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"An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."
Sir Winston Churchill

12.19.2006

What We Must Do About Assad

Oust him:

How does this scene square with the Baker/Hamilton recommendations to “engage” Syria and Iran to help “stabilize” Iraq? It doesn’t. Baathist Syria is the central cog of an alignment implacably hostile to the U.S. project in Iraq. To suppose that an America that has already declared defeat in Iraq has the slightest chance of detaching Syria’s ruling clique from its symbiosis with Hezbollah, Hamas, and triumphant imperial Iran, is to live in fairy land. James Baker talks airily of “flipping Syria” as if it were a turtle on a beach. In the real universe that most of us inhabit the only way to “flip Syria” is to flip out the present Syrian leadership. Reacting to the Iraq Study Group report, the Syrian government mouthpiece Tishrin promptly decreed that “the hour of truth and the payment of accounts for mistakes” has arrived, while Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki declared that the Iraqi problem will be solved with American departure, “which does not require any negotiation with Iran.” The casual arrogance is reminiscent of the movie Independence Day, when the humans ask the captive alien “what should we do,” and the alien responds: “Die!”

For those for whom principles still matter, the Iraq Study Group exhibits clear moral turpitude in recommending that the U.S. commune with Syria’s leaders, considering that top Syrian officials were in late 2005 defined as suspects in the U.N.’s first ever murder inquiry. Principles aside, little in the Baker/Hamilton text about Baathist Syria relates to the real world. For example, the U.S. is to “encourage and persuade Syria of the merit” of controlling its border with Iraq as if “the flow of funding, insurgents, and terrorists” from Syria has had no connection with the Syrian authorities. The alchemists of the Iraq Study Group have even managed to transmute the damning accumulated evidence of Syrian mischief making into evidence of the “given” of Syria’s “interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq.”

In phantasmagoric style, the report recommends that Israel “should return the Golan Heights” to Syria, and that Syria should “cooperate with all investigations into political assassinations in Lebanon” and stop undermining the Lebanese government. The authors, like the rest of us, know very well that the Syrian regime’s overriding priority in any deal is not the distant prospect of receiving the Golan Heights, but to be above and beyond international justice and to have renewed command of Beirut. The Iraq Study Group’s glowing reference to the U.S.-Syrian arrangements that “worked effectively in the early 1990s,” and which prominently included U.S. approval of Syrian control of Lebanon, has a sinister resonance. The Lebanese newspaper al-Nahar has reported reassurances to senior Lebanese officials from James Baker, but such talk may be cheap from a Baker who still looks back so fondly to his trade-offs with Bashar Assad’s father.

The most pernicious feature of the Iraq Study Group report is that its recommendations cut across the most promising avenue to relief and dignity for the U.S. Rather than “engaging” Syria and Iran, the U.S. should steadfastly guard the international investigative and judicial process that will consolidate democracy in Lebanon and probably bring regime change in Syria in 2007. This is not compatible with the deal making involved in engagement.


Without their Syrian allies, Iran will find it quite a bit harder to strike Israel in a manner so as to guarantee plausible deniability on their part, such as through their Hezbollah proxy. Turn Syria and Lebanon into peaceful outposts, and the chances of Iran becoming Middle East hegemon are nil. Even a nuclear-armed Iran will find Israel's nukes to be a deterrent once it's clear that any such strike on Israel will result in the destruction of Iranian cities.

Iran is betting the farm on proxy warfare and the West's suicidal unwillingness to strike at the Terror Masters. Removing Syria and Lebanon from the board may well stave off World War III for another generation.

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