Engaging with Syria
Beirut Daily Star opinion editor Michael Young argues that this week’s assassination of Lebanese industry minister Pierre Gemayel, most likely at the behest of the government of Syria, would seem to obviate talk about “engaging” that government as part of the solution to problems in the region.
If political “realism” is about interests, then realists must prove that a country that has ignored successive UN resolutions demanding Syrian non-interference in Lebanon could somehow be a force for stability in Iraq, to which it has funnelled hundreds of foreign fighters. Engaging Mr Assad over Iraq will mean the gradual return of Syrian hegemony over Lebanon, since neither the US nor the UK will be in a position to deny Syria in Lebanon while asking favours in Iraq.
He’s right that expecting Syria to be helpful in the current crises is foolish. I disagree, however, that it is “realists” who are proposing this.
Most realists, myself included, are incredibly skeptical of multilateral diplomacy outside the economic realm. The regime in Syria is going to do what it believes most maximizes its advantage. Given that the US and UK are currently in a position of weakness in the Middle East, it’s incredibly unlikely that Syria is going to be cooperative.