Across the Bay

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Engagement Always Fails, Time for Pressure

A briefing from the EIU nails the fundamental bottom line that all Syria "engagers" should understand:

By bringing up the issue of the Hariri tribunal, Mr Sarkozy appeared to be leaning towards the view that Syria is determined to prevent this judicial process going ahead at all costs. In the context of Lebanese politics this suggests that there are only two acceptable scenarios for Syria: either a government that defers to Damascus on all issues of concern to Syria; or no effective government in Beirut.

There is no "middle ground" with the terrorists in Syria. Assad seeks total brutal control over Lebanon, period. That's the number one priority of this terrorist regime.

Now that engagement has failed, again, as it was destined to -- as it always does, inevitably and without exception -- the time is for real pressure to be exerted on Syria.

Both the EIU and UN officials quoted below seem to agree on this point. So far, as the EIU notes, no real pressure has been put to bear:

The Lebanese crisis has not imposed any serious political or economic costs on Syria, despite periodic outbursts from US, European and Arab officials at Mr Assad's obduracy.

Now that France has once again experienced what it means to engage Assad and how incredibly silly and futile it is to gamble on this murdering thug, it's high time for some real pressure. The EIU points to a couple of potential avenues, both diplomatic and economic, and there are plenty others involving Syria's energy and fiscal sectors.

Even UN officials have voiced such views:

The main problem, as the UN officials see it, is that not enough pressure is being placed on Assad. "He will only move if he senses a threat to the stability of his regime," they said. "If the Americans were, for example, to send ships close to Lebanon's beaches, that would send a clear message to Assad, but they're not doing that."

The track record does not lie. Engagement with Assad has always failed without exception. Only pressure works. It's high time to apply it.