Fadi | Academic The Gulf
November 2nd, 2007

Re: ‘Syria's foreign policy

I’ll attempt to provide a brief review of the nature of the relationship between each of the eight counties with Syria and present brief reflections on the route these relationships might be heading in the coming few years. To simplify this complex exercise, the countries listed could be grouped into three main categories with regards to their ongoing relationship with Syria in the last few years: Friendly, Neutral and Hostile. This categorization could help readers grasp the context of regional policies followed by Syria and by each of the countries towards it:

Friendly Countries:

a- Turkey: A Genuine Ally: Among the eight listed countries, Turkey is the newest to join the “Friendly countries” category. Despite the fact that Syria‚??s friendly relationship with Turkey has only been established in the last seven years, the magnitude of cooperation between the two countries has organically widened impressively in a relatively short period of time. More importantly, the relationship between the Syrian and Turkish peoples has been restored to its natural levels that prevailed historically before the Iskenderun and the Kurdish PKK issues emerged as the defining factors of Syrian-Turkish relations. The two countries have numerous mutual interests on the strategic geopolitical and economic levels. For example, Turkey considers Syria its natural gateway to the Arab market as well as its southern ‚??strategic depth‚?Ě. Turkey also has a strategic interest in having a strong and stable Syria to avoid any possible threat from Kurdish separatists in the south. In addition, the APK‚??s policy towards Syria is influenced by the romantic ‚??Ottoman dream‚?Ě of regaining historic regional influence in the Arab world. From Syria’s side, a strong economic and diplomatic ties with Turkey is vital.

b- Iran: Strategic “Marriage of convenience”: Iran‚??s relationship with Syria has been repeatedly described as a ‚??marriage of convenience‚?Ě. In reality it is proved to be a long-term strategic “marriage” for both countries. This will continue and develop in the near future. Iran has been in the “friendly” category since the Islamic revolution. The two nations‚?? relationship has reached a level where concrete mutual benefits on the economic, political, military and strategic levels will keep this marriage intact despite all Arab regional and external attempts to force Syria into a “divorce”.

c- Russia: Matured Friendship: Russia has historically always been “Friendly” towards Syria. The quagmire of the US in Iraq have encouraged Russia to form a closer approach towards Iran and Syria. Putin’s policy of regaining a foothold in the Middle East will continue to play to the benefit of both countries. Syria will continue to depend on Russian military technology without the need to provide Russia with much in return as it will continue to gain from the closer Iran-Russia cooperation.

Any real military threat towards Syria would only strengthen Syria‚??s relationships with Iran, Turkey and Russia. Iran and Turkey have existential interest in a strong Syria: For Turkey these interests are mainly related to Kurdish separatists, secularism and the Iskenderun. For Iran, these interests are mainly related to Syria‚??s influence in Iraq and Lebanon (and their Shia‚??a majority). Both countries will do their best to see no “regime change” taking place in Syria and they will invest heavily in keeping Syria stable. Syria has to pursue an even closer Syrian relationship with Turkey. This might help push forward both the economic reform and -to a lesser extent- democracy in Syria. If Turkey was to finally enter the EU, Syria would gain access to the European market. If the EU continues to continue snubbing Turkey, this would serve in pushing Turkey even more closely to Syria. Almost all possible regional scenarios would lead to strengthening Syrian-Turkish relations on the economic and diplomatic levels. With regards to Iran, the least developed aspect of the Syrian-Iranian relationship is surprisingly the economic one. Expanding this aspect will only be natural given the mutual agreement on other regional policies. Overcoming the barriers to such economic cooperation will be the challenge faced by both governments. The mission of Syria’s foreign policy in the next few years is to keep all three countries in this “Friendly” group and strengthening its relationship with them.

