La La Landis
The latest spiel that the Syrian regime is trying to sell, and that people, like Joshua Landis, are trying to spin on their behalf, is the notion that talking to Syria about Iraq is so "crucial." When the ISG study came out, and in the run-up to it, all regime cheerleaders (the Moubayeds, the Kabalans, the Shoueibis), Landis included, were toasting themselves in self-congratulatory glee that now the US will "crawl" (or in Landis' words, "creep") to Damascus to accept Bashar's terms for its formal surrender. But the US didn't do so, sticking instead to its position.
That was then, when these "analysts" (spokesmen for the regime) were saying things like: "We will just wait and wait. They will eventually come back to Syria." Now you have Imad Moustapha making up all kind of funny claims about Syria's supernatural powers and abilities!
As always, Moustapha is merely regurgitating the memo from his boss, who, having realized that the US didn't fall for his terrorist blackmail, gave the hapless Diane Sawyer an interview she's been coveting for years. In that pathetic interview (typical Assad interview), he made hilarious claims like Syria is the "main player"(!) in Iraq, and that all parties trust it! I couldn't help but laugh.
Having failed to break his isolation and gain concessions on Lebanon, Assad needs to pump himself to comical levels (Imad Moustapha levels!), when even the most enthusiastic of "engagers" hardly view Syria as "key" or a "main player" in Iraq! In fact, most agree that Syria's influence inside Iraq is marginal at best.
I mean, not even a credulous observer would entertain this nonsense, as even the credulous observer has seen how much of a player Assad is with that disastrous embarrassment of a meeting between Meshaal and Abbas, that showed Syria's true status: a spoiler that is good at killing, but not a serious player able to deliver anything of value.
Everyone knows this, including the Europeans, who, as I've written before, and as Walid Choucair put it in al-Hayat, quoting European diplomats, "once the envoys of these [European] nations actually talk to the Syrians they end up reaching the conclusion France reached [that talking to the Syrians makes them feel cocky and think they can persist with their rejected policies] and they return greatly disappointed with Damascus."
What about the Arab states? Well, they are actually telling Western states not to talk to Syria, and Saudi Arabia is now intentionally bypassing Syria on Lebanon. Mustapha al-Ani, a Dubai-based expert on Arab affairs, says Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt may have pressed Bush not to talk to Syria, which they blame for the growing power of Iran in the Arab world.
"There is a widespread feeling in the region that no concessions should be made to Syria," said al-Ani. "Many Arab states see Syria's ties with Iran to be harmful to their interests."
What about the Iraqis, who supposedly "all trust" Assad?! Listen to Sami al-Askari. But what about the Sunnis, or even the Iraqi Baathists, whom Syria presents itself as their reference and patron (a hilarious notion, of course). Here's a hint: In an interview with a Chronicle correspondent in Iraq, a former division general of the Republican Guard, Saddam Hussein's most elite military corps, dismissed the widespread assumption that Syria's tribal links to the Sunni-led insurgents would give it leverage.
"We still remember how Syria sided with Iran during the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s, when they closed the Iraqi oil pipeline passing through its territory and provided Iran with ground-to-ground missiles to attack Baghdad," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
People from the Izzat al-Duri faction of the Baath Party, the people Syria is supposed to be able to "bring to the table," attacked the Syrian regime for trying to create its own splinter leadership of the Iraqi Baath party (like they did with Arafat and the PLO in the 70s and 80s) made of nobodies, that they would try to use as a selling point. The Duri faction labeled the Syrian regime "the natural ally of the Safavid regime in Tehran," in reference to its status as Iran's client. So it seems, pace Bashar, that nobody in Iraq trusts Syria, just like none of the Arab regional players trust it, just like none of the European players trust it, etc. Syria is the farthest possible from being "the main player" in Iraq.
Enter Landis and his latest hilarious post on Syria and Iraq. He starts off by essentially suggesting that Assad's bid for "controlled destabilization" in Iraq may have backfired as a result of the refugee problem (regardless of the validity of the claim, I'm just following Landis' own distorted logic) and the fact that the US didn't bite and beg Syria for "help":
Syria can see that there is no future course but to hope that the American surge can help the Iraqi government to survive. After all, with Washington committed to this course and refusing to bring either Iran or Syria into regional discussions on Iraq, there is very little choice. To undermine the present Iraqi government will only ensure that more Iraqi refugees come streaming into Syria.
But then this only validates the Bush administration's line that if indeed it is in Syria's interest to do something, and to support the Iraqi government, they will do it on their own without the US having to "give them" something for it. We don't have to "talk" to them or fall into their trap, giving them the impression that they now have a green light in Lebanon, which is how they would inevitably interpret it.
However, Landis can't admit that. So, instead he puts on his imaginary "Assad PR representative" hat and dishes out this hilarious conclusion:
Syria's recent policy shift toward Iraq underlines how futile and self-destructive Washington's policy of excluding Syria has become. US prospects of stabilizing the situation in Iraq are not good, but without cooperating from Syria, they are surely worse than they have to be. Syria shares many of Washington's objectives in Iraq - not all, to be sure, but enough to make cooperation the only wise policy.
Wait, what!? If anything, it shows that US policy was right on, and instead of having to "crawl" to Damascus, it is Damascus now that has to adjust, without being paid the blackmail it thought it would impose on the US (much to Landis' chagrin, I'm sure).
In a way, the following pathetic, confused, and rather sinister statement from an earlier post of his, somewhat sums up the paradox:
For the time being Washington is winning the game of chicken the [sic] it has played with Syria over Iraq. Syria hoped it could use the Iraq card to break Washington's isolation policy. Washington used the card right back, insisting that if Syria encouraged the Iraqi resistance, Damascus would inevitably pay the higher price because lawlessness, fundamentalism and sectarianism would wash into Syria. Syrian officials are undoubtedly telling themselves that by improving relations with the American backed Iraqi government, Syria will ultimately make it easier for Malaki [sic] and the Shiite government to turn against America.
Of course now, given how the Maliki government hardly sees Assad's actions as "improving relations," Assad's self-proclaimed imaginary PR rep. explains it thusly:
[T]he fact that Asad was willing to meet with Dhari at all has become a source of irritation for the Iraqi government.
The meeting points out that even if Damascus is in the midst of a major policy change toward relations with Iraq, it will not put all its eggs in the Maliki basket.
Having read the former quote you might now be scratching your head in bewilderment. Confused doesn't even begin to describe it: Syria is moving closer to the Maliki government; Syria is moving at odds with the government!
That's what happens when your posts are little more than attempts to whitewash Assad's subversive murderous policies, and to present an unreliable thug as a "player."
Update: Ammar Abdulhamid comments on the same point:
On the other hand, with regard to one of those other unchallenged yet equally ludicrous assertions, namely that Syria is “the main player” in stabilizing Iraq, well, if Syria is indeed such a player in Iraq, and if the Top Lion of Syria indeed fears the domino effect of “the chaos” and “the instability,” as he put it, why aren’t the Assads already doing something about stabilizing the situation in Iraq? Why are they waiting to be approached by the US for talks over Iraq? Are they really afraid of “the chaos” or are they afraid of the American troops? Or they simply unable to do anything about the situation in Iraq, but would like very much for the US to believe that they could, so they could carve a deal for themselves?