OAKLAND, Calif., Sept. 26, 2007After years of threatening and isolating Syria, President Bush recently expressed interest in engaging President Bashar al-Assad in diplomacy.
In his new Independent Policy Report, A Diplomatic Road to Damascus (The Independent Institute / October 2007), Independent Institute Research Fellow Leon Hadar lauds this overdue policy reversal, stressing that, Constructive relations between Washington and Damascus could prove useful in advancing U.S. interests on a number of fronts.
In the past, the Bush administration has depicted Syria as part of a regional Iran-led coalition. In addition to assisting Syrian opposition groups, the U.S. has imposed sanctions to compel Syria to reverse its course with Lebanon and withdraw its support of Palestine. Instead of portraying this diverse nation and its secular leadership as advocates of Islamo-Fascism and opponents of the Freedom Agenda, the United States should take a more collaborative approach, says Hadar.
A sensible U.S. policy would involve co-opting not isolating Syria, he argues. Open dialogue will encourage Syrian officials to continue cooperating with U.S. agencies in pursuing al-Qaeda. It will also strengthen reformist forces within the country, which will foster better integration into the global economy. Hadar notes that additional benefits could include a more positive future for Iraq, long-term prospects for a viable state in neighboring Lebanon, and progress toward peace between Israel and Palestine. Finally, focusing on our common interests will shift the regional balance of power away from Iran.
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