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Sunday, November 07, 2010

The end of US outreach to Syria

From the Arab side of the fence, Tarik Alhomayed laments Syria's failure to respond at all positively to President Obama's outreach.
When we say Damascus has wasted opportunities, this can be seen in the number of times that US members of Congress have visited Syria, especially the Democrats, without making any progress worth mentioning. Apart from the Republican's hostility towards Damascus, the Syrians also made a mistake by antagonizing the Democrats, and it is enough to recall the visit made to Damascus by House Speaker Congresswomen Nancy Pelosi during the presidency of George W Bush, and how this was portrayed as a move by the Democrats to attack Bush's policies on Syria. The Democrats similarly did not benefit from this visit.

The situation in Washington will be worse today for the Syrians now that the Republicans have gained control of Congress; for the US is not a marginal state, and Damascus cannot afford to be unconcerned with any disputes with Washington. Rather it is a genuine superpower, and what is most dangerous of all is that Syria is snubbing Washington, not thanks to its own strength, but relying upon cards that are entirely in the hands of Iran.

It seems that the Syrians were not provoked by the advice contained in Feltman's statement, but when he directly and frankly asked "do they [the Syrians] think the Iranians are able to get the Golan [Heights] back for them? I find that improbable." Feltman went on to enumerate the deficiencies in the Syrian – Iranian alliance with regards to Lebanon and Iraq, and he also expressed his commitment to the Hariri tribunal. Just a few days after this, Washington announced it was making a financial donation to the Hariri tribunal. As for Iraq, Feltman said "Iran tried to have a unified Shia front for the [Iraqi] elections. They failed. Iran summoned Iraqi politicians after the elections to form a government. They failed. Iran tied to unify all the Shia behind one prime minister candidate. They failed. Going back earlier, Iran tried to prevent the Iraqis from approving the security agreement as well as the strategic framework agreement."

On the other hand, and two years after Obama extended his hand to the Syrians – and with Republican now in control of the Congress – we find that Damascus has made little progress with America; the international tribunal is ongoing, the US sanctions on Syria have not been lifted, and the US Ambassador to Syria has yet to take residence, whilst Damascus has not achieved anything in Iraq.
What I don't understand is why anyone expected a different result. Assad has made clear time after time that he will not give up his alliances with Iran and with the Iranian-supported terror groups. He has continued to insist that he won't even sit down at a table with Israel without a prior written commitment that he would receive all of the Golan Heights, which his country lost in the 1967 and 1973 wars. Why did anyone think he would change?

The real question is whether this means that Israel will have another chance to destroy Assad militarily after the cowardly Olmert government failed to do so in 2006. I hope and pray that the answer is yes, although I admit to skepticism as to whether Obama will lay off long enough for Israel to do it and whether Netanyahu will have any more courage than Olmert had given Netanyahu's recent behavior.

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At 3:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carl, Israel had several weeks, the usual window, to "mow the grass" of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and to what end? The Gaza campaign was tactically effective as a local suppressant but was the strategic balance of forces resolved? Without a grand game or conventional but strategic bomber campaigns circa WWII is any of this a game changer?


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