ANALYSIS: Détente with Syria

The Syrians are back

The report of UN prosecutor Serge Brammertz on the Harriri assassination came out last week. Not only did it fail to name any Syrian suspects (contrary to original reports in 2005) but also praised Syria’s cooperation in the UN probe. Simultaneously, the US Department of State did not veto a United Nations technological grant to Syria, to be used for sophisticated surveillance by the Customs Department, knowing that the equipment will be coming from Cisco Systems. Cisco received a special export license from the US Department of Commerce to ship routers, switches, and high-tech equipment to Syria.

The US has been accusing Syria of supporting the insurgency in Iraq, destabilizing Lebanon, and honeymooning with Iran. Why the sudden change?

In fact, the thaw has been under way for some time. It started with a Syrian-US meeting at a regional conference on Iraq back in March 2006. The Americans reasoned that in order to achieve stability in Iraq, they had to deal with either Syria or Iran.

Dealing with both was too difficult for the Bush White House, and continuing to sideline both was equally destructive. It was easier to talk to Syria than Iran, the Americans reasoned, since Syria was reasonable and did not have a history of anti-Americanism. This new perception led to a groundbreaking encounter between Foreign Minister Moualem and his US counterpart Condoleezza Rice. [complete article]

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