Saturday, March 17, 2007

What's behind the American/European policy shift towards Syria?

A Good Article
By Salim Nazzal

Al-Jazeerah, March 17, 2007

".....Muhammad Al-Zubaidi, a veteran Palestinian politician well-acquainted with the Syrian political scene, warns against what he describes as over-optimism at such meetings. >From his perspective, nothing has changed in the situation regarding the three primary Middle Eastern problems, Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon, to raise expectations unduly. The USA and Europe still accuse Syria of providing support to the resistance movements in these countries. Al-Zubaidi postulates that the recent political moves are being made by Bush as a tactical step to win the support of the "Iraq study group" which, to find an honorable exit for the Americans bogged down in Iraq, advocates opening dialogue with Syria and Iran. Bush desperately needs the support of the Democrats and the sceptical Republicans in Congress to continue his policy of sending more soldiers to Iraq and probably to bomb Iran. Last week's speech by the American military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, insisting that there is no military solution to events there, has given more support to the increasing skepticism among senior American politicians about the war in Iraq, contradicting the arrogant and hubristic language of the neoconservative team during the invasion. If there is a relation between the shifts in American and European policy towards Syria, Al-Zubaidi is unsure whether these policy shifts were consciously coordinated, but since Europe has not so far adopted any independent policy stance towards the Middle East, it is hard to believe that such a change in attitude is entirely unrelated to the change in the Americans' approach, even if the two were not systematically coordinated.

In the view of more sceptical observers, the American and the European policy change towards Syria is an attempt to isolate Syria from Iran at this critical time, when pressures are being increased on Iran regarding its nuclear power program. According to this view, the Americans have pressurized Israel to accept, at least for the time being, the Saudi Arabia peace initiative (after separating it from the right of return issue which is the main issue in the Palestinian question ) adopted by the Arab League summit in Beirut in 2002, which it has consistently refused to recognize to date.

From this viewpoint, Bush is primarily concerned at present with exerting more pressure on Iran, with the visit to Syria seen as part of isolating Syria from Iran in his efforts to prepare the political ground for launching a strike against Iran. However regardless of the reasons behind these recent policy shifts, the American approach towards solving the Middle Eastern problems remains, in essence, the same as before. The diplomatic maneuvering must not blind Arabs from seeing the negative results of American policy in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon, nor blind them to perceiving the possible very real dangers which lay ahead."

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