December 03, 2005

Cautionary Notes Re: Syria

I don't normally agree with Josh Marshall on a lot of stuff necessarily, but this catch was a very good one. There's more here too:

Despite sharing similar assumptions about the Syrian response to pressure, American and Israeli officials appear divided over whether regime change in Damascus would be the best outcome.

Israel is concerned about the chaos that could follow the collapse of Assad's regime. For Israelis, sources said, Assad is more than "the devil you know," he is the only Syrian that can maintain order.

But the Bush administration is becoming increasingly convinced that a change of government is needed in Syria, according to foreign diplomats and pro-Israel activists in Washington. "Now [the Americans] have given up on Assad," said a Washington insider who has access to senior administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "There may be some in the administration who are hoping for a transformed Assad, but most believe that it's not going to happen and that losing Assad may not be such a loss."

No U.S. policymaker is talking seriously about an invasion or other military steps to oust Assad. But, sources in Washington said, there are those who favor applying enough pressure on the young Syrian ruler to energize internal opposition that would topple him.

Heavy pressure on Damascus is expected when the special U.N. investigative commission, headed by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, publishes its report next month. According to various indications, including an October preliminary report by the Mehlis commission, the final report is expected to implicate senior officials in Assad's inner circle. On Tuesday, U.N. investigators reportedly questioned five senior Syrian officials in relation to the assassination.

Bush administration officials have indicated to congressional leaders recently that they may impose new sanctions on Assad's regime and could press for international sanctions on Syria.

The Bush administration generally avoids explicit calls for regime change in Damascus. But recently, in public and in private, administration officials have begun expressing a desire for Assad's regime to fall. The U.S. Agency for International Development's director of public diplomacy for Middle Eastern and Middle East Partnership Initiative Affairs, Walid Maalouf, who often speaks for the administration on Syria, recently came close to calling for regime change. In a November 18 speech at Syracuse University, Maalouf said, "The Assad Baath is like the Saddam Baath ó enough is enough ó freedom and democracy for the Syrian people from the Baath regime is a must."

In the past, administration officials wanted to make sure that pressure intended to change Assad's behavior did not cause the utter collapse of his regime. The administration has no clear alternative in mind to Assad's regime and had been apprehensive about destabilizing Iraq's neighbor. But administration officials recently told foreign diplomats, senior Jewish activists and other Washington insiders that the White House is less concerned than it was before about the repercussions of pressuring Assad.

In Israel, on the other hand, officials are still voicing concern about Syria's response. There is a great deal of apprehension in Israel that "international pressure will only amplify Assad's defiant mood," said Michael Herzog, a veteran Israeli intelligence officer who is now a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

It's not shocking, of course, that there are many in the blogosphere who chant on about sacking Boy Assad without any serious regard for what ramifications would ensue should precipitous action to unseat him occur (the level of discourse could be summed up, perhaps, by 'just whack him dude', or slightly more developed variants thereto). After all, the vast majority of 'regime change now!' bloggers know little to nothing about the Middle East, as is painfully apparent from their incoherent ramblings, non-sensical fantasies, and manifest abject cluelessness. They read Mark Steyn, however, and get all excited and hot under the collar from their perches in New York and L.A. and Minnesota and belabor, if it weren't for the cowardice of men much weaker in resolve than they, how glorious a future awaits the region if only, say, we had the gumption to topple the House of Saud, Bashar, and, why not, mean Mubarak too (the better so that the Muslim Brotherhood rise to power more easily there!). But, as I said, that's standard operating procedure in large swaths of blogospheric foreign policy think, and we've become drearily acclimated and bemused by it over here.

What's more shocking, however, is that there are ostensibly intelligent people in Washington who (with nary a clue who would replace Asad yet--without even an Ahmad Chalabi to float to Judy Miller for Christ's sake!) are increasingly loudly muttering on about how rosy a post-Asad future could be if we only had the courage to grab it like non-girlie men. This, of course, while Iraq remains hugely unstable and potential crisis looms with Iran. Yes, yes--I know, Bashar has proven he can't be 'transformed,' and for an eye doctor he's been pretty blind to varied developments in his midst, but before we start supporting the dissident class that eagerly awaits our Walesa-like 'solidarity' support--might we not consider, very effing carefully this time, what a post-Saddam (sorry, post-Bashar) Syria would look like? Deliberately, without the peddling about of varied snake-oil and empty assumptions about the Washington-Damascus love-ins that would result but for that horrid Bashar.

