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Posted by on Mar 4, 2005 in At TMV | 0 comments

Syria’s Isolation Increases And Its Options Shrink

Syria’s realistic option list is getting smaller and smaller.

President George Bush is rejecting the idea of any kind of a pullout of Syrian from Lebanon except a total one — and also applauding Saudia Arabia for joining in the chorus of international voices clamoring for Syria to leave ASAP.

Syrian President Bashar Assad is expected to very soon announce a partial pulling back of Syrian troops, to Lebanon’s eastern border — an action that does not completely comply with the demands of many countries, including the United States. This would basically be a redeployment of troops.

But it doesn’t seem this is going to work: Assad tried end-run the United States and secure Saudia Arabian backing, which would have driven a wedge between the United States and Saudi Arabia. And the effort belly-flopped.

“Lebanon is a democracy,â€? Bush said. “Lebanon is a democracy, and we strongly support that democracy. I was pleased that Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia sent the very same message. The world is beginning to speak with one voice. We want that democracy in Lebanon to succeed, and we know it cannot succeed, so long as she is occupied by a foreign power. And that power is Syria.”

Bush’s comments came on the heels of Assad’s failed attempt to fly to the Saudi capital and get their backing as the international clamor grows for Syria to withdraw some 14,000 military and intelligence personnel in Lebanon.

But Syria is dragging its feet on a total withdrawal, Lebanese officials report:

Lebanese defence minister Abdul-Rahim Murad said Syria wants to keep some troops in the country on a long-term basis, saying a complete pullout of the troops will have to be negotiated between Lebanese and Syria governments.

What does all this MEAN?

  1. Syria is losing support rapidly. It has now been deserted by past allies such as Russia, France and now Saudi Arabia. Notes the BBC: “The most influential Arab states, notably Saudi Arabia and Egypt, can see the way the wind is blowing internationally. They feel they can no longer give tacit support to Syria’s continuing occupation of Lebanon.”
  2. Syria and Arab countries are likely to look for a face-saving exit to defuse this situation so it’d appear as if Syria is listening to other Arab countries rather than the United States. Again, the BBC:”While there is some sympathy for the Lebanese and their desire for freedom, there is no desire to see Syria humiliated. With an Arab summit due in Algiers on 22-23 March, the name of the game is to enable Syria to withdraw with at least some semblance of dignity…in accordance with an Arab plan..rather than as a result of international pressure.”
  3. Whatever Syria does, it’ll be looked upon as a vindication of U.S. foreign policy in the region because on various fronts it’s clear the wind is blowing in the direction of U.S. (particularly neocon) preferences.

All of these strands taken together suggest Syria is likely to be increasingly isolated as its options shrink — and as American policy makers subsquently conclude that their own policies are charted on the correct course and should be continued, or expanded.

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