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Thursday, March 17, 2005


looking for a new club

josh landis at syria comment notes that, with syria withdrawing from lebanon, america is now forced to find other pretexts for harassing syria -- and is unlikely to get much european help.

Everyone in Washington is now cooking up next-steps and other instruments to finish off president Bashar al-Asad. Those who want to continue the campaign against dictatorship, Baathism, the enemies of Israel, Arabism, or the "unfree" will now have to begin to address the question of regime-change and internal Syrian politics directly, something Washington has not done up to this point. They will have to convince President Bush and his policy people that it is in US interests to attack Bashar, not for his foreign policy, for occupying Lebanon, or for troublemaking in the region, but because he treats his people "egregiously" in the words of some Washington wonks.

To see how this shift is already taking place look at the recent publications of the WASHINGTON INSTITUTE for Near East Policy. It is perhaps the most influential Middle East think tank in Washington:

Start talking about democracy, human rights, and the rule of law inside Syria. Once the Syrians depart Lebanon, Washington should turn the spotlight on Syria’s egregious behavior toward its own citizens. Since the United States is championing the concept of “choice” in promoting multi-candidate elections in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, a good place to start might be the Syrian constitution, which vests the Arab Baath Socialist Party with sole control of the country’s political leadership. Bashar’s first seven-year term expires in 2007 and it is not too early to start a campaign to pry open that political system.
while american sanctions are being forwarded as one avenue to extort regime change, i would also not be entirely surprised to see similar machinations to we've seen recently arise in syria -- but i'm unsure that such an effort would be any more successful than it was in venezuela. syria has tight control of local media and would probably not hesitate to counter protests in damascus with a security clampdown if there was a perceived threat. though there is certainly a dialogue ongoing within syria and landis, among others, believes that change must come, the preconditions for the kind of non-violent revolt that came off in ukraine seem not to be in place.

if these are insufficient, however, military means are virtually certain, imo. folks in damascus are fatalistic and are probably right to be. until the bush administration does something to convince me (more than fostering vague hope) that they aren't following the plan, i'm inclined to think that idealism will continue to trump any reality or sensibility.

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