Inheriting Syria

Inheriting Syria: Bashar's Trial by Fire

Flynt Leverett
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 286
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  • Book Info
    Inheriting Syria
    Book Description:

    Syria has long presented a difficult problem for American policymakers. Actively supportive of groups such as Hezbollah, it has occupied Lebanon for more than 20 years. Damascus remains intransigent on Israel's complete withdrawal from the disputed Golan Heights as the sine qua non for peace with that state. It is often mentioned in the same breath as members of the infamous "axis of evil." Syria occupies an important strategic position in the Middle East -one made even more significant as America considers long-term involvement in the reconstruction of Iraq. As the policy challenges posed by Syria's problematic behavior have grown more pressing in the recent security environment, the United States has had difficulty formulating a coherent and effective policy toward Damascus. The death of long-time dictator Hafiz al Assad has forced renewed debate on its place in the region. The transition from Assad to his son Bashar has thrown Western consensus on how to deal with the Syrian leadership further into doubt. Inheriting Syria fills this void with a detailed analytic portrait of the Syrian regime under Bashar's leadership. It draws implications for U.S. policy, offering a bold new strategy for achieving American objectives, largely via a strategy of "coordinated engagement" employing both sticks and carrots. This strategy would be independent of the Arab-Israeli peace process, thus a historical departure for the United States. The author's long service in the foreign policy establishment has uniquely positioned him to provide valuable insights into this mysterious yet important country. This book will be of high interest to those concerned about the Middle East, the war on terror, and the future of American foreign policy. Written for a general audience as well as the policymaking and academic communities,heriting Syria is isan important resource for all who seek deeper understanding of this enigmatic nation and its leadership.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-5206-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Strobe Talbott

    Syria has once again come to the top of the U.S. policy agenda, despite conventional wisdom not too long ago that it was finally taking its rightful place on the margins of Middle East affairs. At the beginning of his second term, President Bush has made Syria a focus for the next phase in his administration’s global war on terror.

    Much of the renewed attention on Syria has concentrated on the leadership qualities and strategic intentions of the country’s president, Bashar al-Asad. It has become a rhetorical commonplace to question whether Bashar has the same degree of authority and tactical...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xv)
  6. CHAPTER ONE The Syrian Paradox
    (pp. 1-21)

    Little about Syria’s natural endowments would lead an analyst to predict that it would have such a central role in Middle Eastern affairs. By most indicators of strategic importance—including size, internal cohesiveness, and wealth—Syria would seem destined to be no more than a minor player, relatively easy for greater powers inside and outside the region to marginalize and ignore.

    Despite these apparent manifestations of insignificance, vulnerability, and weakness, Syria has long been an important consideration in U.S. foreign policy toward the greater Middle East. Understanding this paradox is essential to understanding the challenges that Syria poses for U.S....

  7. CHAPTER TWO Hafiz’s Legacy, Bashar’s Inheritance
    (pp. 22-56)

    To understand the challenges confronting Bashar al-Asad—and to draw the correct implications of such understanding for U.S. policy—it is imperative to review the political and strategic situation that he stepped into in 2000. In other words, before examining Bashar’s record as president of Syria and considering future possibilities, it is necessary to understand the achievements, failures, and unfinished business that he took over from his father. Hafiz al-Asad was Syria’s longest-ruling post-independence leader, dominating Syrian politics for three decades and, more than any other figure, shaping its current political order and social structures.¹ Thus the regime that Bashar...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Bashar and the Possibilities of Domestic Reform
    (pp. 57-98)

    A range of competing images of Bashar as a national leader is at play in current analytic discussions about Syria. The three principal images, described in chapter 1, are of Bashar as closet reformer, loyal son, and neophyte. Each of these images offers a relatively simple and straightforward explanation for policy outcomes during his tenure, and each carries its own implications regarding the most appropriate U.S. policy toward Syria. But, while each image captures some portion of the “truth” about Bashar, none in itself provides a wholly adequate framework for understanding Syrian politics and policymaking under his leadership. To develop...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Bashar and Syria’s Place in the Regional Order
    (pp. 99-146)

    Protecting Syria’s place in the regional order has been particularly trying for Bashar during the initial years of his presidency. The first four and a half years of his tenure were a period of tumult and strategic fluctuation unusual even by Middle Eastern standards. Navigating these stormy waters was bound to be a special challenge for a new national leader.

    The major threads of Syrian foreign policy are, of course, Lebanon, the Arab-Israeli arena, the regional balance, and relations with the United States. Before examining how Bashar has handled these aspects of Syria’s external relations, however, this chapter looks first...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Options and Recommendations for U.S. Policy
    (pp. 147-166)

    Over the course of successive administrations, Democratic and Republican, the United States has defined an ambitious policy agenda toward Syria. Currently, U.S. objectives include preventing Syria from interfering with U.S. goals in Iraq, ending Syria’s support for Palestinian terrorist groups and Lebanese Hizballah while restoring its cooperation against al-Qaeda, stopping Syrian WMD programs, and ending the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. It is a logical extension of the Bush administration’s emphasis on promoting economic and political liberalization in the greater Middle East that the United States should encourage reform in Syria without sparking social instability there, so as to limit Syria’s...

  11. APPENDIX A Chronology of Bashar al-Asad’s Presidency, June 2000 to December 2004
    (pp. 167-202)
  12. APPENDIX B The Statement of 99 and the Statement of 1,000
    (pp. 203-212)
  13. APPENDIX C UN Security Council Resolution 1559
    (pp. 213-214)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 215-276)
  15. Index
    (pp. 277-286)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 287-290)