The narrative, I'm afraid, is much more complicated than that. And it seems left to people like us, those who like to inject a dose of reality into our democracy exportation exuberances (think Fukuyamean cautionary notes), that have to play party pooper admist all the regime change fun and link-fests that get so many giddy. First off, for instance, let's keep firmly in mind that Syria is roughly 70% Sunni. Should Asad be pushed off-stage, it is not unlikely that a Sunni strong-man would take the reins. Would he be more favorably disposed to U.S. policy goals in Iraq? Color me skeptical. Next, keep in mind that many opposition forces in Syria, even those that are 'democratic' in nature, don't necessarily feel all warm and fuzzy when it comes to the U.S. Check out this old B.D. post from '03 for more on that score. There is also the long repressed Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, that Hafez Asad cracked down on with such viciousness in Hama in 1982 razing parts of the town (I've been there, and it still hasn't been reconstructed in full). This was a despicable and odious action, but let's not kid ourselves that the enemy of our enemy in this case is our friend: the Muslim Brotherhood is not going to play palsie-walsy with us, or our policy goals in Iraq, or our relationship with Israel, or pretty much the full panoply of Middle East positions we've often staked out over the years. These are just three (off-the-top-of-my-head) issues that we should consider, as we approach the Syria issue, with more seriousness than I've seen over in macho 'Damascus Spring!' land.

Look, are we at B.D. as frustrated as many others by Bashar's half-assed measures on the Syrian-Iraq border? You betcha. But regime change is not necessarily the panacea on this front. Until we have a credible opposition there, one we feel would materially impact U.S. national interests in beneficial manner if it assumed power, we need to work with the devil we've got. How to ratchet up the pressure? We've been doing a good job, alongside the French, on the UNSC/Lebanese front. I would also look for very stern responses, including providing diplomatic support to calibrated Israeli military ones on any remaining Syrian assets in Lebanon (but not in Syria proper), should Damascus open up the spigot on Hezbollah attacks over the Israeli border in the coming weeks in overly provocative fashion. And then, of course, there is the Mehlis report. As the issuance date of Dec 15 creeps up, a brief word. Anyone directly implicated in the murder of Rafic Hariri deserves the absolute opprobium of the international community. But rather than slap sanctions on the country writ large, which won't necessarily hurt elements within the regime and may stoke nationalist instincts instead, I'd suggest rather that those individuals directly implicated in Mehlis have a) all their financial assets frozen and b) a total ban on their right to overseas travel instituted. This is the kind of stuff that bites and bothers elites, not sanctions writ large that might well harm their country-folk (for whom they care little) more than the actual persons to blame for the cowardly and despicable murder of Hariri.

More on Syria around the time of the Mehlis report, as able...

Posted by Gregory at December 3, 2005 02:27 PM | TrackBack (0)
Comments

You people are unbelievable. Haven't you f*cked up enough for a while?

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim at December 3, 2005 03:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What's more shocking, however, is that there are ostensibly intelligent people in Washington who (with nary a clue who would replace Asad yet--without even an Ahmad Chalabi to float to Judy Miller for Christ's sake!) are increasingly loudly muttering on about how rosy a post-Asad future could be if we only had the courage to grab it like non-girlie men.

I don't know what is shocking about it. This has been the PNAC/neocon game plan all along. More critically, its clear that Bush himself is among those "ostensibly intelligent" people.

The fact is that its unrealistic to demand that Syria suddenly become more effective in controlling its border with Iraq. The "border" is, for most part, wilderness area, and the indigineous people (including nomadic tribes) that inhabit that area have probably never regarded that literal line in the sand as sacrosanct.

Why demand that Syria make its border less porous when the US can do so from the other side? Indeed, one need only look at the USA's ability to control its own borders to recognize the effort and expense that you are now demanding Syria undertake because the US screwed up in Iraq.

Posted by: lukasiak at December 3, 2005 04:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

how shocking, Greg, that you should come out for the status-quo/stability and against regime change becasue that might lead to chaos!

sarcasm off.

"diplomatic" status-quoists like you are "apologists for tyrants" who discount the terrible price being paid NOW (and for the last several decades) by Syrians and Lebanese and isaraelis because of the Batthist dictatorship and their police state.

