Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Syrian Bottleneck | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Over recent weeks, American statements have been loaded with accusations that Syria is the base for terrorists ready to set out to Iraq. These statements clearly call for the isolation of Damascus. The most recent of them came from Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who encouraged the &#34intensifying&#34 of pressure on Syria, describing it as already isolated.

These statements conceal beneath them the details of an American plan to punish Syria. The first aspect has been clearly formulated as the isolation of the Syrian regime from its Arab context, whilst directly accusing it of the assassinations of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The next step is proposing a resolution and a vote in the UN for imposing economic sanctions on Syria then finally attacking the regime.

These broad lines of a plan seem better arranged than in the case of Iraq. Washington learnt a lesson from its past mistakes with the ousted Saddam regime. I can only hope that if Syria wishes to save their country from a dark fate, they will not deal with it in the same ridiculous political clumsiness as before. I am writing about Syria out of love for people like us, who wish to raise their children in peace.

I am truly shocked by the stark contrast between the creative resourceful nation known for &#34tricking and trade&#34 and flexibility throughout the ages, and the obvious state of stiffness in the behavior of the current ruling political elite.

It seems clear that Syria is isolated from all neighboring Arab countries such as Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. However, it also seems that Syria”s isolation from Lebanon is not only on an official level. There is national animosity towards Syria in Lebanon, as it is more widely being perceived as an enemy. Recent reports suggest that there are some in Lebanon who prefer Israel to Syria. The Iraqi stance on Syria was made clear in a statement by Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari to the New York Times in which he stated &#34Syria is playing a dangerous game in Iraq&#34. Syria is viewed and is accused of being a hostile neighbor by the Iraqi people and government. Clearly, these two examples are not sufficient to write off Syria amongst the Arab States. However Syria seems unfavorable to Jordan, and there is a heightened state of animosity between Syria and Israel, in addition to the fact that Israel is occupying part of Syria. Syria”s relations with other Arab countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia are also uncertain.

Syria has limited dialogue with its fellow Arab Nations, and it seems that all that remains for Syria is its relations with countries like Iran and Turkey. Non-Arab neighboring countries are the only outlet for the pinnacle of pan Arab nationalism. Now Syria reflects a fortress, as it isolates its own regime from other Arab nations and from the rest of the world.

The size of this disaster is highlighted when we compare America”s attempts to isolate Saddam Hussein”s regime to its attempts to isolate Syria from the Arab world. Saddam managed to succeed through the use of bribes, and he created a band of “supporters” in the media people who turned his defeats into victories. Syria has, so far, failed to do the same. The largest media cannons for Saddam were Syrian artists who visited Baghdad every week and travelled across the Arab world from the Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean to spread positive propaganda about Saddam’s ugly regime. Sadly, they have not the same thing for their home country. Thus, Syria’s relations within the Arab world are in a more dire situation than Iraq during the Saddam regime.

The second part of the American strategy is that the administration will wait until Detlev Mehlis has completed his report about who is responsible for the murder of Hariri. It is obvious that through some deals between Mehlis and some Lebanese and Syrian security officials that the report will hold Syria guilty along with their Lebanese ally Emil Lahoud and his crew.

If Syria is mentioned in Mehlis”s report, then informed sources suggest that the American administration will initiate a resolution in the UN, with the support of France and Britain, to impose economic siege on Syria. All members would be expected vote in favor of such a proposal except China who will most probably abstain from voting. The result of such an economic siege will parallel the siege that the world imposed on Libya after being accused of the Lockerbie disaster. If this occurs, Syria will be isolated within a broader circle than the Arab world, as Europe will also freeze its partnerships with Syria and will justify avoiding Syria due to its commitment to international laws. It will probably years before a couple of aeroplanes violate the siege to deliver food to the children of Syria!

Both American and European statements indicate that the next step is to tarnish the Syrian regime’s global reputation, in order to prepare the public for the idea of a change of regime. This may not be enough to warrant a direct American attack, as we witnessed in Iraq, but it may allow for a gradual build-up of Iraqi and American units on Syrian territories, with the purpose of curbing terrorism and destroying their base in Syria. Using this method, a large part of the Syrian territories neighboring Iraq will be turned into something similar to the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. Just as Israel was not short of excuses to move from south Lebanon to Beirut, American harassment of Syria will provide excuses to enter Damascus. Possibly this scenario is currently being prepared. We can only ask what options do the Arabs and Syria have?

The latest statement by the Syrian embassy in Washington condemned the terrorist acts in Iraq in the first two lines, but then ruined the whole issue in the remainder of the announcement. This underlines the fact that the regime was not cured from the disease of resounding speeches and still uses a language long abandoned that is now unintelligible to the rest of the world and maybe to the Syrian people themselves. They are only understood by a few inside the regime itself.

Syria is now in real trouble. What can be done to save Syrian people from paying the price of their governments wrong decisions? The solution is a meeting between all Arab countries including Syria, on the condition that Syria listens without being allowed a single one of its long disdainful speeches. The aim of such a meeting would be to give Syria a political cover to use in coming out of its current bottleneck. It would also present Syria with a frame to preserve its dignity as it withdraws from the pack of policies that reflect a state of obstinacy. Without such rapid Syrian withdrawal and without a similarly rapid Arab political involvement we will watch Syria move confidently towards hell with the speed of light. A group of foolish Arabs will remain applauding Syria as it heads to the bottom of the rank of Arab nationalism. I also hope that Syria will not realizes that this scenario will take many years to be executed, the Bush regime may have departed before the effects fully impact Syria.