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Syrian Miscalculations by Tariq Alhomayed, Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat


Syrian Miscalculations

14/12/2006

According to Syria's ambassador to Washington, up until a few months ago, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani used a Syrian passport, which he has now handed over. Such a statement is intended to demonstrate that Damascus has helped Iraq and the Iraqis; however, I do not understand what is new about an Iraqi official carrying a non-Iraqi passport since many carry American passports and even American mobile phones!

Syria's perpetual problem lies in miscalculations. When Syrian Vice-president Farouk al Shara recently discussed the tensions that exist in Saudi-Syrian relations, he attributed it to personal reasons, saying that "We, Arabs, become angry and calm down quickly!"

Is it really a simple case of Lebanon's stability depending on a personal opinion, and Syria shifting into a disruptive state and a means of access for Iran as a result of a moment of passing anger!?

Despite Al Shara's statement, everyone is aware of the efforts of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz to help the Syrian leadership save face during the investigation into the Hariri assassination, which resulted in the transfer of Syrian officials from Beirut to Vienna for questioning. Moreover, King Abdullah insisted that the Syrian regime and its stability should not be disturbed; controlling his anger over the murder of Hariri, whose personal relationship with the king is well documented.

Syria's miscalculations are not exclusive to this, and Farouk al Shara's words remind the entire Gulf region of Syria's stance concerning the liberation of Kuwait whilst it was under the occupation of Saddam's regime. However, at that time, Syria was under the leadership of the late President Hafez al Assad, a master politician who knew how to capitalize on circumstances. Back then, with the participation of a limited number of troops, Syria settled a number of issues, including an extensive feud with Saddam's regime that lasted for over 20 years, and resulted in such animosity that both parties plotted coups, tightened their grip on Beirut and, at that time, expelled General Michel Aoun, a Syrian ally at present.

But what cards does Syria hold today?

Nowadays, Syria has lost its playing cards in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine while completely burning its card in the Golan Heights. Syria could have held the key to many complexities, nevertheless it is now an obstacle to many, the solution to which does not begin nor end in Syria.

Present-day Damascus takes pride in James Baker’s report, nonetheless, it is apparent that it has not read the report thoroughly since Baker condemns the state more then he portrays it as a possible solution. The Iraqi President's Syrian passport is more of a condemnation of misinterpretations than proof of cooperation. Syria granted a passport with one hand and hampered Iraq with the other.

Farouk al Shara's latest statements are an embodiment of Syria's miscalculations. Syria excels the most out of all Arab states in creating hostility by use of distrustful language, whilst exerting all efforts to engage in talks with Washington. And yet Syria is pleased with The Baker Report, despite the fact that the US occupation of Iraq was merely a playing card in Syria's eyes, keeping in mind that Damascus was the only Arab representative to the Security Council when it unanimously voted to apply Chapter VII to Saddam Hussein's regime and Iraq, which meant the use of force. It is Syria now that seeks negotiation with Israel.

All statements that emerge from Damascus focus on nationalism, Arabism, heroism and overused phrases that we are fed up of hearing; regrettably however, Syria is the opposite!

by Tariq Alhomayed
Tariq Alhomayed is the Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, the youngest person to be appointed that position. Mr. Alhomayed has an acclaimed and distinguished career as a Journalist and has held many key positions in the field including; Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, Managing Editor of Asharq Al-Awsat in Saudi Arabia, Head of Asharq Al-Awsat Newspaper's Bureau-Jeddah, Correspondent for Al - Madina Newspaper in Washington D.C. from 1998 to Aug 2000. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs including: the BBC, German TV, Al Arabiya, Al- Hurra, LBC and the acclaimed Imad Live’s four-part series on terrorism and reformation in Saudi Arabia. He is also the first Journalist to conduct an interview with Osama Bin Ladin's Mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a BA degree in Media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, and has also completed his Introductory courses towards a Master’s degree from George Washington University in Washington D.C. He is based in London.