Neutral Countries:

a – Egypt: Diminishing Leadership: Since the Iraq war in 2003, the Egyptian regional foreign policy had been characterized by “apathy”, with many similarities with the Chinese model: Focus on internal stability, economic development and reform while abandoning any effective regional role on the geopolitical front. This choice of regional policy -or lack of- allowed the Egyptian leadership to balance between external and internal pressures. With regards to Egyptian policy towards Syria, the benefits of this neutrality to the Egyptian leadership are two folds: By shifting itself from the “Friendly countries” group towards the “Neutral” one, this neutrality helps Egypt avoid external pressures by the US (through the US aid “carrot”). Also, by not following the Saudi route vis a vis Syria (through obediently implementing anti-Syria policies) and not shifting directly to the “Hostile” group, this neutrality also helped the Egyptian leadership avoid internal anti-US pro-Syria popular pressures. Since Hamas came to power, Egypt has abandoned its last regional card by the diminishing influence on Fatah and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. On the other hand, Syria‚??s role on this front has expanded with Hamas gains. Historically Egypt has not been that irrelevant on the regional arena since the decay of the Fatimid empire and the rise of the Ayyubid dynasty almost a millennium ago.

b – France: The Return of the Realist: Since president Sarkozy replaced Chirac as president, France‚??s attitude towards Syria and president Assad has moved into from “Hostile” to “Neutral” position. There‚??s still no love lost between the two presidents but the two countries are increasingly exchanging diplomatic gestures. Even the Chirac era‚??s ‚??do not meddle in Lebanon‚?Ě pre-condition to talking with Syria seems not to be on the table as France has decided to engage Syria even on Lebanon presidential elections. A dramatic change from just a year earlier when Chirac allegedly encouraged Israel to attack Syria during the Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006. On the economic and developmental levels, France did not stop supporting Syria‚??s reform and development process even during the period when France policies toward Syria were primarily driven by Chirac’s emotions on the Hariri affair.

Egypt and France will not change their neutral position towards Syria in next few years. This said however, a looming Syria-Israel war (or a wider regional US-Iran-Israel-Syria war) could potentially force Egypt to flex its regional muscles under internal public sentimental pressure and boost support to Syria on the diplomatic and maybe the military levels. Such a war might also have a counter-effect on France’s neutrality towards Syria under pressure by the US. From its part, Syria cannot do much to shift either Egypt or France to the ‚??Friendly‚?Ě category. The relation between Syria and either country mainly depends on many regional factors beyond Syria‚??s control, namely: the US aid to Egypt, the Hariri investigation, the situation in Palestine, internal EU power struggles and President Mubarak‚??s successor.

Hostile Countries

a – Saudi: Tacit and Externally Influenced Rivalry: Historically, Saudi’s relationship with Syria had never been genuinely friendly. Saudi has historically been in the “Neutral” category towards Syria with occasional shifts to the “Friendly” category. Some successful periods of collaboration over common interests had taken place during the past 60 years, but the key deciding factor in this relationship always was the level of direct US involvement in the region. Recent history suggests that the more US involvement in the region, the less friendly the Syrian-Saudi relation will get. As a de facto rule with few exceptions, the Saudi leadership will always favor being obediently close to the US administration regardless of who is in power in both countries. The US has two key strategic goals in the Middle East: Oil and Israel. Historically, Saudi had accommodated the US on both for decades through strong patronage with regards to the oil sector (read Aramco) and strategic behind-closed-doors compromises on US-Israel regional policies. Saudi’s policies towards Syria are also driven by ideological rivalry and sectarian superiority complex. For the group of more sectarian-minded and ideological branch of policy makers around the Saudi king, Iran’s influence is what drives Saudi’s policies toward Syria. The increase of Iran’s influence in the region will only drive Saudi to follow more extreme anti-Syria policies.

b- Israel: Deeply Rooted Mutual Animosity: From Israel’s strategic perspective, the only remaining obstacle to an Israeli regional hegemony is Syria (including the ‚??rejectionist‚?Ě movements affiliated with it). The numerous peace offensives toward Israel launched by president Assad since coming to power have repeatedly been met with aggressive and violent responses from Israel. No Syrian leader can accept the unrealistic Israeli preconditions to peace that are presented to Syria, not only from a national perspective but as a matter of political survival as well. Having all the Golan back is the only way that will allow Syria to shift its relationship with Israel to the “Neutral” group. Even then, if this was not coupled with a reasonable (or temporary) solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the new relationship will remain fragile.

c- USA: Ideological Hostility: I will not elaborate on the US relationship as it requires an article on its own, but the current neo-con influenced administration has shifted the US from the somewhat “Neutral” category (during Clinton and Bush senior eras) to the “Hostile” one on par with Israel.

