Decoupling Syria from Iran: Constraints on U.S.-Syrian Rapprochement

[Institute for Contemporary Affairs - Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs] David Schenker - Damascus' foray into diplomacy with Israel has had little discernable effect on Syria's longstanding, unhelpful policies vis-a-vis Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestinian politics. While moving Syria into the Western camp would be a great accomplishment, it's not clear that this development would necessarily constitute a long-term strategic setback for Iranian efforts to undermine U.S. policy in Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, and Iraq. In the absence of Syria, Iran would still be capable of supporting Hizbullah, Hamas, and its Shiite allies in Iraq. Developments in Damascus point to an erosion of state security and a domestically-weakened regime. Internationally, however, Syrian diplomatic gains are irrefutable and have buoyed the regime. In this fluid environment, the Assad regime is betting that an Obama administration will provide relief, and the opportunity to reassert itself in Lebanon and reintegrate into the international community. Yet the ultimate disposition of the new administration's policy toward Syria is far from certain, particularly if the Assad regime continues to pursue its unhelpful regional policies. In this regard, Assad's hopes for a dramatic change in U.S. Syria policy may be short-lived. The writer is a senior fellow in Arab politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. From 2002 to 2006, he served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as country director for Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories.

2008-12-03 01:00:00

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