Syrian Foreign Policy Under Bashar al-Assad

(Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) Eyal Zisser- Hafez al-Assad was a master in using terrorist organizations to promote Syrian interests and achieve political gains that he couldn't otherwise accomplish. By using terror and local agents, Syria gained control over Lebanon and forced both Israel and America to leave. Yet there has been no Syrian involvement in operations inside Western countries since 1986. Since the beginning of the 1990s, many radical Islamic forces have settled in Syria after the Islamic groups and the Syrian regime came to recognize their mutual interests vis-a-vis the United States and Israel. For the Syrians this meant ignoring the radical dimension of the Islamists, and for the Islamists this meant ignoring the secular dimension of the Syrian regime. Bashar al-Assad enjoys the support of the Syrian population and there is no real opposition. He clearly benefits domestically from his position on Iraq that allows the smuggling of weapons and the infiltration of terrorists through Syria. Syria's goals in Iraq are, first, to get the Americans out. The presence of the Americans in Iraq is a threat to Syria regardless of what happens in Iraq. Second, Syria seeks to maintain Iraq as a state, mindful of the riots last March in the Kurdish area in northern Syria. Third, Syria is interested in having some influence over Iraq in the future. A peace agreement between Syria and Israel is unlikely anytime soon, first of all, because the Syrians are not ready to sign an agreement which is separate from an agreement with the Palestinians.

2004-08-27 00:00:00

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