The US-Saudi relationship interchangeably influence both countries’ policies towards Syria. Saudi’s relationship with Syria is primarily dependant on the US attitude towards Syria. If a more neutral attitude is to be followed by the next US administration, then Saudi’s relationship with Syria will improve, regardless of how much influence Iran will still possess in the region and regardless of any developments on the Lebanese arena. Until then, Saudi and Syria will continue to exploit the Lebanese sectarian and tribal system to pick on each other. Qatar gets an honorable mention here. Since Saudi decided to push for full take-over of Lebanon from Syria after Hariri died, Syria seems to have decided to strengthen bonds with Qatar which has been acting as a painful “thorn” on the side of Saudi’s regional policies for obscure reasons (many assume that it is as a tribal act of “revenge”). This is Syria’s limited but annoying way of saying to Saudi “You try to take-over our backyard, we’ll make friends with the rebel in your neighborhood that dares threatens your hegemony in the gulf”. Depending on how the Hariri fiasco will end, Saudi is most likely to stay in the “Hostile” group with occasional shifts to the “Neutral” one.

Conclusion

Syria’s challenge in the near future is to try to shift the countries from the “Hostile” and “Neutral” categories into the “Friendly” one. Israel and the current US administration on the other hand, will persistently try to do the opposite by forcing these countries -through using carrots, sticks or both- to follow the most extreme anti-Syria policies possible (even if it is against those countries’ own interests). The extent of their success in persuading such countries to follow anti-Syria policies would depend on complex sets of factors. For example, despite their best diplomatic, military and economic attempts, Israel and the current US administration was only able to win Saudi to the “Hostile” group from the “Neutral” one. Shifting Egypt to the “Neutral” category from the “Friendly” one was a limited success. On the other hand, Syria’s major win was shifting Turkey from the “Hostile” to “Neutral” and then quickly to the “Friendly” category in a relatively short period of time. For the objective reader trying to understand how the power struggle in the region functions, this somewhat simplified framework makes it easier to understand the dynamics that govern the complex relationships between these countries.

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39 Responses to the Article

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

The analysis makes the basic mistake of equating Syria with the Asad regime and assuming that the interests of both are the same.

nihad Says:

nice pieceand good analysis.

Mazen Says:

The real mistake is to equate the Zionist movement with the Jewish people, and to assume that the two want the same thing.

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

It is only antisemites like you that equate Israel with the Jewish people.

Israel is a democracy. Syria is a police state. Deal with it.

Mazen Says:

We are Semites. We cannot be antisemitic. And by resorting to the WMD of accusing people of antisemitism just to shut them up, you prove my point that you have no real argument.

We are not anti Jewish either. And yes, sir, Israel does claim to speak in the name of the Jewish people and calls itself the Jewish State. I’m not coming up with this stuff, you know. Really.

I’ll give you that Israel is a democracy as far as its Jewish citizens are concerned. But not its Arab “citizens”. However, democracy is not a magic mop that is capable of cleaning all the racist and inhuman work a country does.

idaf Says:

AIG,

How exactly does this article equate Syria’s interest with regime interest?!

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

Idaf,

Assuming that most Syrians are just like most Americans or most Israelis or most Chinese, what they would like is economic growth, employment opportunities, life without fear, rule of law, freedom, and a better future for their kids. I think these rank much higher in priorities for most Syrians than the Golan or the Palestinian issue.

Therefore, a Syrian foreign policy that was really for Syria would reflect those priorities. But the current Syrian policy is targeted at keeping Bashar in power and not at bettering the life of the average Syrian.

What Syria needs is excellent economic ties with both the West and the Gulf. That is where the economic opportunities and technology advances lie. Asad pursues a policy that is 180 degrees opposite in order to stay in power.