It's NOT unlike the ravings from the left/doves who argue that Iraqis were better off under Saddam and IGNORE te fact that 400 mass graves have been uncovered in Iraq, each with more than 1000 MURDERED.

Your argument was made in defense of the USSR and the Taliban and so many other tyrants I cannot list them! It was wrong them and it is wrong now.

As Clinton used to say: Change is difficult to accept, but it is important.

And your argument is NOT made more credible by all the name-calling.

Have you no faith in Syrians!? Do you think them uninterested in freedom? Do you think them unable to acheive freedom?

It's racist, if you do.

Sure: there's a rpcie to pay. The Iraqis are paying it. All peoples do. As they sya: "Freedom isn't free."

I think we shouod be doing all we can to foment democratic revolution in Syria and Iran.

Will it create chaos? Probably. It's "creative destruction" and there's really no other way.

I would only argue that the TIMING of this is important, and we can focus our efforts in a way to try to make these revolutions occur when we are best equipped to manage the inevitable chaos which will temporarily follow.

It would be GREAT if Syrian Baathism was overthrown AFTER a final arrangement was achieved between Israel and the West Bank Arabs (an arrangement acceptable enough to allow other Arab nations to start diplomatic relations with Israel, and thus further isolate Syria and Iran).

It would be GREAT if the Iranian Mullah-archy was overthrown after that and after the North Korean situation was taken care of.

But it may not be possible to manage those situations so perfectly as to guarantee that.

In the meantime, we must keep our "regime change" policies in place against those three nations -- THE AXIS OF EVIL: Iran, Syria and North Korea, (and someday soon for Cuba, Zimbabwe and Venezuela, for good measure!).

And in regard to these dangerous and threatening tyrannies, Bush is pursuing a deft multi-level strategy which adeptly combines unilateral and multilateral diplomacy, as well as overt and covert miltary actions.

We pursue Assad via the UN and thre Harriri case. We pursue Iran via the EU-3+Russia and the Iranian nuke program. And we pursue Kimjongil via a regional mulitalteral diplomatic efforts.

The aim of these efforts is ostensibly containment, but it is REALLY MORE THAN THAT.

WHY?!

Because these three regimes are actively and offensively interfering with tha stability of the world! Syria and Iran are actively destablilizing Iraq and Israel. And NOKO is aiding them by helping them with their nukes and missiles - and by disatracting us, and forcing us to commit more miltary assets to THEIR region.

If we and they stay on the path we are on now, then things will get worse; the Axis will get stronger, and then it will be MORE difficult to defeat them.

So: The clock is ticking.

The time for regime change may come before it is MOST opportune, before we can best manage the chaos which might follow.

But that chaos is BETTER than lettying Syaria ruin Iraq and than letting iran go NUCLEAR!

If you would allow Iraq to fail and Iran to go nuclear you are a fool.

If Bush allows it, we are either doomed to dhimmitude, or a nuclear war.

YUP: I belive the jihado-extremists would certasinly use nukes. Folks who hijack jest and crash them inot skyscrapers and who stuff grenades in baby-dolls and take over schools and slaughter school-children and who commit gemocide against Shias in Basra and Hindus in India and Buddhists in Thailand WOULD CERTAINLY USE A NUKE.

That's what muts be avoided at all costs.

That is WORSE than a chaotic Syria.

And Syria's meddling in Iraq is a joint strategy with Iran which is INTENDED to distarct our ability to stop Iran from getting nukes.

A nuclear jihadoterrorist islamofascist Iran is the ultimate goal for our ENEMY, and IT'S OBVIOUS that Iran/Syria sponsored chaos in Israel, Jordan, Iraq and Afghanistan is how they intend to be able to continue with their program until its completeion. then they feel they will hold all the cards they need - the TRUMP CARD.

I think that democatic revolutioon in Syria and Iran would be the BEST way to stop them. Even if it did cause some chaos.

Maybe you think a pre-emptive unilateral military strike against Iran's nuke assets (by the "Little Satan" or the "Big Satan") would be better!?

I think we are trying to foment revolution in Iran and Syria in such a way as it would happen AFTER Iraq's democracy is installed and they have the LEAD role in their own defense: winter 2006-7.

But this MIGHT be too late.

