It’s Worth Reaching Out to Syria

By CALME American leader Martin Bresler, Vice Chair, Americans for Peace Now

The New York Times ran an editorial on November 15th entitled “The Road to Damascus” which rightly chides President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert for staying within their diplomatic comfort zones and continuing to balk at suggestions to reach out to Syria.  While such a move might be difficult to undertake, it would be well worth the expenditure of political capital if stronger ties with Syria were successful in exerting pressure on Iran and facilitating progress in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

Although Bush and Olmert hardly see eye to eye with Syrian President Assad, refusing to engage with regional stakeholders with opposing views both obstructs the process of bringing such leaders closer to the greater regional and international community of states, and impedes progress on important area issues, chief among them the need to finally achieve the President’s own stated policy of a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians.  As will likely be highlighted in the upcoming report of the Baker-Hamilton Commission, achieving two states is critical to addressing other regional concerns.  And although the ability to involve Syria in this crucial endeavor is not essential, such diplomatic outreach could go far to reduce their support for terrorist organizations and help secure a place for them at their own peace conference. 

In short, in such a difficult neighborhood as the Middle East, it is imperative that President Bush expand the scope of his diplomatic circle, and reach out to Syria before Washington’s refusal to deal with Damascus sends it running to Tehran for good.

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