July 12, 2005

Bashar By a Nose

This is a theory I've batted about now and again in the past, but Joseph Braude in the New Republic lays out a convincing case that Syria's Bashar Assad is actually in a very strong position right now and does not, in fact, deserve the dunce cap. He's put his domestic opposition in a headlock. He's divided the once-mighty U.S.-Europe unity against Syria by placating the latter's demands, at least nominally. Heck, even the new Iraqi government wants to be Bashar's friend. It's gotten to the point where Condoleeza Rice has thrown up her hands and stopped using "regime change" and "Syria" in the same sentence, just in case, you know, that's not the official policy anymore.

I don't really know quite what this means on the broader view, but Iran, I think, can learn some quality lessons here: If you look just law-abiding enough, Europe will quickly forgive you, drop all that unpleasant sanctions-talk, and send in its businessmen, while the United States will stew bitterly and mutter "crazy" conspiracy theories about evil intentions. So a transatlantic rift ensues, while the erstwhile "rogue" regime bats its eyes innocently. On that note, George Perkovich of Carnegie is now telling the Senate that Iran may not actually have anymore undeclared or hidden nuclear activities left—it's possible that the IAEA may come to this conclusion, and declare Iran in compliance with the NPT—which could all dovetail nicely with the strategy described above. Oh, but surely this administration is much too clever to fall for the same rope-a-dope twice in a row, right? Um... Still, what to do about Iran remains the brutal question. Perkovich has thoughts. The over/under on "Do nothing!" still looks good, though; maybe that's for the best.
-- Brad Plumer 12:02 AM || ||