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

Mazen,

Maybe you are not anti-Jewish but certainly the Syrian regime is. There were 30,000 Jews in Syria in 1947, now there are less than 30 or 10. There was a clear policy in Syria of getting rid of its Jews. You support this policy and the Asad regime. What does it say about you?

Democracy is a way to insure that Syrians achieve their full potential as human beings. I never said it was a method of insuring an “enlightened” foreign policy. Your problem is that you excuse the Syrian police state based on its foreign policy. How wraped is that?

And by the way, the 1.2 million Arabs (20% of the population) that are Israeli citizens have much more rights than the average Syrian and are 6-7 times richer.

Mazen Says:

That is not true about Syrian Jews. There were never policies of exiling them and they are welcome back. Check your facts.

Alex Says:

AIG,

I will remind you again that you are blind when there is a piece of information that does not fit with your dogmatic way of seeing things … I explained to you a million times that “the Assads” do not hate Jews .. that Syrian Jews themselves like the Assads … Bashar met with their leaders from NJ in 2004 and they promised him they will all be his ambassadors in the Untied States … if THEY liked him so much after talking to him in his office for two hours, how can you continue to make up accusations that the Syrian regime does not like Jews? … maybe you are smart and they are all naive? .. maybe I am a liar and Mazen does not know, but YOU know everything?

If you want to dig a couple of negative statements (like the Tlass statement) to prove the Syrians are antisemitic, you can. But be consistent … because that same tactic if applied elsewhere will make you reach many other unhappy conclusions … and make you more paranoid.

I know you want to build your whole case on Bashar’s one bad statement when he received the pope (I told you about it, by the way), but … did you read this part of the Haaretz story I linked above about the survey in America?

The survey found that 31 percent of participants believe Jews are more loyal to Israel than America, down from 33 percent in 2005, and that 27 percent believe Jews were responsible for the death of Christ, down from 30 percent in 2005.

at the time, 30% of Americans said the same thing Bashar said … does that make America Antisemitic? … 30% is quite mainstream.

idaf Says:

AIG,

You are not making any sense. The article’s conclusion calls for Syria to “shift the countries from the ‚??Hostile‚?Ě and ‚??Neutral‚?Ě categories into the ‚??Friendly‚?Ě one.” Clearly this is in Syria’s interest regardless who’s in power. You do have a selective reading problem as Alex suggested.

On the Golan, you either are in total denial or really lack basic understanding of what people in Syria want or do not want. Majority of Syrians will tell you that the Golan and economic prosperity are “equal priorities” on their list. This case would be the same regardless if the regime is democratic or not.

However, if it makes you sleep better at night if you keep telling yourself that Syrians are not interested in regaining the Golan and that this is only the “regime’s interest” then your arguments will keep making less and less sense.

You keep lecturing Syrians on what they should and should not think. Clearly you possess the ultimate knowledge with regards to how Syrians think… What kind of superiority complex is this?

PS. I won’t be surprised if you would now start calling me an “anti-Semite” as well after I implied that you have a superiority complex. Apparently from your earlier arguments with other people in this forum and SC, calling people names is your only method of arguing…. Pathetic.

naim Says:

It is clear that AIG has hijacked this forum and changed to one issue of democracy instead of forign Syrian policy debated between Syrians , I think it is time to make him stand on the sideline.

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

Thank you for the lesson in freedom of speech Naim. And the issue is which foreign policy will help democratization and economic progress in Syria, because that is what will really help Syrians.

Alex Says:

AIG,

Yes, economic progress in on our minds .. and hopefully democracy will be on the minds of many Syrians next year .. when a new administration calms things down in our neighborhood.

Avoiding a regional war is our priority these days … unlike you, we do not have 200 nuclear bombs … so we are not looking forward to a military tournament between Israel, Syria, Iran and the United States.

If you want to understand Syrians … think “balance, patience, and prudence… Every time you assume some extreme, you are probably wrong.

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

Alex,
I don’t care what is on your mind. I care what you plan to do. What are your plans to get democracy and economic growth in Syria?

