Skip to comments.Damascus Is Defiant In Face Of Air Strike, But Options Are Limited
Posted on 10/07/2003 6:49:38 PM PDT by blam
Damascus defiant in face of air strike, but options are limited
Wednesday October 8, 2003
The Guardian (UK)
Syria's youthful president sounded resolute and defiant yesterday in his first public comment on the Israeli air raid that struck deep into his country's territory. "We can, with full confidence, say that what happened will only make Syria's role more effective and influential," he told the pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat. "We are not a superpower, but we are not a weak state either. We're not a country without cards ... We are not a state that can be ignored."
In the face of an onslaught from neo-conservatives in the US and a new threat from the Israeli prime minister to hit enemies "in any place and in any way", Bashar al-Assad, 38, may still have some cards to play but few would deny that he holds a weak hand.
"His options are very limited," said David Butter of the Economist Intelligence Unit.
"The old rules of the Syria-Israel game were that it was always possible for Syria to give a nod and a wink to heat up the Lebanese border [with Israel]."
In the days of President Assad's father, Hafez, who died three years ago, that would have been the obvious Syrian response, but it is no longer a practical option.
The Israeli air strike inside Syria, the first in 20 years, shows that the rules of the game have changed, Mr Butter said. "Israel would say that any action on the Lebanese border is ultimately a Syrian responsibility."
Since the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, Damascus has kept the Lebanese Hizbullah movement on a tight leash, allowing only to kenistic military action against Israel, concentrated on the disputed Shebaa Farms area.
Loosening the constraints on Hizbullah would give fuel to Syria's critics in the US and would also antagonise the Lebanese, who are more assertive than they used to be.
Syria's best option, according to Daniel Neep, head of the Middle East programme at the Royal United Services Institute in London, is to maintain the constraints on Hizbullah "while pursuing its complaints through international legal institutions such as the security council".
This strategy would seek to portray Syria as a law-abiding country - in contrast to Israel. It would also be effective if the international agenda later moved on to the question of Syrian chemical and biological weapons programmes, he added.
When that issue last came up, in April, "Syria countered by saying it would be happy to ratify the chemical and biological conventions if Israel did the same," Mr Neep continued. "If the Syrians manage to keep the debate on legal grounds they can do quite well."
Syria's other potential strength is that - unlike Iraq under Saddam Hussein and Iran - it is not a pariah state, despite what President George Bush may say. It is a member of the UN security council and has good relations with Britain, among many other countries.
The downside is that restraint in the face of Israel's attack can be viewed as weakness, especially by the Ba'athist old guard who still dominate Syria's defence and foreign policy.
Another problem is that while Syria has given the US significant help in dealing with al-Qaida, there are suspicions that Syria is allowing resistance fighters across its border into Iraq.
Apart from backing Hizbullah in Lebanon, Syria also hosts several Palestinian groups of the anti-Arafat variety but insists that their activities in the country are strictly political.
Syria views Hizbullah and the Palestinian groups as bargaining counters to be sacrificed, eventually, for an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Golan Heights.
But in the view from the US, and to some extent Europe, under the post-September 11 rules that is no longer an acceptable trade-off.
"The Syrians think they have done a fair amount [to combat terrorism] but clearly there are those in Washington and elsewhere who think they have only done half-measures," said Mr Butter.
If they can't sneak up on you or murder innocent women and children, Arab defiance is totally feckless.
Bring it on!
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Unless they've got some 2,000 pound farts, they're in deep doodoo.
This quote just shows how morally bankrupt "international law" really is -- it's just one more tool for the forces of evil to use for tormenting the good guys.
okay, i give up
It's not in my dictionary. I did a search and got one 'hit,' see below.
"Summary of Health Scrutiny Event held on 22 July 2002 ... A better understanding of roles of partners (A proper "partnership" not too Kenistic) ...
He's writing for the Guardian. They're so far left they make New York Times look like The American Spectator.
Why?, so they can resume shelling of the Israeli farmers down below?
Criminal Number 18F (reformed cryptanalyst)