Posted by: relaipundit at December 3, 2005 05:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Can't speak for Greg, but I'll tell you that I have no faith in Syrians. I think democracy is far too demanding a political system for their culture to sustain at this point. And I can appreciate why for the Israelis, political change in Syria is a subject to be approached with great caution.

One legacy of Hafez Assad's long rule in Damascus was a ceasefire along Syria's border with Israeli or, if you prefer, along the border between Syria and the territory on the Golan that it lost in 1967 and failed to regain in 1973. Assad had good reasons for instituting that ceasefire; difficult though his regime was in other areas, he maintained it until his death. Perhaps his son and the men around him share his analysis of the situation on the Golan; perhaps they have maintained the ceasefire with Israel there only out of inertia. Regardless, if the current Assad regime does destabilize and especially if it falls, that ceasefire is highly likely to be among the first casualties.

I am not one of those Americans prone to identify American interests with those of Israel. This, however, is one area where Israeli interests deserve to be assigned a very high priority in Washington. We have little more reason that the Israelis to want a dissolution of the ceasefire along the Syrian border, or to see various factions in the Syrian security services compete for public favor by advertising their aggressiveness toward Israel. If we knew that the collapse of the Assad regime would bring about a stable government in Damascus, cooperative on regional issues, that would be one thing. We do not know that, are not even close to knowing that -- which to me means that encouraging "regime change" in Syria had better not be more than a subject of idle talk in Washington.

Posted by: JEB at December 3, 2005 06:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I am strongly with JEB and Greg here. We have a lot on our plate at the moment and while we should continue our support for dissident groups in Syria (such as they are) and in Iran, and we should continue to look for diplomatic openings, it would present an impossible burden on our military and our resources to take on all of this at once especially when we could not count on any European support. While Luka may be right that the administration would like to see regime change in Syria, what you are hearing are trial balloons intended to maintain ambiguity as to our intentions. I have heard nothing that suggests that Syria is next other than dire warnings from the hysterical left. I can't imagine that the Joint Chiefs would not strongly resist anything that could possibly lead to military action at this time or indeed, for the near future in either Syria or Iran.

Further, I have seen no indication that the "opposition" in Syria has any potency at all. I think they are tolerated solely for international consumption and that junior would take them out in a minute if he thought it in his interest. In my view, the opposition is more pervasive among the youth of Iran and that country has more potential for regime change from within than Syria by a long shot.

Isreal also has a lot on its plate. I think Isreal, or at least Sharon has concluded that there is no point in attempting to settle the Palestinian matter by negotiations, for the Palestinians lack adequate political coherency. It seems clear now that Isreal has adopted a strategy of giving the Palestinians a state whether they want it or not. They will end up with boundries that are largely secure from an Isreali perspective and the world will see whether they can self govern. This is going to be a delicate situation requiring lots of Isreali resources and administrative attention. The risk of failure would be substantially enhanced were Syria to descend into chaos, as it surely would were junior eliminated.

As it is in our interest in terms of the larger project of encouraging change in the Middle East to have the Palestinian situation settled, we should listen to the Isrealis and instead of actively seeking regime change in Syria, we should focus on tightening up the border with Iraq and making the stakes so high that participation in infiltration will be discouraged. I agree with Luka that in a larger sense, controlling long and desolate borders is a very difficult task. However, that remains our best bet with Syria for the time being.

Posted by: Michael Pecherer at December 3, 2005 07:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

At this point, even Republican members of congress should be telling the admin to slow down on any new undertakings.

We have some gigantic messes to clean up first before we going blundering off on new (mis)adventures.

Posted by: meade at December 3, 2005 08:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Interesting post -- I would analogise to the troubling fact that we (at least the diabolical neocons) are more interested in the fate of North Koreans than the South Koreans are.
I'm writing this from the boonies of North Carolina, where even the dregs of Minnesota are considered hip and sophisticated, so I sure wouldn't want to expose too much of my yaboo instincts, but didn't even Dr. Condi Rice (a former faculty lounge lizard) try to make the distinction between blind committment to short-term stability and our long-term security? If we have encouraged the progressive forces of the region to rise up, aren't we reprising GHW Bush and the Shia to fall back on our gas station operators when momentum starts to build? Granted, we have enough on our plate, but I can guarantee if we hedge now on all of our flowery rhetoric we will pay a more painful price in the future. I also think there should be some attention paid to the distinction (admittedly in the eye of the beholder) of active and passive assistance to change-makers in this situation.

