Sunday, January 31, 2010

Syria Regains Pivotal Regional, Int'l Role – The Triumph of the 'Course of Resistance'

N. Mozes
28 January '10

In a December 29, 2009 speech to the Syrian parliament, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mu'allem summed up the achievements of his country's political policy in 2009 by saying, "For Syria, 2009 was a year of political success in every sense of the term, and on all fronts..."[1] Indeed, the past year has seen a significant improvement in Syria's regional and international standing; it managed to extricate itself from its isolation internationally and in the Arab world, and to position itself as an influential regional force. By the end of 2009, the Syrian regime had become self-confident and certain of the effectiveness of its "path of resistance" policy, and was challenging the regional order and the world order and acting powerfully to change both.

The following is a review of Syria's current world view and policy, as reflected in statements by Syrian officials and articles in the Syrian government press.
Syria – From Isolation to Key Player in the International Arena
Until 2008, President Bashar Al-Assad's Syria seemed to be a pariah state. Syria had been isolated by the West and by some of the Arab countries, and was under international pressure that spiked following the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri; in the wake of the assassination, it was forced to withdraw its military from Lebanon.

The aggressive anti-Syria line was led by the Bush administration, which saw Syria as part of an "axis of evil" together with Iran and North Korea, and accused it of involvement in terrorism in Iraq. In 2004, the U.S. intensified its anti-Syrian sanctions, and worked in the U.N. Security Council for the passage of Resolution 1559 calling for Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon. In October 2008, the U.S. even bombed insurgents on Syrian territory who were suspected of operating from there against Iraq.

The assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri was a watershed in Syria's relationship with many countries in the West and in the Arab world, particularly France and Saudi Arabia, who had until then been its close allies. This change was evidently due to the close relationship that Al-Hariri had maintained with then-French president Jacques Chirac, and with the Saudi royal family. Evidence of the severing of relations and of the anger that the assassination evoked in Chirac was clear in an interview he gave in 2007 to the French daily Le Monde. He said: "There were times I used to speak with Bashar Al-Assad. I used to talk with his father [Hafez Al-Assad]. But to be honest, [Bashar and I] do not talk any more. It is he who caused [this halt to the dialogue]. I realized that there was no point [in dialogue]. It is hard to reconcile Bashar Al-Assad's regime with security and peace."[2]

In the Arab world, it was Saudi Arabia and Egypt that led the aggressive line against Syria, and there were even reports that it was they who were behind the establishment of the international tribunal to investigate the assassination.

(Read full report)

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