Been There, Done That

[Weekly Standard] David Schenker - Last week, even before the carnage in Qana, a parade of pundits argued that the Bush administration should talk with Syria about reining in Hizballah, perhaps with an eye to breaking the Damascus-Tehran axis. This policy prescription is ill-advised and poorly timed. Moreover, the strategy was tried and failed during President Bush's first administration. Washington engaged Syria in a robust fashion from 2001 through the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005, sending no less than five senior-level U.S. delegations to cajole Bashar Assad to change his unhelpful behavior. Discussions during this period focused on Iraq - in particular on Syria's role in destabilizing the newly liberated country - but also touched on Syrian interference in Lebanon, provision of safe haven to Palestinian terrorist groups, and ongoing support for Hizballah. Granting Damascus a reprieve from its well-deserved international isolation would undermine what remains of U.S. credibility with Syrian reformers and Lebanese democrats. Reengagement would also practically invite a Syrian return to Lebanon. The writer, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, served from 2002 to 2006 as the Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestinian affairs adviser in the office of the secretary of defense.

2006-08-08 01:00:00

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