Posted by: wayne at December 3, 2005 08:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, I agree, the trouble with overthrowing Bashar is all of the likely replacements are at least as bad.

However, let me add in a couple of other factors. One is that Bashar is not just a tyrant, but has a habit of making foolish interventions outside Syria.

That ties to the second point, which is it is not just the US that is very unhappy with him. A number of Sunni-majority nations would like to see Bashar replaced (to give just one example, Saudi Arabia is upset because it had a very close relationship with Hariri). Also, France is pressuring Syria, with a lot of support from German, the EU, and the UN. All this is not just another nutty neo-con scheme.

Posted by: Les Brunswick at December 4, 2005 01:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Syria failing to controll its borders......yeah right. Whatever. Even the greatest nation on earth (US) can't control its borders with Mexico. What a sad ass excuse for making trouble with Syria.

Well Greg's honeymoon with the Bush admin and the neocons is officially over. Finally. So, it seems, is the nation's as a whole. The country, like Greg, went to bed with a lying whore and woke up with VD.

Finally something good is coming out of our relationship with Isreal. They're actually giving us level headed advice re: Syria regime change.

Meanwhile, the NRO gang - Ledeen the most vociferous - continues to push for regime change, by violence if need be, in Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia. I look forward to the day when the country tells these bitches to shut up and the lack of readership closes them down for good.

Posted by: avedis at December 4, 2005 02:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Overthrowing the Al-Asad regime would be incredibly stupid.

It's not racist to say that he needs to stay on top for a while. In fact, it's what most Syrians would tell you. They have no inclination whatsoever to reprise Iraq in their own homes.

Nor, as has been pointed out, does Israel need a shooting war right now. It has more than enough on its plate that needs resolution now. Syria is a low-grade fever, not a crisis for it.

And the Saudis, though pissed at Bashar, don't want him out of power, either. They can live with him and, probably, work with him, but they won't care at all of some of his top-drawer thugs start disappearing. As much as the Saudis may dislike the Syrian Ba'ath Party, they don't hate Syria or Syrians enough to cast them into the hell that is contemporary Iraq.

I think Greg is correctly identifying the morons here...

Posted by: John Burgess at December 4, 2005 04:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Donít forget to plug the Kurds into your Syrian equation. As I recall there was a spike of discontent there -- and elsewhere in the region -- around the time we were all focused on Lebanon. They are a disenfranchised minority, of course, but their cross-border connections are not just a Turkish concern.

Sovereign states have been the basic unit of western diplomatic thinking for so long that we have a difficult time truly grasping the underlying dynamics in this part of the world. Even those who tout the potential spread of democracy are still talking about dominoes -- just falling in the right direction this time -- when they should be thinking in waves, currents and eddies.

Posted by: Judith Hanes at December 4, 2005 09:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

John Burgess: "And the Saudis, though pissed at Bashar, don't want him out of power, either. They can live with him and, probably, work with him, but they won't care at all of some of his top-drawer thugs start disappearing."

You may be right about that. However, unfortunately Bashar has been responding to outside pressures by just tightening the screws domestically and appealing to Syrian's nationalism and pan-arabism.

I am not saying that therefore we should try to overthrow him. I really don't know what is the best course.

Posted by: Les Brunswick at December 5, 2005 12:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think the Syrian Ba'ath Party is just about the only group still interested in the idea of "pan-Arabism." There are a few Arab academics and journalists who still try to hoist that flag, but Arabs aren't buying it. They've seen quite clearly that pan-Arab institutions like the Arab League are ineffectual at best.

Even pan-Islamism is defunct for now. The OIC is meeting in Mecca right now to try to refashion itself as something with a function.

I surely can't offer 100% guarantees on what would happen if Bashar were to fall, but I'm confident enough to bet that it wouldn't be in our interest. As pro-American as the ordinary Syrian may be (and he is), the ordinary Syrian has learned to keep his mouth shut and his head down. The Family Al-Asad has stayed in power by balancing the fear of religious minorities, comprising about 1/3 of the population, against the Sunni majority. Those fears are still alive.

Again, though, no Syrian is going to welcome a chance to become the new Iraq.

