Tuesday, April 13, 2010

U.S. Engages Syria; Syria Escalates Weapons' Supply to Hizballah

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By Barry Rubin

It's completely predictable. In fact, I predicted it. The more U.S. policy engages Syria and stifles criticism of that dictatorship, the more confident (arrogant is a better word) Syria's regime becomes. It continues to help terrorists kill Americans in Iraq; tightens its alliance with Iran; and now sends advanced Scud missiles to Lebanon. At the same time--according to the U.S. Defense Department--Iran is providing advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Hizballah which pass through Syrian hands. Human rights violation continue in Syria, too.

Israel is extremely concerned with the build-up which violates the UN resolution and promises made to Israel at the end of the 2006 war. But to raise the whole matter to the heights of satire, Lebanon--whose government includes Hizballah--is now on the UN Security Council and next month will be chairing the Security Council! This is just in time to run the meetings about efforts to put sanctions on Iran, which is of course Hizballah's patron.

So to summarize:

--Hizballah, a revolutionary terrorist group, violates a UN Security Council resolution but in essence is going to control the UN Security Council. (Sort of goes along nicely with Iran being so powerful on the Human Rights committee while Libya has chaired the General Assembly.)

--Syria keeps slapping the United States in the face but it has no apparent effect on U.S. policy. The more the Obama Administration engages Syria, the more Syria embraces Iran. Senator John Kerry, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee--when I was working in the Senate he was regarded as a zero--is now energetically championing U.S.-Syria detente, advised by Robert Malley, friend of America's enemies, no less.

Where is Lewis Carroll now that we need him. (see note)
So, does the U.S. government draw any conclusions from this? Does it criticize Syria or reinstitute sanctions or postpone sending the U.S. ambassador back? Well, Congress is angry, but as for the White House, as I warned it won't criticize Syria or put pressure on it lest that interfere with engagement!

For the United States, engagement has become an end in itself. For Syria, taking over Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinians, and Israel, while driving U.S. influence out of the region  is an end in itself.

Note: Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland which, in the days before Middle East policy, was the greatest fantasy in the world.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; and The Muslim Brotherhood. To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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