Let's make a deal
We need a good Syria, go get it for us Condi.
Upyernoz suggests that the US and Syria could make a deal
not completely stupid
according to the new york times the u.s. is trying to woo syria. gilliard calls it stupid, but i have to disagree.
no one seems to remember this anymore, but syria was considered to be an ally in the "war on terra" in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. the syrians shared intelligence with the u.s. about al qaeda and the u.s. rendered suspected al qaeda members to syria to be tortured. the falling out between the u.s. and syria wasn't over israel, or syria's support for anti-israeli groups like hamas or hezbollah, it was the iraq war.
syria long had a strained relationship with saddam's iraq. it was the only arab country to side with iran in the iran-iraq war. in the gulf war, syria contributed 17,000 troops to fight iraq. unlike other arab coalition members (like the saudis and egyptians), who did more support work for other coalition members, syrian divisions actually invaded iraq, crossing the border along the euphrates river valley to make a second front while the bulk of coalition forces came from the south through kuwait. when the iraq war was planned, the u.s. initially assumed that syria would, once again, not pass up a chance to beat up on saddam. but syria refused to cooperate and did not support the war.
ever since then syria has been on the administration's shit list. they've been blamed for virtually everything that's gone wrong in iraq, from foreign fighters to missing WMDs. syria, meanwhile, has been trying to get back into the u.s.' good graces. syria turned over members of saddam's family to the u.s. and has periodically clamped down on its border. but no matter what they do, the u.s. government has not been interested in hearing from them. i suspect the bush administration would rather not give up its scapegoat for problems in iraq.
just before i arrived in damascus last september, the syrian government announced that it had raided an insurgent safehouse near the iraqi border. what exactly happened is still not clear. some of the people i met in damascus were convinced that the syrian government staged the raid to show the u.s. government that it was cracking down on insurgents. in my mind, both scenarios are equally plausible: the syrian government could have raided a real iraqi insurgent safehouse, or they could have staged it to put on a good show for the americans. but either way, the story demonstrates that syria would like to have improved relations with the u.s.
so the bush administration's decision to engage syria is not stupid. syrian cooperation with the u.s. on regional security is not dependent on the return of the golan heights. golan wasn't returned in 2001-2002 when they were an american ally against al qaeda, nor was it returned in 1998 when warren christopher shuttled between beirut, damascus and jerusalem and got hezbollah to stop an earlier series of missile attacks against israel.
what is stupid is for the u.s. to insist on dealing with syria only through intermediaries. syria doesn't just want golan, it wants a restoration of normal relations with the u.s. that is something we can actually use to influence them. but it doesn't do any good unless we deal with them directly.
(note: this is putting aside the issue of whether syria really can stop hezbollah. i'm not so convinced that it can. hezbollah is supported by syria, but that doesn't make them syrian puppets)
posted by Steve @ 3:13:00 AM