Mittwoch, 14. April 2010

Shifting the Balance

Now, if in fact it is true what the Wall Street Journal published today, we might find ourselves in a very serious dilemma. If it is in fact true that Syria delivered Scud missiles to Hezbollah it would not only have violated a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions, it would also have shifted the military balance in the region. And it would deal a serious blow to Obama's foreign policy strategy of engagement.

Lets deal with the less important stuff first: President Obama's stance toward Syria and his foreign policy in general. He wanted to replace the Bush administrations set of strategies with a more active strategy of engagement (And he did receive some intellectual support by Charles Kupchan recently). I've always been critical of his approach, but I was willing to follow him in the case of Syria. To me it always appeared that Syria had the least incentive of all pariah actors in the Middle East (including Iran) to stay on its current course. It would profit enormously from easing tensions with Israel and the West. Closer relations with the European Union would have been possible and certainly would have produced some economic windfall. It could have regained the Golan hights--something of a fetish for Syrians--and eventually gain an important mediator role in the conflict over Iran's nuclear programme. Moreover its internal composition suggests that Bashar al Assad should have a genuine interest in easing tensions anyway. So why on earth would he do something as dangerous as that? Precisely at a time, when President Obama was fighting for confirmation of his ambassador to Syria, the most serious diplomatic overture by the U.S. in a decade, placing the entire foreign policy approach of the Obama administration in jeopardy? Has Assad been fed-up to see all the sweet deals being offered to Theran and not to him, someone, who should have been so easy to flip? Anyway, if it is true, it would seriously harm Obama and his foreign policy team.

Why is it that the less important issue? Because here is the important part: The threat of a new war between Israel and Hezbollah has been looming for quite a while now. As a matter of fact, it was a question of time anyway. But with these missiles in Hezbollah stockpiles, Israel would have to react. It has always maintained that a shift in the balance between Hzebollah and Israel would make some military action inevitable, to put it differently: this is a casus belli, and it might very well be the tipping point.

So, who is to blame? Well, its partly us. The international community has stunningly failed to implement United Nations Security Council resolution 1701. Nearly four years after the last war in Lebanon the stockpiles of Hezbollah are larger than before the last war. Lets recall that the goal of 1701 was to entirely disarm Hezbollah and turn the territory over to the Lebanese army. We've failed. And that really is a shame.

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