In his landmark June 24, 2002 speech on the Middle East, George W. Bush invited
Every nation actually committed to peace will stop the flow of money, equipment and recruits to terrorist groups seeking the destruction of
After that, Syria (1) sided with Saddam Hussein just before the 2003 Iraq war, (2) provided refuge in 2003 (and since) to Ba’athist extremists trying to undermine the new Iraqi government, (3) rejected multiple overtures during 2003-2005 from senior officials of the Bush administration who traveled to Damascus to meet with Bashar al-Asad, (4) was undoubtedly involved in the February 2005 murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, (5) supported Hezbollah in its 2006 war with Israel, (6) has been restocking Hezbollah since 2006 with more rockets than it had before, in direct violation of the UN Resolution that ended the war, (6) was building during all this time a nuclear facility in secret with the help of North Korea, and (7) has been providing the headquarters for the leaders of Hamas.
It sure seems like
Last week, Martin Indyk appeared before a House Foreign Affairs Committee subcommittee and noted that:
The dominant view of
Notwithstanding the Syrian response over seven years, Indyk offered the subcommittee his suggestion -- “pursuing engagement” with
Just about every leader that has attempted to deal with President Bashar al-Assad has come away frustrated. The list includes Colin Powell, Tony Blair, Nicholas Sarkozy, Hosni Mubarak and
Maybe if a
Peter Rodman also testified before the House subcommittee on April 24. Here is how he described the Bush administration trips to
Secretary of State Colin Powell went in May 2003; I had the privilege of visiting myself in September 2004 as part of an interagency delegation with Assistant Secretary of State William Burns; and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage had a similar meeting with Asad in early 2005.
In each case, the Syrians’ response was that destabilizing
We even gave them names of senior Iraqi extremists who we knew were operating out of
And the Syrians are masters of spin. Each of these visits by senior Americans was meant to convey a serious warning and to ratchet up pressures on
This conveyed a wrong impression to everyone, including our friends in the region. In other words, while our tough talking points were meant to ratchet up pressures, the Syrians spun the visits into relief from pressures.
Rodman’s testimony is the subject of several extraordinarily interesting comments over at Middle East Strategy at Harvard (MESH). Michael Young notes that:
Syria sees Iran as the regional superpower of the future, an impression Asad has little reason to discard when the debate in the
Eyal Zisser, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, comments that:
The problem would seem to be not only
What Bashar is proposing to the United States is an honorable capitulation: that it depart from Iraq, abandon Lebanon, pressure Israel to return the entire Golan Heights, and acquiesce in Syria’s continued membership in the region’s Iran-centered “axis of evil” (with no more than a vague Syrian hint of a possible future withdrawal from that axis).
Itamar Rabinovich, who was Israel’s chief negotiator with Syria and is currently visiting professor of public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, commented that when Ehud Olmert began to talk about resuming negotiations with Syria, “he was told by the Bush administration that this was not a good idea.” But “Olmert has his own domestic political reasons for flaunting this prospect.”
If Martin Indyk is in the next administration, the