and mistakes.

The government should acknowledge the need to shift the crisis from a zero-sum game (Israel versus Hizbullah and Lebanon), which Israel can't win, to a "greater cake" model, which involves other important actors, foremost of them Syria.

It's a cake that can be divided in a way that eventually guarantees Syria and Israel interests.
Ganor's analysis strikes me as overly simplistic. Syria doesn't have the strength to be worth the effort the US and Israel would have to make. They don't deserve to be rewarded for their support of Hezbullah. For reasons I have mentioned earlier, Bashar Assad's regime is isolated and may be about to collapse. That would not be a bad thing.


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