February 12, 2007

Resisting Assad

Tony Badran published a must-read piece about Syria and Lebanon. The Syrians could hardly be more clear about what they hope to achieve in their much-desired "talks" with the US: the redomination of Lebanon. Fortunately they are running smack into resistance not only from the Bush Administration but also from the Democratic Party, the European Union, the Arab states, and (as Walid Jumblatt notes in my interview with him I'm about to publish) even from James Baker's Iraq Study Group.

The US looks weak right now because of the demoralizing slog in Iraq, but there's still only so much the thugs of the Middle East can get away with.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at February 12, 2007 04:40 PM

Leads me to wonder just how weak we really are over there, compared to how weak those thugs would like people to think we are.

Posted by: J-P at February 12, 2007 06:41 PM

The thugs might be surprised by how weak we aren't.

Posted by: John Norris Brown at February 12, 2007 08:08 PM

Excellent analysis by Tony, as usual, which I also highlighted on Good Neighbours earlier today.

The US is not as weak as it appears: Witness the tough talk coming out of Washington, despite the Baker report. Also witness the ever expanding presence of American military presence in the gulf (i'm talking about the carrier groups recently deployed in the gulf waters as a forget-me-nots to Iran).

As for Syria, and more specifically, the Assad regime, I wish people would stop flailing their arms every time some peace talk comes out of Damascus, and wondering why the US and Israel don't engage Syria. These alleged overtures are NOT in good faith. There is a a difference between genuinely wanting peace and blackmail/extortion/racketeering, which is what the Assad regime is up to.

When someone starts a fire, and then offers to help put it out at a price, it's blackmail. And you don't encourage blackmailers and extortionists. Give in once, and they'll just start another fire and come asking for more. It's that simple.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at February 12, 2007 09:26 PM

One of the things that always irritates me in these discussions is the notion that "Bush should have kept the Iraqi Army".

Keeping the Iraqi Army was never an option. In the first place, it's a horrid mistake for us to think of Saddam's army in the same terms as we think of Western ones, or even today's IA. The Ba'ath kept a lot of people under arms, but they had minimal training, and many of the units (and most of the non-Ba'ath ones) were more nearly punishment details and ways to keep an eye on suspicious young men than "real" Army. In the second place, Bush didn't disband the Iraqi Army; it disbanded itself, deserting in droves and running away by regiments and generally finding its officers home before the grunts got there. From our point of view, there was no Iraqi Army to keep.

Jumblatt of all people should know better, and it would be interesting to know why he says that. He sounds a deep person with three or four reasons, sometimes mutually exclusive, for saying anything.


Posted by: Ric Locke at February 13, 2007 10:23 AM
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