Across the Bay

Friday, January 04, 2008

Played for Fools

Following up on my previous post, Barry Rubin piles it on Sen. Specter:

[T]he way Mr. Specter went about his self-styled mission was disastrous. He praised Mr. Assad and vouched for his good intentions. Why should a U.S. senator provide alibis for one of the world's leading terrorists? As the Associated Press summarized Mr. Specter's message, "Syrian President Bashar Assad is ready for peace with Israel, an influential U.S. senator said Sunday after talks with the Syrian leader." How does Mr. Specter know what Bashar really thinks? He only knows what Bashar told him in order to get a public relations' victory.

"There is a sense that [Mr. Assad] is ready and the Syrian public opinion is ready (for peace)." What does Mr. Specter possibly know about Syrian public opinion? If one was to judge by what the government tells its people on a daily basis, no such conclusion is possible. Mr. Specter could at least limit himself to saying that Mr. Assad claimed he was ready for peace rather than endorsing that view personally.
To make matters worse, Mr. Specter basically took Mr. Assad's side against the U.S. government. If the United States wanted to do so, he insisted, it could broker an Israel-Syria peace. Without going into all the reasons why this is wrong, one could simply point out that this means the U.S. government is responsible for the lack of peace.

On two specific points, the Syrians literally and obviously fooled Mr. Specter.

According to Mr. Specter and his colleague, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Mr. Assad promised to release seven dissidents jailed after attending a meeting endorsing fair treatment of Lebanon by Syria. After the two Americans announced the pledge - as proof of Mr. Assad's wonderful intentions - Syria officially denied that any such promise had been made.

A better indication of the regime's nature is that the day after Mr. Specter's talk with Mr. Assad, a Syrian dissident, Faeq al-Mir, was sentenced to three years in jail. What was Mr. Mir's crime? He sent condolences to a Lebanese parliamentarian regarding a Lebanese politician murdered by Syria. Will Mr. Specter learn anything from this experience?

But there's more. Mr. Specter and Mr. Kennedy bragged that Syrian officials showed them an alleged agreement with France that was going to make possible a successful election of a president in Lebanon. As the two Americans were talking about this "success," the French and Lebanese government announced that no such agreement existed. Indeed, as a result of Syria's breaking its promises, Mr. Sarkozy announced he would hold no further talks with Assad.

If not so tragic, the follies of Mr. Specter in Syria would be amusing. But too many Syrians, Lebanese, Iraqis and Israelis are paying with their lives or freedoms because of the Syrian regime's policies to make his performance tragic.

As I noted in my previous post, the regime has not only sentenced al-Mir, but also arrested two additional Damascus Declaration activists, the latest of which was writer Fayez Sarah yesterday.

Meanwhile, this is what Walid Moallem reportedly told Specter: "It's not Syria's policy to imprison political oppositionists. Those who are imprisoned are oppositionists who collaborate with foreigners against Syria."

This is what you call getting played for fools.