A White House Clueless on Syria

(NOW Lebanon) Michael Young - A WikiLeaks cable, dated Feb. 2009, recounted a meeting with the French diplomatic troubleshooter and former ambassador to Syria Jean-Claude Cousseran, who "urged that Washington should 'get something tangible' from the Syrian regime. He cautioned that the Syrians were masters of avoiding any real concessions and were adept at showering visitors with wonderful atmospherics and delightful conversations before sending them away empty handed." This was very sound counsel, which Obama has basically ignored by dispatching Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford to Damascus for nothing tangible. Cousseran also cautioned Washington against over-reaching: "If the U.S. were to aim for something too difficult, such as urging Syria to sever its ties to Hamas or Hizbullah, than it would get nowhere." Washington wants to engage Syria so that it will give up on alliances that the Syrians will never willingly surrender. Obama should have sent Ford to Syria in exchange for a solid concession from Assad - perhaps Syrian acceptance of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections, which Damascus has refused to sanction; or maybe Syrian consent to the return of direct negotiations with Israel. It made no sense for Obama to throw away a card he should have made Syria pay for. The writer is opinion editor of the Daily Star newspaper in Beirut.

2011-01-03 07:57:06

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