Across the Bay

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Who Needs Syria!?

Syria's flacks are incredibly amusing.

They're now flaunting a recent report in Reuters about Syria canceling a meeting it had organized bringing together a number of Iraqi tribal leaders and Baathists living in Europe, the neighborhood and Syria itself. The Iraqis' plan was to form a political front to negotiate with the Americans.

You'll recall how the Syrians had tried this pathetic ploy before in January, to no avail, by organizing a conference to elect a new, splinter leadership for the Iraqi Baath Party. The whole thing went nowhere as the Izzat al-Duri faction lambasted the Syrians as "the natural ally of the Safavid regime in Tehran" and expelled the splinter Baathists who claimed the new leadership. I.e., the whole thing was a joke, and a pathetic attempt by Syria to try to sell that it can "deliver" the Iraqi Sunnis!

At the time, I quoted this former division general of Saddam's Republican Guard, who dismissed the assumption that Syria can claim any leverage through tribal links to the Sunni insurgency.

The myth of Syria's "control" over Iraqi tribes (and anyone who says this understands nothing about tribes) has become even more ridiculous in light of news in recent weeks and months about the US armed forces and the Iraqi government working directly with the tribes.

Here's one such report today: "U.S. forces have brokered an agreement between Sunni and Shi'ite tribal leaders to join forces against al Qaeda and other extremists, extending a policy that has transformed the security situation in western Anbar province to this area north of the capital."

It was the Marines who were responsible for the situation in Anbar. One Marine wrote the following to me: "The jarheads have been talking to a lot of people there, and they ain't Syrians!"

The Marine's point is obvious and it was highlighted in an analysis piece by Stratfor on the canceled conference in Syria: "it is not clear that these insurgent leaders actually need to hold Syria's hand to talk to the Americans, meaning al Assad likely will have to make a stronger case if he wants to be taken seriously in Washington."

This is not to mention the tribal leaders, and not to mention why the US needs to talk to Syria when it has direct contact with the tribes with whom it is cooperating to fight jihadis whom Syria is dispatching across its border!

But a flack's job is to keep trying to sell snake oil. Never despair, flacks!

Update: From O'Hanlon and Pollack's op-ed in the NYT:

In Ramadi, for example, we talked with an outstanding Marine captain whose company was living in harmony in a complex with a (largely Sunni) Iraqi police company and a (largely Shiite) Iraqi Army unit. He and his men had built an Arab-style living room, where he met with the local Sunni sheiks — all formerly allies of Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups — who were now competing to secure his friendship.

Like I said, who needs Syria?