Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Ambassador Imad Moustapha

The Ambassador of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United States, Imad Moutsapha, spoke this evening at a dinner at The Nixon Center. To encourage a free and frank converstation, the discussion was conducted on Chatham House rules, so I am not at liberty to provide any sort of transcription of what was said.

I was again struck by the distinction that Layne discusses between deterrence and compellence, and the extent to which the distinction between diplomacy and command is being blurred. How do we get a state to change its policies, and what are we willing to put on the table, and what bargains are we willing to strike, and what power are we prepared to use (along with paying the attendant costs). I fear that an approach of asserting our moral superiority, laying out "what needs to be done" and then assuming it all goes according to plan is not going to pay dividends.

The ambassador did put one anecdote on the record, which might substantiate a point I raised on Monday. He said that he was told by a senior Congressional figure that if Syria would do the heavy lifting in disarming Hezbollah, then the U.S. would recognize Syrian primacy in Lebanon, a quid pro quo arrangement. I don't know whether that Congressional personage was serious or not, but it does raise the qeustion as to whether some sort of grand bargain built upon a series of overlapping compromises might have been in the cards.

The question is, do we want to change Syrian policy and behavior or do we want to change the regime? The follow-up question is whether the current regime is prepared to change its policy if given the proper incentives.

This then leads to whether positive or negative incentives are the best way forward.
Weekly Standard makes regime change seem so darn easy!
The single absolute worst option on the table is granting Syria primacy in Lebanon.

Better that it be in Hizballah's hands than in Syria's hands. I'm all for talking to Syria, but Hizballah, for all its delusions, is not running a totalitarian state in Lebanon. Syria was and will again if allowed.

Hizballah has at least a shot into evolving into something no worse than Venezuela. The Syrian regime, however, will only decay and collapse.. into something ugly and dangerous. Give them Lebanon back, and seal Lebanon's fate as the same.

Not only that, but empowering Syria in Lebanon is the same thing as empowering Hizballah.

better to give the Golan back than to give them Lebanon.

Jordan W.
An interesting suggestion, particularly the assumption that Hezbollah in Lebanon could evolve into something "no worse than Venezuela" given the anti-Chavez sentiment in DC--and it follows the logic of Reuel Marc Gerecht who argues we need to endure the "fever" of elected Islamist regimes to move the politics of the region forward.
If Reuel Marc Gerecht argues: "we need to endure the "fever" of elected Islamist regimes to move the politics of the region forward" then why is he advocating a war with Iran? Methinks that he is talking from both sides of his mouth.

Enduring this "fever" actually does make sense. But its possible adoption will have to wait for teh next president.
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