Syria’s hour of triumph

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In an interview with Britain’s Sky News over the weekend, US President Barack Obama was asked whether he is planning to accept Syrian President Bashar Assad’s invitation to visit Damascus. The very fact that an American presidential visit to the Syrian capital is on the international agenda demonstrates how radically US foreign policy has shifted.

 

 

Four years ago, president George W. Bush withdrew the US ambassador from Damascus following the regime’s suspected role in engineering the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005. Last month Obama announced that he is returning the US ambassador to Damascus.

 

 

Obama’s response to the Sky News query was instructive. “There are aspects of Syrian behavior that trouble us and we think there is a way that Syria can be much more constructive on a whole host of these issues,” he began cautiously.

 

 

Then came the zinger: “But as you know, I’m a believer in engagement and my hope is that we can continue to see progress on that front.”

 

 

By so describing Syria, Obama acknowledged that it hasn’t changed. The Syria he seeks to engage is the same Syria that Bush decided to isolate. But facts cannot compete with “hope.” Obama is a “believer.” He has “hope.”

 

 

In his move to engage Syria, Obama is enthusiastically joined by France and the rest of Europe as well as by Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Over the past several months, Obama’s Middle East envoy George Mitchell, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and dozens of others have beaten a path to Assad’s door. With French President Nicolas Sarkozy leading the charge, all are agreed that Assad is a man they can do business with.

 

 

But are they right? In the absence of any change in Damascus’s behavior, is there reason to believe that it can be coddled into abandoning its strategic alliance with Iran? Can it be sweet-talked into ending its support for the insurgency in Iraq, or arming Hizbullah and sponsoring Hamas? Can Syria be appeased into ending its nuclear and other nonconventional proliferation activities? Can it be “engaged” into ending its campaign against the pro-Western democrats in Lebanon?

 

 

To assess the reasonableness of engagement, it is first necessary to analyze the West’s most significant achievements regarding Syria in recent years and consider their origins. Then, too, it is important to consider how these achievements are weathering the US’s new commitment to engage Damascus as a strategic partner, and what their current status bodes for the future of the region.

 

 

THE WEST has had two significant achievements regarding Syria in recent years. The first came in April 2005 with the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon after a 29-year occupation. The second was Israel’s September 6, 2007 attack on Syria’s al-Kibar nuclear installation.

 

 

Three events precipitated Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon. First there was the Cedar Revolution in which more than a million Lebanese took to the streets beginning on March 14, 2005 to demand that Syria withdraw in the wake of the Hariri assassination. Like the recent revolutionary ferment in Iran, this outpouring of opposition to Syria showed the West the massive dimensions of Lebanese yearning for independence. The Bush and Chirac governments responded with complementary willingness to confront Damascus.

 

 

The rare show of Franco-American unity as French president Jacques Chirac joined forces with the Bush administration to punish Assad for murdering Hariri was the second cause of Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon. On March 25, 2005 the US and France pushed through UN Security Council Resolution 1695 mandating the establishment of a UN commission to investigate Hariri’s assassination. The specter of this commission and the investigation that ensued served as a sword of Damocles pressing ever closer to Assad’s throat.

 

 

Finally, Syria was convinced to withdraw due to the US’s regional deterrent power. In March 2005 the US’s military credibility in the region was at a high point. In January eight million Iraqis had gone to the polls to vote in the first free and open elections in that country’s history.

 

 

The US’s message of resolve against Syria was unequivocal. Appearing with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir at the White House on March 16, 2005, Bush said, “United States policy is to work with friends and allies to insist that Syria completely leave Lebanon, Syria take all her troops out of Lebanon, Syria take her intelligence services out of Lebanon.”

 

 

There was no wiggle room for Syria four years ago. There was no appeasement. Assad had one option. He could withdraw his forces and let the Lebanese be free, or he could risk losing his regime. He left Lebanon.

 

 

UNFORTUNATELY, TODAY this singular achievement is being frittered away. With the evaporation of Western will to confront it, Syria is moving swiftly to reassert its control over Lebanon. The West has allowed the Hariri tribunal to fade away. And today it is effectively supporting Assad as he seeks to determine the character of the next Lebanese government.

 

 

In his speech to the Muslim world last month in Cairo, Obama indicated that the US no longer objected to Hizbullah or Hamas as political forces when he said, “America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them.”

 

 

After last month’s Lebanese elections in which Hizbullah lost to Sa’ad Hariri’s March 14 movement, the administration went a step further. Rather than capitalize on Hizbullah’s defeat by strengthening the victorious pro-democracy forces, the White House signaled that it preferred the formation of a unity government with Hizbullah. In a post-election statement, the White House urged the March 14 bloc to “maintain your power through consent.”

