by Firas Maksad
When the Obama administration came to power, it began to dismantle the diplomatic "box" that had been built around
International concern with
It's hardly a message problem. More
Further insight into Assad's thinking surfaced this month when Hezbollah leaked to a Lebanese daily that its leader actually asked Assad if he was "capable of handling the international pressure that will ensue from the publication of the picture" showing the two of them together. The Syrian president reportedly replied: "I've handled heavier loads before; this will be an easy lift."
Such reckless, triumphalist thinking seems to have struck a nerve. Signs of a tougher
And it didn't stop there. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made equally strong public statements, demonstrating that alarm over
It's important to note that the Obama administration's frustration is not unique.
On May 2, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who has visited Syria about 20 times since taking office, expressed concern over the Syrian effort to provide Hezbollah with an ever-growing and increasingly sophisticated "stockpile of weapons." He described the situation as "dangerous and serious," demanding that
According to Arab media, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah is equally disappointed and sent an envoy to Damascus in late April to express concern over Syria's behavior, including Assad's withdrawing support for Iyad Allawi, the Saudi and Western-backed Iraqi prime ministerial candidate.
Similarly, a reconciliation summit between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Assad scheduled to take place before last month's Arab League summit was put off. Speculation is rife about when the meeting will be held, if at all. Assad's deepening ties to
The Obama administration will not be alone should it continue its tougher, more balanced approach with
Through active multilateral diplomacy with European and Arab allies, the administration can again raise the opportunity cost for
Firas Maksad is a Washington-based Middle East analyst and advocate for
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