Getting Syria Away From the Table

Without indulging in any speculation about whether or not it representsa message of some sort, and if so to and from whom, the Americanspecial ops strike on Syrian territory is likely to have severalconsequences. The first and probably most significant is to make aSyrian-Israel peace deal less likely. Syria might be powerless toretaliate for the humiliation of repeated violations of itssovereignty, but it still has some leverage in the neighborhood, andthis sort of thing won’t make Damascus very enthusiastic about givingit up, especially with the prospect of a Netanyahu government poised to take power in Israel.

That in turn clouds the broader regional picture,especially with regards to an eventual grand bargain between the U.S.and Iran. An Israeli-Syrian peace deal, like an Israeli-Palestiniandeal, are essential to driving a harder bargain for any regionalaccomodation of Iran. Matt Stone made a similar pointwith regards to the relationship between Israeli-Syrian negotiationsand Isreali-Palestinain negotiations at the Global Buzz last week, butthe general point holds as well:

Indeed, the strategy thatIsrael appears to be pursuing, and one that I agree with, is tonegotiate a peace accord with Syria first (for the Golan Heights,etc.), thereby diminishing the bargaining position of the Palestiniansand reducing both Iran and Hezbollah’s strength in the Levant. Syria inthis case appears to be the low-hanging fruit (well, as low as itsgoing to get in the Middle East) that ought to be picked before pushingforward on any Palestinian deal.

The effect of this weekend’s strike is to make that low-hanging fruithang just a little bit higher. (For those who do want to indulge inspeculation of who might be intending what with this strike, suffice itsay that Barack Obama is significantly taller than John McCain, butthere are limits to how high even he can reach.)

This sort of provocative attack also can’t do much to reassure the Iraqi government about itsability to restrain American forces in the event of an increasinglyunlikely SOFA deal before the end of the year.