 

 

Whereas the US has merely hinted its support for the inclusion of Hizbullah in the next Lebanese government, Europe has embraced the Iranian proxy terror group explicitly. France, Britain and the EU have all met with Hizbullah members since the elections and have enthusiastically thrown their support behind the Iranian proxy’s participation in a “unity” government. Saudi Arabia has similarly come out in support of such a government.

 

 

The American and European embrace of Hizbullah is now enabling Syria to reassert its control over the Lebanon under the guise of the new era of engagement. Through its sponsorship of Hizbullah, Syria has become the primary power broker in Lebanon, even as it is heralded by the likes of Kouchner and Solana for its supposed noninterference in Lebanese politics.

 

 

Bowing to US, European and Saudi pressure to give Hizbullah in coalition negotiations what it failed to win at the ballot box, Hariri announced shortly after the election that he supports the establishment of a unity government. In so doing, he was forced to accept that the fate of his government now rests in Assad’s hands.

 

 

With each passing day, it is increasingly clear that Syria means to extract a high price from Hariri in exchange for Hizbullah’s sought-after participation in his government. Recognizing the trap, Hariri’s supporters are calling for him to form a narrow coalition without Hizbullah and its sister parties. But it is hard to imagine that either the US or Europe would accept such an outcome.

 

 

Were Hariri to form a narrow coalition without Hizbullah, he would expose the lie of Syrian goodwill and noninterference in Lebanese affairs. And were he to expose Syria’s bad faith, he would demonstrate the folly and danger of the US-led carnival of engagement. Since this outcome is unacceptable to both Obama and Sarkozy, who have staked their reputations on appeasing Assad where Bush and Chirac isolated him, Hariri will likely have no choice but to surrender his nation’s hard earned independence to the same Syrian regime that killed his father four years ago.

 

 

WITH THE WEST now actively assisting Syri
a in reasserting its hegemony over Lebanon, the one achievement that remains in place is Israel’s successful removal of the threat of Syria’s nuclear program two years ago. But here too, the powerful legacy of that strike is being frittered away in this new era of engagement.

 

 

Israel’s destruction of Syria’s al-Kibar nuclear installation demonstrated three things. First, it revealed that Syria was massively engaged in illicit nuclear proliferation. Second, it showed that the option of striking illicit nuclear programs militarily is a viable option. And third, it exposed the strategic linkages between the Syrian, Iranian and North Korean nuclear weapons programs.

 

 

Two years on, due to the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency’s institutional hostility toward Israel and the US’s unwillingness to confront Syria, Damascus has paid no international price for its rogue nuclear program. Indeed, the main target of the IAEA’s investigations of the al-Kibar facility has been Israel. The message sent by UN and US unwillingness to contend with obvious proof of Syria’s criminal behavior is obvious: Would-be proliferators have nothing to fear from the international community.

 

 

The absence of a reconstituted Syrian nuclear program after two years shows clearing that military strikes can be a very effective tool in preventing rogue states from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Yet rather than internalize this lesson and embrace the deterrent force it provides the West in dealing with Iran and North Korea, the Obama administration has squandered it. By slavishly devoting itself to negotiating with Teheran and Pyongyang, it has removed the West’s most effective tool for blocking nuclear proliferation.

 

 

Israel’s strike exposed an inconvenient reality to the West. It showed that the Syrian, Iranian and North Korean programs are part and parcel of the same program. It is impossible to deal with any one of them in isolation. For two years, the US and its allies have ignored this truth, preferring to pretend that these programs are wholly independent entities rather than acknowledge that – evil or not – a trilateral axis of proliferation among Pyongyang, Teheran and Damascus is a going concern.

 

 

As Pyongyang’s recent nuclear and ballistic tests and Iran’s recent missile tests all show, the West’s refusal to countenance reality has not made it go away or become less dangerous.To the contrary, the West’s preference for belief in hope and change has made things more dangerous.

 

 

By ignoring the achievements of the Bush administration’s policy of isolating and confronting Syria and denying the significance of its unchanged behavior, Obama and his followers are courting disaster.The consequences of their squandering hard-won gains for regional security, freedom and stability will not be long in coming.

 

 

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

 

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13 Comments

  • Bill K. 07/14/2009 at 2:20

    I think you are being way too easy on George Bush. Sure he might have made a lackadaisical effort to hinder Syria’s moves to dominate Lebanon. But who was that had to be dragged to the conclusion that Syria was building at nuclear weapon with North Korean help? And who kept that incompetent Arab and Palestinian sympathizer, Condoleezza Rice, at State long after she should have been fired?
    Just about every foreign policy disaster that Obama is embarking on had its start in the Bush Administration or earlier. Obama’s overtures to Iran are the continuation of where Bush and Rice left off. Ditto for North Korea.
    American foreign policy has been in disarray for decades. We betray our allies like Israel, India, Poland and Honduras and appease our enemies like Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela. The ethics of altruism demand we sacrifice our lives and our principles to others and that we dare not put America’s interests first. Obama is the most consistent of all recent American presidents in espousing this self-sacrificial creed but he could not have done this unless his way was prepared by George Bush and a long line of predecessors.

