Obama's 'engagement' with Syria met with laughter

Rick Moran
President Obama has made it quite clear both during the campaign and now that he is in office that there is no country we should refrain from trying to engage on issues of mutual interest.

A very high minded goal, that. Unfortunately, just as Obama's liberal base swoons over how good such a policy makes them feel, our enemies take what we have unilaterally given them and then laugh in our face.

Former state department official Elliot Abrams writing in the Weekly Standard:

Assad's conduct is surprising only if you view him as a seeker after peace, waiting merely for the hand of friendship from Washington to reorient his regime toward the West. That appears to have been the Obama approach. But Assad's reaction is entirely predictable if you view him as a vicious dictator dependent on Iran's regime for political, financial, and military support. Similarly, the notion that American "engagement" is the road to a Syrian-Israeli peace deal over the Golan Heights is sensible if you believe he needs only a bit of American encouragement to ditch his alliance with Iran and turn West. But the terrorist trilateral just held in Damascus should be all the proof anyone needs that George Mitchell may as well stay home: A Golan deal is not in the cards. No Israeli prime minister is foolish enough to hand the Golan to a Syria whose main allies are Israel's two most dangerous enemies: Hezbollah and Iran.What has the engagement of Syria actually produced, besides mockery in Damascus? Depression in Beirut, where Sunnis, Christians, and Druze only a few years ago defied Syria, but now see an American policy that appears willing to abandon them. Incredulity in Baghdad, where our willingness to engage Syria while it helps jihadists blow people up in Iraq must seem incomprehensible. Resistance in Jerusalem, which only three years ago blew up a North Korean-supplied nuclear reactor Assad was building along the Euphrates and must see our continuing blindness to Syria's actual conduct as stubborn-and dangerous.

Last week in Damascus, what Abrams refers to as "an Axis of Evil party" was convened that included Baby Assad, Ahmadinejad, Hezb'allah, Hamas, and various Palestinian groups where US policy was mocked and a pledge given to make the Middle East "free of Zionists."

And the "Cedar Revolution" in Lebanon is but a distant memory thanks to this wrong headed policy of engagement with Syria as new Prime Minister Said Hariri - whose father was brutally murdered almost certainly on orders from Assad himself - paid a humiliating visit to the Syrian dictator last month, all but inviting Syria back into Lebanon. Lebanese secular leaders have been forced to embrace Hezb'allah and their "resistance" to Israel, despite the fact that the terrorist group will almost certainly seek to start another war with the Israelis sometime soon.

It may make Obama and his liberal base admire themselves for their forbearance and magnanimity in giving Syria so much while getting nothing in return but mocking laughter. But it alarms and depresses our friends in the region that America may be willing to sell them out for little or nothing.



President Obama has made it quite clear both during the campaign and now that he is in office that there is no country we should refrain from trying to engage on issues of mutual interest.

A very high minded goal, that. Unfortunately, just as Obama's liberal base swoons over how good such a policy makes them feel, our enemies take what we have unilaterally given them and then laugh in our face.

Former state department official Elliot Abrams writing in the Weekly Standard:

Assad's conduct is surprising only if you view him as a seeker after peace, waiting merely for the hand of friendship from Washington to reorient his regime toward the West. That appears to have been the Obama approach. But Assad's reaction is entirely predictable if you view him as a vicious dictator dependent on Iran's regime for political, financial, and military support. Similarly, the notion that American "engagement" is the road to a Syrian-Israeli peace deal over the Golan Heights is sensible if you believe he needs only a bit of American encouragement to ditch his alliance with Iran and turn West. But the terrorist trilateral just held in Damascus should be all the proof anyone needs that George Mitchell may as well stay home: A Golan deal is not in the cards. No Israeli prime minister is foolish enough to hand the Golan to a Syria whose main allies are Israel's two most dangerous enemies: Hezbollah and Iran.

What has the engagement of Syria actually produced, besides mockery in Damascus? Depression in Beirut, where Sunnis, Christians, and Druze only a few years ago defied Syria, but now see an American policy that appears willing to abandon them. Incredulity in Baghdad, where our willingness to engage Syria while it helps jihadists blow people up in Iraq must seem incomprehensible. Resistance in Jerusalem, which only three years ago blew up a North Korean-supplied nuclear reactor Assad was building along the Euphrates and must see our continuing blindness to Syria's actual conduct as stubborn-and dangerous.

Last week in Damascus, what Abrams refers to as "an Axis of Evil party" was convened that included Baby Assad, Ahmadinejad, Hezb'allah, Hamas, and various Palestinian groups where US policy was mocked and a pledge given to make the Middle East "free of Zionists."

And the "Cedar Revolution" in Lebanon is but a distant memory thanks to this wrong headed policy of engagement with Syria as new Prime Minister Said Hariri - whose father was brutally murdered almost certainly on orders from Assad himself - paid a humiliating visit to the Syrian dictator last month, all but inviting Syria back into Lebanon. Lebanese secular leaders have been forced to embrace Hezb'allah and their "resistance" to Israel, despite the fact that the terrorist group will almost certainly seek to start another war with the Israelis sometime soon.

It may make Obama and his liberal base admire themselves for their forbearance and magnanimity in giving Syria so much while getting nothing in return but mocking laughter. But it alarms and depresses our friends in the region that America may be willing to sell them out for little or nothing.