Syria’s Perennial Diplomacy Ruse

On Friday in World Politics Review, Frida Ghitis explained why talks of peace between Syria and Israel are merely a show meant in fact to prolong the status quo:

There was a time when peace between Israel and Syria was a fairly simple problem to solve. That time is now past. Israel will not relinquish the Golan to a country that is closely allied with another nation, Iran, which calls for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” And Assad will not easily push away the one country, Iran, on which it can rely to ensure his hold on power.

In fact, both Israel and Syria have much to lose from a failed peace. That’s why in today’s circumstances, the prospects for peace look bleak. At the same time, the cost of war would be even higher, so that dark possibility also seems unlikely.

For now, the talk of peace is merely theater; a play aimed at prolonging the status quo.

Writing on Commentary magazine’s Contentions blog, Noah Pollak agrees. Like Ghitis, he believes Syria has no interest in abandoning its rather beneficial relationship with Iran in exchange for some sort of peace with Israel and/or a better relationship with the United States. Thus, the perennial talk of “flipping” Syria, as he puts it, is so much wishful thinking:

If you take a moment and think about this situation from the perspective of Syria, you’ll quickly understand why no breakthrough is in the offing.

If you are Bashar Assad, you’re in the enviable position of being the only Arab ally of Iran, which you believe will soon be the greatest regional power, and a nuclear one. You were recently forced out of Lebanon, but your ally Hezbollah is still there, growing in power, ensuring your political influence today and your return in the future. You provide aid and safe haven to Hamas, which gives you a strong hand not only in thwarting America and Israel in the peace process, but in manipulating Palestinian violence. Your minority Allawite rule is bolstered by the state of emergency that has been in effect since Israel took the Golan Heights in 1967. The only real problems you have to weather are isolation from the U.S. and Israel and some impotent resentment from the Arab states — and once Iran goes nuclear, that Arab resentment will magically turn into obsequiousness.

If you’re Bashar Assad, why would you give up your alliance to the ascendant power in the Middle East and the connections to the terror groups that ensure your ability to dominate your neighbors, in exchange for — what, exactly? Nice words from the Americans? Barack Obama might be president soon, so you’ll probably get those anyway.

Leaving aside whether his parting shot at Obama is fair, I find it hard to argue with his analysis of Assad’s interests.

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