September 13, 2009

ISOLATION IS INSUFFICIENT:

The Syrian way (David Schenker, 9/13/09, Jerusalem Post)

"mutual respect and mutual interest", the Obama administration has hit a wall. While Syrian officials routinely articulate a desire for improved relations with Washington, the Assad regime has yet to take steps necessary to make this possible. From Iraq to Lebanon to its ongoing support for Hamas, and despite Washington's conciliatory steps, Damascus remains intransigent.

Concerned that Iraqi-Syrian tensions could undermine efforts to rehabilitate Syria, Washington has yet to condemn Damascus for its role in the Baghdad bombings, preferring instead to describe the events as an "internal matter" between the governments. Based on the priority Washington ascribes to Iraq, however, a stronger US response is warranted.

TO DATE, the administration has been rather generous in response to Syria's promises to improve its behavior. Based on Syria's pledge to cooperate with US Central Command on border security issues, for example, this past June the Obama administration undertook to return an ambassador to Damascus, a seat vacant since 2005. In July, the administration likewise eased the process of granting export licenses to Syria's aviation industry, another conciliatory gesture designed to encourage better behavior.

Absent critical Syrian follow-through on Iraq, Washington may want to reevaluate its conciliatory approach. While the administration is unlikely to take dramatic steps anytime soon, it could deliver a powerful message to the Assad regime during the UN General Assembly in mid-September. Syrian officials have been advocating an Assad-Obama summit for months and are hoping to engineer a meet and greet on the sidelines of the New York meeting. Given the ongoing problems posed by Syria, Obama would be well advised to snub Assad in New York.

Despite the best of intentions, the Obama administration approach has not yet convinced Damascus to change its ways. While it may be premature to throw in the towel and resume the Bush-era policy of isolation, if Syria's current behavior in Iraq persists it should provoke a policy review that adds some sticks to the arsenal of carrots already deployed against Damascus.


All we are saying...is give regime change a chance....

Do Damascus and the WoT is done.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 13, 2009 7:17 PM
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