Flynt Leverett (below), who served in George Bush’s first administration, and wrote “Syria: Bashar’s Trial by Fire” claims that George Bush has moved towards a policy of regime change in Syria.
But he doesn’t want it by military means, he wants it ‘on the cheap’ – by destabalising Syria.
That’s why Washington piled on the pressure for Syrian troops to withdraw from Lebanon. If Syria disagreed, Bush could keep up the rhetoric and use the UN to isolate Syria. But now that Syria has withdrawn, the hope is that the shock to the Syrian government – along with the growing risk of civil war in Lebanon – will cause it to fall.
But to the dismay of Bush, the pullout seems to have strengthened Bashar’s government.
But Leverett claims that the Bush policy hasn’t been properly thought through. The most likely replacement for Bashar’s government is an Islamist one. Syria’s main opposition is the Muslim Brotherhood (out of which Al-Qaeda was formed), but its leaders are currently in jail or exile. Syria’s been winning its 20 year battle with the Brotherhood – a fact that America acknowledged when it thanked Syria for the intelligence on Al-Qaeda that it received after September 11th.
Syria surprised everyone by the speed of its withdrawal, but Bush is determined to keep up the pressure. It has reframed its demands on Damascus: Syrian troops haven’t fully withdrawn, they say – even though the UN hasn’t submitted its report on the pullou – and Syria musn’t interfere in the elections.
Most contentiously, Bush is now demanding that Syria “allow” Hizbollah to “disband and disarm”. That’s interesting. How can they – Syria has withdrawn! And besides, most Lebanese don’t want Hizbollah to be disarmed. Hizbollah are the largest political force in Parliament – so by that token, the US Republican Party should also disband.
Yahya Sadowski from the American University in Beirut says that Bush has come to believe that democracy will always emerge out of turmoil and instability – democracy is a ‘natural’ state for all human beings. So why not cause that instability in Syria. For Bush, it seems democracy has become a religion, not a policy.