by Barry Rubin
Listen how the administration's best expert on
Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Jeffrey Feltman is one of the smartest people in the administration's foreign policy hierarchy. As former
What's really fascinating is when smart people support administration policy in an honest way, since that shows just how thin the veneer is. My favorite was last September's New York Times editorial touting the great foreign policy achievements of the administration. All it could up with were closing
So in this vein, here's Feltman explaining
Good that he starts by pointing out how
What does he come up with? First, true they have perceived political interests in common but what about those cultural ties and economies? Regarding economies,
"But as with most partnerships, there are clear policy differences. With respect to
Well, they have a lot of policy similarities: They both want control over
We get into the dangerous area here of the United States trying to tell Syria's government what its interests are rather than seeing what the Syrian government thinks and then acting accordingly. Note how the
Helpful Hint: If those countries become moderate and democratic than those running them now will become imprisoned or dead. The truth is that
Well, that's true as far as it goes. But precisely because
I mean, what's the problem? When they hold joint meetings to plot anti-American terrorist attacks and Islamist takeovers in
"The goal of
"One way to do that is to demonstrate to Syria why it is clearly in Syria's national interests -- as well as ours -- for Syria to have better relations with its neighbors and the West and to end its support for terrorism and other actions that undermine peace and prosperity."
Right. But there is more than "one way" to demonstrate this idea. An alternative is to inflict high costs on
Feltman, I'm confident in asserting though I don't know him and have no inside information, understands everything I've written here is true. But as an administration official he has to say that stuff. The problem is that when we read his words we understand even better what's wrong with the strategy they're trying to sell. Of course, one could argue that
Once again, thank goodness for the Washington Post as a voice of sanity. It's latest editorial explains:
"Bashar al-Assad is proving to be an embarrassment for the Obama administration....The problem isn't that Mr. Assad is not getting the
Right, and how to make him listen? Do I need to tell you the old country joke about how to get a mule to listen?
The punchline is: You have to get his attention first. I'll leave you to fill in the rest.
But there's someone else listening:
So now the Egyptian government is starting to sound like it's moving closer to
The current Egyptian government doesn't like its Syrian counterpart for lots of reasons, some going back decades. The two countries have long been rivals for Arab leadership and
Why then all the sudden friendliness toward
Well, the Egyptians may conclude he's on the winning side. The
So the Egyptian foreign minister leaped to
The Egyptians aren't so naive. They have tried and failed to reconcile Hamas and Fatah, surely knowing that Syrian and Iranian backing for Hamas is a big part of the problem. They are worried about
Rather, their problem is that if the only superpower isn't going to stand up and support their interests while acting against the radicals, the Egyptian government better start building its own bridges. This is nothing compared to what's going to happen when
*The Alawites comprise only about 12 percent of
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.