Presidential hopefuls sound-off on Syria

Jpost’s excellent Road to the Whitehouse series continues with a sound-off on Syrian strategies. The hopefuls are mostly Democrats, along with a single Republican John McCain weighing in on possible future Syrian policy..

Over 7o% of Americans polled by Gallup strongly supported Israel in the recent conflicts with Lebanon, over 60% of Americans polled strongly supported Israel in contrast to the Palestinians at 15%, these are not numbers you trivialize as a campaign manager in a presidential election, there’s also the small matter of working with the Govt. itself which save for about 10 members is almost unanimously solidly in the block with Israel across both houses, so foreign policy in the region is of paramount importance to these candidates.

What is interesting to note is the lack of enthusiasm for any Israel / Syrian peace overtures in the statements below, contrasted to the weak but vocal & small minority in Israel who advocate Syrian rapprochement, despite the recent intelligence which suggest Israel is concerned and even acknowledging the possibility of armed conflict with Syria at any time (YNET – Syrian rockets aimed at Tel-Aviv)

JPOST: Which Assad do you believe? The one who threatens war or the one who says he wants to make peace?



So far, the Syrian regime has given all the wrong answers. It is providing help and safe harbor to Iraqi insurgents. It continues to arm and assist terrorist groups such as Hizbullah (directly or as a transit point for Iranian shipments). Its support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad threatens Israel’s security and undermines efforts to move toward a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is seeking to destabilize the government of Fuad Seniora in Lebanon, perpetrating political assassinations and instigating acts of violence that could trigger another civil war. Its close ties to Iran add to the threat posed by that regime. Meanwhile, it has resisted any hint of political or economic reform, clinging to an archaic and repressive system of single-party rule. [...]

I would engage Syria in direct bilateral talks. We should insist on our core demands: cooperation in stabilizing Iraq; ending support for terrorist groups that threaten Israel; and respect for Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence. We should make plain there are two paths ahead: greater engagement, improved political ties and economic cooperation or greater isolation through imposition of the full range of sanctions in the Syria Accountability Act which will make it difficult for companies and financial institutions that do business in Syria to continue to do business in the US. In this process, we should work closely with our European partners; incentives and disincentives will be far more effective if the EU is on board. [...]

Obama acknowledges that until now Syria has basically resisted moving or reforming on its archaic positions, support for terrorism, troublesome meddling in Iraq etc.. but proposes further engagement, worse yet of the multilateral EU carrot & stick type which to date as evidenced with Iran, N Korea. and pretty much everywhere else has been a dismal failure, hardly encouraging. Obama proposes a weakening US position, bilateral dialog, all the BS buzzwords. But sitting down in front of Assad will not magically reveal things Assad doesn’t already know, he’s aware of the US position right now and is thumbing his nose at it – I’m not quite sure how cozying up to Assad solves anything at all..


The Syrian regime led by President Bashar Assad is a repressive dictatorship that has attempted to destabilize the Lebanese government, supports terrorist groups including Hizbullah and Hamas and has played host to many of Israel’s sworn enemies. Moreover there are reports that foreign fighters in Iraq have used Syria as a transit point.

I supported exerting greater pressure on the Assad regime including co-sponsoring the Syria Accountability Act that passed Congress and placed additional sanctions on Syria.

In addition, I have long argued that diplomatic discussions with Syria can aid our efforts to assess and ameliorate their behavior, including such important interests as preventing the transit of foreign fighters into Iraq and the spread of sectarian violence.

Hillary is pretty much mirroring Obama, and both are talking tough regarding the Syrian accountability act – I’m as usual left wondering why the Bush admin. is not pushing harder to implement those clauses in light of the strong congressional support the bill holds. One difference though subtle is despite the dialog, Hillary is cooler in regards to the carrot & stick motif, at least she leaves out the EU.

Of the rest, Biden & Edwards are weakest, and of course McCain takes the harder line; The US and the international community must face Syria from a position of strength and apply real pressure on the Assad regime to change its dangerous behavior in the region.

There’s contradiction for me in the Democratic position which is seeking a stronger hand regarding the accountability act / sanctions, but looking for dialog. If you are imposing sanctions it means dialog is going nowhere fast. It strikes me that if Assad really wants to talk, he can pick up the phone at any time or visit the American embassy in Damascus for a chit chat, the World’s superpower needs to hold a harder line imho – not legitimize Assad through bilateral Pelosi style peace missions while he props up Hezbollah & insurgents..

Doing so would only buttress Assad’s already evident stall tactics while he carries out detrimental activity to US foreign policy in the region.