    Reply
  • Marcel 07/14/2009 at 9:57

    ‘damascus has paid no international price’
    You really thought they would ?
    Your confidence in the law of International Gangsterism and democracy have proven to be misplaced and dead wrong.
    So much for you faith in democracy and the international gangsters you hold up in such high faith.
    They’ve betrayed you.
    You should have seen this coming ,but then dreamers and idol worshipers do have reality working against them.
    How naive you are to think Israel’s hope and security lies with the U.S. or the International community.
    That there is a double standard which has worked against Israel even under your hero Bush is something you ignore .
    What kind of price has Sudan’s Omar al-Bashar paid for Darfur ?
    The only one slated to pay the price is Israel the Jews AS ALWAYS .You were lied to by your think tank buddies into believeing their new world Dis-Order would treat Israel fair and balanced. Your mind is still infected with Bush being a force for good towards Israel when he was the most evil and subtle of israel’s enemies.How easily Israel’s wise fools are led by the nose, whose only faith is in failed, undemocratic Washington and it failed peace agenda
    What if instead of listening to Bush and Rice Israel had finished the job and defeated Hezbollah in the summer 2006.
    Your problem is you follow a failed nation and it’s agenda instead of God’s agenda. You’re in trouble as all idol worshipers are.
    Yesterday the Jewish leaders of America met with evil in the Oval Office and groveled before it and applauded it and did not resist just as the Israeli Prime Minister does .Nothing has changed except that there is less faith in HaShem in Israel than ever.
    Israel of servitude to her false god Washington and it’s evil agenda has embarked down it’s most dangerous path which leads to hell and not peace.
    Disaster is coming because of Israel’s whoredoms with the false gods they bow to and serve,gods who will never bring any peace to Israel.
    What wasted time and effort Israel has embarked on with Americas failed and cursed no peace agenda.
    ‘The name of peace is sweet, and the thing itself is beneficial, but there is a great difference between peace and servitude. Peace is freedom in tranquillity, servitude is the worst of all evils, to be resisted not only by war, but even by death’. Cicero

    Reply
  • Marc Handelsman, USA 07/14/2009 at 12:28

    President Obama’s use of engagement with Iran, North Korea, and Syria is frustrating, but not surprising. Most liberals mistakenly believe that by talking to rogue nations, it will cause them to reform their ways. President Assad is most likely working in close cooperation with Iran on how it is to handle the West’s diplomatic overtures. Syria’s short-term goal is to have Israel surrender the Golan Heights. And the long-term goals are for nuclear-armed regimes to frighten the West into submission, and destroy Israel. And Islamic nuclear proliferation cannot be tolerated.

    Reply
  • C. Ne'eman 07/14/2009 at 15:31

    Tov. We can’t control Obama, so the question remains for us – how can we make his misguided approach work to our advantage? Anyone have any ideas?
    From Jerusalem,

    Reply
  • Marcel 07/14/2009 at 15:58

    ‘how can we make his misguided approach work to our advantage? Anyone have any ideas? ‘
    C.Ne’eman
    NOTHING is going to ‘work to your advantage’ until Israel deals with the number one problem.
    Alas, sinful nation,
    A people laden with iniquity,
    A brood of evildoers,
    Children who are corrupters!
    They have forsaken the LORD,
    They have provoked to anger
    The Holy One of Israel,
    They have turned away backward.
    Why should you be stricken again?
    You will revolt more and more.
    The whole head is sick,
    And the whole heart faints.
    From the sole of the foot even to the head,
    There is no soundness in it,
    But wounds and bruises and putrefying sores;
    They have not been closed or bound up,
    Or soothed with ointment.
    Isaiah 1

    Reply
  • cantbelievemyeyesandears 07/14/2009 at 17:59

    How many Americans are now out of work? It’s time Obeyme got his nose and butt out of the Mid-East, period, where he can do nothing but harm ,and take care of matters at home. Hey, wait a minute…..he’s just as toxic at home….

    Reply
  • Arius 07/14/2009 at 21:06

    Bill is right, Bush certainly contributed to lay the groundwork for the unfolding Obama disaster. I’ll put it this way: Clinton made the fuse, Bush put it in place, and Obama lit it, and now the US bus is going off the edge of the cliff. This is no transition that will be reset in four to eight years. This is a five hundred year turning in history. In the next four to eight years a major realignment will take place shifting world power to Asia.

