Across the Bay

Friday, June 22, 2007

Engage Syria, Get Embarrassed

The always sharp Emanuele Ottolenghi takes the hapless Massimo D'Alema to task.

If Italy's foreign policy were truly guided by its UN obligations, Italy would realize that friendship with Damascus and Beirut cannot be reconciled today. Rome must choose.

Why this choice has become imperative should be obvious: Syria's interference in Lebanon and its partnership with Iran in spoiling European and Western interests in the region dictate taking sides.
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Shouldn't the international community, in particular Italy, show a little more courage in confronting those who, in all likelihood, were behind the assassinations?

Not D'Alema, apparently. Despite the recent intensification of violence in Lebanon, D'Alema not only went to Damascus but also expressed hope that Syria would cooperate against Al-Qaeda in Lebanon. How Al-Qaeda sneaked into Lebanon he failed to ask, though a quick look at Lebanon's map would show him that the country abuts neither Pakistan's tribal areas nor the Fergana Valley in Central Asia. Those Al-Qaeda fighters in Fatah al-Islam could only have come through the country that D'Alema was visiting. Fatah al-Islam's history suggests that Syria has some explaining to do when it comes to the violence in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp.
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What then is one to make of the Katyusha rockets fired at Israel from South Lebanon on Sunday? UNIFIL commander General Claudio Graziano, an Italian, recently denied that any weapons were being smuggled into the South, and Italy's Foreign Ministry supported his view. That's why the rocket incident was another huge embarrassment for Italy and its efforts to engage Assad - especially if reports that the incident was ordered by Syria are accurate.

The illusion that one can sway a dictatorship through engagement flies in the face of considerable evidence to the contrary. Lebanon's salvation will not come through Damascus. And the West's interests, or its legal commitments and moral obligations, are diametrically opposed to Syria's. The time has come to choose sides. Both as a matter of principle and political realism, Europe should recognize that only by isolating Damascus can it ever achieve its goals in the Middle East. But D'Alema, it seems, prefers to sacrifice Lebanon to Damascus' hegemonic ambitions. (Emphasis mine.)

Read the whole thing.