April 21, 2004

Syria Policy Watch

Juan Cole gets a bit carried away comparing American foreign policy-making to Iran's (Rummy like the hard-core Mullahs controlling the military; Powell like the reformist Khatami controlling much foreign-policy making).

But, despite some of his hyperbolic rhetoric (the "Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde American hyperpower that rages about an axis of evil and goes about preemptively invading countries on the one hand and then comes politely, hat in hand, to request selfless assistance on the other") Cole does have a point.

Consider this excellent NYT article from today co-written by ace reporter Desmond Butler (an old high school buddy):

"The security of Syria's border is already the source of considerable tension between Washington and Damascus. In recent days, Syrian and American officials have disagreed about whether Damascus is committed to tightening its borders with Jordan and Iraq.

Richard Boucher, the State Department spokesman, said Monday that President Bush had sent a letter urging the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, "to work closely with the rest of the international community to promote a stable Iraq." Another official said that the administration was also concerned about terrorist infiltration into Jordan.

But Syrian officials and a former American ambassador to Syria said that Damascus had gotten no response from recent overtures to work more closely with the United States on border security.

"I believe the Syrians have on at least two occasions indicated a desire to discuss cooperation across its borders in a serious way," said the former ambassador, Theodore Kattouf, who met with President Assad in Damasucs last month. "I'm unaware that the administration has accepted such an offer." He said Mr. Assad had told him that within the last year Syria had arrested 1300 people for trying or helping others try to cross the border into Iraq.

An American official acknowledged the Syrian overtures but said the administration was not convinced of their seriousness.

The Bush administration is preparing to impose new sanctions against Syria, which it says is a supporter of terrorism. Several officials said yesterday that the administration could announce the sanctions as soon as this week.

Two weeks ago, the administration sent another signal of its displeasure when the Pentagon transferred jurisdiction for Syria and Lebanon, in which Syrian forces have been stationed for years, from its European command to the Central Command, which coordinated the invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq.

"It was a not very subtle signal," one defense department official said."

[emphasis added]

I'd love to think all this (Bush playing pen pal with Bashar; the Pentagon transferring Syria jurisdiction to CentCom) was some coordinated policy move ingeniously combining the use of Powellian carrot with Rumsfeldian stick.

But, er, I think not.

Posted by Gregory at April 21, 2004 07:37 AM
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