And why wait till the US administration changes? Sounds like another excuse. If there will be a war will be decided by Iran, US and Israel mostly. What does this have to do with Syria and why is it an excuse not to start democratization? And what administration are you expecting in the US? If it is a republican one, nothing has changed. If it is Clinton nothing has changed. Are you betting on Kucinich? Or on Biden that is for breaking up Iraq? Or perhaps Obama? Don’t you remember Pelosi visitng Asad? No one has illusions about him any more and the US position is not going to change much even if Obama is elected.

“Patience and prudence”, what are you kidding? The last 60 years have been disastrous for the Syrian people. Can’t you see that your strategy is leading you nowhere? How can you with a straight face say “patience and prudence” to three lost generations of Syrians?

You need to provide a concrete strategy. What is your first step?

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

Alex,
Asad is constantly bringing us closer to war. He does this by arming Hizballah and supporting Hamas. It is sad that you fail to see this. If you want to stop a regional war, stop arming Hizballah and supporting Hamas. How about that for a real strategy? Asad is playing brinkmanship, and there is a good chance he will burn his fingers.

Alex Says:

AIG

You get more rude as soon as you read something positive.

If you want testimonies to Syrian prudence, go read Baker and Kissinger.

Prudence does not mean no action and no role. Syria has a central role in everything … a role you do not like because your country is Syria’s enemy. You keep talking about YOUR support to returning the Golan if Syria becomes a democracy, and about what Alex wants or thinks … but who cares what you or I think. Try to stick to the issues please.

I have my “plan”. I will not type it here because it is available in a link I gave yo before and you did not check. we will have a future topic on Democracy and political reforms in Syria. This is about Syria’s foreign policy.

AnotherIsraeliGuy Says:

Alex,
Maybe I missed the link. Please give it to me again. I will read it very carefully.

There is a strong link between foreign relations and democracy. It is an important question whether a certain foreign policy will lead to democracy and economic growth or not or whether a certain foreign policy is just a method for Asad to stay in power.

Alex Says:

AI,

There is a strong link, yes… and so far you made sure we can not discuss anything but that link. There are other issue to dicuss, I hope you agree.

Here is the link … I suggest you try to read it from a neutral perspective … I was alone against Ammar (he calls Assad a moron), Ehsani (he was very much opposed to the regime, before he went to Syria and moderated his views), R (A Lebanese who is also anti regime) Kevin (An American pro democracy), Philip (Syria pro democracy), Howie (a nice Israeli fellow) …

Basically everyone tried hard to prove “my plan” was not good. At the end they found it reasonable …

So be patient as you read.

EHSANI2 Says:

Alex,

The visit to Syria never moderated my views. I do not like the label of pro or anti regime. I will never change my view that the leadership have done very little to address the massive challenges of the country’s economic prospects. I also continue to believe that the reforms have been akin to giving two Advils to a cancer patient.

Alex Says:

Ehsani

Baseeta : )

By the way, your views were indeed moderated after the trip … first you found out that there are many new things happening… you told me that there are so many changes this time … you also told me that you were seriously considering investing seriously in Syria and we both agreed that we need to wait until the current uncertainty (this year) passes.

And you also told me that most Syrians you spoke to were mostly happy or content … not oppressed or depressed.

And that Bashar is very popular … for example with all the Christians.

And you sent me many emails the past few months containing links to news stories about economic reforms in Syria … your comments were: “Finally”, or …”this is good” …

That’s what I was referring to when I said that you moderated some of your views.

Sorry for the Anti-regime label … but AIG understands better when I use extreme labels… he is not into detailed descriptions.

david s Says:

Fadi, an outstanding acedemic brief on respective bilateral relations regarding Syria. I agree with your analysis. Good job of elucidating upon the dicrepency between the conventional view of Syro-Iranian relations and the reality of that relationship. Also, the Qataris have been quite impressive recently. Could you expand upon their perspectives and relations within the Gulf region.?

david s Says:

Oh one comment I ommited Fadi… Had i been rating these relationships into the enumerated categories, I would still be compellled to place France into the hostile category.

Alex Says:

David,

While we await your own post : ) … I have a question for you:

Why would you place France in the Hostile category?

