Saturday, October 02, 2004

US - Syrian Relations: A Win for the Bush Doctrine?

A Washington Times story from October 2 claims that US-Syrian relations are improving and it just might be due to the Bush Doctrine.

The article, found here, reports that:

Syria seeks to curry favor with the Bush administration...

Powell had what he described as "good, open and candid meeting" with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Sharaa on the sidelines of last week's United Nations General Assembly meeting.

He praised Syrian pledges to do more to control the notoriously porous border with Iraq, which U.S. officials say has been a primary crossing point for Islamist radicals fighting U.S.-led forces.

The Bush administration also praised Syria's decision -- under heavy international pressure -- to redeploy some of the estimated 20,000 Syrian troops in neighboring Lebanon...

Syria under Mr. Assad is desperate for economic growth; it watched the U.S. military campaign against Saddam Hussein with growing alarm.
If these promises and pledges become reality, it will certainly be a coup for the administration. Syria, previously defiant in the face of US criticism and threats, is now apparently willing to play ball and, apparently, is looking for the best possible way out of a bad situation.

Any Syrian crackdown on cross border traffic to Iraq would ease the task currently faced by US-Iraqi authorities in closing off Iraq to foreign fighters. Clearly, this would not solve the problem (even along the Syrian border), but would provide some breathing room for the US to get this situation under control.

It would indeed be a major accomplishment and vindication for Bush if this were to happen. The invasion of Iraq would have produced dramatic changes in two rogue states that have sought to acquire WMD and have sponsored terrorism. Outside of the formally named Axis of Evil, Libya and Syria would be next on any list of problem states. Both publicly changing longstanding behavior due to the US military actions post 9/11 would provide solid evidence that the Bush Doctrine is working.

The two areas that present potential bumps in this scenario are, of course, Israeli actions and the reaction of the neo-conservatives in the US.

And Mr. Landis said Mr. Powell's relatively benign remarks about Syria's recent moves are rejected by hard-liners in the Pentagon and elsewhere, who feel that a weakened Syria is now even more likely to bow to direct pressure rather than diplomatic rewards.
If it is possible to induce Syria to change its behavior (via diplomatic pressure, the threat of force, and even some incentives) and Syria will demonstrate this by taking tangible/verifiable steps in this direction, it is important that the US respond to these overtures. Failing to do so would weaken the Bush Doctrine and potentially turn a bad situation into one with a lot of upside without firing a bullet.