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The Price of Engaging Syria

After the Annapolis conference, there was a brief burst of optimism about the prospects of “engaging” rather than confronting Syria. Advocates of this approach pointed to the fact that Syria agreed to send its deputy foreign minister to this meeting as a great triumph. They also pointed to more ambiguous evidence of a reduction in the number of jihadists crossing from Syria into Iraq, although it’s unclear whether this is due to action on the part of the Syrian government or by American and Iraqi security forces, or whether it is due simply to an overall decline in the number of terrorists willing to kill themselves in a losing cause.

A further cause for optimism was said to be the agreement reached between Syrian-backed forces in Lebanon and their Franco-American-backed adversaries for the army commander, General Michel Suleiman, to take over as the country’s President, thus breaking a long impasse.

Then this week a car bomb rubs out Brigadier General Francois Hajj, one of Suleiman’s top officers and a leading candidate to succeed him as army chief of staff. No one knows who planted the bomb, but suspicions naturally focus on Syria, which has a long history of using such weapons to kill and intimidate its opponents in Lebanese politics. Indeed, a special UN tribunal has found Syrian fingerprints all over the car bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.

Syria seems plainly intent on reestablishing Lebanon firmly within its sphere of influence, using Hizballah and Sunni terrorist groups as proxies. The price of “engagement” is to let the Syrians have their way, thus betraying Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution. That’s a high price to pay, especially since it’s far from clear what, if anything, Syria will do for us in return.



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