Wednesday, May 26, 2004

How Washington can win Syria

(updated May 28)
The lesson of Libya is that Washington has to offer carrots to get states such a Syria to cooperate with it. This point is argued very persuasively by Flynt Leverett, who worked on the Libya case while he was senior director for Middle Eastern affairs at the National Security Council from 2002 to 2003 under President Bush.

The lesson is incontrovertible: to persuade a rogue regime to get out of the terrorism business and give up its weapons of mass destruction, we must not only apply pressure but also make clear the potential benefits of cooperation. Unfortunately, the Bush administration has refused to take this approach with other rogue regimes, notably Iran and Syria. Until the president is willing to employ carrots as well as sticks, he will make little headway in changing Iranian or Syrian behavior....

Senior Syrian officials, including President Bashar al-Assad himself, in a conversation in Damascus last week, have told me that they want a better strategic understanding with the United States. To achieve this, however, Washington needs to be willing to spell out what Syria would get in return for giving up its ties to terrorists and its chemical weapons and ballistic missiles. As Mr. Assad told me, Syria is "a state, not a charity" - if it gives up something, it must know what it will gain in return.

One reason the Bush administration was able to take a more constructive course with Libya was that the White House, uncharacteristically, sidelined the administration's neoconservative wing - which strongly opposes any offer of carrots to state sponsors of terrorism, even when carrots could help end such problematic behavior - when crucial decisions were made. The initial approach on the Lockerbie case was approved by an informal coalition made up of Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, and Secretary of State Colin Powell. Likewise, in the lead up to the negotiations involving Libyan weapons of mass destruction, the neoconservatives at the Pentagon and in the shop of Under Secretary of State John Bolton were left out of the loop.

Perhaps a coalition among members of the State Department's bureau of Near Eastern affairs and the National Security Council's more pragmatic elements can chart a similar course involving Iran and Syria. However, until the administration learns the real lessons of the Libyan precedent, policy toward other rogue regimes is likely to remain stuck in the mud of ideology.
Washington has many things Syria wants.

- The Golan
- The oil pipeline, which connects Kirkuk to Banyas, opened and running.
- To be taken off the terrorist list and have the Syrian Accountability Act lifted

The Golan is the only one which will work, however. If Syria and Israel could come to an agreement, Hizbullah could be disarmed and Syria would cut loose the Palestinians. Both are cards Damascus keeps to play for the Golan. The oil pipline is a bonus, but wouldn't be enough on its own for Damascus to give up Hizbullah or the Palestinians. Anyway, Syria will get the pipeline and oil flowing again as soon as the US really hands power back to the Iraqi government. The wait will not be that long in the great scheme of things.

Getting back the Golan may also be a lost cause. Sharon won't let it happen. In January, 2004, when Bashar had repeatedly asked for renewed negotiations, he was rebuffed. As the Toronto Star, reported on Jan. 19 2004:
Sharon was asked by a legislator at Monday's committee meeting if now is a good time to renew talks with Syria, said Sharon's spokesman, Raanan Gissin.

"No one should have any illusions: the price of peace with Syria is leaving the Golan Heights," Gissin quoted the prime minister as saying.

Ran Cohen, a committee member from the left-wing Meretz party, said Sharon suggested that such a pullback would be too much for Israel to bear.

"His main declaration was that he is not ready to withdraw from the Golan, even for peace with Syria," Cohen said. "He didn't agree to pay the price that President Assad asks to complete a peace treaty with Syria."
Probably Syria will never get back the Golan. Hafiz al-Asad made a mistake in holding out for the June 4, 1967, lines. (Of course Perez and Barak were also stubborn, but Syria will end up the greater loser.) Israel is having difficulty giving up Gaza, which is a hell hole. How will it ever give up the Golan, which is beautiful, has two and a half times as many Israelis living on it, and doesn't present a security problem for Israel - at least not directly?

Without genuine negotiations on Golan, Syria will remain opposed to regional peace and will refuse American demands that it put the anti-Israeli militias it supports out of business or give up chemical weapons. Sharon demands Syria give up these cards before Israel will open negotiations, but this is like asking the Palestinians to have a democratic state before negotiating. Without the Golan, it will take Syria another generation or two to come to terms with Israel.


At 5/27/2004 10:03:00 AM, Blogger Laura Gibbs said...

"not ready to withdraw from the Golan, even for peace with Syria"....
what an alarming quote! it really frightens me how many of our world leaders unabashedly put other items ahead of peace on the agenda.
there is a really moving and sobering presentation at BBC right now, Our World At War:
QUOTE: Every minute, two people are killed in conflicts around the world. Often we know very little about the people who are fighting and dying. One Day of War follows individual fighters in 16 of these wars, over the same 24-hour period.

At 5/28/2004 03:46:00 PM, Blogger Goldstein said...

There's no mystery as to why we eschew the carrott for the stick in our relations with Syria. Goldstein covered it with this postat Enemy Of The People. As far as the neocons are concerned, Iraq is just a waystation on the road to Syria.

At 5/29/2004 08:39:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with Syria is Israel. The United States must demand that Israel abide by the various UN resolutions to which it ignores. It must insist, with the threat of real and substantial sanctions, that Israel stop its genocide against the Palestinians. Israel is the rogue state in the middle east and willingly flaunts its nuclear arsenal to terrify the United States into doing its biding throughout the middle east--like this horrific and unnecessary war in Iraq. We can assume right now that Israel is maneuvering the United States into expanding the war into Iran as well as Syria. Get Israel under control and dealing with Syria will be piece of cake.

At 5/29/2004 10:49:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why should Syria give up its WMD when Israel won't do the same? The only defense Syria has against invasion from either Israel or the United States is their WMD. It would be preposterous for Syria to unilaterally disarm and nor should they. After all, what is to prevent Israel from abrogating a peace treaty and then wreak havoc on on?

Secondly, why is Syria being singled out as a supporter of terrorism? Is it because Westerners are their target? I suppose it is OK to sponsor terrorism against Palestinians, confiscating their private property including their farms and resources and massacring them in cold bood. I suppose that is irrelevant since Orientals are inferior, despised as brown people. This has a long history, hundreds of years. For reading I suggest the seminal work by Edward Said Orientalism.

Democracy or not, Syria should not disarm unless there exists some parity in the Middle East including Israel's willingness for Israel to give up its dream of a "Greater Israel".

At 5/29/2004 11:51:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why offer carrots when the islamists see the west as an emeny to be defeated?
Saudi Arabia is reaping the benefits of offering carrots to islamists.
Islamists purposely hide behind women and children with a willing atab press waiting in position before anything happens so they can get the money shot.
Saddam was given the opportunity of huge carrots, what happened, oil for food turned into oil for palaces withe Kofin ANnon's son, now there is this huge cover up for al the countries that were against taking out a dictator, mostly from those that were profiting from it.
Halliburton in 100 years won't make the money France and other countries did under Saddam.
Syria wants to support terrorism? Then we reserve the right to take them out when it suits us.
Very interesting to me all those who are so against the US and hold us to some standard, have no problem ignoring and making excuses for the the real human rights abusers, like the UN, ahh fuck it, you dumb bastards just don't have a friggen clue, leftist shit feels good until you get blown up by some islamist.
YOu will get it, just keep making excuses for them, and give them the chance to blow up your family.
You kiss their ass and "understand" them. They use that as a reason to move in. Wait until the next big terrorist attack where they use WMD, the ones you say don't exist, your ignorant asses will blame the US for not doing enough rather than to see how you were all Neville Chamberlains.

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