Friday, October 08, 2004

Good News from Syria: Part II

In what appears to be another piece of good news (see link here) regarding US-Syrian relations, Syria is poised to take dramatic steps to improve its relations with the US.

WASHINGTON - Syrian President Bashar Assad is offering to make peace with Israel and says he is ready to cooperate with the United States in stabilizing Iraq (news - web sites), a former senior State Department official said Wednesday.

"Something is going on in Syria and it is time for us to pay attention," said Martin Indyk, assistant secretary of state for the Near East and U.S. ambassador to Israel during the Clinton administration...

On peacemaking, Assad offered to hold talks with Israel without preconditions, Indyk said, and had made several overtures to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (news - web sites) that Sharon rebuffed.

In the past, Indyk said, Syria had insisted that any peace talks should resume where they left off during the Clinton administration — with Israel offering to give up all of the Golan Heights, a strategic area Israel won in the 1967 Mideast war.

And, Indyk said, Assad had dropped a demand that Israel reach an agreement with the Palestinians before Israel could resume negotiations with Syria.

On the domestic side, Indyk said, Assad spoke "about the need to reform the government."

This certainly represents a dramatic change in Syrian foreign policy. It was less than a year ago that Syria was still being considered as the next target on the US "regime change" world tour. Syria appeared to be a charter member of the "nearly" Axis of Evil, along with Libya. Now, Libya represents a powerful example of the ramifications of the Bush Doctrine. Syria is apparently moving down a very similar road, driven by fear of being the next Iraq or Afghanistan.

Relations between the US and Syria need to be followed closely in the coming weeks and months. If Libya and Syria are frightened into changing their behavior by the Bush Doctrine, it makes a powerful case that it can succeed where traditional diplomacy, engagement, and positive inducements have failed for years.

If George Bush loses the upcoming presidential election, it will be interesting to see whether Syria and Libya will continue down this path to international respectability with a President Kerry in charge of the US.