Thursday, February 21, 2013

Obama interested in Syria but not in Syrians?

Frederic Hof has published an article Syria: Thinking Strategically. In it he formulates the US goals in Syria as follows: What, in the end, do we want of Syria? A Syria fundamentally inclined to cooperate with the United States in the region and beyond: that is the objective.

Later in the article this is operationalized in seven goals:
- the Assad regime (family and senior enablers) must be removed, root and branch.
- its replacement, in the form of a legitimate government with jurisdiction over the entire country, must reflect a Syria of citizenship, civil society, rule of (nonsectarian) law and government (including empowered local jurisdictions) deriving power to govern from the consent of the governed.
- a Syria that terminates all military, intelligence, and terror relationships with Iran and Hezbollah;
- a Syria that rejects terror as a state instrument and tolerates no terrorists on its territory;
- a Syria that supports comprehensive Middle East peace and commits itself to the peaceful, diplomatic pursuit and resolution of its claims on Israel;
- a Syria that respects the territorial integrity and independence of each of its neighbors;
- a Syria favorably disposed toward ridding itself of weapons of mass destruction.

As Hof used to be the primary responsible for Obama's Syria policy it is very likely that his ideas still play an important role in the American Syria policy.

I find these ideas absurd and disgusting. In the short form it doesn't mention the interest of the Syrian citizens at all. The implicit message is that Mr. Hof is prepared to sacrifice another 100,000 Syrians to achieve his goals. In the long version only one of the seven points addresses Syrian internal policy. At first at least that point looks reasonable. However, one should notice what is missing: human rights and freedom. It looks like Mr. Hof would be happy to accept a Muslim Brotherhood government that operates according to the principle "one man, one vote, one time".

It is ironic that in order to achieve its goals the US is doing exactly that what it is reproaching Syria for: cooperating with terrorists, not respecting the territorial integrity and independence of Syria and undermining Middle East peace by pursuing a vendetta against Iran. It doesn't take much imagination that a regime that comes to power as the result of such policies may in indeed be inclined to "cooperate with the United States" but that that will be he result of gratitude and fear and that that will ignore the desires of the Syrian people - making the second point look like an empty gesture.

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