Though not iron-fisted like his father, the hand that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad cracks down with is heavy.
Lebanon’s unraveling and the undiminished influence of the Syrian state clearly demonstrate that U.S. attempts to isolate Damascus have failed.
Some world leaders are not exactly negotiating material. The recently deceased leader of Turkmenistan renamed the months and days of the week after himself and his family and tried to build a palace constructed entirely of ice. No one really tried to negotiate with him–he placed a ban on lip-syncing.
Even as American officials reluctantly agreed last month to include Syrian representatives in multiparty talks on Iraqi security issues, the Bush administration continues to block Israel from resuming negotiations with Syria over its security concerns. In 2003, President Bashar al-Assad offered to resume peace talks with Israel where they had left off three years earlier, but Israel, backed by the Bush administration, refused. Assad eventually agreed to reenter peace negotiations without preconditions, but even these overtures were rejected.
In June 2003, I made my first trip to Syria, home to generations of my family, the two oldest continuously inhabited cities on earth (Damascus and Aleppo), the final resting place of Kurdish leader Salahaddin and on a lighter note, purveyor of arguably the most decadent, mind-numbing syrupy sweets.