You Can't Play Nice with Syria

[Ottawa Citizen] Barry Rubin - Syria is using a Palestinian front group to start a war inside Lebanon, just as it employed another Lebanese client organization, Hizbullah, to battle Israel last year. The Syrian government's message is simple: Lebanon will know no peace until it again becomes our satellite. In two years, 15 major terrorist attacks targeted Lebanon's independent-minded leaders. Like other Middle Eastern dictatorships, Syria's rulers face a paradox. How to stay in power after failing so completely? The economy is a mess, there is little freedom, and the regime is dominated by a small Alawite minority which is historically secular. Bashar Assad sends terrorists against Iraq, Israel, Lebanon and even the U.S. military, but nobody retaliates in kind against him. At home, the regime sounds increasingly Islamist; abroad it is the biggest sponsor of radical Islamist groups in the region. As a matter of survival, Syria's rulers need anti-Americanism and the Arab-Israeli conflict to mobilize support and distract from their failings. Years of dialogue and numerous visits by secretaries of state could not even get Syria to close the terrorist offices in Damascus, much less make any policy changes.

2007-05-29 01:00:00

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