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The Latest Syrian Miscalculation - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Damascus has a strange knack for miscalculations, where today it finds itself embroiled in the Russian-Georgian conflict and is once again in the eye of the international storm.

The pro-Russian Syrian stance coupled with the controversy surrounding the deployment of Russian weapons systems to Syria can not be described as political prowess, but only as a miscalculation.

How can Damascus support Russia’s military campaign against Georgia while Syria itself wants to convince the world of the justness of its cause and the need for support against the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights? Syria’s statements concerning the Georgian crisis are inconsistent with its talk of Turkish-sponsored peace negotiations with Israel, or its desire for Washington participation in these negotiations, bearing in mind that Damascus is still supposedly enjoying a honeymoon period with France which brokered the ceasefire in Georgia!

This miscalculation has entangled Damascus in a crisis beyond its geographical scope; where by Israel has exploited Syria’s comments to describe Damascus as hesitant; wanting peace, while also wanting Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and weaponry. As for Washington, Syria’s actions have left it perplexed about its involvement in the crisis in the first place.

Logic indicates that Syria’s scramble to support Russia against Georgia, and its welcoming of the deployment of Iskander missiles as stated by its President in an interview with Russia’s Kommersant newspaper is suggestive of another matter which Damascus can no longer conceal.

What Damascus wants to conceal is that there exists a sense of worry in Syria as it searches for a strategic ally, since its negotiations with the Israelis has resulted in doubts between it and Tehran, while at the same time, the Syrians can not trust the Israelis.

Above all, we witnessed first hand Damascus search for Turkish support, which led to its indirect peace negotiations with Israel. Damascus justified this by saying Riyadh and Cairo were too busy; while the truth of the matter is that Syria’s strained relations with Saudi and Egypt kept Damascus without Arab backing.

Let’s not forget that Paris did not help much in relieving Syria’s isolation from the West or gaining Damascus access to the Americans, as evident when a Syrian delegation lingered in Washington in hope of setting up a meeting with the US State Department to no avail.

Naturally, Syria’s support for the Russians against Georgia means a confrontation with the French, especially since European nations rejected Russia’s occupation of Georgia, despite the fact that the Georgian president committed a great Faux pas in provoking the Russian Bear.

Therefore, it may be said that Syria’s confusion in finding for an ally has prompted it to involve itself in a conflict it has nothing to do with, and in the process alienated the west further against it. Even Russia was quick to reaffirm its friendship with Israel and that it had no interest in showing hostility towards it for the sake of Syria.

Syria’s miscalculations have given its naysayer’s an opportunity to question Damascus’s intentions, particularly those who warned Paris that Damascus was not serious in their negotiation efforts. Syria’s mistakes are not a calculated risk, but are the result of Syrian jitters over finding an ally and support. Which brings up the question: Who are Syria’s friends today?

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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