Across the Bay

Monday, February 07, 2005

Condi on Syria

From Interview With Ayala Hasson of Israel Television Channel One. Secretary Condoleezza Rice, Jerusalem, February 6, 2005.

QUESTION: We'd like your opinion about Russians selling missiles to Syria, given that Syria supports terror and those missiles could fall into the hands of terrorists.

SECRETARY RICE: We've made very clear to the Russian government that we think it would be a mistake and indeed potentially destabilizing to have sales to Syria. At this point the Russians say that there is no such thing that they are going to do, and we hope that that is indeed the case. We understand that Russia has relations with Syria. A lot of people have relations with Syria. But what really needs to happen now is that all who have relations with Syria need to use those relations to convince the Syrians that it is time for them to end their support for terror; it is time for them to end their interference in the affairs of Lebanon; and it is time for Syria, if it wishes to be a member of the international community, to be more responsible in its behavior in international politics including in Iraq, where we are very concerned about support for the insurgency in Iraq that is coming from Syria.

Update: Rich Anderson of the Bliss Street Journal shares his thoughts on the Syrian move toward Russia, and Condi's response:

    On the other side of the country, the U.S. confronts Syria over its pernicious manipulation of Lebanese politics, and believe me, all these developments regarding a few well-placed words on the U.S.' part have more than a few people sweating bullets over here. So, saying that Syria sits between a very large rock and a very rigid hard place is definitely an understatement. It is pretty clear that, considering the circumstances, what Syria needs is some wiggle room; creating a bluff like the one mentioned above in order to create a distraction of some kind would make sense from a purely tactical perspective. I am sure that, if indeed this was a bluff, that the Syrians knew full well what they were getting into when they thought this whole thing through, and that they factored into the equation that Condoleeza Rice is an expert on Russia and the Russian security apparatus. If anyone could call a bluff like this, it would be her. The Syrians knew this, right? Of course they did.

    That's why I'm confused. If indeed this were a bluff, then Syria seems to have taken a page from Iran's book in dealing with sticky political situations - when things aren't going your way, throw a tantrum, rattle your cage, and threaten your neighbors until the international community comes to sing you a lullaby. But it appears that Dr. Rice failed to take the bait - she addresses Russia ("all those who have relations with Syria"), not Syria itself, and she appears to be at least superficially relegating Syria to the diplomatic backstretch. Things just keep getting worse for Syria these days.