Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Syria is Different

In discussing how to deal with Syria, I have spoken of squeezing Damascus or applying pressure--not regime change. Despite Syria's support for Islamists in Iraq, we have bigger threats to deal with first--namely Iran.

But that doesn't mean we do nothing about Syria. Their policies are killing Americans and Iraqis and they cannot be allowed to get away with this. But as we pursue policies to undermine Islamist ideology in the Arab world we must remember that Syria is not an Islamist state. Therefore, we should not necessarily apply our chosen solution of regime change to this problem. The Syrians are pragmatic and their choices are the result of weighing options and attempting to ride out the latest crisis. Wasting a regime change move on such a state is a waste and since our public will not support endless war despite what some of the rabid critics of US policy say, we can't afford to waste a regime change on a state that can be pressured. This article argues for pressure:
Washington is at critical juncture with its relations with Syria, which may further affect Washington's policies in Iraq. Washington must capitalize on the current situation and articulate a Syria strategy, recognizing that the Syrian regime will have to revert to its pragmatist approach in order to survive internal and regional challenges.
I'm not saying that things shouldn't blow up inside Syria under mysterious circumstances. But even if we had four extra divisions, it would not be wise to waste effort changing a regime that rests on a narrow base and which could be brought down by internal fissures. Syria was highly unstable until the Assad dynasty and it could be again. Surrounded by powerful Israel, a resentful Lebanon, the hated Turks, a mistrustful and US-aligned Jordan, and a soon-to-be free Iraq, Syria is vulnerable to all kinds of pressure. With regime survival their number one goal, this pressure can be used to change Syrian policy on Iraq.

We can pressure Damascus into good behavior.