The Syrian ambassador to the United Nations believes the United States will not be dragged into a war against his country while it remains stuck in the Iraqi quagmire. I hope the Syrian representative is not entirely banking on this hypothesis as time might prove him wrong.
In the past, the Iraqi leadership held a similar position and suggested the US administration was too busy in its war against terror to start a war without international backing. Of course, Washington acted and Saddam Hussein’s regime is no longer.
The ambassador is mistaken in his reasoning since the US government is engaged in a different sort of logic. Defeating the Assad regime would create one of two scenarios: it will either eliminate or weaken groups with links to Damascus , such as Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, al Qaeda and former Baath insurgents in Iraq or prove to be a mistake.
Even if the second option proves right, the US believes it would be able to adapt to new realities, given that it is currently cooperating with dissenting groups, such as the Dawa Party and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, both affiliated to Iran.
As irrational as it may seem, this line of thought is very real and easy to apply given Damascus’ involvement with an international investigation. Unlike Iraq, Syria is not an oil-rich country able to resist foreign pressure for a decade by depending on oil and special relations. This daunting reality requires understanding and action to achieve peace with Israel; the UN investigation headed by Detlev Mehlis might even act as “Syria’s October war” after which Sadat maneuvered to ensure Egyptian sovereignty extended once more over the Suez Canal and Sinai.
For its part, as it awaits a severe international rebuke, Syria should use its influence in Palestine and Lebanon. With the peace process, starting with accession of Mahmoud Abbas to power and the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, is facing a crisis, Damascus should put pressure on the armed opposition parties so that the window of opportunity does not shut and Palestine remain a rallying cry in battle.
With the US convinced that Syria is responsible for the Palestinian opposition, it is crucial to achieve a comprehensive peace and finalize a peace settlement between Damascus and Tel Aviv. Of course, this time, Syria is in a state of shock, requiring it to exercise caution and follow the example set by late President Hafez Assad who agreed to a preliminary agreement return the Golan Heights to Syria as part of a final peace settlement.
At the time, the Israeli government refused to finalize the agreement claiming to fear for Syria’s future because of Assad’s illness. Under the leadership of his son, a dialogue with Damascus is unavoidable if a final solution is to be found. The continued presence of armed Palestinian factions and Hezbollah in Lebanon , despite the withdrawal of the Israeli army, is due in part to Syria . Damascus has also a role to play in the continued inflexibility of Palestinian groups and is suspected of meddling in Iraq.