Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Good Luck, Chuck

Syrian claims to be ready to come in from the cold come out of Damascus occasionally, and Western diplomats, ever hopeful despite past disappointment, rush to provide inducements for Syria to end their support of terrorism. The Western press, with the attention span of gnats, cheerleads from the sidelines. It's like watching Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown one more time.

We have another effort teeing up right now:

Syria and Iran may be better friends than many thought. Reports indicate that the two might have been cooperating on nuclear weapons research. Now, though, Damascus may be rethinking those ties and looking for friends in the West.

Things are taking a dramatic turn in Syria these days, just as a team of United Nations nuclear weapons inspectors arrives to probe allegations that Damascus is hiding secret atomic activities. And as information emerges that Syria may have been cooperating with both Iran and North Korea on the development of nuclear weapons.

Syria supports Iran in their joint effort to kill Americans and Iraqis inside Iraq, assists Iran with its nuclear weapons program, destabilizes Lebanon, facilitates the support of Hizbollah in southern Lebanon, and otherwise acts like the Axis of Evil candidate it is, yet letting a United Nations team in to a limited area for a limited purpose is a "dramatic turn."

Look, in theory, I think it would be great if Syria turned on Iran and abandoned its support of terrorism and thuggery. But Syria has tied their fate to Iran's victory over the ongoing confrontation with the West. I seriously doubt they are looking for friends in all the West places.

Syria is just trying to buy time by relieving the pressure we exert, at worst; or hoping to get cash, at best. While this report might be true, don't forget the past and don't forget that Syria knows how to get in our good graces:

My opinion on engineering a defection by Syria is an abstract theoretical position. If we can turn Syria to a neutral or nominal friend, I'd have no problem with letting them off the hook for now.

But we sent the signal with Libya about what a rogue state needs to do to avoid our wrath. It is possible to survive having once been our enemy. But to move from the enemy column to the tolerated column, you have to come clean completely about WMD and end terror sponsorship. That's the deal. Period.

We established the Libya template for "talking." We have no need for a lesser Syria template. Settling for anything less than the Libya model in regard to Syria destroys the template we established with Libya about what a rogue state needs to do to come in from the cold.

Explore the Syria option, but don't commit to any aid to Syria and don't get your hopes up. And by all means, keep up the pressure on them to give them incentive to flipping. If we let up the pressure hoping to induce them, Syria recovers and loses the need to deal with us. Then we have to start the pressure all over again.

So far, Damascus has pulled away the ball at the last minute every time, with Western envoys ending up flat on their backs. Because that's what friends are for in Lucy's view.

UPDATE: Ignatius fails to explain what the Israelis hope to accomplish with their talks:

The Israeli military brass favored engagement with Syria because they didn't think the status quo in the region was sustainable. Lebanon had become a surrogate battleground between Israel and Iran, and the Israelis arguably had lost the first round. Meanwhile, the Syrians were increasing their arsenal of missiles and other weapons. The judgment in Tel Aviv was that Israel stood to lose strategically by letting things continue as they were.

Yes, but what does Israel hope to achieve? Syria wins just be stalling and possibly loosening pressure even a short time. That alone is an achievement.

As for flipping Syria?

Israel's overriding goal has been to draw Syria away from its alliance with Iran. So far, the Israelis see no sign that the peace talks have achieved this goal. Syria-watchers caution that this sort of decisive transfer of loyalties is unlikely.

Indeed. No sign. Syria has supported non-Arab Iran through the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, pausing only to drive a tank division a few miles in the desert in 1991 as part of the Coalition of the Not Needed to oust Saddam from Kuwait, and then went on to support Iran in waging war against Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and America up to this very moment.

Is Syria really interested in ending a nearly three-decade alliance with Iran? I say get ready to meet Mr. Turf.