“…it is highly unlikely that the Syrian regime will voluntarily effect any major changes in its general structure or its modus operandi. Half-hearted pressures on it to do so will probably not be enough. Still, a full-scale invasion with the goal of effecting a regime change, even with a good casus belli in hand, will most likely prove too problematic at this stage. Syria has a relatively new president who has been received with all due honors by many world leaders, including Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, German Prime Minister Gerhardt Schroeder, and French President Jacques Chirac. Syria's relations with the world community are much more intricate and ambivalent than those of the Taliban or the Saddam regime, as we have noted earlier. The case against Syria will never be as clear-cut as that against Afghanistan or Iraq. A full-scale invasion of Syria would seem to require a U.S. administration that is even more oblivious to the rest of the world than the current Bush administration seems to be.
Moreover, even the plausible casus belli envisioned above, that is, the failure of the Syrian government to hand over certain wanted officials, might still not be enough to garner sufficient internal, not to mention international, support to invade Syria. This leaves only one potential avenue for future intervention: a series of diplomatic, rather than military, surgical strikes—that is, a series of seemingly minor diplomatic crises resulting in specific compromises that could produce the desired change over time and have the aggregate effect of a major, internal shakedown. A small stick and big carrot approach might indeed prove the more efficient way to deal with the Syrian regime, and might save us all from the clutches of both roughshod clean break advocates and diehard status quo beneficiaries.
Another consideration that might help in avoiding conflict is the strong potential for Israeli involvement. Israel might want the Syrian regime weakened and humiliated, and to see the end of its support of Hezbollah, but it is highly unlikely that Israel would willingly participate in an all-out confrontation with Syria. Such a development might prove too costly, materially and humanly, for the Jewish state, especially since the possibility of WMD use might be more real here than it was in the war against the Iraqi regime.
Just as Israel might have its apprehensions vis-à-vis an all-out conflict with Syria, so might Turkey, with its endemic Kurdish problem and continuing inability to explore any realistic solutions for it.
Regardless of the dismissive attitude of the Bush administration with regard to international opinion and the anxieties of certain EU countries, it is highly unlikely (and quite unadvisable), that the United States ignore the wishes of its long-time, vital, regional allies. Smart diplomacy needs to prevail over smart bombs in the Syrian case.”
Believe it or not, the above quote comes from a policy brief I have given at an international conference in Europe in May 2003, and later at various think tanks in the US as well. Ever since I posted this article on my personal website Amarji, it has received more hits than any other item on site, followed closely by a policy brief on Iraq called “The Aftermath of Conquest.”
As a novelist and a poet, nothing could more insulting. As an amateur political analyst, nothing could be more gratifying.
Reading the two articles on Syria and Iraq these days also show that my predicative abilities are that bad either. I mean, come on, predicating that a crisis concerning the handover of certain wanted officials could take place two years before any sign of something along these lines developing is really good. And predicting how the Syrian regime would behave was right on the money too. My predictions concerning Iraq were also quite accurate.
But what does really say about me? I mean, haven’t I been contradicting myself by calling for regime change in Syria, claiming that the regime is nonviable?
I don’t think so. For I am an activist as well as an analyst, the future of Syria matters immensely to me and I have a clear stake in the outcome as a citizen. I want to be able to influence the outcome.
My strategy is take advantage of the Syrian regime knack to create crises for itself and to play on that in the hope of exacting some concessions that can afford the opposition more time to reinvent itself and push for a change from the inside. For, ultimately, a peaceful change can only take place when there is enough pressure from the inside and when an internal alternative is allowed to impose itself on the scene. I want to help in the creation of a space for that alternative to emerge.
We now have a Damascus Declaration in hand. We have a call on the President to resign made from Syria by Syrians, and we have created more space for the reform elements in the regime to push for greater economic and administrative reforms. Let’s see what can be done with that over the next few months.
But no. It’s not time for the big carrot yet. In the final analysis, it is not clear yet to whom we are supposed to offer it. The campaign of diplomatic surgical strikes must continue for a while longer. We are on the right track though. Something Gotta give.
A special thanks to my “avid reader” for reminding me of these articles not too long ago, for pointing out the alleged contradictions in my stands, and for finally “de-masking” me. Wow, I feel strangely refreshed.