Posted by: John Burgess at December 5, 2005 01:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"First off, for instance, let's keep firmly in mind that Syria is roughly 70% Sunni. Should Asad be pushed off-stage, it is not unlikely that a Sunni strong-man would take the reins. Would he be more favorably disposed to U.S. policy goals in Iraq? Color me skeptical. Next, keep in mind that many opposition forces in Syria, even those that are 'democratic' in nature, don't necessarily feel all warm and fuzzy when it comes to the U.S. Check out this old B.D. post from '03 for more on that score. There is also the long repressed Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, that Hafez Asad cracked down on with such viciousness in Hama in 1982 razing parts of the town (I've been there, and it still hasn't been reconstructed in full). This was a despicable and odious action, but let's not kid ourselves that the enemy of our enemy in this case is our friend: the Muslim Brotherhood is not going to play palsie-walsy with us, or our policy goals in Iraq, or our relationship with Israel, or pretty much the full panoply of Middle East positions we've often staked out over the years"

1. First off, you need to recheck the numbers. Yes 70% of syria is Sunni, but that included Syrian Kurds, at 15% of the population, and generally different politically from Sunni Arabs. So "minoritues" altogether make up almost 45% of the population. If youre going to go on about how stupid the neocons are, you might want to be aware of numbers like that.

2. Assad may well be pushed off by another strong man. That may well happen anyway. Promoting democracy would be an attempt to avoid such a scenario. Im not sure theres anything we can do to keep Assad on the throne, short of giving up on any pressure for further reform UNDER Assad - in which case why is Assad better than a successor

3. Or the MB might take over. So are you saying we should do whatever we can to avoid that prospect, even at the cost of promoting a dictatorship? Havent we learned what that does to us in the region, in the long term? As long as the MB is kept out of power, by force, they will have an appeal to the sunni street, and neither the MB nor the Sunni street will learn political responsibility.

4. Once in power, why shouldnt the MB work with us, IF its in their national interests to do so? The Eqyptian MB has already said they will abide by Egypts treaty with Israel. Maybe its time to deal with the principles, rather than let a Mubarak hide behind the fear of the MB? Why is it possible to jaw jaw with the govt of IRan, but not the MB?

5. Of course the Israelis are more cautious than we are. They have to consider the prospect that the US might not support them when they get in trouble. In Washington, presumably, we control our own policy and know better, and so can take chances that Israel cannot.


6. I find it very odd that someone who still has not admitted error on Gaza first, gaza last, who does not admit the chance Israel was taking by leaving Gaza and leaving open the possibility of a Hamas takeover, is so solicitous of the opinions of Israeli security officials. Which do you think more likely, a Hamas takeover in Gaza, or an MB takeover in post Assad Syria? Which would be more dangerous to Israel?


7. I am not, of course, advocating war with Syria (though I cant exclude situations where that might be necessary) But to refrain from pushing for justice on the Harrirri case, in order to keep Assad in power, strikes me as mistaken, and hubristic. We CANT control who or what comes to power in Syria - we SHOULD deal with Syria according to our principals, and the principals we want to spread in the region.

Posted by: liberalhawk at December 5, 2005 03:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

are you asking me to fisk you LH? don't have the time, sadly, but pls be advised playing spot the over-simplifications and errors and spin and so on in your seven-pointer wouldn't be too hard, my friend...but thx for playing in the sandbox...

p.s. pls stop chiming on tiresomely about 'gaza first, gaza last' as you are grossly distorting anything i've written on the subject. go here, for instance.

http://www.belgraviadispatch.com/archives/004709.html

and here http://www.belgraviadispatch.com/archives/004856.html i had merely referred to "speculation" about it.

sheesh!

Posted by: greg at December 6, 2005 03:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

oh, and what it in the world in my post could possibliy lead you to write that I'm " refrain[ing] from pushing for justice on the Harriri case..."

do you understand that for bashar's brother in law, say, almost nothing could sting more than having his assets frozen and right to travel banned?

Posted by: greg at December 6, 2005 04:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The best possible outcome would be one where Assad pulls a Qaddafi. I, for one, can see it as feasible.

Hell, for the matter, as far as American intervention, the best circumstances in which to perform it would be after Assad attempted some neuteured version of perestroika and got taken into custody by his own security forces.

There's no worthwhile opposition, so the goal has to be making Assad himself the opposition against his own security services.

A tough job, but it would be easier if we weren't bluffing with no cards, thanks to Iraq.

Posted by: glasnost at December 7, 2005 01:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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