This Washington Post editorial speaks volumes of the battle going on behind the scenes to stop Obama, Mitchell and Feltman pushing their rapprochement with Syria.
Commentators have been asking why it has taken a year for Obama to even send an ambassador to Damascus when he made this a key part of his election campaign. This editorial should give you some clue. It’s a nonsense. It’s basic argument is: we can’t change Bashar’s behaviour, so why bother. The problem is that mature states don’t have relations with other countries to change their behaviour.
Don’t expect progress from talking to Syria starts with a telling line: “The notion that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad can somehow be turned from his alliance with Iran and sponsorship of terrorism is one of the hardiest of the Middle East.”
The ‘dictator’ label is the fifth word. But it’s only used when referring to America’s enemies. I’ve never seen the WaPo call Mubarak a dictator. And secondly, Obama doesn’t want to turn Syria away from Iran – he apparently sees this relationship as an advantage: Syria can be the bridge between America and Iran, just like it was when Britain was attempting to get its sailors released after they were arrested by Iranian forces 2 years ago.
Then there is a paragraph full of fudges: “[William Burns] met with Mr. Assad in 2004 on behalf of the Bush administration. Earlier, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell “engaged” Mr. Assad. … Yet none so far has produced the slightest change in Mr. Assad’s behavior.” Burns and Powell “engaged” Bashar before the US-Syria relationship broke down amid the Hariri killing in 2005. 2004 was a different era.
And what of “Mr Assad’s … unacceptable ambitions.” WHAT? To get the Golan Heights back, which Israel has illegally occupied for 43 years? That’s unacceptable?
“Having carried out a campaign of political murder in Lebanon, including the killing of a prime minister for which he has yet to be held accountable.” The WaPo acts as judge and jury here. Good.
“He continues to harbor exiled leaders of Saddam Hussein’s regime and to allow suicide bombers to flow into Iraq for use by al-Qaeda.” This is just pure fantasy. Which exiled leaders? Names please. And ‘allowing suicide bombers into Iraq’? American military commanders in Iraq have already said there are just a handful crossing now, after a successful crackdown by Damascus.
“Mr Assad … wants the European Union to grant Syria trade privileges.” Well, no. The EU has already agreed to sign the Association Agreement, but it is Syria which isn’t sure it wants these ‘privileges’.
“Anyone who thinks the Obama administration has come up with a way to change the Middle East through detente with Syria would do well to study the history of Mr. Assad’s decade in power.”
Maybe it is the WaPo’s leader-writers who would do well to study a bit of Syrian history.