As for Qatar. Something interesting is happening .. the Saudis met with the Qataris and they both agreed to stop using their respective MEdia outlets to fight each other. As a result … the Saudis got Aljazeera to stop any pro-Syria news … nowadays Aljazeera’s news cover Pakistan, Morocco, and Sudan .. nothing from Lebanon .. as if nothing is happening there.

david s Says:

hello my dear friend
An appropriate answer to your question would be an essay itself, but here is my brief explanation.

1) Sarkosky – he may not be the scorned butler of the Harriris that Chirac is, but his political background actually makes him more endemically anti-Syrian than his whiny, predecessor. Yes, I acknowledge that a greater degree of Gaullist pragmatism could emerge with him than with the butler, but the change has so far been marginal. Remember, prior to 05, Chirac would have been put in the friendly category…that will never occur with Sarkosky without capitulation by Asaad.

2) Kouchner – see Sarkosky. His diatribes against Syria would find a welcoming audience at AEI. I believe that both of these characters would have supported their neo-con allies in the run-up to Iraq in 03!

3) France itself – pathethic if subliminal need to assert/ re-assert its authority and prestige in former colony. Even in the 90s they were jealous of that it was Damascus and not Paris that was the arbiter in the Lebanon. Do not forget that Lebanon is a French political creation. Syria is the only threat to that soft colonialism that France revels in. France separated Lebanon from Syria originally, and they desire to make that separation (figurative) permanent. A servile, anti Syrian govt in Beirut is required for this to manifest effectively!

Hope you find this writ brief helpful.

all the best my friend

david s Says:

Alex, I will add a tertiary but not irrelevant country to categorize: Italy. and I ould place them in the friendly class

idaf Says:

David,

Italy, Spain and China are in the friendly category. As well as less relevant countries that belong to the sphere of influence of China and Turkey in central Asia.

Two other major oil producers in the world are very close friends as well.. Venezuela and Kazakhstan. These countries could become handy in Syria’s “oil-less” future.

Alex Says:

Thanks David,

I agree that France would love to be the sole parent (or mother) of Lebanon. But now they have not only Syria, but Saudi Arabia, Iran, and especially the United States to compete with for the task of managing Lebanon… so I imagine they would probably have lowered their expectations by now.

Syrian officials seem to be satisfied with France’s new proposals… the bigger question for me at this point is: Can anyone convince President Bush that he can not and will not succeed in appointing his favorite anti-Syria president?

I love Italy! .. of course Italy is a friend … can anyone not be Italy’s friend?

david s Says:

Alex,
There is a reason that now all these inter clan meetings take place in Paris. Yes there is competetion, but only France has the emotional need for perception of authority. US would happily contract out its influence to France with sufficient guarantees. Even during the Taif phase when Chirac was Hafez’s friend, he lobbied to have Beirut revert to a French sphere of influence – to no avail of course. Now I have conceded that France is more likely to compromise, but it will occur because reality requires it (and perhaps a slight sense of noblesse oblige to all its former subjects). Perhaps a more traditional Gaullist President would be more inclined reclaim the mantle of friendly western power and her derive her esteem from that, hopefully Sarkosky can see his way back to that path.
I hope your optimism is more justified than my cynicism Alex, but remember where Sarkosy made his first foreign visit to as a Presidential candidate. Viva Italia! :)

Antoun Says:

Fadi,

An accurate assessment, and a realistic projection into the near future.

We are not drawing two separate foreign policy possibilities – one for Syria’s national interest, and the other for Assad/Baath Party interests, although perhaps we should.

That aside, you have provided a case scenario that would probably seem the most likely, and that has taken into account the various factors that influence policy in the region.

Syria needs to make as many friends is possible, but without surrendering or conceding on crucial points, such as the Golan … or will it? Assad has obviously given up Iskenderun (for the time being anyway) to urgently boost its relationship with Turkey to thwart off isolation attempts by the US. Does this suggest that he may cave in to Israel as well if the temperature gets too hot?

What is the difference between Iskenderun and Golan? Both occupied territories, both with Syrian populations. Why is it necessary, in the eyes of Syria, to pursue the fight on the Golan, and not Iskenderun? This suggests to me that land, national pride, and national interest have little to do with the policy-making of the Syrian regime.

