Thursday, May 20, 2004

The US and Syrian Reform

I recently wrote an article on US policy toward Syria that was published in the May Issue of The Syrian Report. I argue that the US must engage the Asad government and encourage reform rather than push for regime change as it is presently doing. Here is the first paragraph and a link:

The United States and Reform in Syria
By Joshua Landis - March 2004

Syria is the low-hanging fruit in the post-Saddam Middle East. Washington hawks, hoping to extend the impact of America's victory in Iraq, are looking to Damascus as the next battlefield. The Ba`thist regime in Syria is isolated, bankrupt and divided under the leadership of its young President, Bashar al-Asad. Its very military and moral weakness make regime-change a temptation to policymakers who believe that America's greatest enemies in the region are dictatorship and the status-quo. As David Frum and Richard Perle explained recently, when the door [to democracy] is locked shut by a totalitarian deadbolt, American power may be the only way to open it up.[1] The question for the hardliners is not how to apportion the carrot and the stick, but how most deftly to deliver the coup de grace. Israel's ambassador to Washington explained how this could be done: "The way to deal with [Syria] is to de-legitimize its regime and the way to do that is by applying political pressure and to really apply economic sanctions... this is the key element to pressure [it] into regime change... So, this is the direction ... a lot of psychological pressure."[2]

The United States would be unwise to squeeze Syria to the breaking point. Regime change will present the U.S. with a number of immediate dangers and few clear advantages.

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