    Reply
  • Marcel 07/15/2009 at 8:26

    ‘now the US bus is going off the edge of the cliff’
    … and Israel follows right behind.
    ‘This is no transition that will be reset in four to eight years’
    right you are, but a500 year turning ?
    Sodom and Gomorrah never staged a comeback !
    Not a chance,not when so many Chinese,North Korean, Iranian,Russian,Islamic nukes with the ‘big satan’ as the main place to drop them.
    Empires don’t ever make it back.
    It’s going to go down just like it was writtern in Jeremiah50-51 and Obadian and Isaiah 47,Revelation 18, ect.
    It’s coming to pass just as the Jewish prophets wrote and no matter how much the educated idiots ignore the Bible ,it’s happening NOW.
    Only a remnant of Israel will survive.
    This is why.
    Gay spouses urged to file benefit claims
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3746952,00.html
    Israel imitates the false god they serve in every way.
    Walking exactly in it’s image.
    I know God will remove the stumbling block from Israel.
    When the U.S. is no more what will faithless Israel do then ?
    Build another great idol to serve ?
    The sooner the better.
    Israel loves playing the whore.
    It’s always what the U.S. is doing as Israel has no one to lead ,they only follow.
    Even when Israel is being treacherously betrayed they stay with the program or should I say pogrom ,refusing to return to the Holy One of Israel.
    The faithless Israeli quislings who do not lead but only follow don’t have the sense to stop the train before it arrives to the death camp.
    When will Israel divorce their contagious,terminally ill,dying pimp and return to HaShem ?

    Reply
  • Ron Grandinetti 07/15/2009 at 9:51

    Caroline, the kool-aid drinkers voted for change and by G-d/God they got just that and until the kool-aid is finally flushed from their system will they realize the change was a colossal mistake.
    Iran, Syria and N. Korea, what a bundle to deal with and this Obama thinks he can sit down with them and with his rock star charisma will be able to persuade them to change. Guess what Obama, they don’t drink the kool-aid.
    Obama has taken the U.S. to a new level in world opinion and it’s not pretty.
    We will eventually learn Obama is an imposter, a community organizer posing as a president.

    Reply
  • David Custis Kimball 07/15/2009 at 11:52

    Thanks to the American Lawyer who escaped Soviet Totalitarianism, Orly Taitz in California, a military court has upheld what was established in Nuremberg and in the oath of a soldier …. to uphold the constitution …. not a man … not even the One. Now there’s change we can believe in.
    Link: http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=104009
    The engineer, Cook, is justified not to serve in the military unless Obama can prove he is qualified to serve as Commander in Chief…. i.e. provide the long form Birth Certificate naming the hospital and doctor present…..
    Perhaps our allies will soon have to decide to follow the man, the One, or our law, our constitution? Like Honduras, perhaps the Congress as well as the now the Judiciary will find that they would rather follow an ideal, a constitution and law than a rogue, who will endanger us all by claiming his ‘Superior Rights’. We can only hope that the ‘Sieg Heil’ will be muffled.
    But our friends and allies should know… America is dangerously misguided in upholding any true direction; friends must protect themselves first and try not to harm others, but not count on USA to be there at the ready. We are divided, now only a hairline crack, but once let go could shatter in an instant.
    We hope you pray for our guidance as we pray for yours.

    Reply
  • Theselfsufficientone 07/28/2009 at 19:26

    Great stuff Carol. I enjoy your hard headed realism.
    Just one note on Obama. He is obviously a student of the ” conflict management” school that was very popular in the 1990’s. Having attended several courses offered by the Episcopal Church I recognize the language and obscure goals of the ” movement”.
    One of the more secular manifestations of this would be his request to have Rick Warren at the inauguration. I would suggest a reading of the literature and psychology.
    To me the one clear danger of this type of thinking is a reliance on ones own ” spiritual” development as a guide to how to deal with ” difficult” people. There is at times a belief that ones experience ( and superior religious education) is enough to deal with most people and move to mutually agreed upon goals that takes in to account all peoples ” feelings” as morally equal.
    The other danger is that one starts to believe ones own press and continue on a path of self delusion that your goals are ” superior” and more ” enlightened” than others. There is also a tendency to not be able to see real evil for what it is.
    Just because you “know”.

    Reply
  • Louise JP 07/30/2009 at 16:33

    hello my first time here, interesting topic. Israel first needs to be more assertive with the Obama gangsters, and perhaps with more problems economically Obama will be too busy to meddle in the ME. Israel needs better PR when it comes to confronting Paliwood lies.

    Reply
  • BaruchAdam 07/30/2009 at 20:20

    It’a been two weeks or so since we’ve had an article from Ms. Glick. Probably on vacation. But the world has been so interesting these last two weeks…can you schedule your vacation during a less turmultuous period? Just kidding. Look forward to your comments when you return.
    Bruce
    http://www.BrucesMidEastSoundbites.Blogspot.com

    Reply

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