IF SYRIA HAD A WISH LIST
By Micah Halpern
Monday October 17, 2005
If Syria had a wish list, what would top the list?
If you ask the United States, the response would be that Syria wants the United States to lift their economic sanctions so that Syria could have increased wealth. And with that bonanza in mind the United States has begun pressuring, diplomatically strong arming, Syria to change their ways.
Believe me, lifted sanctions and increased wealth are not top of the list from Syria's point of view. Syria could care less about sanctions and Bashar Assad is quite wealthy already, thank you. Syria cares about power, not possessions.
So what does the United States really want from Syria? Why the pressure? It's not a short list and it contains nothing the Syrians want for themselves. The United States wants Syria to:
What's in this for Syria? Not much at all. But George Bush seems to think otherwise, he thinks that he has devised a workable framework. He's spoken about the pressure and openly and publicly laid out his plan.
President Bush can say whatever he wants but his words prove that rather than understanding the pressures under which Syria responds, he is imposing Western thinking and Western pressure on a country that is as anti-West as they come. At best, Bush is creating a situation that will stalemate, at worst a situation that will menacingly backfire.
In essence, the United States is asking Syria to turn over Syrians and to turn their backs on the very terror groups that they themselves have helped strengthen over the years.
Syria is too proud to take on such a bold step. They would never succumb to such extreme demands. One of the most essential components of any agreement with an Arab country is a provision for them to save face. Give and take is the unwritten bylaw of negotiations with Arab nations. And in this proposal, give and take is sorely, glaringly, missing.
If the United States had read the Handbook on Negotiating with Arabs they would have begun the process by asking the Syrians what they want, what they really want. But the United States did not do that. And now, it's too late.
In an effort to soften the pressure, President Bush is likening his Syrian campaign to his dealings with Libya's Muammar Khadaffi. The United States is asking Syria to adopt the "Khadaffi Model," while in fact, there is no common ground between the expectations the United States had for Libya and the expectations they have for Syria.
Khadaffi was asked to give up his unconventional weapons. He complied. At least we think he fully complied. It was a no brainer. No one was involved but Khadaffi. He showed the United States where his weapons of mass destruction were stored and the United States dismantled and transported them. There was no embarrassment, there was no loss of honor. On the contrary, it showed that Khadaffi was a player and he knew how to play with the big leagues. They were happy, he was happy.
Where's the comparison?
Now get this: In addition to pressuring Syria, the United States has asked Israel to let them handle things, to stop worrying and most importantly, to stop Israeli pressure on Syria.
Now hear this: Israel is involved whether or not the United States wants them involved.
Syria is an existential threat to Israel. Israel must monitor everything that happens in Syria. At times Israel must send messages to Syria making it clear that certain actions and behaviors will not be tolerated.
If Syria had a wish list what would top the list? Stability and continuity. High praise from other Arab and Muslim leaders. Pride. Power. Honor and face. The rest, be damned.