Alex Says:

Antoun,

I have asked this same question on different Syrian blogs last year and found out that most of those who answered me were much more motivated to get the Golan than Iskenderun.

Why? .. here are their reasons:

– There was a referendum in Iskenderun at the time and a majority of its people voted to join Turkey.

– Turkey did not take it by Force.

– Turkey is not an enemy of Syria, the Arabs and Muslims today and is not an expansionist country in general.

– 1930’s Vs 1967 .. a time when borders were still being drawn by imperial powers … just like Lebanon was carved out of Syria.

– There are no UN resolutions that backup Syria’s claims to Iskendrun like UNSC resolutions 242 and 338 that make Syria’s claims to the Golan totally legitimate.

Bashar will never be able to compromise on the Golan. The Syrian people will not allow it.

DJ Says:

Solid analysis Fadi.
And don’t be bothered by those remarks about ‘equating’ and all, like we need another math lesson. ; )

Antoun Says:

Alex,

They’re fair reasons for Syria to shelve the idea for the liberation of Iskenderun, but if we take into consideration your reasons, further questions must be begged.

Are Syria’s claims to Iskenderun still legitimate? And if so, does that also legitimise Syria’s claims to Lebanon? Where does one draw the line on Syria’s history? One can claim, as certain philosophers and political parties contend, that a number of states originally should be part of Syria.

Does the history of the Middle East begin post-WWII, or do the states of the region have the right to bring up histories dating back hundreds of years to support territorial claims?

Can parallels be drawn between Syria’s territorial claims for Iskenderun (and quietly Lebanon) and China’s claim for Taiwan, for example? And if we can draw those parallels, what’s to say that a Syrian power in the region won’t act to acquire these territories, just as China is now actively pursuing Taiwan after centuries of colonial interference?

david s Says:

Very interesting…but the size, scope, significance, integral quality to the Syrian culture and nation and subsequent political development of the newly created country are what separate Lebanon from Iskandarum. Remember too, The Syrians of Iskanduram were not told that they were no longer ethnically Syrian – there nationality changed but not their ethnic identity; whereas in Lebanon SYrians were instructed that they were no longer Syrian but Lebanes both ethnically and politically. I believe governments and their national aspirations are inexorably tethered to pragmatism as well as idealism. Iskanarum as well as Antioch would be filed under “cut your losses”

Alex Says:

Anton,

The typical problem with relying on historical events to decide your positions in the future … is … how far back do we go?

There is no right or wrong answers … it all depends on how people on both sides of a border feel about the different options (to unite or to remain two separate entities).

And it also depends, to be more honest, on how feasible it is for country A to reclaim lands from country B… differential power.

Saddam Hussein felt he is powerful enough to “reclaim the Iraqi province of Kuwait” … he made a big mistake.

Hafez Assad never annexed Lebanon. He was probably hoping that with time, the Lebanese will gradually rediscover their Syrian roots. That did not happen of course… although half the Lebanese (rough estimate obviously) realize that the ties between their country and Syria are very special in many ways.

Going back to popular sentiments … Syrians are clearly for the return of the Golan in full … they are clearly for leaving Lebanon alone (especially after the headache from Jumblatt and Geagea and Hariri the past few years) and they are for forgetting about Iskendurun for now… perhaps gradually forgetting about it for good.

david s Says:

Kuwait and the Lebanon are not as analogous as you might believe at first blush. If the Brits did not find oil in kuwait, noone would care if itwas a part of Iraq or not – what/ who was in Kuwait before….

lirun Says:

agree with anotherisraeliguy

also – having turkey as friendly benefits israel strategically from a peacemaking perspective.. it creates a neutral element in the east med sea basin that can serve functions relating to peace building initiatives..

as an israeli – im in favour..

lirun Says:

furthermore.. if we look a bit fwd – i think its worthwhile considering what syria’s relations are like with china and india.. this may soon become increasingly relevant..

John Taylor Says:

Interesting blog post. What would you say was the most important marketing factor?

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