Friday, February 17, 2006

The US and Israel Should Engage Syria" by Alon Ben-Meir

Alon Ben-Meir has written a compelling argument for why Israel and the US should engage Syria rather than continue in its failing policy of isolation and possible regime-change. We all know that this will not happen under the present administration. As Rice has explained Washington wants to boost sanctions against Syria and "convince other nations to follow suit." "We intend to use the Syrian Accountability Act and use it to its fullest," she told Congress, yesterday.

Washington will continue to hack away at Syria, Hamas, Iran, Hizbullah and all the rest of its enemies in its losing attempt to break them and sweep the question of occupied territories under the rug. It would be better for the US to solve these problems, while it retains a powerful presence in the region. Only by addressing some of the complaints of local governments, can the US hope to defuse the anti-Americanism of the region and promote democracy.

Alon Ben-Meir - UPI - February 6, 2006

Hamas’ rise to power provides the United States and Israel with a strategic opportunity to shift their attention to Israel’s northern front with Syria. Damascus’ interest in recovering the Golan Heights remains on the top of its national agenda. Syria is also in dire need of economic assistance and development, which will be possible only through normalized relations with Washington. The Syrian government is therefore ready for a dialogue. Thus, the Bush administration and Israel need to look afresh at Syria and examine what new policy options they can explore in dealing with it. Although this may seem to defy conventional wisdom, a new U.S. policy toward Syria can dramatically change the political landscape throughout the region.

The opposition to pursuing a more conciliatory policy rests on numerous serious charges against Syria. Among these are providing refuges to several militant groups, especially Palestinian organizations, which often even operate at the behest of the Syrian government. Syria also fully supports Hezbollah in Lebanon and maintains cozy and mischievous relations with Iran, now in defiance of the international community. Syria is further accused of being behind the assassination of the Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Harriri, of actively promoting anti-American and anti-western sentiments throughout the Arab world, and of aiding the insurgency in Iraq. The issue is not whether these charges are true; rather, the prevailing perception that they are makes it necessary for Syria to address them. But, while it is up to Syria to do this, should not the United States try, at the same time, to compel Damascus to change direction by appealing to its national interests? Until now, Mr. Bush’s Middle East policies have been driven by the single idea of regime change, regardless of the current turmoil in the region and the potentially explosive consequences of such policies. It is time for the administration to consider instead a policy of engagement consistent with the existing environment in the region. In suggesting this, I recognize that there are three cogent arguments against this that deserve plausible counterarguments: Continue


At 2/17/2006 08:54:00 AM, Blogger Innocent_Criminal said...

Ben-Meir's argument is flawed from the start because it assumes that Israel's strategic interests lies in peace. Which could not be further from the truth; if there was peace the financial, moral and arms support for Israel will diminish significantly. So what’s a few thousand Palestinian and few dozen Israeli lives compare to the billions and billions pouring in annually.


At 2/17/2006 09:09:00 AM, Blogger t_desco said...

Rice also wants to "re-energize" the UN inquiry:

Rice says U.N. must push Syria on Hariri inquiry

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will push the U.N. Security Council to give details on Syria's cooperation with a U.N. inquiry into the killing of Lebanon's former premier, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Thursday.

Rice told lawmakers she did not think Syria had cooperated with the U.N. investigation into last February's murder of Rafik al-Hariri and something must be done.

"We will need, I really do believe, to go back to the Security Council at some time in the not-too-distant future to get a report on what is happening with Syrian cooperation," Rice told the House of Representatives International Relations Committee. ...

Rice said it had taken time for Brammertz to find his feet, and that those who had met the new investigator described him as "serious, tough-minded."

"We are going to need to really re-energize that (the inquiry). And I think once we've given investigator Brammertz a little time to get up to speed, we'd probably want to go back to the Security Council," Rice said.

Amnesty International has an interesting report that explains why the number of Syrians arrested in the wake of the Danish Embassy protest in Beirut was so high:

Lebanon: Detainees reportedly beaten and denied access to legal counsel

On 7 February, Lebanese media reports quoted the acting Interior Minister as stating that more than 400 people - 223 Lebanese, 138 Syrians, 47 Palestinians, seven Bedouins and one Sudanese - had been arrested in connection with the violence. Those detained included some 42 Syrian nationals who, according to information received by Amnesty International, were arrested by Lebanese police at an apartment building in Tariq Jdeide, four kilometres away from the Danish Embassy, some of them while the protests were still in progress. They were arrested, apparently, after another Syrian who resides at the same building, was arrested at the demonstration.

Upon arrest, the 42 Syrians are reported to have been taken first to the local police station and then to the Barbar Khazen prison in west Beirut, which the Internal Security Forces (ISF) control. They were held there for five days, during which they were denied access to legal counsel. Some were beaten by ISF interrogators in an apparent attempt to force "confessions" about their involvement in the protests. On 10 February, they were taken before a military court in Beirut, which ordered their release. More than 200 other people arrested in connection with the 5 February protests are also reported to have been brought before the Military Court in Beirut whose procedures fall short of international standards for fair trials - on 11 and 12 February, but the outcome is not known to Amnesty International.
Amnesty International

Tarek, to answer your question: so far I did not find anything linking the members of Taha's group to Syrian intelligence. To the contrary, some seem to be linked to groups directly opposed to the Ahbash movement (which Michael Young called a "virtual extension of Syrian intelligence"). One militant, Khader Nab'a, was reportedly involved in the killing of Nizar Halabi, the leader of Ahbash.

At 2/17/2006 09:10:00 PM, Blogger ghassan karam said...

If Syria is on the ropes and it is only a question of time before the fissures become impossible to fill what is the logic of saving what one wishes to destroy.

To be frank, I have never been a fan of Alon Ben-Meir's analysis of Middle Easter issues especially his weekly column for UPI.Many of these articles convey the feeling that they were written only to meet a deadline and not because the author had something to say.

This piece is a good example of his attempt to submit his 700-900 words on time and with an artificial new twist in order to increase its saleability. Sorry,I could not be convinced by any of the logic/illogic.

At 2/17/2006 10:36:00 PM, Blogger Anton Efendi said...

Sorry I posted this to the previous post. It was the wrong post. But I repeat: You're still harping on this shit, Josh? Get a new line. It's getting more and more pathetic.


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