The Devil We Knew

(New York Times) Itamar Rabinovich - Until Hafez al-Assad came to power in 1970, the Syrian republic was a weak unstable state, an arena in which regional and international rivalries were played out. The revolt against the regime last March pushed Syria back to its pre-1970 state. It has become a war by proxy between Iran and its rivals. Assad's fall would deal a mortal blow to its "resistance axis," and Iran is making a major investment to shore up his beleaguered regime. This is matched by counterefforts by Turkey and Saudi Arabia. In 2005, when George W. Bush wanted to topple Bashar al-Assad, then-prime minister Ariel Sharon cautioned against doing so since the alternative, according to the conventional wisdom at the time, was the Muslim Brotherhood. This is not Israel's policy now. After the discovery of Assad's secret cooperation with North Korea, and given the threats to its national security by Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, Israel came to the conclusion that there is more potential damage in Assad's survival than in his departure. Israel is also of the opinion that extracting the Syrian brick from the Iranian wall could usher in a new phase in regional politics. The writer served as Israel's chief negotiator with Syria and as Israel's ambassador in Washington.

2011-11-21 00:00:00

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