syrian troops 298.88 AP.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Pulling Syria out of Iran's orbit of influence is "difficult but not impossible" for American foreign policy, former Israeli ambassador to Washington Itamar Rabinovich told The Jerusalem Post Sunday evening.
Rabinovich, a renowned Syria expert and the chief negotiator with Syria during Yitzhak Rabin's premiership, said any overtures to Syria on the part of the United States "will require a determined policy on the American side," which will inevitably include "renewing the negotiations between Israel and Syria."
However, engaging Syria had to be done with the right mix of diplomatic finesse and military deterrence, he said, adding: "The flexibility and creativity in policy must be combined with assertiveness" if the Syrian regime is to take American overtures seriously.
"The wrong way to do this, in offering the carrot and the stick, is to have a stick that looks like a matchstick," Rabinovich said. "In the past few years, the United States has been angry and threatening, but it looked more like matches than sticks, and there were no carrots. This didn't work."
The policy toward Syria must also include "a questioning of Iran to see if there are ways to talk" to the Iranian regime, he added. "Even if it comes to military action, [US President George W.] Bush owes it to his people and the world to say he tried peace."
Asked if Syria felt bolstered by Hizbullah's claim of victory in the war in Lebanon this summer, and if this meant that Syria had accepted Hizbullah's doctrine of "continuous conflict" as a possible alternative to peace, Rabinovich replied in the negative.
"If they think about this thoroughly, they'll understand that the war with Hizbullah was asymmetrical," he said. "But Syria is not a guerrilla organization, it is a state. The restrictions [Israel faces in fighting] against Hizbullah don't exist with Syria."