The Longevity of the Syrian Regime is of No Interest
A spate of articles emanating from Israel attests to Prime Minister Olmert’s willingness to enter “peace talks” with Syria. In part this has to do with Israel’s real concern that Syria may miscalculate the effects of last summer’s conflict in Lebanon and make a military land grab on the Golan Heights.
A spate of articles emanating from Israel attests to Prime Minister Olmert’s willingness to enter “peace talks” with Syria. In part this has to do with Israel’s real concern that Syria may miscalculate the effects of last summer’s conflict in Lebanon and make a military land grab on the Golan Heights. Syria’s goals are presumed to be: a) to restart negotiations over the Golan from a position of relative strength; b) to deflect from the UN Tribunal established under Chapter 7 to investigate the murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and/or; c) to threaten mayhem if the Tribunal points (as it likely will) to high-ranking Syrian officials. This last tactic is already being used in Lebanon, but as yet without success.
The other possible reason for Prime Minister Olmert’s eagerness for discussion with Syria is to deflect from his own popularity rating, which stands within the margin of error, which is to say it is less than three percent.
But if we understand the Prime Minister’s motivation, what about Syria’s motivation to talk even as it continues to threaten Israel, make Jordan nervous, and undermine Lebanon and Iraq?
The Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reports that Syria is awaiting an “invitation to begin peace negotiations with Israel from the United States or other parties.” A senior diplomat at the Syrian Embassy in London was cited as saying that, “although Syria is willing to renew peace talks, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government cannot be a partner for peace with Syria.”
In other words, Syria doesn’t want to talk to Israel, but to the U.S. government. Bashar Assad wants to find a way to receive assurances that the U.S. will not topple his regime. The Administration should not only NOT provide such assurances – nor should Israel presume to discuss this on our behalf – but we should strongly suggest that the longevity of the current regime is of less than no interest to us.
America is vitally interested in security and the democratic governments in Lebanon, Israel and Iraq, and has a keen interest in Jordan. To the extent that Syria undermines those, Syria is our adversary. America is vitally interested in minimizing the support an aggressive and radical Iran is providing to terrorists in Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories. To the extent that Syria is allied with Iran in support of terrorism against American soldiers in Iraq, Iraqi allies of the U.S., Lebanon or Israel, Syria is our adversary. And America is vitally interested in democracy advocates, human rights and civil society in Syria itself. To the extent that Syria undermines those, Syria is our adversary.
The Iraq war has surely damaged America’s deterrent capability, but we should still be capable of making Assad understand that the demise of his regime would be no great loss. It is the extended hand of Iran and operates through a brutal, repressive, minority Shiite-aligned sect at odds with the rest of the population. It is not our job to save the regime – nor is it Israel’s.