The Coming Pax Americana

(Ha'aretz) Efraim Halevy - During most of his long rule as president, Hafez Assad leaned on the support of the Soviet Union. After its collapse, he decided wisely that he should try to curry favor with the one remaining superpower, the United States. Thus he took the U.S. side in the first Gulf War. Up to the time of his death in June 2000, he did not forsake the American orientation that he had adopted in his last years. Bashar abandoned his father's path. Ahead of the second Gulf War, in 2003, he took the Iraqi side against the U.S. He allowed thousands of combatants to cross the Syrian border into Iraq, where they inflicted heavy casualties on U.S. forces; he deepened Syria's cooperation with Iran far beyond his father's tactical cooperation; and he intervened so blatantly in Lebanon that France, Syria's traditional friend, this year led an initiative in the UN Security Council that ended in an unequivocal resolution calling for the full withdrawal of Syrian military and intelligence forces from Lebanon. Effectively, Bashar Assad has brought about his country's isolation, and for his broad strategic failure, the Syrian ruler will pay a steep price. After the flames of democratization start to singe the corners of the kingdom in Damascus, the days of the minority Alawi regime - less than 20% of the country's population - will be numbered. The campaign against Iran's nuclear project is taking place in regional conditions that are not convenient for Iran: Its Syrian partner is being led by a leader who is not very smart; Hizballah, its forward arm in Lebanon, is under Security Council pressure to disarm; and the American military presence to the west in Iraq and to the east in Afghanistan is heightening the danger of regional isolation that Iran has long feared. President Bush is relentlessly promoting the road map, which he views as an important instrument to execute his policy. At first, the process of Israeli-American negotiations seemed to create a convenient starting point for Israel and appeared to give Israel achievements in relation to the U.S. position regarding various aspects of the permanent solution. However, it makes negotiations between the sides superfluous. It makes the U.S. the exclusive arbiter in all issues of the conflict and in the future will make it impossible for Israel to exert pressure on the Palestinians in relation to subjects on which the Americans adopt the Palestinian position. Everything will be decided according to the road map, and the validity of the permanent solution will rest mainly on the preservation of the power and presence of the U.S. in the region. The disengagement will be the first link in the chain of shaping Israel's permanent borders. The continuation will be decided in the next three years not only by the balance of forces between Israel and its neighbors, but in large measure by the outcomes of the other campaigns that are taking place around us.

2005-04-22 00:00:00

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